It happens every Christmas. The 25th rolls up and there you are on Christmas Day, disappointed. Quietly watching everyone hurriedly unwrap a gift and then moving on quickly to the next one, barely taking a breath. Guilt washes over you as you silently think,
“Oh, I forgot to get that done”.
“Oops, Christmas is now over and we never got around to taking care of that person”.
It’s an empty feeling of reflection, so how can this year be different?
1) Burn Down the Calendar! A big headache for families is making every single thing you are invited to. Granted big family events can be awkward to miss, but attitude is everything. What if you decided to narrow down which events actually give you joy? Is it sending out cards while listening to Christmas music? Is it making cookies (maybe you can cut down this year)? Is it doing a drive-by of the neighborhood with good holiday lights? Prioritize the good stuff. Tradition is good but killing yourself to make every party doesn’t make for a “nice Karen”. Sit down with your spouse and decide together (if they are on board). It can cut out the drama later if you mutually decide to only go for an hour to Aunt Harriet’s Annual White Elephant of Guilt Party instead of the typical three.
2) Buy Wisely! Do the kids really want 50 things that you will have to throw away by March when they aren’t looking? Experiences create memories and actually spending time with your family (young, teens or adults) will bring you and them some joy! When we go back through the photo albums, it’s not the cheap stuff from China that impressed them, it was the time you went as a family on that hike and the lunch in that little town that they remember.
3) Drown the Phone! That’s right, pitch it into a lake. Kidding, you can’t do that. But you can prioritize the time you do have by setting boundaries on screens. That means everyone puts their devices in the kitchen in a drawer during dinner. It means as a family everyone watches the same Christmas Classic, not three Netflix movies streaming simultaneously. It won’t hurt them or you to turn off notifications on your phone and actually look into your spouse or children’s eyes for a change. Come on, it’s Christmas!
4) Write a Gratitude List! Every year have the family write down things they are thankful for and put it in the ornament box. Next year when you hang the ornaments, you have something to read! You’d be surprised when you start to see the progress your family has made. Make it a new Christmas Tradition! “The reading of the gratitude lists!”
While some seem to prefer a little isolation, it’s actually not good for you!
Loneliness Linked to Health Concerns
Loneliness has been linked to dozens of different health concerns, from heart problems to lowered immunity, to diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Did you know that lonely people have an immune system that works differently from people who have a sense of connection? It’s true!
Sadly, over the past 50 years, the share of U.S. households consisting of one person has more than doubled. A recent Cigna survey revealed that nearly half of Americans always or sometimes feel alone (46%) or left out (47%). Fully 54% said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well.
Social Media to Blame?
Unfortunately, your social media feed may be in part to blame for that increase in loneliness. Phones, tablets, and other wireless technology are all designed to keep us connected, but they may instead be working to keep us apart.
If you use your phone while sitting down at a family dinner, or to fill time when you could be socializing with friends and family, you are losing opportunities to build the relationships you need in order to combat loneliness. Why have a conversation with someone on social media who is a mere acquaintance versus the live human right in front of you?
Social media can also make you feel more lonely than ever, by seeing ‘carefully curated snapshots’ of other people’s lives. What looks like a perfect life to you just doesn’t cover the moment after that perfect shot on the beach when the baby started eating sand, the seagulls started eating your picnic, and the toddler decided to remove all his clothing and go for a walk.
When you see only the good moments and none of the bad, it may seem like everyone else has a better life than you. You might ‘like’ their moment, but at the same time you feel worse about yourself.
Social media has a secondary drawback of making it so you don’t have to socialize. Instead of calling your friend and letting them know you’re thinking about them, you can just send them a text or ‘like’ their picture and boom, socializing done for the day. Is that all humans are worth these days? A click?
Take Back Your Life
This false sense of socializing has come at a penalty—a distinct jump in loneliness among all age groups after cellphones became mainstream in 2010. Fortunately, there are ways to beat it. If you’re feeling lonely, there are ways you can take back your life, without having to completely give up your technology. Here are a few ways you can reach out and get real, powerful, connection with other humans.
