Thursday, May 17, 2018

10 Ways to Improve Communication with Family

One extremely important aspect of a healthy relationship with a loved one is communication.  The vast majority of us need to improve communication with partner's, children, other family members, friends, and even co-workers. Below you will find some helpful tips to improve communication with your loved ones:

  1. Take some time to thinl before you speak. Time outs can help you cool off before a talk. Write down your points, thoughts and feelings and process them before you talk.
  2. Listen with intent. turn off electronics devices and focus on what he/she is saying. Ask for clarity to prevent misunderstandings or conflicts. Repeat what you heard them share.
  3. Discuss issues, don't attack. Use "I" statements. Own your feelings. You could say "I feel worried when you run late" instead of saying "you're always late and you make me worry".
  4. Keep your voice low and pleasant. This tip can save a lot of fights and your household will have a healthier atmosphere. 
  5. Stick to the subject. Don't list the ten other issues you've been meaning to bring up. One issue at a time. 
  6. Be brief and specific. this tip can help prevent long lectures and preaching. Long winded talks may cause barriers and more issues with communication. 
  7. Watch your non-verbals. Make good eye contact. Watch your personal space (arms length apart) and limit hand gestures or crossing your arms.
  8. Be open and honest. Secrets keep you sick! Hiding emotions can cause you to implode (depression) or explode (anger outbursts).
  9. Stay in the here and now. Don't bring up things from the past. Veering into the past may help escalate conflicts and tension. 
  10. Be receptive to feedback. Stay cool-headed, open minded, and reasonable. Maybe what's being shared is something you need to hear to help make you a better person and help your relationship. Don't answer complaints with a complaint.
Using the abovementined tips can help you improve the quality of your relationships with other's. When we have healthy motives, use courtesy and politeness with communication our loved will feel respected. Practice these tips and begin to talk to those you love and watch your relationship improve.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

What if my loved one has a drug/alcohol problem?

Drug/alcohol problems are of epidemic proportions in America today.  These substance abuse and dependency issues impact the addict, their entire family, communities and our country in so many ways.

What is Addiction?
Drug/alcohol addiction is the physical and psychological need to continue using a chemical/substance (alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, etc.,), despite it's dangerous or harmful effects.

Some Common Signs/Symptoms of use, misuse, and addiction: 
  • Cravings
  • Tolerance- takes more of the substance to get the desired effect (high)
  • Dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms- abruptly quitting or weaning self off causes discomfort and changes
  • Poor judgment
  • Drug seeking behaviors (raiding bathroom cabinet for pills; excessive time/energy finding drugs
  • Financial problems-unable to pay bills due to drug/alcohol use
  • Neglecting responsibilities (work, school, children, etc.,)
  • Unhealthy relationships (with family or friends; conflicts and broken trust)
  • Isolation/alienation from family and/or certain friends
  • Legal problems
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed
  • Increased agitation or irritability
  • Taking high risks (DUI or unprotected sex)
  • Red eyes, dry mouth, dilated or constricted pupils
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Increased heart rate and/or high blood pressure
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Paranoid thinking
  • Neglect of hygiene and appearance
  • Failed attempts at stopping drug/alcohol use
  • Depression and/or anxiety
What Can You Do?
  • I can be very helpful to research and become knowledgeable on addiction. You cannot do anything about something you don't know about. Learn more about sign, symptoms, types of treatments, and relapse triggers. Additionally, search for treatment agencies as resources.
  • Practice Self-Care- eat a healthy diet, exercise, relax and breathe. Find a trusting friend or family member to talk to.  Attend a support group at church or a 12 Step meeting like Alanon or Naranon. 
  • Contact a Family Therapist, addictions counselor, and/or seek individual counseling.
Addiction didn't happen overnight and it will not change over night either! You cannot change it, cure it, or control it.  Your loved one must get help for themselves.  You don't have to accept behaviors that are dangerous, harmful, or unsafe however, addiction is a family disease and all involved can benefit from supportive counseling and treatment. It takes time!
Submitted by Pamela K. Williams, MS, LCPC
Breathe OUT to Relax and Reduce Anxiety

