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5 Tips to end the Mental Health Stigma

It is 2022 and you would think that Mental Health is a dinner table topic. However, still today 40% of individuals dealing with depression and anxiety struggle to seek help due to stigma1. We thought that it would be helpful to write about ways that we can end the stigma surrounding mental health.

  • Educate yourself-Many of the thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that lead to misconceptions about mental health solely come from lack of education.
  • Choose your words carefully-Words like “crazy”, among others bring shame to those who are struggling with mental health. Be sensitive about jokes and avoid taking suicide and self-harm lightly.
  • Talk about it-If you are struggling yourself, it is ok to share your story. It may open the door for someone else to seek help and support.
  • Be aware of cultural biases and educate-Many cultures are still closed off to going to therapy. Be patient but also take the time to educate and normalize mental health concerns.
  • Consider mental health concerns as equal to physical health concerns-Your brain is an organ; the organ that has to do with mental health. In the same way that we would go to a cardiologist for a heart condition, it is appropriate to see a therapist or psychiatrist to manage mental health concerns. Even more so, your brain is the command center of your entire body. If your brain is not doing well, it can affect the rest of your organs. Take care of it, as of yet, there are no brain transplant surgeries.

Feel free to share with us other ways that we can end the stigma. If you need help, you may contact us at (407) 906-5214.

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Tips for better sleep

Sleeping may come easily for some but not for others. I cringe when I hear the term “sleep like a baby” because babies tend to wake up frequently through the night! Whether you are a light or heavy sleeper, here are three things that can help you improve your sleep:

  • Establish a bed time: It may be difficult to find an exact time to go to sleep as the demands of the day never end. However, something that is helpful is to establish a consistent bed time that is suitable to your schedule. Maybe you can start with establishing a bed time for Monday through Friday and be a little more flexible with your bed time during the weekend.

  • Turn down the blue light: It can be very easy to fall asleep with the TV on or scrolling through TikTok. If you are anything like me, watching TV is like a lullaby. According to research done by Harvard Health, however, blue light exposure seemed to suppress melatonin levels and shifted circadian rhythms (your sleep rhythm) twice as much as other colored lights1. I recommend putting your phone to rest and turning off the TV at least one hour prior to your bed time.

  • Limit food and liquid consumption as well as exercise: In order to decrease going to the bathroom and night and digestion issues, it is best to limit eating or drinking up to three hours prior to your bed time. I recommend the same for exercise.

In addition to medication and natural supplements, therapy can assist in restructuring thinking patters and managing anxiety that is related to sleep issues. Techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia provide evidence-based practices to reduce insomnia and increase restful sleep. If you need help or more information, contact us.

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Goal Setting Tips

January is right around the corner and it is the perfect time to start setting goals for the upcoming year. January gives us that sense of “newness” and a fresh start. Many people sign up for the gym or start making other changes. It is the perfect time to come to therapy as well! But before that, here are some tips to create goals for the new year.

Prior to writing about the SMART approach to setting goals, I want you to think about your intention for the new year. It could be the year that you take care of your physical health or focus on your career. You could also intent to build on relationships, spiritual matters or establish financial goals. So first step: start with your intention for this year. What do you want to focus on in the next 12 months?

Once you establish your intention for the New Year. Follow these simple steps to create attainable goals. We use the SMART approach, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

  • SPECIFIC: Narrow down your goal to something more specific. For example, instead of saying “I want to be fit”, start with “I want to lose weight” as a more specific definition of what being fit means to you.
  • MEASURABLE: Define what measure you will use to ensure that your specific goal is making progress. For example, now your goal will translate from “I want to lose weight” to “I want to lose 20 pounds”.
  • ATTAINABLE: This is the part where you evaluate your goal. Is 20 pounds reasonable for you? Is it challenging enough that will keep you motivated when motivation is lost? If it is attainable, then move to the next step. If it is not, modify. Maybe losing 20 pounds is not attainable for you so you can modify it to say “I want to lose 10 pounds”.
  • RELEVANT: Ask yourself: does this goal align with my values. Maybe you want to lose 20 puns because someone else is imposing that on you rather than it being something that you value for yourself. We always want to be authentic with ourselves before pleasing others.
  • TIME-BOUND: Every good goal has a target date. The last question to ask yourself is : by when do I want to accomplish this goal? Establishing a deadline gives us a reasonable time and sense of urgency when accomplishing our goals. Ensure that the deadline you are setting is attainable. For example, it is not reasonable to say “I want to lose 20 pounds by January 31st” if you are starting to eat better and exercise on January 1st; at least it’s not healthy. A more attainable date could be “I want to lose 20 pounds by December 31st”.

