Tips to Have a Great School Year

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Back-to-school

Here are some simple, straight-forward tips to help students of any age have a great start to the school year.

Smile! – Smiling helps you seem confident, happy, and approachable. Even if you aren’t 100% there yet, smiling is an easy way to start your road to confidence!

Starting Fresh – There’s something about new school supplies that signals a fresh start to a new school year. Stock up on designs that are visually pleasing to you.

Healthy Start – Give yourself something to look forward to each morning to resist that temptation to hit Snooze repeatedly. Whether it’s meeting friends for breakfast, or a trip for your favorite coffee or smoothie.

Because I’m Happy…. – Celebrate your successes of the week, big or small (getting to school on time, acing that first test, having a class with a friend). This will help you see positive outcomes in the things you do.

Plan Ahead – Figure out special plans for the upcoming weekend. Having something to be excited about will help you move forward throughout the week.

Locker Makeover – Decorate your locker with things you love and that make you happy (pictures of your pet, favorite quotes or song lyrics, pictures of friends).

Tackle the Difficult Stuff First – When work starts piling up, figure out the hardest thing you have to do and tackle it first (while you are most focused). This will also give you a feeling of success and the smaller things you have left to do will be a breeze!

Random Acts of Kindness – Doing nice things for other people not only helps them, but also creates feelings of goodwill within ourselves

Be Inspired – Write inspirational quotes or positive affirmations in all of your notebooks and planner, so when you crack one open you will feel inspired and motivated.

Freestyle (Writing) – Do a quick journaling session each morning or evening to get things off your mind and onto paper. Plus, once everything is written down, you can make sense of what your goals are and what needs to be a priority.

Personal Mantra – Come up with an inspirational keyword or phrase that describes your outlook for the year ahead (mindful, positive, courage, productive, etc). Keep the word or phrase around you in several highly visible places (such as post-its on your mirror, in your notebooks or planner, on your cell phone screen) to remind you to practice that mindset every day.

Embrace the Positive – Accept compliments and practice gratitude by keeping a list of things you are thankful for every day. Remembering the positive can help block out the negative.

You CAN Sit With  Us – Start a weekly tradition with all your friends. It will give you something to look forward to every week, and is a fun way to make memories.

Wear what makes you feel good – Find styles and colors that make you feel good. Notice what you tend to get compliments on, and what you enjoy wearing most.

Cut the Clutter – Go through your bedroom and cut out all the clutter. Find a place for everything, and have everything in its place. When you get rid of stuff you no longer use, and you’re able to find what you need, you’re mind will feel less cluttered too!

Excuses for Not Going to Counseling…and Why You Still Should

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Make progress not excuses

** Please note this post is a copy from my previous blog and was originally posted in May 2014**

At some point in every person’s life they need, and could benefit from, counseling. It’s unavoidable. Just like, at some point, everyone needs to see a doctor. According to this article, less than one-third of individuals who experience psychological distress seek professional help. Most people tend to see counseling as a last resort; considered only after their attempts to handle things on their own have failed. However, according to a Naturalistic Longitudinal Evaluation of Counseling in Primary Care, after patients were provided counseling, there was a “significant reduction in severity of symptoms” for anxiety, depression, self-esteem and quality of life.

If counseling is proven to be successful, and statistics show a widespread need for counseling services, then why are people so resistant to the idea of seeking help?

Social Stigma – “What will others think?”

In regards to seeking counseling services, social stigma can be defined as the fear that others will judge you negatively for seeking help for a problem. Most importantly, the social stigma attached to seeking professional help is one of the most significant barriers to treatment.

Some common fears around seeking counseling include thoughts that others will see them as: awkward, dependent, insecure, sad, and/or unsociable; as having less control over his/her emotions; or as weak or disturbed.

Some evidence suggests people may feel less shame and guilt about seeking help if their symptoms are normalized and they are given an explanation for their symptoms. Most people feel reassured that their problems can improve with treatment.

Misunderstanding of Counseling – “Counseling is for crazy/weak/failures/etc people” 

As I said in my last blog, most people who go to counseling are not suffering from a serious mental disorder. Rather, they are experiencing serious life challenges or are going through a difficult transition period – which are things that every person deals with.

