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Existential GPS

Six Ways to Beat the Summer-time Blues

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Summertime blues? Seriously? The answer is yes, and it’s more common than you might think. The kids are out of school and they have two questions on their minds, “Can we go to the pool now?” and “What can I eat next?” Your lawn has taken on a creepy “I will be overgrown regardless of your efforts” attitude. Your neighbors ask “Is it hot enough for you?” at least twice a day.  And if you hear one more person tell you about their family’s vacation plans, you will personally run over their GPS with your lawn mower (should it decide to start today).

The heat is oppressive, the air conditioner is working overtime to make sure your electric bill surpasses the national debt and your “bored” kids are home for 90 consecutive days. In short, you’re miserable.

Ian A. Cook, MD, the director of the Depression Research Program at UCLA discusses five causes of summer depression in an article published by WebMD:

1. Summertime SAD.

You’ve probably heard about seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which affects about 4% to 6% of the U.S. population. SAD typically causes depression as the days get shorter and colder. But about 10% of people with SAD get it in the reverse — the onset of summer triggers their depression symptoms. Cook notes that some studies have found that in countries near the equator – like India – summer SAD is more common than winter SAD.

2. Disrupted schedules in summer.

If you’ve experienced depression before, you probably know that having a reliable routine is beneficial for keeping symptoms in check. But during the summer, routine goes out the window — and that disruption can be stressful, Cook says. If you have children in school, you’re suddenly faced with the prospect of keeping them occupied all day, every day. If your kids are in college, you may suddenly find them — and all their boxes of stuff — back in the house after a nine-month absence. Vacations can disrupt your work, sleep, and eating habits — all of which can all contribute to summer depression.

3. Body image issues.

As the temperature climbs and the layers of clothing fall away, a lot of people feel terribly self-conscious about their bodies, says Cook. Feeling embarrassed in shorts or a bathing suit can make life awkward, not to mention hot. Since so many summertime gatherings revolve around beaches and pools, some people start avoiding social situations out of embarrassment.

4. Financial worries.

Summers can be expensive. There’s the vacation, of course. And if you’re a working parent, you may have to fork over a lot of money to daycare, summer camps or babysitters to keep your kids occupied while you’re on the job. The expenses can add to a feeling of summer depression.

5. The heat.

Lots of people relish the sweltering heat. They love baking on a beach all day. But for the people who don’t, summer heat can become truly oppressive. You may start spending every weekend hiding out in your air-conditioned bedroom, watching pay-per-view until your eyes ache. You may begin to skip your usual before-dinner walks because of the humidity. You may rely on unhealthy takeout because it’s just too stifling to cook. Any of these things can contribute to summer depression.

So, just what can you do about the summertime blues?

1. Get on a schedule.

A month or so before school year ends, get out your calendar and start marking it up. The kids will go to this camp during this week. I will be able to work from 8 to 3 on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays. I will swim in the morning on these days. You get the point.

2. Plan something fun.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. Plan something enjoyable every few weeks to keep motivated and moving forward. Something that can give you an ounce of joy can also carry you through many hot summer afternoons.

3. Sleep.

It’s important to maintain a steady sleep schedule in the summer. That is, even though the day’s events are changing from week to week, make sure to keep your sleep schedule the same: go to bed at the same time every night, wake up at the same time every morning, and don’t sleep much less than 7 hours and no more than 9 hours a night. When depressed, it’s common to want to sleep as much as you can, to kill the hours. However, extra sleep does increase symptoms related to depression.

4. Exercise.

During the summer months it’s easy to abandon any exercise program that you’ve been disciplined enough to start since the oppressive heat can be dangerous, if not terribly unappealing. So before the heat sets in, design a plan you can stick with that won’t make you literally stick to everything else. I will run early in the morning during the summer, before the humidity sets in, and I will try to swim more often.

5. Be around people.

As tempting as it is to isolate in the cool comfort of central AC during the summer, forcing yourself outside to be around people — even if you don’t join the discussion — is going to assist your mood and especially the ruminations that get your into trouble. If you don’t want to leave your air-conditioned home, at least make yourself call one person on a daily basis — a sibling, friend, or co-worker — to stay connected to the world.

6. Stay Hydrated

This seems like a no-brainer, but dehydration occurs more often than you think. Avoid caffeinated sodas, coffee, teas, and sugary sports drinks. H20 is the way to go. It boosts your immune system by flushing out toxins and promotes balance in your body’s natural chemistry.

