"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 "...that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

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Natural Alternative Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder-Confident Counseling Northborough MA

Natural Alternative Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder

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By Laura Baker

Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) doesn’t have to mean relying on prescription anti-depressants to get through the long, cold winter. While prescription medication is helpful for many and necessary in some cases, natural, alternative treatment options can help you manage your disorder alone or act as a supplement to pharmaceutical treatment for better symptom management. You should always discuss your treatment regimen with your healthcare provider, but if you’re looking into alternative treatment options, here are a few to consider.

Treat Yourself to a Well-Timed Vacation

Sometimes, a little break from reality offers substantial relief from the depression and anxiety common in people struggling with SAD. If it’s in your budget, take a well-timed vacation and escape from the mundane aspects of daily life for a few days.

The key to making this technique work is to choose a sunny location destination, allowing you to spend a few glorious days basking in the bright, warm sunlight. Of course, a tropical vacation every winter may not always be in your budget. Fortunately, there are other options if hopping on a plane to the nearest tropical island won’t be happening this winter.

Give Light Therapy a Try

The shorter days in the winter – resulting in less exposure to natural sunlight – is believed to be one of the biggest contributing factors in the development of SAD. It only makes sense, then, that a technique such as light therapy can be an effective treatment option.

In fact, light therapy is one of the most common tactics used in the treatment of SAD, and it doesn’t involve medication. Instead, light therapy starts with just 10- or 15-minute sessions (though your doctor may recommend 30 minutes or more) of exposure to full-spectrum lights.

Commit to a Regular Exercise Program

Don’t feel like dragging yourself out of the house and braving the cold to get to your local fitness center? No problem. You need only a few essentials to equip a gym in the comfort of your home. Purchase a few tools such as a yoga mat, a set of dumbbells, kettlebells, a balance trainer, and a set of resistance bands to make getting a full-body workout as easy as walking down the hall. That said, if you find that you’re feeling a little cramped and isolated during winter weather and the roads are clear, finding a local indoor pool is a great exercise option. In addition to simply swimming laps, there are tons of great ways to get fit in the pool and taking a dip may give you the taste of summer you sorely need.

Consider Psychotherapy

SAD is caused by physiological disruptions (chemical imbalances in the brain), but that doesn’t mean that psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy) can’t be a viable treatment option. Many people with SAD fall into negative thought patterns and behaviors as a result of their disorder which only serve to exacerbate their symptoms. That’s precisely where psychotherapy comes in, offering patients help in shifting their thought patterns and breaking problematic behaviors for better symptom control.

Create an Environment That Brightens Your Mood

You may even be able to get some relief by creating the right environment in your home or office. Choosing certain color combinations, for instance, such as a color scheme including rich yellows, reds, and oranges, can have a mood-enhancing effect for some people. Eat a healthy diet with foods rich in these colors as well to reap the benefits of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals.

You can swap out the lights in your bathroom, kitchen, and other areas of the home (and your office, too) for full-spectrum lighting options to give yourself a boost of exposure first thing in the morning and throughout the day. Finally, consider aromatherapy and essential oils for full ambiance. Jasmine, citrus oils such as lemon and orange, basil, lavender, rose, and geranium are just a few of the essential oils and fragrances believed to have antidepressant or mood-boosting effects.

Living with SAD doesn’t have to mean being depressed and anxious throughout the winter months. While medication is helpful and necessary for some people living with the disorder, there are a variety of natural and alternative options that can help you better manage your SAD, whether you’re supplementing or replacing prescription treatment options. Always discuss your treatment plans with your healthcare provider to ensure that you’re not experimenting with any treatments that could potentially be detrimental to your well-being.

 

 

 

 

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Burn out-Confident Counseling Northborough Ma

Signs Of Burn Out

Signs of Burn Out and How to Fix It

Many people suffer from too much stress and often begin feeling helpless, exhausted, and very unhappy. These are all signs pointing to being burned out. In this state, things will often seem pointless and bleak and your energy levels will be at an all-time low. There is hope though, burn out is not the end all, be all.

What is Burn Out?

In the simplest terms, it is the state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion by too much stress for too long. If you have felt overwhelmed and like you are unable to keep up, you are at risk of becoming burned out. As your stress builds up, your energy and will to overcome it lessens. Your productivity and energy will be gone and you may feel depressed. Everyone has bad days here and there, but if every day feels like a bad day, you are probably suffering from being burned out.