Helping another human being will not only make you feel better about yourself, it’ll also make the world a better place. Whether you choose to visit a nursing home and bring some smiles or take food to the homeless, hanging out with real people joined together in the same cause.
Phones and computers are meant to keep us connected, but they shouldn’t be used at the expense of keeping us apart. When you’re at dinner with your family, turn your phone off. When you’re hanging out with friends, even if you’re just chatting, don’t divide your attention between them and your phone. Make an effort. Check out Simon Sinek’s video of how it interrupts real life.
If your friends are just a few miles away, don’t just shoot them a text and leave it at that. Invite them for coffee, or ask when you can stop by. That face to face time will do you more good than 30 minutes of scrolling on Facebook will ever do! Ouch almost feels painful to say that, because it’s true.
Loneliness and Technology – Just Take a Break
Phones and computers are a vital part of our world, but they come at a price. If you feel like you’re getting addicted to your phone, you may need to take a media break and fast from technology for a few days. Once you’ve gotten over the withdrawals, you might discover you don’t miss it as much as you thought.
All of the studies about loneliness show that it’s worth the effort to combat it. Human connection can never be replaced with a glass screen.
More questions? Reach out for help.
4 Ways Neuroscience Can Help You Regain Control
Our brains are complex organs. Within it are all our thoughts, emotions, and worries. Yet even though we like to think of ourselves in control, sometimes our emotions get the better of us and we react without thinking. If you have ever found yourself struggling with emotion, here are 4 tips neuroscientists use to help master our brains from the chemicals up.
Combat worry with gratitude.
Have you ever stayed up all night worrying over an embarrassing moment, a disagreement with a neighbor, or that speeding ticket you got? Worrying is incredibly stressful, and sometimes we just can’t help working things over for hours. If worry is getting the better of you, fight back with gratitude.
While gratitude and worry don’t seem to have any connections, chemically they do. No matter how unpleasant worrying might seem, it actually lights up the reward centers in your brain. It feels good to worry because even if it’s a problem you can’t do anything about, worrying is “doing something.”
Worrying is not an active function of working on your problems, even if it feels like it.
The good news is that gratitude also lights up the reward center of your brain, and floods your mind with dopamine, which is also an anti-depressant.
So the next time you find yourself worrying, take a moment to count the things you are grateful for, and fight back a little against worry.
Try an Attitude of Gratitude
Feeling sad? Fight back by labeling your emotions.
We’ve all had a bad day where everything seems to go wrong. It seems like you can hardly catch your breath before the next painful emotion rocks you. What do you do when you feel this way? Name the emotions. Sadness, grief, anger, what ever it is you are feeling, label those emotions.
The reason you label them is that when our emotions are in full control, we feel them far more painfully. The emotion center of our brain is in full control. When we label them, it forces the language side of our brain to light up, reducing the signal to the emotional side.
Stunningly, you’ll be less mad if you actually identify your anger as anger.
Perfectionist tendencies? Aim for middle of the road decisions.
Being a perfectionist has its advantages, but perfectionism can trip you up when you don’t know what the right decision is.
When you make a decision that’s “good enough” rather than perfect, you’ll be more likely to succeed and a lot less stressed. Good enough is usually good enough for everyone, and it makes us happier because we made a decision.
Need to reduce stress? Have a snuggle.
Humans are social creatures. Even the most introverted person still enjoys the company of others sometimes. If you’re stressed, hugging or touching family and friends can make you feel better. If you’re in pain, gentle touch can make you feel less pain. Touch is healing, and we should all do more of it.
These four hacks really work, and are backed by neuroscience. The next time you’re in one of these dilemmas, try these tricks to control your emotions. Or reach out for more help.
Why the Holidays Stir Such Deep and Troubling Emotions
The holidays are a magical time of year. It is a time for family and friends to get together, and spend time simply appreciating the fact that these special people are in their lives. For most people, the holiday season is something they look forward to for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, for those who have suffered a loss during the holiday season, or those who don’t especially look forward to meeting that one special family member, the holiday season is actually a time of dread.