In good health,
Don

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Hello Universe

Was It Something I Said?

By Aurora Starr

I rarely apologize anymore. Why? Because saying you’re sorry is the new black. “Sorry” means nothing if it is overused, disingenuous or a faux plea of ignorance. Today so many feel compelled to apologize ad nauseum. “I’m sorry for eating the last slice.” No, you’re not. “I’m sorry, BUT…” Wow, that’s heartfelt. “I’m sorry for hitting on your best friend.” No, you’re sorry you got caught.

So, when a person commented in typical social media fashion (one or two brief sentences with no backup or backbone) on one of my recent posts, I was not surprised. I was called: “Petty, immature and unoriginal.

Well, my first reaction was to reply to her comment with an old and timeless classic of my own: “F**k you.” Perhaps my manners won out, or maybe the Vodka hadn’t kicked in yet, but my sober mind prevailed and I refrained from joining her in verbal fisticuffs. Then came the second and final sentence of her insightful manifesto, “I can’t believe this person is a therapist.” First of all, I never claimed I was. Had she bothered to read the entire blog or any number of my other posts, she would have figured that one out all on her own. However, her uninformed remark did force the editors of this blog to post a disclaimer about my non-therapist credentials. I don’t blame them. It seems people are overly sensitive these days. Or are they?

I WILL STATE THE FOLLOWING IN BIG LETTERS SO THE TROLLS WILL UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL POST.  DO NOT WASTE MY TIME OR THE EDITORS’ TIME BY TRYING TO MAKE IT ONE. I’m not treading on your First Amendment Rights, either. You have an opinion? Wonderful and good for you! Now go share it with the people who already think like you. There, I’m done. Happy places, everyone. Happy places, I say!

Maybe it isn’t that people are more sensitive these days. Maybe it’s that people have bigger and multiple platforms with which to tell you the effects of your actions and words or at least their opinions about them. People haven’t suddenly become more sensitive, they have suddenly become able to let you know how they feel or what they think in real time. Opinions are not inherently bad, but they aren’t facts either. This isn’t new and it isn’t groundbreaking. What is interesting is that opinions are like apologies, they mean nothing if they are not thought out, contain less than three actual sentences or consist exclusively of preconceived talking points.

The world hasn’t changed, but the amount of meaningless fodder you have about it has. Regardless of what your opinion is on whether or not people are overly sensitive isn’t much more different now than it was before. It’s just that now Bob in Kansas (#Sorry Bob and Kansas…) can co-opt someone else’s platform to spout off whatever he likes or dislikes, and it may not be something we agree with or, in fact, may be misinformed, racist, sexist or just plain stupid. Thanks, Bob.

If the current trends in our culture have taught me anything it is this, we have ignored each other for far too long. I want a fair exchange of ideas, not talking points. Discourse and civilization thrive when we engage in respectful dialogue, and not through impulsive reactions to a blog post written from personal lived experiences. In short, you don’t get to throw shit on my “wall” and then walk away. Can we instead talk and learn from each other? If your answer is yes, then I am in. And for this I will never say “Sorry.”

Shine brightly,
Aurora

Please note: The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of eTalkTherapy. Aurora Starr is a freelance writer, not a therapist, and her views, thoughts and opinions are her own. However, if you are easily offended then Aurora’s blog may not be for you. 

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Existential GPS

The Accidental Existentialist Issue 3

Read the SUMMER 2018 edition of The Accidental Existentialist now or download it to read later. In this issue you will find great articles and new works by mental health professionals Dr. Chloe Paidoussis-MitchellMorgan Roberts, Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk and Don Laird. We would love to hear from you, please leave a comment below – Enjoy!

The sun struggles up another beautiful day,
And I felt glad in my own suspicious way,
Despite the contradiction and confusion,
Felt tragic without reason,
There’s malice and there’s magic in every season…
— Elvis Costello

TAE_JanFeb18_Issue1
Click Cover to Read or Download PDF

In spite of the sunshine and best of intentions, the summer months can sometimes feel like a glass half-empty, glass half-full question. It is the noontime of our seasonal clocks and, in my case, a faint reminder of the noontime of existence. Seasonally we are poised to reach our yearly zenith of sunshine, warmth and outdoor activities. Yet, at fifty-two years of age I am situated well into the second half of my life. With luck, I might have another 30 years, but the reality of it is, and existentially speaking, there are no guarantees. For all intents and purposes the shadow of death grows just a bit larger with each passing day. Unlike when I was in my thirties, I feel it now. It’s not a concept, theory or construct; it’s physical and it can haunt my thoughts at the damndest times. The words of Nietzsche seem to echo for me these days in a different, but comforting way, “We would consider every day wasted,” remarks Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, “in which we had not danced at least once. And we would consider every truth false that was not followed by at least one laugh.” May your summer be long and filled with as many hopes, dreams and fulfilled wishes as you can imagine.

