Kara Meyer, Ph.D. - Psychology Services
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MENTAL HEALTH DAY
LETTING GO OF GOALS
FAMILY RITUALS
RESILIENCE
FEELING HAPPY

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OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER
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MENTAL HEALTH DAY

May 14, 2014 is Mental Health Day. Raising awareness about mental health can help reduce stigma and lead to prevention, as well as increased support to those who are affected. So, let’s take a look at some information about mental health.  

  • Approximately 1 in 4 adults in the United States experience a mental health disorder in any given year. Mental illness can affect individuals of any race, religion, gender, economic status, and cultural background.  
  • According the World Health Organization, approximately 20% of the world’s children and adolescents experience mental health concerns.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 38,000 people dying by suicide each year. This is more than those who die by homicide.
  • Despite advances in knowledge about mental health and efforts to raise awareness, a lot of stigma remains. Many misconceptions exist regarding the nature of mental illness and those affected. Probably the most damaging is the misconception that mental illness is the result of personality flaws, weakness or laziness. Stigma can lead to abuse, rejection, isolation, and hopelessness. Stigma can also prevent individuals from seeking help.
  • There are a number of effective treatments for mental illness, including cognitive behavioral therapy. According to NAMI, between 70 and 90% of individuals with mental illness experience symptom reduction and improved quality of life with effective treatment, particularly a combination of pharmacological treatment and psychosocial treatment and supports.
  • Friends and family members can help. Acknowledging a loved one’s concerns and respecting them as individuals is important. Reach out and provide the support you can. Educate yourself about mental health, and do what you can to correct misconceptions.

- Kara Meyer, Ph.D.

**The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other medical professional. This blog does not provide clinical advice, nor should its contents be considered clinical advice. Should you have any healthcare-related questions, please call or see your physician or other healthcare provider promptly.

LETTING GO OF GOALS

In order to succeed at achieving goals, it is important to set goals that are specific, able to be quantified or measured, attainable and realistic, relevant to your values, and time-bound. It is also important to reevaluate your goals as you go. But, what if you aren't successful? What if your goal loses significance? Is it ok to quit? Some recent research suggests that allowing yourself the option of walking away from a goal may increase your motivation.

Check out this article for some interesting tips on how to walk away from a goal.

- Kara Meyer, Ph.D.

FAMILY RITUALS

This post is a part of a special series on building resilience in children.

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As we know, there are a number of internal qualities that contribute to resilience, including self-confidence, effective problem solving, and more. While it is important for this independence of sorts to develop, it is important not to encourage children to become completely independent. In doing so, they may become isolated, losing their connections to others. The fact of the matter is being interdependent, or able to call upon others and rely on them for support, is healthy and important to developing resilience. This is because having close bonds and connections provides a sense of stability and security.
 
An important place for children to establish connections with others is, of course, the family. When family ties are strong children feel confident, leaving them with a sense of belonging and purpose. Having strong family connections also helps children build healthy relationships with others. Sharing quality time together is an obvious way to strengthen family connection. However, due to the busyness of today’s world, families are often rushed, sharing little time together. And often times, even when families are home together, each person is so wrapped up in their individual interests and pursuits, that it can lead to little attention being given to strengthening the family bond.
 
One way to strengthen the family bond is to develop family rituals. Family rituals are similar to routines in that they are activities carried out repeatedly over time, but they differ in that they carry a symbolic meaning – they represent who a family is together and they are missed when they do no occur. Some examples of family rituals included the following:
 
  • Family Meals: While this can include your daily family meal, it goes beyond that. This would be a meal where you know for sure each family member will be present. It is also special in that maybe it is one you all cook together and while eating it each member shares something they appreciate about another family member.
 
  • Birthdays: Birthdays are a great example of a family ritual in that most families already try to make them special, and they tend to involve important traditions. Think of ways you can make birthdays into a family ritual. Maybe the person’s favorite cake is made or purchased from a local bakery. Perhaps each family member shares their favorite memory of that person from the last year or they are given an album of photos from important events in their life over the last year.
 
