Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

The Two-Part Secret to Unlocking Your Libido

My favorite self-help book of the century so far is Emily Nagoske’s “Come As You Are,” a guide to understanding the female body and the mechanisms of sexuality, I personally think this book should be required reading in every high school across America (although I’m also certain it never will be), as it is by far the best book I have ever read when it comes to helping us understand the complicated relationship between our bodies, our lived experiences, and our desire for intimacy.

One of the central themes in Nagoski’s book, and the one I use most often when working with couples, is that our sex drive has both a “brake” and an “accelerator.” Whereas most of us tend to think of desire for sex as more of a single on or off switch (you’re either in the mood or you’re not), Nagoski makes the compelling case for a two-part system, with both parts requiring attention if igniting a desire for sexual intimacy is the end goal.

Part 1: The Accelerator

When it comes to ramping up our desire for sexual intimacy, most of us have some idea of what gets us going. Whether it’s certain music, specific types of touch, playful text messages, imagery, or even laughter and just being silly, each of us develops a menu, if you will, of what takes us from neutral to ready-to-go. That is our accelerator. And since your list of what revs your engine is unlikely to be the same as your partner’s, it’s important to let them know what kinds of actions or activities get your accelerator going, and to ask your partner what does the same for them.

We also need to understand that each accelerator is uniquely sensitive. Just like with cars, some accelerators need just the slightest touch to get going, whereas others require a more concerted effort. Similarly, some people can go from 0 to 100 in under a minute, whereas other people take a lot longer to get there. This means that even if you and your partner happen to have the same activities on your lists of accelerators, that doesn’t necessarily mean you both rev up in the same amount of time.

I always encourage my couples clients to have an open and honest conversation about their accelerators. Not only can it be an extremely fun conversation to have, but it also can have a positive impact on each partner’s sexual satisfaction within the relationship. Some of the questions to consider discussing with your partner: What kinds of things can they do to get your accelerator going? And vice versa? How much time do you need to get revved up? What else should they know about your unique accelerator? What else should you know about theirs?

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Part 2: The Brake

Some of you, when reading the questions above, might be thinking to yourself, “I can’t answer those because it completely depends on how I’m feeling!” Maybe you are thinking about the times when your partner was doing all the right things to get your accelerator going, but you were having none of it. That is what Nagoski refers to as your brake.

Going back to the car metaphor: you can have the pedal to the metal, but if the brake is on, that car ain’t goin’ nowhere.

As with the accelerator, we each have our own unique set of brake-pushers, and what activates one person’s brake may have no impact whatsoever on another person’s brake – it might even rev their accelerator! Nor is there a “right” or “wrong” when it comes to our brakes (or our accelerators). Our unique histories, temperaments and chemistry all come together to determine how our bodies respond to our environment. That said, some common brake activators include various stressors (work, financial, family, household, etc), sleep deprivation, illness, pain, a messy environment, and hormones. Not surprisingly, if you happen to be upset with your partner for whatever reason, that alone may slam on your brakes.

One common misconception is that people who have a frequent desire for sexual intimacy and a rapid accelerator also have no brakes. That’s because, in comparison to their partner, it may in fact appear that way. Consequently, on the rare occasion when their brake is activated, their partner may take it personally and interpret the brake to mean that their partner is no longer interested in them. But while some people have a very short list of stressors that activate their brake, pretty much all of us have one – the differences are in how many things activate the brake, how long the brake stays engaged once activated, and what it takes to disengage it.

Whatever the cause, when our brake is on, we are unable to access our sexual desire, no matter what else is going on that would typically rev our accelerator. We aren’t interested in that kind of intimacy, even if we still want touch, snuggles or kisses. What this means is that if you are hoping for sexual intimacy with your partner, your first task is to see if their brake is engaged. If the answer is yes, step 2 is to see if there is anything you can do to help alleviate the pressure on it. Is your partner stressed out because they have too much to do? Then see if there is anything you can take on to reduce their load. Is a messy space on their list of brake-pushers? Consider proactively cleaning up around the place before they get home. If it turns out there’s nothing you can do to relieve the pressure on your partner’s brake, your best bet is probably to wait it out, rather than add to their stress by complaining about it or trying to push the issue.

I have seen some amazing conversations take place between couples with regard to their brakes. So consider talking with your partner about what activates your brake, and ask them to think through what activates theirs. Then talk about what each of you would like your partner to do when they notice your brake is on. While this conversation may not be quite as fun as talking about your accelerators, it can go a long way towards building a mutual sense of trust and understanding in the relationship – which, for many people, can be a pretty effective accelerator all on its own.

LynLake Centers for WellBeing provides therapy and counseling services. Begin your journey to healing and wellness by scheduling an appointment with us today.

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Written by: Terri Bly, PsyD, LP, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

In Defense of “Negative” Emotions

The messages we receive throughout our lives regarding certain emotions are pretty clear: The ones that cause pain or discomfort are not normal, and we should do whatever we can to feel more good, and less bad, as often as possible. We call these uncomfortable emotions “negative,” as opposed to the much preferred “positive” emotions such as happiness, contentment, excitement, and enthusiasm. 

But what if we actually need the entire range of emotions – the good, the bad, and the ugly – to live a full and meaningful life? What if the emotions we label as “negative” aren’t actually emotions we should be trying to get rid of, but rather, emotions we should be listening to and learning from? What if we stopped thinking of them as “negative” altogether, but instead thought of them as problem-signaling emotions? 

