Guidance to know the answer to "When should I consider therapy"?

Today’s blog is Part 1 in a 3-Part series regarding starting therapy. Part 1 focuses on questions to ask yourself or situations that might make you want to consider therapy.  Part 2 will address ways to find a therapist to work with, and Part 3 will focus on what to expect in your initial therapy appointment.  

We find that many people have misconceptions about therapy, and I am hoping this 3-Part series will help answer some of those questions, and address some inaccuracies about therapy. 

How do I know when I should consider therapy?

Great question, and of course my first answer would be anytime!  The reason I say that is because therapy can be a time for self-reflection, a pause in your busy life to prioritize what you are doing and why.  Just like scheduling a massage, going for a run, or getting a mani/pedi allows you time to focus on YOU, therapy can offer the same benefit. A gym membership can lead to good physical health while therapy can lead to good mental health.  Maintaining good mental health is always a good idea, and therapy can help with that.

Therapy is also appropriate when you might be looking for unbiased,professional help. Therapy can be considered if you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, or are dissatisfied with your job, but can also be helpful if you don’t want to leave your house due to sadness or worry. The spectrum of people who can benefit from therapy is quite wide! As long as you are willing to open up to a therapist and are interested in having guidance to address some of your concerns or help get you back on track, then therapy is appropriate. 

A good rule of thumb is if you are consistently feeling: 

Unfulfilled

Stressed

Unhappy

Worried 

Sad

Drained

Questioning yourself or what you're doing, then therapy might be something to consider. 

Oftentimes, we feel dissatisfied, and don’t know why. You might say “I’m doing everything I can and I’m still not happy.”  This might lead to just trying harder, and doing more, which ends up leaving you even more drained.  This is when having a professional with an outside perspective assisting you could be beneficial.

Or, sometimes your friend, boss, or your spouse might suggest you talk to someone.  If someone close to you suggests this, please take a pause to consider. Might they see something that you don't ? Maybe they see you drinking too much to calm down every night, or maybe they see you pulling away from friendships due to anxiety.  As long as these are trusted people in your life, this might be another indicator that seeing a therapist would be a good idea.

“I don’t need therapy.  My doctor gave me medicine for my sadness/anxiety” – My reply to this would be that you should still consider therapy.  Medication can be helpful, but it might not target some of the underlying reasons you are feeling sad or worried.  Research studies have repeatedly shown that clients receive the most benefit when medication is combined with therapy, rather than just medication alone.

In the end, therapy can help you maintain good mental wellbeing, and adjust what you are doing so you are happier, more fulfilled, or less anxious.  And, who doesn’t want that?!

Feel free to reach out to our office if you aren’t sure if therapy could benefit you.  And, stay tuned to our next blog – Part 2 in this series on how to find a therapist!

 

6 Simple Tips to Reduce Your Anxiety so You Feel More Relaxed 

I thought I'd put together a brief list of simple ideas to help you feel more relaxed, especially if you are feeling worried or anxious.  You certainly don't need to do all of these, but if you're feeling run down, try figuring out how to add one or two of these practices into your day.  It just might help you feel better!

1- Develop a list of coping skills (things that help you to feel better when you are feeling nervous or anxious). Add things you have seen others do, or you have done in the past and helped you to feel better. Some ideas include: listening to music, getting some fresh air, and practicing deep breathing. Also, identify things you are doing when you feel anxious that DO NOT help you feel better, and stop doing them!  

2 - Build a positive support system of friends and/or family that you can talk to when you are feeling anxious (or down), when you need a reality check, or need to help remembering your coping skills.  Or, if you need a little more help than friends and family can provide, consider therapy.

3-Get moving! Exercise has numerous benefits, including helping to lift your mood. Exercise serves as an excellent outlet, and a great way to channel your “nervous” energies (if you are feeling a tendency to fidget) into something productive.    Even just taking a short walk at lunchtime can benefit your mental clarity.

