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5 Solid Ways to Make Winter Your BFF

As a teen growing up in Cache Valley, I loved summer. The outdoor possibilities were endless. However, I couldn’t understand why my mood took such a terrible hit in October and November. As an adult and many years later, I do now!

Do you dread the thought of winter? Its long nights and short, hazy, or foggy days? Does the thought of snow and cold make you long for the warmth of spring with its longer days and beautiful green grass?

If so, this blog is for you.

How to Beat Winter

Over the years I’ve noticed that many, many people struggle with their mood in winter. In fact, health care professionals have even created a term for it. That is, Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Here’s 5 solid ways to turn winter from your sworn enemy to your BFF.

Get Out of the House

Sitting in your home and lamenting winter from November through March isn’t going to help. In fact, it will only make you detest winter more. Definitely move your body!

Get To the Gym

Exercise during winter will help you fight the feeling of low energy and lethargy. You don’t have to be a gym rat to get a significant boost to your mood and motivation. Just be consistent and take it one easy/moderate/challenging workout at a time.

Get Outside

We all know the benefits of getting summer sun in moderation on our bodies. The sun promotes vitamin D development which enhances our mood. It stands to reason that if you hole up inside all winter your mood will take a significant hit. Get outside, even in January, to feel better.

Get Out of Dodge

While many of us would love to live in St. George or even Phoenix during the winter, that isn’t feasible for most. What is feasible is taking a vacation down south. Whether it’s St. George, Phoenix, or even Honolulu, definitely get of out Dodge. Your mood and motivation will love you for it!

Get To the Mountains

When the inversion season hits (and it will), most people find the weather intolerable. Want a solution? Simply get to the mountains. Getting above the inversion will revitalize you as the sun feels amazing. Whether it’s to ski, snowshoe, or just to drive to Park City, you’ll definitely feel a benefit when the sun warms your face.

A Parting thought

These five ways to change your thinking about winter will definitely help. Choose 2 of the 5 and do them consistently. You WILL feel a difference!

While this is a likely a subject for another blog post, eating healthier, getting adequate (don’t over do it!) sleep, and surrounding yourself with emotionally healthy people will also pay you wonderful winter benefits.

Michael Boman, LCSW is a therapist with 18+ years experience working with individuals, couples, and families. He is also a believer in exercise and taking care of oneself. He welcomes your comments.

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What’s Wrong With Me!!!

 
As the seasons change from the light filled days of summer to the shorter cooler days of fall, many people begin to notice a change in the way that they feel. For some people, they feel invigorated and energized by the cooler weather; however, for others these shorter days lead to feeling less motivated. And still, for others the onset of cooler weather is just the precursor to the “winter blues”, a condition formerly known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Regardless of the timing of depression, it’s an experience that can feel isolating and hopeless. However, there are things that we can do to help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression.
 
Humans are connected beings, we need connection to survive and we especially need it thrive. Strengthening our connections with those around us can help with the feelings of isolation and being alone. What do we do if we don’t have strong connections in place? Looking for ways to connect that are a little more unconventional than the traditional family, friends, and coworker relationships is one place to start. For example, there are meet up groups for all kinds of different hobbies that are open to people. Faith communities are ways to connect with people that have the same ideological and theological beliefs. Volunteering allows an array of engagement opportunities that also provide a sense of worth and giving back. However, even engaging in an activity that provides peripheral contact can be beneficial; going to the same coffee shop every morning on your way to work and engaging the barista in small talk is a step towards making a connection.
 
The coffee shop stop leads us to another way to combat depression…getting out. Yep, it might be the last thing that you want to do when you are in the midst of a depressive episode, but it is one that can provide a quick pick me up. Finding options that require us to leave the safety and confines of our couch can be as exciting or as calming as we choose. Going for a quick 10 minute walk around the block, going to the bookstore to pick up the latest novel from your favorite author, or taking that pottery class you’ve always wanted to try…they all require that we step away from our comfort zone.
 