Negative Emotions’ Negative Reputation

It’s pretty easy to understand how most of us ended up with such a negative opinion of uncomfortable emotions. For example, many of us grew up in families in which expressing sadness or disappointment was often met with a lecture about how no one likes a complainer, or how much better you have it than other kids, and therefore you should be grateful, not sad. We learned that these were not emotions that “good kids” expressed. Many of us also came to associate anger with violence and/or punishment; in other words, we learned that nothing good comes from the expression of anger, so best to just stuff it down. In addition, many societies (including here in the United States) only tolerate the expression of emotions like anger, frustration or sadness in certain situations or from certain people, depending on your race, gender, and so forth.

And then we have the medical model and how it has influenced the way we think about emotions. As mental health providers, we are required to document our client’s “symptoms” during each session, and many of these symptoms are, in fact, emotions, such as sadness, loneliness, irritability, frequent worry, and guilt. To be clear, therapists aren’t supposed to diagnose anyone with a mood disorder simply because they are experiencing one or more of these emotions. Nonetheless, it is hard not to think of these emotions as pathological when we routinely make note of them as “current symptoms,” with the explicit goal of helping our clients get rid of them.  

So why am I arguing that these emotions are mislabeled as negative? I mean, no one wants to feel sadness, hurt, guilt, anxiety, irritability or anger…right? These emotions can be deeply uncomfortable, and they never feel positive. They can even feel overwhelming, as though they may consume us if we don’t fight them off as quickly as possible. How on earth, then, are we supposed to think of them as anything other than unwanted and potentially destructive emotional states we should try to overcome as quickly as possible? 

Wired To Be Negative

Believe it or not, the human brain is wired for negativity. From birth, we attend and respond to negative “stimuli” more than positive ones. That’s why a baby cries within seconds of being born, but doesn’t smile or laugh for at least six more weeks. Negative emotions are essential tools for survival; they are designed to alert us and our caregivers that something is wrong. These feelings are uncomfortable on purpose because that discomfort motivates us to identify the problem(s) and take action, in order to make the discomfort go away. But if we immediately rush into the getting-back-to-comfortable part, without first listening to what the emotions are trying to communicate, we aren’t able to solve whatever problem those emotions are trying to alert us to. We treat the uncomfortable emotions themselves as the problem, rather than whatever is causing them in the first place. 

Think of the smoke detectors in your home. They are designed to make an intentionally horrible, shrill beeping sound if they detect smoke, because smoke might mean there’s a fire, which in turn could cause serious damage to your home and everyone in it. If, every time the smoke detector went off, you immediately went about removing the batteries so that it would stop making that awful sound, without first checking to see if there is an actual fire, you can see how that might be problematic. Our “negative” emotions are like that fire alarm. 

Take sadness as an example. Let’s say I notice that for the last week or two, I’ve been feeling sadder than usual, with low energy and a strong desire to stay in bed (i.e., the “smoke detector” has gone off). It’s awful and I don’t want to feel this way anymore, so I ask my doctor for a prescription for antidepressants (removing the batteries). But what if the sadness is trying to communicate to me that something is wrong? What if it is trying to let me know that I am not spending enough time with friends or family, or that I am not moving my body enough? Or what if it is alerting me to a vitamin D deficiency, a thyroid problem, or the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder? Maybe I’ve been interpreting things happening in my life in an unnecessarily negative way, without even realizing it, and that is leading to prolonged sadness. In other words, maybe there’s an actual fire, and if I don’t take the time to explore what the emotional smoke alarm is trying to tell me, I might overlook some important information. 

And yes, for some people, their emotional smoke alarm is too sensitive, sounding the alarm at even the slightest hint of an over-browned piece of toast, which means focusing on the alarm itself is a good idea. Antidepressants can alleviate symptoms of depression for many people, and for some, they truly are the best solution. My point is that the smoke alarm can go off for many reasons, from over-browned toast to actual fires, which means identifying the best solution for making it stop requires determining why it’s going off in the first place. 

The same holds true for anger, anxiety, irritability, and most other uncomfortable emotions. These emotions are all trying to signal to us that something is out of whack, and the problem (as well as the solution) may take some investigation. 

How To Listen To Your Emotions In A New Way

Now it’s time to practice cultivating a different kind of relationship with your uncomfortable feelings. Here are a few steps you can take to begin responding to your problem-signaling emotions in a new way: 

  1. Notice your emotions.
    Some of us are so good at suppressing uncomfortable emotions, we get rid of them before we fully realize they were there in the first place. We become disconnected from our emotional experiences. To get a sense of how you typically relate to your emotions, try checking in with yourself about once an hour, for maybe a day or two, and ask yourself how you feel. You can jot it down in a journal or on your phone, log it on a feelings tracker app, or just notice it to yourself and continue on with your day.
  2. Sit with your emotions.
    Next time you notice yourself experiencing an uncomfortable emotion, try pausing in that moment, name the emotion, and then see if you can let yourself feel it. You don’t need to do anything else; just hang with the emotion for maybe 90 seconds or so and notice what happens. This can take some practice, especially if you are an expert at doing away with uncomfortable feelings the moment they arrive, so if you find that this is too hard, ask your therapist for assistance at your next session.
  3. Get to know your emotions.
    Once you feel like you’ve gotten a hang of sitting with your full range of emotions, now it’s time to see if you can spend some time understanding what they are trying to tell you. Is anything going on in your life that might be causing the alarm bells to sound? What about physically? This is the part where therapy can be really helpful, as your therapist can help you identify potential causes of the painful emotions, and their solutions.

