5 Simple Ways to Get The Sleep You Need to Manage Your Mental Health

Your brain needs sleep in order to thrive, but your mental health can also impact your ability to sleep. It’s a complicated connection that experts are still trying to fully understand, but if you are losing sleep at night, finding simple ways to improve your sleep quality doesn’t have to be so confusing. So if you want to manage your mental health, improve your overall health, or just put a stop to those sleepy mornings, here are some simple sleep-boosting steps you can take.

Man laying in bed in the dark with computer on his chest.

Invest in a New Mattress

Think your bed may be to blame for your chronic sleep issues? Well, before you splurge on a new one, you should look online for mattress buying guides that will help you find a bed that works for your budget and your body. For instance, if you could benefit from the aligning effects of sleeping on a firmer mattress, then a DreamCloud mattress may be a solid economical choice. These mattresses are ideal for stomach and back sleepers. So how do you know that you need to update your mattress? These common signs may indicate that it’s time to shop for a new bed.

Create a More Relaxing Room

Do you stay up late at night watching TV or reading in your bedroom? Well, using your bedroom for anything but a sleep sanctuary could negatively impact the quality of your sleep. The first step in creating a sleep-friendly room is to remove the TV, as well as any other clutter or items that are too distracting for sleep. You can also make your bedroom more conducive for sleep by using blackout curtains to keep it dark, lowering your thermostat to keep it cool, and using essential oils to keep your newly improved sleep environment extra soothing. Also, consider not using your phone in your bedroom at least 1 hour prior to bedtime.

Maintaining a Consistent Bedtime

When it comes to improving your sleep, the simplest changes to your routine can have the biggest impact. For example, if your schedule has you going to bed at odd hours or different times, that could be the reason you are losing out on sleep. So if at all possible, try to find a regular bedtime that you can stick to each night. A consistent sleep schedule can make it easier for your body to relax at night, but it can also help you avoid chronic health risks, like diabetes.

Shopping for Sleep-Boosting Tech

If you have some room in your budget, you may want to think about researching some of the latest smart sleep devices to see if there may be a gadget that can help you improve the quality and consistency of your slumber. From intelligent mattresses to smarter sleep masks, you can find tech to enhance your sleep. Not up for making such a major investment? If you have a smartphone, you can use budget-friendly apps for better sleep.

Using Sleep Supplements Safely

More than a few nights without proper rest may tempt you into trying popular sleep aids to encourage regular snooze sessions. Some effective and natural remedies you can try include magnesium, CBD, and of course, melatonin. If you do opt for melatonin, you need to be mindful of not abusing it, and you also need to be aware of melatonin’s mental health effects. Some experts believe that melatonin can worsen mood swings and depression, so use this supplement carefully. You should also check with your health provider before adding any medications or supplements to your routine to avoid adverse side effects or reactions.

Whether you are working on current mental health issues or just trying to get a better grip on your emotional well-being, getting quality sleep is essential. You can start to get the sleep your brain and body needs by trying some of the simple and safe tips above. If you see no improvements in your sleep, it may be time to ask your therapist or healthcare provider for more advice. 

 Photo Credit: Rawpixel          

Are There Real-Life Benefits to a Positive Mental Outlook?

Over the years, you always hear about envisioning the glass half full rather than half empty or to “look on the brighter side of things.” The question that comes up repeatedly is “are there any real benefits to being positive?” The short answer is yes and you may be surprised at the difference staying positive makes in one’s life.

There are actual measurable benefits associated with optimism and positivity. Recent research has shown that positive thinkers are able to handle stressful situations better than those who are negative. Also, when something drastically negative occurs such as losing a job, people with positive attitudes bounce back much quicker and show little to no long-term effects of the stress.

African American woman touching hands to her face happily smiling

Negativity Leads to…

On the other hand, people with negative attitudes are shown to have insomnia, increased fatigue, recurring and frequent headaches, which as you may know can all related to stress. Likewise, lack of sleep has been connected to dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life.

Be an Optimist and Focus on the Positive

Many studies have been run focusing on people who are positive. A notable study was done at Harvard by social scientists. It was a 35-year study tracking 99 graduates from of their 1944-1945 classes. This study tracked them by a having them answer survey. They tracked the candidates until age 60. They found that those who answered the survey in a pessimistic manner faced poorer health than those who were positive from the get-go.

According to the researchers, the study showed that pessimism in early adult hood put the pessimists at risk for health-related issues in middle to late adulthood. A reason they believe that the health risks increased is because in general, pessimism can be related to higher stress. Those with a positive outlook tend to overcome the stress quicker than those with negative outlooks. When stress is left unchecked, the results can be serious. Stress is known to cause increased production of dangerous hormones such as cortisol, which of course was important during humanities early fight or flight days. With continuous stress, the body’s immune system is weakened and bone density loss, a decline in heart health, obesity and even diabetes can be the consequences.

Another Case Study of Positive Thinking

Dr Dennis Charney, dean of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, conducted a study on 750 Vietnam War veterans who were prisoners of war and were tortured. He found that optimism was the key in recovery and among the veterans who did not develop post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, optimism was at the top of a list of ten things that differentiated them from the other veterans who had similar experiences but later suffered mentally. In the study, optimism was followed by selflessness, humor and a belief in a higher power a greater meaning of life – all attributes of those who we view as positive.

Max Gottlieb works with Senior Planning. Senior Planning offers free services designed to help people organize care and/or find senior living.

Are you struggling with having a positive mental outlook? Burbank therapists can help you address thoughts, feelings and behaviors that may affect your mental health. Call us today to find new ways to increasing a positive mental outlook.

4 Secrets to Living a Balanced Life

Life is a balancing act. And to live a truly happy and satisfying life, you need to learn the art of balancing the most important things in life. Do you often feel stuck in a rut where having a social life means compromising on schoolwork? Maybe working hard to get good grades is affecting your family life? Or perhaps, you are doing great at school and even have a happening social life but can hardly make time for yourself?

Young man at home writes in a journal.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar and you often feel like 24 hours are just not enough to deal with everything that’s on your plate, it’s time you learn the 4 secrets to living a balanced life. Remember, a balanced life is a happy life. So, let’s take a look at how to live a wholesome and balanced life.  

