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Dealing With Depression: The Basics

Dealing with depression is simply no fun. But there are some basic things that you can do to help you feel a little better. They won’t solve your problems or make you magically feel motivated. But they’ll help you take care of your body and get those natural happy chemicals (endorphins) to fill your body.

Dealing With Depression: Symptoms

But first, how do you know if you’re dealing with depression? According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, you may have depression if you experience these symptoms:

  • Feeling sad or “empty”
  • Hopelessness, helplessness, and negativity
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Feeling tired and having sleep problems
  • Difficulty making decisions and concentrating
  • Low appetite or overeating
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

If you’re feeling those symptoms, a therapist will be able to help you find more help and resources, but if you’re nervous about going to see a therapist, you still have options. You could set up a Skype or phone appointment with a therapist as well. So if dealing with depression is making it hard for you to get out of bed, you can talk to your therapist in the comfort of your own home. The National Network of Depression Centers also keeps a list of online resources that could be helpful.

Dealing With Depression: Tips

When you go to a therapist, they will help you work through the things that contribute to your depression. They might try to help you figure out what’s at the root of your depression. They may help you realize it’s genetic and that you should try taking medication. Or they may give you coping skills, such as things you can do when the depression arises.

But no matter what approach the therapist takes, they’ll probably suggest you take care of your health, which will help you feel just a bit better and more able to function.

Eat Better

When we are eating poorly, we won’t feel great. And when you’re dealing with depression, you’re already not feeling so great. So one thing you can do to help your mood is to eat good foods. Try to cut down on super sugary foods, things high in carbs, and do your best to eat balanced meals. Instead of snacking on chips, try some fruits and veggies. Eating healthy is just a small way you can improve how you feel.

Make Sure You’re Sleeping Enough

When you’re dealing with depression, you’re probably also dealing with sleep problems. Maybe you’re sleeping too much or too little. Maybe your sleep is restless. But sleeping the right amount will actually help you feel more emotionally stable and help manage your irritability. Start by creating a schedule for your sleep. Try to shoot for 8 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Make sure you don’t eat or drink caffeine a few hours before bed, and then try to go to sleep and wake up each morning around the same time. Doing this will take a while to get used to, but your body will adjust to the schedule.

Exercise

If you’re looking for a quicker fix, exercise might be the key to dealing with depression. Though it might be a chore to get out of bed, into exercise clothes, and leave the house, you’ll eventually be glad you did. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins, which is a chemical that makes us “feel good.” That will give you a boost of energy and help you feel better.

To get more understanding about dealing with depression, watch this video called, “I had a blag dog, his name was depression” from the World Health Organization.

If you’re looking for more ways to help you deal with depression, the National Institute of Mental Health also gives great explanations about medication and other therapies that can be helpful for someone dealing with depression.

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Self-Care Activities for the Whole Family

Self-care isn’t just about being a little selfish. It’s about making time for yourself so you can feel recharged and rejuvenated. When you imagine self-care activities, what do you think of? Probably a bubble bath or a relaxing massage in a room full of candles. But you might be surprised to find out that there are some other self-care activities that can have longer-lasting results.

Self-Care Activities for Kids

Self-care activities for your kids? Yes. Though it may seem that all your children do is self-care with recess breaks from school, all the movies they watch when they’re at school, and a summer of fun. But the reality is that about a third of adolescents live with an anxiety disorder, and 21 percent of adolescents (ages 13–18) experience a severe mental disorder. And just talking to your neighbors, you might find you know more children with anxiety and depression than you thought you did.

So how do you help your children learn about self-care? You get them involved with self care before they need it and when they need it. One self-care activity that might appeal to your child is called neurofeedback therapy. Neurofeedback can help children struggling with anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD. It can also help children on the autism spectrum and those with traumatic brain injury. A child will love the option to just watch a movie, but the movie will be programmed to help train the child’s brainwaves to get back to their optimal frequencies. Research has found that when brainwave frequencies are off, it can lead to worsened attention, sleep, anxiety, and mood, among other things.

