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Treat Yourself Like a Plant: Four Steps to Well-Being

Humans don’t come with an instruction manual, but there are things that we can all do that have been proven to keep us physically and mentally healthy. 

 

I do NOT have a green thumb, but I do know the basics of how to keep a plant alive and growing. Therefore, I’d like to explain how to engage in self-care in a way that is easy to remember: treat yourself like a plant.

 

  1. Get some sunlight.

Just like plants need sunlight, so do we!  It is widely known that Vitamin D comes from milk and some foods, but did you know it also comes from sunlight?

In fact, 15 minutes of sunlight exposure at least 3 times per week can give us enough Vitamin D to make up for what is missing in food.

Vitamin D helps reduce inflammation and helps all types of cells grow!  It makes our bones stronger, lowers blood pressure, and helps us sleep better. (We all know what consequences we suffer if we don’t get a good night’s sleep—grumpiness, grogginess, overeating, bad decision making just to name a few!)

Additionally, according to researchers at BYU, the availability of sunlight has a big impact on our mood.

During seasons where we get less sunlight, humans experience more mood and emotional problems and disorders.

On the other hand, days with plenty of sunshine helped increase positive mood which means the release of “feel good” hormones and chemicals in the body. Just remember to wear your sunscreen!

 

  1. Drink plenty of water.

According to the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water.

Skin is 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: at 31%. It only makes sense to drink water if much of our bodies, and most especially the brain, are made of water!

A 2014 study concluded that habitual water drinking facilitates clear thinking and helps with alertness. It also could benefit mood and confidence.

For example, drinking enough water can clear up skin problems, which can give self-confidence and vitality. There is such a thing as drinking too much water though, so be careful and don’t go overboard with it.

 

  1. Get some fresh air and activity.

Some plants do well indoors, and some plants thrive in the outdoor elements of wind, rain, and snow.

I’d like for you to imagine though that you are a plant that happens to benefit from the fresh air.  Imagine the slight breeze that moves you and gives you chance to interact with other plants.

Studies have shown that spending time outdoors and in nature can induce calm, decrease depression, and stave off anxiety.

There is a treatment called Ecotherapy, where you spend a prescribed amount of time outdoors and in nature to treat depression.

The benefits of being around nature and green plants is also very grounding.

Grounding is a natural way to combat anxiety because it helps us live in the moment.

Since you are out of the house, it may even give you a chance to do some light socializing–waving at neighbors, saying good morning to passersby.

This even light amount of social interaction has great benefits for the brain. It keeps loneliness at bay and can improve overall mood.

 

  1. Ensure that you are getting proper nutrients and minerals.

Have you ever seen those commercials for plant food or soil?  They show flowers that grow without the MiracleGro and some that do.

The difference is, with the plant food, the flowers grow bigger and are more resilient and the ones that grow without it are still pretty, but puny and weaker.

The same goes for our bodies!  If we ingest junk food or fast food, sure our bodies will survive.

We won’t go hungry and we will live.  But if we eat high quality, nutritious food and take our vitamins, our bodies will not just be surviving and functioning, they will THRIVE.

Also, have you ever noticed how you feel after you eat a large fatty and not-so-nutritious meal? Or what it feels like if you drink too much alcohol?

That is not fun at all. Like a plant, your brain functions best when it gets nutrient rich soil and plant food.

Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress.

 

So, there you have it.  Four simple strategies to keep your mind and body happy and healthy…like a plant!

Why It’s Difficult to Defend Ourselves

What is learned hopelessness, how to identify it and what to do?

We have all been able to observe a little dog, a kitten, or perhaps a little deer, that through a process of life reaches helplessness.

The defenselessness is characterized because they do not defend themselves, do not avoid any negative stimulus, or some attack, which in normal circumstances would cause the escape, defense or counterattack.

We have seen that, despite being subjected to kicks, blows, lack of food, they only bend their heads, shrink and allow this situation to continue.

The question is: Why don’t they run away, why don’t they attack back, when instinctively this should be the answer? It is indeed a very particular phenomenon.

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2 Important Types of Empathy

You matter.

What is empathy?

We have heard this word go around the internet and even in conversation when considering the emotions of others and those that surround us; but what is it really?

According to Lanzoni (2018), it is the ability to understand and experience the pain, happiness, excitement, sorrow, and so on of others. It is the ability to see the world through their eyes and comprehend their decisions along with the reactions to the world around them. Pretty powerful stuff, right?

