Myths and Facts about Therapy

Suicidal Thoughts: How to Overcome Destructive Thinking

If you find yourself preoccupied by suicidal thoughts, the first thing to remember is that you are not alone.  Many people have considered ending their lives at some painful point of their lives; the thoughts themselves are not as much of a problem, it’s the action, the self-destructive behavior that is the real danger.  So, consider suicidal thoughts a warning that your mind is giving you: you are in considerable amount of pain.  You may feel intense feelings of despair and hopelessness because it seems to you that you had lost control over your life and that things could never get better. You may feel that the only part where you still had some control in your life is whether you lived or died, and committing suicide seemed like the only option left.

However, this is never true. Statistics show that the majority of people who have attempted suicide and survived, ultimately felt relieved that they did not end their lives. Again, the suicidal thoughts are just an indication that you are in pain; however, hope and help is always on the way. Remember that however bad you are feeling, you have not always felt this way and your feelings will change in the future.  That’s the whole trick: feelings are changeable, you may feel differently at different points of the same day; however, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

So, let’s work together to learn how to overcome suicidal thoughts.  It’s a challenging task, but nonetheless doable.  Below are some suggestions:

1.      Become Aware of having Suicidal Thoughts.

Some of the thoughts that may accompany suicidal thoughts include:
• I want to escape my suffering.
• I have no other options.
• I am a horrible person and do not deserve to live.
• I have betrayed my loved ones.
• My loved ones would be better off without me.
• I want my loved ones to know how bad I am feeling.
• I want my loved ones to know how bad they have made me feel.

2.      Remove the Means to Commit Suicide

 For example, give pills and sharp objects to someone for safekeeping, or put them in a locked or otherwise inaccessible place.

 3.      Remove the Opportunity to Commit Suicide

 The surest way of doing this is by remaining in close contact with one or more people, for example, by inviting them to stay with you. Share your thoughts and feelings with these people, and don’t be reluctant to let them help you. If no one is available or no one seems suitable, there are a number of emergency telephone lines that you can ring at any time. You can even ring for an ambulance or take yourself to an Emergency Room.

4.      Do Not Use Alcohol or Drugs

 Alcohol or drugs can make your behavior more impulsive and, thereby, significantly increase your likelihood of attempting suicide. In particular, do not drink or take drugs alone, or end up alone after drinking or taking drugs.

5.      Practice Self-Care

 This is a time to take extra good care of yourself.  Make sure you eat regularly, sleep, get some fresh air and avoid people or situations that bring you stress.  Remember that something as simple as getting a few nights of good sleep can give you a different perspective on your situation.

 6.      Identify what’s Important to You in Life

Make a list of the things that have so far prevented you from committing suicide, e.g., “My kids need me”, “My parents rely on me to take care of them,” “What I’m doing at my job is important,” etc.  Keep the lists on you, and read them to yourself each time you are overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts.

7.      Create a list of Positive Things

 Create a list of positive things about yourself, maybe your skills, or personality traits. Then make a list of the things you are grateful for in life, e.g., your health, your family, your job, your opportunities in life.  Keep that list on you and read it when you have suicidal thoughts.

 8.      Find a Good Cause to Fight for or Contribute to

Not money – anybody can give money to a charitable cause. Give your time. Help the needy and less fortunate. There are many people who need your help – you just have to go out and give it. And in the process, it’s very likely that you will find yourself feeling much better. Helping others is one of the very best ways to cope with thoughts of harming yourself, because it allows you to focus on something beyond yourself and your troubles.  It creates a very big feeling of warmth and generosity in your heart – it will be a welcome change after feeling empty and cold for such a long time. And feeling necessary can really help your outlook long term, too.

    • Go to a local church/ temple and volunteer to help in their “feed the hungry” program
    • Go to a local food bank and offer to help
    • Go to a battered women or children’s center and volunteer.

9.      Create a Safety Plan

 Make a plan of action steps you commit to doing to prevent yourself from self-destructive behaviors.  The plan should include people you can call, emergency phone numbers, delaying suicide for at least 48 hours and getting some sleep. 

