Coping with an Eating Disorder During Thanksgiving: How to Make it Easier

rawpixel-com-247358.jpg

It’s that time of year again!  As the holidays are quickly approaching, we tend to constantly be surrounded by food.  For some people, this is something that is comforting and something they look forward to.  Being around family and indulging in turkey, stuffing and pie sounds great!  Doesn’t it?  If you are one of the many people that suffer from an eating disorder, it most likely does not.  Whether you have anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder, celebrating a holiday that revolves around food and eating can be very uncomfortable and intimidating.  Of course, eating disorders are not strictly about food.  Some of the other issues that can arise are self-esteem, self-worth, family and relationship issues, perfectionism, etc.  So what can we do to prepare for this difficult time?  How do we get to a point where the holiday itself can become as enjoyable as it is for others?

Find Support within Your Family

Is there anyone in your family who is aware of or understands your struggles?  If there is, talk to them ahead of time!  Sometimes knowing there is someone there who you can talk to or go to when you are feeling overwhelmed can reduce that feeling of anxiety.  This person can be there to take a walk with you to get some fresh air or just to help provide a positive distraction.  If your family members are not people you feel you can go to in this time of need, have a plan for a friend you can call if you feel like you need some extra support.  Let them know ahead of time so they have their phone with them and can be ready to talk.

Remember the Other Themes of the Holiday

After all, Thanksgiving is not only about the food!  A big theme of the holiday is being grateful.  Practicing gratitude can be a great way to change a negative mindset into something positive.  Focus on the things and people that you are thankful for in your life.  Whether you are thinking of this on your own, journaling, or sharing your insights with others, it can be a great way to celebrate the holiday.

Don’t Focus on the Food Talk

With the focus of Thanksgiving being partially on food, try not to get too wrapped up with all of the food and diet talk.  If you notice the conversation shifting in that direction either try and remove yourself from the situation or change the subject to something else that everyone can talk about.  It can be very beneficial to set these boundaries for yourself so you can enjoy all of the other great things there are to celebrate.

Ditch the Black and White Thinking

One of the negative thinking patterns that a lot of people struggle with is “black and white thinking” or “all or nothing thinking.”  This can have people thinking they either need to completely deprive themselves of any of the food that they like, or their eating will get out of hand.  It can also be the other way around: eating as much as you can because that is what this day is about.  Your mindset does not have to be all or nothing.  Make a plan and stick to it.  Do not lose sight of all you have learned because the focus is on food.  Moderation can be a good friend on a day like this!

 

Bianca Marcu, LPC

Therapist

Clarity Clinic

.p-author .author .entry-byline-link { display: none; }

Navigating Anger in a Healthy Way

morgan-basham-364865.jpg

What is Anger?

Anger is a powerful, universal emotion. To manage our anger we need to understand it and realize how it can affect others and ourselves. On a biological level, anger has evolved as a way of surviving and protecting ourselves from something harmful or unjust.  Our bodies might experience some anger when basic human needs such as food, shelter, sex, or sleep are unmet. Anger can trigger physiological changes and kick in the fight or flight response in our central nervous system. We can notice increases in heart rate and palpitations, blood pressure and hormones like adrenaline and muscle tension. We may also feel angry in reaction to someone's judgment, criticism or actions. However, when our anger impairs our ability to communicate well and we say or do hurtful or irrational things we must step in to manage our response.

Coping with Anger

Below are several ways to help reduce anger or respond in a more productive way:

  • Take slow deep breaths. You can use counting to help shift your focus and attention to your body. Breathing will help slow down hyper-arousal in the body.
  • Slow down. Be mindful and curious about what is making you angry. Notice what words and tone you are choosing in your responses. Take some time to think before you act or speak so that you do not lash out.
  • Relaxation techniques. Body scan meditation can help you identify and validate parts of you that are holding tension and anger. This can feel like warmth, tightness, agitation, or clenching. Muscle relaxation can also help release this energy.

 

  • Exercise. Working out has been proved to help increase feel good hormones like endorphins and can be a great way to release energy in a healthy way.

It is useful to understand the underlying causes of why you are feeling angry so that the problems are acknowledged. Talk to a mental health professional if your anger brings up memories or emotions that feel overwhelming or unmanageable. Meeting with a therapist and keeping a journal can help you identify your triggers.