1.    Learn to Prioritize and Make Goals

The first thing you need to do is learn to prioritize the important things in life. It is important to understand that living a balanced life doesn’t mean cramming up as much as you can in one day. Instead, it is more about identifying the important things in life and evaluating how much time, energy, and effort you must invest in each of them. Be clear about your life goals and prioritize your time accordingly. It always pays to keep the bigger picture in mind!

2.    The 8-Hour Rule

The 8-hour rule is simple enough in theory but can be hard to follow. The idea is to divide your day into three 8-hour periods. Now you have 8 hours to work or study, 8 hours to sleep, and 8 hours to do whatever you like – sounds pretty neat, right? Unfortunately, sometimes it is just not possible to stick to this golden rule. However, it still gives you a rough and generic idea about how you should divide the 24 hours every day.

3.    Adopt a Compromising Attitude

Is it really necessary to check your social media when you are having family time? Is binge-watching your favorite series a good idea on a school night? Isn’t it possible to postpone that road trip with friends till after your exams?

Sure, the heart wants what the heart wants. But sometimes, it is better to adopt a compromising attitude. Keep in mind that you don’t have to give up on your favorite activities altogether. The idea is to simply do them at the right time and make sure they don’t take over the things that are more important to you.

4.    All Work and No Play Make Jack a Dull Boy!

Sometimes, in order to achieve our goals, we end up spending all our time working or studying. While it is great that you are determined to turn your dreams into reality, it is also important to give yourself time to rest and unwind. Otherwise, the constant stress will eventually take a toll on your physical and mental health. This is why making time to have fun and unwind is an important part of having a balanced life.  

Follow these 4 simple tips to bring balance to your life. While it is not going to be easy, it is definitely going to be worthwhile. So adopt a balanced lifestyle and get on track to live a happy and healthy life.  

If you are looking for help with work-life balance contact one of our Burbank therapists.


Everyday, Sustainable Steps to Better Your All-Around Health

Taking steps to improve your overall health can do wonders in boosting your happiness and well-being. Where many people fall short in regard to their health, however, is that they get so busy that they can’t imagine how they could fit anything else on their plate. This often leads to one of two conclusions: taking extreme measures for fast results (only to fizzle out after a short time) or simply not trying anything. But what if there were practical, sustainable steps you could take each day to improve your all-around health for the long-term? Fortunately, there are.

Young man at home writes in a journal.

Looking Into Tech Gadgets

 Practicing self-care is essential to your physical, mental, and emotional health. Nowadays, there’s a lot of technology that can provide self-care, thus benefiting your health in the process. One of the best gadgets out there to help you wind down in the evening is a foot massager. According to the experts at Smart Style Today, if you want to relieve soreness and get id of knots in your muscles, consider investing in a quality foot massager. Not only will it help your muscles feel better, it will help you to de-stress as well.

Start Prepping Your Meals

Another practical way to benefit your health is to meal prep. By spending a couple of hours on the weekend (many people like Sunday), you can prepare your meals for the whole week. This allows you more control of your nutrition and portions. Quick access to your lunches and dinners — whether it’s already cooked or the ingredients are ready to cook — means you will be less likely to eat fast food and other processed foods out of convenience. Also, by making a detailed grocery list, you can save a lot of money when it’s time to go shopping.

Create a Fun Exercise Routine

Exercise is necessary for anyone who wants to achieve peak health, but it’s not reasonable for you to expect yourself to spend hours at the gym every morning doing something you absolutely hate. The key to creating a fitness regimen that lasts is creating a routine you like. There are so many different ways to get in your exercise, and if nothing sounds appealing, consider trying out a few different activities until you find one you like (or at least don’t hate). From weightlifting, running, and yoga to racquetball, swimming, and golf, breaking a sweat for 30 minutes a day can do wonders for your health and well-being.

Take Time to Rest

It’s also essential to make time in your schedule for rest. While it may seem like you’re spending your time wisely by working late and never taking time off, you can be much more productive if you get seven to nine hours of sleep each night and set aside time for vacations. Allowing your body and mind to recover and regenerate will also help prevent you from burning out.

Write Down Your Story

Finally, start keeping a daily or weekly journal where you write about your journey of improvement. Journals provide an opportunity to vent your emotions and thoughts, but they can also be used to keep track of your progress. They can help you set goals and lay out strategies; then, you can routinely review and readjust your strategies if you’re not hitting your goals. Plus, looking back and seeing how far you’ve come over time can give you a boost in self-confidence.

Taking practical, everyday steps toward better health is the best way to maintain it for the long term. Explore all the self-care tech available these days, and try meal prepping once a week. Develop an exercise routine that you enjoy, and make sure rest is a part of your life. Lastly, consider keeping a journal that documents your journey. Making these habits a part of your routine will give you the peace of mind knowing that you are prioritizing your all-around health.

Planning Ahead for Long-Term Care and Costs in Retirement

If you or a loved one are planning ahead for retirement, you may be thinking about potential healthcare costs. You may not, however, be thinking about the potential costs of long-term care. Since most seniors will need long-term care, it’s smart to put together a plan to cover the costs. Here are some ways you can factor long-term care into your financial planning. You might seek some counseling from individuals who specialize in proving long-term care planning.

Retired couple sit by mountain lake enjoying the scenery.

Be Aware of What Medicare Covers

When you depend on Medicare, it can be disappointing to discover that not all healthcare expenses will be covered. Long-term care is very rarely paid for by Medicare benefits since much of the care provided in nursing homes and assisted living care centers is viewed as custodial care. This care, such as bathing, eating, and assistance with other daily tasks, is essential to patients. However, supplemental plans can help seniors offset some of the other costs of their care. Certain Medicare Advantage plans can provide relief in dealing with expenses associated with prescriptions, and dental and vision care. As a result, this could free up more funds to put toward long-term care costs.

Determine the Risk for Long-Term Care

If you can get an idea of what kind of care may be needed, you can better prepare to pay for it. Most older Americans will need long-term care at some point, but certain factors determine for how long and what level of care is needed. Those risk factors of needing long-term care: include age, family history, and your living arrangements. In many cases, you can take steps to decrease the need for care, like exercising more or eating healthier. By assessing the need for long-term care, you can decide how much of your savings you may need to set aside and what plans you need to make.