  • Family Activity Night: This can be a game or movie night. It can also be centered on a physical activity, such as a family walk, hike, or bike ride. You may also want to make this a time where the family volunteers together in the community.
 
  • Daily Rituals: The above examples are ones that may occur only once a week or once a month, maybe even less frequently. However, family rituals can occur on a daily basis. Reading bedtime stories together when your children are young can become a family ritual. Or perhaps when your children are older, you have 5-10 minutes of one-on-one time with each child every night where you focus on their unique interests and concerns.
 
When establishing family rituals it is important to remember that they should reflect your family’s interests and values. They should also be fun and relaxed, not rigid or forced. No matter what your family rituals are, take pride in that they are your own and no matter how simple they may seem, they are likely having a profound affect on your child’s life.
 
- Kara Meyer, Ph.D.


**The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other medical professional. This blog does not provide clinical advice, nor should its contents be considered clinical advice. Should you have any healthcare-related questions, please call or see your physician or other healthcare provider promptly.

RESILIENCE

This post is a part of a special series on building resilience in children.

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As much as we would like children to be completely care free, youth today do not lead stress free lives. They have busy schedules, homework to complete, and tests to take. They are trying to establish and maintain friendships, handle peer pressure, and possibly cope with bullying. Their families may move, parents may divorce, they may get sick, or they may have to cope with death. There is pressure from the adults in their lives, as well as from the media. Some may even experience serious trauma. The fact is stress and challenging circumstances are a normal part of growing up.
 
This doesn’t mean children are doomed – most thrive and become healthy adults. The reason is resilience. In short, resilience is the ability to recover from setbacks and adjust well to change. Resilience is important because those who bare this quality are more likely to be healthy, live longer, have positive relationships, and to succeed in school and work. They are also less likely to experience depression. While everyone is born with the capacity to be resilient, it comes more naturally to some than to others. Nevertheless, all children can learn to be more resilient. Many parents want to stay one step ahead of their kids to shield them from disappointment or discomfort, but the world doesn’t work that way. In reality, experiencing challenges is good for children because it helps them recognize and appreciate success, and to take joy in life’s pleasures. So, how can we help children build resilience?
 
Resilience comes from outside supports and internal qualities. Outside supports include having a secure bond and unconditional love from at least one caring adult, positive role models, opportunities to learn new skills and participate in meaningful activities, as well as having access to community resources. Internal qualities include being responsible and having good self-control. The ability to think critically and problem solve when confronted with unfamiliar situations, as well as the sense of self-confidence that they can. Additionally, having a positive outlook or being optimistic is also important. Those who are resilient also have a mindset that challenges are opportunities they can learn from and that will help them prepare for the future. Resilience does not mean being perfect or completely invulnerable.
 
Building resilience is a process – children will be more resilient at certain times and in certain situations than in others. Resilience requires ongoing support from parents and trusted adults, not nagging or harsh criticism. It also involves helping a child understand their strengths and not be afraid of their weaknesses. Helping children build resilience comes from a combination of factors, not one magic bullet. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss some ways to help children build resilience.
 
- Kara Meyer, Ph.D.


**The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other medical professional. This blog does not provide clinical advice, nor should its contents be considered clinical advice. Should you have any healthcare-related questions, please call or see your physician or other healthcare provider promptly.

FEELING HAPPY

Developing awareness of thoughts and emotions can help us appropriately respond to them and manage stress more effectively. So, where do you sense emotions in your body? A recent study found patterns in where in the body emotions are experienced.

Check out this link to read a synopsis of this interesting study.

Happy reading!

- Kara Meyer, Ph.D.

**The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other medical professional. This blog does not provide clinical advice, nor should its contents be considered clinical advice. Should you have any healthcare-related questions, please call or see your physician or other healthcare provider promptly.

FAMILY MEALS

Most families lead busy lives. So much so that it is hard to plan healthy family meals, let alone sit down together to eat one. Yet, there are several benefits to sharing regular family meals.

