Boulder Fire, 2017: 6 Ways to Feel Better

Boulder Fire 2017, Sunshine CanyonWith the latest fire in Boulder County, are you feeling fearful, anxious, depressed and/or a myriad of emotions? You are not going crazy!

Fire season in Colorado used to start in June. This year, due to lack of precipitation (snow & rain), we’ve already had our first fire–in Sunshine Canyon. So far, 62 acres have burned and 426 homes have been evacuated. While no homes have been damaged, the trauma people are experiencing will last a long time. Some people may have flashbacks and other symptoms from having experienced previous natural disasters. In Boulder County in just the past years, we’ve survived the Cold Spring fire, Fourmile Canyon fire, and the flood of 2013.

Symptoms

Some of what you might be feeling or noticing include:

ptsd from forest fire

  • anger
  • feeling detached
  • sad
  • scared
  • panic
  • anxious
  • irritable
  • flashbacks
  • sleep difficulty
  • disturbing dreams.

These can be symptoms of PTSD. I was talking to a friend the other day and he was relating that he was experiencing nightmares and feelings of anxiety. These feelings were related to the recent natural disasters we have experienced in Colorado. He hadn’t talked to anyone about this and, more importantly, he never dealt with these issues when the fire occurred. Until he gets professional help to deal with his PTSD, every time he sees a forest fire, he is going to suffer.

6 Ways to Feel Better

There are many ways to help yourself and your loved ones feel better.

  1. The support of family and friends can relieve stress and reduce the symptoms of ptsd.Reach out to family and friends – As humans we have the wonderful ability to share experiences and support each other through tough times. If people helped you last time, remember that sense of community.
  2. Exercise – This helps relieve stress, even if you just go for a walk or get on the treadmill.
  3. Ground in the present – Fear is about the future. Right here, right now, everything is okay.
  4. Do things you like to do – Taking time for yourself can help refocus your attention away from all the bad news. It also releases endorphins in your brain, which helps you feel better.
  5. Eat well for you – Take care of yourself. While it’s easy to reach for comfort food, it only helps for a few minutes. The effect on your blood sugar and nervous system does not help with your mood.
  6. Seek professional help – Friends and family can be very helpful, but sometimes we need someone with specialized skills and tools to help us to break out of the cycle that is triggering the anxiety and other painful feelings.

If you want or need more help than this, call me at (303) 444-2003.

Through tools such as Brainspotting, I can help you feel better and break the symptom patterns that grab hold of you. Brainspotting is a non-verbal treatment tool that helps you reprocess past traumas. Clients who experience brainspotting are often able to eliminate the underlying sensitivities that are causing the problems.

Trauma, PTSD, Depression: Does Your Life Look Great on the Outside but Feel Bad on the Inside?

Repotting

After many years in my home, my husband and I realized we needed to repot our numerous house plants. Most of these plants we’ve had for over 16 years. If you know anything about plants, you may realize that, after that amount of time, the plants are probably root-bound. I noticed this issue when we moved one of our big plants off of its stand. The roots had grown through the holes in the bottom of the pot and wrapped around the inside of the drainage dish so many times that it looked like a bird’s nest.plant where the top looks good

It took us a few weeks (pronounced “6”), to get up the resolve to take care of this task. The first plant was the one I just mentioned. There were no surprises. The second plant surprised me. The top of it looked beautiful. The branches looked strong. There was new growth. It flowered every once in a while. I expected to find a nest of roots at the bottom of this plant that we would prune, repot the plant, and it would be happier. Not so. When we gently pulled the plant out of the pot, I realized that there were hardly any roots. Obviously, there was not enough drainage. The soil was very wet and, I assume, the roots rotted. As my husband scrubbed the pot clean, I held the plant together so it didn’t fall apart. That’s how bad it was.plant with root rot

Putting on a Good Face

Now I can imagine you’re wondering why I’m writing about this on a therapist’s blog. I got to thinking that many people are like this. What we see looks good. They put on a good face. They may seem happy or okay on the outside, but like this plant, they are hurting. Inside, they hurt, feel weak, or feel damaged. Last week, a client and I were talking about the face he puts on for the world. Only his close circle of friends and family know of his reality.Individual therapy and counseling sessions in Boulder, CO

If you are tired of putting on a “good face” when that isn’t how you really feel, I can help. I would like to be your compassionate container. I can help you work through that which keeps you from being authentically you – being true to yourself. I can help you work through trauma, fear, depression, anxiety, and relational problems. I can help you go from surviving to thriving.