Get Quality Life Insurance

Life insurance gives you and your loved ones peace of mind and can even provide benefits beyond the intended purposes. Depending on your policy, you may be able to sell your life insurance policy for a cash payout. This can be a viable option for taking care of unexpected expenses, long-term care costs, or to free up more money for retirement. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone needs a life insurance policy. If your children are grown, and your estate is small or liquid enough that you aren’t worried about covering your estate taxes, it’s okay to cash in your policy early. Whether you use it now or your family uses it later, life insurance can provide more financial options for you and your loved ones. When surveying life insurance, it’s also a good idea to consider final expense insurance, which is a type of whole life insurance. Burial insurance can provide funds for your family to pay for funeral costs and any medical bills or debt you leave behind. This can relieve a huge burden for your family as the average cost of a funeral is $9,000.

Know How to Use Your Home

You may also be able to use your home to pay for care. The most obvious solution is to sell your home if you will be living with a loved one or in a care facility. However, sometimes selling your home is not the best option. If you need to live in your home while or after you receive care, there are a couple of different ways to get the cash you need. You can use a reverse mortgage or home equity loan to free up funds, but both options have their pros and cons. Some seniors have found it worthwhile to rent out all or part of their home and use the rent toward healthcare costs. Just be aware of what this may mean for any Medicaid benefits.

Thinking about long-term care may not be pleasant, but planning for costs can prevent a lot of unpleasant stress later. So if you or a loved one is getting ready for retirement, make sure you take some time to factor in the possibility of long-term care expenses.

Fighting Obesity Through Wellness-Focused Action

Obesity is one of the major health concerns in the United States. Currently, the world population is 7.5 billion, and about 10 percent are obese – and about 10 percent of people in that category live in the US. In other words, 73 million Americans are obese, which is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. So if you’re one of the 160 million Americans struggling with your weight, here are some tips on fighting obesity through wellness-focused actions.

Bowl of oatmeal and yogurt with fruit, nuts and seeds.

Eating a Balanced Diet

Eating Between 2001-2009, the percentage of Americans who were physically active increased – but so did the percentage of people who were obese. The lesson may be that exercise alone doesn’t stave off weight gain. So if you want to slim down, prioritize eating right. Think of it this way: 30 minutes of intense exercise can torch 350 calories. But simply cutting two 16-ounce sodas out of your diet each day can achieve the same caloric deficit. Now, let’s re-examine the word “diet.” Starving yourself on saltines and soda water will only deplete your energy. Instead, try to avoid sugar and opt for low-carb veggies (kale, spinach, lettuce), lean protein (salmon, chicken, beans) and healthy fats (avocado, olive oil).

Enjoyable Workout Routine

That said, don’t neglect exercise. A regular fitness regimen has been shown to give you energy, boost your mood, sharpen your memory, and strengthen your muscles and bones. The specific exercises that you do don’t matter so much as that you enjoy the exercise; that way, you’ll be excited about doing them again and again. Also, remember to track your progress. Personal trainers often tell clients to keep an eye on the scale but not to worry all that much about it. Scales often measure muscle mass, bone density, or water weight, but we’ve been trained to think of the number that blinks back at us as simply a calibration of our fat tissue.

Instead, consider ditching the scale. Instead of the scale, check how your clothes fit, exercise with a heart rate monitor, or see how easy it is for you to sit up from a cross-legged position. Logging these measurements will help you note whether your strength and endurance are increasing, your mobility is improving, or if your stress is easing away.

Getting Enough Rest

Another technique to monitor your progress without a scale is tracking whether your sleep improves. Regular quality sleep is one of the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle. Clinicians recommend that adults sleep for 7-9 hours per night. Sleep makes your skin glow, sharpens your memory, helps you retain information, and regulates your weight. Getting enough sleep has also been shown to stave off anxiety, depression, and mood disorders that have been linked to obesity.

Addressing Mental Disorders

Researchers have found such strong links between obesity and mental illness that they have termed the two conditions “a double epidemic.” Studies have shown that people with mental illnesses are at a higher risk of becoming obese, and people with obesity are much more likely to develop mental illnesses. Gaining weight often saps your energy and takes a toll on your self-esteem. Conversely, someone who’s anxious may “stress-eat,” and people who suffer from depression can make poor dietary choices because so much else weighs on their minds.

If you have a mental disorder, seek counseling and talk to an expert about developing some of the wellness-focused actions above. You may not see results overnight, but integrating these habits into your routine should help you trim your waistline and improve your outlook.

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Photo credit: Ana Azevedo

Parent's Guide to Spotting Teen Depression and Anxiety

A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health revealed the prevalence of anxiety disorders in adolescents aged 13 to 18, with more than 8% suffering from severe impairment. Depression is becoming more prevalent, too, with more than 13% of the country’s teens experiencing at least one major depressive episode in their lives. This can be really alarming for parents, especially since it’s not easy to spot the symptoms and indicators of anxiety and depression in teens.  

Mother puts hand on shoulder of depressed teenager.

The situation is even more serious when you consider the lack of support in educational institutions. There is a growing demand for more psychologists in schools as there is currently a huge shortage. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of one psychologist for every 500 -700 students. In Polk County, there is one school psychologist for every 2,200 students. And this is common across the country. To deal with the shortage, schools are looking for psychologists that can relate to students and what they’re going through. Maryville University claims that the connection between psychology and education is leading to a growing demand for specialists who can understand this correlation. If the need for more support isn’t met, the number of depressed and anxious teens that don’t receive help will only continue to increase.

 A parent reading this will find it very distressing. However, you can help. If you’re wondering if your children are suffering from anxiety and depression, here are some of the things you need to look out for:

Constant Fear and Nervousness

The Conversation notes that one of the most obvious signs of anxiety disorders is a fear and nervousness that doesn’t go away. It can be really challenging to differentiate between the normal emotional challenges that come with puberty and signs of anxiety. If you’re seeing a lot of fearfulness, secretive behaviors, constant worrying, and nervousness in your teens, you can ask them if it’s something they experience on a daily basis. Everyday worrying is normal, but if it’s already causing your teen to miss out on important opportunities, it may be a symptom of anxiety and depression.

