Understanding Anxiety

Understanding Anxiety

Understanding Anxiety – Everything You Need to Know

According to the ADAA(Anxiety and Depression Association of America) occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. However, if that anxiety becomes overwhelming, excessive, persistent, and difficult to control, and if it interferes with daily life, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is the most common mental disorder in the U.S. There are numerous types of anxiety, from general anxiety disorder (GAD) to social anxiety, separation anxiety or any number of phobias and fears. It’s also possible to have more than one type of anxiety.

As many as 40 million people (18 percent of the population) have an anxiety disorder in the U.S. Most people with an anxiety disorder develop it before the age of 21, with around eight percent of children and teens among those afflicted. And even though anxiety is treatable, only 1/3 seek treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

As there are many types of anxiety, there are also many symptoms, including:

  • Excessive worry or tension
  • A feeling of impending danger or doom
  • Having an unrealistic view of your problems
  • Increased heart rate
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Gastrointestinal distress, like Crohn’s and IBS
  • Unable to control worry
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Avoiding things, people, or situations that cause anxiety

Furthermore, people who suffer from anxiety often have other similar disorders like depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, and substance abuse issues.

What Causes Anxiety?

According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s not completely understood what causes anxiety. It could be caused by specific life experiences such as traumatic events. It could be, at least in part, due to genetics. Or it could be due to any number of factors like environmental stresses and brain chemistry issues.

Anxiety could also be caused by several underlying health conditions. In fact, symptoms of anxiety are often the first indication of a larger medical condition. Some conditions and diseases that are known to be linked to anxiety include:

  • Diabetes
  • Chronic pain
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Heart disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Respiratory disorders like asthma
  • Withdrawal from drugs and alcohol
  • Side effects of certain medications

What are the Risk Factors for Developing an Anxiety Disorder?

There are several risk factors that increase the possibility of developing anxiety. These include:

  • Trauma, particularly in children, though adult traumas may also contribute to anxiety
  • Extreme stress, whether it’s from one event or a buildup over time
  • Personality; certain personality types are more prone to developing anxiety disorders
  • Having other mental health issues
  • Excessive use of drugs or alcohol

How is Anxiety Diagnosed?

Because anxiety disorders aren’t completely understood, it stands to reason that diagnosing them is difficult.

A medical doctor can perform a physical exam, as well as gather medical history information, including that of family members. An MD can also test for underlying medical conditions that may be causing the anxiety or look for general health deficiencies. However, there is no one test that can confirm an anxiety disorder.

If a medical doctor can’t find any links or causes for the anxiety, a psychiatrist may be able to, as they specialize in mental health disorders. The approach is much different, as they evaluate patients based on conversations about feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

What are the Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders?

Assuming that underlying medical causes aren’t responsible for the anxiety, there are two common avenues to pursue for treatment: medications and talk therapy.

There are several types of medications that are prescribed for anxiety disorders. Though, it should be noted that these medications only mask the symptoms of anxiety. They do nothing to address the root cause of the disorder.

Common anxiety medications include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications, like buspirone
  • Benzodiazepines, or sedatives
  • Beta blockers

According the Mayo Clinic, “These medications are for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms and are not intended to be used long term.”

When it comes to long-term solutions, there’s talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy.

A therapist uses a number of tools and techniques to reduce anxiety symptoms, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is one of the more effective types of psychotherapy for those suffering from anxiety.

Through CBT, patients are able to learn techniques to control their anxiety, reduce the strength of symptoms, and ultimately help them return to situations and activities that they had been avoiding because of their anxiety.

What are Some Complications of Having an Anxiety Disorder?

Unfortunately, for those people who have anxiety, there are other conditions and mental health disorders that they may be more prone to developing, such as:

  • Depression, as the two are often linked
  • Insomnia
  • Substance abuse and alcoholism
  • Headaches
  • Chronic pain
  • Trouble functioning at work
  • Social isolation
  • Digestive problems
  • Suicide

What are Some Ways to Prevent Developing an Anxiety Disorder?

Developing an anxiety disorder is a difficult thing to predict, however, some people are more prone to it than others. For those people, who have a family history, are already anxious, or have any of the risk factors listed above, prevention is vital for a positive outcome.

Anxiety prevention tips include:

  1. Don’t wait to get help. Much like other medical conditions, the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to treat.
  2. Be active. Exercise, participate in activities, and enjoy social interactions with people you’re close to.
  3. Limit or avoid using drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol make anxiety symptoms worse. However, so does quitting if you’re addicted. But you’ll be far better in the long run if you can.

