Depression Self-Help Tip

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If you are struggling with depression, please tell someone.

If the depressed mood is strong and/or persistent, please contact a professional or an agency like CornerStone Family Services (614-459-3003) for help.

smile sun depressionWhether the depressed mood is strong, occasional, ongoing, or just comes and goes there are things we can do to Help with anxiety & depression.

Here is one self-help tip from helpguide.org:

In order to overcome depression, you have to take care of yourself. This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning to manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, adopting healthy habits, and scheduling fun activities into your day.

  • Aim for eight hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems. Whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits.
  • Expose yourself to a little sunlight every day. Lack of sunlight can make depression worse. Make sure you’re getting enough. Take a short walk outdoors, have your coffee outside, enjoy an al frescomeal, people-watch on a park bench, or sit out in the garden. Aim for at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day to boost your mood. If you live somewhere with little winter sunshine, try using a light therapy box.
  • Keep stress in check. Not only does stress prolong and worsen depression, but it can also trigger it. Figure out all the things in your life that stress you out. Examples include: work overload, unsupportive relationships, taking on too much, or health problems. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
  • Care for a pet. While nothing can replace the human connection, pets can bring joy and companionship into your life and help you feel less isolated. Caring for a pet can also get you outside of yourself and give you a sense of being needed—both powerful antidotes to depression.

Do things you enjoy (or used to)

While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can choose to do things that youused to enjoy. Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing. Go out with friends. Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or the ballpark.

Push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for fun activities.

Develop a wellness toolbox

Come up with a list of things that you can do for a quick mood boost. Include any strategies, activities, or skills that have helped in the past. The more “tools” for coping with depression, the better. Try and implement a few of these ideas each day, even if you’re feeling good.

  • Spend some time in nature
  • List what you like about yourself
  • Read a good book
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show
  • Take a long, hot bath
  • Take care of a few small tasks
  • Play with a pet
  • Talk to friends or family face-to-face
  • Listen to music
  • Do something spontaneous

9 Things to Try With an Anxious Child

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 9 Things Every Parent with an Anxious Child Should Try

By Renee Jain

anxious childAs all the kids line up to go to school, your son, Timmy, turns to you and says, “I don’t want to take the bus. My stomach hurts. Please don’t make me go.” You cringe and think, Here we go again. What should be a simple morning routine explodes into a daunting challenge.

You look at Timmy and see genuine terror. You want to comfort him. You want to ease the excessive worry that’s become part and parcel of his everyday life. First, you try logic. “Timmy, we walk an extra four blocks to catch this bus because this driver has an accident-free driving record!” He doesn’t budge.

You provide reassurance. “I promise you’ll be OK. Timmy, look at me… you trust me, right?” Timmy nods. A few seconds later he whispers, “Please don’t make me go.”

You resort to anger: “Timothy Christopher, you will get on this bus RIGHT NOW, or there will be serious consequences. No iPad for one week!” He looks at you as if you’re making him walk the plank. He climbs onto the bus, defeated. You feel terrible.

If any of this sounds familiar, know you are not alone. Most parents would move mountains to ease their child’s pain. Parents of kids with anxiety would move planets and stars as well. It hurts to watch your child worry over situations that, frankly, don’t seem that scary. Here’s the thing: To your child’s mind, these situations are genuinely threatening. And even perceived threats can create a real nervous system response. We call this response anxiety and I know it well.

I’d spent the better part of my childhood covering up a persistent, overwhelming feeling of worry until, finally, in my early twenties, I decided to seek out a solution. What I’ve learned over the last two decades is that many people suffer from debilitating worry. In fact, 40 million American adults, as well as 1 in 8 children, suffer from anxiety. Many kids miss school, social activities and a good night’s rest just from the worried thoughts in their head. Many parents suffer from frustration and a feeling of helplessness when they witness their child in this state day in, day out.

What I also learned is that while there is no one-size-fits-all solution for anxiety, there are a plethora of great research-based techniques that can help manage it — many of which are simple to learn. WAIT! Why didn’t my parents know about this? Why didn’t I know about it? Why don’t they teach these skills in school?

