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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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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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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

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Existential GPS

Mental Health Month

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

I have been diagnosed with diabetes.

I have been diagnosed with heart disease.

I have been diagnosed with depression.

Out of these three statements, which individual has a better chance at quality of life for the next 10 years based on today’s current methods of treatment and availability of medical care? If you picked the third one, you would be wrong.

Why does mental health and wellness always seem to end up at the bottom of our ongoing health care debate? Costs are a big barrier to treatment, but so are attitudes. A 2007 study in Psychiatric Services, a Journal of the American Psychiatric Association, looked at several hundred potential mental health clients who had thought about seeking services but decided against it.

When questioned 66-percent of those surveyed thought the problem would get better on its own. Seventy-one percent agreed with the statement “I wanted to solve the problem on my own.” Several other studies have shown that many Americans still view depression and anxiety as a sign of weakness, and that seeking treatment demonstrates a lack of character or strength. Mental health doesn’t get the attention it deserves because of the stigma, but nearly one out of every five Americans will have a diagnosable mental disorder within their lifetimes, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Since its inception in 1949, Mental Health Month has been celebrated in May and for 55 years this campaign has provided an opportunity to raise awareness about mental health issues. Americans recognize Mental Health Month with events and activities in communities across the country. Many organizations, such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), engage in ongoing efforts to promote Mental Health Month through increasing public awareness and advocacy.

At eTalkTherapy we recognize and celebrate the goals and spirit of Mental Health Month. Our goal is to build public recognition about the importance of good mental health and daily wellness and to provide tips and tools for taking positive actions to promote holistic health. We understand that there is more to good mental health than just taking a pill. Accepting the whole person, not just a diagnosis, is paramount to providing quality care. Please follow our blog written by mental health professionals for tips on creating the change you want to see in your life.

Contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed professionals.

In Good Health,
Don

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Existential GPS

7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t (or can’t) Use Health Insurance for Therapy or Counseling

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Did you know that your current health insurance plan may not cover therapy or counseling? You would assume that using insurance to pay for therapy is just another part of your existing coverage, right? You pay enough in premiums, so why wouldn’t it be covered? The long and short answers are typically “no” or “not always.” Most insurance providers continue to relegate mental health to the bottom of the coverage barrel. So it is possible that your health plan may not even contain mental health coverage. If therapy is included it may be minimal at best. If in doubt, ask your carrier. In the meantime, here are just 7 reasons why we do not accept insurance and why you should think about using alternative payment methods regardless of your current health plan.

  1. Cost. Insurance company deductibles, co-pays, co-insurances and hidden fees are expensive and they add up quickly. Furthermore, due to frequent delays and confusion with billing, you may not receive an invoice until months after a service is provided.
  2. Your treatment is NOT confidential when you use insurance. Since we will not bill insurance companies for our services, the information about your treatment remains confidential between us, unless you wish to release that information to another party.
  3. We would be required to give you a diagnosis. which your health insurance will keep on file permanently. Health insurance companies require us to submit a clinical diagnosis in order to provide you with treatment. However, not everyone has a “mental illness” that requires a diagnosis, but rather they are struggling with life issues and related stressors.
  4. Insurance companies want LOTS of information about you. We would be required to discuss your private information with a total stranger on the phone or online, who then determines (usually after reviewing your case with several other people) whether or not the therapy or counseling is helping you. In other words, the insurance company controls treatment instead of you and your therapist.
  5. Pre-existing condition. This alone should steer you away from using insurance for therapy. With the changing dynamics of healthcare a diagnosis could mean that once again your insurance company will use it against you as a way to raise your premiums or deny you coverage.
  6. Your insurance company’s Health and Wellness Coach/Consierge is not a substitute for a licensed professional counselor. They can dress it up however they want, but don’t be fooled. Many of these faux counselors have the minimum amount of therapy experience, and they are in that position to provide simple advice and a referral to an in-network counselor.
  7. The Bottom Line. In our years of professional experience, there is no “cookie cutter” or “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to good mental health. People experience life differently. People navigate their problems and issues differently. There is no substitute for a strong and honest therapeutic relationship. Having an insurance company demand that we get all of your issues resolved in a few sessions is not only unrealistic and unhealthy, but it is unfair to you as a person. We don’t want you to discontinue your sessions because an insurance company representative or medical director doesn’t value your treatment or well-being.

I hope this helps you understand why we do not accept health insurance and why you should check with your provider before assuming therapy and counseling is included under your plan. It may be, but it could also be very costly to use in the end. Of course these are just a few reasons, and I’m certain I could fill several volumes worth before covering all the grounds for why using insurance is just not always in your best interest.

At eTalkTherapy we provide professional, HIPPA compliant online therapy that is both affordable and convenient.  eTalkTherapy is reasonably priced, and fits easily into most budgets. If you want to change your life for the better, the cost of eTalkTherapy is a very small price to pay. We hope to work with you soon.

In good health,
Don