What are the Signs of Burn Out?

Emotional Symptoms

  • If you have stopped even attempting to care about what you usually love doing or things that need done.
  • Instead of having one or two bad days every now and then, every day is a struggle that never seems to end.
  • Feeling helpless, having self-doubt, or feelings of being a failure.
  • Feeling trapped and defeated.
  • Suddenly feeling like nothing truly matters and emotionally and mentally detaching from the rest of the world.
  • Loss of will and motivation.
  • An increased bleak perspective on the world.
  • Decreased levels of joy, happiness, and pride.

Physical Symptoms

  • Feeling very fatigued the majority of the time.
  • Becoming sick more often than usual.
  • Lots of body aches and headaches.
  • Changes in appetite or changes to your normal sleep patterns.

Behavioral signs and symptoms of burnout

  • Ignoring responsibilities and procrastinating.
  • Removing yourself from others and staying in isolation.
  • Procrastinating or just not completing things because it takes too much energy.
  • Using things like food or drugs as a coping mechanism.
  • Using others to take your frustrations out on.
  • Deciding not to come into work, deciding to leave early or come in late just because you want to.

How Can I Fix Having Burn Out?

Use the “Three R” method to start dealing with your burn out problems.

  1. The first step is to Recognize. You need to actually step back and recognize if you are suffering from being burned out.
  2. The second step is to Reverse. You need to undo the damage that has been done by the mountain of stress. Manage the stress you’ve been dealing with and seek the support you need.
  3. The third step is Resilience. Start taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental health to avoid any future burn outs.

There are also a few other ways to start your recovery from this mental state. Sometimes it is already too late to prevent this exhaustion and you have passed your breaking point. If you try to force yourself through it instead of taking the time you need, you will only make it worse.

  1. Slow Down!

Once you’ve passed your breaking point, simply trying to force your attitude to change or looking after your physical health won’t be enough to fully bring you back. You need to take a break and let yourself calm down before you start trying to tackle anything else. Give your mind and body some time to rest and recuperate.

  1. Get Some Emotional Support.

Don’t isolate yourself from the rest of the world, it won’t help. Your friends and family are going to be a very big part of your healing process and they will help you to get better. It can really and truly help to let someone else know how you’re feeling without expecting them to try to fix your problems. Make sure you are going to be talking to someone who knows how to listen and won’t automatically fault you for feeling the way you are.

  1. Reevaluate Yourself.

When you’ve passed your breaking point, you know something in your life is not working the way it should. It is a good time to go over your goals and the things you have in life. Is there something you feel like you aren’t doing that’s making you unhappy? Take the time it takes to figure out what set you off.

  1. Face Your Problems Head On.

You probably got way too stressed out because you were avoiding the problems in your life and not addressing them with a plan on how to fix them. Take the active route instead of the passive route in the future and you’ll begin to feel less helpless and more powerful in your everyday life.

Being burned out is a serious problem and it is one you should never be ashamed of. If you have felt helpless and trapped, take a step back and try to figure out why you’ve been feeling this way, then try to do something about it.

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Impostor Syndrome-Do you feel like a fraud? Confident Counseling Northborough MA

Impostor Syndrome-Do you feel like a fraud?

It’s the first day of your new job and you’re excited yet nervous for all that lies ahead. Here you are. You worked hard, probably even over-prepared for this moment, yet you immediately worry that everyone will find out you really don’t belong here. Even though you didn’t lie on your resume, you feel you don’t deserve this. How can they possibly believe you do?

You feel like you fooled everyone into thinking you’re competent, like you “tricked” them. Does this sound familiar? During a moment of success have you doubted yourself or felt that it wasn’t a big deal? It is extremely frustrating to go through moments like this especially when you see others placing confidence in you while you feel like a “fake.” You’re always on the guard, worried that others will “find you out” and realize you’re not worthy.

This phenomenon, Impostor Syndrome is common in perfectionists and overachievers who aren’t able to internalize and accept their success. These people have unrealistically high standards for themselves that it is difficult to meet their own goals. Even when they do reach them, they are more prone to attribute their success to luck than their own skills. This type of intellectual self-doubt is often paired with anxiety and/or depression.

