There are many herbs that can help us cool off on hot and humid days – whether by cooling and relaxing our tissues, helping open our pores to release heat, or by bringing extra moisture into our bodies. Here’s a list of 5 Cooling Herbs to beat the heat this summer and how to prepare them at home.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 26, 2022 clinical herbalist, clinical herbalist pittsburgh, herbalism, herbalist pittsburgh, holistic health, holistic medicine, integrative health, integrative medicine, integrative mental health, self care, Uncategorized0 comments
- Hibiscus has bright and luscious flowers that are enjoyed as a cooling beverage throughout the world. The taste is tangy, sour, and slightly astringent. I highly recommend trying this one iced and sweetened with a bit of honey!Also – If you happen to have Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus, a common landscaping bush) growing in your yard – good news! This is a variety of hibiscus and the flowers can also be enjoyed as tea. Just make sure your plants are not sprayed with chemical pesticides! Iced Hibiscus Tea: Add ¼ C hibiscus flowers to a quart jar and fill with boiling water. Let steep for 30 minutes, add honey to sweeten, and chill in the refrigerator.
- Marshmallow Root: A cousin to hibiscus and yes, the namesake of the fluffy white confections that we enjoy in s’mores, Marshmallow is a wonderful herb to cool and moisten overly hot and dry tissues. Marshmallow contains “mucilage”, a lubricating compound that soothes and cools our the tissues of our body, particularly our respiratory, digestive, and urinary tract systems. This beverage is best prepared with cool or room temperature water and has an earthy and sweet taste. Marshmallow Infusion: Use ¼ C sifted marshmallow roots to a quart jar of cool or room temperature water. Let steep for 4 hours (or overnight), strain, and add ice and a bit of maple syrup.
- Rose: Did you know that roses are also medicinal and a lovely, cooling herb? Both the rose petals and the rose hips (the “fruit” of the rose) are edible and full of vitamin C. The petals are floral, sweet, and slightly astringent, and the rosehips are more tangy and sour. I love adding a small handful of rose petals to my water bottle in the summer time for a nice gentle and uplifting floral flavor. My other favorite preparation is a rose petal simple syrup (described below). If you have roses growing in your yard, you can use them as long as you don’t spray chemical pesticides or herbicides. Do not use commercially grown roses that you buy in the store as these almost always contain harmful chemical residues! Rose Petal Simple Syrup: Combine 1 C of rose petals, 1 C of sugar, and 2 C of water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let steep for 1 – 4 hours. Strain and store in the refrigerator! Add rose syrup to cocktails or sparkling water.
- Lemon Balm, one of the most bright, sweet, and sunny tasting herbs around, is from the mint family. This beautiful and aromatic herb uplifts the spirit and calms a restless heart. The physical effects are gentle and cooling, slightly sour and bitter. Lemon balm can be brewed as a regular tea infusion, or made into a “Sun Tea”. Lemon Balm Sun Tea: Pack a quart jar full of fresh lemon balm, or use ½ – 1 C of dried lemon balm. Fill with water, cover and place out in the sun all day long. After you strain, this tea can be chilled in the refrigerator and stored for 2 – 3 days.
- Raspberry leaf is high in vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, making it like a natural gatorade. It’s a well known ally for people that menstruate and pregnant folks, due to the high levels of iron and calcium and its action as a uterine tonic. The leaves are not quite as sweet and tart as the raspberry fruit, but they still contain a subtle tanginess that can be quite enjoyable! Raspberry iced tea: Pour 2 C boiling water over 1 tbsp of dried raspberry leave. Steep for 10 – 15 minutes, strain, add honey and chill in the refrigerator. To obtain more minerals and vitamins, infuse and steep overnight!
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 PittsburghApril 7, 2022 boundaries, communication, conflict resolution, conversations for couples, educational, emotional intelligence, how to say no, personal growth, relationship, relationship conflict, relationship resolutions, self care, stress management0 comments
You may have heard that boundaries in relationships are good and worthwhile. Understandably you might have some questions about boundaries such as what are they? How do I set a boundary? How do I communicate a boundary? How do I enforce a boundary? Is there any flexibility to boundaries? I will answer all of these questions for you because as a licensed marriage and family therapist I am professionally and personally invested in people having the healthiest relationships they can for as long as it makes sense.