Call me at 303-444-2003 to schedule an appointment.

 

Melatonin Helps More Than Sleep

Sleeping Man Dreams of Melatonin
I just read an article in the April, 2016 issue of Psychology Today about Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) being much more helpful to people than previously thought. When it comes to Melatonin and sleep, I knew that Melatonin regulated one’s circadian rhythm (internal body clock that is synchronized to light/dark cycles and other environmental cues), but I didn’t know about it’s other benefits.

Some of the following information is from Psychology Today’s April, 2016 edition, University of Maryland Medical Center’s website and other websites.

What is It and How Does It Work?

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the Pineal Gland that regulates sleep. It has long been used instead of counting sheep. When the Melatonin system is working well, it’s level rises at night to facilitate falling asleep. The level stays high during the night so that we stay asleep. As morning comes, the level of Melatonin drops so that we can wake up for the day.

Many things can effect one’s level of Melatonin including:

  • Melatonin production can be impacted by jet lagHigh stress levels
  • Traveling between time zones
  • Night shift work
  • Aging
  • Blue Light (as in computer and smart phone screen time in the two hours before bed)

 

Melatonin – Exciting New Information About the Benefits

According to research, in addition to sleep, Melatonin may:

  • Decrease neurodegeneration (nerve decline) caused by amyloid beta and tau proteins. Damage caused by amyloid beta and tau proteins is found in people with Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Lower risk of stroke.
  • Help with depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  • Minimize inflammation (including from traumatic brain injury) and oxidative stress (which effects one’s potential to develop cancer). It may help strengthen the immune system. It is a potent antioxidant.
  • Aid in timing the release of female reproductive hormones.

 

How to Beneficially Increase Melatonin Levels in Our Bodies

  • Several sources mention tart cherries as containing the highest amount of Melatonin. For a chart of food with Melatonin, click on: Immune Health Science.
  • Cherries help melatonin production sharon kocina boulder coIn addition, according to the Natural Society, the following foods help boost Melatonin:
    • Pineapples
    • Bananas
    • Oranges
    • Oats
    • Sweet corn
    • Rice
    • Tomatoes
    • Barley
  • Blue lights, such as those given off by smartphones and tablets, suppress Melatonin production, thereby, potentially affecting one’s sleep. Turn off the computer and cell phone at least 2 hours before bedtime. 
  • Melatonin passes through the blood-brain barrier which boosts it’s effectiveness.

 

Supplements and Melatonin

Melatonin supplements aid can aid sleep and other conditionsAs with all supplements, they are unregulated and may not always reliably contain the claimed ingredients. Dosing can be a problem as many over the counter supplements contain more Melatonin than the body uses. Talk to someone you trust working in the vitamin and supplement department in your local health food store. If possible, look for supplements that are GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified.

The best approach of Melatonin supplementation is to begin with very low doses. Different people have different responses, so start the dose below the amount that our bodies normally produce (< 0.3 mg per day). You should use the lowest amount possible to achieve the desired effect. Your health care practitioner can help you determine the most appropriate dose for your condition(s).

Resources

As with any medication or supplement, check with your health professionals to see if Melatonin is a good idea for you. It could have interactions with medication or other supplements you are taking.

If sleep is eluding you or if I can help with any of these issues, call me at 303-444-2003.

Finishing Counseling: How To and Why a Termination Session is Important

Clinical supervision, therapist termination sessionA couple with whom I have been working just finished therapy. It’s almost always bittersweet to finish therapy with a client, but it is the icing on the cake. When a client is willing, it is important to do what is called a termination session. We did that today. It can be hard, but it’s important.

Throughout this blog post, I will use the term “termination” but “closure” is also an appropriate term.

What is a Termination Session?

A Termination Session is the last session at the end of a course of therapy. In general, the following issues are discussed:

  • How does s/he or they feel about finishing therapy
  • Goal assessment
  • What did the client learn; how did s/he or they heal
  • Challenges s/he or they still face
  • How will s/he or they handle similar issues in the future
  • Resources (including the therapist)
  • Feedback for the therapist (what was helpful and what would have helped)
  • What the therapist learned from the client; client’s strengths

Why is a Termination Session Important?