Once you start viewing all of your emotions as important and valuable, you may notice yourself becoming less fearful and more open to new possibilities, willing to go outside your comfort zone because you know you can handle whatever emotions pop up along the way. It’s not an easy process, but it can have a profound impact on your life.

LynLake Centers for WellBeing provides therapy and counseling services. Begin your journey to healing and wellness by scheduling an appointment with us today.

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Written by: Terri Bly, PsyD, LP, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Strategies for Managing Holiday Stress

And yet, for many (if not most) of us, the holiday season is also the most stressful time of the year. While some holiday-related stress may be inevitable, there are steps you can take to reduce the stress you experience during what can be a mixed bag of a season. Here are a few tips for getting through the month with more jubilation and less agitation.  

Practice setting boundaries

The holidays are a great time to try out those boundary-setting skills you’ve been working on in therapy. As much as you may want to say yes to every party invitation, concert, fundraiser, bake sale, volunteer opportunity and gift request you receive this month, the reality is that saying yes to everything is what often leads us to become resentful of everything we end up doing – and of everyone who asks us to do it. At the beginning of the month (or as close to it as you can), determine what your priorities are for your time and budget this holiday season, communicate them to your loved ones, friends and colleagues when possible and appropriate, and say no to as many of the other things that pop up as you can. It may be hard at first, but it will almost certainly feel a lot better than the alternative. 

Set reasonable expectations of yourself (and others)

It’s easy to buy into the notion that the holiday season is supposed to be magical for everyone, and you may even believe it’s your responsibility to make it so. But the reality is that running yourself ragged and spending more money than you have trying to make the holidays “perfect” is not worth tanking your physical, mental or financial health. Instead, take a moment to decide what about the holiday season is most important to you and focus on that. To the best of your ability, stick to things that are largely within your control. Do you love to bake an assortment of fancy holiday treats for everyone in your life? Great, focus on that! Are you someone who enjoys going that extra mile to select unique gifts your family members will appreciate? Go for it! But consider determining a realistic budget first, and then stick to it. Finally, rather than using everyone else’s reactions to determine whether you achieved your holiday goals, ask yourself instead if you think you accomplished them. If the answer is no, rather than relegating yourself to Santa’s naughty list, ask yourself what you learned from the experience, and then use that knowledge to make next year even better. 

Take care of your body

It can be easy to let our personal wellness practices fall to the wayside during this busy time, but since we have already established that the holidays can be stressful, it should come as no surprise that taking good care of yourself becomes especially important this time of year. Consider focusing on getting good sleep, moving your body, and being mindful of your sugar and alcohol consumption. While it may be tempting to tell yourself you’ll deal with all that health stuff come January 1st, the reality is that your mind and body will suffer now if you stop taking care of yourself. And don’t forget to work in some fun to balance out the endless to-do list! There are a plethora of fun outdoor activities during the holiday season, which means you have many enjoyable options to choose from to keep your body moving and release some of that holiday-induced tension at the same time. 

Engage your senses 

Winter, with its cold, dry air and minimal daylight, can wear down even the sunniest disposition. To brighten your mood, consider incorporating aromatherapy and other sensory experiences into your daily routine. Warmly-scented candles, spiced apple cider, uplifting body lotions, warm baths, invigorating diffuser blends – these are just a few of the many ways you can activate your senses, soothe your mind and body, and lift your spirits. 

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Lastly, keep in mind that most of the little details, in the end, don’t really matter. No one thinks back to past holidays and hones in on that one time when Aunt Bev forgot to bring bread rolls for the big meal. So you ran out of time and now little Janey has to wear the same dress as last year for the annual pageant: it’s ok. Breathe, go back to those priorities you set at the beginning of the month, and remind yourself that all the other stuff is just that: stuff. 

LynLake Centers for WellBeing provides therapy and counseling services. Begin your journey to healing and wellness by scheduling an appointment with us today.

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Written by: Terri Bly, PsyD, LP, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

How to Make Friends as an Adult

One of my favorite SNL sketches in recent memory is their commercial for “Man Park,” a fictional oasis where women can take their male partners to meet and socialize with other men, giving them much-needed outlets for connection so they don’t rely solely on the women in their lives to meet all their social needs. It’s not just hilarious, it’s also a good idea. Studies on loneliness have shown a consistent increase in the percentage of Americans who say they have few or no close friendships, and who feel lonely most or all of the time. And it isn’t just men who are getting lonelier: The US Surgeon General’s office issued an official advisory this year – along with a 72-page report – calling attention to the growing epidemic of loneliness in America, across all demographics.

There’s a good reason to sound the alarm, too: loneliness is terrible for our physical and mental health, and it can even be deadly. According to the US Surgeon General, loneliness increases our chances of premature death by 29%, of heart disease by 29%, and of stroke by 32%. Among the elderly, loneliness may increase the risk of developing dementia by as much as 50%. Social isolation (and perceived isolation) also increases our risk for depression, anxiety, suicide, inflammation-related conditions (such as autoimmune diseases), type 2 diabetes…the list goes on and on.

While it may be tempting to blame the current loneliness data on the pandemic, the reality is that the percentage of people saying they are lonely has been going up for decades; in other words, the pandemic merely exacerbated an already serious problem.