In fact, for many people, one of the values of seeing a counselor is hearing a trained professional tell them they are not crazy. People have a tendency to fear they are alone, and/or that no one has ever had this problem (at least to this degree) – and this is almost never true. Problems, even severe ones, are common to everyone.

Furthermore, it is my personal belief that seeking counseling does not make you weak, but rather strong and courageous. Reaching out for help and being vulnerable is extremely tough. As this researcher says, “Anyone can ignore their own thoughts and feelings, but it takes guts to be honest about them and not back off from what you are really about.”

Those who think they can do it on their own are usually the ones whose problems end up getting worse and reach the end of their rope/hit “rock bottom” before getting help. If you were physically ill, would you wait until you were so sick you needed to go to the hospital instead of going to the Dr? Probably not. Then why wait until you have “hit rock bottom” before going to see a counselor?

Treatment Fears Fear of the unknown

Such fears include: how the counselor will treat you; fear about what the counselor will think about you; fear of being coerced by the counselor.

The goal of counselors is to reduce such concerns by educating potential clients about the therapy process and dispelling inaccurate myths about therapy.

Very often those seeking counseling services do not have a lot of knowledge about counseling and other mental health services. Their perceptions are often based on (often inaccurate) information from media and other sources. Furthermore, people do not often understand the different types of mental health professionals and the services they provide. Therefore, people may be hesitant to seek services due to fears about being medicated, hospitalized, or otherwise controlled. My last blog explains the different types of mental health professionals and the types of services they offer.

Fear of EmotionAvoiding the Problem

Seeking help from a professional often involves strong emotions, and clients may have a fear of experiencing painful emotions – especially in front of others.

Research has shown that reluctance to seek counseling is greater for individuals who are not open about their emotions. Similarly, those who are less skilled at coping with their emotions have generally been found less likely to seek help.

People may believe the counselor will force them to disclose all of their deepest thoughts, feelings, and secrets. However, in reality, the client is in control of what, how much, and when to share information. Even if there are specific issues that need to be discussed in order for the problem to be resolved, and may initially elicit pain, the client is still ultimately in control of the process. Issues that he/she is not ready to talk about will not be forced. Most counselors try to create (and maintain) a safe environment for clients, and any feedback is designed to be respectful and caring.

Utility and Risk  – Reward vs Risk

Utility refers to one’s perceptions about the usefulness (or lack thereof) of seeking counseling services. Obviously, many of  those who do not seek counseling services have lower expectations about the benefits of counseling.

Risk refers to an individual’s perception regarding potential dangers of opening up to another person. These risks may include feeling misunderstood, rejected, judged, or even ignored or minimized.

If the anticipated reward of seeing a counselor does not outweigh the risks, individuals are not likely to seek out services. For many individuals, the perceived risks are great enough that seeking help is seen as a last resort.

It is up to the counselor to accurately inform potential clients of the potential risks and benefits associated with counseling. Benefits of counseling include the development of insight and increased self-awareness – which helps people gain a better understanding of their behavior, feelings, and events. Overall, counseling can lead to improvement in health and well-being; which can translate to increased confidence, productivity, and a greater sense of vitality and peace of mind.

Self Disclosure – “It’s nobody’s business but mine”

Another avoidance factor to seeking counseling services is one’s comfort level in disclosing distressing and/or extremely personal information.

Research has shown that those with a higher tendency to self-conceal were three times less likely to seek therapy when experiencing a problem. Furthermore, those who were not comfortable talking about personal issues with a professional were shown to be five times less likely to seek help.

However, individuals actually often find great relief after discussing a problem with someone else. Although it can be scary, disclosing to others can open the door for people to feel understood and accepted.

I Don’t Need Counseling

First of all, everyone needs counseling at some point in their life (or, most likely, multiple points). Second, if you truly don’t need counseling, then there is nothing to fear from going.

As this author says, “Insisting one does not need it, while refusing to give it a try, is much like saying ‘I can stop drinking anytime I want to – I just don’t want to.’ Yeah right.”

You don’t have to accept living in chaos, being a slave to your thoughts/habits/choices, bad relationships, sadness, fear, blame, etc as the norm. There is something you can do about it. You can lead a better, happier, more satisfying life. And who wouldn’t benefit from that?