Also worth mentioning is that every person is different, even from a physiological perspective. What works for one person may not work for another. Which is why finding a therapist that can get to the root of YOUR issues is likely the safe bet for finding a solution to your anxiety disorder.

Just remember, the more you open up and share – the more proactive you are in general – the better your therapist can assist you in finding a solution that works for YOU.

Get connected to a licensed therapist today through Emote!  Sign up here.

Advantages of Online Therapy

Advantages of Online Therapy

The Advantages of Online Therapy 

As depression and anxiety are becoming more prevalent in our society, so too is talk therapy to resolve these issues. However, therapy isn’t just limited to these two issues. It can provide relief for a number of different problems. And according to Richard Taite, founder of Cliffside Malibu, talk therapy shouldn’t be seen as a weakness.

“Not only do successful people not fear therapy,” says Taite, “they embrace it…. Psychotherapy is a tool that creates success. Smart people use it.”

Talk therapy provides a number of long-lasting benefits to clients, including:

  • A reduction in debilitating physical symptoms
  • Decreased dependence on medication, drugs, and alcohol
  • Being better-equipped to handle future problems

According to Mariel Buque M.A., in a story in Psychology Today, “Popular culture is heading to ‘the couch’ and proudly proclaiming it.”

Buque says that talk therapy is becoming more popular, as more and more celebrities – TV stars, athletes, and musicians – are opening up about their mental health challenges. The stigma and shame are fading, which Buque says has been, “the greatest deterrent to people seeking help.” She adds that the problem has mostly been about accessibility.

Enter Talk Therapy Online

In 2019, we do everything online, from shopping to going to school to interacting with friends and family. It only makes sense that this trend would eventually come to include talk therapy, too. However, Sarah Fader, CEO of Stigma Fighters – a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their stories – there are specific advantages to seeing a counselor online. Four to be exact.

 

  • Anonymity

 

When seeing a therapist in-person, opening-up can be difficult. Clients usually feel safer revealing difficult personal issues and secrets when speaking with a therapist online, which translates into quicker results.

Fader adds that both the client and therapist can recognize this great advantage and are both more motivated to move the process along at a quicker pace, which results in faster healing for the client.

 

  • Better Availability

 

Doing anything online has particular advantages regardless of the industry. One of those is availability, as time becomes less of an issue. There is no office to drive to, no traffic to fight through, and no 9-5 existence to adhere to. Which translates into less of a reason to cancel an appointment, which also adds to the healing process. In a word, greater convenience translates into better therapy.

 

  • For People with Physical Limitations

 

Face-to-face therapy can often be an impossibility for those people with physical disabilities, and often, says Fader, these are the people that need help the most. Online therapy provides a way for them to get the help they need, as it’s a much better fit with their limitations.

 

  • For People in Remote Areas

 

For those people who live in isolated areas, either they don’t have access to a therapist nearby or the selection isn’t good. If there is a therapist in their remote area, this can also present problems, according to Fader.

In these kinds of areas, everyone knows everyone else, which makes opening up and speaking candidly even more problematic. Also, when going the online route for talk therapy, you have more choices and are better able to find the best therapist for your needs.

Is Online Therapy Effective?

Telepsychology has been around for more than 20 years in some form and has historically been used mostly by members of the military who had no other means of getting help. Of course, with advancements in technology have come more opportunities for others to get similar help.

According to PsyD Lindsay Henderson, the ease and convenience of online therapy is a huge draw for clients, especially those who are seeking therapy for the first time.

Numerous research studies, many of which are listed on the bibliography page of the Telemental Health Institute website, indicate that online therapy is just as effective as in-person, face-to-face settings and an acceptable alternative for clients.

According to the American Psychological Association, one in every four adults in the U.S. needs mental health counseling but only 13 percent are getting treatment. Reasons for this include lack of money, stigma, transportation issues, and lack of support or motivation.

Research shows that people who need treatment are much more likely to get help when online therapy is available to them. And a major reason is that online therapy allows individuals to feel more comfortable which translates into opening up more during treatment.

In a recent study done by the University of California at Berkeley, clients who used online therapy showed broad improvements in their mental health and wellbeing. In particular, those suffering from depression showed at least a seven-point improvement according to the Patient Health Questionnaire – a self-assessment for depression.

Why You Should Choose Emote for Online Therapy

Emote is a trusted, affordable, convenient, and discrete way to get the help you need. All of our specialized therapists have been thoroughly vetted and are licensed in the state in which they practice.

We will match you with a therapist who is best able to help you, regardless of whatever trouble you’re experiencing – stress, depression, anxiety, addiction issues, eating disorders, etc. All of our therapists are here to answer your questions and help you on your path to mental and emotional wellness.