Closure

Therapist termination session closureIt’s purpose is to provide closure. Why is closure important? Many clients lack closure in previous relationships and situations. We can teach them what it is like to wrap things up well. To look at what was accomplished is very important. In sessions with clients, we look at the goals, where we started in relation to those goals, periodic status updates, and then where we finished. It helps both client and therapist to see the progress that was made and changes the client made in his/her life.

Challenges and Resources

It is common for the client to still face challenges in his/her life. Acknowledging what these are and highlighting the tools they have learned helps to see progress. We also talk about the resources the client has to face challenges in the future. The client often feels empowered.

Feedback

Therapist termination session feedbackFor the therapist, feedback provides an invaluable source of self evaluation. It helps you improve, but it also helps you realize what you did well. As therapists we so seldom get feedback either way unless we actively solicit feedback. If you solicit feedback from a client, you need to be open to hearing both the good and the bad. Realize that most feedback is constructive and remain positive. They have been vulnerable in providing you feedback so be sure to thank them!

Why Doesn’t a Termination Session Happen and What to Do About It?

It can be difficult to have clients show up for the final session. Many clients schedule and either cancel or just don’t show up.

Why do people not want to do termination sessions:

  • They feel rejected by the therapist
  • It brings up feelings of situations that didn’t have closure in the past
  • They think they are done and don’t want to pay for another session
  • They don’t want to or never learned how to say goodbye
  • Fear of losing a support person
  • They don’t want to end the relationship
  • Clients may be afraid of critiquing the therapist

How to get the client to the termination session:

  • How to get clients to a therapy termination session clinical supervisionDiscuss the fact that many clients don’t want to come to a termination session and talk about it
  • Talk about what will be discussed in the final session so clients know what to expect
  • Explore the specific benefits of a termination session
  • Perhaps use a different word other than “termination” such as “closure” or “final” session

As a licensed therapist of over 20 years, I provide clinical supervision for therapists seeking LPC and LMFT licensure. I can help you develop the practice you desire and explore a variety of tools within your therapeutic frame.

Call me at (303) 444-2003 to schedule a supervision session.

 

10 Tips for Dealing With Back To School Stress

Change is Constant

You have been in your summer routine for three months and it’s time for kids to go back to school. Part of you may be looking forward to having the kids out of the house, and part of you may be grieving the loss of freedom that comes with summer’s play time.

Back to school stressors include:

  • dealing with back to school stressScheduling Challenges – Managing calendars for everyone in the house is difficult, especially at the onset of the school year.
  • Cost – There are additional expenses associated with school supplies, clothing, commuting, sports and activities, and in some cases, tuition.
  • Transportation – Who needs to be where, at what time, and how do they get there and home?
  • Fear of the Unknown – There will be new teachers, new classmates and in some cases new schools. There will be a more difficult curriculum, which includes teacher demands, homework and extracurricular activities.
  • Social Issues – Changing social cliques, advanced or delayed physical development, rivalries, bullies and being judged or teased can create apprehension for kids and parents alike.
  • Appearance – Acne, clothes, a bad hair cut and makeup issues all impact self image and add to the stress of going back to school.

It’s Hard For Them – It’s Hard For You

coping with the stress of going back to schoolChange is hard. In fact, there is a whole field of study dedicated to this called Change Management. When everybody gets stressed out, there is a greater possibility of the almost inevitable blow-up. As parents we need to realize what everybody is going through including ourselves. Fortunately, most kids are resilient. They are well suited to cope with change if you just give them a little support. For those that aren’t resilient, additional support may be needed.

Your childhood experience with going back to school will impact how your approach your children going back to school. For example if you were bullied at school, your energy around your kids going back to school may be poisoned. Our children often pick up on our energy making back to school more difficult for them. If school was traumatic for you, I can help through the use of Brainspotting and other treatment modalities.

Emotional Impact

The emotions associated with back to school stress run the full gamut for all involved:

  • dealing with back to school stressExcitement and Joy – They are happy see their friends and start on a new adventure. You are happy to get them out of the house. Some kids can get bored and are looking forward to the challenges of the new school year.
  • Fear – It’s a new school year: new friends, new teachers, new expectations.
  • Anger – Some people react to change with anger. It is the culmination of all of the fear and stress.
  • Sadness – The summer is over along with all of the fun activities that go along with summer. Perhaps they made new friends they won’t see again.