I Can’t Afford Counseling

Bottom line, you can’t afford NOT to go to counseling. Furthermore, why put a price on your mental health and wellbeing when you most likely wouldn’t regarding your physical health? If you were sick and needed to go to the Doctor would you accept that you couldn’t afford it, or would you try to find some way to get yourself medical care?

The fact is, counseling IS affordable and it IS worth it. If it means restructuring your budget to include counseling and maybe cutting back on other things, so be it. You are worth it. Your mental health and wellbeing is worth it.

Furthermore, many counselors accept insurance, work on a sliding scale, or do pro bono work. There are also free and/or low-cost services available in community mental health centers.

Some of the excuses listed may seem like valid reasons for not getting counseling. Rember, growth and change are painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t want to be.

When to Seek Counseling and Who to See

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Keep calm and call a counselor

** Please note this post is a copy from my previous blog and was originally posted in May 2014**

Research estimates that 1 in 5 adults and 13-20% of children living in the United States will experience a diagnosable mental health disorder within a given year. Although mental health diagnoses are real, common, and treatable, there still remains a stigma around counseling. Some common concerns people might have are: If I go to a therapist does that mean I am crazy/weak/a failure? What will other people think? What if I am seen coming out of a therapist’s office? Unfortunately, as a result of the stigma of therapy, many people decide not to pursue counseling despite significant stress.

To clarify, most people in counseling do not have a serious mental illness; rather, they are experiencing serious life challenges or are going through a difficult transition period. Examples of life challenges include: experiencing chronic work-related stress and/or career issues; family conflict; and/or academic issues. Examples of difficult life transitions are: death of a family member, friend, or pet; ending a romantic relationship or close friendship; family/couple changes related to the addition of a baby; getting married or divorced; becoming a caregiver due to illness or disability; as well as the decision-making challenges due to those life choices.

The following are signs that it may be beneficial to seek counseling:

In Adults:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears and worries
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Dramatic changes in eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions and/or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance abuse or dependence or other addictions

 

In Adolescents and Young Adults:

  • Substance abuse, dependence, or other addictions
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Significant changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite and/or thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger or sadness

 

In Younger Children and Pre-Adolescents:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

Types of Mental Health Professionals:

Psychiatrist: A medical doctor with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional illnesses. Psychiatrists have the ability to prescribe medication.

 

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist: A medical doctor specifically trained in the diagnosis and treatment of emotional and mental illnesses in children and adolescents

 

Psychologist: A professional with a doctoral degree in psychology and two years of supervised professional experience who is trained to make diagnoses and provide individual and group therapy.

 

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): A counselor with a master’s degree in social work, and is trained to make diagnoses and provide individual and group counseling

 

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC): A counselor with a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or closely related field who is trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.

 

Licensed Marital and Family Therapist (LMFT): A professional with a master’s degree, with special education and training in marital and family therapy, and is trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling

 

Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC): A counselor with specific clinical training in alcohol and drug abuse and can provide individual and group counseling

 

Pastoral Counselor: A member of clergy with training in clinical pastoral education trained to provide individual and group counseling.

The most important thing is to find a knowledgeable professional that is the best fit for you and your therapeutic needs. It is a good idea to call several professionals and ask questions about their education, experience, and approach to counseling before picking the best fit for you.

Ultimately, counseling is an investment in your emotional, mental, and physical health and wellness.

If you decide to seek out counseling, some good resources to find a counselor are by asking your primary care physician, school counselors or counseling centers, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Human Resources (HR) department, your insurance provider, or Psychology Today.

Time Management

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Time Management

** Please note this post is a copy from my previous blog and was originally posted in April 2014**

Time – is there ever enough of it? In today’s society especially it seems like the answer is a big “no!!” The more we try to cram into our day, the more overwhelmed we feel. The more overwhelmed we feel, the more likely we are to feel anxious. Furthermore, if we have too many things to do and not enough time to do them, it can lead to a lack of self care and illness; not to mention feelings of frustration or not feeling productive or accomplished. Therefore, good time management skills are essential in coping with pressures from life without experiencing too much stress.
Good time management does not necessarily mean doing more work. It means focusing on the tasks that are meaningful and will make a difference. Whether it’s in your job or your lifestyle as a whole, learning how to manage your time effectively will help you feel more relaxed, focused and in control.
Some suggestions for better time management are discussed below.
 
