Friday, January 13, 2017

Why Consistency Matters in Your Mental Health Plan


As a psychologist who specializes in working with adults and children,  I’d tell you the most important issue in psychotherapy is how you approach your treatment. In clinical terms this is called treatment adherence, but it can also be known as consistency.

Treatment adherence, the state of your acceptance and follow-through with treatment recommended by your healthcare professional, is critical to recovery. But it's even more important to maintain well-being.

Consistency doesn’t just mean going to psychotherapy. Or taking your medication. Consistency means making every psychotherapy appointment. Being on time for sessions, and making sure you don’t skip treatment because you want to go to the beach or just don’t feel like talking. Consistency means taking your medication every day at the same time, with the same dose. Consistency means making sure you get refills in time so there’s no break or gap in your medication regime. Consistency means you aim to eat well, sleep well and exercise. 

The single biggest issue I see as doctor treating depression is non-adherence - how children and adults become too casual in their commitment to treatment. For many, once they begin to feel a bit better, they stop coming to sessions, or decide not to take medication anymore. The problem here is that while their symptoms have improved, the mood disorder is not at a management level. And as such, relapse occurs

The best way to think about being consistent with your treatment plan begins with aiming for managing your ILLNESS, not managing your SYMPTOMS. When you manage your symptoms, you are only taking care of the surface issues. Managing your illness takes more commitment, but it's so worth it.


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Tips to Help Your New Year's Resolutions





It's that time of year again. When millions make resolutions as the new year begins. If you want to be successful with your goals, the American Psychological Association offers tips that will keep your eye on the prize.


  1. Start small: Make resolutions that you think you can keep. If, for example, your aim is to exercise more frequently, schedule three or four days a week at the gym instead of seven. If you would like to eat healthier, try replacing dessert with something else you enjoy, like fruit or yogurt, instead of seeing your diet as a form of punishment. 
  2. Change one behavior at a time: Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time. Thus, replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Don’t get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life. Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time. 
  3. Talk about it: Share your experiences with family and friends. Consider joining a support group to reach your goals, such as a workout class at your gym or a group of coworkers quitting smoking. Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating. 
  4. Don’t beat yourself up: Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal and OK. Don’t give up completely because you ate a brownie and broke your diet, or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy. Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track. 
  5. Ask for support: Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress caused by your resolution. 


Friday, December 16, 2016

8 Types of Toys for Depressed Children


Shopping for toys during the holiday season always takes a bit of resourcefulness. You need to learn what’s new, what’s out, what’s flying off the shelves - and then carefully consider whether your purchase will add to your child’s entertainment stockpile. But if you have a child with special needs, especially one who is struggling with depression, finding the right toy can feel even more daunting.

Though there are many different kinds of games and toys, here are 8 categories that I teach parents to consider thinking about when holiday shopping. These themes help with healing and are also super fun too. 
  1. Seek out toys that teach about feelings. Though most children find it a challenge to label feelings, depressed children struggle even more in identifying and expressing them. Toys like Eggspressions, Kimochis and Moody Monsters Memory Game invite depressed kids to see the subtle differences between and among emotions. They also teach how actual expressions look on others’ faces as well as their own. Playing with these toys will help your child learn how mad is different than irritated. How sad is different than lonely. Once children learn these subtle differences, they can better label what they’re feeling and talk about it.
  2. Get artsy. Research shows that the expressive arts, like drawing, painting and creating music not only lift mood, they help children express and manage feeling states. Old-school toys that encourage artistic expression like crayons, paints, clay are great items. So is getting your child a musical instrument. And don’t forget the new-school digital ways of getting art and music into your child’s life with downloadable apps and computer software like Toca Band, MoMA Artlab, Garage Band or iDraw, for example.
  3. Choose problem solving toys: Depression can cause distractibility, lower reasoning and interrupt flow of thinking – parts of the brain area called “executive functioning.” Toys and games that challenge your child to find solutions, tap judgment or use logic will help sharpen these important cognitive skills. Classic games like Chess, Othello, Battleship and Trimonos are terrific board games. Digital ones like Star Wars Pit Droids, Angry Birds, and Bubble Ball are fun and educational too.
  4. Pick games that build resiliency: Games that teach depressed children how to be resilientunder pressure can improve self-esteem and reduce hopelessness. Consider classic toys like Jenga, Don’t Break the Ice, Don’t Spill the Beans, Topple, Kerplunk, Crocodile Dentist, Flinchand Hot Potato. Shop for educational and gaming apps for your child that likes tech-y things over old-school games by searching online at stores like Amazon or Toys-R-Us.
  5. Toys that relax: Toys and games that incorporate color and lights increase feel-good endorphins and are instant mood lifters. Classic toys like Lite Brite, Melissa and Doug’s Light Box, Rain Tubes, Sand Windows, Water Volcanoes, Sand Play and Lava Lamps are home run toys. Even a simple jar of bubbles can teach children how to deep breathe, offering a space for fun and relaxation skill building. Night Lights like Cloud B Tranquil Turtle, Rainbow Bulbs or Uncle Milton’s Shooting Stars are soothing as are Aromatherapy Stuffed Animals like Sonoma Lavender Bear or Cozy Plush Microwavable Animals.
  6. Don’t forget the cape: Any toys or games that encourage pretend play are wonderful ways to encourage imagination for emotional and physical release. Research shows that pretend play reduces anxiety and depression, reduces pain, improves coping and regulates feelings states. Be it Disney princesses or Marvel Avengers, girly dolls or action figures, playing house or walking on the moon, pretend play is great, healing fun.
  7. Go for silly over seriousLaughter is great medicine, and scientific studies show that having silly experiences raises the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin. Some of my favorites are Duck Duck Bruce, Pass the Pigs, Slamwich, Gooey Louie, and What’s in Ned’s Head. And never underestimate the giggle power of miniature hats and stick on mustaches. They rank top of the list for children I work with.
  8. Games that spark storytelling: Getting depressed children to talk about their struggles isn’t always easy. But the built-in rules of certain games allow children to safely share. For your depressed child games like Tell Tale, MadLibs, SketchIt, Ravensburger’s Tell-A Story Games, IlluStory’s Make Your Own Story and Rory’s Story Cubes can be a springboard for emotional expression.
These special categories of toys and games give depressed children a healthy way of distancing themselves from sadness. 

