Category: Anxiety & Depression

Anxiety can occupy and overwhelm your mind. It can cause a person to repeatedly rehearse events and conversations, diminishing self-confidence and peace of mind. It’s difficult to stay focused and trust yourself when anxiety is in the driver’s seat. In fact, anxiety can sometimes feel like a car stuck in a rut, wheels spinning out of control, going nowhere. Otherwise precious time and energy is spent in worry and concern.

COVID-19 front line workers vulnerable to mental health problems

COVID Stress Takes a Toll on Mental Health with Health Care Worker

The daily toll of COVID-19, as measured by new cases and the growing number of deaths, overlooks a shadowy set of casualties: the rising risk of mental health problems among health care professionals working on the front lines of the pandemic. A new study, led by University of Utah Health scientists, suggests more than half of doctors, nurses, and emergency responders involved in COVID-19 care could be at risk for one or more mental health problems, including acute traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, problematic alcohol use, and insomnia. The researchers found that the risk of these mental health conditions was comparable to rates observed during natural disasters, such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

"What health care workers are experiencing is akin to domestic combat," says Andrew J. Smith, Ph.D., director of the U of U Health Occupational Trauma Program at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute and the study's corresponding author. "Although the majority of health care professionals and emergency responders aren't necessarily going to develop PTSD, they are working under severe duress, day after day, with a lot of unknowns. Some will be susceptible to a host of stress-related mental health consequences. By studying both resilient and pathological trajectories, we can build a scaffold for constructing evidence-based interventions for both individuals and public health systems."

The study appears in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. In addition to U of U Health scientists, contributors include researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; University of Colorado, Colorado Springs; Central Arkansas VA Health Care System; Salt Lake City VA Healthcare System; and the National Institute for Human Resilience. The researchers surveyed 571 health care workers, including 473 emergency responders (firefighters, police, EMTs) and 98 hospital staff (doctors, nurses), in the Mountain West between April 1 and May 7, 2020. Overall, 56% of the respondents screened positive for at least one mental health disorder. The prevalence for each specific disorder ranged from 15% to 30% of the respondents, with problematic alcohol use, insomnia, and depression topping the list.

"Front line providers are exhausted, not only from the impact of the pandemic itself, but also in terms of coping day to day," says Charles C. Benight, Ph.D., co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. "They're trying to make sure that their families are safe [and] they're frustrated over not having the pandemic under control. Those things create the sort of burnout, trauma, and stress that lead to the mental health challenges we're seeing among these caregivers."

In particular, the scientists found that health care workers who were exposed to the virus or who were at greater risk of infection because they were immunocompromised had a significantly increased risk of acute traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression. The researchers suggest that identifying these individuals and offering them alternative roles could reduce anxiety, fear, and the sense of helplessness associated with becoming infected.

Alcohol abuse was another area of concern. About 36% of health care workers reported risky alcohol usage. In comparison, estimates suggest that less than 21% of physicians and 23% of emergency responders abuse alcohol in typical circumstances. Caregivers who provided direct patient care or who were in supervisory positions were at greatest risk, according to the researchers. They say offering these workers preventative education and alcohol abuse treatment is vital. Surprisingly, health care workers in this study felt less anxious as they treated more COVID-19 cases.

"As these health care professionals heard about cases elsewhere before COVID-19 was detected in their communities, their anxiety levels likely rose in anticipation of having to confront the disease," Smith says. "But when the disease started trickling in where they were, perhaps it grounded them back to their mission and purpose. They saw the need and they were in there fighting and working hard to make a difference with their knowledge and skills, even at risk to themselves."

Among the study's limitations are its small sample size. It was also conducted early in the pandemic in a region that wasn't as affected by the disease as other areas with higher infection and death rates. Moving forward, the researchers are in the final stages of a similar but larger study conducted in late 2020 that they hope will build on these findings. "This pandemic, as horrific as it is, offers us the opportunity to better understand the extraordinary mental stress and strains that health care providers are dealing with right now," Smith says. "With that understanding, perhaps we can develop ways to mitigate these problems and help health care workers and emergency responders better cope with these sorts of challenges in the future."

Read this article on Science Daily: Dr. Smith, Hannah M. Wright, Tiffany M. Love, and Scott A. Langenecker of University of Utah Health contributed to this study. The study, "Pandemic-related mental health risk among front line personnel," was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.