I would like to start with some warnings at the outset: boundaries are difficult, people often react negatively to them, and relationships can get worse before getting better when you challenge a person even if it is for the best. Here’s the thing: despite how it might feel, setting boundaries in a relationship shows that you care deeply about the relationship because it’s a difficult thing to do. People generally don’t expend the energy to do such challenging relationship work with persons they have no intention of maintaining a relationship with. A boundary communicates that you want to keep the person in your life and gives them clear guidance on how that can happen.
Boundaries vs. Rules
First, it is important to specify what a boundary is and what it isn’t. A boundary is about you and what you will/will not or can/can not do. When you try to make a boundary about someone else and what they will/will not or can/cannot do, that is a rule and is actually a disempowering position. You do not have control over others, but you do have control over yourself. For example, “Hey, Uncle so-and-so, you can’t say racist things at Thanksgiving dinner” is a rule that is hard to enforce because Uncle so-and-so can choose to ignore that rule and say racist things anyway. Now what? Repeat yourself? Get into a verbal altercation over Thanksgiving dinner? Not ideal, right? However, if instead you say, “Hey, Uncle so-and-so, if you continue to say racist things at Thanksgiving dinner I will leave” Uncle so-and-so can choose to violate your request but there are now consequences that you control for that choice.
4 Steps To Set Boundaries in Relationships
- Identify how you want to interact in this relationship and/or how you don’t want to interact in this relationship. This is the boundary you are setting.
- Communicate the boundary to the person the boundary applies to directly. By the way, it’s not enough to simply say it. Effective communication and therefore effective boundary-setting involves confirming that the person received the appropriate message. This is as simple as asking, “What is it you just heard me say?” The person should be able to accurately summarize what your boundary is. If they cannot, either you are not communicating accurately and effectively or they are struggling to hear you. Repeat or re-form what your boundary is until what you’re saying and what they reflect back match.
- Attach a consequence to the violation of this boundary. A boundary with no consequence is toothless. It’s important to emphasize here that this can be read as a threat or ultimatum but it’s not. An ultimatum is a demand followed by retaliation usually of a similar caliber (think “taste of their own medicine”) but a consequence is merely the effect of an action. There are natural consequences to a person’s choices. To refer back to the Uncle so-and-so example, it is a natural consequence for you to remove his access to you if he can’t respect your boundary. This should also be communicated effectively and reflected back to you accurately.
- Build in a warning system. The violation of a boundary isn’t always intentional or malicious. When it is not their own boundary it is easy for a person to forget, especially over time. I think most people and most boundaries deserve at least one warning stated thusly, “Hey, remember when I told you that if you say racist things at Thanksgiving dinner that I will leave? Well, the next time this happens that will be the consequence.” You can absolutely choose not to build in a warning system but I like to work under the assumption that your relationships are valuable enough to you to give them a chance. I reserve two warnings for children and exceptionally difficult boundaries. Three strikes should almost never be considered acceptable. Even with two warnings you run the risk of setting a precedent that a person may violate your boundary only this many times, and they could take advantage of that.
Now for the hardest part: following through. I cannot emphasize this enough: it is extremely important that you do follow through on your boundary and its attached consequences or you run the risk of doing further damage to your relationships by showing you can’t be relied on or your word is meaningless.
You might be saying to yourself, “Okay, this is all well and good but what if I’m dealing with a hostile person who will take this the wrong way?” Well, that’s not something you can control. That is not where your power lies. Your power lies in the fact that you have the ability to set and enforce a boundary. How they react is in their control. However, you can increase your success in communicating around boundaries by leading with the relationship. Something like, “Hey, I have something I need to talk to you about and I want you to know that I value our relationship. That is the reason I’m bringing this up.” You can even bookend your boundary communication with an echo of this statement just to keep the sentiment fresh in their minds and minimize their reactivity.