We currently offer two services – text-based therapy and live video therapy.

Text-based therapy provides an easy, simple alternative to traditional therapy, and it’s available anytime, anywhere. Live video therapy is a great service for when texting isn’t enough and involves one-on-one consultation through video chat on an appointment basis.

Regardless of the service you choose, Emote provides a secure, confidential environment and access to a licensed private therapist.

 

How to Get the Most Out of Therapy

Get the Most Out of Therapy

How to Get the Most Out of Therapy

It’s finally reached that point. You’ve been struggling with mental health issues for a while and have been unable to deal with them on your own. So, the time has come. The time to finally see a therapist.

However, this can produce even more stress, worry, and anxiety. You don’t know what to expect. You’re not sure how to act, or if it will even work. And random thoughts begin zig-zagging through your head like, do I really have to lay down during therapy?

Seeing a therapist is a big decision. It’s also a significant investment in time and money, but also hope. You have questions. You have concerns. And maybe even a few preconceived notions, all of which could impact or stifle the treatment process.

In this article we’re going to explore seven ways that will help you get the most out of your therapy sessions. And that begins with …

Choose Your Therapist Carefully

Once you’ve decided on therapy, don’t be in a rush to select a therapist. Think of this as a process, and one that could have huge repercussions on your mental wellbeing. Picking a therapist isn’t like deciding where to eat lunch. It’s an important decision that deserves patience and prudence.

Fit is essential when selecting a therapist. Do your research, as there are different types of therapists and different approaches to treatment. Make sure to examine credentials and experience. However, the most important thing may be your comfort level with your therapist. If you don’t feel comfortable enough to open up and be honest, you’re not likely to see good results.

Once you’ve chosen a therapist, give it at least three sessions before evaluating whether the fit is good or not.

Be as Honest as Possible

This shouldn’t come as much of a shock. Getting the help you need will require you to be as forthright as you can. Therapists aren’t miracle workers and they’re not mind-readers.

Remember that your therapist isn’t here to judge you; this is what they do. Also, since they are bound by confidentiality, you don’t have to worry about your issues remaining private.

Be honest with your therapist about all your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Brutal honesty is what you’re aiming for, because brutal honesty will contribute to faster results.

Set Counseling Goals

Setting goals is a great idea whenever you’re trying to achieve anything. After all, if you don’t know where you want to go, how do you expect to get there?

What areas of improvement are you most interested in – emotional health, relationships, behavioral issues? And within each area, what specifically do you hope to achieve? Get as detailed as you can.

Knowing your counseling goals will help your therapist decide on a course of action and what the focus of conversation should be during your sessions. Knowing your goals will also help you measure your progress.

Keep a Journal

During your therapy sessions, your therapist will ask you questions. You might not always have answers immediately, but sometimes those answers will come to you long after your session has ended. It’s important to bring those up next time, rather than ignoring them.

You’re likely going to have a lot of things come up in-between sessions that you feel is important. So, right those down, and address them with your therapist the next time you see him or her.

Keeping a journal is also a great tool for gauging your progress and keeping a record of your day-to-day emotions, problems, and triumphs.

Do Your Homework

Preparing for your sessions is important. Look through your journal and reflect on everything that’s occurred since your last session. Go over any questions you have or topics you’d like to explore. A focused counseling session is a good counseling session, and one that will likely contribute to the goals you’ve outlined for yourself.

Realize that it’s on You to Get Better

A therapist cannot “fix you” without your help and input. It’s important to remember that you are in control of the situation, otherwise you’ll be left feeling hopeless and frustrated.

Your therapist is there to guide you, but it’s on you to own your problems and situation. Reaching your counseling goals cannot happen without you. You must engage fully in the therapy process and buy-in completely.

Therapy is a collaboration between you and your therapist. They cannot solve your problems. Only you can, with their help.

Exercise Mental Health Prevention

You don’t have to wait for a crisis, or next crisis, before seeking help. And there are a number of different ways that you can help yourself.

It’s important to make therapy a part of your life, as most of the progress happens off the couch and away from the office. Take back control over your situation – adopt a meditation practice, eat better, exercise more. There are numerous ways you can improve your mental health. (link)

Remember that you get out of therapy what you put into it. If you work hard to get better and hold yourself accountable, you’ll reach your mental health goals. And once you do, remember that mental health prevention will be instrumental to remaining mentally and emotionally healthy in the future.

 

How Gratitude can Improve Your Mental Health

Nathan Perkins

Somewhere along your journey that is your life, someone (likely your mother) may have said to you – be grateful for what you have. This is actually very good advice. And, in fact, the reasons for it being beneficial are rooted in science.