OK, great, so we know loneliness is a problem. But what can we do about it, since (sadly) there is not an actual Man Park – or Woman Park, or Gender Expansive Park – where we can meet people and make new friends? It’s a good question, and one that comes up often in my sessions with clients. In the Twin Cities, for example, it can be challenging to infiltrate established social groups, since many people here have been hanging out with the same friends since college, high school, or even grade school. As someone told me not long after I moved to Minneapolis, “Minnesotans are friendly, they just don’t want any more friends.” While that’s fine if you are one of those people who still hangs out with your best friends from the 5th grade, it isn’t so great for the rest of us who showed up here as adults, or who for whatever reason decided to part ways with our childhood friends.

Although I’m afraid I don’t have a social recipe guaranteed to cure loneliness, here are a few suggestions to consider when it comes to making new social connections:

Talk with your therapist.

Isolation and loneliness can be caused by a number of factors. Depression, for example, can cause us to self-isolate, which then leads to the loss of friendships, which then exacerbates depression, which makes us even more isolated, and so on and so forth. Divorce often leads to a significant increase in loneliness, since people not only lose their primary source for connection, they often lose friends and family as well. Social anxiety, which for many people worsened significantly during the pandemic, is another major cause of isolation and loneliness. By talking with your therapist about your loneliness, you can begin to understand it better, and then figure out what steps you can take to address the root cause(s). Your therapist can also help you increase self-confidence, build social and communication skills, and brainstorm ideas for meeting new people.

Check the tech.

The use of technology may not be solely responsible for the loneliness epidemic, but there is ample evidence to suggest it is playing a key role in keeping us isolated, particularly for teens and young adults. I can tell you anecdotally that many of my middle-aged clients also confess to hanging out with their phones instead of with their friends. Admittedly, it is easier to scroll through social media while lounging on the couch wearing your cozies, than it is to reach out to people, organize a get-together, then motivate yourself to get dressed for the occasion and actually make it out the door. But we are social beings, and even those of us who identify as introverts need some social connection in order to stay mentally and physically healthy. So if you find yourself using your phone to avoid leaving home more than you use it to contact actual people, it might be time to ask yourself why that is, and what you can do to reverse course. The internet may be a good way to initiate connections, but it is not an effective way to maintain or strengthen them.

Attend a church, mosque or synagogue.

Admittedly, this one is a little loaded. Church is not for everyone, religion is not for everyone, but the fact is that study after study has found that people who attend a religious service regularly report greater satisfaction with their lives than those who do not, and the social benefits of doing so appear to be the primary reason for this correlation. While not all congregations are particularly welcoming of newcomers, some definitely are. Moreover, some religious institutions focus more on social justice and community service than they do on adhering to a specific set of religious beliefs; the Unitarians come to mind, as an example. But if you find yourself without much of a social support network these days, seeking out a friendly congregation with values that match your own could be a great way to fill your social cup.

Volunteer.

Talk about a win-win! Volunteering your time is a great way to meet new people who share similar interests and values, while also getting out of the house and contributing to your community in a meaningful way. There’s even evidence to suggest volunteering, in and of itself, can improve your mental health. What’s important is to find an organization focused on something you care about, and then to make sure you are scheduling something on a regular basis, since establishing a routine will not only help you stick with it, but it will also increase the likelihood of connecting with your fellow volunteers.

Try Meetup.

I’m a little surprised by how often I encourage my clients to try Meetup.com, and perhaps even more surprised by the success they have had with it. I had forgotten all about this website/app, and then earlier this year I heard a story on Minnesota Public Radio about a wildly successful Meetup group that was started 10 years ago by two newcomers to the Twin Cities. Recognizing how hard it is to meet people here, they launched Break the Bubble, a Meetup group that now has over 8,000 (!!!) members, with several hundred showing up at most events. Of course, there are hundreds of other Meetups in the metro area as well, and while some are purely social, others focus on specific interests and topics.

There’s always pickleball.

The fastest-growing sport in America, pickleball has attracted people of all ages and fitness levels, with new indoor and outdoor courts and clubs popping up almost monthly. There are affordable lessons and social pickleball “pop-ups” offered at many local community centers, private clubs you can join, and leagues and tournaments offered throughout the year. For those interested primarily in the social aspects of the game, try searching for beginner or intermediate classes and “social leagues,” to avoid ending up on a court with people who are only interested in beating you, not getting to know you. Not into pickleball? There are also adult leagues for just about any sport you can imagine, from kickball to hockey.

As I said earlier, there is no magical cure for loneliness (not one that I have found, anyway), and since one person’s reason for isolation will be different from another’s, the same is true for finding the right solutions. What is important, however, is to figure out which factors have come together to create your particular situation, and then begin taking steps to get back on the road to human connection. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you for it.

LynLake Centers for WellBeing provides therapy and counseling services. Begin your journey to healing and wellness by scheduling an appointment with us today.

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Written by: Terri Bly, PsyD, LP, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Advantages to working with an Intern Therapist

When looking for a mental health professional to help you navigate the trials and tribulations of your life, someone with whom you plan to share some pretty vulnerable stuff, it’s understandable why you might want a provider with a lot of experience. This is your life we’re talking about, after all! So it stands to reason that working with a brand new therapist might seem like a dubious proposition. Will they actually know what they’re doing? Are you basically a guinea pig for them to practice on? 

