Teen Depression

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, at any given time, approximately 3.5 million children and teenagers suffer from depression.  Alarmingly, an average of more than 1,000 teenagers attempt suicide each day.  It has become the third-leading cause of death among teenagers.  In most of these cases, depression is a factor.

Signs of teen depression

Because the teen may not always seem sad, parents and teachers may not realize that troublesome behavior is a sign of depression.  Adolescent psychiatrists advise parents to be aware of the signs of teen depression.  If one or more of these signs persists for more than two weeks, parents should seek professional help:

  • Poor performance in school
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Sadness and hopelessness
  • Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
  • Anger and rage
  • Overreaction to criticism
  • Poor self-esteem or guilt
  • Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Substance abuse
  • Problems with authority
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

*Source: National Mental Health Association

Additionally, teens may experiment with drugs or alcohol or become sexually promiscuous to avoid feelings of depression.  Teens also may express their depression through hostile, aggressive, or risk-taking behavior.

Treating teen depression

If you suspect that your teen may be suffering from depression, understand that depression is not simply a passing blue mood.  Your child cannot simply get better by being “more positive.”  Depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.

It is extremely important that depressed teens receive prompt, professional treatment.  Comprehensive treatment often includes both individual and family therapy.  It may also include the use of antidepressant medications.  Getting treatment as soon as possible is important because the earlier treatment begins, the more effective it can be.

NOTE: Professional help should definitely be sought if a person is experiencing suicidal thoughts.

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3 Reasons To Disconnect From Digital Technology

While it may be the norm for many, being connected 24/7 to your computer, laptop, smartphone or iPad comes with a price.  Here are three good reasons to take breaks from digital technology.

1. Recharge from job stress – According to a survey conducted by VTech, being constantly accessible for work was the number-one source of technology-related stress. Studies show, however, that in spite of modern work trends, our brains need downtime for recovery and we need our evenings and weekends to disconnect and recuperate from the stresses of work. Although it can be tempting to continue to check email, return text messages and answer work calls after normal work hours, it is important to allocate time for yourself and switch off work stress.  Tell your colleagues that you will be unavailable after a certain time, turn off your phone and computer and set aside some work-free time each evening to relax.  Your employer will benefit too, as you’ll be coming back to work more relaxed and recharged each day.

2. Maximize your productivity – Studies have found that multitasking reduces your productivity by 40 percent. This is because our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time and bombarding them with unrelated, extraneous information only slows them down. Researchers at Stanford University found that people who are regularly besieged with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who completed one task at a time.  To improve your productivity at work – or for other cognitive tasks – do one thing at a time and give it your full attention.  Disconnect from your phone, texting, email, social media, etc. and schedule specific times during the day to attend to these.

3. Improve your mood – Mental health researchers report that being overly tuned in to smartphones and laptops causes over-stimulation, anxiety and stress. A recent study showed that people now check their mobile phones more than 150 times per day. Just like your physical body, your brain needs downtime too.  Mental health experts now recommend scheduling breaks during the day from all digital technology, “unplugging” during dinner and at least two hours before bedtime.

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Exercise: Good For Your Body And Mind

Four Steps to a Longer LifeMost everyone is well-aware of the physical benefits of exercise. But did you know that exercise is also one of the most-effective ways to maintain your mental health and keep your brain healthy too?  Here are five ways that exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

Exercise and stress – Exercise is recognized as one of the best ways to reduce stress.  When you exercise, it metabolizes stress hormones in your blood and increases levels of your body’s built-in anti-anxiety hormones, making you feel calmer and lifting your mood.  In addition, regular exercise can be a diversion from day-to-day stress and can provide a sedative effect through natural physical movement.

Exercise and depression – Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria.  Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication – but without the side effects.  In addition to relieving depressive symptoms, research also has shown that regular exercise can prevent you from relapsing.

Exercise and sleep – People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, according to a recent study.  Also, exercise is one of the most important things you can do to overcome or lessen insomnia.  It can help you fall asleep easier and faster and sleep more restfully and deeper.

Exercise and your brain – Exercise enhances brain function.  During exercise, the heart pumps more blood to the brain.  Delivering more blood means more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the brain, which are good for brain cells and make the brain healthier.  In addition, the most-recent studies have shown that exercise boosts the brain’s rate of neurogenesis – the rate at which the brain regenerates brain cells.

Exercise and aging – Exercise slows the aging process.  Brain researchers say that exercise slows down the degeneration of the body and brain by sending powerful chemical messages to every cell in the body to “stay strong and grow.”

