Candy Season

Candy season is upon us starting with Halloween and continuing into New Year. Moderation is important as sugar and simple sugars also known as carbohydrates can change mood, behavior control and ability to sleep. 

Sugar works in the brain by creating a rush of good feeling, release important chemicals that can cause the person to feel good and then be overwhelmed depending on the amount of sugar intake.

Excess sugar intake can cause behavioral problems, moodiness, tantrums, impulse control problems and sleep disturbance in children that may have mental health problems such as ADHD, ODD and Bipolar. 

Things you can do to help your child manage through the upcoming Candy frenzy, Halloween is:

·         Control portion size. Opt for one or two pieces of candy at a time. It will allow the body to process the sugar with minimal negative reactions.

·         Dilute fruit juices

·         No candy before bedtime as dessert

Parents can help the child with understanding and watch for behavior changes related to candy and sugar, understanding the reactions and changes are chemical and will dissipate relatively shortly. 

Preparing for the possibility of candy overdose is the best choice and can help the family handle the behaviors with relationship building responses.

·         Have patience and understand the reaction is not purposeful

·         In public places like trick or treating, Halloween parties, create a signal that allows the child to calm down and manage behaviors. The signal is set up before hand and is not a punishment but a support and is provided as such

·         Find quiet time out place to take a breather and sit with them, talk or sit quietly to relax. Then continue the fun

If you find this helpful and would like more information about behavior modification and/or need assistance with figuring out whether or not your child has symptoms, Contact Judy Steele at 941-391-1067 to make an appointment with a counselor at Southwest Florida Counseling Center.

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN.

 

 

Healthy Family Time in the Summer Time

Think about one precious memory you have of summer time. I bet this memory involves interactions with the most valued people in your life. The hectic mundane routine of everyday life can often lead us to not enjoy our families and loved ones as much as we would like. Even vacations can become stressful because we may be too focused on the activities/schedules and forget to stop and appreciate the people around us.  Being intentional with the planning of activities that promote family bonding time is the key to nourishing those extra special relationships in our lives. Here are some tips on how to promote intentional family time:

  • Put away all technological devices. 
  • A special one-on-one time with each member of the family doing something that is different from everyday routine (date with your spouse, special ice cream outing, going to a different park, visiting a different beach, etc.)
  • Eat dinner together at the dinner table at least once per week (no technology allowed!)
  • Put your family time first before play dates, friends, work, phone calls, etc.
  • Families with multiple children plan a “date time” with each child individually doing an activity of the child’s choice. 

 

Most of us are creatures of habit and finding new and creative activities can often be difficult and frustrating. Family activities that encourage a healthy mind and body lifestyle are wonderful in building stronger relationships. Summer time can be a great opportunity for families to start new family traditions and figure out what works and what does not. You can also plant a seed for healthy family time for future generations.  Here are some healthy creative activities:

 

  • Have a weekly movie night at home.
  • Eat a special meal that is completely different than your usual meals. Go around and say what your favorite memory of the week was and what you are looking forward to next week.
  • Go to a new library, new park, new beach, new fishing spot, etc.
  • Plant a garden together (you can start very small!)
  • Paint together (set up special area for younger kids) or have a dance party in your house.
  • Go for a hike and pack lots of water and a favorite lunch!
  • Involve the family in making healthy meals: make a smoothie, fruit/veggie plate, healthy desert, etc. together.
  • Go bowling or play a board game together on rainy days.

 

Get a calendar and write down one intentional activity you will do with your family per week. Make sure to include the whole family in the planning of these new activities. The process of just planning together can be a fun and exciting family activity. Make sure to follow through with the plans and enjoy your special time together! 

Sometimes it can be difficult getting the family together or figuring out how to make family time memorable. Our qualified therapists at Southwest Florida Counseling Center can provide individual and/or family sessions to help your family thrive. Give us a call to start today!