I wish I could go back in time and teach the younger version of myself how to cope, but of course, that’s not possible. What is possible is to try to reach as many kids and parents as possible with these coping skills. What is possible is to teach kids how to go beyond just surviving to really finding meaning, purpose and happiness in their lives. To this end, I created an anxiety relief program for kids called GoZen. Here are 9 ideas straight from GoZen that parents of anxious children can try right away:

1. Stop Reassuring Your Child
Your child worries. You know there is nothing to worry about, so you say, “Trust me. There’s nothing to worry about.” Done and done, right? We all wish it were that simple. Why does your reassurance fall on deaf ears? It’s actually not the ears causing the issue. Your anxious child desperately wants to listen to you, but the brain won’t let it happen. During periods of anxiety, there is a rapid dump of chemicals and mental transitions executed in your body for survival. One by-product is that the prefrontal cortex — or more logical part of the brain — gets put on hold while the more automated emotional brain takes over. In other words, it is really hard for your child to think clearly, use logic or even remember how to complete basic tasks. What should you do instead of trying to rationalize the worry away? Try something I call the FEEL method:

Freeze — pause and take some deep breaths with your child. Deep breathing can help reverse the nervous system response.
Empathize — anxiety is scary. Your child wants to know that you get it.
Evaluate — once your child is calm, it’s time to figure out possible solutions.
Let Go – Let go of your guilt; you are an amazing parent giving your child the tools to manage their worry.

2. Highlight Why Worrying is Good
Remember, anxiety is tough enough without a child believing that Something is wrong with me. Many kids even develop anxiety about having anxiety. Teach your kids that worrying does, in fact, have a purpose.

When our ancestors were hunting and gathering food there was danger in the environment, and being worried helped them avoid attacks from the saber-toothed cat lurking in the bush. In modern times, we don’t have a need to run from predators, but we are left with an evolutionary imprint that protects us: worry.

Worry is a protection mechanism. Worry rings an alarm in our system and helps us survive danger. Teach your kids that worry is perfectly normal, it can help protect us, and everyone experiences it from time to time. Sometimes our system sets off false alarms, but this type of worry (anxiety) can be put in check with some simple techniques.

3. Bring Your Child’s Worry to Life
As you probably know, ignoring anxiety doesn’t help. But bringing worry to life and talking about it like a real person can. Create a worry character for your child. In GoZen we created Widdle the Worrier. Widdle personifies anxiety. Widdle lives in the old brain that is responsible for protecting us when we’re in danger. Of course, sometimes Widdle gets a little out of control and when that happens, we have to talk some sense into Widdle. You can use this same idea with a stuffed animal or even role-playing at home.

Personifying worry or creating a character has multiple benefits. It can help demystify this scary physical response children experience when they worry. It can reactivate the logical brain, and it’s a tool your children can use on their own at any time.

4. Teach Your Child to Be a Thought Detective
Remember, worry is the brain’s way of protecting us from danger. To make sure we’re really paying attention, the mind often exaggerates the object of the worry (e.g., mistaking a stick for a snake). You may have heard that teaching your children to think more positively could calm their worries. But the best remedy for distorted thinking is not positive thinking; it’s accurate thinking. Try a method we call the 3Cs:

Catch your thoughts: Imagine every thought you have floats above your head in a bubble (like what you see in comic strips). Now, catch one of the worried thoughts like “No one at school likes me.”

Collect evidence: Next, collect evidence to support or negate this thought. Teach your child not to make judgments about what to worry about based only on feelings. Feelings are not facts. (Supporting evidence: “I had a hard time finding someone to sit with at lunch yesterday.” Negating evidence: “Sherry and I do homework together–she’s a friend of mine.”)

Challenge your thoughts: The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is to teach your children to have a debate within themselves.

5. Allow Them to Worry
As you know, telling your children not to worry won’t prevent them from doing so. If your children could simply shove their feelings away, they would. But allowing your children to worry openly, in limited doses, can be helpful. Create a daily ritual called “Worry Time” that lasts 10 to 15 minutes. During this ritual encourage your children to release all their worries in writing. You can make the activity fun by decorating a worry box. During worry time there are no rules on what constitutes a valid worry — anything goes. When the time is up, close the box and say good-bye to the worries for the day.

6. Help Them Go from What If to What Is
You may not know this, but humans are capable of time travel. In fact, mentally we spend a lot of time in the future. For someone experiencing anxiety, this type of mental time travel can exacerbate the worry. A typical time traveler asks what-if questions: “What if I can’t open my locker and I miss class?” “What if Suzy doesn’t talk to me today?”