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Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support

Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule an appointment or call 707-479-2946.

Pandemic Taking a Toll on Mental Health and Addictions

COVID Presents Increased Risk of Addiction for Unusual Groups

The pandemic’s effect on addiction has become a hot topic for researchers and mental health specialists alike. "The COVID-19 pandemic is a particularly grave risk to the millions of Americans with opioid use disorder, who—already vulnerable and marginalized—are heavily dependent on face-to-face health care delivery," researchers stated in "An Epidemic in the Midst of a Pandemic: Opioid Use Disorder and COVID-19," a recent study that examined the effects of the unprecedented situation.

In addition to those wrestling with addiction even before the pandemic created challenges in receiving care, it is now being reported that everyone from retired baby boomers with no preexisting addictions to millennials struggling with job loss and COVID related family challenges are now finding it harder to put a limit on emotion-numbing substances.  According to national surveys alcohol sales are up 250 percent, a trend that is compounding both emerging and preexisting mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression.

“In my practice I have been working with a lot of people during quarantine around addiction,” explains Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD. “The longer COVID restrictions continue, the more potential there is for temporary behaviors based on escaping emotional turmoil to turn into full blown addictions.”

Addiction is not always about drugs, alcohol, or other substances. It can also take on forms including uncontrolled gambling, shopping, gaming, smoking, food, and sex addiction. When these activities become compulsive or unstoppable, they have essentially hijacked the brain’s otherwise 'normal' pleasure functions. At this point, when a behavior becomes a habit or addiction, getting back to ‘normal’ or getting control over compulsions can be a challenge for most anyone.

The Toll of Long-Term Use

Addiction is defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) as a brain disease indicated by cravings, an inability to abstain from the behavior or substance, dysfunctional emotional responses, and a loss of behavioral control. Compulsive behaviors are often unconscious and can result in making questionable choices. Although breaking an addiction is tough, it can be done. The sooner it is addressed, the better the chances are for recovery.

With any addiction, the recognition that something that may have started out as a distraction has now become a problem is the first step on the road to recovery. While denial over the loss of control that leads to addiction may be a way of coping with sudden changes in behavior, knowing when to seek help is key to recovery.

Healthy alternatives to addictive behavior

“My job as a mental health professional is to help my patients restore balance by guiding them toward healthier coping mechanisms,” explains Dr. Holland. “The focus of addiction therapy in my practice highlights how attachment and connection is the opposite of addiction.”

Treatment also incorporates behavioral therapies, counseling, and other supportive measures to build new and improved habits and life skills. Through this process stress and anger management as well as communication skills are combined with relapse prevention tools to create new coping mechanisms that support well-being.

As a highly qualified drug and alcohol counselor, Dr. Holland provides the most effective treatments for managing compulsive behaviors and addictions and offers individualized therapy to address the unique behaviors that the client may want to change.

Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services

Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support

It’s no question that these are very trying times for all of us, so I want to let you know that you are not alone. No matter what is coming up for you right now it is important to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. I invite you reach out to me to see how we can start getting you on the path to feeling better now.

Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule an appointment or call 707-479-2946.

 

 

Young adults benefit from strong social support systems

New study confirms that social support improves mental health among young adults

A team of McGill University researchers has found that young adults who perceived higher levels of social support reported fewer mental health problems.

In a study published today in JAMA Network Open, the team led by Marie-Claude Geoffroy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology at McGill, reassessed the impact of the presence and awareness of social support, such as family and friends, as a safeguard against mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Their results indicate that young adults who perceived higher levels of social support -- the feeling that there is someone who they can depend on for help should they need it -- at the age of 19, showed lower levels of depression and anxiety symptoms one year later.

"Our study shows that even in cases where people previously experienced mental health problems, social support was beneficial for mental health later on," says Prof. Geoffroy, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Youth Suicide Prevention. "We discovered potential benefits of promoting and leveraging social support as a means to protect the mental health of young adults, even in individuals who experienced mental health problems at an earlier developmental stage in life. That social support is not only beneficial for depression, but for other salient mental health outcomes as well."

The power of perception

The team used data from over 1,000 participants of a representative birth cohort of individuals born in the province of Quebec. Following participants since their birth in 1997 and 1998, the researchers looked at their levels of perceived social support at the onset of adulthood. The researchers found that people who experienced greater levels of social support experienced 47% less severe depression and 22% less anxiety than those with less social support. The team also found that those who reported higher levels of perceived social support were at a 40% decreased risk of experiencing suicidal ideation and attempts.