No matter your age or fitness level, you can enjoy the benefits of exercise.  Wondering just how active you need to be to get a mental health boost?  Thirty minutes of moderate exercise five times per week is the recommendation.  Aerobic exercises such as running, brisk walking, swimming, cycling or group-exercise classes are best.

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Helping A Friend Who Is In An Abusive Relationship

Teen dating violenceWatching a family member, friend or colleague going through an abusive relationship is difficult and frustrating.  The National Domestic Violence Hotline advises the following for effectively helping a family member or friend who is being abused:

Don’t be afraid to let him or her know that you are concerned for their safety.  Help your friend or family member recognize the abuse.  Tell him or her you see what is going on and that you want to help.  Help them recognize that what is happening is not “normal” and that they deserve a healthy, non-violent relationship.

Acknowledge that he or she is in a very difficult and scary situation.  Let your friend or family member know that the abuse is not their fault.  Reassure him or her that they are not alone and that there is help and support available.

Be supportive.  Listen to your friend or family member.  Remember that it may be difficult for him or her to talk about the abuse.  Let him or her know that you are available to help whenever they may need it.  What they need most is someone who will believe and listen to them.

Be non-judgmental.  Respect your friend or family member’s decisions.  There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships.  He or she may leave and return to the relationship many times.  Do not criticize his or her decisions or try to guilt them.  He or she will need your support even more during those times.

Encourage him or her to participate in activities outside of the relationship.  It’s important for him or her to see friends and family.

Help him or her develop a safety plan.  Safety planning includes picking a place to go and packing important items.

Encourage him or her to talk to people who can provide help and guidance.  Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups.  Offer to go with him or her to talk to family and friends.  If he or she has to go to the police, court or a lawyer, offer to go along for moral support.

Remember that you cannot “rescue” him or her.  Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the person getting hurt has to be the one to decide that they want to do something about it.  It’s important for you to support him or her and help them find a way to safety and peace.

Get advice.  If you want to talk to someone to get advice about a particular situation, contact a local domestic violence program or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.  NDVH is a nonprofit organization that provides crisis intervention, information and referral to victims of domestic violence, perpetrators, friends and families.



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Aging Parents: 4 Important Legal Documents

Fifty-five percent of caregivers feel overwhelmedDelaying preparation to deal with the illness, disability, incapacitation or death of a parent is understandable.  It is something most of us would rather not consider.  However, you can save yourself a tremendous amount of time, energy and perhaps money by being sure your parent has the following:

* An updated and valid will which ensures that your parent’s belongings, money or property will be allocated according to his/her wishes.  A current will reduces the likelihood of family conflict and an extended and complicated probate process.  If a valid will does not exist, the court may determine how property and possessions will be dispersed.

* A durable power of attorney which allows a designated person to make legally binding decisions for your parent (such as signing checks or making housing choices) should he/she become incapacitated.  Having a Durable Power of Attorney in place means the family can avoid the harrowing process of going to court to have a guardian named to oversee your parent’s care and finances.

* A living will specifies your parent’s wishes, in writing, as to the medical procedures to be performed if they become terminally ill.  With a Living Will, your parent decides, in advance, specific medical procedures to be administered and the circumstances for disconnecting any life-support treatment.  It can also specify who among family, friends or doctors will have the power to decide when to make a decision to disconnect life support systems.

* A durable power of attorney for healthcare is a legal document which allows your parent to designate a person to make certain decisions for them regarding their medical care, should they become unable to do so.  The typical distinction between a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare is that a Living Will usually deals only with medical decisions related to “end of life” situations.  A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare can be drafted to enable your parent to appoint a “healthcare agent” for a number of different medical situations which may arise not necessarily related to “end of life” situations.

Your EAP is here to help

If you need help with caring for an aging parent, your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can provide you with counseling, referrals or information on eldercare issues such as: housing options, preparing wills and advance healthcare directives, long-distance caregiving, protecting and maximizing financial resources, healthcare, community and home-care services, dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease or other disorders, etc.  Remember, your EAP is always available to help you with any type of personal, family or work-related concern.  Why not call an EAP counselor today?  We’re here to help.

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Housework: Getting The Entire Family To Share The Load

Housework: Getting The Entire Family To Share The Load

According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics annual Time Use Survey, for those who are involved in household activities – defined as housework, cooking, cleaning up after cooking, and generally taking care of the household – the average woman spends 2.6 hours each day on household activities, while the average man spends 2.1 hours each day.

Devising a family plan for housework is a must for any single-parent household, or any household combining two income-earning adults and family. The following suggestions may help you.

Making a family plan for housework

1. Be sure that everyone in your family understands that housework is a responsibility for all  family members to tackle.

