Get Help and Snap Out of Winter Depression

February 20, 2018


If you are a senior affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you can benefit from a range of treatment options that are effective once symptoms are detected early enough. The prevalence of SAD in the US ranges from 1% for those living in Florida to 9% in Alaska (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). Risk factors include being female (with women likely to be diagnosed with SAD four times more than men), family history of depression or bipolar disorder and residing far from the equator.

Differentiating Between Depression and SAD

It is important to point out the difference between normal depression and SAD. Depression, although not a part of normal aging can occur among the elderly due to different factors such as a medical condition, loss of a loved one, social isolation or being alone. SAD, on the other hand, as the name implies is seasonal in nature. It begins in late autumn and continues through winter.

Winter depression affects you in many ways. You become depressed, irritable, lethargic, sleep & eat more and adopt an even more sedentary lifestyle. When complications arise, you might even entertain thoughts of suicide and death frequently.

Treatment Options

Persistent depression due to the winter season can impact your daily life. If not treated, it can result to social withdrawal, develop into anxiety & other mental issues and even substance abuse.

If you start to feel the symptoms of SAD, seek medical attention for proper diagnosis so you can tackle winter blues effectively. You doctor can prescribe antidepressants to combat depression, a condition believed to be caused by an imbalance in serotonin activity.    

Another option is to recommend light therapy. As SAD is caused by a lack of light and vitamin D, using a light box to mimic natural sunlight can decrease the symptoms and increase energy levels. Taking supplements to boost vitamin D is also helpful and can make you feel better.

Counselling and psychotherapy are effective as well at relieving symptoms of depression caused by seasonal changes. It identifies negative behavior and replaces them with positive ones. Behavioral activation is also included where your counselor helps you identify activities that you like and give you pleasure both indoors and outdoors to better cope with winter.

Seeking support to beat winter depression is critical to help you through the condition and manage its symptoms. In addition, there are things that you can initiate such as increasing social activities, exercising, going out more often in daylight and eating & sleeping properly.   

Written by: Lucy Wyndham


The Key to Dealing with Negative Thoughts

January 22, 2018


Ever hear that bullying voice playing like a looped record in your mind? The one whose greatest hits include, "You're such a pathetic loser! What a cow! You're so stupid?​ You're not good enough!​"​ 

Whether it's these exact ​words or ​a similar ​tune​, many of us have experienced the feelings​ and choices that come along with them, but not all of us know how to stand up to them.

Enter: Self-Compassion.​

​We nurtur​e​ compassion​ within ourselves when​​​ ​we create a different voice through showing kindness and concern for ourself when experiencing stressful ​thoughts, feelings, and circumstances​.​​ ​​​​Cultivating our inner cheerleader vs. feeding the inner ​bully motivates us to make healthier choices, which reinforces a ​feeling of empowerment​ and resilience​ ​in the midst of stress and anxiety​.​

​Self-compassion ​is ​like being with ​the friend who reminds us that our ​​worth as a human being is not determined by the events we experience, or the feelings and thoughts we have about them​ ​​-​ ​they don't define us. ​It says, "I see you fell and scraped​ your​ knees a bunch and it hurts, but ​scraping your knees ​doesn't mean you are broken. It means you fell​ ​and​ you will heal.​ ​So ​bring on the peroxide and ointment​!​" This same perspective can be applied to​ any challenge we face enabling us​ to​ mindfully​ ​shift our response​ ​each time that​ nagging voice pumps up the volume.​

By becoming more ​aware of our feelings and experiences - without the critical judgement - ​we feel calmer, more trusting, and more open to life. ​​We open the lines for true communication and deeper connection in all of our relationships. Instead of reacting to ourselves and others with harsh judgement, we can more easily accept our humanness. Recognizing our shared vulnerability affords us the opportunity to connect and build intimacy with ourselves and in our relationships.

So, next time those pesky negative thoughts arise, invite​ that friendly voice to pop in ​and​ say, "This is where I'm at right now​. It's not who am I, it's simply an experience I'm having, and this is how I choose to support ​mysel​f through it.​"​ ​​​The more we take the time to mindfully​ and compassionately explore our ​internal landscape, the more healthy choices we can make for ourselves and others.