Finally, I’d like to address flexibility with boundaries. Boundaries should not necessarily be firm and unwavering. People and circumstances change, and so it stands to reason that boundaries can, too. Again, communication here is key. Perhaps before you are done communicating about your boundary you establish that you’re going to try things this way for a certain period of time after which the intention is to reconvene and have a discussion about how that went and whether or not this boundary needs to change. You could also just check in after a certain period of time in the same way whether you established this in the original boundary communication or not. I do not recommend altering a boundary on a whim. This is a serious matter. You take your relationships and your boundaries seriously. Any changes should be communicated.
I wish you the best of luck in your relationships and boundaries!
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 6, 2022 boundaries, burn out, caregiver fatigue, digital detox, Habits that make us happy, holistic health, meditation, mental health, nature therapy, outdoor yoga, relaxation, rituals for self care, rituals to reduce stress, self care, self care strategies for mental wellbeing, stress management, therapists, wellness, yoga0 comments
American Counseling Association has dedicated April as Counseling Awareness Month, a time of advocacy for the profession and celebration of the outstanding efforts of counselors in myriad settings as they seek to facilitate the growth and development of all people. This year’s theme—The Future is… Self-Care, Advocacy and Inclusion #BurnBrightNotOut—is focused on some of the avenues that will help ensure a brighter future for counselors, their clients and the counseling profession.
With the state of the world today and in coping with the last two years, many of us are simply burnt out. You’ve probably been searching social media or the internet looking for how to avoid burnout—well, you’re in luck! We asked our therapists how they personally avoid burnout and they shared their tips with us. They truly are practicing what they preach.
Therapists’ Personal Tips for How They Avoid Burnout
- “Having boundaries where I don’t bite off more than I can chew.”
- “Keeping a good portion of my energy for myself and my life so I’m not running on empty for what I need in my own life.”
- “Balance within my life: tending to myself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and socially. Making sure I connect to these areas and feed them!”
- “Bike riding (indoor and outdoor).”
- “Prayer to help me with clients and for God to watch over my clients.”
- “Downtime for jigsaw puzzles, reading, HGTV, cooking, and my other flow activities.”
- “Exercise and guided meditations. I also try to make self care part of my every day routine.”
- “I try to dedicate the end of the day to at least one self-care activity that ‘cleanses the stress of the day away.’ This varies from day to day but usually always consists of watching an episode of a show with my husband, and then reading before bed. I try to keep screen time to a minimum since I provide sessions via virtual therapy.”
- “I refrain from checking my email when I am not in the office (with the exception of emergencies) and block time on my schedule each day for a self-care activity.”
- “Getting a yoga class in. Yoga helps me to stay centered and grounded.”
- “Going to my own personal therapist.”
We hope you can apply some of these therapist-implemented tips to your own life.
When counselors get the self-care they need, they burn brighter and avoid burnout. To learn more go to American Counseling Association, Counseling Awareness Month.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 24, 2022 meditation, mindfulness, mindfulness based stress reduction, nature therapy, outdoor yoga, relaxation, self care, stress managment0 comments
With the warmer temps in Pittsburgh, it’s nice to get outside— because even a small amount of time spent outdoors leaves you feeling a littler brighter and more at ease.
Increasingly, we learn that the great outdoors may have many secrets to enhancing our wellness potential. In fact in a 2013 study published by the National Institute of Health, cortisol levels were measured in people who had taken a long walk indoors and others who had done the same walk outdoors in a green serene setting. Those who had gotten their cardio amidst the trees had significantly less cortisol in their saliva than those who were indoors.
