Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Exercise is Good for You

This past weekend was the 36th annual Rhody Run in Port Townsend.  Despite its hilly course and long distance (12k, 7.46 miles), over 1500 local runners of all shapes, sizes, and ages completed the event.  Every year I'm in awe of the energy that people pour into preparing for and participating in this race, and the therapist in me believes that I'd have to find a second job if everyone had something like the Rhody Run as a regular part of their life.

It's hard to have a therapy session without the topic of physical activity coming up at some point.  There is abundant research demonstrating that exercise helps with mental and physical health, attention, creative thinking, self esteem, and so much more.  Yet for many of us, when life feels overwhelming and unmanageable, exercise is often substituted with less effective and sometimes harmful alternatives (drugs and alcohol, junk food, risky sexual behavior, etc.).  A large part of what I do is help clients develop more effective coping skills and self care habits, and exercise is often at the top of that list of desirable behaviors.

Here are some approaches to both start and maintain exercise as a regular part of your day:

(1) Choose something fun and practical.  It doesn't have to be running or going to a gym.  How about dodgeball or gardening?  Walking the stairs instead of taking the elevator?  Biking to school or work?

(2) Focus on short term goals.  Feeling good after a walk on the beach or a trail run is immediate gratification.  Thinking only of that long term goal of losing weight or getting in shape can overshadow the pleasure in the moment and even cause anxiety when expectations are set too high.

(3) Involve friends that motivate you. Competition and accountability can provide that extra push when you're not up for it.

(4) Take it easy on yourself.  If you're starting from scratch, maybe 5-6 days/week is too much too soon.  Try 2-3 days/week to start.  Keep the time and distance short as well.  Your goal is to want to do it again.  Suffering is not required.

Below is a link to the CDC and the reported benefits of physical activity over the lifespan:

Port Townsend Family Therapy was proud to be a Sponsor for the 2014 Rhody Run http://www.rhodyrun.com

Monday, December 24, 2012

Nurtured Heart Approach Class Flyer

Here's the official flyer for the next Nurtured Heart Approach class.  To read more about the Nurtured Heart Approach, check out my previous post here and here

Monday, December 17, 2012

Families Coping with A Tragedy: A Resource for Parents

We mourn over last Friday's tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary as individuals, as families, and as a nation.  Over the remorse and sadness, there is outrage, anger, and confusion.  Why did this happen?  How did this happen? And while we may never know the answer to these questions, we search for solutions.  More and better mental health services?  Gun control reform?  More security measures in schools?

If my social media friends are any measure of the tone of the rest of our country, many parents struggled to get out of bed this morning, drop their kids off at school, and trust that such tragedies are unlikely to happen to their own kids.  To reassure ourselves, we embrace change in a system that is changeable.  What is wrong with the system that allows such atrocities to happen and what measures can we take to fix those wrongs and prevent such events from re-occurring.

Blaming and changing is a part of the grief process, and it's what allows us to continue to function amidst otherwise unbearable sadness and grief.  We read and watch stories on the media, feel passionate, express our opinions, and hopefully initiate change.  We respect those who are directly suffering loss by fighting to make a difference.  We assure the victims, their families, and ourselves that we are in this together.  We regain a sense of control of our situation.  While we may not all agree on the politics of how to elicit change, we are not willing to accept Newtown Connecticut's tragedy as a normal way of life for citizen's of this country.  This we agree on.

Through this process of grief and change, it is of great importance to Port Townsend Family Therapy to help families of young children who are struggling with how to feel safe again in their communities and how to come to an appropriate amount of understanding over what occurred.  The following resource was supplied through the AAMFT (American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy) by Dr. Karen Ruskin, a Clinical Fellow of the AAMFT, to help parents help their children cope with this tragedy:

  1. Answer any and all questions your children have. Nothing is off the table. If you don’t have the answer be honest and tell them you will research the answer and get back to them.
  2. Be verbally attentive, physically affectionate, and nurturing in tone during your talk.
  3. Talk with not at your children.
  4. Discuss and educate them about mental illness.
  5. Reassure the low likelihood of this type of tragedy happening to them while balancing validation of the reality that it did and does happen.
  6. Ask them what they need to feel safe, and what you can do to help them to feel safe.
  7. Balance the worry and pain kids feel with a discussion of what they can do to help those who have been affected, and continue to be supportive of activities they enjoy doing so their entire mind is not on the tragedy 24/7. The balance of living life while mourning is just that- a balance, and yet it is important for children and parents to continue to live knowing that does not disrespect the honor of those who are no longer living among us.
  8. Some kids are chattier than others. Don’t assume because there are no questions your children are fine, nor assume because they are talking about it they are not fine. No assumptions, parents. Rather meet your kids on their terms, on their level, and continue to keep the line of communication open. What your children do not wish to discuss one moment in the day they may wish to at a different moment. Check in on them.
  9. Normalize what they are feeling, re-assure them that their thoughts and feelings are normal.
  10. Display strength and calm, and remember, how you act is a role model for them. How you react affects how they feel and thus act.
 It is important to note that if you are struggling as a parent with finding ways to help your children cope with this tragedy, it may be helpful to seek assistance from a mental health professional in your community.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

10 Biggest Marriage Mistakes

I came across this link through the AAMFT (American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy) Facebook page from Amy Morin, LCSW at marriagecounselingblog.com, and it seemed worth sharing.  While every relationship is different and unique, here are some common problem areas that have emerged in one long time counselor's office that seem pretty spot on.