And luckily Self-Care Week is around the corner, so Aspen Valley Counseling is even offering a discount on neurofeedback! Call to schedule your appointment after July 20 and before July 28, and you’ll only pay $37.50 per session (compared to the regular $50 per session or $100 per session of competitors).

Self-Care Activities for Mom

Moms are always busy. Moms who work outside the home have hectic days and then come home for their second shift of taking care of kids and the house. And moms who work at home never have a break to breathe. So where do they find time for self-care activities? It may not be easy, but you might be able to work in a little bit of time somewhere — and you might even be able to get your kids involved.

Finding videos at the store or online of yoga, Pilates, and dance cardio might be just what you need. These activities will get your blood flowing, your muscles stretching, and your heart rate up. But some people dread exercise, so how is sweating really self-care? To quote the movie “Legally Blonde,”: “Exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy…!” By working in just a little time to put on a video of dance cardio might just be the 15 minutes you need to make you feel a little happier.

Self-Care Activities for Dad

Now, for all the dads, getting a pedicure might not seem like your idea of self-care. Although, some dads might appreciate it because of the wonderful foot massage that comes along with the pedicure. So, what’s are good self-care activities for dad? Our culture doesn’t tend to focus so much on self-care for men, so this is an important topic to consider. Typically, men in American society are taught to bottle up their feelings so as not to appear too womanly, but turns out that isn’t very healthy. So self-care for dad might include going to therapy to learn how to express his unwanted emotions in a healthy, helpful way.

Don’t be scared dads! A therapist won’t judge you for crying, but they will help you work through your struggles and find a way to help you express yourself better.

Self-Care Activities for Grandparents

Maybe you’re a retired grandparent, or maybe you’re still working and you’ll be doing so forever. But either way, you need self-care too. A survey done by AARP found that older adults who tend to feel lonely were less likely to be involved in activities where they could build a social network. So for grandparents, self-care activities could include volunteering, going to an art or craft class, attending classes at your local recreation center, or finding an organization you’d like to participate in.

No matter what your age or circumstance, there are friends out there for you. So find something to participate in that furthers your interests, or try something new. Or if you’re just looking to help someone out, try websites like JustServe to help you get started.

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Self-Care Ideas

With international Self-Care Week and International Self-Care Day (July 24) just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about self-care ideas that will allow you to truly take care of yourself. And just for fun, let’s start from head to toe.

Self-Care Ideas for Your Brain

There’s one part of us that’s working around the clock: our brain. Even when we go to sleep, our brain is working on processing everything that happened during the day, and sometimes we’ll get a taste of that when we sleep. Have you ever had a dream you were in a house with no doors? Then when you woke up you realized it was a representation of you feeling stressed and feeling as if there was no way out? That’s your brain processing your stress.

Self-care ideas: So how do you take care of your brain? There are many self-care ideas around this topic, but one way is through neurofeedback, a type of therapy that trains your brainwaves to reach their optimal frequencies. Because when are brainwaves are too slow or too fast, it can lead us to feeling more anxious or more depressed and even affect our ability to sleep and focus. So make sure your self-care routine includes a little time for your brain.

And for self-care week, Aspen Valley Counseling is even offering a discount on neurofeedback! Call to schedule your appointment after July 20 and before July 28, and you’ll only pay $37.50 per session (compared to the regular $50 per session or $100 per session of competitors).

Self-Care Ideas for Your Neck and Shoulders

We hold a lot of tension in our neck and shoulders because we’re constantly looking down at our phones or a computer screen. Have you ever had someone rub your shoulders and say, “Wow, you seem stressed?” Well, that’s because they can feel the tension in your muscles near your neck. When we are stressed, we naturally tense up, and that shows in our muscles.

Self-care ideas: You might consider making an appointment to get a massage or make a deal with a friend to trade a massage for a massage.

