by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 15, 2020 hypersomnia, insomnia, sleep disorder, sleep hygiene0 comments
Sleep hygiene is a science formulated to help people overcome disrupted rest by removing any barriers that a person might be unknowingly creating that prevent against deep and complete rest. According to the American Sleep foundation, 47% of Americans report poor quality sleep has affected their daily performance in the last month. As mental health counselors know, there is a significant relationship between sleep and well being. Finding solutions for better rest are vital when your health is on the line, research suggests that sleeplessness can accelerate cancer, erode cognitive performance, and it also impacts mental well being in a variety of ways. Did you know that not getting enough rest can activate many mood disorders including bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression? In fact, sleep disruptions are a very common complaint among those who are seeking treatment for mental health disorders. Of course, most people have experienced a sleepless night as a result of a situational challenge or period of stress. There is a lot to lose when it comes to sleep but more than ever so many are so sleep deprived. By now you are likely wondering what you can do to enhance your sleep. This is where sleep hygiene comes into practice. There are some evidence-based ways to help you achieve a more restful state. Simultaneously, there are certain sleep disorders such as parasomnia, insomnia, and hypersomnia which should be ruled out with a medical or mental health counselor.
Know your sleep type! There are two primary types of sleepers, night owls and roosters, night owls are biologically programmed to sleep and wake a little later. Roosters crow at the sun, roosters, will do best to find a job routine that can be done early in the morning. Same goes for night owls, their peak performance will be later in the day. For both of these types of people, constructing a life that honors biology will do a lot for wellness and emotional wellbeing. For example, a rooster shouldn’t take the night shift if they want to feel their best.
Have a good routine- Routine is paramount to having improved quality and quantity of sleep. Find a regular hour in which you can rest. When you achieve a regular schedule, your body will be responding to multiple environmental cues that will help falling asleep and staying asleep easier. You should really be aiming for 7/8 hours per night so plan to go to bed that amount of time before your alarm clock will start buzzing.
Limit screen time at least an hour before bed. Our eyes are brimming with light receptors which are impacted by the screens we look at. When you are reading your email or social media account your brain is getting a large dose of light that signals to wake up! Limit exposure to at least an hour before bed to give your brain a chance to relax.
Spending time outdoors in the morning– The light from the sun helps us to become more alert in the morning giving our bodies higher energy. By maximizing exposure in the early hours we can find our way to relaxation in the evening. If a morning walk is not your thing, some people enjoy ‘sungazing.’
Work out in the am– Multiple studies have shown that working out in the am morning hours does help fitness friends to sleep better in the evening. Interestingly however, having an evening work out has not shown any effect on sleep.
Lengthen your exhale- When using your breath as a relaxation tool, you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system. It works like this, by lengthening your exhalation to be longer than your inhalation, for example inhale for a count of 6 and exhale for a count of 8, do this 10 times. This small but powerful technique is a potent relaxant as you are attempting to drift off to a deep slumber.
Limit Caffeine- Be mindful of what you are consuming, the half life of caffeine is quite long, if you are drinking caffeinated beverages after 1 or 2 pm, it will still be in your system at 8 or 9pm. Try to limit caffeine to one cup upon waking and the same goes with sugar.
Try Essential Oils- Many people find that a calming essential oil will help them achieve a more relaxed and restful state. Scents such as lavender and chamomile are widely used as a part of night time routines.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 8, 2020 black people and mental health, PTSD in the Black Community0 comments
Recent events have some people scared. This makes sense. People are clamoring for change, and tensions are high. Not to mention, the nation is still in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that has left millions unemployed and our economy teetering on the edge of a cliff. All of these disasters and injustices have disproportionately affected minorities. Some people will be traumatized by the happenings of today. So in light of that fact, I decided to examine Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as it relates to the black community.
Let’s start by describing this mental health disorder. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD as defined by the American Psychological Association is a mental illness and specifically an anxiety disorder where an individual struggles with recovery from witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event. Unlike the commonly held belief, PTSD is not limited to wartime veterans, and it can manifest due to several different ordeals such as domestic abuse, sexual assault, or even natural disasters. The disorder can last several months to several years, when a person sees, hears, or remembers something that they relate to that event, they are ‘triggered,’ this can happen often and be debilitating for a person who holds or qualifies for the diagnosis of PTSD as triggers can come up often within everyday life leaving them struggling with a feeling that they are back in that traumatizing event. Remember, a trigger is a memories that evokes an extremely intense emotional and physical reaction.