I would probably add to this list the very broad category of health (both physical and mental to include addiction).  Unlike the other very cut and dry areas such as finances and division of labor, health plays a more complicated role as we struggle to find balance in nurturing and being nurtured.  When we're out of balance, we might see anxiety, depression and physical symptoms emerge.  To shamelessly plug marriage counselors, many of these "10" problem areas are often more easily addressed when not in the throes of emotionally charged conflict–e.g. in the company of a counselor or therapist.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

More on the Nurtured Heart Approach®

Here's a little follow up to yesterday's post for those who have expressed an interest in learning more.  This information comes from the Children's Success Foundation.

"Originally inspired by intense or difficult children – on the spectrum of Autism, ADD, ADHD, ODD, PTSD, & FAS – NHA is a relational, non-medication path of inspiring inner wealth in all children. It is used with astounding success in schools, social-care systems, & families around the world."   -Children's Success Foundation

Monday, December 10, 2012

What Message Are We Sending Our Kids?

We receive messages from our parents the day we are born.  From the color of our room, to the clothes we wear, to the toys we play with.  "This doll is for girls."  "This game is for boys."  Many of us are accustomed to the idea of these gender messages and how they impact who we become and how we behave, but what messages are we sending that aren't painted on the walls?  "You never listen."  "That wasn't nice."  "How many times do I need to tell you to clean up your toys?"  What we hear as kids from our parents, teachers, and other influential adults just might be shaping how we behave and who we become.  Negative messages may not only impact self-esteem and increase a sense of guilt and shame, but they may also pave a path for our own self-identity.

I recently read Howard Glasser's, All Children Flourishing, and I was struck by both the simplicity of the Nurtured Heart Approach® and the complexity of how children can be shaped by their environment. Glasser describes an approach that highlights the positive and sends a message of "greatness" to the child, and the child in turn begins to tap this under-utilized potential to achieve at a level previously believed to be impossible.  His theory is based on the concept that, at their core, children want and thrive on attention.  Either positive or negative, any attention is better than no attention.  At an early age, children may learn that when they're playing quietly, they're often ignored.  But when they're misbehaving, they hit the jackpot of undivided adult attention.  The more we act out, the greater the reward.  Not only do we learn how to effectively get what we want (i.e. attention), we begin to develop an identity that shapes our future potential.  The behavior becomes an expectation.

All Children Flourishing - Igniting the Greatness of Our Children

The Nurtured Heart Approach® describes a shift in how parents and teachers perceive and react to children.  It describes a proactive positive message that begins with the bar set as low as it needs to be to provide a preemptive strike (catch them being good!).  "I see how you are patiently waiting your turn.  This really shows me how considerate you are of your classmates and how great you are."  It takes the positive message a step further in not just praising good behavior but also describing why the behavior is good and setting up potential for future success with this label of "greatness".  Consequences for breaking established, clear rules also exist but they are done in a way that doesn't energize the behavior.  Glasser makes the parallel to video games–you get the consequence of "messing up" in a game and the game then continues or starts over.  There's no dwelling on it.  It's not emotionally charged in any way.

NurtureShock: New Thinking about ChildrenOverall, it's a well thought out approach that has more complexity than I can describe in this blog (thus a Nurtured Heart Approach® industry of books, trainings, etc.), but you get the idea.  If you're interested in attending a Nurtured Heart Approach® training, the dates for the next class have been set for January 29 and February 5, 12, and 19.  Again, this class will be taught by Kimberly Montgomery through the YMCA.  I'll post more information as it becomes available.

If this idea of how the messages we send our children may impact their future self, another book I'd recommend (not Nurtured Heart Approach®) is Nurture Shock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  Bronson and Merryman go beyond positive and negative messages and explore how what we believe to be a positive message may in fact have the opposite effect.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Is Facebook Making Breakups Harder?

Breakups aren’t what they used to be–some angry words, a few tears (or lots), and perhaps a slammed door or last embrace depending on your individual style.  We seek solace and comfort in our friends and family and grieve over the loss of a relationship.  The process of bereavement may be not too dissimilar to that of losing a loved one as we cope with the passing of a relationship.  Returning back to or discovering “normal” can be complicated.  For some, it’s a time to return to a life not unlike what was familiar and functional before the start of this most recent relationship, and for others (especially in longer term commitments), it may be a time of exploring and redefining an entirely new way of life–a way that works in the absence of an ex.  Those familiar five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) may play through in part or in entirety over time, and eventually we begin to move on.  From days to months to years, the time it takes to get over a relationship is different for everyone.  But we do it in our own time.  Modern technology and social media, however, may be redefining what "in our own time" looks like.  And is this making breakups harder?

Researchers at Bruneel University in England, studied 464 undergraduates and how they utilized Facebook in their grief process following a breakup (Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, online Oct. 2012).  What they found was that “people who spent the most time on their ex-partner’s Facebook page had more distress, negative feelings and longing for their former flames and lower levels of personal growth (APA Monitor, December 2012).”  Apparently, that same social media magic that reconnects us to long lost friends of our past also keeps us connected (in sometimes unhealthy ways) to those friends we are trying to lose as well.  Do you "unfriend" your ex?