"Our study was conducted before the current COVID-19 pandemic, so we do not know whether our results will apply in the current context," adds Sara Scardera, a master's student in McGill's School/Applied Child Psychology program under the supervision of Prof. Geoffroy and co-author of the study. "However, in a 'normal' context, youth who perceived that they had someone to rely on reported better mental health outcomes. We believe that is beneficial to offer help to those in need, and to make sure your friends know that they can count on you."

The data collection is ongoing, therefore new mental health data will be available when participants turn 23 years old over the course of the 2021 winter season. The researchers will verify whether the same patterns of association have been present during the COVID-19 pandemic. Future lines of research will examine whether certain types of social support -- for example, parents vs. friends -- is more beneficial to the mental health of young adults.

Read this article on Science Daily: "Strong social support decreases mental health problems in young adults: Awareness and presence of social support may guard against mental health problems." 11 December 2020. sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201211115455.htm.


Therapy for tweens, teens and their parents

Every child responds differently to life changes. Some events that may impact a child or teen’s mental health include:

  • The birth of a sibling
  • The death of a loved one, such as a family member or a pet
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Poverty or homelessness
  • Natural disaster
  • Domestic violence
  • Moving to a new place or attending a new school
  • Being bullied
  • Taking on more responsibility than is age-appropriate
  • Parental divorce or separation

Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services

Therapy is a place for you to connect and process your thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Dr. Holland can help you develop effective tools to cope with what is going on. However bad you think it is right now, we can face it together.  I believe that forming a strong personal identity is an important aspect of your growth and development, leading to a brighter future.

Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule a teletherapy appointment or call 707-479-2946.

COVID-19 restrictions increased loneliness among adults

New study says loneliness is a real factor during COVID-19 restrictions

Loneliness is a significant public health issue and is associated with worse physical and mental health as well as increased mortality risk. Systematic review findings recommend that interventions addressing loneliness should focus on individuals who are socially isolated. However, researchers have lacked a comprehensive understanding of how vulnerability to loneliness might be different in the context of a pandemic.

In the new study, researchers used an online survey to collect data about adults during the initial phase of COVID-19 lockdown from March 23 to April 24, 2020. 1,964 eligible participants responded to the survey, answering questions about loneliness, sociodemographic factors, health, and their status in relation to COVID-19. Participants were aged 18 to 87 years old (average 37.11), were mostly white (92.7%), female (70.4%), not religious (57.5%) and the majority were employed (71.9%).

The overall prevalence of loneliness, defined as having a high score on the loneliness scale (ie., a score of 7 or higher out of 9), was over a quarter of respondents: 26.6%. In the week prior to completing the survey, 49% to 70% of respondents reported feeling isolated, left out or lacking companionship. Risk factors for loneliness were being in a younger age group (aOR: 4.67 -- 5.31), being separated or divorced (OR: 2.29), meeting clinical criteria for depression (OR: 1.74), greater emotion regulation difficulties (OR: 1.04), and poor-quality sleep due to the COVID-19 crisis (OR: 1.30). Higher levels of social support (OR: 0.92), being married/co-habiting (OR: 0.35) and living with a greater number of adults (OR: 0.87) were protective factors.

The authors hope that these findings can inform support strategies and help to target those most vulnerable to loneliness during the pandemic.

Groarke adds: "We found that rates of loneliness during the early stages of the lockdown were high. Our results suggest that supports and interventions to reduce loneliness should prioritize young people, those with mental health symptoms, and people who are socially isolated. Supports aimed at improving emotion regulation, sleep quality and increasing social support could reduce the impact of physical distancing regulations on mental health outcomes."


Healthcare institutes all over the country say the coronavirus pandemic can be extremely stressful for people. Fear and anxiety generated by the idea of a communicable disease and worry over what might happen can become overwhelming and stimulate strong emotions in both adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing certainly helps keep everyone safer but, social distancing can leave people feeling even more isolated and lonely. Teletherapy is proving to have some surprising benefits for people who are isolated, and for people who have social anxiety.