You probably already understand what gratitude is; we’ve built an entire holiday around the concept. But do you know how gratitude works, as in the science behind it? If this is your first time hearing about the science of gratitude, this may come as a surprise.

Our English word gratitude comes from Latin – gratia. It’s an appreciation for what you receive or have. This can be tangible, as in a great Thanksgiving meal, or intangible, as in the ability to love yourself.

Gratitude can be derived from external sources or internal sources, and it’s the external that helps us realize that there exists something greater than ourselves – connections that can be felt through nature, a higher power, or people we’re close to.

Benefits of expressing gratitude include:

  • Improved physical and mental health
  • Resourcefulness, being better able to handle adversity
  • More positive emotions
  • Greater happiness

You can be grateful for things in your past, your present, and even your future, which is mostly expressed through optimism. And as already mentioned, all of this has been studied and researched a great deal.

The Science of Gratitude

Psychologists Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough have conducted numerous studies on gratitude with similar results. During one large study, participants were asked to write a few sentences each week.

One group was asked to write about only things that happened during the week for which they were grateful. The second group was asked to write down only those things that displeased them during the week. While the third was only given the instruction of writing down things that affected them in some way.

After 10 weeks, those in the gratitude group expressed feeling more optimistic and better about their lives, while those in the other two groups reported no changes. Furthermore, the participants in the gratitude group reported exercising more during this time and recorded fewer visits to see a doctor when compared to the other two groups.

Studies conducted on the effects of gratitude on relationships found that couples who expressed more gratitude for their partners felt more positive for each other and their relationship, and they felt more comfortable expressing concerns.

Researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania who studied the effects of managers who expressed gratitude toward their employees found that those employees were more motivated to work hard and performed their jobs better.

These are just a small sample of the studies that have been conducted on gratitude, and while not maybe scientific in the sense of test tubes and quantum experiments, the results are difficult to ignore – there is a link between better mental health and the expression of gratitude.

(Just in case it’s not obvious, if you felt better about your life, your relationships, and your career, would this not improve your mental health?)

Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

Gratitude is all about focusing on what you already have, as opposed to things you want or don’t have, which is where most of our thoughts tend to reside. It’s also important to note that gratitude is a skill that requires time and patience to learn. When you were a child, did you hop on your bike for the first time and sail effortlessly down the side walk. Or did you fall over, skin your knee, cry a little, and get back up and try again?

Say Thank You

Check out this short, three-minute TED Talk as Laura Tice explains the power that comes with saying thank you, and why it’s equally important to ask people we’re close with to thank us back for things we want to be appreciated for.

You can thank people in a number of ways – say it to them in person, write it down in a little note or card and send it to them, or by email. The how isn’t nearly as important as the what.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Expressing gratitude in any way, whether speaking it or thinking it has profound effects, but there is something positive that happens in our brains when we write things down. Bonus points for writing about what you’re grateful for as a story.

Stories resonate with us and different areas of your brain will be more stimulated when you can make the experience more multidimensional. And as you may recall from school, writing things down helps us to remember them more easily, which can’t hurt either.

Count Your Daily Blessings

The best times to do this are either first thing in the morning or right before going to bed. It’s important to really feel what you’re thankful for and to make it a daily habit.

If you’re having trouble coming up with things to be grateful for, focus on the things that many others in this world aren’t fortunate enough to have – clean, convenient source of water, food, a roof over your head, medical care, your health. Most of us would prefer better health, but be thankful for the ways in which you’re already healthy, and you’re likely to become more healthy.

Prayer

If you’re religious, great. If you’re not, try praying to the Universe, your Future Self, whatever you want. Who or what you pray to isn’t nearly as important as what you’re praying about. No one really understands the forces of the universe, but there is this little thing called the Law of Attraction, which is coincidentally a Universal Law.

Meditate

Meditation has so many benefits to both body and mind. Try meditating while thinking about something to be grateful about. If you’re sitting outside while meditating, be grateful for the sun on your skin, the warmth, the breeze, and the birds. Or simply hold a picture of something you’re grateful for. Holding a picture in your mind while meditating is a great hack for keeping your mind from straying into thought.

Our mental health is reliant on so many things, and there are numerous ways in which to improve it. A comprehensive approach that combines diet, exercise, stress reduction, coping strategies (link), and more will always work best. And gratitude is just another tool to that end.

There is still so much mystery in the world, so don’t get too caught up with understanding how gratitude works. You probably don’t know how electricity works, but you still enjoy the benefits of it. Give gratitude a try; what have you got to lose?