Once you establish a deadline, your goal is set! I encourage you to practice goal setting in different domains of your life, such as, social life, finances, career, spiritual life and physical health.

Let us know if this helped! Happy New Year.

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Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

The Holidays are here! While it can be the most wonderful time of the year for many, this season may be difficulty for others emotionally speaking. During the months of Fall and Winter, individuals may experience Major Depressive Disorder with seasonal pattern, which is also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some of the symptoms include, pervasive sadness, hopelessness, social isolation, increased or decreased sleep and appetite and even suicidal thoughts.

We thought it would be helpful to have some tips to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder or “the holiday blues”. Here are 4 tips on how to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • Light Therapy: Many experience SAD due to how much faster sunset comes during the winter. To counter this, people can expose themselves to a very bright light for 30-45 minutes per day. This has proven to improve mood during the winter.
  • Psychotherapy: It is helpful to have a professional you can talk to in order to explore these feelings and even more ways to cope with them in the winter season.
  • Exercise: When suffering from SAD the most common symptom is depressive moods. Exercising is a great tool that will help your brain produce endorphines, which will improve mood. It will help you have better focus, memory, and overall health.
  • Medication: If the symptoms are severe enough, the professionals will most likely refer you to someone who will be able to prescribe the necessary medication for your specific symptoms. It is always very important that you do not self diagnos, but get evaluated first.

If you are in need of more skills to manage Seasonal Affective Disorder, contact us today.

relationships, Skills

10 Tips for Active Listening

1. Make eye contact: Most of our communication is non-verbal. Many times we engage in conversation with our loved ones but our eyes are fixed on electronic devices. Start listening simply by starting to make eye contact.

2. Ask for clarification: Sometimes we may not understand what the other person is saying immediately. Pause the conversation and ask the person to repeat what they said.

3. Reflect: Reflection is simply asking the person if what you are understanding is correct. For example, you may say “What I hear you say is________” or “Let me see if I am understanding you correctly, I think you said_________”.

4. Provide feedback (when welcomed): At times the speaker just wants to vent, listen as they speak. Sometimes a speaker may be welcoming towards feedback. Provide feedback by asking questions relevant to the conversation, provide new insights or connections but refrain from advice if not asked.

5. Avoid judgment: A speaker will feel heard if you listen to their entire train of thought before providing your opinion about them or the situation. Listen first, analyze, then reply if need be. Refrain from interrupting.

6. Avoid mind reading: When we are in long-term relationships, it is easy to fall under the assumption that we can finish our partner’s sentences. There are always exceptions to the rule. Don’t anticipate what your partner will say. Make room for your partner to say something you did not expect. Acknowledge, validate, then speak.

7. Give a relevant response: Speakers can tell if you are giving a “canned response” (e.i. “mmmmmh”, “ok” “oh, wow”) versus a genuine response that is connected to the conversation. Be honest.

8. Share a story about yourself only if appropriate: If you are anything like me, you like to find relevance to what someone is saying by connecting it to a personal story. While there is nothing essentially wrong with this, many times a speaker may not feel like they are truly listened to if you interject a conversation with a personal story. Only share a personal story that connects with the individual’s conversation if they person feels misunderstood or alone in their struggle.

9. Avoid planning your response: Have you ever had the answer to someone before they are done speaking? I have! However, this practice ties to listening to respond rather than to understand, which in its nature is not active listening. Allow for the person to finish in order for you to fully understand, then formulate your response. Your response may vary depending on additional pieces of information provided.

10. Pause: If you struggle with listening, learn to pause before you will speak in order for you to fully process the information received and then provide a relevant response.

I hope these tips were helpful! If you continue to struggle with being an active listener or lack communication skills, we can help you at Hope Counseling of Central FL LLC.

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