Many people who feel like impostors grew up in families that placed a big emphasis on achievement. Specifically, parents who send mixed messages by alternating between over-praise and criticism can increase the risk of fraudulent feelings developing. Living in a society that focuses on achievements adds to the problem. The result is confusion between approval, love, and worthiness. Self-worth becomes on achieving.

Those struggling with Impostor Syndrome may avoid applying for promotions, for more responsibility and suffer from higher stress. How can you break this pattern?

Challenge your thoughts

You will discover that at the root of your self-doubt is a negative core belief that you’re not good enough. Ask yourself, when will I ever be good enough? What does good enough mean? Challenge this negative thought by finding evidence in favor of it and against it. It helps to ask yourself would I think this of a love one if they were in my shoes? If the answer is no, then ask yourself why you think this way of yourself.

Accept imperfection

Recognize that nobody is perfect. Practice letting go of high standards by doing a “good enough” job and walking away. Make time to appreciate your hard work and create rewards for yourself for completed tasks.

Recognize your strengths

List out the skills you have and learn to accept that you are good at certain things which have value. Yes, there will always be someone better at something, however that doesn’t make your strengths any less important because they are unique to you.

Talk to others about this

Being open and sharing this struggle with those you trust is a way to create awareness for others. They may even help you recognize when you’re engaging thoughts of self-doubt that need challenging. If it is difficult to work on this on your own, consider contacting a counselor to learn skills and challenge negative thinking pattern together. If you struggle with anxiety and depression, a professional will teach you how to cope in a healthy and effective way.

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Help your teen heal after sexual assault Teen counseling Northborough MA

How to help your teen heal after sexual assault

Being the victim of sexual assault is one of the worst things anyone can experience. Discovering that your teen was a victim of sexual assault is the worst thing any parent can hear. Anger, sadness, shock, blame, and helplessness are familiar feelings where you’ll wonder what you could have done to prevent this from happening to your child. While you’re struggling to deal with this wave of emotions, it can seem daunting to understand the best way to help your teen.

As a counselor in private practice, I have worked with several teens that have been sexually assaulted and have worked closely with their parents on how to cope and be the best support possible. I hope this article helps you be the person your child needs.

It’s important to contact the police and take your teenager to the hospital to get the necessary medical care and a rape kit completed. Your child may disagree with going to the authorities initially, however that might change later with time. By going to the authorities, you have a higher chance of preventing this perpetrator from sexually assaulting another person.

An important message for you to convey is that you are here to listen. It is common for sexual abuse survivors to blame themselves, hesitate to tell family for fear of hurting them, or feel stupid for “allowing” this to happen to them. The best thing anyone can do is offer genuine support without any judgments. Do your best to enforce the message that your teen is not to blame regardless of what they were wearing or doing.

Creating a safe place where your child can express all their feelings around the trauma is key. It can be helpful to share your experiences with these emotions as a way of normalizing them for them. Just be careful to not make this be about yourself and stay focused on their feelings. Offer ideas that might help them such as finding counseling, going away together, discussing the loss around the trauma and the meaning. I have worked with teens that were virgins when they were raped and discussing this loss was an important part of their healing. They often worried about having future conversations around how they lost virginity. Support their worries and brainstorm solutions to them.

Find counseling for yourself. This is helpful for two reasons 1) it takes away the negative bias for your teen to see you go into counseling which could promote them to see a counselor too and 2) you will benefit from getting support around how to cope with all the feelings you are facing around this traumatic news. It is important to continue going about your daily routine like before. Right now your teen’s world is upside down and the more normal the rest of the world seems the safer they will feel. If you start to panic and allow yourself to fall into a depressive state, your teen might spiral out of control too. Thus counseling for yourself will help you have an outlet for the spiral of emotions you are facing.

Watch out for extreme behavioral changes like isolating, depressive comments or suicidal remarks. It is common for people to engage in self-harm behaviors like cutting, burning self, promiscuous sex, and substance abuse after traumatic events as a way of coping and gaining back control. Talking to your teen about your concerns in a supportive non-judgmental way will increase their chances of listening to your ideas for help.

Research the consequences of self-harming behaviors such as cutting becoming addictive and a source of future shame if there are scars. Teens often don’t realize the long-term effects of their actions and are often surprised to know that it can become addictive. Try to discover what is triggering them and offer suggestions for ways they can release their emotions such as drawing, hitting something, screaming, going for a walk, taking a hot shower, etc. There are a variety of pleasurable activities that someone can engage in as alternatives to cutting.

