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Support System

One of the biggest problems I run into with clients, regardless of the age, is a lack of a support system.  A support system can seem like an evasive giant, an intangible concept that everyone else seems to find easier than you. 

A support system can come in many shapes and sizes.  I often hear idealistic things like “I don’t have a best friend” and “I can only talk to _____ about x, and have to call ______ about y…”.  There very rarely exists an all in one friend.  Being stuck in the world of idealistic thinking and longing for things that aren’t likely to happen can lead to depression and difficulty in friendships.

Reality suggests that the average person has a range of friends and acquaintances that meet varying levels of their needs.  For example, you may have family members that provide feelings of love and belonging.  You may have school friends (high school or college) that you see less often than you’d like, that offer feelings of belonging and fun.  You may also have a significant other that acts as an adventure partner, future planner, and best friend when your closest friend isn’t available.  There are numerous other people that will step in regularly or periodically to make life enjoyable. 

The trick is to never stop nurturing existing relationships and building new ones.  As an adult, both of these can be difficult.  Nurturing relationships includes swallowing your pride to admit when you are wrong, keeping your cool when angry, and being patient enough to listen to the other person.  Building new relationships involves pushing past your comfort zone and trying new things, putting effort into looking for opportunities, and tackling the anxiety associated with meeting new people.

So the question I pose is, what steps can you take to repair or create a connection or two?

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DBT

Eat. Sleep. Exercise

I really can’t begin to label or quantify the value of good self care.  Humans are equipped with amazing capabilities to self regulate…if only we would use them.

 A balanced diet helps alleviate mood swings.  We (generalizing for Americans) live on a cycle of sugar highs and sugar lows. We eat a low quality breakfast…if we eat any breakfast at all…which floods the brain with chemicals and overwhelms our neuro-functioning; this results in hyperness, motivation, and energy.  As a result of this flooding however; our bodies secrete insulin to suck up all the sugar like a vacuum leaving us feeling lethargic and moody.  This cycle repeats itself after lunch and dinner as well. Think about it…when do you reach for the candy bar? 10am, 2pm, 9pm…a few hours after each meal! Eating a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats ensures that our food (including a healthy amount of sugar) gets broken down over time and reduces that roller coaster of moodiness.

Exercise.  I feel like this is a mute point in some ways. My goal is not to be preachy; it is to motivate you into action. The science behind working out is limitless and boils down to this: if you move your body your mind will feel better.  Physical exercise can helps your brain secret endorphins, adrenaline, and dopamine…all of which alleviate depressive symptoms.  Consider for a moment the cost of getting those chemicals elsewhere: prescription drugs, theme parks, extramarital affairs… Are those effective or realistic on a regular basis? Exercise also builds mastery. If you become fluent and experienced in a form of movement (yoga, running, lifting weights) it will build your confidence and overall satisfaction in life.

Sleep. Just do it, stop fighting it…put your Smartphone away and close your eyes.  Did you know that your brain cannot convert anything into memory until you are asleep? That may explain why you don’t remember the details of yesterday or last week as clearly as you would expect.  Our bodies are not machines; on a cellular level your body needs sleep to repair itself. Sleep allows time for the immune system to do its job and ward off viruses and bacterial infections.  It also helps you to reduce your overall stress level. So next time you want to watch the next episode on Netflix, play the next level on a game, or return one more e-mail, ask yourself what you need more: your health or 30 more minutes of your activity…

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Surviving Middle School

Surviving Middle School

It’s no secret that middle school is hell. Bullying, trends, growing bodies and changing voices…

Very few people escape unscathed. I came across this slideshow this morning and love how it captures the stark contrast between the “then” and the “now”. I hope that young people can see it and feel hopeful that the future will hold more normalcy for them than these awkward years.