Track how you are spending your time – Try taking a day, or a few, to record how much time is spent doing each activity. You may be surprised at how much time certain activities (ahem Pinterest) take up each day. Once you figure out how your time is really being spent, it will be easier to prioritize what really matters and minimize or cut out what does not.
Minimize Distractions – Find out what your main distractions are, and find a way to minimize them or cut them out completely. Whether it’s talking on the phone or with colleagues, playing on your phone, online shopping (guilty), or social media. The author of this blog says that she charges her laptop at night and will then only use a battery’s worth during the day. She states her battery has about 2 hours of life, so she gets 2 hours a day to get all of her work on the computer done. If you need more time than this but find that the internet is a distraction, try disconnecting from your wi-fi.
Goals – Consider who you want to be and what you want to accomplish in your career and/or personal life. This will be the guiding principle for how you spend your time, and also how you manage it. Once you have a big picture planned, it will be easier to create short term goals. Having goals will help you plan more effectively and stay focused on the things that will help you achieve your goals
 
Make a To-Do List and Prioritize – A common time management mistake is getting lost in the details, which can lead to information overload. Try keeping a single list to keep track of what needs to be done instead of attempting to keep up with multiple lists.
One way to prioritize tasks is by breaking them into these four categories:
(1) Urgent and important
(2) Not urgent but important
(3) Urgent but not important
(4) Neither urgent nor important
This pin does a good job of explaining and breaking down those four categories.
By learning to manage time better, the ultimate goal is to reduce the number of urgent and important tasks. Having to deal with too many of those types of tasks can be stressful.
Practice the 4 D’s when it comes to managing email inbox:
(1) Delete: Determine which emails can be deleted immediately
(2) Do: If the email is urgent or can be taken care of quickly
(3) Delegate: If the email can be better dealt with by someone else
(4) Defer: Set aside time at a later date to spend on emails that require longer time span
Create a Calendar and Set Reminders – Keeping everything in one place and having a visual aide helps determine what fits in your schedule and where. Setting reminders in your phone can help you not forget anything. Even the simple things such as switching laundry over or taking a break can be set in your phone as reminders.
          Create routines – Try to create habits and stick to them. Schedule activities like checking email, going to the gym, cleaning, etc and stick to them for continuity in schedule.
Get Organized – Have a system for cleaning, meal planning, decluttering, etc. Having a system and staying organized helps prevent wasting copious amounts of time looking for things, cleaning, decluttering, and organizing projects.
Having a cleaning schedule can look different for each person, so determine what works best for you and your schedule. This could look like cleaning for 20-30 minutes p day (set a timer), having a “chore of the day” such as laundry, or cleaning 1 room p day. Also try to have things you do daily to cut back on major cleaning sprees such as cleaning up as you cook, picking up clutter left behind each day, putting clothes away every day, etc.
Menu planning can help save time so you don’t have to waste time figuring out what to make each day and night, making multiple trips to the store, and so on. Setting aside a day for menu planning, grocery shopping, and maybe even food prepping (if you are so inclined) can save a lot of time during the week.
Take Breaks – This may seem counterintuitive when attempting to manage time, but can lead to more productivity, more energy, and higher levels of creativity. A break is an opportunity to relax and think of something other than work — so don’t spend your breaks working or thinking about work! When planning your day, plan for breaks. See this pin for 50 ways to take a break if you are feeling stumped about things you can do to unwind and relax.
Self-Care – This is another blog topic in and of itself, but very briefly self-care can be broken into categories such as: Mind, Body and Spirit or Physical self care, Lifestyle, Emotional and Mental Self Care, Spiritual, People who offer Support. Figure out ways you can practice self-care in each of these categories. If you are struggling coming up with ideas, the internet is full of ideas. Or, a counselor can help you come up with a self-care map. Seeing a counselor is actually a form of self-care itself!
Other Tips:
Wake up earlier: As long as you are getting in your required amount of sleep, try getting up an hour earlier – when it’s still quiet and there are fewer distractions. You will also start off your day feeling accomplished and productive instead of rushed and frazzled.
Don’t Multitask: Our brains are not wired to do too many things at once. We can work nearly twice as fast if we concentrate on doing one thing at a time.
Learn to say no: Don’t stretch yourself too thin. Learning to say no – to going out for drinks when you are tired, extra projects when you are already too busy – helps keep us focused and prevents being overwhelmed. See this post for 25 creative ways to say no, or this printable for legit helpful phrases for learning to say no.
** As a side note, all of these suggestions are great in theory. However, you have to put them into practice for them to work. Simply thinking about them does not do you any good — trust me…So, take some time to consider which of the above will work for you and make the effort to implement them into your lifestyle.