Ernestina Perez, LPC

Therapist

Clarity Clinic

.p-author .author .entry-byline-link { display: none; }

To Swipe or Not To Swipe: The Effects of Dating Apps on Self-Esteem and Relationships

As we all know, our society has taken a quick shift into the land of technology.  Pretty much anywhere you go you will see people on their phone and, unfortunately, rarely speaking to other people.  This change in social norms has made it difficult for people to stay connected with one another in a way that isn’t cybernetic.  Even though it may have its perks, one of the main issues that this has created is difficulty dating. 

The dating scene has become mainly focused on mobile dating apps.  It is not common anymore that you hear someone saying they are going on a date with someone they met in person or through a friend.  The most common thing you hear is that someone is going on a date with someone they met on Tinder, Bumble, etc.  This has become very normalized, however what is it doing to your self-esteem?

A Hit to Your Self-Esteem

Imagine this.  You are scrolling through one of your dating apps and come across someone you are very attracted to based off of the pictures they have on their profile.  You decide to message them and start a conversation, and then you never hear back from the person.  One might start questioning why this happened.  Is it because they did not like my pictures?  Am I not attractive enough?  Was it because of something that is written about me in my profile description?  The list goes on and on.  It can have a negative impact on self-esteem and create a spiral of negative thoughts about yourself.  Dating apps have created a trend of judging your level of attractiveness to someone based strictly off of appearance, taking away the social connectedness piece of building a relationship.  Yes, for some it can increase self-esteem if they are noticing a lot of their pictures being “liked” but that is not always the case.

Then comes the issue of having to meet the person whose pictures you were attracted to.  What happens if you meet this person and you dislike their personality or they dislike yours?  Self-esteem is not only based off of appearance but also personality, likability, self-confidence, etc.  This forms another risk for lowered self-esteem.

Face-to-Face Connections

Even though it might not seem as natural anymore to meet someone the old fashioned way, it can save you time and negative emotions.  People often say that they do not know how to meet people anymore unless it is through an app because nobody seems to do that nowadays.   One good way to do this is through your friends.  Your friends know you better than most people, so why not let them know that you are interested in meeting someone?  Spending time with some of your friends in social settings and meeting some of their other friends can be a good starting point.  Another way can be meeting someone through common interests.  Do you like to go to the gym or take workout classes?  Are you someone that likes to volunteer?  Whatever it is that you like to do, spend time talking to people in those environments.  You might find that others are looking for the same thing that you are.  Unplug yourself from your electronics and take some time to meet and mingle with the people around you.  It can lead to an unexpected connection!

 

Bianca Marcu, LPC

Therapist

Clarity Clinic

.p-author .author .entry-byline-link { display: none; }

Preparing for Marriage

rawpixel-com-243094.jpg

Tying the knot can be a very exciting milestone in the lives of most.  It is a time of partnership, interpersonal development and positive change.  However, the idea of making this type of commitment can also bring forth some anxiety.  Individuals often find themselves asking questions like “how do I know I am ready?,” “how do I know this is the right person for me?,” how will this change my life?”  In the process of making this kind of decision, there are a few things to consider.

Compromise

When considering marriage it is important to remember that you are taking two people that could have different wants and desires and forming a family.  A big part of making marriage work is being okay with compromise.  There are going to be times in which you both want different things and you find yourself arguing about who’s idea is right and who’s is wrong.  During these times it can be beneficial to remember that there doesn’t have to be a right or wrong answer.  You have to come up with the situation that is the most right for both parties involved.  This is going to require some give and take on each side.  It can be helpful to have a discussion about what your expectations are for each other and what each side is willing to alter in order to do what is best for the couple as a whole.

Values

Do both people in the relationship have similar values?  Throughout your marriage the idea of values is going to come up a lot.  Talking to your partner about what they value most is an essential step in preparing yourselves for marriage.  When creating this form of partnership, your values are liking to become shared.  Be true to yourself about what you value and how you would like to continue honoring this value as a married couple.  I have often heard people ask, “If some of our values are different, is this a deal breaker?”  The short answer is no.  You do not have to have all of the same ideas and values.  It is important, however, that each member of the relationship respects the values of the other.