Written by 7 Cups Therapist, Jamie Rautenberg, LCSW


Boundary Setting

January 9, 2018


Do you ever feel like you do not know where you begin and another person ends? Are you the rescuer type? Do you constantly feel worn out and suffocated? Boundary setting is something you may need to work on if you can identify with those statements. 

First of all, when you try to set boundaries, do not do it when you are angry. You are more likely to go overboard and set your partner a task of cleaning the kitchen every day for a whole year (if you know what I mean!!) It is helpful to use very few words and be specific when you communicate so he or anyone else you’re working on boundary setting does not feel attacked. Avoid rationalising, and apologising. Do not feel ashamed or afraid when you set boundaries too. Also, learn to listen closely to yourself. Do not let the barrier of shame restrict you from taking care of yourself. If you feel victimised, suffocated, or threatened by others, you need to pay attention to what your body is telling you.

Sometimes, others may not like the new “You” because they feel defeated and may not be able to manipulate you or push your buttons. That is their issue and part of boundary setting is not taking that on as your problem too. You may want to specify consequences and give ultimatums in order to enforce the boundaries - what is it that is and is not acceptable about your parent/partner/friends behaviour?

A certain type of readiness is needed to be able to set boundaries. If you are not ready, you will not be able to enforce it either. It is connected to your growth and insight and as soon as you realise that there is a need for it and you cannot tolerate other people negatively impacting your life you will be ready to enforce it. Learn to identify what you like and don’t like and what brings you pleasure so you will start engaging in self-nurturing activities and will not feel guilty if you take care of your needs. Once you form a healthy boundary, you will notice that you will be able to enjoy and experience life more.

You’ll be able to feel happy knowing that these limits you’re setting are not to harm people but they are there to take care of YOU. After all, studies have shown that people feel more comfortable in the presence of people with healthy boundaries. Boundaries help us to develop intimate relationships so once you set them you’ll see that you blossom into maturity too and you’re able to handle relationships with more ease too. Healthy boundaries help us to withstand manipulation and empower us to welcome the good things into our lives!

Do you have any stories to share about your own boundary setting experiences too? Often the healing is found in feeling like you’re not alone too.

Written by 7 Cups Therapist, Lisa Wilson, Bsc (Psych), Dip Cert (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), Dip Cert (Couns)

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Here are Some Great Ideas for Clean and Sober Vacations

November 29, 2017


What good is a trip to Rome if you can't drink the wine? That question is easy to answer if you're one of the thousands of people who, according to CNN, take sober vacations to the Eternal City every year. They immerse themselves in Rome's breathtaking architecture, its ancient past, and its endless opportunities for artistic and cultural enrichment. The memories they take home from the experience are intoxicating enough as far as they're concerned. Their example can benefit anyone who is planning a vacation while going through addiction recovery.

You'll Find Safety in Numbers

Cruise ships have everything you could need for a good time, including sunshine and great scenery. However, they also make it easy to drink. So how do you avoid temptation while enjoying yourself on a cruise? One way is to book a trip with others who are in the same boat as you when it comes to staying sober. Many cruise lines actively encourage people in recovery to book trips together. The company offers onboard support group meetings, sponsors alcohol-free activities, and even allows people struggling with addiction to book adjoining cabins. This last option is well worth considering if you want to avoid the sounds of a tipsy neighbor staggering around her stateroom.

What's that? You say cruising isn't your cup of tea? No worries; according to Forbes, you can opt for all kinds of adventures geared towards those in recovery. Your options include:

Ski trips that let you challenge the slopes in popular locales like Big Sky, Montana.

Bus excursions to New York where you can see world-class comedy shows or even the opening game of the Yankees baseball season.

Eco-friendly adventures in exotic locales like Nicaragua where you can hike, zip line, kayak, and practice Yoga on the beach.

