Every good parent knows that providing an enriching environment lays the foundation for future success. Or does it? From summer camp, to instrument lessons, and afterschool programs, how many extracurricular activities are too many and where do parents’ good intentions bleed into something less helpful and even have the unintentional consequence of creating a stressful and anxiety ridden environment for children?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghOctober 5, 2022 anxiety in children, burn out, Child Anxiety, child counseling, children mental health, Extracurricular Activities for Kids, Overscheduled children, parenting, Parenting and Families, stress, stress management, teen anxiety, wellness for kids0 comments
Warning Signs Your Child Is Involved in Too Many Extracurricular Activities
- Listen to your kids and teach your kids to listen to themselves, helping your child to understand and respond to their emotional cues might be more impactful for their future wellbeing than mastering their tennis swing or perfecting their smooth violin strokes.
- Does your child have a lot of tummy aches, headaches, or have excuses when it is time to practice? According to the Centers for Disease Control, these things can be related to Anxiety. If you notice these patterns in your child, it might be time to have a discussion with your child about whether they want to continue to participate in this activity. any longer or a different variation that doesn’t stress outcome or skill.
- Does the child have time to just be? Just be means having free time that is not structured. Overscheduled children also have overscheduled families, this a form of performance based obsessiveness being passed between generations. Does your child have time to themselves everyday? Do you have time together to be a family? Eat meals together? Have conversations or are your moments spent shuffling from one activity to another, eating in the car then heading to bed when you’re home?
- Has your child verbalized that they don’t want to participate in a certain activity? Has this been a source of conflict between you? Many parents who want what’s best for their child insist that they should stick it out and encourage them to continue with the sport, activity, or instrument. The fine art of parenting is to know what is healthy stick-to-itiveness versus what is pushing past a child’s boundaries or neglecting their emotional needs.
What Parents Can Do When Extracurricular Activities Cause Your Child Anxiety?
- Free play as opposed to goal oriented play activities. While goal oriented activities can help a child develop certain skills, when those skills are scrutinized by parents, coaches or teachers, it can lead to self esteem issues, stress, and anxiety. This is especially true around the age of 12 when kids start to compare themselves to their peers in the formation of identity and self concept.
- Children should not have activities everyday or the week. Many people agree 3 is a maximum, if they want to add one activity then ensure that they drop one.
- If you are going to be organized around a schedule, ensure that the schedule includes, downtime, family time (at least 20 minutes everyday) to play a game, sit and talk, draw or paint together.
- When you are enjoying downtime, don’t make it another journey to a destination, don’t ask what they need to do today or tomorrow and pull your children back into planning and coordinating, instead, ask creative questions. Ie. If you were any animal which would you be? What do you think will make you happy in 5 years? Who is your favorite friend right now? What do you dream about at night?
Good behavior starts from the top down. Let your kids see you practicing the art of doing nothing and enjoying it!
Written by: Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC Founder of Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Interested in Family Counseling or Child Therapy?
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by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 29, 2022 body positive, body positivity, dietician, dietitian, dietitian nutritionist, dietitian nutritionist near me, healthy eating, healthy food, intuitive eating, keto diet, nutrition, Nutrition Counseling, Nutritionist, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian, weight management0 comments
In more recent years, society has progressed towards a body positive mindset, inclusivity and loving your body at any size. In turn, the question surrounding food and nutrition is transitioning to “what can my body do,” instead of a detrimental focus on the number on a scale. With this shift, the focus on nutrition and a weight management mindset of restriction is also changing.
Read on for 4 Dietitian-Recommended Ways to Help You Achieve Body Positive Weight Management:
- Utilize other measures of success. For those individuals above a healthy weight, losing weight can improve overall health, reduce risk of certain chronic diseases, and lengthen lifespan. While weight loss is a good thing for most individuals, abandoning body positivity in the process can only hinder your self-esteem and motivation. Utilizing other measures of success, such as energy levels, mindfulness and awareness, and sleep quality, can all provide a positive outlook on the journey to being the best version of yourself.