4-Journaling offers a chance to do some reflective writing on your triggers to your anxiety and what coping skills are working for you. Journal nightly as a way to process your day, to find anxiety triggers and patterns in your behaviors.  You can add in gratitude journaling as well to help you focus on the positives. 

5-Practice Mindfulness. Anxiety is typically future oriented, and fear based. Practice mindfulness techniques (such as grounding) to train your mind to focus on the here and now rather than your anxiety about the future.   

6-Deep breathing. This is a quick and easy skill you can do anywhere, that requires no equipment or preparation. Take a slow deep breath in (to the count of 5), then hold it for a count of 5, then slowly exhale to the count of 5. Do this 5 times. This breathing can be combined with closing your eyes, focusing on your chest rising and falling, or picturing a place that makes you feel calm and happy. 

If you want to read more about simple techniques to help you feel less anxious, check out this article that elaborates on the above ideas.  What else would you add that helps you relax?

5 Tips on Sleeping Well

Do you have trouble falling asleep?  Does your mind seem to race even after you climb into bed?  Do you have worries on your mind that prevent you from easily falling asleep?  Do you toss and turn, finding you can't shut your mind off?  Or, do you sleep ok, but wake up and find you are still tired?

You are not alone!  Trouble sleeping (difficulty falling asleep and/or sustaining sleep) is something that I've noticed many people struggle with.  Or, maybe you are able to fall asleep easily now, but you've had times in the recent past when you couldn't fall asleep no matter how tired you were.  The Sleep Foundation (https://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/lack-sleep-affecting-americans-finds-the-national-sleep-foundation) reports that 45% of Americans said they had difficulty sleeping in the past week, with women struggling with insomnia more than men.  Good quality restorative sleep is so important for us to function at our best!  It is necessary for memory consolidation, helps reduce our risk of certain diseases like heart attacks and diabetes, and improves our decision making.

'Sleep hygiene' is the fancy term for any practice that helps you to sleep well consistently.  I suggest the following tips, which can be especially helpful for the ones who suffer with anxiety and racing thoughts at bedtime:

1-Use a sound machine.  Any sound, whether it’s white noise or rain softly falling, can help block out other extraneous sounds.  The soothing, repetitive nature of any sound machine track can help you relax.  There are even apps (Relax Melodies, or Sound Machine) available that have tracks of the rain forest, a babbling brook, or birds chirping that you can use for free.

2-Keep your bedroom cool and dark.  Use blackout curtains if you need it.  Conversely, when it is morning time, open up the curtains immediately, as the sunlight can help jumpstart your day and give you energy.

3-Limit naps to 15-30 minutes at most.  Skip naps if at all possible, because you most likely won't be ready for bed at your typical bed time. 

4-Have a consistent sleep/wake time.  Even if it’s the weekend, or your day off, it’s best to wake up within 1 hour of your normal wake time to not throw off your bed time that night.  And, go to bed at approximately the same time every night.

5-(THIS ONE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT!) Create a relaxing bedtime routine that includes no electronics.  Just as children crave routine, especially at bedtime, we do too!  A routine (like bath, pjs, read a book, and bedtime for kids) helps our brains to understand what is coming next.  Your brain will learn to expect that soon you'll want to fall asleep.  So, starting at least one hour prior to bedtime, turn off all electronics (yes, this includes your iPad, computer, tv and cell phone).  Some of these electronics have a “nighttime” lighting setting, but any light that they emit can prohibit your brain from naturally producing the melatonin that signals your body that you are tired.  Take a warm bath or shower.  As your body temperate decreases from the bath or shower, you will naturally become drowsy.  Take some time to journal your thoughts, or work on a crossword puzzle.  Read.  Crochet.  Do Sudoku.  If you turn off your phone, you’ll find you have time to do some of the things you previously did in the non-digital age, while promoting good sleep habits.

Give some of these a try and let me know what works for you!