Most people know you can relax by breathing differently – or at least they know that is supposed to work. Many have not found breathing very helpful, however, because when trying to alter their breathing to relax, most people will concentrate on taking a deep breath IN.
Breathing in deeply is very helpful because it increases the availability of oxygen in your body. However, deep breaths often do not feel good to those with anxiety because they have been breathing IN but not breathing OUT.
Taking a deep breath without breathing out as long or longer will not ultimately help you relax. Breathing in more than you breathe out much is called hyperventilation and can result in increased anxiety.  In fact, hyperventilating can induce anxiety even when a person had not been feeling anxious at all.
The relaxing, anxiety-relieving part of the breath is breathing OUT. Before taking your deep breath in, try breathing out first. Breathe out with a gentle sigh: Aaahhh…
Now take a deep breath in – your body will fill with air and your muscles will tense slightly to contain the increased air. Next, breathe out slowly, letting all the breath out of your body. You will notice that your muscles relax as they let go of the air and no longer try to hold it in. When you breathe out as long or longer than you breathe in, your muscles have a chance to relax,
There are several exercises that help develop the habit of breathing out. The simplest is called the Four Square Breath:
1.     Breathe in for a count of four
2.     Hold your breath for a count of four
3.     Breathe out for a count of four, and
4.     Hold out for a count of four
Notice that during this exercise, three quarters of the breathing cycle is focused on holding and breathing out, allowing the body to truly relax.
As you become more proficient at breathing out, you can vary and expand the four count breath. Try breathing in for a count of six, hold for a count of eight and breathe out for a count of eight. (You may not have breath left to hold your breath out with these longer counts.)
Other possibilities for relieving anxiety are re-breathing – breathing into hands cupped over your mouth. You can also try breathing out through pursed lips, as if you were breathing out through a straw – or you can actually breath out through a straw!
One of the most relaxing ways to breathe is to let your breath breathe you. When you have gotten very relaxed in your breathing, try letting your breath all the way out and then pause, without taking another breath. If you wait, your body will take another breath for you, without your conscious control. Although it can be difficult to get used to waiting for the breath rather than controlling it, it is ultimately relieving to know your body will take care of you if you let go of control.
All of these breathing exercises take practice and are not likely to work during a panic attack or when you are already anxious if you have not already practiced them. Take some time to practice when you are feeling less anxious. Then when you really need them, the exercises will be available to you to use successfully. Practicing breathing mindfully on a regular basis, even for just a short time, will also help you feel less anxious overall and less prone to panic attacks.
For more detailed instructions for breathing techniques try this psychologist’s website:

Submitted by Nancy R. Soro, Ph.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Importance of Support in Reducing Stress

For many people battling with stress, the fight can often feel like a very lonely struggle.  The anxiety and depression that result from struggles at work and in our personal life cause us to feel isolated from others and forget that there are people around us who can help.  These people are our support system, and their presence is vital to reducing stress and helping us maintain a general sense of sanity in our worlds.

The purpose of having a positive support system is to ensure that we are not forced to cope with the pressures of stress alone- they keep us stable.  No matter how successful you may feel at coping with your problems alone, there will always come a time when even the strongest coping skills is not enough.  Stressful situations get worse just as sure as they eventually get better and it is important to have people to lean on when this happens.  Different support persons achieve this in different ways.  Some may help us by lending an ear to listen to us unload our stress.  Others may help take our mind off things by providing a fun afternoon activity to socialize.  No matter how they achieve it, a support person is defined by the end result of helping us reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

In addition to receiving stability from your support system, many people find that it helps them to feel grounded and validated.  When we get involved in stressful, anxious, or depressed situations, we often convince ourselves that no one in the world as gone through something like this.  We fool ourselves into believing that no one else could ever understand our pain.  A positive support system will often remind us that being overwhelmed and emotionally drained is normal and expected.  They can help us maintain perspective when our world feels out of control, and a good support system knows what to say to help us take a deep breath and take stock of our lives.

The most important part of creating a positive support system is being able to identify those people in your life that give you stability and validation without the negativity of judgment.  These people could come from any facet of your life: a spouse, a child, a parent or siblings, a co-worker, or just a friend.  If you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with this person and you can expect no judgment back from them, then they are a part of your positive support system.  If they do pass judgment or make you feel negative about the emotions you’re going to, then perhaps it is time to release them from your support system and engage with someone that helps you relieve your stress.