When you sit and play with your depressed child, your time and attention helps with their healing.

Remember, for children, toys are their words and play is their conversation.


  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Staying Positive During the Holiday Season


Sometimes it's a challenge to stay positive during the holiday season. 

Want to keep hub-bub and the hum-bug to a minimum? Try to stick to these simple rules:

1. Avoid over-scheduling yourself. Use a calendar to keep track of your holiday commitments so you can physically see what you're committing to. Give yourself room to say "No" to things that aren't important this holiday season and learn to delegate so you can get things done with help. 

2. Lower your expectations. Don’t strive for perfection, and learn that good enough is okay. Don’t expect family and friends to be on their best behaviors either. People who are toxic year round rarely take time off for the holiday. 

3. Make a budget and stick to it. Beware of the joy-to-stuff myth ratio: that more stuff equals more joy. It doesn't. Instead, work within a budget and use lists to keep track of presents. 

4. Spread your socializing in the months after the holidays. Don’t try to pack a year’s worth of socializing into a few weeks. Start a new tradition with friends or family to connect in the New Year if you can't get to see them during the holidays.

5. Get as much rest as you can. Schedule some pajama days for yourself or for the whole family during the holiday season. Stay home, rest and enjoy some time together without rushing about. Holidays are for celebrating what is truly important: being with loved ones. 



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dr. Deb for Best Health Blog at Healthline



Thank you to whoever nominated me for the Best Health Blog Contest at Healthline. I feel so happy to be mentioned along with many of the wonderful blogs listed in the contest.

I've been maintaining Dr. Deb well for over a decade now, starting it back in the day when blogging was new, and the internet was just booming. I remember writing every few days to highlight psychological topics, current events and new research. It was such an exciting way to learn and share with others from around the world.

I continue to write about important health topics - especially noting health awareness days. And while I work at microblogging sites like Facebook and Twitter, my Dr. Deb page holds a special place in my heart.

If you'd like to vote for this blog in the contest, just link here.

Should I win, I will donate 100% of the prize to a Mental Health organization in my county.

Go to the search bar and type in Dr. Deb - and then vote.

Voting ends December 12th.

Thanks!


Friday, November 18, 2016

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is November 19, 2016


In 1999, Senator Harry Reid, a survivor of his father’s 1972 suicide, introduced a new resolution into the US Senate. With its passage, the US Congress designated the Saturday before Thanksgiving as National Survivors of Suicide Day - an awareness day that reaches out to thousands of people who have lost a loved one to suicide.

National Survivors of Suicide Day has evolved into a global awareness day called International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day thanks to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. Sometimes called "Survivor Day," this November 19th will find children and adults affected by suicide loss gathering around the world at events in their local communities to find comfort and heal.
Every 40 seconds, someone dies by suicide. 
Every 41 seconds someone tries to understand that loss. 

If you need help, are suicidal or feeling hopeless, please call 1-800-273-TALK.