Month: November 2014

Fighting Childhood Depression

“Depression and anxiety are common, so common, they are kind of normal.  Depression and anxiety are treatable.  You can get better.”

This quote comes from a school psychologist at Byram Hills High School in New York. Cases of depression in school-aged children are becoming more prevalent as more counselors are being asked to look out for it.  In the age of cyber bullying, more children are unable to escape being ridiculed by their classmates.  Before cyber bullying came into popularity, children could go home at the end of the school day and walk away from the other children.  The problem was still severe, but it was less of a 24 hour a day torment.  Because of all of this, children are becoming more and more depressed and anxious.

 What Parents Can Do To Combat Depression in Children

Parents or guardians are the front line of defense when it comes to children getting the help that they need to fight depression and anxiety.  There is still quite a lot of stigma that surrounds getting professional help for your child, but your concerns should never stand in the way of your child’s well-being.  Parents or guardians can often take it very hard when a child needs help that is beyond what they can handle at home.  But you must keep in mind that professionals are trained to deal with these kinds of difficulties while parents are not.  There are; however, a number of things that you can do to help when you child is depressed.

Remember that depression is a disease.

Say this to yourself so that you can really remember it.  It is important to remember that depression is a disease so that you can stop blaming yourself for the suffering of your child and so that you can remember that you child is indeed suffering.  He or she does not know what to do about all of these difficulties that he or she is having.  Explaining depression as an illness might be easier for your child to understand.

Let your child know that he or she is going to be okay.

Kids do not always understand sickness.  They just know that how they are feeling is not okay.  Encourage your child to let you know how he or she is feeling.  Children often hide things from their parents.  They do not want to talk about anything difficult, and they do not want to say anything that is going to hurt you or get them in trouble.  Be sure that your child knows that you want to help, and you will need to know what is going on and how he or she is feeling if you are going to be able to help.

Talk to your child.

Any parent or guardian who has ever asked a child how his or her day was and gotten a one word response will know that this is as difficult as almost anything else especially when dealing with a particularly taciturn child.  He or she will need a safe space to be able to talk about the feelings that are coming up.  You may need to provide an opportunity that is free from distractions and free from stress so that your child can open up about his or her feelings.

Encourage your child in therapy and be an advocate for healing.

Do the research before choosing treatment options for your child.  You will need to be able to be supportive in the treatment options that are offered to your child, and if you do not believe in them, you will not be able to convince your child to believe in them.  You are also going to need to take charge of the treatment your child receives.  You may have to be tough to make sure that your child takes his or her medication or attends the appropriate therapy sessions.  Make it clear that you do these things because you want your child to feel better.

Be patient.

Nothing can be healed overnight.  It will take some time for your family to heal and for your child to heal.  Be patient and keep your spirits up.  Things will get better for you and for your child.  If you feel like you need more help, seek therapy for yourself or for the other members of your family.

teenage communication parenting techniques

Learn to Better Communicate with Your Teenager

Some people will describe teenagers as a species all their own.  Teenagers’ bodies are so overrun by the hormones that are coursing through their veins that they can be difficult and irritable.  They can be emotionally driven and motivated to keep most adults out of their lives completely.  Teenagers can be very difficult to communicate with especially when it comes to talking about difficult subjects.  Difficult subjects do not have to be limited to drugs or alcohol.  When talking to a parent or guardian, a difficult subject for a teenager can be anything that he or she does not want to be talking about. But sometimes it is necessary to talk about things even if they are uncomfortable.

There are some things that you can do to make talking to your teenager a little easier on both of you and make the conversation more productive. Working on cultivating an atmosphere of open communication should be something that is ongoing.

1. Take Interest In What They Like

One of the easiest ways to encourage open communication is to take an interest in what your teenager is saying or doing.  No one likes to feel as though they are being ignored.  You do not need to like everything that your teenager likes, but it is a good idea to be able have a natural conversation.  If you and your teenager are already having regular conversations about regular things than talking about more difficult subjects should be a little easier.

2. Don’t Let Your Emotions Get The Best Of You – Treat Them With Respect

Always treat your teenager with respect.  Even though he or she is likely to make mistakes and not treat you how you feel that you should be all the time, he or she should be treated with the respect and courtesy that you would give anyone else while still maintaining your authoritative energy.  One of the easiest ways to exhibit this courtesy is to knock before entering your teenager’s room.  It is also a good idea allow space for your teenager’s thoughts and opinions.  Even if you do not agree, it can be very helpful for him or her to have some space to explore his or her own perceptions of the world.

