Brain and Behavior

4 Tips for Feeling Successful

"If I try to fail and succeed, which have I done?" - Anonymous
I use the above quote with my college students. I try to challenge them to look at life from a different perspective. In challenging our perspectives I am not merely playing semantics -- I firmly believe that words actually do hold meaning. Words have the power to affect our emotions. By challenging ourselves to look at our own definitions from a new perspective, we have the ability to change how we feel.

How I define success influences how I feel about myself. Many of us have culturally learned that success is defined by tangible goods and wealth. We hear expressions such as “If I have more things than someone else, I am successful” or “if I have a title or initials after my name, I am successful.” Does someone else's level of success negate my perceived level of success? In other words, is one's success defined in relation to another's accomplishments?

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Brain and Behavior

Compassion Fatigue in the Animal Welfare Community

Before becoming a psychotherapist, I had a career in animal welfare. I’ve worn both the boots and the sandals -- that’s jargon for working on the law enforcement side and the shelter side -- and I’ve seen my fair share of trauma.

Whether you’re a humane officer or a shelter volunteer, a vet tech or an animal rights activist, you have likely seen, heard about, or experienced things that most people can’t even begin to understand. Long-term exposure to abuse and neglect, euthanasia, and grief-stricken clients not only can affect your work productivity and satisfaction, but it can also wear on you mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you feel like you care so much that it hurts, you may be struggling with compassion fatigue.
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General

5 Simple Ways to Relax and Recharge

Many of us have a hard time relaxing. Maybe just the thought of taking a break actually stresses you. And that’s understandable. Because, as “a society we value being busy, so it can almost feel that we are doing something wrong by relaxing,” said Agnes Wainman, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and self-proclaimed self-care activist in London, Ontario.

Christine Selby’s clients regularly tell her that relaxing is a waste of time because it means they’re not being productive. That’s when she asks them why they’d bother relaxing at all. They usually mention that relaxing feels good or helps them to wind down and destress. “My next question,” she added, “‘Is that not doing something?’”
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General

The Commitment Conundrum: What It Takes to Create Lasting Love

If there’s a single word that stirs up deep emotions, it’s “commitment.” While some desperately seek it, others run the other way. What is it about commitment that is so appealing to some, while striking fear into the hearts of others? Can we revision commitment in a way that frees us rather than traps us?

Those seeking commitment want to know that their partner is taking the relationship seriously. Research that forms the basis for Attachment Theory tells us that we’re wired with a longing for safety and security. When I need you, I want to know you’re there. It would seem that making a commitment to the relationship might assure mutual security. But sadly, divorce statistics reveal that however seriously we may commit ourselves to a partnership, they oftentimes don't work out

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General

7 Ways to Take Good Care of Yourself as a Mom-to-Be on Bed Rest

Bed rest might sound like a dream -- like a vacation you’d love to have. But bed rest can actually be a terrifying time for moms-to-be, said Parijat Deshpande, a perinatal wellness counselor who works with women who are stressed, anxious and feel helpless during a high-risk pregnancy. It can be “hard, lonely and exhausting both physically and emotionally.”

Women can face a range of challenges. For one, many people might not understand exactly what you’re going through, making you feel even lonelier. You might feel bored, especially if you’re a go-getter, have a “type-A” personality or are used to staying busy, Deshpande said. You might feel guilty for all sorts of things -- for not being able to help out as much as you normally would, for not being able to spend time with your other kids, she said.
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Anger

5 Proven Ways to Avoid Losing Your Cool at Work

At one point or another, we’ve all felt totally irritated while at work: You pull an all-nighter on a project that then gets scrapped; a client criticizes your team for no apparent reason, or your co-worker shows up late for a meeting again, dumping all the prep work on you.
These office aggravations can make your blood boil. Your focus is immediately hijacked from the important task at hand. Instead, your mind goes into fight-or-flight mode and you become reactionary; not thinking clearly, blaming others, or beating yourself up for getting upset. In this state, you’re prone to making poor judgements and saying things you may regret later.
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General

Your Mental Health is Just as Vital as Your Physical Health

On Psych Central’s homepage, you’ve likely seen the tagline: “Your mental health is as important as your physical health.” But what does mental health really mean? What does it entail? And why is it so pivotal -- so much so that it’s on par with our physical health?