- Focus on how foods can benefit your body. Allowing one-self to shift and focus on a more positive mindset surrounding how foods can benefit your body by providing energy, satiety, fullness, and completeness can help increase overall self-awareness. This means a focus on whole, complete foods that can create well-rounded meals. For example, think of lean proteins for satiety, high fibrous foods for fullness, and bright colored vegetables that are a good source of both fiber and vitamins/minerals. Think “how can I make my meals better?” Utilizing the foods and meals that you enjoy, think how they can be enhanced with flavorful, nutrient-dense foods that add satiety and fullness, and help your body and mind feel better.
- Honor your hunger and fullness cues. Utilizing fullness sensations and hunger cues to guide eating versus the mindset of restriction can also help create a positive mindset. By focusing on “how do these foods make me feel,” this will help to create an emphasis on what my body can do versus the need to restrict certain foods. It can also help reduce stress eating. Prolonged stress increases cortisol levels in the body. Elevated cortisol levels can lead your body to deposit fat in the midsection. This increase in fat in the belly is shown to increase risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Cortisol can also enhance cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods by making them taste better. Practicing stress-reducing techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or simply allowing yourself to sit in a quiet space, can all help to calm our bodies down and reduce those cortisol levels.
- Identify stressors to help reduce negative thoughts and improve mental health. Reducing stress, and viewing foods as beneficial additions to help your body be the best it can be for you, can improve your overall mental and physical health. Body positivity is about eating well, creating movement that you can do, and being honest about your needs in the moment.
This article was written by our Registered Dietitian, Kali Alrutz
Get Started with Body Positive Weight Management and Nutrition Counseling
Call us at 412-322-2129 or fill out the form below to get started with Nutrition Counseling. Nutrition Counseling is covered by Insurance.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 12, 2022 addiction recovery, National Sober Month, sober life, Sobriety0 comments
National Recovery month is observed in September every year. It gives us the opportunity to celebrate Sober life, break down stigmas and bring awareness to addiction. The month serves as a celebration of the steps taking to improve access, information, and treatment. You can observe National Sober Month by spending it Sober. While that may seem simple enough, it may come as a challenge to some. We’re here to help! Read on for 8 Sober Activities to Do in Pittsburgh.
- Visit a Museum. Pittsburgh has so many great museums. Visit the Heinz History Center, Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, the Carnegie Science Center, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the National Aviary, or the Andy Warhol Museum.
- Physical activity. Physical activity is a great Sober activity. Get outside and enjoy a bike ride. Or if you prefer the indoors, climb the wall at Lawrenceville’s climbing gym, Iron City Boulders.
- Enjoy the Scenery. If physical exercise isn’t your bag, but you want to enjoy the outdoors, take the Duquesne Incline up to Mount Washington and take in the views. You can capture amazing photos of the skyline, simply enjoy the view or if you’re artisticly-inclined, paint the city.
- Bubble Tea with a Friend. Spending time with a friend is a great way to celebrate National Recovery Month. Hit up a local coffee shop, juice bar or bubble tea shop. Our favorites are: Adda for coffee; Live Fresh for juice & smoothies; and Kung Fu Tea in Squirrel Hill for bubble tea.
- Make a Fall-Inspired Mocktail.
Sparkling Apple Cider
2 cups apple cider
1 cup seltzer
fresh whole cranberries (optional)
fresh apple slices (optional)Instructions
Mix together the apple cider and seltzer.
Garnish with fresh cranberries and/or fresh apple slices.
- Spend Time with Animals. Time spent with animals is never wasted. Luckily, Pittsburgh has some great options for hanging out with our feline friends. Book an appointment at Garfield’s Black Cat Market , Edgewood’s Rescue and Relax, Pittsburgh’s Kitty Queen Cat Rescue or Wexford’s Cats N’At where you can cuddle up with adoptable kitties.
- Pranayama. Sitali Pranayama, known as “the cooling breath,” can help calm your nervous system. Here’s how to practice:
Curl your tongue and extend it just past the lips.