 3. Encourage Problem Solving Rather Than Scorning

When it comes to talking to your teenager about difficult subjects like drugs, sex, death, or the law, it can be your first reaction, especially if your teenager has made some kind of mistake or cause d some kind of a problem, to ask some very loaded questions.  If you find that the first questions that come to mind start with “How could you…”, “What were you thinking…”, or “What is wrong with you…”, stop yourself.  These questions are not going to lead you to any of the places where open and constructive conversations are possible.  Instead, think about problem solving and ask what he or she plans to do to rectify the situation or be proactive so that it does not happen again.  Ask if he or she would like to run any of the potential ideas past you since talking things out often makes them easier to process.  Remember to avoid blaming so that the dialogue keeps flowing.

 4. Always Listen With An Open Mind

If and when you move on to the brain storming or problem solving portion of the conversation, remember that that is what you are doing.  You are not meant to be pushing your opinions off on your teenager.  You are meant to be aiding him or her in making his or her own decisions.  Pointing out the negatives in the situation is not going to be productive either.  Make an effort to be positive and encouraging in your comments.  Offer helpful suggestions, but mostly listen.  Listen to your teenager while he or she works out the problem at hand.  Often, parents or guardians spend too much time talking and telling teenagers what they should be doing rather than giving the teenager the space to figure things out for him or herself.  If your teenager knows that he or she can expect a lecture or to be talked down to when there is a problem, he or she is unlikely to come to you for help when it is really needed.

 5. Stay Calm and Supportive

All you really need to do to be able to foster better communication with your teenager is to stay calm.  Remember that you are talking to a person and not just your child.  He or she is capable of making decisions and figuring things out.  All of these steps will lead you to a more open and communicative relationships as your teenager grows into adulthood.

Coping with Disaster

After experiencing or witnessing a disaster, it is perfectly normal to feel anxious or stressed out.  After a traumatic incident, your feelings of stress or anxiousness are probably quicker to surface than they were before.  While these are normal reactions, the reactions themselves can lead to further anxiety or stress as you wonder if you are ever going to feel like yourself again or if you can eventually get back to the life you had before the disaster occurred.

Common Reactions To Witnessing A Disaster

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, some of the normal reactions to have following a traumatic incident or a disaster include:

  • Emotional numbness or extreme emotional reactions
  • Crying easily
  • Feeling tense, nervous, and anxious
  • Excessive consumption of drugs or alcohol
  • Difficulty focusing or trouble with your memory
  • Isolating yourself from social situations
  • Fatigue and insomnia

Signs That You Should Seek Help For Coping With Disaster

Although it may be completely normal to have feelings of stress and anxiety at a time of or following disaster or trauma, it also may get to a point when you need to seek some additional assistance for coping with them.  Some people experience some of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder when coping with disaster.  This is not something that will go away on its own so professional help may be needed to overcome some of the obstacles.  There are some signs that you may need to seek help from outside sources.

  1. You find that you are exhibiting symptoms of mental illness such as hallucinations, a heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells, or touch, unreasonable fear or suspiciousness of others, dramatic appetite or sleep changes, or a feeling of being disconnected from yourself.
  2. You begin to abuse drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with your overwhelming feelings about the event.
  3. Your concerned for the safety of those around you or in your care and for your own well-being or you have thoughts about hurting yourself or others.
  4. You cannot get back into a normal routine. You are unable to begin to function normally and work toward finding a safe space.
  5. You have feelings of extreme sadness or depression that continue without interruption for more than two weeks.

Things You Can Do On Your Own

If you do not believe that you need to or are ready to look for professional help, there are some things that you can do to try to set your life back to right and help yourself feel a bit better.

  • If this traumatic event or disaster is something that will be covered by many news sources, stop watching. If you find that you are anxiously awaiting every news cast or you are constantly searching the internet for more information, you are simply feeding into your feelings of anxiety and stress.  Step away from the media and focus on you and your family.
  • Take care of yourself and your loved ones. It may be difficult, but try to cook and eat food that is good for you even though what you may be craving is comfort food.  Try to get some exercise and get a good night’s sleep so that your brain has time to refresh itself and your thinking will stay clear.
  • Try to get back to a routine as quickly as possible. It may not be the routine you had before, but anything will help you feel like you are “normal” again.  Go to work, take your children to dance classes, and talk about projects and homework.  Getting back into a routine will speed up your recovery and help you feel better.
  • Do not let your feelings fester inside of you. If other people know what you have been through, they may be better equipped to help you.  Talk to your friends or your family.  Talk to other members of your community about how you are feeling and how they are feeling.  You may be able to find ways of coping together that will make things easier for all involved.
  • Do not dwell on the negatives about your situation. Getting caught up in all of the bad things is not going to be helpful to you or your loved ones.  It is normal to feel overwhelmed in the face of a disaster or a traumatic event, but if you take stock in the things that are good about your life and you remember that there are good things yet to come, you will be better off in the long run.