Families can experience circumstances such as relocating, financial challenges, loss, divorce, and death that can all make a difficult situation worse. If you are dealing with any of these issues and need support, call me (303) 444-2003.

10 Helpful Tips for Dealing with Back to School Stress

  1. 10 tips for dealing with back to school stressTake some time to acknowledge and empathize with what your children are going through.
  2. When possible, be proactive. Discuss expectations ahead of time.
  3. Start getting the whole family into the rhythm of school as soon as possible. Change bedtime and wake time several days before the first day of school.
  4. Change eating habits to support learning (less junk food, more proteins and complex carbs). Be sure to eat together as a family. Research shows that one of the best indicators of kids emotional health and future success is family meal time.
  5. Practice the first day routine. Make sure everybody knows where to be and at what time.
  6. Plan some time for unstructured play for the whole family. This is important for healthy brain development.
  7. If you are new to a school or to the community, get to know the parents in your kid’s grade.
  8. If possible, volunteer in your children’s school. Get to know the teachers and administrators. Take advantage of special programs such as tutoring, IEP’s/504 plans, Special Education, and Gifted and Talented programs designed to help kids be successful.
  9. Allow for healthy outlets for stress: exercise, rest, diet, and play.
  10. Focus on self care. A more relaxed and confident parent is better able to help his or her kids deal with back to school stress and foster healthier and more resilient kids who know how to deal with change.

If you or your family are in distress, call me at (303) 444-2003. I can help!

Do You Have Flood Anxiety? 6 Ways to Feel Better

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Flood waters triggering

Floods can make you feel isolated.

With all of the precipitation we’ve been having here in Colorado (and other places), it’s a double edged sword. If we have a lot of rain, it can bring back many feelings including fear, anger and sadness. After the recent September, 2013 deluge, are you asking yourself, “Will I be dealing with floods again?” A dear friend of mine had her basement re-flood last week. For many people, other things happened at the same time as the flood. There were many losses. It is very common to wonder if a flood is going to happen again.

The Human Impact of Flooding

If we don’t have enough rain or snow, we look at having a scary fire season like we’ve had in recent years. Some of the fires include the Four Mile Canyon Fire, Flagstaff Fire, High Park Fire, Black Forest Fire, Haymen Fire, and Waldo Canyon. And that’s just within the past few years and within a 2 hour radius of Boulder County.

It’s confusing. Do we wish for rain or for it to stop? Many people have mixed feelings.

What’s Going On With Me?

Are you feeling/having any of the following that have been triggered by the rain?

overcoming flood anxiety

It’s OK to have these feelings.

  • anger
  • detached
  • sad
  • scared
  • panic
  • anxious
  • irritable
  • flashbacks
  • sleep difficulty
  • disturbing dreams.

You are not going crazy. These can be symptoms of PTSD. I was talking to a friend the other day and he was relating that he was experiencing nightmares and feelings of anxiety. These feelings were related to the recent rains we have been experiencing in Colorado. He hadn’t talked to anyone about this and, more importantly, he never dealt with these issues when the original floods occurred. Until he gets professional help to deal with his PTSD, every time we see a similar weather pattern, he is going to suffer.

6 Ways to Feel Better

There are many ways to help yourself and your loved ones feel better.

  1. The support of family and friends can relieve stress and reduce the symptoms of ptsd.Reach out to family and friends – As humans we have the wonderful ability to share experiences and support each other through tough times. If people helped you last time, remember that sense of community.
  2. Exercise – This helps relieve stress, even if you just go for a walk or get on the treadmill.
  3. Ground in the present – Fear is about the future. Right here, right now, everything is okay.
  4. Do things you like to do – Taking time for yourself can help refocus your attention away from all the bad news. It also releases endorphins in your brain, which helps you feel better.
  5. Eat well for you – Take care of yourself. While it’s easy to reach for comfort food, it only helps for a few minutes. The effect on your blood sugar and nervous system does not help with your mood.
  6. Seek professional help – Friends and family can be very helpful, but sometimes we need someone with specialized skills and tools to help us to break out of the cycle that is triggering the anxiety and other painful feelings.

If you want or need more help than this, call me at (303) 444-2003.

Through tools such as Brainspotting, I can help you feel better and break the symptom patterns that grab hold of you when it rains. Brainspotting is a non-verbal treatment tool that helps you reprocess past traumas. Clients who experience brainspotting are often able to eliminate the underlying sensitivities that are causing the problems.