While we certainly want you to feel comfortable with and confident in your therapist’s ability to help you, there are a few benefits to seeing a pre-licensed or intern clinician that you may not have thought about (or are not aware of). Here are just a few of them: 

Two therapists for the price of one

All interns and pre-licensed therapists meet weekly with experienced, licensed clinicians who have formal training in supervising new therapists.  Unlike licensed clinicians, pre-licensed therapists are directly accountable to their supervisor for ensuring they are providing evidence-based care tailored to each client in their caseload. This means your therapist will be talking about your situation with an experienced clinician regularly, putting their heads together to come up with effective interventions to help you reach your therapy goals. In other words, you get two therapists helping you instead of one. 

Smaller caseloads, more time

Interns and pre-licensed clinicians typically have much smaller caseloads than licensed therapists, in order to ensure that they are able to take the time they need to carefully think through and prepare for each session – for example, gathering helpful handouts, doing a quick consult with a more experienced clinician in their office, or paging through books to remind themselves how to approach a certain disorder or situation, and so forth. Even experienced clinicians may admit they miss their newbie days when they had that additional time to prepare for each and every individual client, couple or family.  
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Curiosity comes easily

When you are new to the field of therapy, there’s a decent chance that most (if not all) clients show up with symptoms, experiences, and challenges that you have not encountered before. While this may initially strike you as a bad thing, the reality is that it can be easier for a therapist to stay curious while listening to someone tell their story when they haven’t already met with dozens or hundreds of clients who, on the surface at least, seem similar to this new client. A new therapist is unlikely to make any assumptions about your situation because they don’t have many other clients to compare you to. While it’s important to note that all therapists do their best to maintain that new-therapist curiosity, it can be easier to do so when you are, in fact, a new therapist. And by staying curious, your therapist is able to ensure that you feel heard and understood as a unique individual navigating your own unique journey through life. 

Energy and enthusiasm

After going through several years of schooling, intern and pre-licensed therapists are excited to apply or continue building on the extensive education they have received. Interns also typically have training in the most recent approaches to the ever-evolving field of psychotherapy. With all of this knowledge fresh in their minds as they prepare to launch their new career, the energy they bring to the field is contagious and you will be able to sense their enthusiasm in each session. 

Like the clients they work with, each therapist brings their own unique set of strengths to the work they do. Having an experienced therapist may be the right way to go for some clients, certainly, but pre-licensed clinicians bring with them their own valuable set of qualities and skills that make them worthy of consideration. If you are looking for a new therapist, reach out to our referrals team today to get matched with the right therapist for you. 

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LynLake Centers for WellBeing provides therapy and counseling services. Begin your journey to healing and wellness by scheduling an appointment with us today.

A Yogic Perspective on Menopause & Anxiety

What is menopause?

A woman reaches menopause when she has not had a period for 12 months in a row. This typically happens in her early to mid 50s although this can vary. Occasionally, menopause occurs without any symptoms but more often women experience a variety of symptoms leading up to menopause. The years leading up to menopause are referred to as ‘peri- menopause’. Peri-menopause often begins in a woman’s late 30s and early 40s and can last 7-10 years or longer.

Menopause and the ‘householder’ stage of life

Yoga refers to this stage of life – in both women and men- as the ‘householder’ stage. It ranges from somewhere around the mid-20s into the 60s or so. This is the time of life when you are a pillar of society, caring for the young and the old. Householders make up the majority of the work force and provide the structures that keep families and friends connected. Whatever your householder responsibilities are, it is typically a busy time of life. Because symptoms of menopause occur during the busy householder stage of life, it can feel particularly frustrating and sometimes overwhelming to manage.

Symptoms of peri-menopause

There are a variety of symptoms that can arise during the years leading up to menopause. Symptoms can be physical, emotional, and cognitive. Some of the most common peri- menopausal symptoms are:

  • Irregular periods
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weight gain
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood swings
  • Concerns about body image
  • Irritability

Yoga’s holistic view

Yoga therapy uses the holistic view of the Pancamaya model which comes out of an ancient text called the Taittiriya Upanishad. Panca means 5 and maya means made from, or consisting of. According to this model the 5 things that make up a person are 1) physical body, 2) breath/ energy, 3) thoughts, 4) behavior, and 5) emotions.

When one part of us goes out of balance the others quickly follow. For example, let’s say you are experiencing weight gain due to peri-menopause. Your physical body might feel uncomfortable because your clothes are a little snug. You might start to have some negative thought patterns around your body image. Now your physical body is uncomfortable and your thoughts have become negative and as a result your energy starts to decrease and you aren’t motivated to do much of anything. Your friend calls and asks you to meet them for coffee but you aren’t feeling good about yourself so you make up an excuse not to go. The discomfort in your body has begun to affect your energy, thoughts, and behaviors. As a result your emotions are affected and you become sad and frustrated.

 

How can yoga help?

Now let’s say you’ve experienced the same weight gain but when you feel your thoughts become negative you make a decision to do a short meditation. Your meditation is about self- love and when you are done you feel a little better. Your friend calls and asks you to meet her for coffee and you agree, knowing it will feel good to get out to see a friend. You have a nice visit with your friend and when you go back home you are feeling peaceful and content.

Yoga is all about interrupting patterns

As you can see by the examples above, interrupting a pattern with a simple yoga practice, in this case meditation, can shift the course of your day because it influences you on so many different levels. The short meditation that interrupted a negative thought pattern influenced your mind and when your mind was in a better place your behavior changed and you said ‘yes’ to a coffee date with a friend. After getting out of your house and meeting with a friend, your energy and mood improved and you felt better equipped to tackle the responsibilities of the day.