Children who have regular family meals are more likely to have better overall nutrition by eating a balanced diet of a variety of foods. They eat less junk food, including soda and fatty or fried foods, and in turn eat more nutrient rich foods like fruits and vegetables. Regular family meals provide parents with the opportunity to introduce their children to a variety of healthful foods, making them more likely to make these choices on their own. Additionally, children who eat with their families also tend to learn healthy eating habits like good portion control, eating when they’re hungry, and stopping when they’re full. Thus, it’s no surprise that more recent research has revealed that children who regularly eat with their families are less likely to be overweight or to develop an eating disorder.

The benefits of family mealtime go beyond improved nutrition. Studies show that family meals are linked to school success in young children. Furthermore, teens whose families share meals are less likely to become depressed, use drugs, abuse alcohol, or smoke cigarettes. With parents as their models, children can learn to share, take turns, use good manners, as well as have appropriate conversation skills like making eye contact and listening when others are speaking. Likewise, mealtime conversations help children develop and practice language skills, as well as learn new vocabulary and how to share their point of view. Furthermore, family mealtimes can help children learn to take responsibility when they are involved in preparing meals, setting the table and cleaning up.  

Perhaps most importantly, family mealtimes can help families feel closer. They provide a time to share with each other, developing a sense of togetherness and belonging. Family mealtimes can also help your family to build family traditions and rituals that foster the development of self-confidence and self-esteem.  

Here are some tips for creating a family mealtime:
  • Start Simple: Start by planning at least one family meal per week. Once having a family meal becomes routine, it will be easier to add more to your schedule. The more consistently your family eats together, the better. Also, remember that a family meal doesn’t have to be dinner time – it can be any meal of the day.
  • Plan Ahead: Set aside time to plan your meals for the upcoming week. Try to do your shopping in one trip and even make some meals in advance to save time. Additionally, plan which meal(s) you will be eating together.
  • Be Nutritious: Limit junk foods, and try to have balanced meals by including as many vegetables, fruits, and whole grains as possible. Check out this resource for more information on balanced eating.  
  • Get Creative: Make something simple and easy, it still counts as a family meal if you’re eating PB&J or have ordered in. Try having a leftover night or dress up convenience foods – for example, add some peas and carrots to a box of mac & cheese. Make your family meal a picnic or let your kids have a shot at planning the menu.
  • Keep it Positive: Use the mealtime as a time to catch up. Give each person a turn to talk, and ask about the high points of each other’s day. Try to keep conflict out of it by setting aside another time to resolve disagreements. And remember, no TV or phone!

- Kara Meyer, Ph.D.



**The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other medical professional. This blog does not provide clinical advice, nor should its contents be considered clinical advice. Should you have any healthcare-related questions, please call or see your physician or other healthcare provider promptly.

PREPARING FOR THE END OF THE SEMESTER

Often times, the end of the semester can be rather demanding. There are final exams to prepare for, as well as papers and projects. This can make it a pretty stressful time. While some stress during this time is to be expected, there are things you can do to make it more manageable.

  • Manage Time: This means no cramming! In the last few weeks of the semester, begin by making a to-do list of the tasks, projects, papers, and materials to review. Then, schedule them in your planner/calendar. Each night, take a look at what you have planned for the next day to ensure you have all of the necessary materials. Check your list at set points throughout the day to be sure you’re on track, and check things off as you go. Be realistic however, and do not schedule too much in any given day or time period. Follow this plan throughout the semester to eliminate procrastination.
 
  • Study Smart: First, set up a study space conducive to working productively. Have good lighting, lots of space to spread out your materials (not your bed!), and keep it relatively quiet. This means no T.V., Internet, or texting – keep music to a minimum. As you study, remember that you don’t need to know every fact or detail. Make use of study guides provided by your teacher. Review old tests, homework assignments, and notes. Give a little extra attention to the areas you struggle with or have a hard time remembering. 
 