However, empathy is much more than this definition.

So, a little history, the concept of empathy—or being able to comprehend and experience other’s pains—goes way back to the Greeks, more specifically, Aristotle. He believed that the human journey to happiness and humanity, consisted of being able to connect emotionally with others’ despair/happiness (Lanzoni).

            As time has progressed, science evolved, and the implementation of psychology and psychotherapy, so has the concept of empathy. Empathy has actually split into two different concepts of comprehension.

There is emotional empathy and cognitive empathy.

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What if Questions Were the Answer?

Dear Reader,

As a counselor and a teacher, I know the value and importance of asking the right type of questions.  In essence, being intentional has value.  The questions we ask ourselves, often, guide our focus, critical thinking and problem solving.

I have learned that during difficult times, we have an inclination to shift to survival mode, which is typically appropriate and adaptive depending on circumstances and even past experiences.  This survival lens may influence our perspective and mindset.

It is important to keep in mind that if we have experienced any form of trauma, then there are additional layers that need to be considered besides shifting our mindset.  In fact, some of those layers include feeling safe, type of support system, and resources, among many more.

My intention is to invite a possible way of reframing some of our internal dialogue in spite of adversity.  The purpose of this is to help us change our perspective and view things in a way that may be more helpful than unhelpful.

Counseling After Experiencing Childhood Abuse

Trigger Warning: this blog contains mentions and examples of abuse, neglect, and other sensitive/potentially triggering material.

“At least 1 in 7 children have experienced child abuse and/or neglect in the past year, and this is likely an underestimate.” -Center for Disease Control, April 2020.

This is a startling statistic.

Count the seven closest people around you. One of them has likely endured childhood abuse and/or neglect. The fact that this statistic is likely an underestimate can lead one to believe that more than one of those 7 people has suffered through child abuse or neglect and shows many cases go unreported.

Let’s talk about what abuse is.

There are a few different types, and I will give short illustrations of each one.

Forms of abuse and neglect:

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Resilience: An Anxiety Vaccine

“People experience increased stress and concern in times of crisis as we are currently facing.”

– Dr. Asim Shah, professor and executive vice president in Menninger’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine.

A word that has gone viral in our society is anxiety, keeping in mind that anxiety is needed and adaptive in supporting us and preserving life, along with fear, anger, sadness, or happiness.

Until a few years ago, it was estimated that 20.6% of the world’s population suffered from anxiety. A recent survey by the American Psychiatric Association shows that Americans are suffering from anxiety.

The survey found that four out of 10 suffer from anxiety when they think they may become seriously ill or die, five out of 10 Americans experience anxiety about getting coronavirus and six in 10 suffer from anxiety because family members get the virus. In addition, individuals may be overwhelmed with concerns about uncertainty of the next paycheck, increased bills and increase in social isolation.

Considering now, that when we experience a sleep interruption and change in appetite, we find ourselves more irritable or sensitive. When it comes to anxiety, the most recurrent manifestations of anxiety are shortness in breathing, palpitations, headache, back pain, catastrophic thoughts and other symptoms, and managing them is not always easy.

If this is the case, the important thing to keep in mind is to observe these changes and address them promptly by seeking professional support, so that it does not adverse impacts on yourself or your family.

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Five Signs That Tell You It’s Time to See a Therapist

As a mental health professional who has been in the field for a while, it’s been interesting to observe why and how people end up in my office seeking guidance. The following is a list of indicators that may be signaling to you it could be time for you to seek support from a mental health professional.

  1. Your loved ones are noticing that you are different. Sometimes, we are not able to look at ourselves objectively…that is we can’t clearly see how we behave sometimes. It is like when you look into a mirror and only see certain flaws or spots in your face or body but can’t quite see the whole picture.  Those around us, specifically our loved ones, hold a special perspective of ourselves and can see different aspects of ourselves that we are not able to.  If loved ones, people who see us every day, or people who interact with us often notice unusual or “not typical” behaviors and point it out, they might be signals that mean we need some extra help from a therapist. They may tell you that they are concerned about things like substance abuse, irritability, mood changes, isolation, or your daily routines.
  2. You feel a sense of emotional discomfort that has lasted longer than 2 weeks. You’ve made it this far into life with all you’ve got, but sometimes, life can become daunting or unmanageable.  If you feel any sense of apathy, sadness, nervousness, worry, or uncertainty that has been unmanageable or if you’re noticing behavior changes like not wanting to engage in relationships, snapping back at others, feeling like you don’t want to do anything, not finding pleasure in old hobbies, or changes in your appetite, it might be time to take a closer look at yourself.  When these “signals” come up for longer than two weeks it might be time to get Read more

