Fall is here and our senses look toward Autumn: nutmeg & cinnamon, pumpkin patches, warm coffee, light jackets, and gorgeous sunsets. There’s nothing like evenings in the Fall. It’s just cool enough during the day that cozying up with a warm tea is the perfect medicine to wind down. Here’s a list of some of our favorite fall drinks to warm you up, boost your immune system, and help you find relaxation in this beautiful season of transition.
5 Fall Drinks You’ll Want to Make This Fall
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 12, 2022 clinical herbalist, clinical herbalist pittsburgh, herbalism, herbalist pittsburgh, holistic health, holistic medicine, integrative health, integrative medicine, integrative mental health, self care0 comments
- Cacao. We all know of Cacao from our favorite chocolate bars and desserts. But in its unprocessed form, Cacao is a highly medicinal and heart opening plant medicine with a rich history of ceremony and ritual. Cacao is full of antioxidants, supports heart and circulatory health, and has antidepressant properties. Prepared with just some hot water or milk, Cacao creates a rich, warming, and stimulating beverage. This drink is lovely in the company of others – be it a sweetheart or loved ones around a campfire, or in a simple ceremony on your own. Please note – Cacao does contain caffeine and can be quite stimulating. Please purchase raw Cacao or ceremonial grade Cacao from an ethical and sustainable source. Cacao Infusion
2 C Water
2 TBSP Raw or Ceremonial Cacao
Sweetener of choice
Optional: Cinnamon, Cayenne, Vanilla Extract, MilkHeat water in a pot until just before boiling. Turn off heat and add Cacao and sweetener and spices of choice. Stir until dissolved, and enjoy with a moment of reflection and contemplation.
- Tulsi. Otherwise known as Holy Basil, Tulsi is a revered herb in India and in the ayurvedic tradition. Tulsi is considered to be sacred and the smell and taste of the tea is indeed divine. Tulsi is known to be a wonderful immune booster and restorer of the nervous system, while also supporting the lungs, stomach, and heart. The tea is initially uplifting to the spirit, and then deeply restful and restorative. My favorite way to enjoy Tulsi in the cooler seasons is with warming chai spices and a bit of milk.
Tulsi Chai Recipe:
1 TBSP Tulsi
1 C Water
½ C Milk of choice
Sweetener of choice
A couple shakes of Cardamom
Add water, Tulsi, and sweetener to a pot and bring to a simmer. Strain. Add milk & top with cardamom.
- Roasted Dandelion Root. We often think of Dandelion flowers when we think of the spring. However, during the cooler months when the rest of the plant dies back, the roots become filled with rich nutrients and sugars and wonderful medicinal compounds. Dandelion root supports the liver and gentle detoxification, and is also full of inulin, a super important prebiotic for our gut flora. My favorite way to make Dandelion root tea is by first roasting the root in the oven which gives it a deeply rich and nutty flavor. Next, I like to simmer the roasted root gently in some water for 15 – 20 minutes to make a dark tea, and add some cinnamon and milk. A grounding and earthy fall flavor! You can buy already roasted Dandelion tea here at mountain rose herbs.Roasted Dandelion Root Decoction
2-3 C Water
1 TBSP Roasted Dandelion Root
Milk of choice
Bring water to a boil and add Roasted Dandelion Root. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. Turn off heat and add milk and cinnamon!
- Elderberry. Elderberries are the deep purple fruit of the native Elder plant, most renowned in syrup form. Elderberry is also one of the most nourishing and immune boosting herbal medicines, and one with ample clinical data to support its use. Like many other colorful berries, Elderberries are full of anti-oxidants and flavanoids. Elderberries can be preserved through the fall and winter in their dried form, which makes a lovely immune boosting addition to tea, or made into a simple syrup and stored in the refrigerator.Simple Elderberry Syrup
1 C dried elderberries or 2C fresh elderberries
3 C water
1 C sweetener of choice (sugar, honey, maple syrup)
Combine berries and water with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Turn off heat and steep for 1 hour. Strain berries using cheese cloth. Add sweetener of choice and stir until combined. Bottle and Store in refrigerator.