Inhale through the tunnel of the tongue as if drinking through a straw.
Release the tongue, close the mouth and exhale out through the nose.
Practice for 2-5 minutes.You can still practice if you can’t curl your tongue. Just stick it out!
- Pickleball. Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country! A racquet sport combining elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. Lots of fun and a great workout for everyone! Check out the City of Pittsburgh Pickleball schedule. Or find one at the Global Pickleball Network.
Photo by Joan Azeka
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 12, 2022 clinical herbalist, clinical herbalist pittsburgh, herbalism, herbalist pittsburgh, holistic health, holistic medicine, integrative health, integrative medicine, integrative mental health, self care0 comments
Fall is here and our senses look toward Autumn: nutmeg & cinnamon, pumpkin patches, warm coffee, light jackets, and gorgeous sunsets. There’s nothing like evenings in the Fall. It’s just cool enough during the day that cozying up with a warm tea is the perfect medicine to wind down. Here’s a list of some of our favorite fall drinks to warm you up, boost your immune system, and help you find relaxation in this beautiful season of transition.
- Cacao. We all know of Cacao from our favorite chocolate bars and desserts. But in its unprocessed form, Cacao is a highly medicinal and heart opening plant medicine with a rich history of ceremony and ritual. Cacao is full of antioxidants, supports heart and circulatory health, and has antidepressant properties. Prepared with just some hot water or milk, Cacao creates a rich, warming, and stimulating beverage. This drink is lovely in the company of others – be it a sweetheart or loved ones around a campfire, or in a simple ceremony on your own. Please note – Cacao does contain caffeine and can be quite stimulating. Please purchase raw Cacao or ceremonial grade Cacao from an ethical and sustainable source. Cacao Infusion
2 C Water
2 TBSP Raw or Ceremonial Cacao
Sweetener of choice
Optional: Cinnamon, Cayenne, Vanilla Extract, MilkHeat water in a pot until just before boiling. Turn off heat and add Cacao and sweetener and spices of choice. Stir until dissolved, and enjoy with a moment of reflection and contemplation.
- Tulsi. Otherwise known as Holy Basil, Tulsi is a revered herb in India and in the ayurvedic tradition. Tulsi is considered to be sacred and the smell and taste of the tea is indeed divine. Tulsi is known to be a wonderful immune booster and restorer of the nervous system, while also supporting the lungs, stomach, and heart. The tea is initially uplifting to the spirit, and then deeply restful and restorative. My favorite way to enjoy Tulsi in the cooler seasons is with warming chai spices and a bit of milk.
Tulsi Chai Recipe:
1 TBSP Tulsi
1 C Water
½ C Milk of choice
Sweetener of choice
A couple shakes of Cardamom
Add water, Tulsi, and sweetener to a pot and bring to a simmer. Strain. Add milk & top with cardamom.
- Roasted Dandelion Root. We often think of Dandelion flowers when we think of the spring. However, during the cooler months when the rest of the plant dies back, the roots become filled with rich nutrients and sugars and wonderful medicinal compounds. Dandelion root supports the liver and gentle detoxification, and is also full of inulin, a super important prebiotic for our gut flora. My favorite way to make Dandelion root tea is by first roasting the root in the oven which gives it a deeply rich and nutty flavor. Next, I like to simmer the roasted root gently in some water for 15 – 20 minutes to make a dark tea, and add some cinnamon and milk. A grounding and earthy fall flavor! You can buy already roasted Dandelion tea here at mountain rose herbs.Roasted Dandelion Root Decoction
2-3 C Water
1 TBSP Roasted Dandelion Root
Milk of choice
Bring water to a boil and add Roasted Dandelion Root. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. Turn off heat and add milk and cinnamon!