Research shows that coming back to the present can help alleviate this tendency. One effective method of doing this is to practice mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness brings a child from what if to what is. To do this, help your child simply focus on their breath for a few minutes.

7. Avoid Avoiding Everything that Causes Anxiety
Do your children want to avoid social events, dogs, school, planes or basically any situation that causes anxiety? As a parent, do you help them do so? Of course! This is natural. The flight part of the flight-fight-freeze response urges your children to escape the threatening situation. Unfortunately, in the long run, avoidance makes anxiety worse.

So what’s the alternative? Try a method we call laddering. Kids who are able to manage their worry break it down into manageable chunks. Laddering uses this chunking concept and gradual exposure to reach a goal.

Let’s say your child is afraid of sitting on the swings in the park. Instead of avoiding this activity, create mini-goals to get closer to the bigger goal (e.g., go to the edge of the park, then walk into the park, go to the swings, and, finally, get on a swing). You can use each step until the exposure becomes too easy; that’s when you know it’s time to move to the next rung on the ladder.

8. Help Them Work Through a Checklist
What do trained pilots do when they face an emergency? They don’t wing it (no pun intended!); they refer to their emergency checklists. Even with years of training, every pilot works through a checklist because, when in danger, sometimes it’s hard to think clearly.

When kids face anxiety they feel the same way. Why not create a checklist so they have a step-by-step method to calm down? What do you want them to do when they first feel anxiety coming on? If breathing helps them, then the first step is to pause and breathe. Next, they can evaluate the situation. In the end, you can create a hard copy checklist for your child to refer to when they feel anxious.

9. Practice Self-Compassion
Watching your child suffer from anxiety can be painful, frustrating, and confusing. There is not one parent that hasn’t wondered at one time or another if they are the cause of their child’s anxiety. Here’s the thing, research shows that anxiety is often the result of multiple factors (i.e., genes, brain physiology, temperament, environmental factors, past traumatic events, etc.). Please keep in mind, you did not cause your child’s anxiety, but you can help them overcome it.

Toward the goal of a healthier life for the whole family, practice self-compassion. Remember, you’re not alone, and you’re not to blame. It’s time to let go of debilitating self-criticism and forgive yourself. Love yourself. You are your child’s champion.

The Science of Happiness (Inforgraphic)

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The Science of Happiness

9 Things You Should Know About Male Body Image Issues

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9 Things You Should Know About Male Body Image Issues

by Joe Carter

Body image is the mental representation we create of what we think we look like; it may or may not bear a close relation to how others actually see us. Body image issues are often treated as if they were only a problem for women (see here for 9 Things on female body images issues). But men suffer from many of the same debilitating problems caused by skewed perceptions of their bodies. Here are nine things you should know about male body image issues:

1. When it comes to weight concerns, a key difference between young men and young women is that females want to be thinner, while males tend to feel pressure to gain weight. “There are some males who do want to be thinner and are focused on thinness,” says Dr. Alison Field, an associate professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, “but many more are focused on wanting bigger or at least more toned and defined muscles. That’s a very different physique.”

2. One common body image problem for men is dissatisfaction with their muscularity (i.e., with having well-developed muscles). Research suggests that exposure to the media ideal of muscularity, and not muscularity per se, elicits body dissatisfaction in men with pre-existing muscularity concerns.

3. According to The Atlanticeven toys contribute to the distorted messages boys receive about the ideal male form. In the last decade or two, action figures have lost a tremendous proportion of fat and added a substantial proportion of muscle. “Only 1 or 2 percent of [males] actually have that body type,” says Dr. Raymond Lemberg, a clinical psychologist and expert on male eating disorders. “We’re presenting men in a way that is unnatural.”

4. Muscle dysmorphia – a pathological preoccupation with muscularity – appears to be a form of body dysmorphic disorder with a focus on muscularity (bodybuilders sometimes refer to this condition as “bigorexia”). One study found that those with muscle dysmorphia were more likely to have attempted suicide, had poorer quality of life, and had a higher frequency of any substance use disorder and anabolic steroid abuse.