Brainspotting in Couples Therapy: Does It Work?

History of One Couple in Therapy Prior to Brainspotting

mature couple in therapyMary and Dean (names and other details have been changed) and I had been working together for a while. When we started therapy, they had been married for over 17 years. Mary said she wasn’t sure she wanted to stay in the marriage. She said she’d been working so hard, had been to another therapist, but things weren’t getting better. Through us doing EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) and other couples’ therapy modalities, their marriage improved, but there was still one last big unresolved issue.

Problem

Couple with intimacy problemsWe’d worked through issues including communication, expectations, past emotional injuries, and shared living space. The last great frontier was intimacy. Numerous approaches were used. Things had gotten better but were still not where the couple wanted them to be. Mary wanted to make love with her husband. Both partners understood that making love included more than intercourse. Dean said he wanted to but made few attempts at connecting with her. Mary went through periods of hopefulness and hopelessness. We decided to try Brainspotting.

Brainspotting Treatment

Brainspotting in couples therapy in boulderBrainspotting is a non-verbal technique used to reprocess trauma or stuck energy. When I do Brainspotting with couples, the partners decide whether or not they want their mate present. In this case, Mary and Dean wanted each other present during the treatment. Prior to starting, each person talked about their potential triggers that got in the way of intimacy and sexuality. Mary decided she wanted to target depression; Dean wanted to target his fear of rejection. We spent one session on each target. Dean did his Brainspotting first. The next week, at check in (I often do this first thing in a session), Mary reported that Dean was approaching her more and that he was more available. Dean said he “felt like something changed in [his] brain”, and the he “felt lighter in general”.

Next, we brainspotted Mary’s depression. At our check-in the following session, she said the depression lifted pretty quickly after our session, and she felt much better.

Effect on Their Relationship Due to Brainspotting

Happy couple after brainspotting in BoulderAfter our session in which Dean brainspotted his fear of rejection, Mary said she felt like they had their marriage back. She said, “I feel like I have a home again.” After Mary’s brainspotting session, the couple felt like the depression was no longer getting in the way of their relationship.
While our work is not done yet, Mary and Dean feel like Brainspotting helped them get through a stuck spot. The couple said they feel like the Brainspotting was an important step in their process. When asked more about this, Mary reminded me that it was the relationship that we’ve built over time, the trust, that allowed them to Brainspot effectively.

Brainspotting to Help You Get Unstuck

Patterns can form in relationships the are unhelpful and even detrimental. Brainspotting can help you get unstuck and reprocess a variety of patterns that interfere with your relationship including:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Depression
  • Shame
  • Anger
  • Withdrawal
  • Abuse
  • Communication issues
  • Passive Agression
  • Jealousy

Fixing broken relationships is hard work. It takes commitment from both parties and a willingness to openly explore the problems and possible solutions that will enable you to move toward the relationship you both desire.

You too can have the relationship you desire. Call me at (303) 444-2003 to schedule an appointment.

Having the Support of Community

Support communityWhen we think of factors that influence our physical and mental health, we often think of diet and exercise. The missing piece of this puzzle is social connectedness and community. Listed in “40 Developmental Assets” developed by the South Fraser Valley Regional Child & Youth Committee in partnership with Fraser Region Community Justice Initiatives Association, are elements of community. If it is instrumental in healthy development in children, wouldn’t it serve people of all ages?

Living to Age 90?

Health status checklist excellent checked for people in communityI was listening to NPR (National Public Radio) a few weeks ago when I heard the report of a study that talked about the effects of community on peoples’ health. For people who have a supportive community, the rate of heart attacks and stroke decreases; blood pressure is lower. In my reading of January’s Reader’s Digest, I came across a story about a Greek island where people are 2.5 times more likely than Americans to reach the age of 90 and men are 4 times more likely than American men to reach the age of 90. The article bespeaks their diet and schedule. It mentions visiting with friends each day but, unfortunately, does not mention it as a factor in longevity and health. I think the author missed the proverbial boat.

We are Social Beings

Most of us turn to family, friends, clergy and others when we’re having a hard time. People are designed as social beings. Pascal Vrticka, a Social Neurologist, said in an article in the Huffington Post: “We are, so to speak, biologically hard-wired for interacting with others, and are thus said to be endowed with a “‘social brain’.”