Loss of Interest in Activities and Hobbies

If your teen suddenly loses interest in their favorite pastimes and hobbies, it may be a sign that they’re suffering from depression or anxiety. They will most likely withdraw from friends and activities, and show a lack of enthusiasm, energy, and motivation. You may also notice that they are performing poorly at school. Although not all teens show all of these symptoms, you will still notice a change in their social activities.

Prolonged Feelings of Hopelessness

This usually manifests through a change in your child’s sleeping and eating patterns. Either they will oversleep or eat excessively, or find it hard to sleep and have a loss of appetite. You will also notice that your kids often look sad, contemplative, and a bit withdrawn. They might even talk about or show signs of feeling worthless, useless, or even guilty. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that in some cases your teens may not appear sad, but they might make trouble, act out, feel a lot of rage, or show a lack of motivation towards trivial things. In the worst case scenario, you might have already seen self-destructive behaviors or even visible marks of self-harm. If this is happening you need to take your child to see medical professionals immediately.

Here on Hope Therapy Center we provided some of the simplest things you can do to help your teens, including offering reassurance and listening with focus and without judgment. Practicing deep breathing exercises can also help them deal with their fears and worries as it allows them to respond rather than react to outside stimuli.

Straightforward Tips for Improving Your Quality of Life as a Senior

Living a healthy lifestyle during your senior years can reward you with better energy, independence, and happiness. In fact, one study revealed that seniors with healthy habits live longer and face fewer years of disability than unhealthy seniors. It’s clear that investing your time into health promotion and disease prevention is extremely valuable.

Your first critical step toward healthy aging is making sure you have the right healthcare coverage for your needs. Although Medicare can be extremely beneficial, it doesn’t provide coverage for many essential services. Medicare Advantage plans cover things like dental and vision so you can stay on top of your health all across the board. Learn about Aetna Medicare Advantage plans and how they may benefit you on your quest for good health.

Senior woman sits on couch staring out window.

Maintain Your Mobility with a Variety of Exercises

Maintaining mobility is one of the most important things when it comes to quality of life. Mobility helps you get around on your own, take care of yourself, and participate in the activities you love. Regular exercise is crucial for supporting lasting mobility. Seniors should try to incorporate aerobic, strength, flexibility, and balance exercises into their routine, and there are even exercises that seniors can do indoors (online videos and Wii games are just a few examples) if they don’t feel comfortable getting outside. According to the Harvard Medical School, each of these three exercise types for seniors provides unique benefits.

 Aerobic exercises are those that speed up your heart rate. Examples include brisk walking, swimming, and cycling. Aerobic exercises are great for your circulatory system and respiratory system. They can also reduce your risk of depression!

 Next is strength training. Only 9 percent of older adults engage in strength training at least twice a week. This is unfortunate because strength training prevents muscle loss and increases bone density as we get older. Since lifting weights can seem intimidating if you’re new to strength training, start with resistance bands and bodyweight exercises.

Finally, flexibility and balance exercises, like yoga and tai chi, can help you stay active and reduce your risk of falls. Regular stretching should also relieve joint pain and muscle stiffness. Start each stretching session with a few dynamic stretches to wake up your muscles so you can get the most out of your routine.

Improve Your Cognitive Skills by Learning New Things

While you’re doing all this exercise to improve your physical health, don’t forget to train your brain. Learning new things appears to be extremely beneficial for preventing age-related cognitive decline. Challenge yourself with a hobby or skill you’d like to pick up. Some great examples include learning another language, playing an instrument (guitars, clarinets, etc.), or improving your chess game. You can even enroll in an interesting university class!

It’s important that whatever you try actually challenges you intellectually. This is the key to stimulating growth in your brain, much like challenging your muscles encourages them to grow. Learning new skills and taking classes is a better way to boost your cognitive abilities than brain-training games. There’s very little evidence behind brain-training apps and software. The highly specific skills practiced in these games rarely translate to any other areas of your life, so they probably won't help you find your keys or remember where you parked the car!

Stay Social to Support Your Mental Health

Seniors can also do a lot to support their mental health on an emotional level. According to AgingCare, loneliness can be extremely dangerous to seniors, increasing their rate of mental and physical decline. Loneliness has even been associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s.

Seniors who remain social enjoy greater levels of happiness and a better quality of life than socially isolated people. So, join a local club or group, volunteer, or get a part-time job in a social environment. You can even try using social media to connect with others who share your interests. If you live alone, consider moving into a community environment where opportunities for social engagement are right outside your door.

Good health is never out of reach. Seniors can — and should — strive to enjoy their golden years in every way possible. This means making an effort to exercise every day and putting your brain to work as you learn new things. It may be challenging to get started, but you’ll end up developing some healthy habits that will stick with you for years. If you find that you are isolating or even feeling depressed, seeking therapy can help.


Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety often occurs in everyday stressful situations, and it signals you to prepare for and attend to the circumstances. Anxiety disorders are different because they involve excessive fear, worry or nervousness. These are the different type of anxiety disorders:

Panic Disorder

The disorder includes recurrent panic attacks that generate physiological responses, including rapid heart rate, palpitations, trembling, dizziness, fainting, feeling of losing control, shortness of breath and fear of dying. Clients may feel that they are facing cardiac arrest and go to the hospital. Panic attacks can be in response to a feared object or situation, such as sitting in airplanes.

Specific Phobia

This involves excessive and persistent fear of an object, activity or circumstance. The situation or fear item may not actually harmful or as dangerous as perceived. The client cannot overcome it, despite knowing that the fear is excessive. Given the distressing stimuli, people go to extreme lengths to avoid the situation, such as fear of elevators, spiders, dogs, airplanes etc.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

This involves an excessive and persistent fear due to which daily activities are disrupted.  In distressing situations, the person constantly worries about a possible approaching danger, which rarely occurs. There is a feeling restless, fatigued, difficulties in concentration and sleeping and muscle tension. The person may worry about job, responsibilities, family, expenditures or minor everyday things, such as tasks and appointments.

 Separation Anxiety Disorder

The person feels anxious about separation from people he is attached to, which leads to dysfunction. The person is persistently worried about losing a close one and would be disallow the close one from going away, even if it is for a short duration or distances. Patient may see nightmares about being separated.

 Social Anxiety Disorder

The person fears being embarrassed, humiliated or rejected in social situations. People experience excessive anxiety in the social context or try to avoid it completely. The problem may last for 6 months and causes problems in daily functioning. This could include fear of new people or public speaking.