Conflict Resolution Style

“We often argue.  Does this mean that we shouldn’t get married?” Again, the short answer is no.  All couple argue.  You are bringing two different people together that are supposed to live together for the rest of their lives.  There are obviously going to be times in which you will disagree or becoming frustrated with each other, just like any other kind of relationship in your life (friends, family, etc.).  What is important is figuring out how you guys argue and how you resolve your conflicts.  There are different conflict resolution styles.  Some people resolve conflict by avoiding it all together, some resolve it by giving in even though they don’t feel like their needs were met, some are able to collaborate and compromise.  Thinking back on the last few times in which you had arguments and how you resolved them can make you more aware of your style as a couple and can help you make necessary changes if needed.  Do some research on the five conflict resolution styles if you would like to gain even more awareness and insight.

Goals and Support

One of the biggest things that makes a marriage successful is having common goals.  This can be a good conversation to have with your significant other.  It is important to know what their goals are.  Building this kind of relationship will make your marriage feel like you are working as a team and will help strengthen each other’s positive attributes.  The second part of this involves being supportive of each other’s goals.  What can you do to make sure you are helping your partner reach their goals?

 

Bianca Marcu, LPC

Therapist

Clarity Clinic

.p-author .author .entry-byline-link { display: none; }

Self-Care: Managing City Life While Still Being a Friend to “Me”

alisa-anton-81043.jpg

In a 2013 study by Top 10 Colleges Online, 76 percent of workers said that money and work were leading causes of stress in their lives. Without responding to daily stress, people face the chance of developing increased symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns. Self-care is one way to escape our daily stressors and take care of ourselves in a variety of ways. In her article, “An Introduction to Self-Care,” Sana Johnson-Quijada writes, “I explain that self-care is living consistently with the belief that they are a friend to ‘Me,’ or in other words, to themselves.” Just as people often strive to treat others with care and concern, so too should we always remember to be “friends to me” and treat ourselves with the same approach. Maintaining consistent self-care strategies helps us to keep balance in our lives and prevent burnout.

When you are a working adult living in the city, time is not always your friend. Day-to-day schedules are often fast-paced, non-stop, and limited in flexibility. While working and living in the city leaves many feeling like there is “never any time,” Chicago is a place where – no matter how busy your day may be –  opportunities for finding ways to take care of yourself are nearly endless. The following are a list of possible self-care strategies available to all city-dwellers and even to those who may live outside city limits.

Physical Self-Care in Chicago

Taking care of your physical self will not only help you feel better, but will also build up your immune system especially with cold and flu season right around the corner. The following are just a few of the many healthy options that Chicago has to offer:

Healthy Food on Demand

Sometimes splurging on delivery when there’s not enough time to cook can lead to poor food choices and lots of unhealthy temptations. In Chicago, fulfill your desire for fast, delicious food by opting for healthy delivery options. My personal favorite is a company called Radish. Radish’s chefs prepare healthy fresh meals daily using local and organic ingredients and your food is delivered to you in 20 mins or less! Check it out at: https://www.goradish.com/

Fitness

The best part about living in the city is that there are endless options when it comes to finding a Fitness Center or group fitness class to meet your scheduling and financial needs. Check out just a few of the options the city has to offer!

Kayak down the Chicago River or along the shores of Lake Michigan

Working out does not have to take place in a gym or at a class; you can explore the city as you work out by venturing out on a single or double occupancy kayak! Kayak Chicago and Wateriders are two of the most popular companies offering tours, rentals, and a variety of activities. This kind of trip allows you to get in a great workout while seeing the city from an alternate perspective. These companies in particular offer Groupons on a consistent basis as well if you are looking to get in a fun workout and also save some money! Visit their websites for more information: www.kayakchicago.com and www.wateriders.com.

Rent a Divvy Bike

Divvy bikes can be found at locations all over the city and offer the opportunity to get in some physical self-care at any time of day. Renting a bike for the ride to work on a nice fall day can pump up endorphins to get your day going! For more information, visit: https://www.divvybikes.com/

Emotional Self-Care in Chicago

If you feel you have found balance in your physical self-care routine, you may find that you need to step up your emotional self-care strategies as well. While being physically fit is a healthy approach to improving your mood, there are other strategies to include in order to be the best friend to “Me” that you can be!