Cultivating Happiness

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Happy

** Please note this post is a copy from my previous blog and was originally posted in March 2014**

After hearing about an interesting article from my mother-in-law and having a discussion about it over dinner, it got me thinking about how I could apply some of the tips and concepts to my own life. Dr. Michael Finkelstein’s suggestions for cultivating happiness are a good starting point for helping individuals achieve a sense of well being and enjoy life more – and aren’t we all in need of that?

(1) Follow Your Own Advice: The article on Huffington post encourages readers to recognize that each of us are responsible for our own self-care and wellness. It says, “Recognize that no one is in a better position to take care of you than yourself.” It is likely that you have given friends and loved ones advice; it is also likely that you have given them advice that you do not take the take time or effort to follow yourself. For example, I don’t know how many friends and clients I have encouraged to carve time out of their schedule for self-care – such as exercising, sleeping more, practice better eating habits, etc. However, I find that taking time for self-care is an area I struggle with myself. Therefore, learning to take my own advice and treat myself as I would treat a friend could lead to better wellness and more happiness in my own life.

(2) Exert Self-Control: This tip talks about exerting self-control in order to resist engaging in a bad habit (i.e. smoking, drinking too much, eating junk food often, etc). The success will make you feel proud and may help motivate you in the future.

Another suggestion would be to practice moderation rather than complete abstinence – depending on what the “bad habit” is. Sometimes complete deprivation can lead to giving up on a goal or over-imbibing.

(3) Forgive Yourself for a Mistake: Mistakes are going to happen. Instead of only focusing on the negative and what went wrong, try to also recognize something positive that resulted from the mistake as well. Or, find something that you learned as a result of making the mistake.

(4) Reconsider Your Needs: Here, the article suggests identifying something you own that is not expensive (i.e. a picture of a loved one, a handwritten note) but still means a lot to you personally. The goal is to find the value in inexpensive things in order to help re-evaluate priorities and find out what is personally meaningful to you.

Another idea is to practice gratitude on a regular basis. One way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal and write down a couple of things you are thankful for every day. This helps us find something positive and good in every day and also allows us to be reminded of what we are thankful for on a regular basis.

(5) Celebrate Your Age: The article suggests rejoicing in the time you have ahead of you instead of only reminiscing on the time that has already gone by. Celebrate your life experiences and how they have helped develop your character.

(6) Learn Something From Your Children: The basis of this suggestion is to release the fear that is often attached to our boundaries as adults and experience the world through a child’s eyes. Express curiosity and wonderment and take enjoyment in simple pleasures.

(7) Defy Your Schedule: Here, the article suggests planning one day in your week where you commit to rising and going to bed with the sun in order to keep your body in tune with natural rhythms. A lot of readers (including me) are probably saying, “uh, yeah right.” I hear ya.

My suggestion would be to practice better sleeping habits every day (or most days) of the week instead. Try to get the hours that you require (everyone is different), and don’t put yourself in a “sleep debt” you try to make up for on holidays or the weekends.

(8) Welcome the Unknown: Throw out the fear attached to change. Or, more accurately, the fear of the unknown. Embrace what will be, and don’t try to plan for everything – it won’t work anyway…trust me. Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back from some potentially great experiences.

(9) Thank Someone for Something: And the concept of gratitude, or being thankful, resurfaces again. Same concept as before – thinking of things you are grateful for and appreciative of helps you realize and appreciate what you have.

Another suggestion is to pay it forward. Meaning, do a good deed and help someone else out. Not only will you be paying someone else a kindness, but you will feel good about your actions too.