Tis the Season for Seasonal Affective Disorder

The weather is getting colder and much longer in most parts of the country.  Although South Floridians don’t typically fall victim to this disorder, all of these weather changes and the loss of so much daylight leads to up to half a million people across the US suffering from seasonal affective disorder.

What Causes This Disorder?

There are a few theories about why people get seasonal affective disorder.  The most popular theory is that the changes in sunlight over the course of the year have an effect on the circadian rhythms in the body.  This change can induce depression.  Other theories include the Serotonin Theory that says that patterns of sunlight can affect the levels of serotonin in the body which is a neurotransmitter that is linked to depression.  Another theory is the Melatonin Theory which posits that the levels of melatonin in the body increase during the winter and cause depression.

Before the winter months start getting too dark, you can guard yourself against seasonal affective disorder by getting outside as much as possible.  Even when the days are cloudy some natural light is going to soak into your body. Take a walk or sit on a bench.  It can help to make your indoor environments a little sunnier as well.  Make sure to open the blinds or curtains in your home or office.  Sit closer to the windows so that you can benefit from the natural light.  And get a little exercise.  Even pacing back and forth in your office will help, but going for a walk around the block would be even better for warding off seasonal affective disorder.

The Symptoms of SAD

Seasonal affective disorder can cause people to experience feelings of lethargy and depression. This disorder can cause concentration difficulties, increased appetite resulting in weight gain, and an increased desire to be alone.  Seasonal affective disorder can cause disruptions to professional performance, personal relationships, and the sufferer’s general well-being.  Most people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder start to feel its effects in the fall.  They usually start to feel quite a bit better when spring starts and the days are getting a bit lighter.

Symptoms Vary Tremendously

The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder vary quite a lot from person to person.  Very few people are going to experience all of the symptoms that are possible.  The major symptom of seasonal affective disorder is depression. Other symptoms include feelings of fatigue or apathy, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and weight gain.  Seasonal affective disorder can sometimes cause the conflicting symptoms of insomnia and weight loss.  Doctors can sometimes misdiagnose seasonal affective disorder because of its similarities to the symptoms of traditional depression, but generally, experiencing the symptoms seasonally for two consecutive years indicates seasonal affective disorder.

How Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Treated?

There are several common treatments for dealing with seasonal affective disorder.  The most commonly heard about treatment is light therapy.  In light therapy which is sometimes called phototherapy, the patient sits near a specific kind of light therapy box that exposed his or her to bright light that is meant to mimic sunlight.  This artificial outdoor light exposure has been shown to cause changes in the chemicals in the brain that are linked to mood.  Light therapy is most effective when it is started at the beginning of the fall and continued through the winter season and into the beginning of spring.


Traditional psychotherapy is also a prescribed treatment for seasonal affective disorder.  Psychotherapy that is used in this kind of treatment can help a sufferer learn ways of coping with seasonal affective disorder and ways of managing the stress that can sometimes make the symptoms worse. Psychotherapy can also help the sufferer identify and manage negative thoughts and behaviors that can exacerbate symptoms as well.


Medications are also an option for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder.  When symptoms are at their most severe, patients can receive some relief from antidepressants. It is possible that your doctor will recommend starting to take an antidepressant before symptoms present so that the medications can begin to work even before you start to feel the symptoms.  This is a proactive approach to treatment and is not used by all medical professionals.  Also, antidepressants can take a few weeks before they start to really have an effect.  The proactive approach gives patients the opportunity to figure out what kinds of side effects they are going to have and change medications if that is needed.

When Love Is Not Enough In Your Marriage

We wanted to share some insight from one Mark Manson’s recent articles, “Love is Not Enough” in order to shed some light on some of the most common problems that many of us have in our relationships. Author Mark Manson is a professional blogger and book author who has devoted much of his life to helping people through difficult relationships and emotional problems.  Before becoming a professional blogger, Manson was a dating coach.  And he believes that love is not enough of a reason to force a relationship to work.  He believes that love is not enough of a reason to stay with someone who is not meeting other kinds of needs.  He believes that love is not enough, despite the sage words of John Lennon to the contrary who said that “Love is all you need.”