2. Hold a family meeting. Brainstorm on ways to handle chores.

3. Be creative. Tasks can be divided up in a variety of ways: You can make a list together;
then whoever gets up first on Saturday morning chooses a chore, and whoever wakes
up last gets what’s left.  You can rotate chores, or leave them to the luck of the draw.  Or,
family members can choose certain jobs they like best, as long as everyone is satisfied
with the division of labor.

4. Include standards and regular evaluations, with consequences if a person doesn’t do his
or her share or doesn’t do it well.

5. Suggestion #1: Even very small children can be taught to help in numerous ways. They
can: care for the family pet, take out the garbage, water plants, dust and sweep, set and
clear the table, put dirty clothes in the hamper, make beds, keep their rooms clean and
organized.  Fortunately, younger children like doing chores, so you can easily make a
game of it.  What starts as fun can become a good habit.

6. Suggestion #2: Whenever possible, make chores fun, or at least less burdensome. Add
music; work together as a family; build in a reward or special activity when chores are
done.  Recognize improvement as well as excellence.  Frequent praise and mutual
appreciation will help your system work.

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Relationships: Secrets Of Happy Couples

Secrets of Happy CouplesAlthough more than 50% of all marriages end in divorce, many couples defy these odds and maintain lasting, healthy relationships.  What makes these relationships go “right?”  Psychologist Florence Kaslow offers the following:

*  Healthy couples see themselves as strong individuals, but they find that being a couple makes them happier.  They believe that by acting together they are stronger than they would be as separate individuals.

*  They share power.  Sometimes the woman takes charge, and sometimes the man, depending upon whom is more suited for the situation.

They are not afraid to quarrel because they have the confidence that their relationship can survive occasional outbursts.

*  They try to take a positive attitude toward conflicts.  When interests diverge or clash, they negotiate a solution that benefits the couple, without taking the attitude that one person is giving up something for the sake of the other.

*  They accept the fact that there will be some areas of disagreement, and they try to live with these differences.

*  They give each other some independence and privacy, allowing each other to have outside friendships and activities without jealousy.

*  They take interest in each other’s jobs and activities.

*  One person does not fear that the other will change.  In fact, they view personal change as good for the relationship because it keeps things interesting.

*  Their personal relationship is independent of their relationships to their parents and their children.  They do not allow their feelings for other family members to govern their personal relationship.

*  They share all emotions, sorrow as well as happiness.

*  They don’t assume that life has to be rosy all the time.

*  Closesness has its limits: They do not seek to become exactly alike, avoiding the urge to become “Siamese twins joined at the heart,” in Kaslow’s words.


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Why Drinking Alcohol To Induce Sleep Is A Problem

A young woman in her pyjamas drinking wine and watching her teleMany people use alcohol to help them fall asleep.  But the latest research reports that – while alcohol can help you fall asleep faster – its negative impact on the quality and quantity of your sleep far outweighs its sleep-inducing effects.  Plus, regular use of alcohol as a sleep aid may result in a dependency on alcohol.

How alcohol reduces the quality of your sleep
According to researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, drinking alcohol to fall asleep interferes with sleep homeostasis, the body’s sleep-regulating mechanism.  It reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage of sleep when you dream and an important phase of restorative sleep.   Alcohol may seem to be helping you sleep – as it helps induce sleep – but the result is lighter, lower-quality sleep, interrupted by frequent awakenings which lead to a poorer night’s rest.

How alcohol affects sleep apnea
Those suffering from sleep apnea should be extremely careful when mixing alcohol and sleep.  Sleep apnea is a condition caused by obstructions in the airway that makes it difficult to breathe effectively while sleeping.  Alcohol intensifies this problem by causing the airways to narrow even further and making it even harder for the person to get the quality of sleep they need.  Research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that men, especially, have longer episodes of sleep-disordered breathing after drinking alcohol.

Use of alcohol and dependency
Using alcohol on a regular basis to change your mood, relax or help you fall asleep is a dangerous choice that can lead to dependence.  One of the symptoms of alcohol dependence is the need to drink increasingly more to feel the same result.  Health experts recommend that regular use of alcohol as a sleep aid may result in a dependency on alcohol and that alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid.