(10) Commend Yourself for a Job Well Done: It is important to recognize our own achievements and accomplishments. Furthermore, it helps motivate us to move forward.

Some questions for further reflection:

Which of these do you agree or identify with? Are there any you don’t agree with? Finally, what are some things that may not be on the list?

You can read the original article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/07/10-skillful-living-tips-t_n_3315252.html

Basics of Addiction

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Addiction** Please note this post is a copy from my previous blog and was originally posted in Feb 2014**

  • The United States accounts for only 5% of the world’s population; however, two-thirds of illegal drugs are consumed in America
  • More than half of American adults have a close family member who has, or has had, alcoholism
  • 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S. can be contributed to alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drug use
  • According to The National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse at Columbia University, over 80% of those incarcerated in adult and juvenile penal institutions were there directly or indirectly as a result of addiction.

The “basic” definition of addiction in the Dictionary is: “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” The more technical definition comes from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM): “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”

I think it is a fair assumption to make that, although addiction has become an epidemic, no one sets out or plans to become an addict. As Dan Mager, MSW, states in his blog: “Using substances and activities to change the way we fell often begins as a vacation and turns into a kidnapping, with a compelling case of Stockholm Syndrome.”

Addiction as a disease. Although the decision to use substances, drink, or act out in other addictive behaviors (i.e. gambling, eating, sex) is initially a choice, an individual progressively loses the ability to control the addiction. The ability to make conscious decisions decreases as the unconscious influence of the “reward system” in the primal survival-based midbrain overrides the more evolved prefrontal cortex. At a certain point in the addiction cycle, the substance or addictive behavior become equated with survival – like water or food.

Addiction is a brain disease that literally changes the brain’s structure and functioning. Brain imaging studies have shown that addicts experience physical changes in areas of the brain that involve judgement, decision-making, learning, memory, and behavior control. These changes help explain the obsessive thinking, compulsive actions, and inability to delay gratification that addicts struggle with.

With treatment and recovery, the addict’s brain has the ability to heal and rebuild connections that were altered during the addictive cycle. However, the unconscious learned responses of addiction are strong enough to remain operative even years after abstinence. Therefore, memory tracks tend to pull people back into experiences and behaviors they are comfortable with, making recovery an ongoing, life-long process that is more of a winding road than a straight one with no slip-ups or relapses.

Genetic Factors. According to ASAM, genetics account for about half of the likelihood that someone will develop addiction. Environmental factors will interact with an individual’s biology and affect which genetic factors are exerted. Resiliencies that individuals acquire (through parenting or other life experiences) can affect the extent to which genetic predispositions lead to addiction. Culture also plays a role.

Other Factors that contribute to addiction include:

  • Cognitive and affective distortions, which impair one’s perceptions and affect one’s ability to cope with feelings
  • Lack of healthy social support and problems in interpersonal relationships
  • Exposure to trauma or stressors that overwhelm one’s ability to cope
  • Distortion in meaning, purpose, and values that guide one’s attitude, thinking and behavior
  • Distortions in a person’s connection with self, others, and a Higher Power
  • Presence of a co-occurring psychiatric disorder

Characteristics of Addiction. The ABC(DE)’s of addiction

  • Inability to consistently Abstain
  • Impairment in Behavioral control
  • Cravings
  • Diminished recognition of the significant problems their behaviors are causing
  • A dysfunctional Emotional response

More than a behavioral disorder. According to ASAM, features of addiction include one’s behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and interactions with others. This includes one’s ability to relate to family, community, their own psychological state, and a Higher Power.

Addiction as a family disease. Addiction does not just impact the individual struggling with it. Addiction impacts the whole family and other support systems. The family’s ability to function in healthy ways is changed as the family adapts to the addict’s behavior. As the addict’s condition worsens, so does that of the family. The addict is not the only one who benefits from treatment; family members should seek out their own therapeutic services and support as well.

Treatment. Due to the complex nature of addiction, and often the co-occurring psychiatric issues, finding a quality treatment program is so important. The “right type” of program for one person may not be the “right” program for another. Individualized treatment is so important when it comes to addiction because there is no “one size fits all” path to addiction or treatment. Also, getting to the root of the addiction, rather than just treating the behavior of using an addictive substance or behavior, is extremely important as well. Using an addictive substance or behavior is just a symptom of an underlying problem(s).