There are times and situations when we may discover that we don’t have the positive support system that we want.  It may be that our supports are too negative for us or that our supports have become warn out.  In these cases, you may want to seek out some new members to add to your support team.  This can be done in a number of different places.  Start by seeking out environments where you can find positive people, including: church groups, community organizations, and even neighbors.  In these groups, you can seek out new friends to create relationships with that can be supportive in the future.

Our positive support groups can be as big or as small as we feel comfortable.  Each person is different and requires a different support network to help us cope with our problems. The most important thing to remember is that, no matte the size, we all need a positive support network of some kind.  If you feel that you don’t have anyone in your life to help you through difficult times, this may be the perfect time to seek out a neighborhood friend, attend a church group meeting, or call a family member.  Reach out to the positive people around us and allow them to help.  You’ve probably already helped someone else- now let them help you!

Bill Knor, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Are your needs being met?

Often when I ask  my clients "what are your needs in this relationship?" they look at me with a blank face. Most times the response rendered is "I don't know".  Whether in a committed romantic relationship or in a marriage, being aware of one's needs and knowing what they are and if they are  being met is important to the success of the relationship or marriage.  According to Willard F. Harley, Jr., Ph.D clinical psychologist and author of His Needs, Her Needs, Building an Affair Proof Marriage,  there are 10 emotional needs that are important to marriage. These needs are as follows:
- the nonsexual expression of care through words, cards, gifts, hugs, kisses, and courtesies, creating an environment that clearly and repeatedly expresses care.

Sexual fulfillment
-a sexual experience that is predictably enjoyable and frequent enough for you.

Intimate conversation
-talking about feelings, topics of personal interest/opinion, and plans

Recreational companionship
-Leisure activities with at least one other person.

Honesty and openness
-Truthful and frank expressions of positive and negative feelings, events of the past, daily events and schedule, and plans for he future; not leaving a false setting.

Physical attractiveness of spouse
-Viewing physical traits of your partner that are aesthetically and or sexually pleasing.

Financial support
-the provision of the financial resources to house, feed, and clothe your family at a standard of living acceptable to you.

Domestic support
-Management of the household tasks and care of the children that create  home environment  that offers a refuge from stress.

Family commitment
- provision for the moral and educational development of the children within the family unit.

-Being shown respect, value, and appreciation.

Once the needs are explicitly stated the client/s is often better able to answer the "what do you need in this relationship and are they being met?" question. At times it is just a matter of putting words to experiences that are already happening in the relationship. Other times, it helps put words to what is off or missing in the relationship.  At the very least he or she is able to contemplate areas of  the relationship that are important and evaluate potential or current partners effectiveness in meeting those needs.

If you find that your partner or spouse is needing some assistance with helping you get your emotional needs met, or vice versa, feel free to us a call at 708-349-5433.

Ariane Allen Psy.D
Orland Office
708-349-5433 ext.3

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Low Postassium linked to Anxiety and Sleep Disturbance

Image result for free potassium image

Potassium is a common mineral in our body that helps with just about every bodily function. Potassium is a mineral that is used by the body cells to create an electrical conduction system across the cell membrane. These cell membrane transmissions promote heart function, nerve impulse transmissions and muscle contractions. An imbalance of potassium can cause many different side effects including anxiety and new research suggests a potential for sleep disturbances.

If you have low levels of potassium, you may experience an increase in your anxiety symptoms. 
Anxiety is an abnormal feeling of worry, fear, apprehension or nervousness. Anxiety can occur for a number of reasons, and comes in varying degrees of intensity. One common cause of anxiety is poor diet. Your body is a complex chemical system. When you lack a particular vitamin or mineral, your system can be thrown off. In relation to potassium, low levels can cause mental fatigue, stress and anxiety. Eating a well balanced diet and incorporating whole, natural foods may help you get on track to overcoming your anxiety.

Image result for free potassium imageAlthough there is no definitive research to support the concept that low potassium causes sleep problems, the potential is there. Potassium channel dysfunctions, which can prevent potassium from getting into cells, and the muscle spasms, which are one of the symptoms of hypokalemia (deficiency of potassium in the bloodstream), could both disrupt your sleep. If you have a chronic problem with insomnia or feel tired all the time, consult a health care professional – insomnia and fatigue can be symptoms of serious disorders such as sleep apnea.