The Aftermath of Childhood Domestic Violence

If left untreated, the residual effects of domestic violence (DV) persist throughout adulthood. Children who are exposed, not only to violence in their home, but direct child abuse are more inclined to suffer from the following: violent acts, aggression, delinquency, depression, social isolation, anxiety and low self-esteem. Children who witness violence are less likely to regulate strong emotions and can display troublesome behavior, for example lashing out in anger at home. Many stages of a child's development can be effected:

  • visual and auditory processing
  • memory
  • reading
  • learning

 

Some other symptoms linked to DV:

  • being emotionally distant
  • distrusting of others
  • sleep disturbance
  • bed-wetting, and fears of being alone
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • eating disorders, social phobias  
  • Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) have been tied to DV.

 

    The effects of stress from DV during childhood can permanently alter the brain as the violent acts occur during vital stages of development. Also, this stress can be attributed to heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and metabolic disorders.  This is not to say that DV will cause these disorders, yet there seems to be a connection between these disorders and DV.   Many adult women who have been subjected to abuse suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression, and/ or Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).   Additionally, men who were abused in childhood can be more likely to abuse their children compared to the men who were not abused.  Often times, individuals who were exposed to or victims of DV end up in abusive relationships, only continuing this abusive cycle.

    If you or your child are experiencing these symptoms or concerns, please contact Southwest Florida Counseling Center where we can assist in the healing process.  Our compassionate and non-judgmental therapists can help you and/or your child can gain inner freedom.

Is Life Balance Possible?

Like so many of us, we race along at 90 miles an hour chasing this concept of life balance that somehow manages to elude us. So began the quest to find out if it is possible.
When I first began to contemplate what constituted “ life balance” I looked up synonyms for it: stability, steadiness, equilibrium, but those certainly didn’t offer an answer. So what follows are the results of my personal journey in the quest to define and maintain life balance. Initially I discovered that trying to find balance in life is a journey on a road without a map.  So I sent an email to some friends and asked them to share any insights they’ve found on the path to balance and fulfillment.
My friend Ina said, “I surround myself with those who support my need for balance, both friends and co-workers.” My friend Judy said. “It is precisely the fact that I work in my garden that makes my life feel in balance. Ruth said, “A balanced life depends on who you are and what you deem to be your most important values”. My favorite was from Charlie, a long time friend and a brilliant copywriter who said, “In my life, balance simply means not falling down”.  And that was somehow the most profound.
Can we achieve a balanced life, is it really important, and if so why?  Will insuring family, work, learning, fun, health, volunteering, and love in equal parts cause us to feel balanced? Will a pie shaped chart that rigidly divides our lives into multi-colored and roughly equal segments labeled with our top five or six core values steer us to balance? I use to think if I could; just get that chart completed, like it’s a finished piece of art to hang on the wall and admire, then all will be well. But I have since discovered that rigid adherence to my own rules actually creates more stress and anxiety. And forced divisions of time equal a life lacking in passion - like a straight line on your EKG.
If family is your main priority, and you balance your life around it, will you continue to feel balanced when your parents are gone and the kids have moved out? Is balance just about time management? Could be, but I think the answer is much simpler than that.  If we are trying to find meaning, or uncover some profound philosophical answer in our quest for balance, maybe we are just trying too hard.
A few years ago I accepted a senior management position in a very large and successful not-for-profit social service agency and my life became the most chaotic it had ever been.  Twenty previous years as an ad agency producer turned out to be child’s play compared to the demands of the non-profit. Yet I discovered that with less time, more responsibility, and busier than ever before, I felt a greater sense of balance!
I have always been a list maker and a list “checker-offer”.  And I always had a sense of anxiety because the list was always there and never completely completed. Then I read a simple but profound little book, “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff”, and one simple little line changed my life. “No one dies with their inbox empty”. I had thought for years that if I could just get “IT” all done, then I could relax.  So is balance about time management? Yes, but not entirely.
When you sit on a beach, quiet, alone, listening to the surf, reading a novel, sipping a margarita… is that balance?  No that’s peace.
When you and your spouse or kids manage to agree after a heated argument is that balance?  No that’s harmony.