“It can be quite relieving for a person with anxiety to not have to be face-to-face for a therapy session. In fact, teletherapy actually empowers my patients who might experience anxiety, because it creates a sense of ‘safe distance’ from the therapist. This alone, often makes it easier for them to open up and to feel comfortable with the therapy modality.”

Dr. Holland specializes in working with individuals with depression and/or anxiety, those who have experienced trauma, chronic illnesses or conditions associated with aging as well as identity issues.

Individualized Teletherapy Sessions are Available - Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support.

Contact Dr. Holland for more information and for help, or call 707-479-2946 to schedule a telehealth video therapy session.

Physicians and nurses benefit from dog therapy

Therapy Dogs help reduce stress

Scroll Down for Dr. Holland's Perspective on this article

New research published in Academic Emergency Medicine indicates that for physicians and nurses working evening shifts in the emergency department, interacting with a therapy dog for several minutes may help lower stress.

In the 122-participant study, emergency providers randomized to a five-minute interaction with a therapy dog and handler had a significant reduction in self-reported anxiety using a visual analogue scale compared with patients randomized to coloring mandalas for five minutes with colored pencils. Also, at the end of the shift, emergency providers had lower salivary cortisol (a stress hormone) with either coloring or therapy dog interactions compared with controls.

"Many healthcare workers and laypersons believe that dog-assisted support can improve emotional well-being in the healthcare setting, but little hard data exist to scientifically evaluate this belief, especially in emergency care," said lead author Jeffrey A. Kline, MD, of the Indiana University School of Medicine. "We provide novel data to suggest that emergency care providers enjoyed seeing a dog on shift, and received a small benefit in stress reduction after the interaction. We still do not know the extent to which the benefit was from the dog, the handler, or the combination of the two."

Read this article on Science Daily: "Therapy dogs may help lower emergency clinicians' stress." ScienceDaily. 8 April 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200408085531.htm.


Dr. Holland's Perspective

"New research supports the notion that interacting with animals actually does decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) while helping to lower blood pressure. Other studies have validated what pet owners all over the world intuitively understand; that interacting with animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost a person's mood.

"I know from experience that dogs can serve as a significant source of comfort and support to people of all ages who are under stress, whether that is a pet at home or in a specially trained canine assisted therapy situation. Therapy dogs are especially good at calming patients in a hospital or clinic setting, and they also help people to feel more comfortable about opening up to a therapist. In essence, a well-trained social therapy dog can help to accelerate the healing process."

Teletherapy Available - Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support

Contact Dr. Holland for more information and for help, or call 707-479-2946 to schedule a telehealth video therapy session.

Video Conference Therapy During Difficult Times

Distance therapy helps to address the stay-at-home trend during flu outbreak

Distance therapy helps to address the stay-at-home trend during flu outbreak

Dr. Holland has offered phone and video conferencing therapy options for patients for some time, and with the rising concerns surrounding the coronavirus, these types of therapy sessions are more relevant than ever.

“Distance therapy using the phone or an online video conferencing system such as FaceTime has long been a good option for my clients who have access issues due to lack of transportation, health or time constraints. And, some clients simply find it more appealing to hold a session outside of an office environment.” Dr. Holland explains. “Now, with the widespread concern over the coronavirus, online therapy is a great way to stay connected with my clients, and a terrific option for new clients that don’t want to put off getting the help they need.” Therapy sessions are one-on-one and individually tailored to the client’s needs.

What is required for online conferencing? New clients will need to go through a screening process that begins with a free 15-minute phone consultation with Dr. Holland. Once the screening process is complete, clients simply need to have access to a reliable computer with a webcam, a smartphone or a tablet equipped with camera and mic. After the appointment is confirmed, Dr. Holland will send a link to the video conference that is used to access the therapist’s private online office room.

Additional Information

As with any new therapy system, it’s a good idea to research and understand the benefits and limits of this form of technology before signing up for a session. It is important to have access to a computer or mobile device with a webcam, a good microphone as well as up-to-date antivirus software and a personal firewall. Clients will also need access to a private space where they will not be overheard. It's also good to create a space that is free from distractions that could interrupt the session such as phone calls, emails, other people or pets in the area.

Please bear in mind that this program is not meant to replace crisis services or hospitalization. New clients who are a good fit for this program are typically eager to get help, they are stable, and they are open to receiving information and guidance for symptom relief.

Please start by booking a free 15-minute phone consultation with Dr. Holland.