These are the questions I posed to clinicians. Because, in our society, there’s a strong emphasis on taking care of our bodies -- eat nutrient-rich foods, exercise -- and yet not so much on taking care of our mental health. Sure, we see articles with self-help tips. But I’m not sure that many of us really consider our mental health day to day. I’m not sure that we give it the same attention and energy, if any.
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Brain and Behavior

8 Ways Highly-Sensitive People Can Survive Vacation

We are trained from the time we emerge from our mothers' wombs to look forward to vacations as a chance to relax, have fun, and escape from the rigors of life. But for a small percentage of us, vacation is harder than work -- it requires far more stamina than sitting in an office chair for eight hours a day.

I compare the human body to a tower of 54 wooden blocks in the game Jenga. To set the game up, you stack the initial tower with three blocks placed adjacent to each other along their long sides, and perpendicular to the previous level, up to 18 levels. The object of the game is to keep eliminating blocks from the existing structure while placing new blocks on top. Eventually, the tower tumbles.

The normal person starts vacation week with three wooden blocks across each level, so a few unhealthy meals or some sleepless nights aren’t going to make the tower budge.
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Brain and Behavior

Treatment’s Toughest Assignment

“Just this one Netflix episode. I mean, it is Game of Thrones.”

Or “I can spend another five minutes surfing ESPN.com.”

We stall before delving into an unpleasant task. We search for discounted shoes, binge watch reality TV, and devour Ben & Jerry on dreary Tuesday nights. On Thursday nights, we devote two hours to adorable puppy cams and addictive Friends reruns. And don’t ask about Wednesday nights -- after a draining day at work, we slam the apartment door and collapse on the couch.

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Antidepressant

6 Ways to Achieve Genuine Happiness During Depression


Every time I watch television, I see commercials for anti-depressants and I’m taken back to a time in my life when I was severely depressed and ON similar medications.

I was so depressed that I was hospitalized for three weeks. The overwhelming feelings of fear, sadness, and anxiety were paralyzing.

Today I hear that depression is a "disease" -- that it's a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes it. It's estimated that
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Books

5 Creative Ideas for Keeping Your Loved One’s Memory Alive

After someone close to us dies, we may think that our connection with the deceased is over. Maybe we assume that the “healthy” thing to do is to let go and get over our friend's or family member's passing. (Does anyone ever get over a terrible loss?) Or maybe we have a hard time bringing up our loved one in conversation. It’s just too painful to recount the memories when their absence is so palpable we can touch it. Or maybe you’d like to find a unique way to honor your loved one. But you’re not sure what to do.

Each of us mourns in different ways. And these ways may change throughout the years. But our relationship with our loved one is never over. It lives on. It continues to be a living, breathing thing.
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Bulimia

The Healing Power in Doing What Scares You

While volunteering at a Los Angeles animal shelter, I met a brindle, 10-month-old pit bull named Sunny. She was so skinny that even her shadow looked bony, and her tail looked like it had been chopped in half and then stomped on in three places. Yet despite her dire circumstances, a joyful energy moved through her. Every time I slipped inside her kennel, she came barreling into my arms and sprawled across my lap, her whole body wagging along with her stub tail.

The outdoor kennels gave the dogs little relief from scorching summer sun. Sunny often panted with saliva dripping from her mouth, and I knew she was excruciatingly thirsty. Sometimes she approached her water bowl, but then would back away with her ears flattened on top of her head. And soon enough I realized what she was afraid of: her reflection. Sunny's body told her to drink, but her mind told her a scary, dangerous dog was in her way.

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