Yoga is a ‘practice’

There are many different ways to practice yoga. Yoga is movement (asana), it is breathing (pranayama), it is meditation, it can be repeating a mantra, it can even be taking the time to smell a flower. Yoga is anything that keeps your attention on something positive that moves you in a healthy direction. It is unrealistic to say you can always be in a state of yoga but a little bit of ‘practice’ every day will affect you in all of your dimensions – body, energy, thoughts, relationships, and emotions. And you will notice over time that those little practices will lead to big changes.

Where does anxiety fit into this?

Menopause is full of change and uncertainty. Change and uncertainty can lead to feelings of anxiety. So it is quite common for women to feel anxiety during the years around menopause. If you have experienced anxiety you might notice it can affect you on many of the levels we talked about earlier. Anxiety can cause muscle tightness in your physical body, it can speed up or constrict your breath, it can lead to thoughts of fear and even dread. When these things happen it will undoubtedly affect your behavior and your emotions in a negative way. Anxiety is particularly tricky to manage because of its ability to take hold on so many levels of our being.

Yoga Therapy for Menopause and Anxiety

By now you can see how menopause can exacerbate anxiety – and how anxiety can exacerbate the symptoms of menopause. Yoga therapy is an effective, holistic therapy to create new patterns in your body, breath, and mind so you can feel better. Simple daily practices like meditations, breathing techniques, and appropriate yoga postures are easy ways you can start to take control over the changes you may be experiencing. Each of these yoga techniques can interrupt old patterns and create new, healthier patterns. Yoga therapy gives you the power to feel better.

Jennifer Brandt is an E-RYT 500 and C-IAYT working in private practice in Minneapolis, MN. She studies and teaches in the Viniyoga tradition at Yoga Well Institute under Chase Bossart where she received her Yoga Therapist training and is currently a faculty member. Learn more at www.bodyandmindyogatherapy.com

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LynLake Centers for WellBeing provides therapy and counseling services. Begin your journey to healing and wellness by scheduling an appointment with us today.

Yoga’s Holistic Approach to Anxiety

Anxiety in a modern world

Some level of anxiety is a natural response to environmental stressors. It keeps us focused and safe. But when feelings of anxiety become overwhelming or unmanageable they can begin to take a toll on many different aspects of our lives. There are four standard recommendations to treat anxiety: talk therapy, medication, exercise, and yoga. For many of us, a combination of these approaches can be very effective.

Just as certain medications might work better for you than others, or certain therapists seem to understand you better than others, your yoga practice must to be a good ‘fit’ to be most effective. Yoga is commonly misunderstood to be just a physical practice of stretching and strengthening your body. The physical postures of yoga are important but they are only one tool of a toolbox full of healing practices. A thoughtfully created yoga practice will include a unique combination of physical postures, breathing techniques, meditations, chanting/mantra, lifestyle recommendations, and in some cases even learning about yoga philosophy.

Yoga therapists look at their clients holistically, addressing their physical body, breath/energy, state of mind, behavior, and emotions. For example, you might stub your toe on a chair in your house. Immediately you feel pain in your physical body. Your breathing might get shallow and quick. Your mind might begin to race thinking “That chair isn’t supposed to be there. Who is responsible for this?”. You might then behave in a way you normally wouldn’t and shout out to your family “Who left this chair in the middle of the room?!” And when nobody answers, you might storm away feeling angry. This simple example illustrates how stubbing your toe can quickly throw you out of balance in our body, breath, mind, behavior, and emotions. Below I will explore how anxiety effects each of the different areas.

Physical symptoms of anxiety

For many of us, anxiety shows up in our bodies in the form of muscle tension, especially in the neck, shoulders, and back. Anxiety might make you feel restless, or maybe it’s exhausting and you feel tired a lot. Some of us unknowingly clench our jaws, which can lead to headaches and dental issues. Pain in your body can create anxiety – and anxiety can certainly create tension and pain in your body. It can be a troubling cycle that we feel trapped in.

Asana (“AH-sa-na”) or yoga postures are the most commonly used yoga tool for the physical symptoms of anxiety. When a client is experiencing pain or tension of any kind, we want to first release the tension with carefully designed poses that address the areas of pain and/or tension. Depending on where you carry your tension, a thoughtfully designed yoga practice will bring relief to the areas you need it most. Once you are out of pain you can begin to build strength and resilience so you can stay out of the loop of pain and anxiety.

Physiological symptoms of anxiety

Physiological symptoms of anxiety show up in how our body functions. For many of us anxiety can cause gastrointestinal (GI) issues like constipation or diarrhea. It can also cause gas, bloating, and nausea. Often anxiety will exacerbate Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Physiological symptoms of anxiety can also show up in the respiratory and cardiovascular systems of your body in the form of rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, elevated pulse, asthma flare ups, and even panic attacks.

Pranayama (“pra-na-YA-ma”), or breathing techniques, are a simple and effective way to help bring your body’s functioning back into balance. Yoga can directly influence your nervous system, helping you to get out of the cycle of fight or flight. Thoughtfully designed breathing practices send your body messages to rest and digest. When your nervous system is functioning properly you will find that you can digest food easier, breath deeper, and stay calm when it’s time to relax.