The person fears being in situations from which it is difficult or embarrassing to escape. The fear is excessive in the actual situation and could last more than 6 months. Excessive fear causes problems in everyday functioning. This could include fear of open or closed spaces, being alone or being in a crowd.  


4 Things Only People With Anxiety Understand

Fear is negative reaction a natural response to stressful situations and drives you to perform to the best of your abilities. Fear keeps us alert. If fear becomes excessive and persistent, it prevents us from being happy and functional. Anxiety is like a hyper-vigilant state of fear. For many people anxiety is temporary; whereas for others it could be debilitating and lead to illnesses. If uncontrolled, anxiety can take over your life, happiness, performance and relationships. Here’s how anxious people feel different:

 Symptoms of anxiety can show up anywhere, anytime

People suffering from anxiety disorders experience rapid heart rate, palpitations, sweating and dizziness. They can’t control their physical symptoms and they could appear unexpectedly. It’s not just normal fear that you are dealing with and it doesn’t go away easily. It can happen any time anywhere without warning or a specific trigger.

You can’t help over thinking

Often an anxiety disorder causes someone to constantly worry about anything bad happening and these thoughts take a toll. The thoughts may appear exaggerated, irrational or blown out of proportion but people with anxiety disorders can’t help them. Rumination of negative thoughts is linked with depression. The physiological and emotional response to actually situations can be incapacitating. Anxious people feel that their thoughts are real.  

You need pills to reduce discomfort

People may be reluctant to seek therapy for their disorders due to fear of being laughed at or rejected. Thus, sufferers may be forced to suffer in silence and or take pills to temporarily relieve symptoms. Anxious people can’t easily control their negative thoughts. Busying yourself may not always work when you have on-going negative thoughts.

Anxiety is not your everyday stress

The negative thoughts are not just made up in the head. It’s no joke mocking people with anxiety disorders about their irrational thoughts or purposely putting them into anxiety-inducing situations. Be empathetic before you try to make jokes.

Burbank therapist can help you reduce anxiety, contact us today to schedule a session. 310-853-3638

Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety

Research shows that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been the most effective in treating anxiety disorders. It is effective because it unifies all methods and treatment plans. To help the client overcome anxiety disorders, the client is taught about strategies to cope. These strategies and techniques can be implemented at home. With repetitive practice, the new behaviors become automatic and anxiety is significantly reduced and sometimes eliminated. 

CBT targets the brain

To treat anxiety, clients may participate in mild anxiety-inducing stimuli in the initial stages then move on to more intense sessions. CBT targets the brain – by modifying thinking patters, increasing problem-solving and increasing confidence about decision-making. CBT targets the neural pathways so that the client learns new ways to think, act and feel about previously anxiety provoking situations, experience, or thoughts. Many clients who participate in CBT therapy report they have successfully overcome anxiety.

Group sessions

CBT group sessions can be another effective resource for anxiety treatment. Group sessions include others struggling from anxiety. Group sessions help build confidence and support for utilizing the CBT methods/techniques. CBT for anxiety is active, structured and result-oriented.

CBT addresses the origins of problems

To treat disorders, CBT reaches out to the core of issues, including experiences from the family background, early life upbringing and social or environmental factors. Psychotherapists analyze maladaptive coping patterns, use conceptualization to examine history of unstable schemas and attempt to modify the patient’s belief and coping system.

Looking for the best Burbank therapist to help you work through anxiety, contact Hope Therapy Center today.

Cold-Weather Fitness Tips to Keep You Fit, Happy, and On the Right Path

Fight Winter Blues with Indoor Workouts

The days are short, the nights are long, and the temps are less than desirable. Colder months tend to sap our energy, and when it comes to keeping up with a fitness routine, many of us can’t afford to have one iota of energy taken from us. Though working out is usually more fun when it’s warm outside, staying fit and healthy is not only possible when it’s cold out, but it’s not that tough (and yes, even enjoyable). Here are some tips for working out indoors.

Group of women working out with resistance bands.

Buy a set of resistance bands

One option for getting a total-body workout indoors is to join a gym. But that’s pricey. Another is option is to build a gym in your own home. This can add up, too, when you think about buying free weights, dumbbells, kettlebells, a treadmill, and other home gym equipment. The solution is resistance bands. These are cheap and versatile and can be stored in a closet or drawer when you’re not using them. You can get a total body workout with resistance bands. Click here for a great resource on different exercises.

Don’t scoff at indoor cardio

Strength training is fine and good, but what about cardio? If you think you can’t get a solid cardio workout indoors, without a fancy machine, you’re dead wrong. Stationary sprinting, squat thrusts, and planking can give your heart a workout. Rapidly switching between certain exercises? Even better. Throw in some shadowboxing to really get your blood pumping. Check out this 20-minute routine that you can do in your living room.

Stairs are your friend

Even though you’re doing your best to schedule designated indoor workout time, it helps to build some working out into your daily routine. In this regard, stairs are your best friend. Here’s your new rule: When it’s cold outside, I will never take an elevator or an escalator. You’ll be amazed at how much walking a half-dozen flights of stairs every day will do.

Why is this all so important?

Why can’t you just wait out the winter, and when things thaw, get outside and get back on the proverbial horse? Why is keeping up with your exercise routine so important during the winter months?

For one, exercise isn’t something that you can “catch up” on. You can’t make up for lost time in the spring by working twice as hard. Your body needs at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every single day, according to doctors. Another reason is that physical exercise helps to promote better mental health, and that is more important in the winter than it is in any other season. Lack of daylight, the inability to be outdoors, bad weather, and even the holidays are all triggers for depression and seasonal anxiety disorders. The bottom line is you need exercise in the winter.

Beyond that, it’s vital to keep up with physical activity if you’re in addiction recovery. When seeking therapy for substance use, many counselors also recommend pursuing a physical wellness plan to combat not only the physical effects of substance use, but also to promote the general well-being of patients. 

So what are you waiting for? You can fight the cold-weather blues and keep your body fit for the upcoming warmer months without even leaving your house. Of course, working out in the cold won’t kill you either. It’s actually quite healthy! If you do decide to venture outside, make sure you check out some cold-weather exercise tips.