Self-Care Ideas for Your Stomach

Research shows that your gut bacteria is extremely important to your overall health. And we all know that a tummy ache is never comfortable. So, taking some time for self-care for your stomach can work miracles. Nowadays, you’ll find all sorts of suggestions for how to care for your stomach and digestive system. You might try a juice cleanse or probiotics or cut down on processed foods. If you’re going to try something drastic, make sure you consult with a doctor before you do.

Self-care ideas: Try to care for your stomach by eating balanced meals and cutting down on foods that don’t make your body feel good. Practice mindful eating, and pay attention to how the food you eat makes your body feel.

Self-Care Ideas for Your Knees

In the past 20 years, there’s been an increase in reported knee pain, so perhaps our knees need a little loving. When your knees hurt, it can affect the amount of physical activity you can do, including just walking or standing. So, taking care of your knees could save you from a future of painful walking.

Self-care ideas: You might try to take up swimming or water aerobics. The great thing about water sports is that water makes your body light and takes the weight off your knees. While you’re strengthening your body and muscles, you are being kind to your knees. A little exercise can go a long way.

Self-Care Ideas for Your Feet

If you’ve ever worn stiletto heels, you have been extremely aware of foot discomfort. Or maybe you’ve had an ingrown toenail. Ouch. But either way, all day long we are on our feet in some way or another, so what do we do for self-care when it comes to our feet?

Self-care ideas: Self-Care Week is a great excuse for a foot massage, pedicure, or maybe even acupuncture for foot pain. And if you’re up for it, maybe you can wear flats instead of heels for a week.

Self-Care Ideas for Your Soul

Then of course, we all need self-care for the soul. While all the other previous suggestions will definitely take part in caring for the soul, there are other self-care ideas that will are for the soul specifically.

Self-care ideas: You might try a therapy session, yoga, meditation, or drinking a warm tea while reading an uplifting book.

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Signs of a Toxic Relationship

If you think you or someone you know might be in a toxic relationship, you need to know the signs of a toxic relationship. Of course, if your partner or someone you know shows one sign of toxicity, then it doesn’t automatically mean that person is toxic. But perhaps it’s a good thing to address before it negatively affects your relationship.

If you’re in a toxic relationship, it’s very possible that the other person isn’t aware that they are toxic. And they probably aren’t googling “signs of a toxic relationship.” People can develop these toxic behaviors from poor decisions and unhealthy learned behaviors. But even if they have developed these behaviors from unfortunate life circumstances, it doesn’t make their behavior excusable. They still don’t have the right to treat others poorly.

The Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Here are signs of a toxic relationship and what you can do if you’re in a toxic relationship:

Blaming Others

If your partner or friend or family member is constantly blaming others for things that go wrong and can’t take responsibility, that a sign of a toxic behavior. And if you find yourself making excuses for your partner/friend/family member’s bad behavior, then you are enabling their toxic behavior.

Refusing to Acknowledge a Problem

If someone is shutting you down when you bring up a problem you want to address, that’s a sign of a toxic relationship. It’s important to talk about problems and address them.  In a healthy relationship, both parties should be able to take feedback and adjust.

Draining

A toxic relationship will leave you feeling drained. If you start to notice you’re constantly stressed out by a relationship, it might be a toxic one. It can literally take a toll on your body, leaving you tired and drained.

Controlling

Another sign of a toxic relationship includes controlling behavior under the guise of trying to “help.” If someone is pushy with their opinions, especially when you haven’t asked for their opinions, you may be in a toxic relationship.

Taking Advantage

A toxic relationship will include someone who routinely takes advantage of you and your time, may constantly forget what you have to do, and ask for favors when you told them you’re swamped.

Putting Others Down

In a healthy relationship, both parties feel safe and loved. In a toxic relationship, one or both parties will try to make the other feel bad about themselves. This is a toxic behavior.

Manipulating

In a toxic relationship, you’ll notice your partner/friend/family member tries to manipulate you or try to make you believe something that may not be true. Make sure you have other people in your life who can keep you grounded and help you avoid believing the manipulation.