Search for teen groups for survivors of sexual support and offer to go with them if they would like. The Rainn (Rape, Abuse and incest National Network) is a great resource for information and finding local groups. Finding others that have gone through similar experiences will be a great way for your teenager to relate to others and get their feelings out and not bottle them in. Recommend counseling for them and offer to attend with them for added support.

If they are engaging in dangerous behaviors or have suicidal thoughts, please take them to your local Emergency Mental Health Department or Emergency Room.

Remember that it’s normal to feel lost and confused. What just happened is not a normal circumstance and so you are having a normal reaction or an abnormal situation. You don’t have to face this with your teen alone, please call a counselor for individual or family guidance. If you can take away any message from this article it is for you to listen to your child, talk to them, validate their emotions, and find support for both of you during this difficult time.

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The Love Dare-Unconditional Love Couples Counseling Confident Counseling Couples Counseling Northborough MA

Vitamin D Deficiency- The Secret Depression

Fall has officially started and for some of us, the leaves are changing and the nights are getting colder. The days are getting shorter and that means less sun exposure. Surprisingly, lack of sun can lead to medical problems that may mimic the symptoms of depression. I’m speaking about Vitamin D Deficiency- the secret depression.

This time last year I noticed that regardless of the number of hours I would sleep (sometimes 10+ on the weekends) I would still feel sluggish and exhausted. As a result of the fatigue I was irritable and had no interest in doing much of anything. It was physically painful getting up for work each morning that I ended up missing more days than I would have liked. At first glance you might think of depression but as a counselor I knew this was something else.

I immediately called my doctor and scheduled blood work tests. A couple of months later I received my lab results and found I had a Vitamin D Deficiency, specifically D3.

Here is a snippet from a MedicineNet.com article:

“Vitamin D is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). There are two forms of vitamin D, D2 and D3. Vitamin D2, also known as ergocalciferol, comes from fortified foods, plant foods, and supplements. Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, comes from fortified foods, animal foods (fatty fish, cod liver oil, eggs, and liver), supplements, and can be made internally when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.” According to the vitamindcouncil.org and the Mayoclinic, there are several factors that can increase your risk of Vitamin D Deficiency such as where you live, skin color, and weight.

With my doctor’s guidance, I began taking my recommended vitamin and within a week I felt back to normal. I share this because it’s important to understand how underlying medical issues can imitate symptoms of mood disorders like depression. I definitely don’t suggest everyone stay out in the sun all day every day but I do recommend speaking with your doctor to rule out medical conditions for symptoms that appear to be mood disorders.

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What can I expect from counseling?

What Can I Expect From Counseling?

If you are in counseling or are thinking of starting, you may have asked yourself “What can I expect from Counseling?” With how the media portrays counseling, it isn’t surprising to have questions or even concerns about what counseling will be like for you.

Of course it is important to understand that counseling is only as effective as you make it. What I mean is that most of the work done in counseling actually comes from you, the client. Imagine the counselor as a guide showing you alternative ways of approaching situations or handling your problems. You as the client have to choose one and carry it out. If you aren’t following through or actively participating, then counseling will be ineffective.

Here are expectations to have for counseling

  • You should expect to increase your awareness of what is causing your struggles and what the roadblocks are.
  • You will be taught new skills and tools to manage your struggles in the present and for the future.
  • Understanding the limits of confidentiality, you can expect a safe place to talk about anything and everything that is on your mind. The limits being that the counselor has a legal obligation to report risk of suicide, homicide or current child or elder abuse. Privacy can also be compromised depending also on whether you have an active court case or if you use your health insurance.
  • You shouldn’t feel judged or worry about scaring the counselor with what you have to share.
  • You should expect to work with a trained professional or have them refer you to someone who will be able to better serve you should they not have the right training or skills to help with your issues.
  • You should feel hope and relief after your sessions.
  • You may feel discomfort and emotional pain depending on what and how severe your struggles are.
  • You should expect to feel “contained” by the end of your counseling sessions and not left unstable or vulnerable.
    • This is important for clients with trauma. As a result, your counselor may wait to discuss a difficult subject at the start of a future session and not at the middle or end.
  • You should expect an environment where are you free to express positive and negative feedback about your counselor’s style or direction of treatment without worrying that they will get upset or offended.