 About the author

Jason Lewis is a personal trainer. In 2002, he became the primary caretaker for his mother after her surgery. He realized, as he helped her with her recovery, that there is a special need for trainers that can assist the seniors. He worked with his mother’s physician, as well as other personal trainers, to create programs that are considerate to the special health needs of those over the age of 65. He is the founder of www.StrongWell.org

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

How 'The Silent Treatment' is Damaging Your Relationship

Giving someone the cold shoulder or the silent treatment after an argument is increasingly common, especially among those involved in a romantic relationship. What many of these couples don’t realize is that this method of showing your anger is utterly toxic for your relationship. When you refuse to discuss a problem and avoid any sort of communication, it only creates frustration and resentment. Dr. John Gottman, marriage researcher, calls this Stonewalling and one of the 4 deadly horseman to relationships. Save your relationship before the silence becomes a living breathing thing and creates too much space between the two of you, and you forget what it was like to be in an open and honest relationship.

Mother holding child’s hand while father turns his back to them.

4 Effects of Silent Treatment:

Passive-Agressive Rage

Often the one administering the silent treatment believes that they are taking the moral high ground by not yelling and screaming, they are wrong. The silent treatment is not a lack of retaliation, in fact, it is a calculated and strategic move designed to hurt the other person and make them feel unworthy of your words. You may not be screaming and shouting, but your silence is packed full of aggression, and is a manifestation of the rage you feel. It is not the absence of a response, but a response itself, one specifically used to manipulate the partner into seeking forgiveness, even if they were right.

The Power Struggle

Ultimately, this is about winning. You are aware that your silence will provoke feelings of guilt. When you are the one reacting, it automatically signals to the other person that they are wrong, and should be begging for your attention and forgiveness. Your partner may respond with full on aggression to combat it, and the argument worsens. Experts call this demand-withdrawal. One partner demands attention from the one who withdraws, making them angrier and more demanding, which causes further withdrawal from the second partner, devolving the relationship into a vicious cycle of hurt and anger.

Strategic Action

The silent treatment is a strategy, and it can result in the other partner feeling unworthy, invisible, and unimportant. You are telling them, without using your words, that they do not matter to you until they apologize. You are portraying yourself as so hurt and upset that you are speechless, when you are actually calculating coldly a strategy to not engage in finding a solution, but rather your partner having to take most of the blame. The silent treatment is a form of emotional manipulation, much like intentional crying when it is used to make someone feel guilty. Most of all, the silent treatment is a strategy put in place to divert the attention away from what caused the argument, and onto you and your silence.

Their Feelings

It’s important to consider what this does to the other partner. They are angry and upset because of the argument you just had, and they believe that they were not 100% at fault. They are looking for you to explain what they did and why it upset you, but you don’t – instead you retreat into the deadly silence. Your partner cannot read your mind, and they are frustrated because they can’t understand how to resolve the situation. Now there are two arguments; the one you originally had, and also a second one about how you are being unreasonable on finding a solution. You may both get locked into the position that the other person is at fault, and this will begin to erode your relationship and build resentment, which eventually can lead to the end of your relationship.

Remember silence is not a conclusion to the argument, this is a delaying mechanism, and the fight is sure to resurface. If you turn the other way and hunker down on finding a way to resolve, the issue will only resurface or cause more damage to the relationship.

An argument can only be truly resolved when you communicate. Talk openly and honestly, without holding anything back. Discuss your perspective on the situation, and let them discuss theirs. Maybe one of you will see the other person’s view as reasonable, or you will be able to reach a compromise. But this will be done through discussion and honesty. Nothing is solved by the silent treatment, and it’s time to eradicate it from your relationships.

Couple and family therapy can help improve communication and conflict resolution. Give Jennie Marie a call at 310-853-3638.

Essential Communication Skills for Relationships

In a digital age where we’re all constantly connected to each other via technology, and sending large amounts of information on a daily basis, we may think we are effectively communicating with one another. The truth is, however, effective communication isn’t about presenting the other person with information, but about understanding the emotions behind that information. Communicating seems simple enough, but we don’t always realize how often our words and actions are misinterpreted by others, and how often we misinterpret other people. To combat this, we must all put in the conscious effort to cultivate certain skills essential for communicating and building a healthy relationship: 

Couple communicating with each other as they prepare dinner in their kitchen.

Effective Listening Through Reflection

There’s a difference between hearing what someone has to say, and actually listening to what lies beneath those words. One of the most essential communication skills is the ability to effectively listen to another person, and making them feel heard and understood. This creates a safe environment for people to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of consequences and judgment. By listening to someone, you are better able to understand them, and prevent any misunderstandings that may cause conflict later on during the course of the relationship. Most problems can be solved if the other person feels that their feelings are being valued and considered, and allowing them to talk when emotions are running high allows them to calm down. This is why listening is imperative to effective communication. Communicate you understood by reflecting what you heard, if you partner tells you about their day try to summarize and identify the feelings.  For example, “It sounds like you felt like your co-worker was disrespectful today when they commented on your project, this caused you to feel embarrassed and angry.” Not only does this clarify what you heard your partner tell you about their day, but also creates empathy for their situation.  This will help your partner feel cared for and loved when you listen and reflect what you heard them say.

Nonverbal Signals

You don’t just communicate with words; your actions play a huge part in how you are perceived by others, and how affectively you can communicate your feelings. Body language, such as eye contact, blinking, posture, tone of voice, facial expressions and gestures can give off a lot of information about what you are thinking and feeling, letting the other person know a lot, even things you wouldn’t want them to know. For example, if someone is talking and you’re not paying attention, you may be nodding, but your eye movement and facial expression can give you away. You can use this to your advantage and take on positive language, such as open hands, uncrossed arms, maintaining eye contact, nodding and smiling. Not everybody uses their body language to convey the same emotions, however, and cultural differences, age, gender, etc must be taken into account. You can improve on this skill by observing people when you talk to them and trying to gauge their feelings and thoughts just through nonverbal communication.