Threatening

If someone is threatening to leave the relationship as a means to get their way, this is a sure sign of a toxic relationship.

Signs of a Toxic Relationship: What Do I Do?

Now that you know the signs of a toxic relationship, what can you do? You might be thinking that it’s time to break it off with the toxic relationship, but you might also be wondering how you can make things work. If your plan is to break it off with the toxic relationship, then break it off and don’t do the on-again-off-again thing, because that can be toxic too. Instead, do what you can to remove yourself from the toxic relationship and remind yourself of the reasons why it’s unhealthy for you.

If you need, find a friend or a family member who can support you in your decision and help remind you why you broke off the relationship. If after reading the signs of a toxic relationship, you think you might be the toxic one in the relationship, don’t think there’s no chance for you! A therapist can help you work through your unhealthy behaviors so you can have happy, healthy relationships.

If you feel like you need to maintain the relationship, first start by finding a good therapist to help you through the process. Chances are your toxic relationship isn’t going to like that you’re going to be making some changes to the relationship, and a therapist can help you through the transition. Remember that a healthy relationship is about both parties doing their part to make the relationship work. You might want to try bringing your significant other to meet with the therapist as well.

Here are some things your therapist will help you learn and practice:

Making Decisions

Take control of your life and try making your own decisions. Don’t let the toxic relationship dictate your every choice. Start by making small decisions. When you do this, you start to feel like you’re gaining control over your life again.

Establishing Boundaries

It’s important to create healthy boundaries with your toxic relationships. Be clear about what you are willing to do and what you aren’t willing to take. There will be push-back against the boundaries you try to create because your toxic partner/friend/family member isn’t used to you sticking up for yourself. Be firm and repeat your boundaries as necessary.

Learning to Communicate

Learn healthy communication skills. If you need to, take a course or meet with a therapist who will help guide you and your partner through positive communication skills.

Separating

If you find that there’s no way the two of you can cooperate to create a healthy, non-toxic relationship, sometimes the best choice is to separate.

For a more comprehensive list of signs of a toxic relationship, read this article on Psychology Today.

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Mother’s Day Gift Guide

When it’s time to buy a Mother’s Day gift, sometimes we have the perfect gift in mind, but if you’re like most people, you’re probably struggling to figure out what to get mom. Should you get her flowers, chocolate, and lotion again this year?

If you’re last-minute shopping for a Mother’s Day gift, you’re sure to go for the basic gifts, but with the internet, you can get a unique last-minute gift at a moment’s notice. This year, treat mom to something that will help her relax — but not just bubble bath. Try buying her a  unique Mother’s Day gift that will help her feel inspired, relaxed, and cared about during National Women’s Mental Health Week (May 13 through 19).

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Neurofeedback sessions

What’s neurofeedback? It’s a type of therapy that basically rewires your brain (non-invasively) to help you sleep better, concentrate better, and think more clearly — among other things. It’s a simple process with life-long results. So, if your mom is looking for a semi-quick fix to feeling more relaxed about life, neurofeedback might be what she needs! Right now for Mother’s Day and National Women’s Mental Health Week, Aspen Valley Counseling is giving a discount to all women! Neurofeedback sessions only cost $37.50 per session, and the first 10 moms that sign up get a free gift. (Valid through 5/19)

“The Gift of Imperfection” by Brene Brown

If you haven’t already heard of this book, it’s a great gift for your mom. Women are naturally just a little bit hard on themselves. After reading this book, mom will have much more inner peace with herself that will last longer than any bouquet of flowers.

Massage

Now who doesn’t love a massage? Not only will this give mom a break from the heavy-lifting of life, but it’ll be a Mother’s Day gift that helps her calm her mind for a bit. If you want to give her something that will last longer than an hour-long session or your budget can’t handle a good massage therapist, try a head massager or an electric back massager.