 

 

Cancer patient caregivers deal with significant impact to emotional health

Researchers conclude that caregivers for older patients with advanced cancer are a vulnerable group

The number of informal caregivers who look after older adults with cancer is on the rise. Caregivers could be relatives, partners, or even friends who provide assistance to people in order to help them function. Most older people with cancer live at home and are dependent on informal caregivers for support with their cancer treatment, symptom management, and daily activities. Caregiving itself can also take a toll on a caregiver's own physical and emotional well-being, which makes it important to ensure the proper supports are in place.

Until now, no large study has evaluated whether or not caring for older adults with advanced cancer is linked to caregivers' emotional health or to their quality of life. Recently, researchers studied a group of adults aged 70 or older who had advanced cancer (as well as other challenges). This study used information from older patients with advanced cancer and their caregivers from local oncology practices enrolled in the "Improving Communication in Older Cancer Patients and Their Caregivers" study conducted through the University of Rochester National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program Research Base between October 2014 and April 2017. Results from the study were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Cancer patient caregivers deal with impact to emotional and physical health

The researchers learned that the health problems of older patients with cancer were linked to a poorer quality of life for their caregivers, including poorer emotional health. This fact is confirmed by many other studies, which show that caregivers may even experience more emotional health challenges (such as anxiety, depression, and distress) than the people they care for, the researchers added. What's more, poorer patient health (measured by a geriatric assessment) was also associated with higher levels of caregiver distress.

The average caregiver in the study was 66 years old, though 49 percent of the caregivers were aged 70 or older. The majority of caregivers were female and white (non-Hispanic), and 67 percent were the patient's spouse or partner who lived with them. Close to 40 percent of the caregivers had serious chronic illnesses of their own. Nearly half (43.5 percent) said they experienced moderate to high distress, 19 percent reported having symptoms of depression, and 24 percent were anxious.

Interestingly, older caregiver experienced less anxiety and depression and better mental health, said the researchers. However, they were in poorer physical health. Being female was associated with experiencing less distress. An income of more than $50,000 a year also was linked to having better physical and mental health.

The researchers concluded that caregivers for older patients with advanced cancer are a vulnerable group. Thankfully, there are strategies caregivers can incorporate into their routines to help keep their own health and well-being top-of-mind. Talk with a healthcare provider about your own stress related to caregiving. If you prefer, you can ask to talk privately, without the person you care for present. Your healthcare provider may suggest ways to address the burdens you may experience with caregiving. There are strategies that have been found to help with specific tasks and challenges, decrease caregiver stress, and improve quality of life. You can learn more -- and take a free and private assessment of caregiver health -- at HealthinAging.org.

Story Source: Article provided by Science Daily ---> American Geriatrics Society. "Caring for an older adult with cancer comes with emotional challenges for caregivers, too." ScienceDaily,  www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190402124355.htm.


Dr. Jenny HollandAccording to the AARP as many as 43.5 million Americans provide unpaid care for an adult or child. It's extremely important that caregivers pay attention to and honor their own needs. Without self-care in mind caregivers risk burning out and becoming unable to care for their loved ones. In fact, one of the most reported factors in a family’s decision to move an ailing relative to a long-term care facility is the caregiver’s own failing physical and emotional health.

Long-term caregivers are also vulnerable to something called compassion fatigue. When this occurs caregivers may experience symptoms including; exhaustion, trouble sleep, increased anxiety, frequent headaches and stomach upset. When irritability, numbness, loss of purpose and emotional disconnection sets in the caregiver may also experience problems with their own personal relationships and suffer health issues. Finding a balance between the needs of family and self is key for caregivers to remain healthy in mind and body. It's important for family caregivers to reach out for help when they need it to create a plan for maintaining health, including tending to their own medical concerns and taking respite from their roles.

Dr. Holland works with caregivers suffering from overwhelm, burnout and caregiver fatigue. She helps clients to creatively work with the situation to discover a renewed sense of meaning and purpose, as well as important ways to stay healthy. Dr. Holland will help you learn how to help yourself so you can continue to do the work you love of helping others. Call 707-479-2946 to schedule a free consultation today.

Domestic violence leads to mental health setbacks

Relationship violence created signs of mental illness in both women (depression) and men (anxiety disorders)

Some forms of domestic violence double victims' risk of depression and anxiety disorders later in life, according to new research. The study found many victims of intimate partner violence at 21 showed signs of mental illness at the age of 30, with women more likely to develop depression and men varying anxiety disorders. Intimate partner violence classifies physical abuse as pushing, shoving and smacking.