Exercise is also a great way to combat depression. Exercise gets our blood flowing and heart pumping that leads to a release of those feel good endorphins that help balance our emotions. Want to up the anti depressive effects? Exercise outside in the sunshine, there are currently studies that hypothesize that vitamin D deficiencies are
 linked to depression, though that has been proven yet. However, light therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for SAD.
 
Lastly, talk therapy with a trained therapist that can help you deal with your individual symptoms is also an effective option when you are having depressive episodes that aren’t being effectively mitigated by diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes. Having a person that will listen and help you develop and implement changes and coping skills into your life can be invaluable as you traverse a trying time but you don’t have to do it alone. Wasatch Family Therapy offers therapists for all ages to meet your individual needs, to make an appointment call 801-944-4555 today.
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Antepartum Depression: Just as Real And Scary as Postpartum Depression

 
We’ve all heard of postpartum depression. A lot of us have known someone with postpartum depression. It’s those weeks, and sometimes months, after a woman has delivered her baby that trigger depression and anxiety. Little do people know, postpartum depression has a sister that is rarely talked about and sometimes, unknown. This is called antepartum depression. 
 
Allow me to break this down just a bit. Ante is a latin term that means before. Partum refers to the delivery phase of the pregnancy. Depression has many definitions, so we will define it here as an overwhelming feelings of sadness. Therefore, antepartum depression means depression that happens before you deliver your baby. In other words, it is depression while you are pregnant.
 
I was first introduced to antepartum depression when I was pregnant with my third child. In my years of practice, I had worked with several pregnant mothers that described feeling down and blue. We worked through the depression, but I never named it or did a great deal of research on it. During my third pregnancy, I was very sick. Days of sickness turned into weeks. The weeks turned into months. It turned out that my entire pregnancy, I was extremely sick. After feeling sick for weeks on end, I started feeling depressed. My desire to do things that usually brought me happiness seemed unimportant. My energy was incredibly low. I had a hard time getting out with friends and family because I didn’t feel up to it. For weeks, I complained that I didn’t feel like my normal self. 
 
After some time, I set out to find more information about antepartum depression. Realizing that it is a real problem that many women struggle with made me feel a lot better. I started naming it, talking to people about it, and taking steps to make myself feel better. This did not come easily and took me a long time to do. In fact, while I was diligent about doing all of those things, I still feel that my depression lasted until I delivered my daughter. However, talking about it and getting the help I needed really made all of the difference in the world.
 
What are the symptoms of Antepartum Depression?
 
The symptoms of antepartum depression are very similar to depression outside of pregnancy. This include but are not limited to:
-Feelings of worthlessness
-Feelings of guilt
-Persistent sadness
-Anxiety
-Change in sleep (sleeping more or less than usual)
-Change in eating habits
-Change in desire to do things that once brought happiness
-Thoughts of hurting yourself
-Thoughts of suicide
 
What can I do to treat my antepartum depression?
 
-Psychotherapy is one of the best tools to use when dealing with antepartum depression. A therapist can help guide you through your thoughts, feelings, and help give you solutions to work through them
-Medication is another route to take. This has implications on your baby and you will want to talk in depth with your medical provider. There are some medications that are safer to take while pregnant. 
-Herbal supplements are another option. Again, talk to your doctor about what he/she feels is best for you and your pregnancy. There are several herbal treatments that can help.
-Foot zoning was a major help while I was dealing with antepartum depression. It eased my sickness and helped me feel more centered with my thoughts and feelings. 
-Exercise is the last thing you want to to when pregnant (and depressed) but it is truly one of the best things you can do. Even walking around the block will release endorphins that will help your mood. 
-Eating a balanced and healthy diet will be beneficial for you physically and mentally during your pregnancy.
-Sleeping and getting enough rest is essential during this time. 
 
If you are suffering from Antepartum Depression, please know you are not alone! Thousands of women suffer from this on a daily basis. Share this blog post with someone you feel needs to hear about this. Antepartum depression is rarely talked about and needs to be an active conversation with women who are expecting babies. If you need further help, please call Wasatch Family Therapy. There are kind and professional therapists here to help you through this difficult time.
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What Broccoli and Sweat Stains Have To Do with Your Mental Health

Most people are aware that eating healthy and exercising will result in a smaller waistline. I am not sure, however, that people understand the impact eating healthy and exercising have on your mental health. Think about it: your brain is a body part, right? If poor eating can make your heart suffer and not function properly, why wouldn’t poor eating make your brain suffer as well?