Manson suggests that many of us idealize love.  We think about love like we see it in movies.  It becomes the answer to all of our problems and the solution to reaching any unreachable goal.  It is the ultimate ending to all of the suffering we have.  Love becomes the answer to all of our questions and the only thing that we will accept.  Because of all of this power that we give to love, eventually the loving relationships that we find may not live up to all of this expectation.  These relationships will not be able to withstand that kind of pressure put on them.

Certain Relationships Will Simply Never Work

When we look at love objectively, it is really about emotions and passions.  Both of these things are important, but are they really something to build a relationship on?  You may be in love with someone who lives in another country, but does it make sense for her to move to you or for you to move to her?  You may love someone with whom you fight every time you are together, but seem to get along just fine when you are not.  Should you force that relationship into continuing just because of love?  Every relationship is going to have some obstacles to overcome, and being in a relationship does take maintenance and compromise, but how much compromise should there be?

There should be no reason that you are giving up your dignity or self-respect.  There should be no reason why you choose a partner who you cannot trust.  Manson brings up the old adage that your partner should be your best friend.  While most people look at this in relationship to all of the positive things about having a best friend, Manson turns it around.  He asserts that if your partner is exhibiting negative behaviors that you would not tolerate in your best friend, then you might be trying too hard to make a relationship work that just is not going to work despite any love that is there.

Manson has come up with “Three Harsh Truths About Love”.  We’d like to share these harsh truths, because they are common and unrealistic expectations that we have all had in regards to love.  Many times, these truths will work their way into a relationship and break it apart because we stubbornly refuse to see the truth.

Harsh Truth #1 – Love does not equal compatibility.

Manson says, “Love is an emotional process; compatibility is a logical process.”  Equating love with compatibility can lead to the destruction of any relationship.  Humans often fall in love with other humans who are all wrong for them.  We fall in love with people who have conflicting life goals or world views from our own.  We fall in love with people who have different belief structures and fundamental values.  It is completely possible to fall in love with someone who you are not compatible with at all and who will negate every shred of happiness that you can find in your life.  Partnership requires logic and forethought.  It will require you to think about what will happen in your relationship when you stop looking at the world through love goggles.

Harsh Truth #2 – Love does not solve your relationship problems.

If you are fighting all the time now, continuing on with your relationship just as it is will not make the fighting stop.  You are not going to suddenly become the person who your partner wants you to be just because you are in love.  The foundation of your relationship should be built on more than love because love is an emotional response that can make you feel amazing for a little while, but it is not really sustainable.

Harsh Truth #3 – Love is not always worth sacrificing yourself.

Manson says, “One of the defining characteristics of loving someone is that you are able to think outside of yourself and your own needs to help care for another person and their needs as well.”  But he asks you to ask yourself what you are really sacrificing and if the relationship in question is worth the sacrifice.  Is this relationship worth giving up the chance to have children, moving to another state or country, or giving up a little of your identity?  Sometimes is it.  Manson says, “But when it comes to sacrificing one’s self-respect, one’s dignity, one’s physical body, one’s ambitions and life purpose, just to be with someone, then that same love becomes problematic. A loving relationship is supposed to supplement our individual identity, not damage it or replace it. If we find ourselves in situations where we’re tolerating disrespectful or abusive behavior, then that’s essentially what we’re doing: we’re allowing our love to consume us and negate us, and if we’re not careful, it will leave us as a shell of the person we once were.”

Caring for a Partner with Depression

Living with someone you love who has depression is not an easy undertaking.  You will need to be prepared to be supportive and compassionate and caring even though you may be thinking that your loved one is an adult who should be caring for him or herself.  Depression is a disease.  There is no getting around that.  And while it is definitely difficult for the sufferer, it is also difficult for the people who have to live with the sufferer and who love him or her.  In a typical relationship, there would be some give and take, some caring that goes both ways.  Ideally, you and your partner would be able to share the load of living, but depression does not allow for that.  Depression takes away the energy that one partner has and makes him or her incapable of dealing with the normal tasks of living.

What You Can Do To Care For A Partner With Depression

There are quite a few things that you can do to help your partner and help yourself cope with depression.  One of the first things that you should do is get yourself a depression education.  If you have little experience with this disease, read up or talk to people who know.  Get to recognize the signs of worsening depression.  You are only going to be really helpful in a meaningful way if you understand what is going on.

You should encourage your partner to get treatment.  There are treatments available that really work.  While your loved one may be susceptible to continued bouts of depression once treatment is completed, he or she will be better equipped to handle anything that comes along after getting the appropriate help.