Resources.

Substance Abuse

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

American Society of Addiction Medicine

Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

National Association of Treatment Providers (NAATP)

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

 

Eating Disorders

ED Referral.com

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)

The Elisa Project

 

Sex Addiction

Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)

Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA)

 

Gambling

Gamblers Anonymous

 

Family Support

Al-Anon

Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA)

Families Anonymous

Under Pressure, Part 3: Importance of Developing a Routine

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we are what we repeatedly do

** Please note this post is a copy from my previous blog and was originally posted in Feb 2014**

There is evidence that routines increase consistency of an athlete’s thinking, feelings, and pre-sport behavior. Therefore, routines produce more consistent behavior in sports. Hence, better results. Although there is evidence that routines work, many athletes resist developing one. Coaches can be a great help to athletes in getting past that initial resistance and make a good argument for change. Coaches help athletes begin to develop the foundation for great performances. Although it can take a lot of effort by coaches to encourage their athletes to develop new routines, the cost of not doing so can be even higher; coaches can actually end up using more energy if they don’t help develop routines. An initial investment of time and energy can create a better return in the future. If a coach assists in developing a good routine, the athlete will then develop good habits, and the habits make the athlete great in competition. John Dryden said, “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”
Routines can go anywhere and adapt to any situation. A routine can make even the most different sport environment seem familiar and comfortable. This holds a lot of importance when the environment can be full of distractions. For example, think of how many distractions the Olympic games must hold. A routine can help an athlete normalize that environment and feel comfortable and familiar in even the most unfamiliar of surroundings.
Routines can also help keep athletes focused. One of the worst things to do in a high pressure situation is to stop and overanalyze it. A routine keeps an athlete engaged, on schedule, and focused on productive thoughts. Routines that take care of all the minor things that an athlete requires to get ready can free up space in the brain to focus on the important things at hand. Furthermore, having a routine eliminates unnecessary decision making that leads to unnecessary worrying. Decisions about simple things can become blown out of proportion and lead to wasting valuable time worrying about such things like which equipment to bring.
Parts of my routine when preparing for horse shows included having all my tack (equipment) cleaned, packed, and ready to go days prior to the show starting; having my outfits picked out for each day and/or class prior to leaving for the show; scheduled times for eating; memorizing, reciting, and air-drawing courses prior to entering the ring; and more.
One of the times I deviated from my routine was probably at one of the most inopportune moments. I was at an Oklahoma GO Show (an “A” rated show) competing in jumpers (rather than hunters) for the first time, and I chose to talk with friends rather than spend more time memorizing courses – even though I was not used to the longer and more complicated jumper rounds. It was the first time (that I can remember, anyway) that I almost went off course. Luckily, I knew I was leaving out a jump – that happened to be right in front of me, and, coincidentally also in front of my trainer. I managed to jump the fence (at an awkward angle), but I still clearly remember * Britt’s * reaction. He said I was “so busted” and made me hand draw all of my courses for the rest of the show. The result? Reserve champion of my division. After that, you can bet I made sure I was focused on sticking with my routine of memorizing my courses.
Going through a routine can also be a great asset in enhancing an athlete’s feelings of control and confidence. It is a great reminder that they have done this thousands of times. For skilled athletes, many movements become automatic. When athletes under pressure don’t perform well, they may be putting too much thought into the movement rather than relying on what they know. Rumination (over-thinking) can interfere with concentration and performance of motor tasks.
New research by the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that some athletes may improve their performance in high pressure situations by simply squeezing a ball or clenching their left hand before competition in order to activate certain parts of the brain. Previous research has shown that rumination is associated with the brain’s left hemisphere, while the right hemisphere is associated with higher performance in automatic behaviors. The researchers hypothesized that squeezing a ball or clenching the left hand would activate the right hemisphere of the brain; therefore lowering the risk of rumination (associated with left hemisphere).
Therefore, although it may initially take more time and require change, developing a routine can have numerous payoffs when it counts the most.

** My trainer was Britt McCormick of the wonderful Elmstead Farm in Parker, TX. **