University of Queensland researcher Emeritus Professor Jake Najman said the team also found equal levels of abuse by men and women. "The number of men and women who experience intimate partner violence is very similar, leading us to believe couples are more likely to abuse each other," Professor Najman said. "People generally don't end up in the hospital or a shelter, but there is a serious mental burden from this type of abuse."

The research showed defacto couples and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to be involved in these types of abusive relationships. Emotional abuse involves comments that make the person feel worthless. Then there is harassment -- a constant and distressing nagging that may have long-term consequences for those on the receiving end.

"It also raises the question, to what extent is this type of violent behavior not just a characteristic of the relationship the couple has with each other, but with other people around them and possibly their children," Professor Najman said. "There is a range of treatment and counseling programs available for couples and families to try and improve the way they relate to one another."

Story provided by Science Daily: University of Queensland. "Unhealthy and unhappy: Mental toll of troubled relationships." ScienceDaily 29 January 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200129091511.htm.


Dr. Jenny HollandDomestic violence can take the form of either physical or psychological abuse, or both, and it can affect anyone regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, economic status or education. Domestic violence can manifest in behaviors meant to scare, physically harm or dominate a partner. This type of violence typically involves an unequal power dynamic where one partner tries to assert control over the other in a variety of ways. Narcissism can also be considered a form of domestic violence.

Women are most often the battered party in a violent relationship according to statistics which report that more than 38 million American women have been victims of domestic violence. Men can be victimized as well, in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Therapy in domestic violence situations often focuses on the client's inevitable loss of self-worth, feelings of anxiety and bouts of depression. Most victims of domestic violence need time and counseling to overcome the overall sense of helplessness that can be the hallmark of abuse.

To make an appointment, or to schedule a free consultation call 707-479-2946 or visit the contact page to send an email now.

Pain and Gratitude

Blogging with Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD

The Dubious Connection between Physical Pain and Depression 

As a psychologist I understand that pain and depression are closely related. Pain can be a two-edged sword, and studies have shown that depression can cause pain just as pain can cause depression. Sometimes this kind of cycle of pain and depression or feeling low, can wear us down, create added stress and interfere with our lives and disturb sleeping patterns. To get symptoms of pain and depression under control, it’s important to take proactive steps to keep yourself on an even keel.

My Own Experience

Though I don’t often talk about it, I live with physical pain every day. When the weather is cold and damp, life becomes even more challenging. This past month has been particularly intense in this way. As such, I notice my own thoughts automatically drifting toward the negative. The mental list of things that are difficult or ‘wrong’ tabulate in my mind without effort. And I understand that the weather will probably be getting worse for the next couple of weeks, at least. As a way to tackle my own discomfort and to lift myself out of the cycle of pain and depression I thought I would blog about gratitude and how this practice has helped me.

The Study of Gratitude

In recent years, the study of how a simple action such as practicing gratitude can boost happiness and alleviate depression has gained attention and momentum among psychologists and mental health professionals all over the world. Scientists say that these techniques shift our thinking from negative ruminations to positive outcomes. Gratitude practice has been shown to produce a surge of feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, and helps to build enduring personal connections.

Count Your Blessings

Many people find putting pen to paper to compile a gratitude list, or to start a gratitude journal provides a sort of ritual experience that lets us focus on the positive events of the day. As we journal, we can write more detail about the events that make us feel appreciative. When I put some energy into focusing on my own situation and turning my thoughts toward what is right about my life, I can begin to build a list of items that I appreciate such as:

  • I am grateful for my children and my husband. Adam and I have been together almost 25 years! That’s almost half of my life now.
  • I am grateful I am healthy and that those that I love are healthy.
  • I am grateful to have a few lifelong friends that support me, always.
  • I am grateful for my Jewish Communities.
  • I am grateful to have a job that allows me to be with people in meaningful and hopefully, in helpful ways

Expanding Gratitude into Work

Showing up and doing what I can do to help make a difference has a strong impact on my experience of pain and helps me to maintain an active, rather than a passive focus. About a year ago, I took a big leap and launched a private pay practice. Today it is thriving, and I am re-invigorated. In addition to seeing individuals, I have started a professional consultation group that is going well.  I also currently run a grief group, and I am starting groups for people with disabilities and their families. I will be traveling a bit in the next few months to spread the word about a book that is coming out in March in which I am a contributor. Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences of the Trump Era. I also started a book club this year that is feisty and fun. And on my favorite weeks, I get to do a little singing with my friends at Ner Shalom.