Relax

The best part about living in Chicago is that no matter where you turn there is always a new place to explore or relax. Take time out to relax in a nearby park or lay out on one of the many beaches off Lake Michigan. A Movie in the Park or walk along the lake are two of many ways in which you can escape your daily stressors and improve your mood and mental health. And when you need an escape from the city, you can always count on the comforts of your living room or venture to a nearby town in the Midwest to take a break from city life! When all else fails and you’re looking for some quick tips to taking care of “Me,” University at Buffalo in New York offers some fantastic “Tips for Vitality and Serenity.”

Therapy

One of the best ways to escape the hustle and bustle of the city is to set aside time to reflect on life and the goals you have for yourself. There are many options throughout the city for individual, group, family and couples therapy to help you develop and maintain the goals you have for yourself. Therapy offers a setting for you to feel comfortable and relaxed while working on improving “me!” Clarity Clinic is one of the largest and most recognized companies in Chicago offering psychiatric and therapeutic services. Visit our website at www.claritychi.com.

 

Kristen Okrzesik, MSW

Therapist

Clarity Clinic

References:

 Johnson-Quijada, S. (2012, March 16). An Introduction to Self-Care. Retrieved from https://participatorymedicine.org/journal/perspective/narratives/2012/03/16/an-introduction-to-self-care/

 Self-Care Exercises and Activities. (2016, July 12). Retrieved from http://socialwork.buffalo.edu/resources/self-care-starter-kit/self-care-assessments-exercises/exercises-and-activities.html

Time Management Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.keyorganization.com/time-management-statistics.php#multitasking

.p-author .author .entry-byline-link { display: none; }

Preparing Early to Combat the Winter Blues

sandis-helvigs-158774.jpg

While it may seem strange to begin thinking about the winter blues with 80-degree weather,  preparing yourself for seasonal transitions can go a long way in helping reduce symptoms and improve overall well-being during the cold, dreary months.   Whether you have been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder or not, there seems to be a general sense of anxiety in regards to mood changes during the winter months.  The days become shorter and colder.  The social scene seems to dwindle down.  People tend to spend more time at home.  There are a lot of factors that contribute to the possible decrease in mood, but also a lot of preventative measures that can be taken.  Here are a few tips to brighten your spirits as you prepare for colder weather and inevitable feelings of hibernation.

Stay Present

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when it comes to thinking about the winter blues is that they become so preoccupied with thoughts of negative outcomes, that they forget to take a moment and try to enjoy all that is going on around them.  Practicing mindfulness can make a big difference in one’s mood.  Take some time out of each day to use all 5 of your sense and allow yourself to become present and in the moment.  Be present and aware as you are looking at the leaves change and noticing the beauty of colors, smelling the scent of warm coffee on a chilly morning, listening to holiday music in stores, tasting your Thanksgiving meal, and feeling the snow gently landing on you.  There is a lot to enjoy with seasonal changes if you take the time to look for it.

Get Active

Staying active during the winter months is one of the most challenging things for people.  With the days being shorter and colder, the idea of going outside and going for a walk or run can seem unappealing.  However, as many of us already know, staying active can improve mood in a significant way.  Finding a new enjoyable way to stay active in the winter can have a major impact.  Whether this is taking a new class that you’ve never tried before, or staying warm in hot yoga, finding an enjoyable way to exercise during the colder months can be a beneficial step in beating the blues.  Starting an exercise routine in the fall and maintaining consistency during the winter is a great way to prepare for an active lifestyle year round.

Socialize

Another major difference between the warmer months and winter months is that people tend to want to avoid the cold and stay in a lot more often.  Isolating yourself during a time that can already be challenging for you generally ends up with a decrease in mood.  Make an effort to stay engaged in social activities this winter.  Make plans with friends to get together at someone’s house, or take advantage of the holidays and do something seasonal that is only available during the winter.  Whatever it is that you enjoy about these months, do it with enjoyable company.  Identifying activities or programs and scheduling them or signing up for a class now can help maintain social interaction during the winter.

Reach out to Support System

If you are having a difficult time this winter, do not hesitate to reach out to those around you.  People tend to be pretty understanding that this time of year can be difficult for some.  Chances are, there are others that feel very similar to you.  Helping to cheer each other up can help put an end to the winter blues.  If it becomes too difficult, reach out for professional help.  Learning the necessary skills needed to cope can make a world of a difference.

 

Bianca Marcu, LPC

Therapist

Clarity Clinic

 

.p-author .author .entry-byline-link { display: none; }