Why a chronic lack of sleep is bad for you
According to the latest research, the consequences of too little sleep are more than just daytime fatigue, a bad mood or a lack of focus.  Regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including depression, obesity, heart disease and diabetes – and it can shorten your life expectancy.  British researchers who studied how sleep patterns affected the mortality of more than 10,000 British civil servants over two decades found that those who cut their sleep from seven to five hours or fewer a night nearly doubled their risk of death from all causes.  In particular, lack of sleep doubled the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Better sleep habits
If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, the following are tips to help you improve the quality of your sleep:

  1. Exercise regularly – Exercise dissipates stress and exercised muscles relax more easily, which will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  2. Avoid stimulants – Caffeine can keep you going long after you drink it.  It is best to cut it out of your day by 2 p.m.  Avoid alcohol or nicotine within three hours of bedtime.
  3. Set regular hours – Getting up at the same time and going to bed at the same time every day is an important way to train your body for restful sleep.
  4. Calm your body and mind– Give your body and mind time to settle into sleep by unplugging from all electronic devices and removing any stimulating activities near your bedtime routine.
  5. Create a relaxing sleep environment – Reserve your bedroom for sleeping and sex only.  Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature.
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Compulsive Spending: Do You Have A Problem?

Compulsive Spending: Do You Have A Problem?According to a Stanford University study, 17 million Americans or 6% of the population are compulsive spenders or shoppers.  Researchers from the University of Florida reported that the average compulsive spender is carrying $23,000 in debt (not including a home mortgage).  Compulsive spending can be thought of as a chronic tendency to purchase products far in excess of a person’s needs and resources.  Are you a compulsive spender?  At what point does a fun shopping habit become a problem behavior that needs to be addressed?

Consequences of compulsive spending

One of the main differences between compulsive spending and non-compulsive spending is that compulsive spending usually results in negative consequences.  Some of these consequences are:

— Stress from increased debt or trying to figure out how to pay for everything
— Marital or relationship difficulties due to hiding overspending or lying about it
— Legal, family and relationship difficulties caused by massive credit-card debt
— Guilt and shame associated with the problem of compulsive spending
— Increased anxiety and depression

What’s behind compulsive spending?

Compulsive spending is a symptom of a bigger problem.  Compulsive spenders use shopping as a way to improve their mood or avoid troubling feelings like depression, sadness, anger, emptiness, boredom or low self-esteem.

Do you have a problem?

Review the questions below.  If you answer “yes” to more than one of these questions, you may be a compulsive spender:

— Do you shop as a means of relieving stress or escaping everyday problems?
— When you are shopping, do you experience feelings of euphoria and excitement?
— Do you feel guilty or remorseful after shopping?
— Do you ever hide your purchases from relatives or loved ones?
— Do you buy things on credit that you would not normally buy if you had to spend cash?
— Is your shopping habit causing emotional stress, financial debt or ruined credit in your

What to do

Admitting that your spending is out of control is the first step to overcoming a problem.  For free and confidential help for you or one of your dependents, contact your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for professional counseling, referrals or additional information.  We’re here to help you.

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How To Minimize Holiday Stress

How To Minimize Holiday StressThe holidays are supposed to be a joyous time of happy families and friends gathering in a spirit of warmth and celebration.  Yet, for many, the holidays are instead trials of grueling schedules and high stress.  Follow the tips below to help ease holiday stress and help you enjoy a meaningful and happy holiday season:

*  Set a budget and keep it  –  Not just for gift giving, but the top-dollar amount you can afford to spend for everything including gifts, big family dinners, wrapping paper, decorations, parties, etc.

*  Suggest your family participate in a “Pick-A-Name” gift exchange  –  Buying presents for everyone in a large extended family can be a real “budget buster.”  Some families pick names.  This way everyone gets one nice, thoughtfully chosen gift and no one goes broke from the need to buy so many presents.

*  Think about yourself during the holidays  –  This time of the year, many of us get the “put-upons” and start feeling the pressure.  Deal with everyday stress immediately.  Many times, we feel we just can’t handle everything right now, but once we attack the problem, we feel much better.

*  Budget your time as well as your money  –  Plan for more rest and schedule some personal time to do something you enjoy.

*  Keep holiday plans realistic  –  Simpler can be better and make for a happier and more relaxed holiday.

*  Make a “To Do” list  –  Prioritize what has to be done.

*  Delegate responsibility and/or divide the chores  –  Have family members draw lots from a hat or use the “grab-bag” system to assign tasks such as putting up the tree, outdoor decorations, cookie baking, gift wrapping, etc.  Set time goals for each assignment. 

*  Factor in changed circumstances  –  Are you recently laid off, newly divorced, grieving a recent death?  Now’s the time to “Keep It Simple.”  Keep the demands on your time, energy, emotions and wallet to a minimum.

This holiday season, keep in mind that people – not things – are important and that less (spending, hectic activity) can give us more (satisfaction and meaning).   Happy Holidays! 


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