Everyone deals with this in their own manner, but if you’re one of those people who are struggling to find out what that method of handling the holidays work for you, here are a few tips to help you beat holiday stress.
Know what you can handle, and also what you can’t
When we dread a holiday, it is often for a very good reason. If it’s your first Christmas without a mother, a father, a daughter or son, facing the holiday can seem impossible. It’s okay to skip family traditions if they are too painful, or to move things around to help ease memories. Sometimes, a gift to the person who has died can help ease the pain. If they were an unabashed animal lover, donating to the animal shelter in her honor can be a way of remembering them during the holiday.
If a family member has consistently ruined every family gathering for years, don’t invite them. It’s okay to not deal with someone if they make everyone else miserable, and that goes for whether you are recovering from a loss or have simply come to realize that this one person is why no one wants to get together for Thanksgiving.
Last of all, if it is the stress of holiday shopping or putting together the feast that gets you stressed—consider opting out of these things. You can ask someone else to host, get a relative to help you do gift shopping for kids, or if kids are not involved make it clear you don’t plan to do a gift exchange this year.
Beat holiday stress – take time for yourself
The giving season is about thinking of others, however many times it feels like you give all you have and then greedy people demand even more. It’s okay to take time out to rest, reset your mind, or simply to enjoy the season in your own way. It’s not selfish to take a mental health day, even if that day is close to the holidays. You are important too, and the season will be less festive for everyone if you are miserable.
If it’s the loss of someone making you feel pain, seeing a therapist during this time can be very beneficial. Grief can be a very hard emotion to work through, and sometimes we need a little help to get through it happy and healthy.
The holidays are a happy time of year. Take steps to beat holiday stress. Make sure both you and your family have a happy holiday season —even if that takes making changes to enjoy the season.
Facts about the Opioid Problem in Atlanta
If you haven’t heard about the heroin and opioid crisis in your subdivision or neighborhood yet, then consider yourself lucky. It’s everywhere and it’s spreading.
In 2015, heroin and opioid drugs killed more people in counties inside ‘The Triangle’ than murders and car accidents combined in 2015. That is a statistic you can’t look away from. Overall in the past 7 years, heroin-related deaths have gone up almost 4000% in Fulton, Dekalb, Cobb and Gwinnett Counties. Death it seems has come to the burbs and most of these deaths occurred in Atlanta’s northern wealthy suburbs.
“Ninety percent of the people who initiate heroin use are white males between the ages of 18 and 25,” says Kevin Baldwin, an author of a new study focused on the opioid problem in Atlanta. “In more affluent areas, people are starting [even] younger.”
Sadly for many families of these new addicts, they were regular kids from average families with no obvious clues that they were at risk for addiction. Growing up they were teenagers engaged in community and sports but somehow, someway opioids were introduced and everything changed. Don’t be fooled, these drugs aren’t like the ones in the 1970s that we remember. The increased quality and strength of these latest drugs make addiction (or sadly even death) after one use easily possible. Regular kids can become addicts overnight.
Locally 11Alive and AJC have covered the problem:
How Did It Begin?
Purdue Frederick the makers of Oxycontin, an opioid prescribed drug for pain came onto the market in 1996. They did a huge campaign getting the word out at pain conferences. Their next step was a reward system that gave doctors a $3K bonus for successfully sharing their stories. And it just kept growing from there.
Doctors have always known that certain pain medications were addictive, however, there were strict limits on who was allowed to receive them, for example only terminal cancer patients were recipients at one time. But the makers of these opioids (Oxy) insisted this was different. By the year 2000, 70,000 physicians were on board prescribing it. No longer was it illegal to help people with their “pain”.
By 2011, addiction specialists were trying to fight the cresting tide. It was too late.
Within the next several years, the cost of prescription painkillers would reach $18 billion annually in the US. There would be 92,000 opioid poisoning visits to hospital emergency rooms at a national cost of about $1.4 billion, and nearly 19,000 overdose deaths.
The facts started to come in. A study in the UK showed that people were worse off after 6 months of being on Oxycontin. Similar studies in other countries showed the same. Opioids are addictive because it retrains the brain the threshold of happiness to where you only feel normal being on it. And to go off of it makes you depressed. From there the gateway to heroin is simple.