 

 

How to Deal with Emotional Triggers

An emotional trigger is loosely defined as anything that evokes an emotional reaction. In the case of mental health, we typically define these reactions as negative. The form that these triggers can take are numerous and include topics we’d rather ignore, our senses, and our own emotions.

Triggers can be difficult to understand and face, and it’s common to try to avoid them. But when we fight this urge and face them head-on and take the time to learn more about them, we find that we’re better able to cope the next time they arise.

Some common emotional triggers include:

  • Topics – relationships, money, careers, death and loss, etc.
  • Senses – sights, smells, and sounds that remind of traumatic events
  • Emotions – guilt, shame, stress that can lead to substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety attacks, etc.
  • The way in which others treat us

There’s obviously some crossover between those different types of triggers above, and they can often appear without warning.

Consider the variety of negative ways in which others sometimes treat us – from being rejected or ignored to disapproval, criticism, or attempts to control. These can easily lead to feelings of anger, neediness, becoming withdrawn, and attempts to please or put blame elsewhere.

Another way to look at triggers is this – an external event or memory that triggers an internal response.

How Triggers are Formed

To understand how our triggers are formed requires more understanding of the human mind than we currently possess. Therefore, there are more questions than answers.

It is believed that traumatic memories are stored in a different part of the brain than non-traumatic memories, though no one is absolutely sure. What we can be sure about is:

  • There is a strong sensory connection to emotional triggers
  • They can be related to a deeply-ingrained habit
  • They can cause a reaction before (or without) us realizing what is happening

As triggers happen very quickly, there aren’t likely to be any warning signs. However, with awareness and practice, we may be able to recognize our own problem areas and the resulting triggers for those.

Tips to Cope with Emotional Triggers

The first step is to not shy away from our mental health issues. Avoidance will only serve to make us feel more helpless, vulnerable, and out of control. Very Well Mind offers an outstanding piece of advice on where to begin.

“Empower yourself by preparing to cope with triggers, rather than thinking of yourself as a victim. Become aware of signs in your body that you’re reacting to a trigger, such as changes in your breathing, so that you can learn how to calm yourself down and shift your emotional state. Your ultimate goal should be to detach yourself from the trigger, re-center, and focus on your coping strategy.”

So, once we learn to identify our triggers, there are some useful ways to learn from them and prepare ourselves to deal with them better in the future.

Practice Mindfulness

Living more mindfully has numerous mental health benefits. (link) But in the context of identify our emotional triggers, we must be aware of them firstly, and mindfulness can help with this.

The best tip, and greatest difficulty, to living more mindfully is to reduce the internal self-talk. When we’re thinking about the past or stressing about the future, guess where we aren’t? The present. And if we’re not in the present, we have very little chance of noticing triggers when they happen, which will lead to those feelings of being out-of-control.

Try keeping a journal. This may sound simplistic but consider who’s really driving the car that is your life – your subconscious. Your conscious self is merely a passenger most of the time. Your subconscious knows more about you than your conscious self, and when you’re writing more than thinking, things may come out that you don’t expect. You can learn from these.

The biggest key here is the part about writing more than thinking about what you’re writing. It’s been referred to as spontaneous prose by some authors, though most people know it as free writing. And you can begin this exercise by writing anything, even gibberish. At some point, something magical happens and you begin writing from a place deep within yourself. It may take some practice.

For some tips on how to begin free writing, check out this resource. It’s mostly used by writers to overcome blocks. But you can also use it to overcome your own emotional blocks when your intent is in the right place.

Avoid Unhealthy Behavior or People

Are there one or two behaviors that trigger emotions that send you down the wrong path? Are there people in your life that are constantly causing negative emotional triggers in you? It’s hard to ignore your boss, but most relationships are more voluntary.

Avoiding unhealthy behavior or situations is probably easier than avoiding unhealthy people, especially if some of those relationships include family and friends. The truth is that some relationships are unhealthy. And it’ll be up to you whether you want to find a way to cope with the person or people in question or remove them from your life.

If you’re triggers are of a more sensory nature, avoiding them will be almost impossible, which brings us to some ways to cope with triggers that cannot be eliminated or avoided.

Strategies for Coping with Emotional Triggers

Increasing your awareness will help you better recognize triggers, but you’ll still need to deal with those you cannot possibly avoid, and there are a number of options here.

  • Have a support network in place – friends, family, or a mental health therapist you can rely on for help
  • Practice deep breathing, as it’s practically impossible to feel stressed or anxious while also breathing deeply
  • Exercise is so important for mental health (link), and a great way to reduce the effects of our emotional triggers
  • Find other relaxation techniques until you discover one that resonates with you, like EFT.