People who have never wrestled with addiction issues are sometimes less than kind when they find out about your situation. Going on a trip with people who face challenges similar to yours can help you to feel at ease. You may even form cherished friendships that last a lifetime.

"But I'm a Lone Wolf!"

We get it; maybe you prefer to spend your time off by yourself or with a few close acquaintances. You still have plenty of options for enjoying yourself. Here are some ideas to inspire you:

Consider a state park vacation. Most public parks forbid alcohol and drugs on their premises, so you're less apt to run into temptation. Many of these locations offer breathtaking natural beauty, a full schedule of things to do, and overnight accommodations ranging from tent sites to air conditioned cabins. Park fees are often quite reasonable, making this an excellent option for those on a  budget.

Vacation in a dry county. Many regions in the US still ban the sale of spirits within their jurisdiction, believe it or not. If you can find something you'd like to do in one of these areas, then you can have a blast without ever seeing or smelling alcohol.

Take an excursion to the Middle East. Many Muslim majority countries have strict anti-alcohol and anti-illicit drug laws. Yet they offer a world of fascinating things to see and do. Islamic culture is rich in art, literature, philosophy, and science. You'll check out from a adventure like that with your mind enriched and your soul ready to tackle whatever comes your way.

Happiness comes from within you, not from a bottle or a batch of chemicals. Seek support from after care programs and your family, and most importantly, take time for yourself. So enjoy your upcoming getaway and keep your mind focused on recovery. That's a great game plan, not only when you're on vacation, but for the rest of your life.

Written by: Adam Cook


How Online Therapy Can Help a Grieving Family

October 31, 2017

Recently, a married mother of two precious girls passed away suddenly. The loss was utterly devastating for everyone who loved her, especially her husband and children. If this sounds like something your family experienced, you may be wondering how to seek professional help for your grief.

Therapy is an important tool in the grieving process. Your family’s counselor can help you and your children learn healthy coping mechanisms, process feelings, and recognize danger signs of depression. Understandably, you may be too busy or drained to go to in-office appointments.

These days, in-office appointments for each member of your family may not be necessary. Technology has advanced so much that you can get the benefits of therapy right in your home. Better yet, you can have a qualified therapist take care of your child’s mental health as well.

Get Help Now

Have you ever called a doctor’s office of any kind just to learn that there are no openings this month? It happens with therapists too. However, if your spouse suddenly passed away, you shouldn’t wait that long to receive help. It’s important to start speaking with a therapist immediately.  Online therapy can help you and your children begin processing loss healthily and immediately. Your family’s well-being is worth it. 

If your loved one has been suffering from a terminal illness or condition and their passing was expected, it can still be a shock. Many doctors and nurses struggle to know how to help and comfort family members. They are well trained in caring for patients and trying to solve medical problems, so helping families emotionally is not easy. A good therapist can help you before a loved one passes away as well as afterwards.

Find a Therapist You Like

The relationship between a counselor and a patient can make or break the process. The last thing you want to do is try to get through this difficult time with someone you can’t trust. Your children need a therapist they can feel comfortable with too.

With online counseling, you can each choose a listener who fits your needs. If you would prefer to talk to a man your age and your teenage daughter wants to speak to a woman the age her mother was, that’s fine. Plus, if you start with a therapist who isn’t right for you, you can switch.

A Note About Suicidal Thoughts

Any time grief is a topic of conversation, suicide is important too. Thoughts of harming oneself or ending one’s life are never healthy, even after a significant loss. As the surviving parent, it’s important that you recognize these symptoms in yourself and your children.

If someone you love has suicidal thoughts, they may not express them to you. Instead, you may need to monitor a grieving person for the following signs:

·         Buying a gun

·         Saying that life is hopeless or pointless

·         Feeling like an overwhelming burden

·         Dependence on alcohol or illicit drugs

·         Bad sleeping habits

·         Withdrawal from normal activities

If you notice these signs, look up a local hotline or have someone take you to the nearest Emergency Room.

If you have lost a spouse, you and your children may experience indescribable grief. However, you do not have to go through this alone. Therapists are available online to help your family mourn.

Written by: Lucy Wyndham