Example of a Safety Plan

1. Read through the list of positive things about myself.
2. Read through the list of positive things about my life and remind myself of the things that have so far prevented me from committing suicide.
3. Distract myself from suicidal thoughts by reading a book, listening to my favorite music, or watching my favorite film or comedy.
4. Get a good night’s sleep. Take a sleeping tablet if necessary.
5. Delay any suicidal attempt by at least 48 hours.
6. Call “Stan” on (phone number). If he is unreachable, call “Julia” on (phone number). Alternatively, call my healthcare professional on (phone number), or the crisis line on (phone number).
7. Go to a place where I feel safe such as the community center or the sports center.
8. Go to the Emergency Room.
9. Call for an ambulance.

Finally, when the crisis settles, see a therapist who specializes in the treatment of depression.  It is important that you address the cause of your suicidal thoughts, for example, a mental disorder such as depression or alcohol dependence, a difficult life situation, or painful memories.  Discuss this with your therapist or a primary care physician, who will help you to identify the most appropriate form of help available.

If you would like help with overcoming suicidal thoughts, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.



How to Forgive Yourself for Past Mistakes

7  Suggestions on how to Overcome Feelings of Regret and Guilt and to Forgive Yourself for Past Mistakes

Forgiving yourself can be much harder than forgiving someone else. After all, they don’t live in your head, reading you the same old riot act. When you’re carrying around a sense of blame for something that has happened in the past, the feelings of anger and resentment can cause a pervasive sense of unhappiness. But forgiveness is such an elusive act, quickly changing in its ability to be strongly felt one moment and then disappearing beyond reach the next.

Forgiving yourself is an important act of moving forward and releasing yourself from the past. It’s also a way of protecting your health and general well-being. All the world’s major religions preach the power of forgiveness.

However, if you are feeling this way you are not alone.  Most people find the feelings of regret and guilt to be overwhelming and difficult to overcome.  Holding on to past mistakes negatively affects our self-esteem and can even feel paralyzing for a person. Feeling stuck and unable to engage in productive actions is not helpful and does not serve anyone.

 Here are some suggestions on how to overcome feelings of regret and guilt and to forgive yourself for past mistakes:  

  1. Accept your emotions.

Part of the struggle is often being unable to accept that you are experiencing such emotions as anger, fear, resentment, and vulnerability. Instead of trying to avoid facing these negative emotions, accept them as part of what is fueling your lack of self-forgiveness. A problem named is a problem ready to be tackled.

2. Reflect on why you’re trying to hold yourself to a higher standard than anyone else around you.

Perfectionism can cause you to hold too high a standard for your own behavior, a standard that you wouldn’t hold anyone else to; it causes you to be too hard on yourself. Try welcoming imperfection: allow yourself to accept that all human beings are imperfect, and you are human and imperfect too. Humility may be the first step to self-forgiveness.

3. Understand the importance of forgiveness.

Living in a state of being unable to forgive requires a lot of energy. You may be  preoccupied by the feelings of fear, resentment and anger, living with the constancy of sadness, hurt, and blame. This energy deserves to be put to better use, so that your creativity and abilities are fed, not your negativity. Forgiveness also allows you to live in the present instead of the past, which means that you can move into the future with a renewed sense of purpose focused on change, improvement, and building of a new productive life.

4. Stop punishing yourself.

There is a frequent misunderstanding that forgiveness equates to forgetting or condoning. This misunderstanding can lead a person to feel that they need to continuously punish themselves because in the process of doing so they are not forgetting or condoning the past wrong. However, punishing yourself with self-hate does not accomplish positive results.  It’s perfectly fine to say: “I am not proud of what I’ve done (or how I’ve devalued myself) but I’m moving on for the sake of my health, my well-being, and those around me.”  Disproving of your past mistakes is different than feeling that you are a bad person. Disown your mistakes, not yourself.

5.    Make Amends

If you need to apologize to someone or you have not done so genuinely, go ahead and do it.  Apologizing to someone may involve more than just saying “Sorry.” You may have to hear them out and let them tell you how what you’ve done hurt them.  Once you’ve restored that connection, the next step is to take action that would make the situation better, e.g., if you stole something, maybe you would pay that person/ organization back, etc. 