EFT is a fantastic tool for dealing with a number of emotional issues like fear, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more. It stands for Emotional Freedom Technique, and it’s something that can have immediate beneficial results.

The important thing to remember is that when we experience emotional triggers, we are not some bystander incapable of action. We have the power to identify them and either remove them or cope with them. You are not a hamster on a wheel. You are in total control of your life and emotions.

 

7 Self-Care Tips for Better Mental Health

7 Self-Care Tips for Better Mental Health

Breaking News: You have the power to change the way you think, act, and cope with life’s struggles, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. However, it will require some effort on your part.

We all struggle at times emotionally. Perhaps it stems from knowing at a young age that we all have an expiration date. Or it could be a byproduct of having too much self-awareness. But what you’ll discover in this article is that there is much that contributes to our mental health, and the best way to improve it will be with a comprehensive approach.

  1. Nutrition

You are what you eat. Let’s put it another way – eat good, feel good. Eat bad, feel bad.  And this includes our physical, mental, and emotional health.

According to author and nutritionist William Walsh, Ph.D., the best way to improve mental health is through nutrition. Getting the proper nutrients contributes to neurotransmitters that are functioning properly. Walsh says there are six or seven chemical imbalances that tend to dominate mental function.

We humans aren’t much more than a collection of chemicals. And when it comes to mental and emotional health, there are none more important than neurotransmitters – known as our chemical messengers – such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.  

It’s important that we get all the vitamins and minerals and other nutrients we need to be at our best. Zinc and copper, according to Walsh, are the two most common nutrient deficiencies he sees. He recommends eliminating processed foods and vegetables oils and limiting excessive carbohydrate and protein consumption. Focus on nutrients, not calories, and you’ll be on your way to feeling better mentally.

2. Exercise

It’s not a surprise that exercise contributes to greater physical health, but according to natural health expert, Dr. Joseph Mercola, there are numerous mental health benefits as well, and it again has to do with the production of neurotransmitters.

Exercise has been shown to elevate the production of the three neurotransmitters that we already mentioned, but also a special neurotransmitter called anandamide, which helps to block feelings of pain and depression. While a deficiency of anandamide contributes to an increase in stress and anxiety.

Dr. Mercola says the sweet spot is three to five days a week for a duration of 45 minutes each day. Too little exercise, or too much exercise, will contribute to poorer mental health. He also says that less is more when it comes to exercise, as long as you’re doing them correctly and at a high intensity.

All exercise is great, but Dr. Mercola says the three best for mental health are team sports, cycling, and aerobic or gym activities.

3. Meditation & Mindfulness

When we are fully living in the moment, there is no time for fretting over the past or worrying about the future. But the benefits go much deeper than that.

Meditation and mindfulness contribute to improved health in numerous ways, including:

  • Increased joy and happiness
  • Internal calmness
  • Feelings of connectedness
  • Less stress, depression, and anxiety
  • Better cognitive health

For more information on living more mindfully, check out our latest blog article where we give you five valuable tips. (link)

4. Stress Reduction Techniques

Learning to deal with stress is key to being mentally healthy, and there are many ways to do that, including a few on this list.

Both meditation and exercise have been proven to reduce stress. Walking outdoors in nature is another great strategy, as is journaling. Taking adaptogenic herbs is also great for reducing stress, as they are specialists at providing the body with whatever it needs to combat all types of stress – physical, mental, and emotional.

However, there’s another great stress reduction tool you may not be familiar with, but one that may provide the quickest benefits. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a tapping routine that uses the body’s natural energy field to enact all types of relief, from pain to fear, worry, and anxiety.

EFT is free, simple to use, and the benefits can be felt immediately in many instances.

5. Walk Outdoors

Don’t discount the beneficial effects from a simple walk outdoors. Getting outside means getting fresh air and sunshine. Walking is also a great form of low-impact exercise with its own set of health benefits. And when we get out into the world, we feel more connected to it, and these feelings of connectedness can also contribute to better mental health.

Mornings and evenings are great times to schedule a daily walk. However, any time in your day, particularly when you’re feeling stressed, is a great time for a quick walk.

6. Volunteer

Sometimes we just need to focus on something or someone other than ourselves and our own problems. Plus, when we help others, we receive satisfaction for our good deeds. And sadly, it may also be a way to realize that others have it far worse.

To ramp up the mental health benefits, try volunteering at your local animal shelter. Animals have a way of bringing a lot of joy and peace into our lives. Not to mention the unconditional love that animals can offer.