Meditation and Yoga

Moms who are busy (which is basically all moms) will appreciate some time to clear their minds and find a place of peace. If your mom loves exercising, then a gift certificate to a yoga and meditation class will be the perfect break for her muscles. But even if your mom doesn’t exercise regularly, yoga is a great place to start because yoga teachers often have easier stretches for the beginner students. A Mother’s Day gift doesn’t have to be a thing she’ll keep forever. Sometimes it might be nice for her to get a gift she can use up and not have to find a place to store.

Therapy Session

It’s probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a Mother’s Day gift, but a therapy session might be just what that woman in your life needs. Therapy used to have this stigma that only people with “issues” went to therapy. Now, people fess up to their problems and want someone to teach them coping skills. Your mom can learn relaxation skills for anxiety or communication skills for family arguments. Therapy will make her life just a bit easier. You can buy her a gift certificate for a therapy session, but if she’s too busy to take time to go to therapy, then let her know that a therapist can do a video chat or phone call in place on an in-person appointment.

Workbooks

Everyone struggles — including your super woman mother. Get her a Mother’s Day gift that will help her, like a workbook to help her work through some of her struggles, like the Depression relief workbook. If mom’s not quite into workbooks but would prefer a book to read that will give her useful skills, try something like this ADHD book: “Driven To Distraction” by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey.

Plants

Okay, so a plant is a little like getting flowers for a Mother’s Day gift. But do something a little different and get her a plant that requires little upkeep — like a cactus. Then, mom will have something beautiful that lasts and brightens up a room.

But no matter what you get mom for this year’s Mother’s Day gift, she’s sure to love it because it’s from you.

Tell us some ideas for other great mental health–related gifts!

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3 Ways to Manage Your Anxiety

If you’ve ever experienced anxiety, first know you are not alone. Anxiety can make you feel like you can’t get anything done, make your heart rate go up, and lead you to feel as if your mind is racing. But it’s possible to get through your anxiety in the moment. Here are some tips to help you manage your anxiety.

Managing anxiety

Breathe

Research shows that taking deep breaths can actually calm your anxiety. When you’re anxious, your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes shallow; so when you take deep breaths, you are physically changing your anxiety. Take a deep breath in for six seconds and exhale for six seconds. Do this repeatedly and start to notice your heart rate slow and your mind calm.

Distract yourself

When you take a moment to move your mind away from the anxiety, it can help you get to work on what you need to do. Try something as simple as counting to 10. Focus on thinking about each number. When you move your focus elsewhere, you push your anxiety to the side. If you have a little more time, do something like yoga, dancing to your favorite song, or watching a funny video on YouTube.

Talk to someone

One of your best resources is your understanding friends and family. If you’re feeling anxious, call a friend or a family member and tell them how you’re feeling. Those who are understanding will listen and help you work through the anxiety. Sometimes they might say something you need to hear, or maybe by talking with them you’ll be able to talk through the anxiety. Or perhaps the call will be just enough to distract you from the anxiety.

Dealing with anxiety

The tips above aren’t a catch-all, and they certainly won’t make your anxiety go away forever. They’re little things that you can do to manage your anxiety in the moment.

Dealing with anxiety can be an ongoing issue for you, but long-term there are some things you can do to improve your anxiety. First, you have to take care of your body. When you are healthy and well rested, it’s much easier to deal with your anxiety. Make sure you’re eating healthy and getting enough sleep; when you don’t, it’s much easier to slip into worry because your body isn’t being taken care of. Also try to exercise regularly. You can find some fitness tips on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website.

Try figuring out what triggers your anxiety. When you can find out what’s stressing you out, you can start to deal with it better. Find a therapist that can help you work through your stressors and give you tools to help you get your anxiety under control.

For more tips on managing your anxiety, (such as creating a mantra, journaling, and more), check out Psych Central.

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National Self-Improvement Month

September is national self-improvement month! Check our Facebook page daily for tips, strategies and giveaways to help you with your self – improvement goals! To start your month off right grab a note book and begin to track your journey of self – improvement. Spend a few minutes writing your thoughts and goals for your month. Writing is an action that can help you begin to create movement toward your goals!