Peaceful outdoorsy people have long felt the call of the wild and reported the great benefit of getting their fitness fix by hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities. We know that we can boost endorphins and decrease cortisol levels from the experience of being outdoors. Keep in mind the Cortisol is a hormone produced in the body by the adrenal glands, its activating presence leads to the physical responses involved in “fight or flight.” When cortisol is contained in overabundance in our bodies it can lead to many forms of disease, weight gain, and chronic stress to name a few. So in short, discovering ways to reduce cortisol’s overabundance in our bodies is vital, the mental health community is ready to explore many ways to expound upon the health benefits of spending more time outdoors.
12 Ways to Spend More Time Outdoors
- Learn to forage for wild edible plants and berries with an expert guide.
- Take your lunch break outdoors.
- Try a walking meditation.
- Create an outdoor space at your home.
- Pack a picnic with your dog or your partner.
- Try to go camping.
- Do some star gazing.
- Take a flower sniffing tour.
- Plant a garden and make some farm to table meals of your own.
- Pick up litter, we can even be altruistic with our wellness.
- Ask your therapist to do an outdoor walking session.
- Take an outdoor fitness or yoga class.
We are pleased to offer two upcoming outdoor wellness opportunities: Nature Therapy Group: An Immersive Outdoor Group Therapy Experience and Yoga in the Park.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 27, 2022 alone on valentines day, heartbreak, loneliness, Reducing holiday stress, rituals for self care, rituals to reduce stress, self care, single, single for valentines day, valentines day0 comments
Valentine’s Day can be a tricky holiday for us singles to navigate. It may bring up feelings of loneliness and comparison. Feeling jealous that we don’t have what others do. Or coming to the realization that life hasn’t gone according to plan. No matter how you slice it, February 14 will show up just as the sun rises and sets so be prepared and follow these 12 tips for how to enjoy yourself while single on Valentine’s Day.
- Write Yourself a Love Letter. Love letters may have fallen by the wayside once text messages showed up on the scene, but there’s something special about a handwritten letter or card. Buy yourself a beautiful card and write about all the great qualities you possess and why a future partner would be lucky to have you. Drop the card in the mail and in a few days you’ll be the recipient of a beautifully handwritten note.
- Book a Massage. Give yourself the gift of touch and relaxation and indulge in an hour-long massage.
- Plan a Date with Your Single Friends. There’s no better way to spend Valentine’s Day as a single person than with people who are unattached like you. Make plans for a nice night out with dinner and drinks.
- Find Your Act of Service. Be on the lookout for people who you can help to stay out of the doldrums during this holiday. You can hop onto reddit and lend a kind and supportive word to those who feel lonely, too. Or get out in person and help your local community. The neighborhood app Nextdoor is a great resource to learn which of your neighbors could use support. Sometimes the best way we can support our own well-being is when we are acting in the service of others.
- Remind Yourself the Grass Isn’t Always Greener and Social Media Can Be Deceptive. By now we all know that most people post the highlight reel of their lives on social media. And this couldn’t be more true for Valentine’s Day. Yet how many couples have posted a beautiful selfie and had an argument right before? Or gushed about their great love in a post only to break up a week later. The truth is we don’t know the inner workings of other people’s relationships.
- Temporarily Delete Social Media from Your Phone. For many people social media can be triggering. This is especially true during Valentine’s Day when your feed may be filled with couples professing their undying love for each other or sharing photos of the beautiful bouquet of flowers gifted to them by their partner. This may make a person who is single feel lonely or jealous they aren’t having the same experience. Allow yourself to take a break from this type of content so you’re not adding on to your emotional burden. It can be as easy as deleting the apps from your phone and reinstalling after Valentine’s Day.
- Buy Yourself Flowers. Who says flowers are reserved for those coupled up? Flowers are available to anyone at any time in a variety of price ranges. Get yourself exactly the type of flowers you like best and that will make you smile. Also why limit yourself to flowers? We love the Lawrenceville based City Grows which offers a wide variety of decorative succulents and cacti that will last far longer than a week.
- Cook Yourself a Gourmet Meal or Enjoy Your Favorite Comfort Foods. If you like cooking, find yourself a special recipe and enjoy the process of shopping for the ingredients. Make a ritual out of it by playing your favorite tunes and sipping on a glass of Malbec as you prepare the meal. Fully immerse yourself in the experience.