6. Practice Self-Acceptance

Forgiving yourself is about targeting the specific things that you feel bad about and aspiring to change these imperfections, not about the person you are. As a forgiveness technique, self-acceptance allows you to acknowledge that you’re a good person, even though you have faults. It doesn’t mean that you ignore the faults or stop trying to improve yourself, but it does mean that you value yourself above those parts of yourself and cease to allow your shortcomings to halt your progression in life. Learn from what you’ve done in the past, but value your whole self.  

  • Enjoy positive experiences consciously and don’t seek to downgrade them.
  • Be grateful for what you do have – great relationships, a home, a family, an education, abilities, interests, hobbies, pets, health, etc. Look for the good in your life.
  • Be self-compassionate.

7. See forgiveness as a journey, not a destination.

Human progress does not happen in a straight line, e.g., going from A to B.  In order to move forward we often make two steps forward and one step backwards, making “baby steps” toward better mental health.  Making a step backwards is not a set back; it is our opportunity to integrate the new progress that we’ve just accomplished. It helps to accept that forgiveness is an ongoing process and that you’ll have your up days and your down days, as with most feelings and experiences in life. You may feel that you’ve reached a point of forgiveness, only to have something happen that causes you to feel it was all a wasted effort and that you’re back to square one, angry and annoyed with yourself. The best approach is to let these feelings happen and see them as the necessary step back in our journey forward.

 If you would like help with forgiving yourself for past mistakes, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.


Tips on coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

1: Reach out to others for support

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can make you feel disconnected from others. You may be tempted to withdraw from social activities and your loved ones. But it’s important to stay connected to life and the people who care about you. Support from other people is vital to your recovery from PTSD, so ask your close friends and family members for their help during this tough time.

Also consider joining a support group for survivors of the same type of trauma you experienced. Support groups for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can help you feel less isolated and alone. They also provide invaluable information on how to cope with symptoms and work towards recovery. If you can’t find a support group in your area, look for an online group.

2: Avoid alcohol and drugs

When you’re struggling with difficult emotions and traumatic memories, you may be tempted to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. But while alcohol or drugs may temporarily make you feel better, they make post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) worse in the long run. Substance use worsens many symptoms of PTSD, including emotional numbing, social isolation, anger, and depression. It also interferes with treatment and can add to problems at home and in your relationships.

3: Challenge your sense of helplessness

Overcoming your sense of helplessness is key to overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Trauma leaves you feeling powerless and vulnerable. It’s important to remind yourself that you have strengths and coping skills that can get you through tough times.

4: Spend time in nature

Research suggests that pursuing outdoor activities like hiking, camping, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and skiing may help people cope with PTSD symptoms and transition back into civilian life.

The relaxation, seclusion, and peace that come with being in the natural world provide the soothing experience for people with PTSD.  Focusing on strenuous outdoor activities can also help challenge your sense of helplessness and help your nervous system become “unstuck” and move on from the traumatic event.

5: Individual Therapy

Therapy is the most effective way to overcome symptoms of PTSD.  Rather than avoiding the trauma and any reminder of it, therapy will encourage you to recall and process the emotions and sensations you felt during the original event and to see these memories from a different perspective. In addition to offering an outlet for emotions, therapy for PTSD will also help restore your sense of control, increase self-esteem and reduce the powerful hold the memory of the trauma has on your life.

In treatment for PTSD, you will:

  • Explore your thoughts and feelings about the trauma
  • Work through feelings of guilt, self-blame, and mistrust
  • Learn how to cope with and control intrusive memories
  • Address problems PTSD has caused in your life relationships

Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy (EMDR) is known to be one of the most effective ways to resolve PTSD symptoms.  EMDR involves the combination of cognitive therapy with the bilateral stimulation of the brain. This treatment allows the brain to “unfreeze” the brain’s information processing system, which is interrupted in times of extreme stress.   Dr. Elyashkevich received extensive training and certification in EMDR.

If you would like help with overcoming symptoms of PTSD, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.

What is PTSD?

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop following a traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel helpless. The event(s) may involve actual or threatened death or serious injury or threat to the physical integrity of self or others.  The person experiences intense fear, helplessness or horror.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect those who personally experience the catastrophe, those who witness it, and those who pick up the pieces afterwards, including emergency workers and law enforcement officers. It can even occur in the friends or family members of those who went through the actual trauma.

PTSD develops differently from person to person. While the symptoms of PTSD most commonly develop in the hours or days following the traumatic event, it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years before they appear.

Traumatic events that can lead to PTSD include:

  • War
  • Natural disasters
  • Car or plane crashes
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Rape
  • Kidnapping
  • Assault
  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Childhood neglect

The difference between PTSD and a normal response to trauma:

The traumatic events that lead to post-traumatic stress disorder are usually so overwhelming and frightening that they would upset anyone. Following a traumatic event, almost everyone experiences at least some of the symptoms of PTSD. It’s very common to have bad dreams, feel fearful, and find it difficult to stop thinking about what happened. These are normal reactions to abnormal events.

For most people, however, these symptoms are short-lived. They may last for several days or weeks, but they gradually disappear. But if you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the symptoms don’t decrease. The symptoms persist for over one month.

While everyone experiences PTSD differently, there are three main types of symptoms:

  1. Re-experiencing the traumatic event
  2. Avoiding reminders of the trauma
  3. Increased anxiety and emotional arousal


Symptoms of PTSD: Re-experiencing the traumatic event:

  • Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
  • Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
  • Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
  • Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
  • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)

Symptoms of PTSD: Avoidance and numbing:

  • Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • Loss of interest in activities and life in general
  • Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
  • Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)

Symptoms of PTSD: Increased anxiety and emotional arousal:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)
  • Feeling jumpy and easily startled

Other common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):

  • Anger and irritability
  • Guilt, shame, or self-blame
  • Substance abuse
  • Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
  • Depression and hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Feeling alienated and alone
  • Physical aches and pains

If you would like help with overcoming symptoms of PTSD, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.

What is a Panic Attack? 10 Tips for Overcoming Panic

10 Tips to Overcome Panic AttacksPanic Attacks typically begin suddenly and without warning. They can strike at almost any time — when you’re driving the car, at the movie theater, sound asleep or in the middle of a business meeting.

Panic attacks have many variations, but symptoms usually peak within 10 minutes. You may feel fatigued and worn out after a panic attack subsides.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack typically include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Choking sensations and nausea
  • Shaking and sweating
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Chest pain and heartburn
  • Muscle spasms
  • Hot flashes or sudden chills
  • Tingling sensations in your extremities
  • A fear that you’re going crazy
  • A fear that you might die or be seriously ill

One of the worst things about panic attacks is the intense fear that you’ll have another one. You may fear having a panic attack so much that you avoid situations where they may occur. You may even feel unable to leave your home (agoraphobia) because no place feels safe.

Visits to the emergency room and desperate late night phone calls to doctors often result, as do test results that often reveal nothing. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you can probably empathize with the frustration and hopelessness of not knowing exactly what happened.  To start feeling in control of your anxiety, make an appointment with your doctor and get a full physical exam. This will help you focus your approach, as you’ll find out for certain that you’re coping with panic attacks and not some other illness. A clean bill of health can also help alleviate irrational fears of dying and doom, which can surface during a panic attack.

When you are in the grip of an anxiety attack it can feel as though there is no relief, that you are being crippled by your disorder and your control over the situation is spiraling away. It does not have to be this way, with these simple tips on how to stop anxiety attacks you can regain control over your disorder simply and effectively. The regular use of this approach will go a long way towards your goal of overcoming panic attacks.


10 Tips for Overcoming a Panic Attack

1.  Acknowledge and Accept

Acknowledge that at this moment you are afraid, but not in danger.  Feeling that you are in danger is just another symptom of a panic attack, but it’s not real.  Then, accept the fear you are experiencing without trying to fight it or resist it.  The more one resists the panic, the worst it gets.  Remind yourself, that you are already experiencing the worst it will be; you just have to ride it out.

2. Talk to Yourself

Firmly tell yourself that your symptoms are nothing more than an over-sensitized nervous system. They are temporary feelings and are not medically harmful or dangerous.

3.  Learn to Control your Breathing

When we are anxious, our breathing becomes quick and shallow.  When we are relaxed, we breathe slowly and deeply.  As the panic kicks in, hyperventilation is triggered and the shallow, quick breaths are likely to increase the feelings of anxiety. The key is to concentrate on regulating your breathing into deep, slow breaths because not only is it more beneficial for oxygen intake and calming you; it means you are no longer focusing on the panic. Learn the deep breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) technique:  inhale though your nose, hold the breath to the count of 3 and then slowly exhale though your mouth.

4. Stop Running

If you panic in a supermarket and flee the scene, then your panic response will conclude that the supermarket holds life-threatening danger because you ran away from it. It Your mind will try to be ‘more helpful’ by spreading the fear to perhaps all supermarkets or even all situations that have lots of people in them, are dangerous, which could increase the avoidance response.

If you panic but stay in the situation until you calm down, your panic response will learn that it’s not the situation causing the panic. The more ‘normal’ you act, the more your mind gets the message that the panic is not needed.

5.  Destruct yourself with a Mentally Challenging Task

During times when panic is really required (a hungry, fractious lion coming right at you), the thinking part of the brain becomes much less active. This happens because we need to become purely physical – to flight or to fight.

But if you purposefully start counting backwards from one hundred in jumps of three – ‘100, 97, 94, 91…etc.’ – you force your thinking brain to work, which actually dilutes the panic response. Making yourself do a crossword puzzle, play a game on your phone or read the paper – all force your ‘thinking brain’ to work, which, again, sends the message: “This is not a real emergency; no panic is needed!”

6. Change your Lifestyle

Engage in regular physical exercise – this helps to burn off excessive adrenaline. Avoid cigarettes and alcohol. Eat regular meals and avoid processed foods and drinks, to keep blood sugar levels stable.

7. Focus outside of yourself during an attack.

Listen to some music or do a pleasurable task while waiting for the panic to subside.  Going for a walk could provide a change of scenery and a feeling that you are doing something to help yourself be in control.

8. Reduce your Exposure to Unnecessary Stress.

Learn how to express your needs to others and assert yourself. Learn to delegate tasks and manage your time.  Please see more strategies on how to reduce stress in my blog, 12 Success Strategies for Managing Stress and Living a Happier Life.

9. Don’t bottle up your emotions.

Find someone to confide in, such as a family member, friend or a counselor. Being able to express your feelings and have Supportive Relationships will help reduce panic attacks.

10. Laugh.

Watch some funny videos on YouTube. Laughter and anxiety cannot live in the same moment together!

If you would like help with anxiety or panic attacks, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.

photo credit: Funky64 

12 Success Strategies for Managing Stress and Living a Happier Life

12 Strategies for Managing StressStress: We all struggle with it in our lives. Our jobs may demand high performance and long hours; family life may include conflicts with the loved ones and busy schedules; friends may need us as a shoulder to cry on, and, last but not least, finances may be tight. Of course, the trick is that all the above occurs at the same time!

Is it any wonder that you can’t find a minute for relaxation? In fact, if you’re like most people, you may have even forgotten how to relax.

Experts say that some stress is good for us — it can sharpen our senses and minds.  However, too much stress is harmful for our mental and physical health. So, on one hand, it’s important to lead meaningful lives where we can contribute to our families, jobs and the society in general.  However, managing the stress that comes along with being productive is a challenge.  Finding that balance between being hard-working and effective stress management, is the ideal “sweet spot” where people start to feel happy and satisfied with their lives.

What follows are the 12 strategies you can use — any time and almost anywhere — to reduce the tension in your life.

1. Breathe

Feeling stressed evokes fast, shallow breathing, while calm is associated with slower, deeper breathing.  Try what is called “yoga breathing”: inhale deeply through your nose, then, hold your breath on the count of 3, and then, exhale slowly though your mouth.  Repeat 5 to 10 times; you will feel more relaxed at the end of the exercise.

2. Be Organized- Learn how to Manage your Time

For the most part, stress arises from feeling overwhelmed. Take time aside to organize your daily tasks and put them in your planner. Use technology to help you with this.  Nowadays there is a variety of calendars you can use for free on your phone and your computer.  Once you put the tasks you have to do in your calendar, try your best to follow that.  Being organized and getting your priorities straight can help you break responsibilities down into manageable pieces and focus on the things that really matter to you, rather than getting caught up in details and creating extra work for yourself–all of which leads to more stress.

3.    Be Aware of your Choices

You cannot do everything you are asked.  Learn how to be assertive of your needs and say “No” to demands from others that are beyond reasonable. Remember that people who are supportive of you will understand that you have needs of your own.  Try to nurture supportive relationships and let go of the relationships that are not reciprocal and bring more stress to your life.

4. Delegate

Remember, you do not have to do it all yourself; it’s perfectly OK to delegate certain tasks to trusted others.  Even though your significant other may choose to do things differently than how you might do them, try not to get bogged down by details.  The most important thing is that you are getting things accomplished while obtaining some extra time for yourself.  If your spouse agrees to do grocery shopping, you may get the wrong kind of cheese, but you’ll have the extra few hours to go to the gym, read or spend time with your kids.

5. Exercise

Research has shown that exercising the minimum of 3 times a week, 30 min each time, with medium intensity (this means working up some sweat) leads to lower stress levels and reduces anxiety and depression.  Also, exercise releases endorphins; a feel good hormone.

6. Be Grateful

Count your blessings, be thankful for the positive things you have in life.  Paying attention to the positive aspects of your life on a daily basis will help manage stress and will put you in a positive state of mind.

7. Apologize

If you need to apologize to someone, and it will not make the situation worse, find a way to do so. Taking responsibility for something you may feel guilty about will likely normalize your relationship with that person and relieve stress for you.  More importantly, to forgive yourself; guilt adds pain to stress.

8. Soothe the Senses

Soothing your senses at the time of stress will help you relax.

  • Sense of Hearing: Listen to relaxing music, the sound of the wind rustling though trees or waves crashing on the beach. Research shows that listening to 30 minutes of classical music may produce calming effects equivalent to taking 10 mg of Valium.
  • Touch: Get a massage, take a shower or bubble bath
  • Taste: Enjoy that dark chocolate, ripe fruit or a good steak.
  • Smell: Light a scented candle that has a calming fragrance like lavender.
  • Vision: Take a walk outdoors and pay attention to the beauty of nature.  View an art exhibit.

9.    Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the here-and-now approach to living. It’s approaching life with the innocence of a child, without passing judgment and focusing on one activity at a time.  Staying in the present-tense can help promote relaxation and provide a buffer against anxiety and depression.

Practice it by focusing on your immediate surroundings. If you’re outdoors, enjoy the shape and colors of flowers, hear a bird’s call or consider a tree. In the mall, look at the details of a dress in the window, examine a piece of jewelry and focus on how it’s made, or window-shop for furniture, checking out every detail of pattern and style. As long as you can keep your mind focused on something in the present, stress will take a back seat.

10.  Laugh

Rediscover your sense of humor by making fun of your situation. View it from your future self’s perspective, telling this story to a bunch of your friends over pizza and soda. Laughter, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, is the best remedy for stress and it’s contagious! 

11.  Do Nothing

Give yourself permission to have short periods of time when you can do nothing at all.  Close your office door, open the window, have a seat or lie down, and take a little break from the “rat race” of life.

12.  Drink Water and Hot Tea

If you’re dehydrated that can lead to headaches, which adds to the stress.  So, make sure you drink plenty of water. Hot teas can were shown to reduce stress, especially the herbal ones, like chamomile and mint teas.  However, research has shown that people who drank hot black tea were less stressed than these who drank the same amounts of other beverages equal in caffeine.

If you would like help with stress management, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.

photo credit: TheeErin

Healthy Relationships: Helpful Tips for Creating Supportive Relationships

“Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth.” Archimedes

Healthy relationshipsHaving supportive relationships in life cannot be underestimated.  People who have healthy relationships are likely to worry less and to be less prone to falling into deep depressions.  Remember, that where the relationships are concerned, it’s the quality, not the quantity that matters the most.

Having even one close relationship where one can feel at ease, accepted for who they are, comfortable sharing their innermost fears and concerns can move mountains in terms of the emotional relief that provides.  As Archimedes, one of the greatest mathematicians of all times wrote, “Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth.”

Engaging in caring relationships is critical to our emotional health and well-being.  However, not all relationships are created equal: some people just don’t have what it takes to be supportive. In order to surround yourself with supportive people, the first step is to begin to identify the qualities of healthy relationships, spend time with people who embody those qualities, and, as much as possible, avoid people who are detrimental to your well-being.

Below are some considerations on how to tell which relationships are more supportive and how to cultivate some of these qualities in you.

1. Good Listener

When you talk to your friend about something you are going through—a crisis or problem— are they able to listen?  Are you able to share your experience or vent your frustration about a situation without them offering advice?  You are likely looking for someone to validate your feelings, to feel understood and empathized with.

2. Non-Judgmental

When you are sharing something that’s in conflict with your own values, is your friend able to avoid judgment?  Are they able to remember that other people are not them and take care not to impose their values on you?  Remember, everybody’s doing the best they can at any given moment. If you feel judged by someone, you are unlikely to talk about the dilemmas that may be arising in your life, and that’s the time when you especially need emotional support.

3. Avoid “shoulding” people

It’s best to refrain from people who tell you what you “should” or “shouldn’t” do. If you’re in a relationship with someone who has a habit of telling you what you should and shouldn’t do, that’s a red flag. Instead of listening, this person is making assumptions about you or about the way you should be living your life.

4. Empathy

Empathy is the act of putting yourself in another person’s shoes. It’s a trait you’ll want to develop in yourself and a quality you can be looking for in others. If you tell someone something painful, recounting a personal crisis you went through, or a difficult situation you once faced, are they able to show compassion? The simple statement “I’m really sorry you had to go through that” can be the most supportive approach.

5. Emotional Maturity

Look for emotional maturity in your relationships. Here’s an example. Say you’ve made plans with a friend to go out, but you have to cancel because you got sick. A supportive friend may be disappointed, but will understand. They might even offer to pick up some chicken soup or a movie for you. But, if your friend gets angry, it’s a tip-off that you’re not dealing with a supportive and emotionally mature person. On the flip side, a friend who frequently cancels planned engagements without giving you a good reason, may also be immature and irresponsible, and will make you feel unsupported.

6. Develop Effective Communication Skills

You’ll encounter occasional conflicts with any friend. Those conflicts present you with an opportunity to develop effective communication skills. Try to own your feelings and avoid blaming others; at the same time, communicate what you need from another person.  In supportive relationships both people are able to step back, re-evaluate their actions and discuss the conflict without blaming and judging each other.

7. Emotional Honesty

Emotional honesty, which involves the willingness to be vulnerable, is central to supportive relationships. For example, let’s say a friend says something hurtful to you: “You look like you’ve put on weight,” or “I saw your ex-boyfriend last night with his new girlfriend and he looked really happy.” It’s important to tell that person how you feel. You might say: “I’m having a reaction to what you just said. It may not have been your intention, but I found what you said hurtful.” Vulnerability is a sign of authenticity; it makes the relationship feel real. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable shows other people that you care enough about them and the relationship to share who you really are, and you’re inviting them to be who they really are. In healthy relationships the other person usually responds with being vulnerable on their side.

8. Know When to Let Go

Every relationship hits bumps along the way, which is when effective communication becomes especially important. It helps you find out whether you can effectively work through a conflict and negotiate your differences with someone else. However, sometimes a person may lack the maturity to provide supportive relationships.  Sometimes, people change and their values are no longer the same.  If you feel that your relationship with someone is stressful, you feel judged and misunderstood by them and your attempts to repair conflicts are not working, it’s OK to let go of the relationship.  Just because you used to be friends with someone, does not mean you have to be in close contact with them if the relationship is no longer supportive of who you are today and the values you’ve developed. You can say: “I don’t think we’re a good fit as friends.” Or “I think our values or lifestyles are just too different to support a friendship.” The better you know yourself, the easier it is to assess whether people are a good fit as part of your support system.

If you would like help with creating healthy relationships, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.

photo credit: HAMED MASOUMI

10 Helpful Tips on Overcoming Depression

tips for depression

Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to accomplish your goals.

But while overcoming depression isn’t quick or easy, it’s far from impossible. The key is to start small and build from there.

Feeling better takes time, but you can get there if you make positive choices for yourself each day.