So I began looking at what balance is not.   It’s not a place at which you arrive and once there you’re done and can say, “HONEY,  “WE’RE ARRIVED AT BALANCE …WE CAN UNPACK.”   It’s not someplace you’re going to spend the rest of your life because life really is a continuous balancing act!  
Our endless to-do lists have each of us juggling work and play, friends and family, heart and soul and mind and body in continuous always-changing cycles that are impossible to keep up in the air.
Many of us have watched that old variety act of a man who could spin eight or nine plates at one time and keep them up in the air. That was ultimate balance…. but that too was only momentary wasn’t it?  Did the plates go crashing down?  No, he collected them just before they crashed. Once in a while one would fall to the floor and yet he proudly took a bow and the audience applauded.
On this journey I have learned to forgive myself for not being perfect and have given myself permission to fail and try again, and fail again, and so on. Life is fluid and forever changing.
My best life balance is different everyday.  The right balance for me today will probably be different for me tomorrow. The right balance for us when we are single will be different when we marry, or if we have children; when we start a new career versus when we are nearing retirement or are already retired.
There is no perfect one-size fits all that we should be striving for. The best life balance is different for each of us because we all have different priorities and different lives. I realized and accepted that it’s not a problem that has to be solved, but an ongoing task that has to be managed. If you love to cook, each time you prepare a favorite recipe, you add, subtract, amend and revise the ingredients.
I’ve learned to accept that balance in not a natural state, it is perpetually in motion, and trying to lock it down is exhausting.  But it becomes much simpler if we look at it from a different perspective. If we look at achieving balance on a daily basis and break it down into small digestible bits rather than as a life goal it will work.  Here is what works for me.
EVERY DAY I TRY to achieve something and enjoy something,
Achievement and enjoyment are two sides of the same coin in the value of life. You can't have one without the other. Trying to live a one sided life is why so many "successful" people are not happy, or not as happy as they should be.
I cannot get the full value from life without both Achievement and Enjoyment. If you focus on achievement and enjoyment every day in life it will help you avoid the "As Soon As” trap.  This is a life-dulling habit of planning on getting around to the joys of life and accomplishments "as soon as,” I have the time, the money, the kids are grown.
Most of us already have a good grasp on the meaning of Achievement. But let's look at the concept of enjoyment a little more.  doesn’t just mean "Ha-Ha" having fun. It means Pride, Satisfaction, Happiness, Celebration, Love, A Sense of Well Being …all the Joys of Living.
So one day you’ll find yourself asking the question, “What’s my purpose in life?"  Today I actually have the answer.   I say, "You know, I just want to achieve something today and I want to enjoy something today. And if I do both of those things today, I'm going to have a pretty good day. And if I do both of those things every day I'm going to have a pretty good life."

And I think that's true for all of us. Life will deliver the value and balance we want when we are achieving and enjoying something every single day…in all the important areas that make up our lives. They don’t have to be big. Sometimes it’s getting to work in traffic without honking my horn and having an inappropriate silent conversation with the car in front of me.  If this is a new behavior then I have achieved something!!
 So for me, a good working definition of Balance is: meaningful daily Achievement and Enjoyment in each of my five life areas: Work, Family, Friends, Service and Self.
Why not take 20 minutes today and do something just for yourself? Think about what you want to focus on achieving or enjoying today. Then give yourself permission to do just that. Sometimes that one act can accomplish both, for me it’s my garden.
These are simple concepts really, but once you focus on them as key parts of your day, they are not that hard to accomplish. So, make it happen…. for yourself, your family and all the important people you care about…every day for the rest of your life… Achieve and Enjoy… AND ONE LAST THING, be grateful, every day about something.  Give thanks for being alive, for having long lists, or for the ability to sit and feel blessed for the ability to achieve and enjoy.   