5 Things to Consider when Navigating Uncertainty in Relationships

Dear Reader,

Naturally, life and human behavior can be both predictable and unpredictable.  In relationships uncertainty is closely tied to vulnerability“What ifs and How comes?” are questions that surface and recycle themselves both in our minds and in our hearts.

 

Therefore, to define uncertainty I like to reference Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability:

“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow—that’s vulnerability.”

Simply put, uncertainty is a form of vulnerability and courage.  We do, hope and love in spite of our fears.  The challenge with uncertainty is that there are no promises, no guarantees or assurances.  It can truly trigger fear in us which can lead to a fight or flight response.  We can feel both activated and powerless at the same time.

That is not to say that we don’t like uncertainty.  To some degree it actually brings variety and spontaneity to life which can be delightful and fun.  But, in some cases, too much uncertainty can leave us feeling insecure and doubtful.

Therefore, let’s consider the following 5 things when navigating uncertainty in relationships:

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7 Types of Anxiety: Not all Anxiety is the Same

Anxiety is a totally normal response in daily life, it is a conditioned response that distinguishes us from inanimate objects. For example, when we feel hungry we have a feeling of anxiety, which preserves life.  The same is the case when an animal threatens us.  We tend to flee or defend ourselves, but when anxiety is shown disproportionately to the stimulus that caused it , or when it comes up for no apparent reason is when we are faced with a pathological situation.  Typically, this is when we seek and need help.

Usually the first answer is to go to anxiolytics, methods to reduce anxiety.  However, it is very important to find out the real triggers of anxiety so that we can feel and manage own our emotions again. That’s when we require the assistance of a professional. Anxiety of this kind deteriorates the quality of life; the world becomes a threat.

These manifestations can last a long time and/or present themselves intensely, leading to panic attacks and anxiety.  Many times, this can lead to an in individual to visit the emergency room in a hospital, where, of course, they do not discover physical problems.

Symptoms that usually occur include, but are not limited to:

  • Feeling nervous, agitated or strained
  • Feeling imminent danger, panic or catastrophe
  • Increased heart rate
  • Accelerated breathing (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Problems concentrating or thinking about anything other than the current concern
  • Having trouble falling asleep
  • Having gastrointestinal problems
  • Having difficulty controlling concerns
  • Having the need to avoid situations that create anxiety

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Living with Pain is a Hard Thing to Do

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear

Here comes the sun, doo-doo, doo-doo, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

– The Beatles

“Sam, hold on, I can’t move” I desperately called out.

“What?”

“I cannot move!!”

I was frozen in the parking lot of a supermarket and I needed some time.

That’s my first real memory of living with back pain, although I know that there were some other times before that.  I had been visiting one of my best friends in Carrollton more than 20 years ago and my back locking up was rare, but not an uncommon thing.  The pain left me, but then it would come back with revenge.

In 2014, a few months before my wedding, I was working out with a personal trainer when my back gave out as I was performing some deadlifts.  The pain was excruciating.  It felt as if thunderbolts were constantly striking my back and leaving a burning forest behind.  From then on, my back would not be the same for years.  The back pain would happen at any second, “whenever, wherever, we’re meant to be together” as a famous artist would sing.

In early 2017, I finally made my way to a chiropractor next door to my office.  Dr. Will performed x-rays and told me that my L5 lumbar and sacrum were almost fused since I was born.  He has helped relieve some of my pain since.  I did not feel my pain as constantly as before, but when I did, I wasn’t able to move or continue with my life as I wanted.

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Treat Yourself Like a Plant: Four Steps to Well-Being

Humans don’t come with an instruction manual, but there are things that we can all do that have been proven to keep us …

Why It’s Difficult to Defend Ourselves

What is learned hopelessness, how to identify it and what to do? We have all been able to observe a little dog, a kitten, …

2 Important Types of Empathy

What is empathy? We have heard this word go around the internet and even in conversation when considering the emotions of …