There is a lot of scientific research supporting the fact that eating a whole foods, plant-based diet can improve mood and decrease the occurrence of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. In a study published in the 2012 Nutritional Journal, participants who decreased consumption of meat, fish, and poultry improved several mood scores in just a few weeks. In 2009 Arch Intern Med, Dr. Grant Brinkworth and colleagues found that a high carbohydrate, low fat, and low protein diet (plant-based) resulted in significantly lower rates of depression and anxiety. These are just a few of the many studies showing the mental health benefits of eating a plant-based diet.

Part of the benefit of eating plants is that there are thousands and thousands of chemicals and nutrients that our body uses on a cellular level to rebuild and repair itself. Scientists haven’t even identified all the advantages to these chemicals and nutrients there are so many. We need to trust our body to use nature to be in optimal health. The evidence is clear: our brain needs natural plant food to function the most optimally. Sadly, we are often misinformed on nutrition-related topics because there are a lot of people who make a lot of money if you eat poorly (there isn’t necessarily a lot of money for marketers to make off of you if you follow a plant-based diet).

When it comes to exercise, most people think of endorphins and all that jazz. This is all good and well, but I love exercise for my clients more for its ability to increase distress tolerance. Physical exercise is ALWAYS a mental exercise also. If I can push my body to a point of discomfort for my overall benefit, what else can I do that is hard? If you talk to avid exercisers, none of them say, “Yeah, I have been doing this long enough that it doesn’t hurt anymore. I feel only pleasure in mile 13.” Seasoned athletes still experience discomfort and pain (if not more) but have learned to tolerate it.

Your increased distress tolerance works as a shield against debilitating hardship. I have seen so many clients begin to exercise and all of a sudden, they have increased confidence and  start to believe they can do hard things! While going to the gym may not seem like a big deal, it is a huge deal for your brain. The important key to implement this is to find an activity YOU love. If it isn’t running on a treadmill, then don’t do that. Walk your dogs or play frisbee or do something else entirely.

Some clients I have are weary of taking mood-altering pharmaceuticals, but are they bothered enough to get really uncomfortable and change their eating and movement patterns? I am not suggesting that research shows these changes to be a direct cure for mental health problems. Research can’t entirely do that. However, I am suggesting that it is certainly worth adding to the tool box and trying in order to have an overall better mood and mental health.

For more tips and support changing your lifestyle to improve your mental health, schedule an appointment today!

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How Running Keeps Me Sane

How Running Keeps Me Sane
In 2007, my sisters and I decided to run a 10k together. It was perfect timing, as I had just moved from Logan (Go Aggies!) and needed a new hobby. I trained hard and finished the 10K in a little under an hour. The morning of the race was an emotional high. All of the runners at the starting line anxiously waiting for the race to begin. The high as you finished the race. The amazing feeling of accomplishing something. I had found my new passion.
Fast forward to 2009 when my husband, sister, and I decided to run the Wasatch Back Relay Race.  I had recently gone through a very difficult miscarriage, and, without knowing it, was headed into almost two years of infertility battles. My second leg of the race was at two in the morning. The stars were bright as I ran along the side of the road in the dark with just myself, my music, and my headlamp. At some point, I remember starting to cry and allowing that to happen. The rest of the race, something magical occurred. A lot of my worry, anxiety, sadness, and fear got translated into my running. I allowed all of those feelings to fuel my run, and it felt amazing. That race helped me heal from a lot of sadness. Over the next two years, I ran races and trained to help myself get through a lot of the feelings that came from infertility.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2018. Modern medicine is a wonderful thing, and my husband and I have three wonderful children. They are seven, four, and eighteen months old. Now running takes on a different role in my life. It helps keep me in shape. It is a hobby that gives me some time away from my kids so I can be a better mother. It motivates me to make and accomplish new goals. It makes me a happier, more satisfied person. It helps my patience with my kids and my husband. Running keeps me sane.
When you exercise, your body releases something called endorphins. These chemicals helps reduce your perception of pain and can also trigger a positive feeling. These chemicals will help you fight feelings of depression and anxiety. Exercise is consistently something I encourage my clients to participate in.
What do you like to do to stay active? What kind of exercise keeps you sane? This summer, get outdoors and experience some different activities and find which one you like the best. It will be one of the best things you do for your physical and mental health.
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5 Surprising Reasons Why Today’s 50’s are Yesterday’s 30’s