  1. Turn to trusted friends and family members. Talk about your difficulties with the people you love and trust. Ask for the help and support you need. You may have retreated from your most treasured relationships, but they can get you through this tough time.
  2. Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. Often when you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell, but being around other people will make you feel less depressed.
  3. Join a support group for depression. Being with others dealing with depression can go a long way in reducing your sense of isolation. You can also encourage each other, give and receive advice on how to cope, and share your experiences.
  4. Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Try not to hold yourself to impossibly high standards and then beating yourself up when you fail to meet them. Battle this source of self-imposed stress by challenging your negative ways of thinking.
  5. Socialize with positive people. Notice how people who always look on the bright side deal with challenges, even minor ones, like not being able to find a parking space. Then consider how you would react in the same situation. Even if you have to pretend, try to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.
  6. Keep a “negative thought log.” Whenever you experience a negative thought, jot down the thought and what triggered it in a notebook. Review your log when you’re in a good mood. Consider if the negativity was truly warranted. Ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation.
  7. Sleep. Make sure you are sleeping at least eight hours a day. Sleep deprivation is linked to depression.
  8. Eat Right. Try to maintain a healthy diet.  Make sure you are eating regular healthy meals to maintain normal blood-sugar levels.
  9. Exercise. Take a walk in the park or at the beach, go hiking, swim or play favorite sports.  Research has proven that regular exercise improves mood and decreases depression.
  10. Be exposed to Sunlight. For some, depression is triggered by a lack of sunlight during the winter (i.e., seasonal affective disorder). Sunlight can have a profound effect on your mood.

If you would like some more help with overcoming depression, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.

7 Coping Strategies for Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts

Are you dealing with obsessive thoughts?

Are you dealing with obsessive thoughts?

According to experts, obsessions are normal thoughts experienced with increased frequency. Struggling with obsessive thoughts does not mean your lack moral character or that you are crazy.  Anxiety stimulates obsessions: we obsess because we hope to solve our problems by thinking about the same thing over and over.  However, obsessive thinking does not help problem solving.  In fact, the opposite occurs: we become stuck in our thinking and feeling, which makes it difficult to move forward.

When we recognize that anxiety is the root cause of obsessions, we can understand that real healing from obsessions comes through reducing anxiety. Here are some helpful tips.

1. Make a list

Make a list of all your obsessive thoughts. Then write down what type of things trigger each, and what you do after.

2. The 3 Second Rule

Allow yourself 3 seconds to think about the obsessive item, and then purposefully redirect your attention to something more positive: a feeling, a happy memory, a pleasant vacation, or a kind word.

3. Learn how to Relax

Say the word “relax” softly in your head and take a deep breath. Tell yourself “You’re going to be okay.” Do a relaxation exercise (positive visualization, deep breathing, yoga pose.)

4. Learn to Live in the Present

Redirect your attention from thoughts to actual experience. What is real today? What do you need to accomplish, what are your daily tasks (e.g., work, taking care of your child, cleaning, chores etc.)

5. Use Distractions

Many people reported that distracting themselves with other activities helped them to stop obsessing.

Read a novel, watch movie, play a video game on your computer or phone, go for a walk, work out at a gym.

6. Thought Stopping

When you notice yourself obsessing, tell yourself “STOP” in your head and then move on to another activity. This is different than trying not to think about an obsession – which only makes the obsession stronger. Rather it is interrupting the obsessive process. We cannot keep ourselves from having obsessive thoughts, but we can refuse to “dwell” on them; we can immediately try and think about other more positive things

7. Practice Mindfulness

Imagine you are on a moving train, looking out of the window and watching your thoughts passing by, as if it was scenery, without judgment.  Just let these thoughts pass you by with you observing, as if these thoughts are not yours.

You observe, but are not involved. The scenery you are watching on the train glide in and out of view and you remain detached and relaxed.

This is a meditation technique that encourages detachment from the contents of your mind. ‘Watching’ obsessive thoughts in your mind from a relaxed ‘distance’ is very different from being in the middle of those thoughts and feeling totally identified with them.  The more detached you become from the thoughts, the less you try to fight them.

If you would like some more help with overcoming obsessive thoughts, anxiety or depression, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.

photo credit: cellar_door_films