Fact: Those addicted to prescription opiates like oxycodone are 40 times more likely to develop a heroin abuse problem. Oxycodone is a pain-relieving drug that is prescribed frequently to address moderate to severe pain.
The Good News
Today every doctor in Georgia must get training on proper prescribing of opioids under a rule approved very recently by the Georgia Composite Medical Board.
I would actually say if there is any addiction in your background, to absolutely refuse going on an opioid, even under a hospital situation. Once your body is on it, it’s so hard to get off. It’s not worth it.
Colleges are a new breeding ground for potential addicts.
The deadly opioid epidemic sweeping the country has largely spared college campuses, but drug abuse experts warn administrators they should be paying closer attention.
“This is a time when young adults have more access to substances than ever before and have more economic leverage and legal protections,” said Dr. Joseph Lee, medical director for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Youth Continuum in Minnesota.
Want to learn more about the opioid problem in Atlanta? Coming up in Woodstock is an open forum on Monday October 2nd addressing the growing problem in Cherokee County.
Thanks for reading. If opioids has affected you or your families life and you are looking for counseling in Roswell, GA please contact me.
Which came first? The insomnia or the depression?
There has now been an established link between insomnia and depression! A comorbidity between not sleeping and mental issues. Recent evidence suggests that people with insomnia have a ten-fold risk of developing depression compared with those who sleep well. In other words, there is a close relationship between insomnia, depression, and anxiety.
Looking for a Roswell Therapist?
“About three-quarters of depressed patients have insomnia symptoms, and hypersomnia is present in about 40% of depressed young adults and 10% of older patients, with a preponderance of females. The symptoms cause huge distress, have a major impact on quality of life, and are a strong risk factor for suicide. As well as the subjective experience of sleep symptoms, there are well-documented changes in objective sleep architecture in depression. Mechanisms of sleep regulation and how they might be disturbed in depression are discussed. The sleep symptoms are often unresolved by treatment and confer a greater risk of relapse and recurrence. Epidemiological studies have pointed out that insomnia in nondepressed subjects is a risk factor for later development of depression. There is, therefore, a need for more successful management of sleep disturbance in depression, to improve the quality of life in these patients and reduce an important factor in depressive relapse and recurrence.”
Recognize the Signs
A need for successful management of sleep disturbance is a solution and awareness is the first step.
The symptons of poor sleep include the following:
- Waking up tired
- More easily frustrated on projects
- Less patient with others
- Slower reflexes
- Lower creativity
The benefits of a good sleep (in addition to improved mental health) are:
- Waking up refreshed
- More patience with others and ourselves
- Ability to focus for longer periods of time
“The battle is won the night before.”
- Don’t get beat up if you don’t go to bed early. Try again the next day.
- See if you can do two nights in a row going to bed at a reasonable time. Then shoot for three nights.
- Turn off screens at least an hour before bed. Get into your pajamas, make some tea. Get some good books to read in bed as you wind down.
- Stay away from caffeine after 5. (this includes sweet tea, my southern friends!)
- Reward yourself for recovery. Give yourself a treat as a goal (as long as it’s not a late night watching of a program).
“A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”
Staying awake at night can be like a drug, an addiction, which creates a circle for issues like depression. Some clients feel bad focusing on themselves instead of their loves ones, I encourage them not to feel guilty about addressing their needs. Self-care is a form of self-love, and the better we love ourselves, the better we can even help others.
Does Love Last?
Working as a national and local marriage counselor in Roswell, I get a lot of clients who ask this very question:
“Can we save our love? Does love last?”
The first thing we do before going any further is to seek to understand what they believe love is. Let’s make sure both parties are using the same deck of cards.
In Greek culture, love was defined into four categories or types, Eros, Phileo, Agape and Storge. The most common love portrayed in culture and media is Eros love. That is the ‘romantic love.’ It’s that love that feels like butterflies in your stomach when you see your “crush” walk into a room. It’s the love that can cause us to do strange or foolish things.
Eros Love ?