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m just not as young as I used to be.” or, “how did I get to be so old” with a laugh, as if the years have just flown by?

What is really cool about aging in 2018 is that the old rules simply do NOT apply. People in their 50’s (or 60’s) are actually much more like people in their (age) 30’s years ago. Why? Here are 5 compelling reasons that will likely to take you aback some.

We Are Living Healthier

Let’s face it; many people are absolutely living a healthier lifestyle today. Whether it’s eating healthier, hitting the gym on a more consistent basis, or just striving to become emotionally healthy. Living a healthier lifestyle is just what many people do. As a result, we just feel much better in our 50’s than many anticipated they would.

Modern Medicine

I read recently that a child born today could potentially live to be 100 years of age. Not only that individual child either; it could include a significant portion of his/her cohort such that their average lifespan could reach the amazing age of 100. Wow!

That said, we’re living longer today. We are living healthier today as well. This means the old school thinking of “you’re getting old at 60” just isn’t correct.    

More Opportunities

It has been my experience that people in their 50’s today are more like the 30’s of last century. Why? I would surmise that it’s due to many, many more opportunities available in our world today. Like being able to return to school or start a business. Or enjoying the time at home augmented by many choices such as traveling or beginning a new job. Yes, even in your 50’s and 60’s. Either way, it keeps us younger and more vital. We just FEEL better about ourselves.

We Love to Exercise

Okay maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement. But! Many people are hitting the gym now or the track and the backcountry trail. And, perhaps much more consistently than when we were younger. Exercise tends to clear your mind. Certainly it can lower depression. Furthermore, it can ramp up your immune system so that you tend to get sick less often. Taken as a whole, why wouldn’t we want to exercise?  

The Empty Nesters

Many people in their mid to late 50’s are a bit surprised to find out how much they enjoy having their spouse or partner to themselves. Now don’t take me wrong, they absolutely love being parents and raising a family together. Now they ABSOLUTELY love the extra time they have together to nurture their couple relationship. Oh, and being able to send the grandkids home with their parents is definitely a plus!

A Few More Ideas

I have a friend who says on a regular basis, “Sixty is the new 30!” He hikes often and takes pretty good care of himself overall. Interestingly enough, he turns 60 later this year. He also loves to snowshoe in the Wasatch. And, he’s retired!

I also read an article recently referencing research by the Office for National Statistics that asserted that the happiest time of our lives is actually the age 65 – 79. Perhaps this old poem by an unknown author will add to this premise.

At ten, we have just fun
At twenty, we are still naughty
At thirty, we think lofty
At forty, we get shifty
At fifty, we confront reality
At sixty, we seek serenity

Unknown author

Whether you’re in your 50’s or just approaching that great age, possibly from a distance, isn’t perhaps the key point. What is key is that we’re living longer and happier. The old “age” stereotypes are just that, stereotypes. Get out there and stretch yourself a bit!

Michael Boman, LCSW is a therapist with 18+ years experience working with individuals, couples, and families. He is also a believer in exercise and taking care of oneself. He welcomes your comments.