 

Cognitive symptoms of anxiety

There is no doubt that anxiety affects our state of mind. The cognitive symptoms of anxiety show up as a distracted mind, inability to adapt to new situations, forgetfulness, obsessive thoughts, sleep issues, and often anticipating the worst case scenario. It is as though our mind is always racing with worry and we cannot find the ‘off’ switch. It is difficult to know if anxiety effects our thoughts or if our thoughts effects our anxiety. Again, we are in this constant loop of worry we cannot turn off.

Our minds are extremely powerful. Whatever your current state of mind is will determine the perspective from which you see the world. Do you see the world as a friendly or hostile place? Why? Can you change your state of mind and subsequently change your perspective? YES YOU CAN! Meditation is an extremely effective tool for influencing the mind.

Meditation is simply the experience of focusing your mind in one direction. Practicing mediation daily can train your mind to focus more easily so when your anxiety increases you have the tools to stay calm and not let your mind spin out of control with worries. It only takes a few minutes of meditation every day to build new patterns in your mind. Meditation can be done lying down, seated, or even walking. It can be a guided experience, like imagining you are taking a walk in nature. It can be focusing on an object you want to feel more connected to, like a strong tree or a warm sunrise. It can be reciting a simple mantra that is meaningful to you, perhaps an affirmation or just the sound of “OM” or “Amen”. There are countless options for meditation practices, you just have to find one you like.

Behavioral symptoms of anxiety

Living with anxiety is lonely. You might find yourself avoiding people or places that cause you stress. You might withdraw from friends or family. You may notice you are biting your nails or moving erratically, bumping into things or feelings clumsy. Anxiety can increase the volume and rate of your speech, it can show up as compulsive behaviors, hyper vigilance, and even substance abuse. When we are struggling internally, it will eventually show up in our behavior.

Bringing your physical body and your state of mind into better balance will help regulate your behavior. Additionally, the yoga teachings of the Yamas and Niyamas are wonderful tools to better understand your behavior. The Yamas are five guidelines for how we live in the world: (1) Non-violence; (2) Truthfulness; (3) Non-stealing; (4) Moderation, and; (5) Non-greed. The Niyamas are five guidelines for how we treat ourselves: (1) Cleanliness; (2) Contentment; (3) Discipline; (4) Self-study, and; (5) contemplation of a higher power. Traditionally, these ten guidelines were taught to students before they began any postures or meditation because the way we interact with ourselves and the world around us must be in order before we do the deeper practices of asana, pranayama, and meditation.

Emotional symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety takes an emotional toll on us. You might feel sad, overwhelmed, frustrated, and worried. You might experience persistent irritability and even a constant feeling of dread. Emotions are generally a byproduct of what is going on in all of your other systems. If your body is uncomfortable, your energy is low, your mind is racing, and your behavior isn’t reflecting who you really are inside, your emotions will reflect that.

It is difficult to change your emotions while you are having strong feelings. However, you can try to bring in more feelings of gratitude and joy on a consistent basis so those pleasant emotions become more and more familiar. A gratitude journal can remind you about all the good things you have in your life. It can also be helpful to focus on things that bring you joy and spend a little time every day doing things we like. It can be as simple as preparing yourself a favorite cup of tea, sinking into a hot bath, turning off your electronics for 30 minutes, or walking in nature. Think about the simple things that bring you joy and make those a priority in your life.

For more information on yoga therapy or to register for a Yoga for Stress and Anxiety workshop please visit www.bodyandmindyogatherapy.com.

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LynLake Centers for WellBeing provides therapy and counseling services. Begin your journey to healing and wellness by scheduling an appointment with us today.

Wellness Resources

Sometimes, life can feel overwhelming. That’s okay.

Research shows you have the ability to change the way you relate life stressors and can learn to live with more balance and ease — no matter what comes your way.

There’s not one path, practice, or timeline that works for everyone. That’s why Lynlake offers various wellness modalities to help support your unique wellbeing journey.

As you look to be connected with providers, here are a few wellness resources to explore.

PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION AND A GROWTH-MINDSET:

Research shows words of encouragement — not criticism — help you to learn new skills and transform habits with more speed and ease. Start to notice how you speak to yourself and recognize areas of life you’re already doing well in by utilizing these resources.

TRY A MEDITATION PRACTICE:

Meditation can have a powerful effect on your ability to respond rather than react to stress. Research shows that a daily meditation practice is also linked to better mental and physical health outcomes. The best news is there are many types of meditation. Learn more about meditation and see which practice is best for you.

These resources can help reduce stress and anxiety, but sometimes it takes time to see the impact. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, that’s okay. Remember to ask for help.

 

REMEMBER TO ASK FOR HELP:

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, please call a mental health crisis line:

 

Author: Bri Harrington

Loneliness In a Time Of Social Distancing

Loneliness In a Time Of Social Distancing

By: Sharon Burris-Brown, LICSW, NBC-HWC

Did you know that feeling chronically lonely is just as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having a substance use disorder? On one hand, we are all closer than we have ever been through globalism and technology, but on the other, we are lonelier than ever before. And even though loneliness has always been a human condition, the institutions through which people have historically found community and purpose are breaking down.

To top it all, the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating loneliness and isolation within families and communities.

Loneliness FAQS

Extended families often do not live near each other.

Religious communities have and are continuing to decrease in numbers.

In the U.S., the percentage of individuals who live alone have increased, and the percentage of individuals who are married by the age of 45 have gone down.