 

Adapting to Change

It’s that time of year where a lot of us are making New Year’s Resolutions, and a lot of us are refusing to do so! But if there’s one thing to be said about the new year, we will all endure change of some kind. Whether you are grieving a loss, in the process of a career change, expecting a new edition to the family, trying to lose weight or having to learn how to work with a new person in your life, we all can expect to undergo changes throughout the year. But it doesn’t have to be a struggle. By utilizing some of these tips you can ease into many of the changes this new year will bring:

·         List the impending changes that you are feeling resistant towards

·         For each item/concern listed divide it under two categories:

o   Aspects out of your control

o   Aspects within your control

·         Write down specific actions you can take to assist in easing into the change

 

For example: Let’s say your boss just hired someone in your department, and you find out this new person wants to move up in the company and obtain the same position that you are trying to achieve! If you were to utilize the tips listed, here is an example of how it may look:

·         Subject: New Hire

·         Aspects out of my control:

o   Cannot stop anyone from being hired or fired

o   Cannot deter new hire from working towards the same position I want

·         Aspects within my control:

o   How I conduct my work

o   The manner in which I work with others in my department (including the new hire!)

·         Actions I can take:

o   Maintain open lines of communication with my supervisor to clearly express my interest in the future position

o   Show my supervisor through the actions of my work responsibilities that I have what it takes to obtain the future position

o   Be polite and approachable to the new hire, as we were all new hires at one point or another, and who knows… that person may end up being a great ally in your professional and/or personal life

Remember that you still have choices despite the changes that occur that are outside of your control. If you find that you are experiencing significant difficulty with upcoming change in your life, or have been unable to successfully adapt to a recent change give us a call. Our therapists at Southwest Florida Counseling Center (SWFCC) will assist you in finding a way to move forward effectively. We are here for you and ready to help!   

Grief and the Holidays

Festive decorations, twinkling lights, melting candles, family, friends.  The holidays can be a joyous time for many.  It is a time of reflection and a time of looking ahead.  It adds fresh excitement and fun, but also stress and reminders.  While many reminders can be happy, there is also a big sense of nostalgia during the holidays.  This nostalgia can be difficult for many to cope with, but even more difficult if you have recently lost someone you love, someone who was always a part of your holiday celebrations. 

Grief is a funny thing, not haha funny, more like punch in the gut funny.  You can feel like you have a handle on things; that everything is under control, and then something happens to trigger it again and boom, you’re in tears.  While over time grief does get easier, at the holidays it can become a bit more raw and harder to deal with.  Add to that, that most holiday songs are in minor keys and about times gone by, and it’s a recipe for disaster.  There are things you can do to help you cope and still enjoy the holiday season, despite your loved one not being there. 

1.       Don’t’ be afraid to remember.  Remembering can be difficult, especially when we are grieving.  It can be tempting to run from things that remind us of who is missing.  Memories have a way of making the loss feel unbearable; it is in letting ourselves remember that we can honor our loved one and help ourselves to heal.  It can be family remembering all together, or it can be in a journal all by yourself. 

2.       Don’t fear old traditions, but feel free to create new ones.  When we lose someone, usually our biggest thought is that nothing will be the same.  By keeping old traditions, we can remember the person we lost, and also still have the celebration we have always had.  It may mean changing the old tradition slightly.  Perhaps grandma is gone and she used to always make pumpkin pie, well, maybe someone can make her recipe.  Of course it is never going to taste the same as though grandma made it, but you can have the tradition and the memory still intact.  If keeping an old tradition isn’t possible or is too painful, perhaps you can create a new one.  If mom always cooked, well maybe this year, it can be potluck style and that can be a new tradition. 

3.       Don’t run from your feelings.  Grief is hard, especially at what for so many is a happy time of year.  Sit in your feelings and don’t run from them.  When we stuff our feelings, is when we make ourselves sick and end up with anxiety and panic attacks.  Crying isn’t fun, pain isn’t fun.  It’s human to want to run from these.  Find time though to sit in the moment and just feel.  Allow yourself to acknowledge your feelings.  The only way out is through, the longer we stuff our feelings, the harder we make the grieving process on ourselves.