 Recognizing Stress

 During an argument, or even a conversation, you may become stressed and overwhelmed by your own emotions, causing you to lash out with anger and aggression. It’s important to recognize the signs of oncoming stress, and prevent it from taking control of you. This will help you remain calm and collected during what could have been an emotionally charged situation. By staying calm, you are able to listen and understand what the other person is saying, as well as better convey your own thoughts and feelings. Everything will be clearly talked out and problems can be solved effectively. Before reacting with anger, clarify what you heard. You might find out that is not what your part intended to convey. For example, you could ask “I’m really upset because it sounds like you thought I was an idiot for moving the bills off the desk and onto the chair, but I was only trying to make room to fix your laptop.”  This conveys your emotion, why you did what you did and clarifies what you thought your partner is saying. This will allow your partner to then clarify their position and attempt to move you to a resolution.

These skills are absolutely essential for communication in relationships, as without them, there can be a high level of conflict which may eventually damage and weaken your bond. By applying these skills, you will see a definite improvement in your personal and professional relationships.

Need further help, therapy can teach you better communication tools. Contact Jennie Marie today for a session at www.Hope-Therapy-Center.com

Co-Parenting a Teenager with Your Ex

Teenagers are balancing on the thin line between childhood and maturity, and because our own teen years are so far behind us, it’s usually very difficult to relate to their problems. Raising a teenager is never easy, but when divorced or separated, it gets even tougher. You end up constantly worrying about the effects of the divorce or break-up on your teen, and often spend too much time arguing with your ex over parenting styles and rules. We will try and help ease the process by sharing a few expert tips on co-parenting a teenager with your ex, especially if your marriage or relationship ended on bad terms.

Father hugs teenage son.

Present a United Front

When married, or cohabiting, parents should always present themselves as a unit so that children can’t manipulate them individually and pit them against each other. When divorced, you have to remember that you still share a child, and still have to remain a single unit in that sense. Set down strict guidelines about curfews, rules, chores, etc. and make sure each parent follows them. Don’t try to be the favorite parent, or play good-cop-bad-cop. That’s allows room for manipulation, and may also lead your teenager to develop separate identities for both their homes.

Encourage Love for the Other Parent

Don’t badmouth your ex or let your teenager do so. If your child wants to spend a weekend with his father instead of at your place, let it happen without resenting either your teen or your ex. Encourage your kid to remain a big part of your ex’s life as well as yours. Don’t let them alienate the other parent, because they may end up blaming you later on if their relationship with their mom/dad deteriorates. Always try to remember that it was your relationship with your ex that ended, not your child’s, and so, when it comes to your children, be amicable towards each other.

Don’t Treat Your Teen as an Adult

Understandably, marital breakdown can leave a huge psychological impact on you, and of course you need someone to talk to. But don’t let your teenager become your confidante, because even though he or she may be taking all of this on with maturity, a teenager is not an adult. You can’t weigh them down with this emotional trauma, or turn them against their other parent, because they are emotionally and psychologically fragile. Teenagers, even those who come from tight-knit families, are struggling to find themselves, and are usually unsure of their identities; confiding in them the way you would to a friend or shrink may shape them and mold them in ways neither of you expected. All your teenager needs from you is support, guidance, and unconditional love.

 If you suspect that your teenager is engaging in illegal or unsafe behavior in order to deal with the new family situation, you may need to sit down and have a proper discussion with your ex, and then seek counseling with a therapist who specializes in working teens and their families. Don’t forget that both of you love your child equally, and only want what’s best for them. Don’t let your feelings towards your ex cloud your judgment, and have adverse effects on your teen.

Casual Marijuana Use Linked to Brain Abnormalities

This is an issue that many parents are concerned about - marijuana use with teens. Some studies suggest that as many as 30% of high school students smoke pot daily. 

Teens might use pot to relive stress, be part of a social crowd, lessen anxiety, etc.

Parents can make a big difference on their teens decision to use drugs.  However, if you find you need help seek professional help by working with a teen therapist.

What is Guided Meditation?

Meditation has long since been touted as the answer to many of our everyday problems. We’ve heard about the countless benefits of meditation that range from physical, mental, as well as behavioral. There are more types of meditation practiced in this world today than we can count. One of them is Guided Meditation. 

What is Guided Meditation?

As the name suggests, guided meditation, is a type of meditative practice that is guided or directed by an experienced mentor who aid an individual through the meditative journey to reach the deep state of thoughtful awareness that is only possible via meditation.

How does it Work?

Guided meditation is a form of relaxation that is mediated by the guidance of a trained professional. This guidance can be provided either in person through a visual or verbal instruction, or via any of the media modalities such as sound recordings, videos, written texts, or a combined mixture of all.

Normally people find it difficult to attain that perfect balance of thoughtless awareness that is necessary for meditation on their own. Guided meditation works by the meditator sitting or laying down in a comfortable position while they are lead through a series of different audios or visual directives that are designed to allow you conscious and subconscious mind to relax one step at a time. 

Guided meditation may be used for a variety of reasons such as personal growth and empowerment, emotional development or healing, for stress relief, improved sleep, decreasing anxiety and increased positivity, etc.  It is an aided method of achieving deepest levels of relaxation, to provide perspective along with the opportunity to rejuvenate yourself. A guided meditation session, depending on your needs and the method you choose, can range from as short as 10 minutes, to as long as an hour.

 As a Burbank therapist one of my favorite meditations to teach my clients is Body Scan by Jon Kabat-Zinn. You can download a Body Scan Meditation app in most phone app stores or find a Body Scan guided meditation on YouTube.

3 Tips to Reduce Anxiety

Anxiety disorders can be quite debilitating. They can be overwhelming, stressing, and can shatter your self-confidence to the point where they stop you from living a normal life. Therapy is an effective way to reduce anxiety.  There are also are some practical steps that can  help you reduce your anxiousness so that you may feel more in control.

 Here are the top three ways to tackle your anxiety:

Recognize Your Limitations

Anxiety is almost always triggered by something. To be able to reduce your anxiety you have to learn how to control it, and you can only do so if you know what, where and how it escalates. Focus on the feeling of anxiousness within yourself and recognize where it’s coming from. Often certain thoughts or feelings can be under the surface that trigger anxiety. Once you recognize these thoughts or feelings, you’ll be able to take responsibility for your emotions, know your limitations, and prevent things from deteriorating to their worst.

Take a Time Out

One of the best ways to reduce anxiety is to find a way to take a step back from the circumstances that cause or heighten it. If you feel like your issues are threatening to overwhelm you, take a time out, a moment to yourself. It doesn’t matter whether it just ten minutes in the middle of a busy day to just breathe in and out, or to take up meditation, getting a massage, going for a run, or indulging in any other mindless activity or chore that separates and distracts you from the source of your problems.