At first in dating, most love is Eros. It’s the sensual based neurological feelings in the brain. The technical name for this stage is limerance. Limerence is the natural, involuntary part of being in love with another person; many call it the honeymoon phase. This hormonal time has been studied and researched to last 6-24 months maximum.
After this what are you left with?
If you only think love is a feeling what happens when it’s dried up? Sadly this is how affairs begin. They don’t know about the next phase.
Agape Love !
The next stage of the love cycle, which we call ‘Agape love.’ when loyalty and admiration needs to be shared. Agape love is different because it’s unconditional and transcends all barriers.
“The essence of Agape love is goodwill, benevolence, and willful delight in the object of love.”
Do you admire your partner? Do you show them gratitude?
Awareness that love has moved into a second stage is eye opening for many couples; honestly, it’s not at all like what we see in the movies.
Cultivating these new attitudes will help your marriage last.
Try saying, “I am grateful that you did ______ this week”.
“You look _______ today”. It’s little gifts you are depositing into their love ATM.
Sadly, many people don’t go this route. Instead, they allow themselves to be controlled by their emotions. John Gottman, a nationally recognized clinical researcher of the attributes of love, finds ‘contempt, criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling,’ otherwise known as the ‘four horsemen of love’s apocalypse’ can set in at this time. He calls these attitudes the death toll of love.
What can you do today, to cultivate an atmosphere of Agape love with your spouse?
It’s a daily decision, and if you ask me, 100% worth it.
The Holiday Blues
No it’s not a song on Bruce Springsteen’s latest album. It’s an issue millions of people struggle with.
Did you know 2/3 of women report they are depressed around the holidays? (NWHRC Study)
I think this is due in part to expectations and internalizing that they are not meeting them. Every year women think, “this year, I will get it all done”. But then so quickly December 25th sneaks up and the time has passed. Part of getting out of this rut is giving yourself …
Grace to get up and try again.
Grace to say, “I can’t do it anything and it’s going to be okay” or grace to say, “ I will do a little bit and accept that it is enough”.
Grace that Christmas isn’t about looking “perfect” or acting “perfect” on social media.
Grace that Christmas is only about love.
And sharing love, even in small doses.
You would be surprised how good you will feel if you made 3 people smile today. Try it!
This is especially true if you know someone who suffers from depression, it isn’t necessarily your job to make them happy, but acknowledging that they matter and sharing a little encouragement can go a long way.
A solution to turning your holiday blues around is to not spend the entire time isolated if this is your struggle.
“Social isolation is one of the biggest predictors of depression, especially during the holidays. … People who have feelings of disconnectedness often avoid social interactions at holiday time. Unfortunately, withdrawing often makes the feelings of loneliness and symptoms of depression worse.“
Small doses of getting out and participating can give you a sense of accomplishment. Driving by some lights or attending a candle light service is enough.
Find some joy this holiday by giving joy. And if you can’t give joy because of where you are at…
It’s going to be okay.
Steve Brand, Roswell Therapist
As If Politics Will Make Us Happy
I get it. It’s hard. Every where you look, social media, the news, friends conversations are all holding out their hands to you, inviting you to join in the discussion of politics.
It’s sad really. It’s like the universe is walking around with a big marker and drawing imaginary lines everywhere.
But do we have to accept it?
What is the true price for picking a side?
The Spirit of This Age
Recently, John Elderedge wrote a post about the “Spirit of this Age”.
“Human beings are ravenous. A famished craving for life haunts every person. We crave fullness; it is our design. We were created for unceasing happiness, and joy, and life. But ever since we lost Eden, we have never known a day of total fullness. We are never filled in any lasting way. Human beings are like cut flowers—we appear to be well, but we are cut off from the Vine. And we are ravenous.”
People try to fill this hole with many things – politics, alcohol, relationships, self.
It’s a never filling hole.
Remarkably, you keep adding to it, thinking it will be better because you fed it.
But in fact, you wake up the next morning feeling guilty as ever.