- Order Takeout from Your Favorite Restaurant. If cooking isn’t your thing, order your favorite comfort foods from DoorDash or pick up takeout from your favorite local restaurant. Make this day about doing things you love–like indulging in your favorite foods. And crack open that bottle of wine you were saving for a special occasion.
- Binge Watch Your Favorite Show. Now that you’ve got your delicious food and drink covered, enjoy this guilt-free opportunity to do nothing but binge watch that new show you’ve been waiting for.
- Pamper Yourself With a Bath at Home. Try an epsom salt bath which can be used to relax muscles and relieve pain in the shoulders, neck, back and skull. Add in some lavender essential oils to activate your sense of smell and invite calm.
- Cuddle with Your Pets. Cats provide us with companionship, which can ultimately reduce the risk of depression or anxiety. With a cat by your side, you won’t feel alone. Plus, those who have cats are more likely to have lower blood pressure than those who do not. This is attributed to the fact that cats create a calm and relaxing atmosphere in a home, which can naturally reduce blood pressure. Dogs also provide us with companionship and in turn we get positive benefits like: getting outside in the sunlight, partaking in exercise while walking our furry friend, and having the opportunity to socialize with people we come across. Don’t have a pet? Consider visiting one of the area’s cat cafe’s, offer to walk dogs at a local shelter or even dip your toe in fostering.
Challenging days give us the opportunity to realize and embrace our personal autonomy. While we may prefer Valentine’s Day partnered up, we do have control over how we spend the day and what we tell ourselves about it.
Remember that you are enough! It isn’t a relationship that completes our life—while love is a complement to a meaningful existence, being healthy, happy, and whole can be achieved while single, smiling, and not even looking!
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 29, 2021 depression, happiness tips, hypersomnia, SAD, seasonal affective disorder, seasonal depression, self care, winter blues0 comments
The Pittsburgh region can be dark and gloomy during the winter months. Fear not! There are myriad ways to bolster your defenses to fight the winter blues.
- Stay active. When the sun is shining it is easy to remain active and enjoy the outdoors. But it might take a little more discipline to maintain an active state when it’s cold. Just remember the less active you are, the more your energy becomes depleted. So, get outside, try a winter sport or take a winter hike—you might marvel at how different the terrain is all covered in snow and get the extra mood boost that the outdoors provides.
- Be very intentional in what you are consuming. During the holiday season and cold weather months we crave more fat and carbs. Those kinds of foods actually deplete our energy and cause shifts in weight and mood. Depression and energy does have a metabolic component so by consuming foods that are easily metabolized and nourishing, our energy and mood can be improved.
- Use Vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D has been studied as a major component in seasonal depression as well as a host of medical and mental health issues. Take a high quality supplement to increase your body’s stores of it especially during the winter months.
- Get as much natural light as possible. Overhead lighting can actually confuse your circadian rhythm and disrupt the sleep/wake cycle. It really is the sun’s energy which increases our Vitamin D and has a major impact on our cellular and neurochemical functions.
- Get your temperature up. Activities such as taking a hot bath, sitting in a hot tub or sauna and taking a hot yoga class can be very soothing during the cold winter months.
Is it the Winter Blues or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)?
It can be difficult to distinguish winter blues from Seasonal Affective Disorder. The real difference is in the severity and length of the symptoms. If you experience a shift in mood characterized by the below symptoms, you should reach out to a mental health professional or medical doctor to be screened for depression. Of course feelings of self-harm should always be brought to the attention of a medical or mental health professional.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates
- Change in sleep; usually sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable to others)
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Feeling grumpy or irritated
- Body aches
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
As many as 10% of the population in Western Pennsylvania could meet the criteria for SAD. Treatment includes light therapy which exposes the patient to light spectrums which helps to regulate melatonin and Vitamin D levels. Of course all treatments work best in conjunction with psychotherapy.
Dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder or Depression?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 27, 2021 goals, healthy eating, healthy food, new years resolution, personal growth, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian, resolutions, self care0 comments
The New Year is here! While we have all been on a whirlwind trip these past 2 years with a global pandemic, it is time to focus on the new normal, including setting sustainable New Year Goals. In doing so, we need to make sure the goals we set for ourselves in this new year can be sustainable for years to come. Here are some resolutions to help you not only improve your health, but ones that you can actually keep.
- Eat more whole foods. Adding more whole foods to your diet is an easy and sustainable way to improve your overall health. Whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins such as chicken and fish are packed with beneficial nutrients that can help you reach your goals. Whether your goal is to lose weight, or decrease the amount of processed foods you consume, this is a great way to start. They are packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals to keep you full and satisfied.
- Ditch the diet mentality. Make a plan that works for you. Instead of jumping on the next fad diet this New Year, make a resolution to create a sustainable, nourishing eating pattern that works for you. Most individuals who aspire to lose weight, and choose a restrictive diet, regain up to two-thirds of weight lost within 1 year. Prioritize long-term health benefits over short-term satisfaction. This can include a healthy diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods that is adaptable to your life, and one you can follow no matter the circumstance.
- Sit less and move more. It is not only important to consider adapting a more personalized diet that is fit to your lifestyle, but also an exercise or activity that you enjoy doing. Activity can look different for everyone. Whether you enjoy walking or running, swimming or bike riding, small amounts of activity can greatly improve your overall health, and you’re more likely to stick with it. Once you choose an activity, set an attainable goal, such as planning to take your dog for a 30-minute walk everyday.
- Practice self-care. These past 2 years have been very stressful and likely inconsistent for most people with the ever-changing external environment. It is important now more than ever to take time for yourself. It does not have to be time-consuming or elaborate. It can be something as simple as taking a bath once a week, journaling, reading a book, taking on a new hobby, or preparing a healthy meal for yourself. Consider picking a day that suits you best, one that can help you reset, and get ready for the week ahead.
- Limit screen time. Over the past 2 years, we have relied on technology as our main way to communicate and work. The increase in social media usage has been linked to depression, anxiety, and loneliness in many people so consider reducing the amount of time you spend on your phone, particularly social media. Setting a goal to cut back on your usage can benefit your overall health, may boost your mood, and enhance productivity.
During these past 2 years a lot has happened, especially regarding the way we look at our health. It is important now more than ever before to ensure we are living our healthiest life.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 24, 2021 anticipatory grief, anxiety, boundaries, cell phone anxiety, coping skills, depression, digital detox, family estrangement, family loss, holiday traditions, holidays, holidays stress reduction, personal growth, rituals for self care, self care, Unhealthy relationships, validation, yoga0 comments
Holidays are steeped in traditions that are centered around the family and there is a hallmark sentiment that everyone is rejoicing in love with their near and dear during this most festive time of the year. The truth looks a bit different though. Family conflict, tension and even estrangement are more common than you may think. One study found more than 40% of participants had experienced family estrangement at some point.
But knowing you are not alone doesn’t make things happier or easier. The holidays are still hard and may bring up feelings of sadness, loneliness, jealousy, anger, shame or worthlessness.
To help combat these feelings, here are therapist-verified tips to help beat the holiday blues:
- Validate Your Feelings. If you fight the thoughts and feelings or judge yourself for having them, then you increase your emotional upset. Acknowledge that you feel sad and allow yourself to feel that sadness. This builds resiliency that you can be present with the uncomfortable feeling of sadness. It also increases self-trust that you can name and acknowledge the feelings you are having—this is especially helpful if your feelings were dismissed or not seen as a child. For example, “I’m feeling really sad and lonely that I am not on good terms with my family. This feeling is valid. I don’t have to pretend it’s not there. I can feel this sadness and use my coping skills to get through it.”
- Pick a Coping Skill or Self Care Tool That is Most Useful for You. There are myriad coping strategies to deal with feelings of sadness, disappointment and loneliness. Pick a tool that best supports you and be sure to practice it throughout the holidays. Tools include journaling, focusing on what is right in your life and practicing gratitude for that, meditation, yoga, running, watching a funny show or movie, noticing your negative thoughts and reframing them. There is no one right tool so just pick one and try it out.
- Set Boundaries for Topics of Conversation. To maintain your peace of mind during the holidays, set boundaries with your family on what you are and are not comfortable discussing. If your older brother always comments on your weight, simply tell him, “I am not interested in discussing my weight. I’d rather hear about my nephew’s soccer game.” If your grandmother always nags you about being single and childless, share that this isn’t something that you are open to discussing with her but you’d love to share about your lovely foster cat. Setting and keeping your boundaries will help you to feel empowered over your situation instead of feeling like you have no say in the conversations happening around the dinner table.
- Temporarily Delete Social Media from Your Phone. For many people social media can be triggering. This is especially true during the holidays when your feed is filled with photos of other people connecting with their family around the dinner table or unwrapping presents in matching pajamas. This may make a person who is excluded from such family gatherings melancholy or jealous they aren’t having the same experience. Allow yourself to take a break from this type of content so you’re not adding on to your emotional burden. It can be as easy as deleting the app from your phone and reinstalling after the New Year.
- Make a Plan for How You’ll Tackle the Day. Schedule a FaceTime check in with a friend. Enjoy a free yoga session on YouTube. Whatever you decide, make a plan ahead of time and stick with it. Literally put each activity in your calendar. This will keep you accountable and prevent you from having nothing to do and slipping into worsening feelings of loneliness or engaging in poor habits.
- Schedule a Therapy Appointment. If you’re currently working with a therapist, be sure to schedule a session during this time. If you’re not in therapy yet, consider reaching out and getting additional professional support during the holidays.
- Be of Service to Others. You can always be a support to others who are less fortunate than you by reaching out and volunteering. Clean out your coat closet and take your old coats to a local shelter, choose a child’s name off of a local Giving Tree program and go shopping for the gift, foster a homeless cat or dog through a local rescue group. You could even host a holiday dinner for others who are also alone. Be of service to others while being in service to yourself.
Only you can decide what is the best direction for you to maintain peace, mental wellness, and happiness during the holidays and the rest of the year and it is your sole job to protect your peace and wellbeing.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 2, 2020 best ways to build self care plan, mental health matters0 comments
We hear lots of people taking about self care these days but what actually is it? Is there a right way to do it? I hope to answer some of these questions for you today because mental health matters and you matter. Self care can be defined as any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Practicing self-care isn’t always easy. Most of us are crazy busy, we have stressful jobs, are taking care of children or aging family members or are too consumed with technology to make time for ourselves. “Me time” is usually last on our agenda and we can often feel guilty about taking the time required to take care of ourselves. Self care is not selfish. We can’t take care of others well if we don’t take the time to care for ourselves and good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced stress and anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with ourselves and others. So, where do you start? It’s important to build a self care plan. Begin by sticking to the basics for now and overtime you’ll find a routine that works for you. Overtime, you can implement more and more specific items into your plan. In the meantime here are some basic principles of self care to help get you started:
- Eat right- the right foods can help improve memory, combat inflammation and promote good gut health. All of which can have a direct impact on your physical and emotional health. If you have questions or want to learn more about this consider setting up a consultation with a nutritionist.