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6 Tips for dealing with Holiday Anxiety and Depression

6 Tips for dealing with Holiday Anxiety and Depression

With our recent snowstorm, my ability to pretend winter isn’t a thing, has quickly evaporated.  On sunny days I get through the winter by making sure I spend plenty of time standing in front of my south facing windows soaking up the warmth that shines through.  On overcast days it can be more of a challenge.  Add in the stress of holiday shopping and parties and expectations, and winter can be a bit of a downer (to say the least).  Here are a few suggestions to help cope with winter blues:

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The Happiness Advantage

canstockphoto11570343The Happiness Advantage
Does success lead to happiness or does happiness lead to success?  According to author and Psychologist Shawn Achor, the latter is true. If you increase your level of positivity in the present, the brain will experience something termed “The Happiness Advantage”.  Achor states most business models, education models and even parenting styles teach hard work leads to success which in turn leads to happiness.  This formula is broken and backwards according to a 12 year of study at Harvard University. How does one achieve the Happiness Advantage?
TED TALKS LINK
https://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work?language=en
5 simple steps can re-wire your brain in 21 days to increase present moment happiness which will lead to success.
1- Write down 3 things you are grateful for before bed everyday. This trains the brain to scan for positive things rather than negative.
2- Write a quick journal entry of 1 positive experience you had within the day.  This allows the brain to re-live a positive experience.
3-Exercise.  This teaches your brain that behavior matters.
4-Meditate for 10 minutes. This trains the brain to get over ADD behavior of multi-tasking and a constant barrage of noise, to process more accurately.
5- Complete 1 conscious act of kindness.  Send 1 email/text/VM praising or thanking someone in your social network.
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How About a Self Esteem Boost??

HAPPY MAN

What does good self-esteem look like?  It is when we are thinking, feeling, and acting in a way that shows that we respect, accept, and believe in ourselves.  It also implies that we trust ourselves and who we are.  Self-esteem is not a constant.  It is variable and experiences many ups and downs, highs and lows, which can be affected by a number of the different things we encounter in life; both good and bad.

Here is a fantastic way to boost or to move toward a healthier self-esteem:

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!      HERE’S HOW:

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Happy Coping! Healthy Coping Strategies

WOMAN EXERCISING

It is human nature to cope. We try to make the hard things a little easier to endure. As a clinician, I have noticed that there are certain tendencies to cope that don’t help at all. These tendencies typically help us either ignore the problem or cause new ones, neither of which is effective. We live in a culture programmed for immediate gratification. Consequentially, poor coping mechanisms are easily available everywhere we turn. These mechanisms could include alcohol abuse, drug abuse, pornography, excessive gaming, excessive social networking, binge television watching, self-harm, infidelity, and even unhealthy eating patterns. You can guess how some of these behaviors could lead to addiction, and/or cause other emotional, relational, or health problems in a person’s life.
Healthy coping strategies will lead to positive outcomes, such as relief from stress or solutions to the problem. Healthy coping strategies do not rob you of the opportunity for growth. They take more effort, but the pay out is far greater and the effects long lasting. Here are some examples of healthy coping strategies you may want to add to your repertoire.

1. Exercise.  The research overwhelmingly indicates the positive benefits of exercise both for the mind and body. There is no question that consistent exercise relieves stress and tension during life’s hardships. The more consistently you exercise, the more your brain will learn that a splendid cocktail of needed and pleasant hormones come after such activities. It will be a great day when something hard happens and your brain craves exercise for relief, rather than a doughnut. Lastly, exercise can lead to better sleep, and of course we cope better when we aren’t tired and grumpy.

2. Talk to a friend.  Sometimes when things are hard, we have the tendency to isolate ourselves. This can be caused by the shame we are experiencing due to our problems. However, loneliness just leads to more problems and unhappiness. Though it is hard to talk to others about our problems, we know that it leads to a sense of relief and strengthens essential supportive relationships. Sometimes people use social networking or infidelity for a faux sense of connection, rather than going through the appropriate channels such as family and friends, to meet essential connection needs.

3. Spiritual Practices.  I am not talking exclusively religion here. Many times when things get rough, we are so focused on the chaos outside us, that we forget to nurture what is on the inside of us. Spiritual relief comes in many different ways for many people. This could include prayer, meditation, being in nature, music, service, and many other possibilities. These practices increase self-awareness and bring the body out of fight or flight mode, which in the long term can be very destructive to our health and relationships.

Try adding at least one of these strategies to your life consistently, over an extended period of time, and I promise you will notice a big difference.  Happy coping!

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