Other symptoms of PTSD often include nightmares and unwanted memories, flashbacks, heightened reactions to otherwise non -threatening stimuli, avoidance of triggering situations, PTSD can even lead to anxiety, depression, and make a person more vulnerable to developing substance abuse. Treatment for PTSD is available in the form of different types of trauma-focused therapy models. Some of these models might include the use of medication to relieve symptoms of PTSD as they allow individuals to work toward a better quality of life.
So how does this relate to the black community? It’s easy to see that the black experience in the United States is rife with traumatic events. From the desperation that arises through the effects of poverty, to the overt systematic racism that permeates our justice system. Minorities are repeatedly traumatized by the witnessing of the murders of innocent men and women. Trauma is experienced when we read about the number of black men in the prison system (many for nonviolent offences). We become anxious every time we see a video of a woman threatening to call the police on citizens minding their own business. But the worst part about it, is that we have been exposed to it over, and over, and over again, allowing the traumatic cycle to continue.
As a member of the black community, I want to emphasize that this trauma is real, and that it’s impact has lasting consequences. If this resonates with you, you’re not alone, and this does not mean you’re weak. This is the result of our community collectively experiencing PTSD. As mentioned earlier, there are resources to help individuals make sense of it all. I want to encourage you to take the steps necessary to take care of yourself, even as we all work to make these sources of trauma a thing of the past. Reach out to your local therapist at Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, as well as to your support groups. Be aware of your triggers and learn positive ways to cope with them. Remember, your voice is your ally, do not stop talking about this!Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 3, 2020 black therapist pittsburgh, microagressions, racism in america, systemic racism, therapy for racism pittsburgh0 comments
Dealing with Microaggressions as a Black Man
George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Sandra Bland…these are just a few of the names that come to mind as I write this. These are the names of victims of police brutality and racial injustice. These were unwilling martyrs who fell prey to overt, unabashed, and unadulterated racism. This is a problem, but there is another issue that plagues people of color every day. An unseen layer of racial inequality that exists under our noses: microaggressions.
What is a microaggression, you ask? A microaggression is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other non-dominant group that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.” So when a stranger tells me that they don’t see color, or when someone raves that I am “surprisingly articulate” for a black man, they are using microaggressions, perhaps unknowingly. However minorities also use microaggressions. Phrases like “you sound white,” or being called an ‘oreo’ by peers (black on the outside, white on the inside) have been some of the microaggressions I have experienced from fellow people of color.
I can only speak from my personal experience, and I do not represent all people of color. However I know that when I encounter microaggressions, whether intentional or not, I find myself in a bind. Do I call it out, and risk being “that guy,” or do I brush it off, because at least it’s not as bad as what the victims above suffered? The events of the past week have shown me that silence in the face of microaggressions, only leads to further silence from possible allies when overt racism and racially motivated aggression takes place.
So what is the role of the black man or the person of color when facing microaggressions?
- Call it out for what it is. People may balk at this and respond with phrases such as “I’m not racist,” or “I have black friends,” but the truth remains, microaggressions are a result of racist history, and they are subtle ways of perpetuating negative stereotypes about black people and other minorities.
- Educate those within your circle. It surprises me that in the age of the internet, some people still are not aware of what may constitute a microaggression.
- Better yet, encourage those who are not sure to educate themselves. There are plenty of (free) resources out there for our friends and neighbors to learn and become better allies.
- Take care of yourself. One thing that has been made clear with all of the demonstrations lately, is that collectively, black people are tired. It is mentally and emotionally exhausting to navigate microaggressions, and process the overt racism that takes place in our country every day.
- Talk to someone. We cannot keep this stress bottled up. It helps to speak with a therapist or a trusted friend in order to process what we go through when we encounter microaggressions.
On a final note for everyone reading this, whether you experience microaggressions or not, do not stop talking about this. Talk to family, friends, neighbors, clergy, therapists. Talk, take action, and please take care of yourselves.Learn More