Peace,
Don

In this issue:


(Smultronstället) Wild Strawberries: Therapy and the Art of Aging
by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor onlineSince their inception, motion pictures have allowed us to explore the human condition through an amalgamation of sound, lighting, editing, musical score and performance, coupled with traditional storytelling. To claim that one film more than any other illuminates the arc of human existence that it has become a standard by which all other films of its type shall be measured may seem like an overstatement. Yet, Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries manages to accomplish this in 90 minutes of postwar beauty. Read more…


Love Wins: Groundbreaking LGBTQIA Leaders Through History  
by Morgan Roberts, MSPC

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Every June, there are Pride Parades throughout the country and world, celebrating gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual individuals. Nevertheless, there are many who continually attempt to invalidate the lives of those in the LGBTQIA community. More conservative states frequently pass legislature hindering the community which contradicts public opinion. The Human Rights Campaign reported in 2014 that 59 percent of Americans support marriage equality, with 61 percent of people favor allowing same-sex couples to adopt. Read more…


Grief Matters: Living with Loss
by Dr. Chloe Paidoussis-Mitchell, Cpsychol, UK Chartered Counselling Psychologist
(Follow her blog at https://dr-chloe.com

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As a Grief Psychologist, I have the privilege of working with people from all over the globe who are struggling to find a way to embrace life meaningfully again after a very painful loss.

Grief is inevitable. All of us will experience it at some point in our life and how we respond to it is unique to us. Grief is a personal, psychological response to the death of a very loved one and when it happens – whether expected or sudden – it is painful, disorientating and knocks our sense of who we are, how we are and what feels relevant and meaningful again. In grief, our regular way of being is no longer relevant. People often talk about feeling lost and alienated. Read more…


The Impact of Chronic Stress
by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

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Stress is difficult to contend with for many. Chronic stress has the potential to impact an individual’s physiological and/or psychological health and well-being. Long-term, the probability exists for stress to spillover into important facets of daily life, and affect an individual’s capacity to function.

HPA Axis
Health related issues begin systematically, many times, prior to an individual having awareness of physiological and/or psychological issues being present or the associated long-term effects. The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis has an important role in fighting and managing stress. Read more…


Do you have an idea for an article or would you like to contribute to our magazine?

This is your opportunity to submit educational and informative content that promotes growth in all aspects of mental health issues from an existential or humanistic perspective. Upon publication of your article, you will receive a $25 stipend.

Submit your queries at eTalkTherapy.com/submit.

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Life Lessons

Mindfulness, Does it Really Matter?

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

RING! BUZZ! RING! BUZZ!

There is a moment when you realize the sudden pulsing light is not part of your sweet, slumbering dream. Grasping at the air with foggy uncertainty, you reach out in a flopping seal like motion to silence the sound of your morning wake up call. Rolling out of bed you manage to overcome the almost Quixotic task of lumbering into the shower, and within a blink of an eye you are sitting at your work desk wondering “How did I get here?

More often than you’d like to admit, you often find yourself pointlessly functioning in the world around you. Looking back at the days, weeks, and even months, life sometimes seems to be a blurry mess. With all the modern-day challenges, you try to stay afloat within the abyss of past missteps and worries of an uncertain future. It’s no wonder you may feel like your life is moving at the speed of light. So what can you do to slow things down and enjoy the present or maybe even remember what happened last week? Folks, there is a reason this is called auto pilot, and we need a way out!

Most of us have heard about mindfulness, but what is it really? When you think about Mindfulness you want to create a state of consciousness in which you are solely aware of the present moment. With a calm mind, you acknowledge and accept your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. The focus is on the present moment, and releasing your past and future dwellings. In short, you can look at yourself with intention and in a nonjudgmental way to integrate mind and body and spirit.

What I have for you today are three simple techniques you can use to introduce Mindfulness into your daily routine.