- Sleep- make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, establishing a healthy bedtime routine can promote deeper and more restful sleep. Avoid sugar and caffeine before bed and help reduce distractions such as light and electronics in your bedroom
- Physical exercise- this can mean lots of different things for different people. This can be a walk with your family in the evening or by yourself at lunch, swimming, or yoga. The type of activity isn’t as important as choosing something you enjoy and can commit to your schedule
- Schedule time away- this can be as simple a taking a half day to spend at the park or an extravagant weekend getaway
- Take care of your spiritual needs- this can be attending religious services, meditation, prayer, spending time in nature or making a gratitude list
- Learning to say “no” and setting boundaries- this can mean you don’t check email after business hours, don’t attend events or gatherings that you don’t want to or don’t take on additional tasks that you don’t have the time or energy for
- Get organized- get a planner for tasks or appointments, this can be especially helpful in scheduling your self care time or spend time prepping lunches so you have more time in the morning for an extra cup of tea and some meditation
- Spend time with loved ones and people that are important to you
- Lastly if you work in a field with high burnout rates seek consultation and supervision from mentors and peers to help reduce stress
Self care will look different for everyone for some it’s getting up 15 minutes earlier to practice deep breathing or journaling before the day begins. For others it’s an evening run, but just like many other things self care takes practice. I challenge you to commit to adding one self care element to your schedule for 2 weeks and see the difference it makes in your life and relationships.
Written By: Nicole Monteleone, MA, LPC, NCC
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by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 30, 2019 self care, self care strategies for mental wellbeing0 comments
Self-Care Strategies That Promote Positive Mental Well-Being
It’s safe to say most of us would rather be happy than unhappy. However, sometimes it’s easy to roll through life allowing your attitude to be shaped, rather than taking steps to increase your own happiness. With that in mind, read on for key self-care strategies you can add to your lifestyle that help promote positive mental well-being.
Stay Connected as a Couple
Are you in a long-term relationship? If so, you probably are well aware that all couples go through ups and downs, and sometimes intimacy can suffer during the down cycles. You might not feel very affectionate when times are tough, but Healthline points out that there are worthwhile health benefits associated with intimacy. For instance, hugging someone dear to your heart can lower your blood pressure, and kissing for just 30 seconds can boost dental hygiene. Beyond that, couples who are intimate on a routine basis lower risk for prostate cancer and heart disease, and they give their immune systems a lift.
One of the toughest times in life for many couples is the period following a baby’s birth. New parents are exhausted, and there may be periods when they feel the workload is unbalanced.
To keep things healthy and happy, consider setting aside time for one-on-one, routine date nights. If you can’t get out of the house, simply enjoying a movie and cuddling on the couch with your favorite healthy takeout can help you feel connected and close.
Gut Health for General Health
Are you familiar with the tiny world living inside your digestive tract? There are trillions of microscopic organisms that dwell inside your gut, and how well they are balanced can have a profound impact on your overall wellness.
As such, it’s important to read up on some key players in gut health; for instance, if your Akkermansia is low it can contribute to weight gain. Also, if you’re feeling stressed, more L. helveticus and B. longum might help you feel more relaxed.
Beyond those few, your metabolism, attitude, energy levels, immune function, and general digestion are just a handful of things directly affected by certain gut bacteria. Becoming more familiar with the various key players can help you identify issues and adjust your diet, or you can add a supplement as needed.
If You Don’t Snooze, You Lose
Sleep sometimes gets an undeserved reputation as a lazy, pointless activity. However, getting enough sleep each night can make a big difference in your well-being. There are benefits galore, from raised productivity to improved calorie regulation. It can help you ward off depression, lower your risk of heart disease, and improve your performance in the gym. While you sleep, your mind and body make repairs from the day before and prepare you for the next day, so ensure proper sleep hygiene is part of your self-care plan.
Tuck points out that sleep hygiene begins with a healthy bedtime routine. By doing the same thing to relax each night before bed, and by doing it at the same time, you condition your mind and body to recognize the signs that sleep is coming. Try spending some time meditating, sipping herbal tea, or listening to soothing music.
Also, address any issues with your sleep environment. Keep your room free of noise and distractions, aim for a cool temperature, and ensure the room is dark. Earplugs, adding a room air conditioner, and blackout curtains can make a big difference if you have ongoing issues.
Positive mental well-being is something all of us prefer, yet sometimes we struggle finding it. Staying connected with your partner, tending your gut health, and ensuring sufficient sleep can go a long way toward helping you feel better. Try making these simple self-care strategies part of your routine — you’re worth it!
Brad Krause, Self Caring Strategies.comLearn More