Sleep Well

Mental health and wellbeing can be affected by a lack of sleep. It’s quite ironic actually because anxiety and lack of sleep seem to be caught in a vicious circle, in that when you’re anxious you cannot sleep, and your lack of sleep can increase your anxiety. Hence the reason why therapists, counselors, and mental health experts insists you double your efforts to ensure a good night’s rest. Go to bed early, use aromatherapy to induce sleep, reduce your caffeine in-take, and indulge in long hot baths or whatever else that aids your sleep for at least 8 hours. A well-rested mind is a less anxious, calm and controlled mind.

 A Burbank Therapist can help you learn more steps to reduce therapy.  Contact us today to learn more, 310-854-3638

3 Benefits of Therapy for Anxiety

Anxiety disorders have become the most prevalent mental health issue in America. It’s not uncommon to hear about people in your inner circle suffering from one form or another of anxiety which include but are not limited to conditions such as social anxiety, GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)r, claustrophobia (fear of small confined spaces), and more.

However, as common as this problem is, it is highly treatable – with a number of different treatment options for anxiety available the most effective of which is psychotherapy.

The top three benefits of therapy – behavioral and cognitive – for anxiety disorders include:

Finding the Root Cause

Prescription medication is thought to be the best course of treatment for patients suffering from anxiety disorders as it can produce an immediate reduction of anxiety by relaxing the body. However, as quick the results may be, it is a temporary form of treatment. What’s more, prescription pills only subdue the symptoms of the disorder rather than finding and treating the root cause of the illness itself – which is what psychotherapy does. Therapy, tailored to suit the specific needs of each individual patient allows them to discover the actual source of the problem, which often is based in how a person thinks about their world, environment or situations.  Therapy helps decrease anxiety, by helping you learn new ways of monitoring and changing thoughts that may be leading to panic attacks or feeling anxious.

Aiding in Self-Discovery for Solutions

Much of the psychotherapy is designed to allow the patient to unearth the real reason behind the issues. Once they do, the therapist helps and guides them to realize the effective ways in which they can manage and control their thoughts and behaviors.  Therapy doesn’t provide a solution to their issues on a silver platter, it aids the patients to find out the means to deal and to eventually overcome their anxiety. This can provide tools and resources for the future to help reduce likelihood of experience anxiety in other situations.

Restoring Confidence

Anxiety disorders can sometimes cripple ones confidence. By allowing self-reflection, and providing deeper understanding of their own thoughts and feelings, therapy helps restore a patient’s confidence bit by bit. It enables them to have the knowledge, skills, and control over their thoughts, feelings and behaviors, which can help them live a happy and healthy life.

Horses Heal: How equine therapy works and how it's created a revolution in human development

Over the course of the last several years there have been some New York Times best sellers about horses and their journeys.  Some of these have been about famous race-horses, like Seabiscuit and others have been about underdogs like Snowman the former plough horse who became a show jumping champion after being rescued from slaughter.  People are generally fascinated by horses. 

Horses have been bred to be responsive to every facet of human behavior. They can smell small changes in sweat and other body chemicals.  They can sense small changes in the heart rate of the being next to them.  They can sense minuscule changes in their environments, and they respond extremely quickly. 

Stress-free woman rubs horse as part of therapy.

Twenty years ago, several pioneers in the field of equine facilitated psychotherapy created programs to train professional therapists and facilitators in the unique art of partnering with horses to help suffering humans.   Almost all equine assisted therapy addresses the relationship of the human being to the horse as one of partnership. 

The horse, therapist, and equine facilitator invite clients into a relationship that includes the horse.  To the horse, the relationship is reminiscent of a herd of horses, and the horse approaches the members of the group with the same kind of concern and consideration.  To horses, a relationship is instantaneous.  Whether or not it is a positive relationship, a negative relationship, one of domination, or subservience will get worked out in the herd behavior, but relationship begins upon the first meeting.  To be part of the group, is to be in relationship. 

Because horse relationships can be meaningful and short–lived, horses don’t make the same investments that people do.  The relationships that horses make to the members of their herds are different than the relationship bonds that people make with each other, and with horses.  The meanings that come up for the humans through the course of an equine therapy session are often very illustrative of what other relationships the client is navigating. 

The majority of communication for people is nonverbal, but we don’t think about this often.  But horses know, and they read the nonverbal communication in relationships quite well. 

Horses have gotten to be exceptional lie detectors.  If you are standing around and saying that you are in a good mood, and everything is beautiful, but you’re actually anxious because your mother-in-law is coming to stay this weekend, your horse will know.  He won’t know WHY you are incongruent, he’ll just know that you are, and it will mean that your session, your lesson, your ride, or your time at the barn is going to be less enjoyable than it could be. 

Horses don’t require much acknowledgement for you to become congruent.  You need only admit (usually out loud) that you are in a bad mood, and why, and the horse will calm down.  He calms down not because he understood the sentiment or the story, but because your body changed when your behavior got in-line with your feeling. 

Equine therapy can’t fix everything, but it can shed some light on issues that are difficult to get to in traditional talk therapy.

Equine therapy puts the client and the therapist in a different form of engagement.  Rather than sitting and talking, the client and therapist are engaging in a novel form of behavior.  The horse is introduced as a partner to assist both client and therapist.  Typical sessions are from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.  Typically, there is a part of the session dedicated to talking about the interaction with the horse, and how that interaction might be instructive about other behaviors or patterns for the client. 

Equine therapy has been very effective in helping people increase confidence, build self-esteem, decrease anxiety, recover from addiction, etc.  Also, there has been healing experience for clients who have autism.  Some of the most healing work has been with clients who suffer from PTSD, other traumatic experience and clients who have experienced severe neglect.  Equine facilitated psychotherapy can be used as a primary modality or as a secondary adjunct to traditional therapy.  It can also be very effective in helping couples work through communication issues.

If you are a client and would like to learn more, or if you are a psychotherapist and would like to refer your clients, please contact us at: 310-853-3638. 

Our equine facilitated psychotherapy sessions are held in Santa Clarita, California. 

Photo by Ieva Vizule on Unsplash