Lauren F. White, LCPC
Clinical Psychotherapist

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Brain Health and Mental Health

Two years ago, I attended a seminar conducted by Dr. Daniel Amen a psychiatrist, brain image specialist and author, who focuses on brain health.  Because there is an increasing body of current research connecting nutrition to mental health, I have decided to reprint this blog with the addition of more information.  Here is some of the more relevant information and suggestions that Dr. Amen shared regarding brain health, which invariably affects our mental health and well-being.

The brain is the control center of the body and is involved in everything we do.  The brain is too often neglected in both emotional health and physical health. If your brain is not functioning correctly, it is probable that you are not functioning properly.  In the same way that each of us could make some changes that would improve our physical health, we can make some changes to improve our brain health too.

Our brain is mostly water and fat. To keep it healthy we need to eat plenty (around 30 – 40 percent of daily caloric intake) of good fat. Examples of good fat are raw nuts, avocados and avocado oil, coconut oil, olives and olive oil, hemp seeds and flax seeds.

Obesity is harmful to the brain and body. As weight goes up, the physical size of the brain goes down and brain functioning decreases. Excess body fat helps produce inflammation – the beginning phase of all disease processes. Body fat also stores toxins – the more the body fat, the more the toxins. Toxins aren’t good for the brain or body.

Vitamin D is important for weight loss since low Vitamin D deactivates leptin, a brain hormone that signals satiation or fullness. If leptin doesn’t work, we don’t get the proper signal to stop eating.  A lack of sleep decreases leptin levels. Thus, not getting enough sleep can contribute to weight gain.

Interesting note: Men who have sex 3 times a week decrease heart attack risk by 50%. Unfortunately, the same is not true for women.

Our diet, which is supplemented with too many corn products, soy and vegetable oil, gives us too many Omega 6 oils and not enough Omega 3 oils. The remedy for this is to check labels to avoid corn, soy and vegetable oils and supplement our diets with Omega 3 found in cold water fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), nuts and flax seed.  Omega 3 supplements can also be used to correct the Omega imbalance

People who are gluten sensitive have increased risk for both anxiety and depression and have decreased blood flow to the brain. Theories about the role of gluten in mental health include food allergies, immune responses, interference in brain processes, exorphins being absorbed into the blood stream from the gut and then passing through the blood-brain barrier to affect the central nervous system and the way serotonin functions in the brain.  

Sucralose, otherwise known as Splenda, was originally made as a pesticide!  It works quite well as a pesticide and is used for that purpose in some farming communities.  Not surprisingly, Splenda will also kill off the healthy flora (microbes) in your gut. There is a large body of evidence showing a connection between gut health and mental health. A gut with an abundance and diversity of microbes aids our overall health and mental health. A deficiency in diversity or number of gut microbes is related to several types of mental illness including anxiety, depression, autism and more. Read more about the mental health, gut health and diet see the following links:

Untreated depression had been shown to increase Alzheimer’s dementia two times in women and three times in men.  Other conditions that can have a negative impact on brain functioning include chronic stress, an unhealthy peer group, emotional trauma, lack of activity, nicotine and caffeine.

Here is what Dr. Amen recommended we do for increased brain health and functioning:
1.     Mental workouts help strengthen the brain. He recommends learning something new 15 min each day.
2.     Physical activity- weights, resistance training and coordination exercise (i.e. dancing) 30 min per days, more days than not- daily is best.
3.     Nutrition – ½ body weight in ounces of water, high quality foods and clean protein (hormone free, free range, grass fed), smart carbs – low glycemic (slow to convert to sugar in the body) and high in fiber- which are plants, eat a rainbow of colors daily for good antioxidants, the cancer fighters, and plenty of herbs and spices all of which have some healing properties in the body.
4.     Probiotics put the good microbes back into the gut. This is important since 90% of serotonin, the chemical involved in good mood, is located in the gut. Antibiotics kill the good flora in the gut, which must be replenished.  It is best to keep the gut balanced and working properly. Probiotics can be taken in supplement form or found in fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kimchee and kombucha..

Finally, Dr. Amen stressed that that emotional health in this country has been negatively affected by our typical diet, which he refers to as SAD – an acronym for the Standard American Diet. He speculates that the rise in emotional disorders is likely due to the rise in food additives and genetically modified organisms. As such, gluten, dairy and food additive allergies may be causative factors in many mental disorders.

Submitted by Holly Houston, Ph.D., Director, Licensed Clinical Psychologist   February 2017