- Licorice Root. Our final fall herbal spotlight is on Licorice root, the flavor maker behind the love-or-hate licorice candies! Unprocessed licorice has a more earthy taste than the processed and synthetic candies that it has inspired, but the sweet and comforting anise notes are still very present. Licorice makes a wonderful fall herb specifically because of its moistening actions on all the mucous membranes of our bodies (think mouth, lungs, digestive system, reproductive system). It’s very important that these tissues stay hydrated and moist, which is why moistening herbs are such an important aspect of health (especially as we kick on the dry heating systems for our homes). Please note that Licorice root is contraindicated in those with high blood pressure.
Simple Licorice Root Tea
2 C water
1 TBSP Licorice Root
Optional: Ginger Root
Bring water to a boil, turn off heat, add licorice root (and ginger). Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and Enjoy!
Ready to try them at home? If you’re local to Pittsburgh you can find many of these herbs at the East End Food Coop or at Cutting Root Apothecary. You can also order online at Mountain Rose Herbs.
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.
How to Get Over a Breakup? Tips from Relationship Therapists
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 8, 2022 breakups, coping with loss, divorce, healthy mourning, heartbreak, how to get over a breakup, loneliness, loss counseling, relationship, self care, self care during grief, single0 comments
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve experienced a breakup. Breakups can be difficult depending on how long they’ve lasted and/or how much we’ve emotionally invested in the person. We can expect a period of grieving the loss, even if we know it should have ended. We need to take some time to process what happened that caused the relationship to end and learn from that experience. Here are therapist-recommended tips on how to get over a breakup:
- Process what you’re walking away with rather than walking away without. This can look like thinking through, “What did I gain from this relationship?”, “What did I learn about myself?”, “What do I need to take note of for any potential relationships in the future?” Some possible answers to these questions may be: “I gained a lot more self confidence and the ability to be more self-sufficient.” “In the future, I want to make it clear how important time with my family is.” This can be a great journaling exercise.
- This is a time for good self-care: proper nutrition, regular exercise, and healthy sleep patterns. Invest in activities that are meaningful and where you can express your gifts and talents in ways that are fulfilling. You will have more time to invest in others, so engaging in volunteer roles where you are serving and helping others can add meaning and increase the quality of your life.
- Be mindful of how you are processing the loss. If you feel inadequate, unlovable, not significant, etc., as a result of the break-up, it might be helpful to process these beliefs with a therapist so you don’t end up with a distorted and negative view of yourself. If you sink into long periods of depression, anxiety, or grief, you may also want to process this with a therapist to be able to work through these feelings and return to a more positive view of life.
- Take a break from social media and spend more quality time with your most supportive friends. As humans, we require healthy attachments to others. Surrounding yourself with friends and loved ones (support system) can help soothe the attachment trauma. Also, allow yourself to grieve!! This is a loss and it is okay to feel it.
- Accept that feelings of sadness and loneliness are a normal part of any life change and they are not a signal that you should ‘be with’ the person who you are experiencing the break up with. Many people confuse sadness for a reason to continue on in that relationship. Remember, even people who struggle with substance abuse disorder crave their desired substance for a period of time after ‘quitting.’ Not everything we desire aligns with our higher goals and well being!
While it may not happen as quickly as you’d like, people have a resounding ability to heal from loss, regain autonomy and grow stronger. If you feel stuck or like it may be taking you longer than what feels appropriate, it may be helpful to reach out to a therapist for additional support.
Cover photo by Alex Green
5 Cooling Herbs to Beat the Summer Heat
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
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.
- 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!
Ready to try them at home? If you’re local to Pittsburgh you can find many of these herbs at the East End Food Coop or at Cutting Root Apothecary. You can also order online at Mountain Rose Herbs.
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.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Boundaries in Relationships
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 7, 2022 borderline personality disorder, boundaries, communication, conflict resolution, conversations for couples, couples communication, 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!
Written by Amanda Taylor (they/their), an out and proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community and licensed marriage and family therapist at Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh.
Our Therapists’ Personal Tips for How They Avoid Burnout
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.
12 Ways to Spend More Time Outdoors
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.
Single for Valentine’s Day? 12 Tips for How to Spend the Day
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!
How to Beat the Winter Blues
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?
If you’re interested in treatment for Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder, you can reach us at 412-322-2129 or contact us here.
5 Healthy New Year Goals
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.
Written by: Registered Dietitian Kali Alrutz
Kali provides in-person therapy in our South Hills location. If you’re interested in working with Kali, you can reach us at 412-322-2129 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started. Or contact us here.
How to Cope with Family Estrangement During the Holidays
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.