5. A national study of adolescent boys published in JAMA Pediatrics found that males with high concerns about thinness but not muscularity were more likely to develop high depressive symptoms. Males with high concerns about muscularity and thinness were more likely than their peers to use drugs, and males with high concerns about muscularity who used supplements and other products to enhance physique were more likely to start binge drinking frequently and using drugs

6. Nationwide, about 4 percent of male high school students have taken steroids without a doctor’s prescription. The prevalence of having ever taken steroids without a doctor’s prescription was higher among Hispanic (4.2 percent) than white (2.8 percent) and black (2.3 percent) students.

7. A survey in the U.K. found that four out of five men confess to being unhappy about their body. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they would trade a year of their life to achieve their ideal body weight or shape.

8. Research studies have found that approximately 4 percent of male college undergraduates are at risk for an eating disorder. The proportion of the male population estimated to have a condition at some point in their lifetime is 0.3 percent for anorexia nervosa, 0.5 percent bulimia nervosa, and 2.0 percent for binge eating disorder.

9. The only complete way to overcome the problem is to have our beliefs about body image transformed by the Holy Spirit. As Heather Davis Nelson says in the Journal of Biblical Counseling:

In pursuing worldly beauty, we strive to become this elusive image in place of who we really are. You and I are created in the image of the living God. Our purpose is to reflect His image to the world. But since the fall, we let the world inscribe its image on us. It is the very picture of sin and ultimately death. Instead of being transformed to God’s image, we conform to the world’s image. We are hopelessly stuck in a lifeless cycle, exchanging God for the creature as our object of worship. But God in His mercy rescued us! In love, God sent Jesus Christ to take on the consequences of our idolatrous affair. He became sin so that we might become righteous. In Christ, God gives us freedom from sin’s power now and hope for its eradication in heaven. God makes you beautiful with the beauty of His Son, Jesus. It is in gazing at God’s image in Jesus Christ that you are transformed. Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, (sisters) in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Focus Matters

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How we look at situations impacts our mental and emotional well-being.

focus

CornerStone Counselor Snapshot: Bernadette McNamara, MACMHC, LPC-CR

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Bernadette MBernadette McNamara, LPC-CR brings her creative and empathetic style to the counseling sessions to help bring hope and healing to those who are hurting.

As a professional counselor, Bernadette works with people in a variety of areas, including:

Addictions, Adjustment Issues, Adolescents (8 & up), Adults, Anxiety, Domestic Violence, Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental and Emotional Disorders, Eating Disorders, Life Transitions, Marriage & Family, Mood Disorders, PREPARE/ENRICH (Pre-Marital and Marital), PTSD, Self-Esteem/Self-Worth, Stress Management, Spiritual & Religious Concerns/Abuse, Survivors of Sexual Abuse, Women’s Issues, Trauma.

To set up an appointment with Bernadette, contact CornerStone at 614-459-3003.

4 Things Not to Say to Hurting People

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4 Things Not to Say to Hurting People

Modified from a post by Colin Mattoon

4-Things-Not-to-Say-to-Hurting-People

If you [have] faced suffering in your life, then you have probably encountered a [friend] who wanted to provide comfort and help to you.

Some of them were probably helpful, while others…not so much.

Most people, including myself, have said things that are unhelpful and have made things worse for [those] who are suffering.

Here are 4 things not to say to people who are hurting…

# 1: Good things through impersonal forms of communication.

Sufferers often struggle with feeling isolated and alone. One of their biggest needs is to have people reach out and pursue relationship with them. A common mistake among younger people is the tendency to reach out in the least personal way possible. Rather than calling and having a conversation, they text. Rather than having face-to-face conversations or visiting people in their homes, they send Facebook messages. These methods of communication are good, but often aren’t sufficient by themselves to comfort hurting people.

Individuals suffering with chronic illnesses, and other situations that produce prolonged suffering, are most likely to feel this isolation. This was true for my wife after she had a liver transplant. While she appreciated people who texted, she still struggled with feeling disconnected from community. The less personal the communication the less help you are to the hurting person who feels isolated or alone.

Instead, try doing this: Have face-to-face conversations and visit hurting people in their homes. Texting and other impersonal forms of communication are not bad, but they are insufficient by themselves to care for the hurting person. People need to intentionally communicate with sufferers in the most personal forms of communication even if this is difficult and inconvenient for them.