Gratitude is an Effort Worth Making

To count our blessings or to focus on the positive when dealing with pain, depression and/or anxiety is challenging for everyone and it takes a conscious effort. However, when we adopt the practice of gratitude as a daily habit it can become an important routine and step towards self-empowerment.

Get Started with Your Own Gratitude Practice

Journaling is probably the easiest gratitude enhancing practice we can undertake. Creating a gratitude journal can be as simple as buying a blank notebook and writing down a few things you’re grateful for each night before going to bed. You can enhance your journaling experience by turning it into a ritual such as first lighting a candle, making yourself a cup of tea, sitting quietly for five minutes before you begin, etc. Whatever you choose as a ritual, do it consistently. It strengthens the ability to turn what you’re doing into a positive habit. Anything fun and relaxing, will give you motivation to form a new habit.

 

Therapy dog study results: students reported feeling more supported, less stressed

Therapy dog sessions for stressed-out students proving beneficial for mental health

Therapy dog sessions for stressed-out students are an increasingly popular offering at North American universities. Now, new research from the University of British Columbia confirms that some doggy one-on-one time really can do the trick of boosting student wellness. "Therapy dog sessions are becoming more popular on university campuses, but there has been surprisingly little research on how much attending a single drop-in therapy dog session actually helps students," said Emma Ward-Griffin, the study's lead author and research assistant in the UBC department of psychology. "Our findings suggest that therapy dog sessions have a measurable, positive effect on the wellbeing of university students, particularly on stress reduction and feelings of negativity."

In research published today in Stress and Health, researchers surveyed 246 students before and after they spent time in a drop-in therapy dog session. Students were free to pet, cuddle and chat with seven to 12 canine companions during the sessions. They also filled out questionnaires immediately before and after the session, and again about 10 hours later. The researchers found that participants reported significant reductions in stress as well as increased happiness and energy immediately following the session, compared to a control group of students who did not spend time at a therapy dog session. While feelings of happiness and life satisfaction did not appear to last, some effects did.

"The results were remarkable," said Stanley Coren, study co-author and professor emeritus of psychology at UBC. "We found that, even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed, compared to students who did not take part in the therapy dog session."

While previous research suggested that female students benefit from therapy dog sessions more than male students, the researchers found the benefits were equally distributed across both genders in this study. Since the strong positive effects of the therapy dog session were short-lived, the researchers concluded that universities should be encouraged to offer them at periods of increased stress.

"These sessions clearly provide benefits for students in the short-term, so we think universities should try to schedule them during particularly stressful times, such as around exam periods," said Frances Chen, the study's senior author and an assistant professor of psychology at UBC. "Even having therapy dogs around while students are working on their out-of-class assignments could be helpful."

The therapy dog sessions were organized in partnership with UBC's Alma Mater Society and Vancouver ecoVillage, a non-profit organization that provides therapeutic services, including therapy dog sessions, and mental health wellness services.


Story Source: Article provided by Science Daily & University of British Columbia. "Sit, stay, heal: Study finds therapy dogs help stressed university students." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180312085045.htm.


Dr. Holland offers Canine Assisted Therapy

Dr. Jenny HollandConnecting with a dog can be powerfully healing and comforting for individuals of all ages and walks of life. In some cases, it can help an otherwise “stuck” patient overcome hurdles in treatment and begin making progress again. The friendly, accepting nature of these beautiful animals makes them ideal “co-therapists”. Canine-assisted therapy has been around for several decades, and will continue to be used for years to come due to its many benefits. The use of dogs as part of therapy and other forms of treatment can be beneficial for a wide range of disorders, issues, and conditions.


About Tallulah – Canine Assisted Therapy

Tallulah is a highly trained service dog who works with Dr. Holland to provide assistance to clients in a variety of ways. She is warm, friendly, and very intuitive. This Labrador Retriever provides a connection that goes beyond words and straight to the heart.  Depending on your needs, Tallulah can be merely a quiet presence in the room or be actively involved in therapy.