- Elderberry. Elderberries are the deep purple fruit of the native Elder plant, most renowned in syrup form. Elderberry is also one of the most nourishing and immune boosting herbal medicines, and one with ample clinical data to support its use. Like many other colorful berries, Elderberries are full of anti-oxidants and flavanoids. Elderberries can be preserved through the fall and winter in their dried form, which makes a lovely immune boosting addition to tea, or made into a simple syrup and stored in the refrigerator.Simple Elderberry Syrup
1 C dried elderberries or 2C fresh elderberries
3 C water
1 C sweetener of choice (sugar, honey, maple syrup)
Combine berries and water with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Turn off heat and steep for 1 hour. Strain berries using cheese cloth. Add sweetener of choice and stir until combined. Bottle and Store in refrigerator.
- Licorice Root. Our final fall herbal spotlight is on Licorice root, the flavor maker behind the love-or-hate licorice candies! Unprocessed licorice has a more earthy taste than the processed and synthetic candies that it has inspired, but the sweet and comforting anise notes are still very present. Licorice makes a wonderful fall herb specifically because of its moistening actions on all the mucous membranes of our bodies (think mouth, lungs, digestive system, reproductive system). It’s very important that these tissues stay hydrated and moist, which is why moistening herbs are such an important aspect of health (especially as we kick on the dry heating systems for our homes). Please note that Licorice root is contraindicated in those with high blood pressure.
Simple Licorice Root Tea
2 C water
1 TBSP Licorice Root
Optional: Ginger Root
Bring water to a boil, turn off heat, add licorice root (and ginger). Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and Enjoy!
Written by: Clinical Herbalist Annie Fox Derek.
If you’re interested in working with Annie you can reach us at 412-322-2129 or contact us here.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 5, 2022 couples communication, couples counseling, couples therapy, gottman marriage counseling, gottman method counseling, healthy relationships, marriage counseling, quiet quitting0 comments
The term quiet quitting is a wave that sparked from the great resignation, and the apathy that some workers have experienced in dead end and toxic workplaces. Quiet quitting happens in many places including our romantic relationships. Any time that we are in a relationship and we notice that we stop caring and stop connecting with our partner, we are quiet quitting.
To use Gottman Method Marriage Therapy terms, we are all making ‘bids’ for connection in our relationships. A bid is any attempt from one partner to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection. Bids show up in simple ways, “How was dinner?” or they can be very complex, ‘I really wish we were having more sex!’ There are three basic ways that a partner can respond to a bid—they can turn toward, they can turn away, and they can turn against. The way that our partner responds to a bid has an impact.
In fact, researchers can predict divorce based on the number of bids that a person turns against. When a partner turns against a relationship, it is painful and creates a very toxic pattern. For example, one partner trying to connect says, ‘I would love to come with you to the store.’ Turning against says, ‘Why are you always trying to go with me, can’t you just leave me alone?’ whereas Turning Toward, might say, ‘That would be great, I will wait in the car!’ Turning away might be remaining neutral or not saying anything. Gottman Method states that happy partners in a relationship accept 86% of the bids that are made to them. Bids represent needs such as connection, attachment, understanding, intimacy, and excitement.
When we don’t have our needs met in a relationship, there is an awareness that things aren’t like we wish or had expected they would be. A person starts to wonder about the relationship and can even start to imagine that they could have their needs met with a different partner. Unmet needs create a slow landslide toward dissatisfaction and quiet quitting. A partner may first talk about the unhappiness, feelings of aloneness, or lack of appreciation that they feel. Even bids to create greater understanding and connection, if unacknowledged or not responded to, will also cease to happen, creating the cascade of distance and aloneness that hallmarks the most unhappy relationships, the relationships that very well may be headed for divorce.
Here are 5 Ways to Prevent Your Partner From Quiet Quitting You.
- Tune in and accept the bids your partner is sending your way. Notice it when your partner does something nice, thoughtful and loving and respond to it with gratitude and attention.
- Find ways to give back. Your partner’s relationship needs may be different from yours but it is each partners responsibility to become fluent in their partner’s love language and to speak the language of love frequently.
- A healthy relationship needs to be a priority. We must give time, attention and care for ourselves and our partner in a way that allows for a positive, receptive and loving mindset to evolve from it.
- If you notice that your partner is checking out, talk about it, don’t avoid the topic. Having those difficult conversations early on will allow you both the time and space to start to get the relationship back on track.
- Get professional help. Marriage counseling or Couples Therapy can be the best method to talk about what is happening between the two of you, especially if there is defensiveness and argument when you both try to talk about the issues that are happening.
Written by Marriage Counselor and Founder of the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, Stephanie Wijkstrom.
Interested in Couples Therapy?
Call 412-322-2129 or fill out the form below to get started with Couples Therapy.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 31, 2022 anger, anxiety, anxiety therapy pittsburgh, help for anxiety, mental health, social anxiety, teen anxiety, therapy for anxiety, treatment for anxiety, treatment for anxiety disorder0 comments
Sept 26: Intro to Group: Ice Breaker Activity, Review Rules and expectations
Teenagers often have worries and intrusive thoughts that can lead to ongoing anxiety. One of the most common types is Generalized Anxiety. The DSM-V explains Generalized Anxiety Disorder as, “excessive anxiety and worry occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities such as work or school performance.” Anxiety can have physical and emotional effects that can feel like an endless burden. As adult mentors, educators, and caregivers, here are tips for how to help a teenager with anxiety.
The anxious brain is conflicted as the mind can race, but inversely “blank out.” The frustration of not having a clear mind can lead to poor performance in school. Teens can start to lose concentration after school during homework or at work. Validate some of their worried thoughts by using logical thinking such as separating facts from fiction. Encourage creative outlets after mentally draining tasks. Teens can use journaling and stream of consciousness type writing to free these intrusive thoughts. Make sure there is a safe place for creativity as expression can be personal. Respect the privacy of your teen, but encourage them to share if comfortable.
Anger & Tension
Anger and irritability can unfortunately arrive during anxiety as a result of frustration. As we feel tense with worry, our bodies follow suit. Find what works best for your teen in the realm of movement. Sports are an obvious go-to, but yoga, tai chi and even light stretching can help. Giving your teen a time and space to calm down when angry will benefit you both. Talking about the anger when clear headed will improve your connection.
Sleep & Rest
Since one purpose of anxiety is to keep the brain and body on alert, there is a restless component that comes with anxiety. Frequently one can feel hypervigilant, especially when racing thoughts are added.
As a result, teens with anxiety may feel more tired and lethargic. Sleep becomes more crucial as anxiousness is prone to poor sleep patterns. Teenagers also need more sleep than their adult counterparts. Make early mornings less stressful by sticking to a more relaxing “down time” routine before bed. Find what type of nightly routine and sleep schedule works best. Remember that rest isn’t always sleep; meditation and taking breaks when acceptable can refresh the mind. A “mental health day” off school or work when appropriate can rejuvenate the soul.
One of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a sense of safety. The recent pandemic drastically affected schooling and activities. As a result, teens have had to learn to adapt to change and deal with disappointment. Teens especially crave the consistency of routine. Knowing what to anticipate in advance can help calm the anxious brain. Try to be realistic with expectations and set rules together. If you are uncertain of plans, be honest with your teen and come up with alternatives so that they know what to expect.
Using the 5 senses can be grounding to calm the nerves. For example, making a favorite meal together is comforting and incorporates all senses. Carrying a rollerball scent to smell, a fidget spinner to touch or sour candy to taste can be quick remedies when anxiety starts. Small changes of surroundings can also be refreshing, such as letting your teen rearrange and redecorate their room. There has been a resurgence in sensory items among teenagers. Being playful and letting teens enjoy video games and toys from their younger years also creates a sense of comfort.
There are many disorders that accompany anxious feelings such as Major Depressive Disorder, ADHD, and OCD. Anxiety can also be a result of traumatic events or major life changes.
Social anxiety (social phobia) is common among teens. Based on data from The National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), an estimated 9.1% of adolescents have social anxiety disorder, with an estimated 1.3% causing severe impairment.
Therapy for teens with a licensed professional counselor gives space to divulge these complicated thoughts and emotions. Group Therapy for Teenagers is a unique opportunity to gain skills and new behaviors with the benefit of an expert-led experience while being accelerated through the lens of social learning that can only come from peer support. Group formats have been used to successfully manage a variety of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Remember to practice your own self care when anxious as we are a great influence in their lives. When children see us coping better, they experience positive results firsthand. Normalizing honest conversations about emotions will show teens how to develop into healthy adults.
Group Therapy for Teenagers: Teen Art Group
This in-person Group Therapy for Teenagers runs from September 26-November 14 at 6PM on Mondays. It takes place at our Monroeville location. The group will be led by Licensed Professional Counselor Rachel Taylor, author of this article.
Teen Group Therapy: Teen Art Group will help teens learn Social Skills, Depression Coping Skills, Anxiety Strategies, and How to Handle Anger all within the context of making art.
Sept 26: Intro to Group: Ice Breaker Activity, Review Rules and expectations
Oct 3: Social Skills: Healthy relationships and make bracelets for friends
Oct 10: Depression Coping Skills: Jeopardy game
Oct 17: Anxiety Strategies/Discuss Group Topic choice
Oct 24: *Group topic Choice and craft*
Oct 31: Halloween!-Mask Craft and discuss different “sides” of self
Nov 7: Anger: role plays
Nov 14: Closure *Apples to Apples type game to review Group Skills *discuss future groups
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.)
Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality ([1st ed.].). New York: Harper.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). Social Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/social-anxiety-disorder
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 18, 2022 dietician, dietitian, dietitian nutritionist, dietitian nutritionist near me, healthy eating, healthy food, keto diet, ketogenic diet, Nutrition Counseling, Nutritionist, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian0 comments
When it comes to healthy eating, we all have questions to ask a dietitian—conflicting information is everywhere. Our Registered Dietitian answers some common questions about diet and nutrition.
Q: Is vegetarian (or keto, or…) the best way to eat?
A: There’s not one best way to eat. We are all unique, and some individuals may have various medical conditions that play a role in the way we fuel our bodies and the food choices we make. The best plan for you is that one that meets your medical and nutritional needs. And one that is enjoyable, accessible, and something you are able to stick with for the long term. By meeting with a registered dietitian, they can help you navigate and understand the best possible plan for you.
Q: How many glasses of water should I consume daily?
A: Staying hydrated is very important for many reasons related to our bodily functions, such as maintaining a normal body temperature and removing waste through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements. So it is essential to make sure we are consuming enough water throughout the day. Consider your thirst sensation as being the best indicator that you need to drink. Make sure to keep beverages visible so you remember to take a sip throughout the day. Although there is not a static number of ounces for everyone, aim to consume water with each meal and snack.
Q: Is food labeled “organic” more nutritious?
A: There are a plethora of marketing claims on products all throughout the grocery stores and markets. When a product or food is labeled as “organic”, this is referring to the method of farming, not the nutritional value of the product. An organic logo does not reflect the nutritional contents of the food, such as calories, fat, salt, or sugar. Nutritious foods, whether conventionally or organically grown, are those that provide a good source of fiber, protein, and are low in salt and saturated fat.
Q: Should I avoid fruit because it has too much sugar?
A: The number one source of added sugar for Americans in their diet is from sweetened beverages, such as soda and energy drinks. Fruit provides about 1% of the added sugars individuals consume. Of note, health advice to limit “added sugar” does not apply to the natural sugar in fruit. Even if Americans consumed the recommended daily amount of 1-2 cups per day, it wouldn’t come close to the volume of sugar from ultra-processed foods and beverages. Bottomline, keep enjoying fruit, especially those with skins and seeds, as these are great sources of fiber.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 8, 2022 breakups, coping with loss, divorce, healthy mourning, heartbreak, loneliness, loss counseling, relationship, self care, self care during grief, single0 comments
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve experienced a breakup. Breakups can be difficult depending on how long they’ve lasted and/or how much we’ve emotionally invested in the person. We can expect a period of grieving the loss, even if we know it should have ended. We need to take some time to process what happened that caused the relationship to end and learn from that experience. Here are therapist-recommended tips on how to get over a breakup:
- Process what you’re walking away with rather than walking away without. This can look like thinking through, “What did I gain from this relationship?”, “What did I learn about myself?”, “What do I need to take note of for any potential relationships in the future?” Some possible answers to these questions may be: “I gained a lot more self confidence and the ability to be more self-sufficient.” “In the future, I want to make it clear how important time with my family is.” This can be a great journaling exercise.
- This is a time for good self-care: proper nutrition, regular exercise, and healthy sleep patterns. Invest in activities that are meaningful and where you can express your gifts and talents in ways that are fulfilling. You will have more time to invest in others, so engaging in volunteer roles where you are serving and helping others can add meaning and increase the quality of your life.
- Be mindful of how you are processing the loss. If you feel inadequate, unlovable, not significant, etc., as a result of the break-up, it might be helpful to process these beliefs with a therapist so you don’t end up with a distorted and negative view of yourself. If you sink into long periods of depression, anxiety, or grief, you may also want to process this with a therapist to be able to work through these feelings and return to a more positive view of life.
- Take a break from social media and spend more quality time with your most supportive friends. As humans, we require healthy attachments to others. Surrounding yourself with friends and loved ones (support system) can help soothe the attachment trauma. Also, allow yourself to grieve!! This is a loss and it is okay to feel it.
- Accept that feelings of sadness and loneliness are a normal part of any life change and they are not a signal that you should ‘be with’ the person who you are experiencing the break up with. Many people confuse sadness for a reason to continue on in that relationship. Remember, even people who struggle with substance abuse disorder crave their desired substance for a period of time after ‘quitting.’ Not everything we desire aligns with our higher goals and well being!
While it may not happen as quickly as you’d like, people have a resounding ability to heal from loss, regain autonomy and grow stronger. If you feel stuck or like it may be taking you longer than what feels appropriate, it may be helpful to reach out to a therapist for additional support.
Cover photo by Alex Green
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 20, 2022 cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive distortions, how to deal with loneliness, loneliness, reframing cognitive distortions0 comments
* a phrase coined by psychologist Jennifer Abel.
Loneliness, typically defined as the discrepancy between a person’s desired and actual social relationships, affects more than half of U.S. adults (58%). Additionally, Americans with mental health issues are more than twice as likely to be lonely than those with strong mental health.
Lonely individuals approach social encounters with a hypervigilance for social threats; they preferentially attend to negative social information; they remember more of the negative aspects of social events; they hold more negative social expectations; and they are more likely to behave in ways that confirm their negative expectations.
Research suggests that loneliness is not a fixed trait and can be improved or worsened by social interactions. Therefore, opportunities for social connectedness have the potential to improve the quality of social interactions and keep loneliness at bay.
How do we create these opportunities for social connection? What can we do about heightened sensitivity to social threats? Here’s our therapist recommendations for how to deal with loneliness.
- Use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to identify the automatic negative thoughts you have around rejection and how other people perceive you. Then think of alternative or “better but believable” thoughts* that can help you have more neutral feelings.
- Look for and engage in everyday points of connection, even small ones, if it’s safe to do so. For example, wave to the neighbor down the street taking their daily walk, or engage in the impromptu casual conversation the person in front of you in line at the grocery store may start as you wait, usually about how you both always choose the longest line, etc. Those points of connection help you identify with others and underscore that while you may feel isolated, often you share a common experience with others.
- Are you feeling lonely with people you know? Maybe it’s time to hit “pause” with your current friends and build new relationships.. Look to see who has “friend potential.” If people are asking you to hang out and it seems intriguing, take a chance.
- Identify something you would enjoy or do enjoy or feel committed to and seek out a volunteer opportunity. You don’t even have to commit tons of time- it can be a one time step to start to see if you like it, and you`ll still garner the benefits of connection and being of service. Like animals? Seek out a volunteer opportunity at a local animal shelter during a pet supply drive or adoption day. If environmental concerns are more your thing, participate in a local clean up day and bond with your clean up crew as you compete to see which crew can stash the most trash! The options are as unique as you are! Who knows, you may even get to meet folks who share similar interests, which is an added bonus.
- Be the first to reach out to others. Many people remain lonely because they wait for others to engage with them or take the lead in setting up social interactions. Social people continually take the lead in calling, texting and making plans.
- Many people approach their social interactions in terms of what they get from them. They think, “What will this person do for me?” “How can *I* feel better from this social interaction?” This backfires. Instead, approach social interactions with the mindset of, “What can I give this person?” “How can I make them feel better?” Ultimately, people like being around people who make them feel good. If you focus on making the other person feel good rather than yourself, you stand a better chance of making a strong connection with the person.
* a phrase coined by psychologist Jennifer Abel.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 14, 2022 cell phone addiction, cell phone anxiety, mental health, social media, social media addiction, social media usage, social media use0 comments
With as much critical and cautionary information that says social media is bad for mental heath, social media and online content has become an integral part of many social, commercial and human interactions. In behavioral psychology, we know that the more we pathologize and make taboo any given behavior or construct by prohibiting it, the less we are able to provide harm reduction strategies and even to help others to adopt ways of using social media which are socially and psychologically enhancing.
The average American user of social media spends 2 hours and 4 minutes per day interacting with social platforms, with that in mind, it is safe to say that social media is here to stay. Here are therapist recommendations for how to use social media in a way that supports wellbeing.
Beware of ‘All or ‘Nothing’ Thinking
Let go of the notion that it is all bad. All or nothing thinking is a cognitive distortion which imagines that by fully using social media platforms, you are engaging in something unhealthy or bad. The truth is, whether it is Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook, most people who use social media are not addicted or spending endless hours of their day engaging with this platform. According to American Society of Addiction Medicine, Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences. Many people are using social media in their spare time to learn, interact, and engage with others and their content.
30 Minutes is a Good Aspirational Goal
Social media use varies by country and by generation with more social media use consumed by younger generations. Users in the Philipines rank the top of social media use with 3 hours and 43 minutes of use per day and Americans at about 2 hours and 4 minutes per day. Mental health researchers have long cited that too much social media consumption also is correlated to poorer mental health outcomes. But let us realize that there is a ‘sweet spot’ using social media for 30 minutes per day is a sign of healthy amount consumption. Whether you are checking out travel Tik Toks, Recipes, or Fit life or Mom life, there is a lot to see and even learn on the web when done with a well balanced perspective!
Social Media is a Complement to a Social Life
There are many ways that social interactions and friendships can be accelerated, formed, and solidified on social media. Connecting with people from your past, sending a friend request to a friend of a friend who seemed nice, sharing an invitation, are all easy on social media. While provoking new friendships and sharing a pic or a memory to solidify current relationships are all great, social media connections are a complement not a replacement for in person meetings, calls, and time spent connecting with people you can about.
Looking Back on Memories
Remember all of the content, pictures and stories that you share today will be your memories in the future. Make beautiful memories that will allow you to smile and appreciate a moment of nostalgia looking back on them. Pictures and videos do well to be stored on social media in addition to other physical and digital forms. Some people talk about the dangers of sharing pictures without remembering all that can be very beautiful about using social media as it is intended to be used.
The take home point is that social media is a complement to a well balanced life that should be appreciated for its benefits and used reasonably. The next time you feel the need to judge or criticize someone else’s use of social media use, maybe you could spend some time thinking about your own use and what your use says about you. With all things, when you are dug in on a specific topic, there is usually a reason why, and that reason is usually not a healthy one. With most things, moderation and an attitude of appreciation wins. As always, may the memories you create be happy, healthy and full of meaning.