7. Seek Professional Help

Yes, we mean see a therapist. Most of us are probably ill-equipped to handle our mental health issues, and it often takes more than one blog article to get the job done. If you’re struggles are greater than your abilities to deal with them, it’s likely time to see someone who is equipped to help.

You’ve probably heard some version of this saying – when you have your health, you have everything. This is true for physical health, and likely the source of this saying, but maybe even more true for mental health. However, the best tip we can give you to improve your mental health is one that’s worth repeating.

You have the power to change the way you think, act, and cope with life’s struggles, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

 

What is Mindfulness?

5 Tips to Living More Mindfully

Most of us move through our day lost in thought, whether it’s on the past, the future, or the kind of negative self-talk that results in worry and anxiety. The problem is that, when we’re living inside our heads in this way, we’re not really living at all. At least, we’re not living well.

To put it very simply, mindfulness is paying attention on purpose. When we are mindful, we are fully attentive on the present and we bring more awareness to all that we do. Being mindful is also about living without judgement and being able to maintain a mindful state, both of which make mindfulness trickier than it first may seem.

The human mind tends to wander, and for many of us, getting lost in our thoughts is a type of comfort zone. It’s also habitual and habits are difficult to break. Which means living more mindfully is going to require diligence and constant awareness of our thoughts, if only to let them go and return to the present moment.

Why should you live more mindfully?

Living mindfully has far-reaching benefits – physically, mentally, and emotionally. When we live with more awareness on the present moment, we increase our abilities to cope with life’s struggles and we’re better able to regulate our emotions. But it’s the reduction in stress and the improved state of relaxation that has powerful trickle-down effects, including:

  • Improved cognitive abilities
  • Increased immune function
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved concentration and focus
  • Less anxiety and depression
  • Increased feelings of connectedness
  • Improved general health
  • Internal calmness
  • Increased joy and happiness

Let’s look at mindful eating as an example. Eating mindfully means experiencing our food more fully – the taste, texture, even the sounds. When we eat more mindfully, we enjoy our food so much more. How many of us are distracted when we eat? How many of us sit down to eat and then suddenly our food is gone, and we can’t recall getting much enjoyment from the experience?

Sadly, this is normal. However, besides the increase in enjoyment we get when our minds are squarely on our food, there are numerous other benefits that include eating less, eating slower, improved digestion, and so forth.

How to live more mindfully

Until you break old habits and new habits are able to form, you’ll have to rely on constant awareness to stay mindful. And that begins with …

1. CONTROL YOUR THOUGHTS

You cannot be mindful and lost in your head. When you feel yourself slipping into day-dreaming or self-talk, break out of it with a strong internal shout to yourself. The problem is that within a couple minutes, your mind will likely stray off again, which means this process could be laborious. But what’s the alternative? Missing real-life moments that you can’t get back.

2. INCREASE YOUR AWARENESS

Yes, you need to be aware in general, but you can also increase this awareness by using your senses more. When walking, feel the weight of your body, how the ground feels under your feet, the chill or warmth in the air, how the sun or wind feels against your skin. What sounds do you hear? What smells do you notice?

Your senses are what allows you to live mindfully, so use them regardless of what you’re doing.

3. FOCUS ON YOUR BREATH

Your breath is the one constant you can always rely on to help return you to the present moment. The truth is that there is always something on our minds. The quickest way to drown out those thoughts and return your awareness to the present is to focus on your breath. Breathe in deeply, use your senses to experience it fully, and then exhale just as deeply and repeat. Whenever you feel yourself drifting away, use your breath to tether you to the here and now.

4. PRACTICE MEDITATION

Meditation and mindfulness are obviously linked. The big difference is that living mindfully is meant to be a 24/7 pursuit, while meditation is typically 30 – 60 minutes a day. Meditation is also a bit harder, as there’s nothing else to focus on except your breath, which makes getting out of your head more difficult. However, if you can manage to quiet your mind during meditation, you’re well on your way to breaking old habits, establishing new ones, and being more present in your day-to-day.

5. PRACTICE GRATITUDE

When we’re focused on things we’re grateful for, we’re naturally present. Expressing thanks for things that we’re grateful for also helps to make us aware of the things in our lives that make us happy. However, gratitude has its own set of benefits that have been well studied and documented and which closely mirror those you get from practicing mindfulness.

People watching is another great way to live more mindfully. Whatever you can do to get outside yourself and observe and experience life more fully is going to contribute to mindful living. But remember that this is a process and one that may take some time to develop into a routine and habit.

Living mindfully may just be the key to living our most healthy and happy lives. And as Andy Puddicombe tells us in this TED Talk, all it takes to begin is 10 mindful minutes.