Keep in mind that depression can be a big deal.  Do not take it for granted that your partner will get over it on his or her own.  It can be very frustrating for you to have a partner who is not your partner.  He or she will say or do hurtful things, but you have to remember that depression is a disease just like any other.  There is little chance that your loved one is just going to snap out of it without the proper assistance and the support that only you can give.

While you can be there to help your partner, you should not be doing everything for him or her.  Picking up some extra chores around the house to lighten the load is acceptable, but there is no reason for you to be living your partner’s life for him or her.  On the other hand, when it comes to treatment, you may need to take on more responsibility.  People who suffer from depression often do not have the energy needed to make treatment decisions or do the appropriate research.  You can help by doing the research, narrowing the options, and presenting them to your loved one.  For example, you started looking for treatment options for your partner.  You could find several small support groups.  Narrow the options down to two that are the closest to your home.  Present these options to your partner and offer to help him or her get to one.

Facilitating treatment is one of the best things that you can do for your loved one.  He or she wants to feel better just as much as you want him or her to feel better.  A depressed person is likely to feel apathetic and hopeless which means that he or she may give up on treatment before the real work begins.  But you can be there to help him or her follow through with a treatment plan so that you can all get the help that you need.

Don’t Forget To Take Care Of Your Own Well Being

During all of this care for your partner, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself.  If you let your own needs go for too long, you are going to be of no use to your partner or any of your other family members.  Letting yourself get too overworked or too stressed out can mean that you are not being the best caregiver that you can be.  Take some time for yourself now and again.  If your partner needs to be taken care of by someone else for a weekend so that you can get away, call in a friend or a relative to help.  If you need to spend some time with your kids and not think about depression, do.  Your well-being is just as important as your partners.  Taking some time for self-care can make you into a better caregiver and a better partner.

Coping With Job Loss

Even though there are signs of growth and improvement everywhere, companies are still downsizing or at least not growing. With the U.S. job market so competitive, many people are continuing to be unemployed. Millions of Americans have become part of a growing demographic of people who are experiencing long-term unemployment.

Many of us think to ourselves, “that could never happen to me.” But what if it does? What would happen if you find that the company you are working for had to close? What would you do if your position was eliminated? How would it affect your relationship if you lost your job? Just thinking about this kind of loss can stress you out. Job loss is about more than just a loss of money. It can upset the balance of your relationships. It can change the dynamic of your household, and it can change the way that you view yourself. All of these things are likely to cause stress, depression, and anxiety for you and for your other family members.

Losing A Job is A Big Deal

When coping with job loss, it is important that you acknowledge that it is truly a loss. You may need to handle it in the same way that you would handle grief at the loss of a loved one. You are likely to experience many of the stages of grief that include denial, anger, and guilt. These are natural processes. Once you acknowledge what is happening to you, you will be better able to deal with your changing emotions. It can be helpful to talk to your spouse or partner, or to a trusted friend. Sharing your feelings and your journey might make the whole process easier.

Find New Ways to Save Money

You might take this opportunity to find out ways that you can tighten your belt besides giving up your morning latte or your large cable package. Almost everyone has a period of financial leanness in their lives. Talk to the people closest to you to come up with some different kinds of ways to save money while you look for work. You will hear lots of people tell you that they had garage sales or turned to Craigslist for the selling of anything extra. You can cut down on your food spending by creating meals from the foods you already have or by making enough food for two meals and freezing one. People love to talk about how they saved money, and every new idea will be a boost to your finances.

Take Advantage of Time Between Jobs

Take some of this down time to focus on some of the things that you were not able to focus on before. Spend time with your family. Do things together at home like watching movies, cooking dinner, or cleaning up. Do things around the house that you talked about in the past but never really had the opportunity or the motivation to do. Learn something new that may make you more marketable to your future employer. The internet is full of learning resources that are at your disposal.

Pay Close Attention to Your Emotional Health

Also, take good care of your emotional health. Feel the things that you are feeling without denying them. You are allowed to feel angry about losing your job. You are allowed to feel depressed about not going to work and not being the breadwinner. Depression after a job loss is perfectly normal. But sometimes you can get stuck in your emotions. You can find that you are stuck being depressed or guilty or angry for a long time. This is unhealthy. You may need to seek some kind of professional help in order to improve your emotional well-being. Take note of how you are feeling and if you are feeling stuck in one place for too long. Notice if your family and friends are telling you that you need to get some help and follow their instructions.

You will get through this time of trial. Despair is not the answer. Your life may need to change in order to get through this, but you will find a solution if you rely on the options and the help that you can receive from all different sources. Many people have found that they grow quite a bit during a crisis. Weathering the bad times can make you a better person. So keep up the hope that things will improve, and look to the future where things are better.

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