Friends having coffee can offer the support of community

Increasingly, in our American society, we are becoming more isolated. When you go to the large grocery chains, there are numerous check-out stations where we no longer have to talk to anyone. We can do all of our grocery shopping without having a social interaction. And the prevalence of on-line shopping is increasing. We can look for what we want, get additional information, find sales and purchase our items. All without having a conversation with anyone.

Sociologists House, Landis and Umberson quote the following in their recent study:

Recent scientific work has established both a theoretical basis and strong empirical evidence for a causal impact of social relationships on health. Prospective studies, which control for baseline health status, consistently show increased risk of death among persons with a low quantity, and sometimes low quality, of social relationships. Experimental and quasi-experimental studies of humans and animals also suggest that social isolation is a major risk factor for mortality from widely varying causes. The mechanisms through which social relationships affect health and the factors that promote or inhibit the development and maintenance of social relationships remain to be explored.

Depression and Isolation

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-depression-woman-image9473691Isolating yourself and being/feeling depressed can happen in either order. Someone who is depressed often isolates him or herself; someone who isolates him or herself can start feeling depressed. This can definitely be seen with the recent weather patterns. Many people who ended up staying at home for days because of the recent storms say they “need to get out”, they feel like they have “cabin fever”.

How to Find Community

Many of my clients have “increasing my support system”, meaning friends and community, as one of their therapy goals. If you are feeling bereft of community, think about what you enjoy or used to enjoy. Find a group that does that:

  • 32267212_mIf you like hiking, find a person or a group of people who like to hike.
  • If you like knitting, contact a knitting store and see if they have any groups that get together in their store.
  • If you have a spiritual connection, perhaps visiting a faith community to see if it could help meet your needs.
  • The internet can be a wonderful resource for “meetup” groups. Go to meetup.com to see what options are available. If you don’t see a group that interests you, you can start your own meetup group.

Dr. Christiane Northrup on her recent PBS special said supportive communities enhance our immune systems. Think, “Community is Immunity!” Community supports our physical health, our mental health, our spiritual health and our relational health.

If all of this is overwhelming or you just need help, call me at (303) 444-2003 to schedule an appointment.

 

Insomnia Keeping You Awake? A Case Study

Suffering from Insomnia?

Woman with insomnia in bed awakeMore and more Americans are suffering from insomnia. According to sleepeducation.com, some statistics about insomnia:
• 30 to 35% have brief symptoms of insomnia.
• 15 to 20% have a short-term insomnia disorder, which lasts less than three months.
• 10% have a chronic insomnia disorder, which occurs at least three times per week for at least three months. A recent study at the University of Arizona College of Medicine found that participants with persistent insomnia had a 58% higher risk of premature death!

Symptoms of Insomnia

For some people or at different times of our lives, the issue is short term. But for others, insomnia is a chronic issue. Symptoms can include:

  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • brain fog
  • depressed mood
  • anxiety
  • decreased libido
  • concentration problems

These symptoms can effect your work and relationships. You can get help now. Zola (name changed) did. Read on to see how she was able to fall asleep faster and sleep through the night.

The Problem – An Insomnia Case Study

Zola is a married, self-employed woman in her 40’s with 2 young children. In our first session, Zola talked about feeling irritable, tired all of the time and not as patient with her kids as she’d like to be. Her sex life was non-existent. While her husband was being patient with her, she was frustrated. Her doctor prescribed Xanax to help her sleep. Even though the Xanax helped her sleep, she didn’t want to rely on it or become addicted to the medication. She was able to function but wanted more.

Something Zola realized, because this had been going on for a while, was that she felt anxious at bedtime. As bedtime approached, she started feeling anxious about feeling anxious. The thought of going to sleep had become very stressful. Falling asleep when you’re anxious is bad enough, but trying to relax when you’re feeling anxious about feeling anxious is even harder. On top of this, once Zola fell asleep, she did not stay asleep. When she woke, her mind started reeling about a myriad of issues or obsessing about one thing. She wanted help!

The Treatment for Zola’s Insomnia

well rested woman in bed no longer suffering from insomniaWe talked about her experience of her sleep problems. I educated Zola about sleep hygiene (see below). While I am not a nutritionist or the like (and could not prescribe or recommend), we talked about alternatives to Xanax. Zola had already checked with her physician about possible physical health issues that could effect her sleep; there were none. Zola adjusted her caffeine intake, stopped using her computer and watching t.v. within 2 hours of bedtime, and made sure she had some down-time before bedtime to let go of the issues from the day. She also adjusted her bedroom light to be less bright.