  • Get Help: Ask your teacher for clarification about what will be covered on the final exam or for instructions on final projects. Always ask for assistance on material you don’t understand. Make use of tutors or study centers at your school, and ask a trusted peer for help.
 
  • Stay Healthy: When we’re stressed, we can often let our healthy habits go. However, this is when you need them most. Get a good night’s sleep, maintain a health diet (limit that junk food!), drink plenty of water, and engage in regular physical activity.

I hope you’ve found some of these tips helpful. Good luck, and happy studying!
 
- Kara Meyer, Ph.D.


**The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other medical professional. This blog does not provide clinical advice, nor should its contents be considered clinical advice. Should you have any healthcare-related questions, please call or see your physician or other healthcare provider promptly.

GOAL SETTING

As we head into another new year, many of us are making resolutions reflecting the goals we would like to accomplish in the year ahead. Yet, research suggests many of us give up on our resolutions within weeks, long before they can be accomplished. This is likely due to setting goals that are not specific or realistic. So, when setting your goals, remember to be SMART:

















Remember to reevaluate your goals as time progresses. If you are having trouble making progress, you may have started too big. You may need to start in a different place or with a smaller goal in order to move forward.

Best of luck, and Happy New Year!

- Kara Meyer, Ph.D.


**The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other medical professional. This blog does not provide clinical advice, nor should its contents be considered clinical advice. Should you have any healthcare-related questions, please call or see your physician or other healthcare provider promptly.

FEAR VS. ANXIETY

Fear and anxiety are terms that are often used interchangeably. However, while they share similar components, distinctions can be made between the two.
 
Fear: Fear is a sudden or immediate emotional reaction to a known threat. Fear is our natural survival response in that it activates our “flight or fight” response. This response involves the activation of the autonomic nervous system resulting in a number of physiological changes including a racing heart, rapid breathing, sweating, dizziness, sudden gastrointestinal distress, muscle tension, and more. It is thought to be an adaptive response in that it allows a person to appraise a situation as dangerous or not and then escape or fight as needed.
 
Anxiety: Anxiety is different from fear in that it is a more persistent mood state. Anxiety involves a sense of apprehension or worry about some negative event or misfortune in the future. It is often characterized by a negative affect or irritability. Muscle tension, headaches, uneasiness, restlessness, and butterflies in the stomach are also common. Additionally, individuals experiencing anxiety can also experience difficulty concentrating and trouble sleeping.
 
Both fear and anxiety have three components: 1) cognitive reactions or the thoughts, images, or expected outcomes; 2) physiological reactions such as a racing heart, muscle tension, sweating, and finally 3) behavioral reactions such as escape, avoidance, or asking for help. Each individual’s experience of fear or anxiety is subjective – one individual's expression is different than another's. While some fear or anxiety is normal and adaptive in some instances, when they are experienced too frequently or when one copes with them in a negative way, they can become problematic. If you think you are having difficulty coping with fear or anxiety, be sure to seek help.
 
- Kara Meyer, Ph.D.


**The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other medical professional. This blog does not provide clinical advice, nor should its contents be considered clinical advice. Should you have any healthcare-related questions, please call or see your physician or other healthcare provider promptly.

CAUSES OF SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a specific type of depression that occurs at the same time each year, typically in the late fall and winter. Symptoms of SAD usually begin in October or November, although they can start as early as August and as late as January. They tend to persist until March or April, with most affected reporting they do not feel completely back to normal until May.  

Primary symptoms include depression, sadness, feeling moody, oversleeping, daytime drowsiness, change in appetite, namely an increase in hunger and craving for carbohydrate, weight gain, decreased interest in normal activities, social withdrawal, difficulty concentrating, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts.  

Check out this link for more information on potential causes of SAD.

- Kara Meyer, Ph.D.


**The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other medical professional. This blog does not provide clinical advice, nor should its contents be considered clinical advice. Should you have any healthcare-related questions, please call or see your physician or other healthcare provider promptly.