4.       Take care of yourself…and othersIn the crazy business of the holiday season, it can be tempting to just throw ourselves into the business with full abandon.  When we are busy, we don’t give ourselves time to think and feel, we stuff everything and keep moving.  Be sure you don’t over book yourself.  When you are grieving, self-care is even more important than usual.  Take time out to color for a few minutes, take a walk on the beach, drive around and look at decorations, take your dog to the dog park, go on a trail ride, talk to your counselor or do whatever you do that makes you feel in the moment and rested.  It can also be helpful to do unto others.  You can buy gifts for the less fortunate, volunteer at a homeless shelter or even volunteer at an animal shelter.  In helping others, we get the focus off of ourselves and it helps us to realize that we can go on. 

5.       Find a grief support groupMeeting others who are struggling with a loss can be a helpful thing.  It can help normalize some pretty big emotions and feelings.  A support group is not a pity party, its strong people struggling with a loss, going to a safe place to support others struggling with similar losses.  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you understand your own limits and are doing something that is good for you to help you. 

Grieving can make us feel weak.  We have a false association that the expression of feelings and emotions is a show of weakness, but it takes a lot of strength to allow ourselves to feel.  It takes a tremendous amount of courage to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  In allowing ourselves to feel and be vulnerable is where we find our healing.  Whether your loss is recent, or happened a while ago, know that you aren’t alone. 

Love is in the Air

Love is in the Air

 

With the holiday season comes wedding and engagement season. When you first get engaged there is nothing but excitement. You can’t wait to tell everyone you know and start the planning because that is the fun part, right? But as soon as you find out all the small details you are now in charge of, you start getting overwhelmed. Everyone knows that planning a wedding can be a very stressful time; but there are some easy ways to control your stress levels.

·         Talk with your partner. Calm the wedding jitters by taking some time to speak to your partner in the beginning stages about your future marital life. What do you expect from each other as spouses? Will you be joining bank accounts? Will you be having children? What boundaries will you set with friends and family in your first year of marriage? If you go into planning knowing you and your partner are on the same page, it is more likely that you will rely on them to help you de-stress.

·         Know yourself and how you operate. If you are the type of person who must do everything yourself, make sure you pick a date that will allow you the time you need to complete everything. Do-it-yourself weddings are cheaper but will take up more time.

·         Your timeline is the most important thing to follow. Make sure that you create a realistic timeline and build in time to take breaks from planning as it is a full-time job. Get as much as you can done early on when you are still in the excitement phase. This will reduce the risk of becoming a “bridezilla” in the last month or two before the big day. The last two months you should be relaxing as much as possible as you will most likely be fielding calls from future guests.

·         Be flexible throughout the process. Know that everyone will want to ask questions and know all the details. Decide beforehand who needs to know what. Don’t be afraid to say ‘No’ to others’ ideas; they don’t know your budget or overall vision. Your budget will most likely control the decisions you have to make, so stick to it to reduce stress.

·         Rely on your partner. They will know when your stress levels are too high. Ask them to let you know when it is time to take a break and do something fun together. This will remind you why you are doing all of this in the first place, and will refresh your excitement.

It's All Relative

It's that time of year again. The holidays arrive the same time every year so why should we be surprised? With the blink of an eye the days and months turn into years. As holidays approach and time passes, people can become impatient with family, friends, and coworkers as well as strangers.  Tensions rise, anxieties increase, traffic becomes challenging and of course our favorite, family time. Family gatherings, family outings, family photo shoots, family group text messages and emails, family dinners, and the dreaded introductions of family members to a significant other.
 
Family gatherings are meant to be happy and joyful. However, at times we are on family/emotional overload. Before reaching emotional overload, remember the following:
-It's OK to set time limits with social events.
-It's OK to have an escape plan.
-It's OK to say no.
-Take your own car, you don't need permission to leave early. It's fun to carpool but not     fun to be stuck waiting for the person who's had too much wine or hasn't yet had     enough.
-Take time for YOU.

We all know people who will overspend choosing what they think is the “perfect” gift when in reality the greatest gift is not the present you bring but your presence. Be kind to yourself.

 

Have No Fear, Back to School is Here!

It’s that time again! Parents rejoice as you prepare your kids for a happy and successful school year. This can be both an exciting and stressful time for parents and kids alike as they anticipate the first ring of the school bell. As parents, we do our best for our children and try to provide them with the necessary tools for success. However, sometimes we can easily overlook the non-tangible tools for their tool box. Besides the list of basic school supplies we dart to Wal-Mart & Target for the last night before school starts, we should be mentally and emotionally preparing our children for the starting school year as well. Start by creating a dialogue with your children. Talk about general interests, worries, and goals. Show them their opinions and feelings are valid and that you are actively listening. Ways to promote conversations with kids:

•    Ask open-ended questions For ex.: “Tell me about your favorite class so far this year. What makes that one better than the rest?”

•    Respond attentively

•    Use nonjudgmental tone  

•    Create environment promoting open dialogue

•    Go out for a parent/child meal 

•    Or a walk around the neighborhood

•    Or even relaxing in the pool/ at the beach

The key is to engage in an activity of pleasure to both parent and child that can be achieved easily while maintaining conversation. You will be amazed at what your child is willing to divulge when he or she feels you have a genuine appreciation for their thoughts and feelings. Maintaining open conversations with your children can help to build their self-image and boost their self-confidence. 

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Communication is the Key to Building Healthy Relationships

Communication is a fundamental component of all relationships.  Regardless of the type of relationship, parent-child, platonic, romantic or business, communication is essential to letting others know what you want and need.  In the technology era, communication is instantaneous, we can send a text message, email, tweet, call, skype, facetime, Facebook, etc. Although these modes of communication let others know what we want and need, sometimes content and context can be misunderstood, which in turn creates a barrier to effective communication.    Effective communication is defined by: 

1)    Communication that is honest and open

2)    Communication in which the needs are met for both sender and receiver

3)    Communication  which is respectful in nature

4)    Communication in which there is the absence of arguing and fighting

Basic communication involves a sender and a receiver. There are two forms of communication, which are verbal and non-verbal.  In verbal communication, a message is sent verbally, the receiver interprets the message and then responds to the sender. In non-verbal communication, the sender sends a message through his or her body language (i.e. eyes, hand gestures, body posture/position, and noises).  In addition to the two forms of communication, there are four communication styles.

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What is Group Therapy, and Is It Right For You?

    Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves a counselor and/or psychologist working with more than one person at the same time in one room and is typically offered at private counseling offices, hospitals, and mental health clinics.  There are many different psychological problems and/or concerns addressed through group therapy sessions.   The group is typically held in a room where there are chairs arranged in a large circle so that all group members can see each other and speak directly to each other in the group session.  The group members are required to sign confidentiality agreements so that all information shared in the group sessions remains private.  People who participate in group therapy services typically also utilize other mental health services such as individual therapy, family therapy and/or medication management services in addition to the group therapy services.   This article will examine the ways the therapy groups are categorized as well as the benefits of group therapy.
    The most typical ways of structuring group therapy are by the time limit set on the duration of the group and by the focus/topic of the group.  A therapy group can be offered either as a time limited group in which there are a specific number of group sessions or as an ongoing group in which there are no set number of sessions for the group.  A time limited group will typically include anywhere from 8-20 group sessions and has a distinct set of goals that are typically achieved by the last group session.  An ongoing group , however, will continue indefinitely and there will likely be group members who terminate services because they have achieved the therapeutic goals they had set for themselves when they joined the group.   The  focus or topic of the group is another way of structuring group therapy.  Some groups are more general in the focus with goals that may be more related to improving overall life satisfaction and functioning especially with interpersonal relationships.  Alternatively, there are therapy groups that address specific topics, such as coping with grief, developing health coping skills for anger, or development of social skills for children.  A group that addresses a specific topic will typically include group members who are similar in terms of their presenting problems and will include psychoeducation so that group members learn and practice specific skills.  Before joining a group it is important to ask the counselor/psychologist about the structure and topic of the group to ensure that it will be a good fit for you.

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