Next, we decided to use Brainspotting. Brainspotting (bsp) is a non-verbal treatment that helps you reprocess issues that interfere with your life. With the headphones on (accessing biolateral music and sounds), Zola thought about how she felt (both emotionally and physically). I noticed that her eyes focused on one spot so she had already found her brainspot. The relationship we had built helped Zola feel safe so that she could reprocess whatever arose for her. Our bsp session that day lasted about 45 minutes. At the end of the Brainspotting session, we talked about her experience during the processing. From previous bsp sessions, Zola knew to notice any changes during the time between our sessions.

Sleep, Beautiful Sleep

Treating insomnia can re-ignite your sex lifeAt our last session, Zola said she hardly uses Xanax anymore. Most of the time, she falls asleep easily and sleeps through the night. For the most part, Zola wakes up feeling rested after 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. She reports being much more patient with her children and husband. She is able to maintain better focus at work and has a sex life again.

If you are interested in getting life back and no longer suffering from the effects of insomnia, call me at (303) 444-2003.

 

Sleep Hygiene – Tips You Can Try on Your Own

The following are conditions that can affect your sleep:

  • surfing the web at bedtime can contribute to insomniaCaffeine consumption: Caffeine is a stimulant often present in coffee, tea (not usually herbal teas), soda and chocolate. If you “use” caffeine and have sleep problems, keep your consumption to before noon.
  • Screen Usage: Screens on electronic devices such as t.v., computers, tablets and cell phones (possibly e-readers too) create an excitatory response in the brain. Discontinue their use 2 hours prior to bedtime, if possible. Some people with whom I’ve worked are still able to use e-readers once they’ve adjusted their use of the rest.
  • Eating: Avoid eating heavy meals after 7 p.m. The organs in your body need to go through periods of rest. If your sytstem is digesting food, it can interrupt this rest cycle. Some people, however, need a small snack before bed. Stay away from protein as it’s harder to digest.
  • Sugar Consumption: Eating sugar effects your blood sugar. At first, your blood sugar gets a big boost but then is followed by a crash. Sugar crashes can keep you from falling asleep and staying asleep.
  • Drinking: Try to finish your drinking by 8 p.m. to eliminate your need to go to the bathroom during the night.
  • Activities in Bedroom: If you’re having trouble sleeping, keep your activities in bed only for sleep and sex.
  • Alcohol: See “sugar consumption” bullet.
  • Noise, Light, & Temperature: When you are quieting down for bed, the noise should be low and the light dim. We generally sleep better in cooler temperatures than when it’s warm.
  • Napping: Keep your naps to only 15 – 20 minutes before 3 p.m.

 

PTSD: A Day in the Life

How Trauma Can Have a Lasting Impact

Imagine waking up in the morning and not feeling rested, or not remembering your drive to work. What if your relationships change because you are not who you were? What if every time you heard a certain sound or you drove by a certain area you had a flashback or panic attack?

Traumatic events can have a serious and lasting effect on our lives. If not treated, these debilitating after-effects can last a life time. The best treatments involve re-processing the trauma and it’s manifestations. By re-processing, I don’t mean talk therapy in which you relive the event again and again. This type of exposure treatment is unnecessarily re-traumatizing. My preferred therapy technique to treat PTSD and trauma is Brainspotting. But more on this in a minute, first lets explore a possible day in the life of someone suffering with PTSD.

PTSD Symptoms:

In our example, let’s talk about Cindy who survived a car accident. Married with children, Cindy now struggles with the very real symptoms of PTSD.

Waking/Sleep Issues

PTSD A Day in the Life picture of tired woman holding head

Cindy is tired so much of the time.

Cindy wakes up tired most days. She often has problems falling asleep and staying asleep through the night. But as a mom with kids, she doesn’t have the option of calling in sick. Because she is often tired, she finds herself being inpatient and sometimes yelling at them. Before the accident, she was better able to regulate her emotions and not feel as stressed.

By the end of the night, Cindy is exhausted. Unfortunately, sleep issues beget sleep issues. The more anxious she becomes about falling asleep, the harder it is to fall asleep. Her brain is switched on when it is time for it to calm down for sleep.