Effective counseling promotes your growth as a person and healing from pain.

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What Will My First Counseling Session Be Like?

I’ve been asked this question from prospective clients and I have asked this question myself before. It can be scary to admit that you aren’t able to solve everything on your own which is why it makes sense that you want to know “What will my first counseling session be like?” Even though the counselor you contact is an identified professional, they are still a complete stranger.

If you are curious about what the first counseling session will be like for yourself or for someone else, I hope this information will encourage you to try counseling or recommend it to someone you know.

First Session:

  • Plan to spend 60-90 minutes with a counselor during the first session (intake).
  • You’ll fill out forms that ask about your contact information, possible screens to check for symptoms and flag follow-up questions.
  • The counselor will discuss your privacy rights, limits to confidentiality, cancellation policies and any other administrative policies.
  • You will answer questions about your day-to-day activities, what concerns you have, medical conditions, medications, family relationships & history, your experience with past counseling if applicable.
  • The counselor will share their specialties, professional training, and clinical style (short-term or long-term, homework vs. no homework).
  • The counselor will make recommendations for treatment options and frequency of sessions that you can either agree or disagree with.

Now underneath all the formal details, you should feel safe to open up without judgment, feel comfortable being in the counselor’s presence and in their office space, and you should leave the first session with a sense of hope that therapy will help you reach your goals. Good counselors will tell you right away if they are not qualified to work with your particular issues and will make recommendations for someone more qualified.

If you feel judged, dislike the counselor’s personality, or realize the counselor doesn’t have the qualifications to work well with you, please find another counselor. There is no point in staying with a counselor if you don’t feel comfortable or trust them enough to open up about difficult topics.

I hope you found this information helpful. Stay tuned for next time as I discuss what you can expect from counseling beyond the first session. Feel free to leave questions or comments below.

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What Are Your Boundaries?

Last time I shared one simple assertiveness technique The Broken Record to use when someone insists on having you do something that you can’t or don’t want to do. Before you can be effective with assertive techniques, it is important for you to know what your boundaries are.

Boundaries are like imaginary lines between you and others. They protect you from feeling guilty for someone else’s negative feelings or problems and from taking others’ comments personally. In order for you to have healthy boundaries you have to know your feelings and values as they relate to yourself and others.

Here are some examples:

  • Psychological – Do you take other people’s comments personally? Do you struggle with feeling responsible for other people’s negative feelings or problems? Are you aware of your own feelings?
  • Material– What do you think of lending or giving things to others (e.g. money, car, clothes, etc..) and what does that look like for you?
  • Mental – What do you believe in? What are your opinions?
  • Physical – Who can give you a hug/kiss/handshake? What are feelings about sharing your space with other people?
  • Sexual– What is your comfort level around sexual activity?
  • Spiritual– What are your beliefs around a higher power/faith?

Boundaries protect your well-being and can change over time. When you know what your boundaries are, you know when and why you need to assert yourself.

 

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Assertiveness: Simple Technique Anyone Can Try

I specialize in assertiveness training and enjoy seeing clients stop being taken advantage of in their life. One of the most common struggles they face is being unable to say “no” without feeling selfish or guilty. They tell me “I’m always taken advantage”, or “my friends know to call me for everything,” or “I can’t say no to my family and now I resent them.”

One technique you can practice is called the Broken Record Technique. Try it!

How it works is that you find a sentence saying that you can’t do something and you keep repeating it when asked why.

Here is an example:

A friend asks Sara to lend them $100. Now Sara has the money but needs it to pay her bills in a few days. Sara says: “I’m sorry but I can’t give you $100 right now.”

  • Her friend might then say: “but why not, I really need it?”
  • Sara replies: “I wish I could but I can’t give you the money right now”
  • Her friend: “I will pay you back as soon as I can.”
  • Sara replies: “Unfortunately, I don’t have $100 to give you right now.”

As you see, Sara repeated her reason over and over while keeping the conversation from getting too personal. This method can be effective and is simple to practice.

Now if the person you are talking to becomes angry or disrespectful then it might be best to leave and think about the future of that relationship.

If you would like more specialized training around assertiveness skills, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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