1 – One Minute of Mindfulness

Mindfulness doesn’t require hours of meditating like a Tibetan monk. Instead, you want to create mindful moments throughout your day. You are going to need a timer for this exercise. What you want to do is take a seated spot with your feet flat on the floor, your back resting comfortably, and your hands in a relaxed position. After you start the timer, it is your task to focus on your breathing for one minute.

You may close your eyes or keep them open during this exercise. There is no wrong or right way to breath. If you find yourself getting lost in your thoughts, bring your attention back to your breathing. Remember, if you notice a thought creeping in and you begin to move away from focusing on your breathing, it is Okay. Bring your attention back to your breathing as many times as you need. Refocus on connecting your body and breath. Move within the moment back and forth to bring your attention back to your breathing.

2 – Mindful Eating

As you sit down to eat a meal, do attempt to remove any distractions to bring full attention to your eating experience. You want to connect your body with each of the five senses during this exercise.

Before eating your meal, visually explore your food noting the colors, shapes, and textures that you see. Next, call attention to the scent of your food. Notice the aroma and the sensation you feel as the scents move through your nose. Then bring your attention to touch, listening, and lastly introduce taste. Be mindful for the first 3 bites of your meal. Focus on the smell, texture, taste, and any changes you may experience as you chew your food. Explore each of your senses. Savor the moment with an intention to experience solely through your senses.

3 – Pause and Observe

Choose a moment of the day and find a place that feels right for you. Once you feel you are ready, take a moment to pause and look at your surroundings. In this moment, you are intentionally choosing to focus on your environment.

Simply observe. Notice where your attention brings you as you use your eyes to observe your environment. Try to notice without judgment, without critique.  Continue to observe for as long as you like, and stay present in the moment. During this exercise allow enough time for your body to naturally adjust and relax.

Whether you are attempting to learn a new technique, to be more productive, or to find alternative ways to ground yourself in your busy lifestyle using mindfulness is a great tool to help you stop smell and the roses. Next time we will explore three additional steps to help you on your path to self awareness.

Avanti,
Christina

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Existential GPS

You Should Read This…

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.”
― Wendell Johnson

“You never listen to me!”

“You always say that!”

Expletives aside, perhaps two of the most damaging words you can throw around in a relationship are “always” and “never.” Coupled with the word “You,” these statements can end a productive exchange before it has an opportunity to get started. Absolute statements are conversational arsenic because they remove choice and impose an external pressure that is difficult to diffuse once initiated. Keeping these absolute statements at a minimum can help keep your relationship from deteriorating into a street brawl. For some, drawing imaginary battle lines and then chucking emotional hand grenades is just what happens when there is an attempt to engage a spouse, partner or significant other on a deeper level. Yet, it is an unproductive and selfish endeavor simply to prove the other person wrong and validate profound feelings of resentment.

Remember: An argument is a failed discussion. Your hurt feelings are rarely about the trash never being taken out, the kids always misbehaving, or the dishes never getting done. You aren’t being heard, and there’s your frustration.

Argument words, when applied by one person onto another, regularly force the recipient to counter. Until the pressure has been dealt with, all levels of creative and authentic communication are ended, and you find that the maladaptive dance of “I said/you said” has begun.

A Severe Case of the Should-s, Musts and Have to-s

“You should take that job.”

“You have to stop acting that way.”

Channel Your Inner Adult

If I internalize the Should-s, the Musts and the Have-To-s and surrender to the expectations of others, I lose my creative voice; I give up my center. I could phone in my relationship at this moment simply because I see no point in continuing. Our reply to pressure is to rebel or to conform, fight or flight. Neither conformity nor rebellion allows for creative dialogue to flourish. Compliance is seen as good. Rebellion is seen as bad. Remember that little lesson from our teachers and our parents? The trouble is we are no longer children. To be a child means being in a position of powerlessness, to have limited choices and to not have the capacity or skills to manage life outside the confines of my thoughts.  As adults, we have a responsibility to take ownership of our feelings and accept others for as they are, not as we wish them to be. Succumbing to pressure leads to a narrowing of existence. Relationships become a chore and a bore, “I always pick the wrong person.” Think about that as you wonder why you may, or may not, be satisfied in your current relationship with a significant other or friend. Under pressure from another, which I then choose to cultivate or purge in myself, there is no experience of authentic love. I am an active participant in a power struggle and a war for which there is no exit strategy. I have become subservient to another, and that will always end poorly.

If you would like to continue the conversation about your relationship or marriage contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists.

In Good Health,
Don