Interactions with Others

A day in the life of ptsd and trauma. kids playing and jumping on a bed.

For someone suffering from PTSD, normal play can be too much and kids don’t just get to be kids!

We talked about Cindy’s interactions with her kids in the morning, but another problem associated with her PTSD is her reaction when her kids play in a normal, exuberant manner. For most people, this is not an issue, but for Cindy, it is loud. The sound is overwhelming and Cindy is constantly telling them to be quiet.

The lasting effects of her PTSD is also impacting her adult relationships. She has withdrawn from her family and friends because she doesn’t have the energy to deal with them. Her family and friends don’t understand. They think “it’s just in her head” and can’t understand why she just doesn’t “just get over it.”

Cindy’s husband notices that she isn’t the person she used to be. In fact, it seems like her personality has changed. The emotional filters that everyone has when they feel an emotion no longer works as consistently as they did before. When Cindy feels angry, she yells–which happens often as she is so often over-stimulated. Their sex life is non-existent which increases the tension between them.  Because her brain is working so hard to heal, there are times it looks like “the lights are on but nobody’s home.”

Difficulty Concentrating and Executive Function Challenges

PTSD woman overwhelmed with choices at grocery store

Simple tasks can become overwhelming challenges.

Big projects now seem to be too much for Cindy. Breaking them down into doable pieces, prioritizing, sorting and setting goals used to be so easy. Now, these executive functions take to much effort. Even using a recipe can be a challenge. Most people can easily go back and forth between the ingredient list and the instructions. For Cindy, this is a monumental challenge. Even reading for pleasure has been effected.  Now she has to measure how much information is on a page; otherwise, it can be too overwhelming.

Similar Triggering Experiences

Part of PTSD is that similar experiences or sensations can trigger flashbacks. These can take the form of:

  • Situational – Experiences like driving around town can be a powerful trigger for those who have been in car accidents.
  • Noises – Loud bangs, screeching tires and even noisy children can trigger flashbacks.
  • Scents – Our sense of smell is the strongest for bringing up past experiences. Unfortunately those experiences aren’t alway happy!
  • Music – Certain songs or types of music can cause powerful associations that are triggering for some people who suffer from PTSD.
  • Touch – The startle response it so primed in people with PTSD even a light touch can cause a strong adverse reaction. People who have been physically or sexually abused can be very sensitive to touch.

People who are triggered feel like they are going crazy, they wonder if they will ever feel normal again and if this will ever stop. Because your brain links memories, thoughts and experiences and your mind/body/spirit knows what it needs to do to heal, Brainspotting can be a powerful treatment option for reprocessing the emotional load associated with the traumatic memory. A basic tenet of Brainspotting, is that you have the innate ability to heal.

What Helps – Strategies for Coping with PTSD

Planning for your energy is important. What was so easy before the trauma now can take monumental effort and energy. What you eat and drink plays an important role. “Food is fuel” is a discussion I often have with trauma survivors. Foods that converts to sugar quickly are not your friend. While the body may want quick energy (so it craves sugar), planning ahead and eating well for yourself will work much better in the longer run.

Exercise is imperative. Even if all you can manage is 5 minutes of walking, it will help your nervous system and your mood. All of what I mentioned previously can effect your mood. Depression and/or anxiety easily creep in. Natural light is helpful. If you are indoors all day, sit by a window for at least some of the day. It can help with depression.

Hand rising out of water indicating the need for those with PTSD to seek professional helpGet professional help. A good nutritionist can help with food and supplement suggestions to support the healing your body is doing. A psychotherapist who specializes in trauma can assist you in moving from merely surviving to thriving. It is important to find a therapist who does more than talk therapy. Explore things like Brainspotting, Somatic Experiencing, EMDR and other mind/body modalities.

For Those With PTSD – The Days in Your Life Can Get Better

The effects of PTSD are pervasive. They decrease the mind’s ability to organize and process information. They hamper the nervous system’s ability to regulate stress. As we’ve seen, PTSD negatively impacts relationships. These can even affect one’s ability to hold down a job.

Cindy felt like she was on the outside of normal looking in, but after seeking treatment, she felt heard and understood, she reprocessed her trauma, and she is now able to enjoy the sounds of her children’s rambunctious play.

If you have questions about PTSD or would like to explore Brainspotting, please call me at (303) 444-2003.

Additional Reading: