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 19, 2019 preventing suicide, signs of suicide0 comments
These are The Signs of Suicide You Should Know to Save a Life; By Melissa Howard
Suicide is not just a minor issue; it is a public health crisis. While medications and lifestyle changes can help prevent other health hazards, suicide can be much harder to recognize and treat. The actual act of suicide can be a split-second decision but the thoughts that lead to this tragedy tend to build off of experiences, mental health issues and all too often, addiction. Since suicide involved internal thoughts and emotions, rather than acute physical symptoms it’s vital to be aware of the following information when trying to prevent suicides.
Suicide signs can be hard to spot…
There are many warning signs of suicidal ideation and indicators that someone may be thinking about causing themselves harm. Some of these signs manifest in speech or outward actions, while others are subtle. This can make the latter signs difficult to discern, especially when they present on their own. Individually these signs might be meaningless, but when more than one sign is combined they can quickly escalate into someone actually attempting a suicidal act.
Dialogue can be a warning of suicide too…
Sometimes, words are the most powerful indicator that something is going terribly wrong with someone you love and know. The most glaring example of these spoken suicide signs is talking about committing suicide or some form of self-harm. Even statements that might be laced with sarcasm should be looked into as potential threats. In addition to these red flags, someone who
Describes themselves as hopeless or who constantly seems to be speaking with despair may be thinking of committing a suicidal act. You may also hear a loved one state that they are a burden to others. Such a statement, or saying that the world would be better off without you are announcements of suicidal thought, and should be addressed.
Actions can foreshadow suicide as well…
If you are concerned that a family member or household member is thinking about suicide, reviewing their web search history may help. If you see that person has been trying to learn about suicide methods, that’s a clear sign that they are seriously thinking about taking their own life. Aside from searching for this information, individuals who are distressed may also begin to withdraw from relationships and activities. If the same person begins to give away prized possessions, know that it is time to reach out for professional help.
Addiction is often linked to suicidal thoughts and actions…
An additional and crucial suicide warning sign that warrants further discussion is substance abuse. Substance abuse can be a source as well as a means for suicidal acts. Overdoses are often considered as the culmination of substance abuse disorders, but they may be deliberate in certain cases.
Addiction is connected to suicide through anxiety and depression. Someone who is afflicted with anxiety or depression will try to alleviate these feelings through a variety of self-administered therapies. But when these mental health disorders are self-treated with drugs and alcohol instead of with professional help, people tend to get caught in a downward spiral that drives them to want to take their own life.
Professional help can prevent suicides and provide real relief…
When you or a loved one is thinking about suicide, getting immediate help can be a matter of life and death. If you have untreated mental health issues, you should know that help is available. Treatment options are readily available to safely manage depression and anxiety in a way that allows you to function. If you are having problems with substance abuse too, there are rehabilitation programs and treatments that can help you take back control of your life. When seeking treatment options, look for licensed clinical social workers. These professionals are trained to diagnose and treat problems related to mental health, including substance abuse and psychosocial problems. They most likely earned their license by completing Master of Social Work programs at a U.S. university. These programs typically require as much as 1,200 hours of work in the field.
Being aware of the signs of suicide, whether subtle or pronounced, is a crucial first step in preventing more people from committing this tragic act. If you recognize these signs in someone you love, or even in yourself, please reach out for help. Call a hotline, call a friend, seek counseling, or just go to the nearest emergency room. However you get help, know that your life matters and you are not alone, and let those in your life who may be in danger know this as well.
Photo Credit: UnsplashLearn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghOctober 30, 2018 compassion, pittsburgh, positive psychology, resilience to trauma0 comments
Trauma; Honor For Your Healing Journey
The four things your therapist wants you to know about your healing journey. When you’re healing from a grief, trauma, or resultant PTSD, you must be thinking about ‘how will I ever move on from this horrible, unexpected, agonizing reaction to the traumatic situation that I have experienced?’ Remember, PTSD is a reaction to witnessing or experiencing a sudden and unexpected event which caused one to feel powerless by delivering, threatening, or witnessing harm. How can I rise above these feelings and thoughts and create meaningful and complete healing? Maybe you want to go backwards in time and undo all of the harm that you have experienced. A common and reasonable response to all of these above disorders, particularly PTSD, is to try to avoid all triggers associated with the situation which evoked the trauma, hypervigilance, intrusive memories, nightmares, flashbacks and an increased risk for anxiety and depression. This disorder presents a mountain to ascend, and whether you have spend years in therapy or are only beginning to acknowledge the depth of the effects this has had on you, these are some points to keep in mind. These are the 4 things that your therapist wants you to know about healing that are not immediately evident.
Healed but not Forgotten
Some people have the unrealistic expectation that when they reach the end of their healing journey they shouldn’t have any emotional reaction to their memories of the traumatic event which led to grief and loss. That is not how healing works. It is quite likely that you will always have some sort of reaction to the memories and thoughts associated with your grief or trauma. In fact, according to a 2011 study published in NIH by Sherin and Nemeroff, and according to all of science and psychology support the fact that there is potential for long term neuroanatomical and neurochemical changes to the central nervous system resulting from trauma. These changes are especially evident in the way we respond to triggers or trauma associated stimuli. What we should be striving for in the healing from trauma is a ‘new normal.’ Healing means that you are able to function in professional or personal settings and that you are practicing resilience and positive coping when waves of thought and emotion do come.
Healing means Acknowledging Feelings
One of the ways that therapy works is by creating an intentional space for healing warriors to be honest with themselves, to create an understanding of their emotions. After an awareness has been formed adaptive responses to feelings and thoughts can be generated. We create psychopathology by being critical and attempting to repress our internal honest responses. For some people like first responders, police, and paramedics, there may be an extra layer of difficulty and stigma attached to acknowledging ones feelings and seeking mental health support to manage trauma. This can cause further damaging denial of the effects of traumatic experiences, One of the core tenets of psychological theory present in every form of therapy is that the more we repress, judge or avoid our feelings, the more we cause problems. Repression elicits tangled feeling constellations, blocked energies, incomplete and unintegrated shadows. Mindfulness based stress reduction, EMDR, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Exposure Therapy, have shown efficacy in treating PTSD. Our feelings can turn into psychopathology that are bigger and sometimes socially unacceptable forms of the original emotional response.
Healing Happens in Relationships. Find your Healing Tribe
It is especially true for trauma that happens in relationships, that this same trauma is healed in relationships. When trauma survivors open up to those people who they consider to be safe, there is an incredible potential for healing to happen. Healing relationships are those that resonate compassion, gentle acceptance, warmth, and non-judgement. Think about it, we become close to those who we can be really honest with, those who ask about our feelings and can share in a compassionate interchange, (Mgrath, 2001). Sharing trauma should be exercised with caution. However well-intentioned our healing tribe may be, its members may inadvertently respond in less constructive ways that judge, shame, or put down the survivor for having the pain or scars of trauma. Another risk is not being able to hear or understand what is being shared. What is really needed is non-judgmental acceptance, understanding, and compassionate warmth.
Positive Psychology, Pop Culture and Non-Reality
You may have survived a trauma
but that doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to meme reality. Scroll through a social media forum and you will see many posts and memes which declare that everyone should be happy all the time. That isn’t honest or possible. The healthiest among us are those who are honest with themselves about what they experience and then respond to their vulnerable reality in a constructive way. According to a 2016 study by Elizabeth Kneeland,pop cultures layman positive psychology is damaging. When pop culture got its hands on positive psychology its representatives distorted the message, and now laymen perpetuate unrealistic and uninformed messages which imply that we can think our way into a good mood. It suggests that if we blink our eyes we can make trauma and psychological distress evaporate. Your therapist knows differently. Its ok to be outraged, disgusted, sad, hurt, angry, confused, and it is important to acknowledge where you are in your healing journey today.
No matter where you are today, the best we can do is to risk opening to ourselves, to create an honest internal dialogue that we are eventually able to share with others. We should unabashedly honor our own processes, giving relentless permission to feel, think and be; in reverence of joy, in honor of glorious fury, to the fullest expression of gaiety, to the utterance of insuperable hurt, to fully hone in on repugnant disgust. Keep developing your divine awareness, and eventually you will have created the unique meaning which understands with a lens of compassion, acceptance, and self love all that has happened to you.
With love and hope for resilience,
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC
- Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15233
- Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
4108 Monroeville BLVD, Monroeville PA 15146
Accepting new clients, our therapists accept UPMC, Highmark BCBS, United, Cigna, Magellan, Aetna, HSA, Self Paying and Sliding Scale.
Thank you to our Editor, Dr. Stellan Wijkstrom for his ever helpful alterations and contributions.
For More Reading
Kneeland, Elizabeth et al, Positive thinking Newsweek, 2016
McGrath, Ellen. Psychology Today, published November 1, 2001
Sherin, Jonathan E, Charles B. Nemeroff
Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2011 Sep; 13(3): 263–278.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 16, 2018 benefits of high fat diet, blue cross blue shield, counseling wellness, dietician0 comments
What are the benefits of a high fat diet?
Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN continues to examine the big fat myth and share some more information and sample mean plan to incorporate the dietary changes of a high fat diet into your busy lifestyle. Our last blog post caused quite a stir and we want to be sure that our readers understand the differences between ‘good fats’ and ‘bad fats.’ One big take home point is that not all dietary fats are created equally. So, what does the science tell us about a high fat diet? To recap our last blog article, research is showing that a high fat made up of healthy fats coupled with a low carbohydrate diet can be beneficial for:
- Heart health
- Boosting the immune system
- Brain function (and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, cognitive impairment and dementia)
- Blood sugar control
- Weight management
High fat diets, and even ketogenic diets are being studied for their efficacy in treating Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS, Epilepsy and even ADHD. More and more, we understand there is a significant effect on our physical and emotional health exerted by our food consumption, even anxiety and depression can be effected by our diet. In particular, of the vital and nourishing micro nutrients, cholesterol is especially protective of brain function. One famous study called the Framingham Heart Study found that those with low serum cholesterol performed less well on cognitive function tests than their counterparts with borderline or high cholesterol levels. We can infer from this correlation that cholesterol does seem to have a protective effect on the brain. Additionally, when we note that their are ramifications for those who take statin drugs to lower their cholesterol. One known side effect of statin drugs are problems with memory and cognition.
What should I eat?
The good news is that it’s easy to start enjoying the benefits of a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. It’s important to limit grains and legumes to maintain the benefits. It is best to try to aim for only about 60 grams of carbohydrates a day. Along with unlimited non-starchy vegetables (think asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, swiss chard and spinach) and low sugar fruits (grapefruits, oranges, apples, berries, melon, pears, cherries, grapes, kiwis, plums, peaches and nectarines), enjoy ample amounts of these ‘good or healthy fats’ which are foods which will accelerate health and allow you to experience the benefits of a high fat diet:
- Grass fed beef and lamb
- Free range chicken
- Cage free eggs
- Cold pressed oils (walnut, olive, avocado, coconut, and palm)
- Grass fed butter
- Cold water fish (salmon, shrimp, sardines and tuna)
- Nuts (walnut, cashews, macadamia and almonds)
- Cheese (Gruyere, goat cheese, feta cheese, and mozzarella)
Sample One Day Meal Plan*
2 scrambled eggs with 1 oz. goat cheese cheese and stir fried veggies (onions, mushrooms, spinach and red bell pepper)
4 oz. baked chicken or canned tuna with a side of leafy greens dressed in balsamic and olive oil
3 oz. grass fed steak with a side of roasted broccoli and mashed cauliflower
3 squares of 70% dark chocolate
*Adapted from Dr. David Perlmutter’s book Grain Brain
So go ahead and give it a try, of course one should always consult either your PCP or a dietitian or nutritionist before making any changes to your diet, this is especially true if you have preexisting health conditions.
In good health and wellness,
Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN
Certified Nutritionist, Licensed Dietary Nutritionist for The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Providing good health and wellness to Western Pennsylvania.
Accepting Self paying clients, Out of Network, and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet – Including Meal Plan by Licensed Nutrition Counselor, Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 7, 2018 anti-inflammatory diet, chronic inflammation, diabetes, medicine, nutrition, Uncategorized, Wijkstrom0 comments
Anti-Inflammatory Diet, What it is, What it Does and Including a Meal Plan by Licensed Nutrition Counselor, Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN.
Every standard anatomy course covers a section on inflammation, health circles and modern medicine studies how this physiological process effects our bodies. Modern science has uncovered much evidence related to how our dietary consumption fuels our internal inflammation. To understand inflammation, let’s talk what about what inflammation really is. Inflammation is a normal part of our body’s healing process. Think of the redness, pain and swelling that comes along with an acute injury. These are bio-markers that our white blood cells are migrating to the origin of a wound, when the white blood cells arrive they will unfold to facilitate the healing process. This mechanism is a normal and necessary indication that our immune response is hard at work. But what happens when our immune systems are working over time in a way we can’t see? This is a part of what is termed ‘chronic inflammation’, and our diet definitely plays a large role in both calming it down or conversely, throwing fuel on the flames.
Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to many common diseases in the U.S today. Obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes are some common diseases to which inflammation contributes to the onset and progression (Lopez-Condelez 2017). Additionally, according to a 2018 study Dr. Billmore et, al, which was published in Nature, there is also evidence that inflammation may contribute to certain forms of depression as well as aiding in the development and progression of this mental health disease, inflammation is also being study as a contributing factor in the development of other mood disorders. Of course diet alone can not provide total therapy for depression or disease but it is an important pathway to providing our best course to become well.
The fact is when our immune system becomes chronically activated, low-grade, systemic inflammation occurs. Even if you aren’t suffering from an overt disease, things like stress, leaky gut, food sensitivities and even an imbalance in our gut micro-biome all are capable of pushing our bodies into an inflammatory state. The consequences of chronic inflammation are serious. Increased risk of neuro-degenerative and cardiovascular disease, trouble losing weight, digestive problems, hormonal imbalances, and cellular damage may all occur as a result.
Our food choices can either promote or calm inflammation. Many of the diseases and problems listed above may be prevented or mitigated with an anti-inflammatory diet. The top foods that commonly contribute to chronic inflammation in the standard American diet are:
- Refined grains (bread, crackers, cookies, cakes, snack foods)
- Dairy (all cow dairy products including milk, ice cream, and yogurt
- Sugar (table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners)
- Vegetable oils (Canola, Corn, Safflower, Sunflower and Rapeseed oils)
- Trans fat (Margarine, peanut butter, mayonnaise, packaged snacks)
- Conventional/commercially raised meat
- Alcohol (More than 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men)
- Food additives (MSG, artificial flavors and food dyes)
On the flip side, nourishing foods can also accelerate healing in the body and prevent the inflammatory cascade from becoming chronic. For whole body health and wellness, add these anti-inflammatory foods into your daily diet:
- Fatty fish (Halibut, salmon, sardines, trout)
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Vegetables (Any and all kinds!)
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Grass-fed animal meats
We know that one of the barriers to incorporating dietary changes is that we simply don’t know where to begin. As an added bonus, we will share an example one-day meal plan, made by a certified and licensed Nutrition Counselor, Liz Mckinney, by using this plan, you can jump start your anti-inflammatory diet today!
- 2 scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach, mushrooms and garlic
- ½ avocado
- 2 cups mixed greens with 4 oz. salmon or chicken and walnuts with a turmeric ginger dressing (Juice from 2 large organic lemons, approximately 1/4 cup of fresh juice, 1″ fresh ginger, skin removed, 1 garlic clove, 2 teaspoon ground turmeric, 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, Salt to taste – Blend in food processor)
- Sautéed lemon pepper shrimp over zucchini “noodles” sautéed in olive oil with salt and pepper
- 70% or greater dark chocolate, almonds/walnuts, rice cake with mashed avocado, hard boiled egg with spicy mustard, cut up veggies with hummus or another home made veggie dip
Additionally, by working with a licensed nutritionist or dietitian to identify food sensitivities, heal leaky gut, balance your gut micro-biome, eradicating bacterial overgrowth, and implementing a stress reduction plan into your daily life, your wellness, emotional, and physical health can be optimized. As always, wellness routines that include yoga, meditation, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, spending time in nature, or deep breathing are all proven techniques to increase resilience to stress.
Blog article is written by Liz Mckinney, CNS, Liz is the licensed and certified nutritionist for the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, Liz can provide nutrition counseling near you, now accepting new patients in Western Pennsylvania.
edited, by Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCCLearn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 31, 2018 food for anxiety, food for depression, food for mood0 comments
28 Foods to Decrease Anxiety and Depression and Enhance Positive Moods
Food & Mood Series by Liz Mckinney, CNS, Board Certified Nutritionist
“It is both compelling and daunting to consider that dietary intervention at an individual or population level could reduce rates of psychiatric disorders. There are exciting implications for clinical care, public health, and research” – editorial in the American Journal of Psychiatry https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09060881
Mood imbalances like depression and anxiety are on the rise in the U.S. In 2016, the National Institute for Mental Health estimated that 16.2 million Americans have experienced at least one major depressive episode and 42 million have an anxiety disorder of some kind. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml Additionally, depression is the leading cause of disability globally. Traditionally, depression and anxiety are viewed as being caused by chemical imbalances, due to under production of our feel good neurotransmitters like dopamine, GABA, and serotonin. Lets explore how food is related to emotional health and how we can put ourselves at risk for developing anxiety or depression with our diet, as well as the good news of how diet can increase of mood, energy, and all around wellness.
So what factors contribute to a drop in the production of neurotransmitters? Biologically, this question has a multi-tiered answer. First, genetics and epigenetics (namely, how our environmental exposures affect which of our genes become activated) certainly play a role in a person’s proclivity towards depression and anxiety. For example, a common genetic mutation called MTHFR has a big impact in how we activate the B vitamin folate in our cells. Those with this genetic mutation are more prone to depression because of folate’s role in making serotonin. But, we know that our genetics don’t tell the whole story. The second factor influencing the expression of our genes, are our mental and emotional stressors or triggers, this is the part that can be effected by our social supports and reduced with therapy. Social factors and cognitive perceptions contribute significantly to the onset of these common mood disorders.
The Standard American Diet, which is low in fiber, healthy fats and protein and packed full of cheap, convenient sugar laden foods means we have less of the amino acid building blocks we need to make GABA, serotonin, and dopamine. A second issue to consider is that poor gut health is directly linked to worsened mood disorders thanks to the two-way gut-brain connection. Intake of processed snack foods packed with sugar, flour, and trans fat are like pouring gasoline on the fire and promote overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and yeast in our gut where up to 80% of our body’s serotonin is produced. Eating poor quality proteins or simply not enough further compound the issue because proteins are the building blocks for these important compounds that keep our moods stable. Grain fed, factory farmed eggs and meats and genetically modified crops are not only loaded with toxins and pesticides that alter our microbiomes, they serve to ramp up that low grade chronic inflammation. Finally, fiber intake has never been lower thanks to the standard American diet. Fiber rich foods serve as probiotics that feed the beneficial bacteria in our large intestine. Without fuel, the good “bugs” are more likely to die off, leaving room for the pathogenic species to flourish. Our bacteria send signals to our brains, so we want our good bacteria to dominate and send signals that promote brain health, not cause further chemical imbalances and inflammation.
Now time for the empowering news! The food we eat can also improve mood, and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Food can be a kind of internal therapy, by nourishing organs, healing of stomach linings and then increasing energy and brain health, they have a huge impact on decreasing ones susceptibility to relapsing from mental health disorders.
- High quality proteins
- Cage-free Eggs
- Grass-fed Beef and
- Chicken raised without growth hormones or antibiotics.
Vegan or vegetarian
- Non-GMO soy
- Vegetable proteins like legumes, pea chia, or hemp.
- Fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, or sauerkraut which contain live organisms that populate the microbiome with beneficial bacteria.
The above mentioned foods promote emotional and physical health by keeping the gut happy and healthy. As a word of caution, avoid processed, packaged snack foods at all costs and focus on whole, unprocessed foods like promote a good mood. Here are some more delicious options to add to your daily diet that calm inflammation and support mood:
- Dark Chocolate (70% or darker)
- Vitamin B rich foods – eggs, raw dairy, grass fed beef, and organic chicken and turkey, leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard, and bananas
- Red, Purple, and Blue Berries – Contain Vitamin C and other antioxidants
- Omega 3s – wild caught fatty fish (2 servings weekly), walnuts and flax seed
- Coconut oil
As a final note, understanding mood disorders is complex and the underlying factors multi-tiered. Everyone is unique and requires and individualized approach that takes into account genetics and epigenetics, mental and emotional health and diet and lifestyle. When all three are addressed, we are better able to address mood disorders and provide the best outcomes. If you want to learn more about health enhancing diets and what foods can support emotional and physical health, meet with a board certified and licensed nutritionist, our nutritionist, Liz Mckinney, CNS accepts Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance as well as self paying clients.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 16, 2018 anxiety during pregnancy, depression in pregnancy, postpartum, stress pregnancy0 comments
Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy, ‘Wellness For People Like Me.’
Writer, blogger, and art therapy graduate Angela Grace Wilt shares some of her experiences in recovering positive coping and mental health including ways to manage anxiety and depression during pregnancy. This is a part of the ‘People Like Me’ Series of our wellness blog, real people, real stories, real ways to incorporate wellness into stages and experiences of everyday normal life.
Being a woman comes with a lot of ups and downs. Women are prone to anxiety and it can be very hard to to admit. For example, women are closely tied to the monthly cycles that their body experiences. Things such as menstruation cause anxiety, depression, mood swings, and intense bodily urges with cravings. Men never will get us or grasp what we go through. We are just that unique. For as long as I could remember, I have felt that as a woman I am special and cursed all at once.
Then of course recently, as I have taken this jump into parenthood with the amazing biological potential of my body, quickly I have learned that while things like premenstrual dysphoria, and the normal anxieties and depression of menstruation are challenging, pregnancy holds a whole long list of unique and larger fears and physical difficulties. In fact, this is true for all women, and according to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of anxiety or depression during pregnancy. The shift in mental health have multiple sources, think about it, there is insomnia because our body is changing so fast that some women can be prone to rapid heartbeat, which makes it harder to fall asleep. There is also the whole list of ‘what ifs.’ Will my baby and I make it to full term? Will my baby be healthy? I can no longer drink alcohol, ride adrenaline driven roller coasters, lift heavy weights, or really take any chances of too adventurous tasks. With each decision I make, I consider the question ‘what will makes my little bump, a healthy or not so healthy baby.’
Physical and emotional changes are also thread within social fears and adjustments, I sometimes wonder, have I planned enough for this pregnancy that has in many ways, just happened. The truth is, I am not some 30 something who has been charting my cycle for 6 months to achieve conception, I didn’t plan to get pregnant just yet. I thought about it sure, but just like most couples we wanted to walk down the aisle with a white dress of lace and flowers all the scenery of our closest friends and family shouting us on, it was always my dream of being that princess and marrying my soul mate! We still will have that for our future, but it will be after we get through the current stresses. In addition to the changes in my timeline, I also care about what our parents think about our having a baby right now. Having a baby out before marriage can be shocking for some religious and cultural values. We were lucky because my family is just fine with it, and with a little time to adjust, my better half’s is now happy about the news.
The list of anxieties and real practical matters which accelerate my concerns are aplenty, even small things have caused me stress, I have had to shop for insurance as a pregnant women, because I am twenty-six, pregnant, and didn’t have any. Finally, babies are expensive, health insurance is also expensive, we have stresses of finding better jobs, I have to go on insurance yet because I am twenty-six and don’t have any. We are cleaning house and making a baby room. When all of these real life stresses start to mount very high, I can feel my heart beating faster, I try to stop and think of the things that we do have, I try to re-frame my anxieties and depressed thoughts in a positive light, I pause and I say to myself, ‘I have my boyfriend, our love together, and I have a supportive family. I have myself and my strengths, and I am strong and able.’That always seems to calm me down and help me to remember that there is much to be excited about as we move forward together as a young family.
With all of these anxious and depressed thoughts swirling in my mind, I have taken the time to put together a small list of ways that I manage and support my emotional health during my pregnancy. Of course if you are struggling with mental health during or after your pregnancy, talk to you PCP or Mental Health provider, get a screening for Postpartum or Baby Blues, every year women die or don’t bond with their babies due to maternal mental health factors. If you are like me and relatively healthy but feeling a little anxious or blue, then read on because these tips may help you as much as they helped me.
Use positive self talk, be your own biggest fan and encourage yourself like you would a friend
I say nice things to myself, I write little notes and post them through out the house, simple thoughts like,’ Rome was built in a day’ ‘We will get everything done in time.’ We’re already almost half way there at twelve weeks. It’s just a wild ride. My body is going through so many beautiful changes. Tune in, all of my emotions are heightened. Hunger is giving me nourishment now. Sleep is always appreciated. Sex is fierce and always wanted. Sadness and anger are intense. I have energy that comes out of nowhere. Its ok if sometimes I can’t stop crying. I love my baby and baby’s daddy and not want anything more than to be with just them and them alone. I want the best by our new child. I want to give it proper nutrition and a good home life. I want to be a good parent and my baby to grow in a family where love is the answer and anger is dealt with in a healthy supportive manner. I will protect this baby with all that I have. This child’s needs and wants are now first. I am ready to teach this baby proper education, morals, respect, and spirituality.
Its normal to be overwhelmed, life is now changing!
Anxiety,stress, and fear are the norm when we are overcoming big changes. ways just important to remember that having a baby is a life changing experience. Normalizing the emotions that I am experiencing helps me by making me not feel the guilty, ashamed, or odd for having these dips and emotional shifts.
Reach for your Tribe!
Please remember, you are not alone. You are a powerhouse and you have many people who will listen and talk. Make a list of 5, if you can not list at least 5 people who will pick up the phone for you, see a therapist and talk about the feelings of isolation and loneliness. Mom, dad, best friends, siblings, make a list and think about who is the best person to talk with through the things that come up. It will likely be a different person for each of situations that one may encounter on the pregnancy journey.
Use your breath
The body and its breathing are powerful, breathing can be used to energize and manage our response to stress. Take some deeps breaths every day.
Make a Wellness Routine
Do calming relaxing type activities like yoga, walking in nature or just walking, stretch, journal, and keep time for yourself to collect your thought and consider the daily experiences that you are managing. Essential oils can help ease the mind and emotions and of course be sure to choose blends that are safe to use during pregnancy.
Bond with your baby
Talk to your baby while its in the womb, there will likely be a time after your baby is born that you are longing to be so closely connected to him or her again, try to cherish these moments and zoom out towards the big picture where you are nurturing a sacred bond right now in your womb. Being a woman is very special, and this connection, with baby snugly centered in my sacral area, right as my mother and my mothers mother have always done, this is something that men can not understand, but I am ok with that.
We are powerful, we are able to make changes that influence the outcomes of our life. Pregnancy like all things, is what you make of it. Do your best to stay positive by thinking of the new exciting things that can be done all in great fun with your new family together. Your love of baby and yourself will take you far. Be gentle with yourself when you notice the stress, anxiety, and fear of the 9 months ahead. This is a special time that can be used to get really healthy and in tune with your bodies needs. As always, seek medical help from a PCP, Gynecologist, or Licensed Professional Counselor if you have concerns about your mental health.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 8, 2018 Anthony Bourdain suicide, kate spade suicide, mental health awareness, suicide, suicide prevention, suicide warning signs0 comments
With the suicide of two Hollywood Stars this week, both Kate Spade fashion designer, and beloved Anthony Bourdain, American chef and champion of human rights, we at the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh wish to express our condolences to the families, friends, and all of those effected by these tragic losses. According to the National Institute of Health, suicide rates are rising, 40,000 people will die by suicide each year. As a nation, and as people who want to help, we should think about the signs, symptoms, and behaviors of the people around us so that we can do our best in having awareness to prevent suicide. Suicide is a topic which holds personal importance to me, many years ago, when I was an undergraduate student studying psychology, my boyfriend attempted suicide in my bed by placing a bullet into his brain, after months in a coma, he was lucky enough to survive. Yet the act was one which was shocking for all of his friends, his family, and something that impacted me to this day. As a woman who has devoted herself to studying and working in the mental health field, at the time, I did not see the signs that my boyfriend was suicidal.
Suicide is a taboo topic and product of dismal and ill mental health; major depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, psychosis, and schizophrenia, are a few of the disorders which are typically associated with an increased risk for suicide. For those who are closest to someone suffering from mental health disorders, the symptoms are very difficult to see for what they are. The thoughts, behaviors, and feelings of a depressed person are a set of treatable symptoms which are a produced by mental illness. Our science and psychology hold diagnostic labels but for the human beings who act out suicide, these symptoms are a daily life experience, they are much more than a label. Mental illness is an often invisible disease causing people to suffer immensely, those who are in the depths of depression or other mental illness, often have not sought treatment with a therapist or mental health professional. A person may walk through life for many years, hollow and bleak, no longer able to experience the hope or purpose to continue living. They may become so overwhelmed that they can no longer imagine the purpose of surviving more days while struggling with their feelings of despair, sadness, conflict, and internal pain. Often the person who commits suicide is one whose self-esteem and thoughts have entered a place of such distortion that they imagine the people who survive them will be better off without them in their lives. Again, this kind of thinking is a product of the illness. Please spend a few moments looking over the suicide warning signs according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
- Isolating themselves.
- Not returning phone calls.
- Not showing up for family or friends invitations.
- Being withdrawn.
- Giving away possessions.
- Sleeping too much.
- Sleeping too little.
- Using substances to excess.
- Talking about suicide. *Especially sharing that they have a plan and a way to carry it out.
- Saying that friends and family would be better off without them.
- Feeling like a burden.
- Feeling hopeless.
- Feeling that there is no reason to live.
- Talking about deep feelings of depression or anxiety.
- Sudden increase in mood or energy
Environmental Risk Factors
- Relationship problems.
- Financial problems.
- Having access to lethal means such as pills or guns.
- Prolonged stress.
If this sounds like someone you know, or if you have been feeling these things recently, please seek help. Call your local crisis center, here is a number for a national suicide hotline 1-800-273-TALK. Remember that the emotions are temporary and life’s situations which overwhelm us are solvable. Mental health help is around the corner. If your loved one has expressed these things to you, or is exhibiting some of the warning signs, stay with them, ask questions and let them talk about their worries and problems, your presence will help, listen with patience and compassion and be with them while calling the suicide prevention hotline or getting them to a local hospital.
In love and life,
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa, 15233
4108 Monroeville BLVD
Monroeville Pa, 15146.
Serving Western Pennsylvania with Individual, Marriage, Family, Counseling and Wellness Services.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 19, 2018 counseling, meditation, mindfulness, therapy, wellness0 comments
Want to Become a Meditation Master? This is the Most Common Mistake that New Meditators Make and How to Fix It!
So maybe you have read the abundant data that meditation is one of the most fantastic tools that there is to enhancing mental clarity, reducing individual response to stress, and enjoyment of the great benefit of greater calm. According to the National Institute of Complimentary Health and Medicine which is a branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH), symptoms and consequences associated with anxiety, anger, depression, and stress disorders are all distinguished and well managed with a self-care plan which incorporates meditation. In knowing all of these benefits, with abundant enthusiasm, you have decided to get started on utilizing this most fantastic tool to wellness.
The fact is many people struggle in their meditation and may even feel so defeated that they quit altogether, and this is due to one common misconception about meditation and how to do it. When starting out with a meditation practice, we summon our inner oracle and alight with the goal of embodying our inner Buddah. Fantasies turn to reality and we stuff and mold our shape into some oddly contorted seated position and with our full lotus blooming, we close our eyes and turn our wellness aspirations inward toward the journey of the self. We imagine that the goal in mind with all of this blood, sweat and ‘OM’ is to turn off our mind.
Here we have it, this is the number one mistake that we make that prevents us from developing a meditation practice, you see “We are not able to turn off our thoughts.” I promise that for any meditator who has climbed the precipice to ascend mindless nirvana, you have faceplanted while careening down the jagged cliff face and end up irritated and hopeless with yourself and the whole concept of mediation. The fact is, it is the nature of our thoughts to keep producing other considerations, a typical inner monologue during meditation might be thinking;
“how uncomfortable the cross legged position, belly is hungry, need breakfast, am I done yet, hope my hair isn’t close to getting singed by that candle, why was my boss so upset yesterday?”
All of this thinking is just fine, in meditation, we anticipate that the endless churning of our thinking will ramble on as it always does. In a mindfulness meditation, we breathe deeply and acknowledge the existence of all of the thoughts that our mind produces and then we take a step back and we become conscious of the kind and quality of the thoughts that we are having. We practice an ever present non-judgmental position with ourselves. For example, for the above thoughts, I would label the overall thinking state as anxious and fearful. I was desiring breakfast, fearing my hair could get burned, wanting to complete the meditation. Those are all anxious and desirous thoughts. As we become more skilled at meditation, we add in a thought or question to assess how we are thinking and we keeping breathing deeply through it. For example, as we are having our inner monologue during the above meditation, we would have the same thoughts and every so many moments we pause to think about how we are thinking.
“how uncomfortable the cross-legged position, belly is hungry, need breakfast, am I done yet? Oh yes, I am thinking of the future, I always am thinking about what is next. I hope my hair isn’t close to getting singed by that candle? I am fearful sometimes. Why was my boss so upset yesterday? I am often very concerned with what others are feeling.”
When we are mindful, and aware of our thoughts and consciousness, we become able to know that we are sentient beings, with vivid imaginings, with endlessly burning thoughts. Yet we are not these thoughts, we are some where afar and above all of the background and inward noise of being, we are the observer, conscious of our selves and the world around us, free and responsible to choose our actions and to develop ourselves, to become a more aware, and well version of our most mindful and well self.
The Therapists of-Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
4108 Monroeville Blvd Monroeville Pa 15146
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 14, 2018 bereavement, complicated bereavement, complicated bereavment, coping with loss, death of child, death of husband, death of parent, death of wife, divorce counseling, grief, grief counseling, grief counseling monroeville, grief counseling pittsburgh, grief therapy, grief therapy monroeville, grief therapy pittsburgh, healthy mourning, loss counseling, seperation0 comments
Grief and Loss, Beware The Traps of Grief, Finding Healthy Coping.
Grief is an emotional reaction characterized by sadness, hurt, hopelessness and intense longing for someone or something that is no longer a part of our lives. While there are many forms of grief, and we can even at times go through the grief cycle when are making significant changes in our lives and looking back imagining how much we would do differently if only we were equipped with what we know now. While depression may share symptoms with grief, they are different disorders. In other forms, we may experience a life transition, loss of a job, or lose a chance that we had hoped to gain. For the purposes and scope of this article, we will focus on the kind of grief which is experienced due to the loss of a loved one due to death or break up.
There is no time line on the normal or appropriate amount of time to grieve the loss of someone we love. Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual recommends that grief should become more manageable after one year for a first degree relative. Yet we also know that life will likely never be the same after, loosing a loved one, spouse, a child, a parent or friend. The agony of loss will be something that is remembered for many, many, years to come. Grief and loss are a process which can be worked through in an emotionally supportive therapy or grief counseling, but there are also pitfalls which accompany grief;
- Some traps of grief are that we imagine that we could have done something to change the ending of the story, this is true for all losses. Both a breakup or the death of a loved one can cause us to replay the events over and again in our imaginations, and even magnifying portions of the events, embellishing upon what we could have done differently.
- Grief can at times lead to many forms of guilt, when we magnify what we could have done differently, we then invariably feel guilty that we didn’t achieve those things, that we couldn’t save our person from dying or leaving a relationship. At other times, we may feel relieved for the loss and then experience intense guilt for the relief or for not feeling as much sadness as we imagine we should feel.
- Grief at other times can become complicated, our bereavement can take on unhealthy forms and even lead to complications such as depression, or lead us to reach for unhealthy attempts to bury our pain such as addiction, we may socially isolate, men in particular may be vulnerable to not activating their support network after a loss. This leads to greater distress and complications.
- Repressing our feelings or pretending that loss didn’t impact us, we as humans can be very clever in the production of all sorts of diversions which assist us in not managing our emotions, it is important to practice and enhance self-awareness during grievous times.
- Not knowing how to label emotions or losing hope that the sadness and grief can be managed and processed in a way that is constructive. Grief is something that we innately feel at some point in our lives but that we don’t often know how to manage.
Grief is a universal and human experience that may even be related to the depth of ones affection. We must allow ourselves to love, to hurt, and to heal, and it is the price that we pay for having ever loved at all.Learn More