John Elderedge elaborates that this dark hole is vicious,
“Spirits of Hatred, Violation and Violence have been released on the earth here in these last days. Paris, Brussels, Orlando, Dallas—how much more proof do we need? Hatred, Violation and Violence are sweeping the earth—and they find massive opportunity in humanity’s current condition. Someone (remember they are ravenous) feels violated; the spirit of Violation jumps all over it, and inflames it like gasoline on fire. Hatred joins in (like sharks smelling blood in the water); they feel hatred—they want to retaliate with a murderous rage. Thus Violence.”
Violence and danger lurks deep inside the human soul, ready to be flicked on.
They are emotions that lie to us, that tell us, if we let it out, we will feel better, we will feel more powerful.
But we don’t.
We feel ashamed and then we do it again, because the darkness is familiar. Sadly, the better way requires more of us. It requires us to not jump in.
To not wallow in the waters of “I must justify this, today, with my words, with my response”.
Jesus would not call us to fight anger with anger.
Jesus would not call us to respond to victims with swords nor blind eyes.
Jesus would call us to respond with one simple thing.
Love them anyways. They are mean? Love them. They are wrong? Love them.
Love conquers more than any well-written Facebook post.
Love conquers more than any gas tossing Molotov cocktail no matter how “proverbial” its essence.
Today, I encourage you to practice love as your response.
Steven D Brand is a coach, counselor, marriage therapist in Roswell, GA. He also travels the country and the world offering hope and direction with his retreat weekends focusing on Marriage and other tough subjects. He is accepting new clients in his office, call for an appointment 770-641-8726.
What is Codependency?
“It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and abusive.”
In my practice, I have seen a lot of Codependence. It can be hard for a Codependent to accept their label. They have grown up or have learned to cope with life by taking care of others, to an extreme.
How to Spot Codependency?
They are the martyrs. They are the ones always cleaning up after the party. They are the ones smoothing over a narcissist’s consistently inappropriate behavior. They are one making excuses for others. They are the ones putting themselves last but everyone else first.
Can I be real? Codependents make great employees and church members. They will get the job done without setting boundaries for themselves.
Melodie Beattie authored the infamous, “Codependent No More”.
“Beattie’s view of codependency starts from the (counter-intuitive) premise that rescuing someone, in the sense of solving their problems for them, is a less benevolent act than it might at first seem. To avoid the destructive aspects of enabling in the guise of helping, she highlighted how “Co-dependents are caretakers – rescuers. They rescue, then they persecute, then they end up victimized”.”
How Do Codependents View the World?
They hold the constant thought that if someone else would change or do what they wanted, their lives would get better.
“If only __(insert name here)__ would ________, I would be better.”.
Or often say things like, “You make me feel ______.” “You are doing this to me _______.”
It’s the confidence that they must fix others, and that the boundaries between others and themselves are non-existent.
Steps to Fix Codependency
1) Acknowledge it. How often does your mind (or even prayers) quickly turn to solving other people’s issues?
2) Learn about it. The more you know how codependence manifests, the easier you will be able to see yourself heading down the road. A therapist familiar with codependence can be amazingly insightful. For example, how did you end up this way, why do you continue to seek out relationships with those who use your codependency to their benefit?
3) Find a support group and try at least 6 meetings. Al-Anon and CODA are two great support groups for dealing with co-dependence. (Al-Anon only asks that you have a family or friend that is/was an alcoholic. That covers about 90% of the population right there). Many times a parent or spouse was an alcoholic at one time, but the effects are there even 10-30 years later.
4) Read the literature from a support group and make it part of your daily reading.
5) Work the steps or program with a sponsor or therapist.
6) Learn to take care of yourself. What are your needs and desires? It’s called self-care (this is not a selfish choice, codependents have to practice on finding fulfillment for themselves). Examples include: do things you like, get your nails done, read something you want to read, go to eat where you like to eat. Hang out with your friends and enjoy other’s company simply by being you. Don’t keep trying to solve their problems for them.
7) Understand that ignoring codependence will one day lead to extremely low levels of self-esteem.
Want to come and talk with a therapist in Roswell about Codependence? Call Psychotherapist Steve Roswell at 770-641-8726. Offices are conveniently located in Historic Downtown Roswell, GA.