In a 2018 Cigna survey, found that:

Health Benefits of Connection

The definition of connection according to Webster is “a relation of personal intimacy”. When individuals are connected into a community, a purpose or to supportive family and friends, the health benefits are substantial.

Research has found that healthy connections is associated with:

Deaths of despair are going up and the average lifespan in this country has decreased each year for the last several years. What we see in our therapy offices are individuals who struggle, for many reasons, to attach, connect and to reach out to others. We have become more and more silo’d and the number of those who say they have at least one person who they can talk to when they are struggling is tragically small.

What to Do?

Look into activities and passions to find a sense of purpose. Connection does not always need to be with specific people if you are connected to your life purpose.  Connection of any sort can help individuals feel a sense of satisfaction and personal agency.

Help those in need. Part of finding purpose in your life is helping others who are in need.

Get involved in the community. Whether you are helping those in need or become an activist in a cause you feel passionate about, you may well find those people with whom you really connect, because they are interested in those areas in which you feel strongly.

Take a class. In the era of social distancing, online classes are what is out there right now.  It is harder to meet your learning cohort online, but still possible.

Look in to virtual communities or create your own. 

Write letters. Think about writing to family or friends you don’t get to see or talk to very often.

Set up a Skype or Facetlonelineime session with your elderly relatives. Think about having them tell you stories of their growing up experiences and record them. Collate their stories into a family history.

Get creative. Think about ideas to create a podcast. Do art. If you are a musician, play and stream your music online. The important thing here is not only to do something you love, but to find a way to share it with others—even virtually.

Ask for help. Many people have friends and family who would jump into help, but the step of asking for it is the hardest. Give your loved ones the gift of asking for their help when you really need it.  You would do the same for them!

You can create community by being generous in sharing yourself, your help, your knowledge. The art of listening and just being there for others is a huge gift.

 

If you feel like you need the support of a mental health professional, remember that you’re not alone! Please contact us to request an appointment with a provider at Lyn-Lake Psychotherapy & Wellness.

 

Articles Referenced

  1. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation
  2. https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/
  3. https://www.cigna.com/assets/docs/newsroom/loneliness-survey-2018-updated-fact-sheet.pdf
  4. http://ccare.stanford.edu/uncategorized/connectedness-health-the-science-of-social-connection-infographic/

 

Teletherapy

Teletherapy

By: Sharon Burris-Brown, LICSW, NBC-HWC

Teletherapy

Recently, President Trump has expanded Telehealth coverage for Medicare recipients during the COVID-19 crisis.  More and more therapists are either choosing to do teletherapy or are being mandated by their clinics to go online during this time.

Telehealth and teletherapy has picked up steam and many insurance companies are covering it.

Advantages

Teletherapy offers greater access to the most ill individuals who have the most difficulty in getting to a clinic.

Telehealth and teletherapy is a boon for those who live in rural areas where doctors and therapists are scarce. In 2015, a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that Psychiatrists, psychologists and psychiatric nurse practitioners are unequally distributed throughout the country.  65% of rural areas lacked a psychiatrist. And almost half of rural areas lacked a psychologist.

And in many areas, the technology is good enough to get a clear audio and visual connection.  Therapists use HIPAA compliant platforms to ensure confidentiality and secure connection.

Teletherapy affords the flexibility that in person sessions do not.

Increased stress and isolation for many of us right now is a huge factor.  Maintaining momentum with therapy can be an integral part of one’s self-care plan.

People who are wary of starting therapy may find teletherapy a safer alternative.  Once having had a positive experience with teletherapy, they may be more likely to switch to in-person sessions.

Disadvantages

Individuals may feel much more comfortable seeing their therapists face-to-face.  And this is a very personal decision.  Often, clients do not have a private, separate space away from their family members to feel comfortable participating in teletherapy.

With more people at home, more are online at the same time, internet issues may be more prevalent.

Therapists are working with more limited information, because they can’t see the client’s body posture and movements.

Therapists are often not allowed to work across state boundaries unless they are licensed in the state that the client either resides or even if the client is in that state temporarily.

Types of Teletherapy

Video and audio conferencing can almost feel like you are in the room with your therapist.  But a fast-growing type of e-therapy is “asynchronous” or via chat.  Asynchronous e-therapy occurs often via secure text and e-mail where client and therapist will connect at different times.  Chat is connecting through text only in real time.

When Teletherapy May Not Be Appropriate

Teletherapy has been shown to work about as well as in-person therapy sessions for certain clients.  However, those clients who need a higher level of care—who struggle with addictions or complex trauma, for example, may not do as well with teletherapy.

Certain therapy modalities are not effective or as effective when doing teletherapy such as some trauma therapies.

Asynchronous and text-based e-therapy should not be used for suicidal clients.  Visual cues to determine deteriorating mental health are extremely important to assess these individuals.

Set Yourself Up for Teletherapy

Discuss the challenges and benefits of going to teletherapy with your therapist if you have any questions or concerns.  Your provider will let you know whether some of the therapy modalities he/she has been using with you can or would not translate to teletherapy.

Check your insurance to determine if it is covered.  Most are covering telehealth and teletherapy but some are not or may have restrictions.

Check to make sure you have a speedy connection and a private and quiet place for your teletherapy sessions.

Rest assured that your therapist has a structure and technology to maintain your confidentiality and privacy.

Articles  

  1. https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2020-03-17/to-keep-seniors-safe-at-home-medicare-expands-telemedicine
  2. https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(18)30005-9/fulltext
  3. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/02/online-therapy