# 2: Untimely problem solving statements.

Attempting to help a person solve their problems can be a wise and loving thing to do. If a hurting person wants someone to help them problem solve, offering advice on how to fix things can be just what they need. However, if we try to fix the problems of a hurting person who does not desire help and has not asked for it, then our efforts will usually make things worse not better. Let me be clear, problem solving is not always a bad thing, but it is almost always unhelpful if it’s not what the hurting person wants to talk about in that particular conversation.

Another reason to avoid jumping into problem solving is that is can distract you from the work of giving [healthy] encouragement. On many occasions, I have been guilty of jumping into advice giving and problem solving, while failing to listen well and speak…encouragement to someone who was hurting. I suspect I am not the only person who has struggled in this way. Hurting people often need us to remind them of…hope…more than they need us to be a problem solver.

[If you and the hurting person are Christians], we can give…hope by pointing hurting people to the cross and the Savior who suffered to save them. Remind them of the guaranteed promises of God’s Word. Remind them they can trust God in their suffering because they have the same favor, love and perfect standing before God the Father that Jesus has because they are in Christ. Remind them of who God is in the midst of their uncertainties, questions and doubts. To do this well requires us to carefully listen before we speak. Don’t let your desire to problem solve distract you from this work of Gospel encouragement.

Instead, try saying this: “I am sorry…I want to be here for you and support you. Do you want to talk about what you are feeling/ thinking right now or talk about some ways to try and make things better?” You will not know what the hurting person needs and wants in your conversation unless you ask them. Trying to problem solve the issues surrounding the hurt another person is experiencing should be avoided unless the person says he or she wants this or you ask the person’s permission to share your advice first. Don’t spend so much time, effort and energy focusing on problem solving that you short change the need to give…encouragement to the hurting person.

# 3: Saying either nothing to them about their suffering or nothing at all.

It’s hard to know what to say to sufferers. People who haven’t gone through significant suffering or death yet may feel especially uncomfortable, overwhelmed and dumbfounded in the face of someone else’s suffering. Because of this, some people find that the easiest thing for them to do is avoid talking about the problem. They talk to the hurting person about sports, current events, TV shows and a million other things, but they don’t talk about the person’s suffering. Some people’s discomfort goes further and leads them to completely avoid talking to a hurting person.

This may be the most hurtful response to someone who is suffering. Don’t do this!

Instead, try saying this: “How are you doing with (whatever their situation is)?” or “Friend, I care about you and am sorry, and I honestly have no idea what to say to you right now. I care about you a lot though.” If you are nervous or at a loss for what to say, just admit it. It shows love and concern in a way that will be meaningful to the hurting person.

# 4: “I know what you are going through.”

People who say this usually have their hearts in the right place. They don’t want the other person to feel alone and say this to show that they understand. But here’s the problem: The person who says this actually doesn’t know what the other person is going through. The same experience, such as the death of a grandparent, is different for every person because each person is different, the circumstances are different and the relationship is different. Saying this doesn’t help the hurting person. In fact, it often makes it worse.

Instead, try saying this, “I don’t know exactly what you are going through, but it seems painful, sad, etc., and I am sorry.” Often the most helpful thing that sufferers can hear is that you want to be present for them and to listen. Hurting people need to hear “I care about you and I am here to talk or just be with you.”

Ministering to those who are hurting can be tough. But…[we] can use us to make a real difference in someone’s life.

OCD: Coping and Support

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OCD: Coping and Support

OCD cycleBy Mayo Clinic Staff

Coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder can be challenging. Medications can have unwanted side effects, and you might feel embarrassed or angry about having a condition that requires long-term treatment. Here are some ways to help cope with OCD:

  • Learn about OCD. Education about your condition can empower you and motivate you to stick to your treatment plan.
  • Join a support group. Support groups for people with OCD can help you reach out to others facing similar challenges.
  • Stay focused on your goals. Recovery from OCD is an ongoing process. Stay motivated by keeping your recovery goals in mind.
  • Find healthy outlets. Explore healthy ways to channel your energy, such as hobbies and recreational activities. Regular exercise, eating a healthy diet and getting adequate sleep can have a positive effect on your treatment.
  • Learn relaxation and stress management. Try stress management techniques such as meditation, muscle relaxation, deep breathing, yoga or tai chi.
  • Stick with your regular activities. Go to work or school as you usually would. Spend time with family and friends. Don’t let OCD get in the way of your life. If OCD disrupts activities or your daily routine, work with an experienced therapist on doing exposures to reduce this disruption.