 

Seeking a Therapist? Make Sure They’re Licensed First!

Licensed Professional Counselor

I sometimes wonder how clients go about choosing a therapist, as there are any number of factors you can consider when selecting one. I also wonder how many people spend more time looking for a car mechanic than a therapist.

There are a number of methods and considerations to take into account when choosing a therapist. These include:

  • Friends and family – a good reference from someone you trust carries a lot of weight
  • Shop online – good reviews from total strangers aren’t a bad endorsement either
  • Look at photos of potential therapists – as a picture is worth a thousand words (and using your intuition), you may want to avoid those who are posing seductively, don’t look professional, and just give you the creeps in general
  • Tools and methods they use – steer clear of anyone who mentions the word, lobotomy
  • Specializations – therapists usually specialize in specific areas, like family therapy, substance abuse, couples counseling, or even financial issues
  • Education – graduating with a degree from Stanford is a bit different than say, American Samoa University
  • Gender – if that matters, as opening up may be easier with one or the other
  • Talk to them – see if he or she is a good listener, assess your comfort level with any would-be therapist, see if there’s a good connection, and then ask yourself: do I think this person can help me?

However, there’s one piece of criteria that mysteriously sometimes gets overlooked – credentials.

If you don’t check their credentials, namely the presence of a state license, you could end up with the equivalent of Kramer from Seinfeld. Someone who just stumbled into the situation, as Kramer was often prone to do, and ready to play the part of therapist. Licensure assures you won’t get any Kramers during your search.

Remember this: Cars come and go. But you only have one brain. So, with apologies to car mechanics everywhere, finding a therapist is a much more important decision than where to take your Volvo for a front-end realignment.

Why Licensure is Important?

Before we get into why having a license is important, it should be noted that there are several types of mental health accreditation:

  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
  • Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
  • Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP)
  • Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC)
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
  • Licensed Clinical Psychologist (LCP)

You may have noticed, the one thing all these titles have in common? The licensure part.

Having a therapist license, regardless of the specific fields of specialization or state of licensure, verifies that the therapist can safely and effectively have a positive impact on people’s lives. 

It’s also a sign of commitment. If someone is willing to spend years working on an advanced degree, then work hundreds of hours to get the practical experience required, and finally take and pass any number of state exams over the course of their career, it’s a safe bet they’re committed to their chosen field. And that they’ll be just as committed to helping you.

If you’re not sure what all those titles and acronyms mean that follow the name of each mental health professional – namely, what kind of education, license, and certifications a therapist has – this is a great resource to help you decode the mystery.

After all, finding a mental health professional who’s right for you may depend on some of those titles and acronyms. 

As most of you are probably interested in a general counselor or therapist, terms that are used interchangeably, let’s take a brief look into what that actually means.

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

An LPC is someone who has, at minimum, received a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or a related and/or specialized field. And the “L” assures that they jumped through all the hoops necessary (which are substantial) to get licensed in their state of residence.

It should be noted that the term therapist can be used to describe anyone who’s job mostly entails talking with patients. Which is why you want to look beyond the title and focus more on what it took to achieve that title.

What Getting a License Involves?

Therapists typically need to have a master’s degree to get a state license, however, in a few states, a bachelor’s degree is sufficient.

For a therapist to earn their license as a mental health therapist, or LPC, the education program they completed must have been accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Counseling Related Education Programs.

State licensure also requires a set number of supervised counseling experience, usually between 1500 and 3000 hours. And then, after all that, comes the state exam.

Certain states have their own exam, while others use one of two offered through the National Board of Certified Counselors Exams.

Licensed therapists are also required to renew their state license every couple of years, on average, though each state has different rules and requirements. Renewal of their license also requires each therapist to take and pass a certain number of continuing education credits, which means a licensed therapist is one who continues to learn about their profession and any new methods for helping clients.

There are some situations in which counselors can apply their counseling degree without the need for licensure – career counselor, care management aid, community service manager, correctional treatment specialist –however, to work independently as a therapist, a state license is a definite necessity.

As there are a number of specialties, as you saw in that list at the top, different specializations – social workers licensure and psychology licensure – will have slightly different requirements.

Finding a good therapist and getting the proper treatment you need are already difficult enough. If you’re not making sure the therapists you’re considering are state licensed, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that that process will be even more difficult.

At Emote Life, all of our therapists have a state license. Furthermore, we perform background checks to verify therapist identity and certifications to ensure you are connected to a professional who is fully licensed in your state.

 

One in 5 adults report an unmet need for emotional and psychological support. If you need help, don’t wait. Join Emote Life today!