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An Effect of Alcohol on Neurofunction

Generally speaking, we think of chronic alcohol drinking as being associated with alcohol addiction or alcoholism. This is far from the truth. Chronic consumption of alcohol refers to a consistent intake, be that weekly or daily, and could mean one drink or many drinks on a consistent basis. This is much more commonplace than we may realize. Think of folks who enjoy one glass of wine or one beer after work five days a week. Think of those who drink heavily every weekend. Chronic is not necessarily problematic, however, from a neurological perspective, chronic alcohol consumption has shown distinct and definitive changes in the neurocircuits and neurochemistry of the brain. Those who chronically drink show higher stress and anxiety when not drinking and decreased mood and overall wellbeing when not drinking. This means that chronic alcohol consumption actually changes the chemistry of the brain in a way that causes these increases and decreases even when drinking has stopped. So, in order to get back to baseline, a person is then compelled to drink even more and the cycle continues (Huberman, 2023). This is an important thing to note for those who regularly consume alcohol, as these changes are dramatic ones that have an overall negative impact on health.

Sources

Huberman, Andrew (Host) 2023. The Huberman Lab [podcast]

Written by Nicole Geddie – Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

 

 

SETTING NUTRITIONAL NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS THE HEALTHY WAY

 

It’s that time of year when most of us think about setting our New Year’s resolutions. If you’re like a lot of people, you may have a goal of “losing weight” or “getting healthier.” These are obviously great goals to have, and making changes to your diet is one of the best ways to reach both.

The problem is, too many people make the wrong changes to their diet. They want to lose 30 pounds and be healthy in an unrealistic amount of time. And so once January 1st comes around, they rely on fad diets that don’t provide their bodies with proper nourishment.

This is the number one reason people fail to reach their New Year’s goals.

Here are some ways you can set your nutritional New Year’s resolutions in a healthy way.

Rely on How You Feel, Not on Technology
I see more and more people using a tracking app to track how many calories they eat in a day. But most of these programs give you a caloric reward (you can eat more) on days you exercise and a caloric punishment (you must eat less) on days you don’t.

The thing is, this kind of “logic” goes against normal intuitive eating patterns. In fact, for most people, feel less hungry on days they are most active and vice versa. My advice is to listen to your own hunger signals and make decisions off of those instead.

Avoid Restrictive Fad Diets
I can’t think of anything less healthy than a diet that does not allow you to eat macronutrients. Fat, protein and carbohydrates are all important for our health. Some people do better with more fat and fewer carbs, and some people do better with more carbs and less protein. It all really depends on your age, activity level, lifestyle, and general health. Your best bet is to work with a licensed nutritionist who can create an eating plan that is right for you.

Take Baby Steps
No one becomes overweight and unhealthy overnight. It happens over the course of weeks, months, and years. Losing weight and getting your health back also will not happen overnight, so you need to be realistic.

And because weight loss and improved health can take time, it’s important that you focus on setting small goals and taking baby steps to get there. Reaching a set of smaller goals (lose 5 pounds, walk upstairs without becoming out of breath) instead of one big one (lose 50 pounds and look awesome in a bikini) will help you stay on track and committed.

Don’t be like everyone else and set yourself up to fail in the coming year. Be smart about your weight loss and health goals by following these tips. And if you’d like to work with a nutritionist who can help you reach your goals in a healthy manner, please get in touch with me.

Written by Sherline Herard – Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

SOURCES:

https://www.vitacost.com/blog/healthy-new-year-resolution-tips/

3 Reasons You Should Set Goals, Not Resolutions

Top 3 Nutrition New Year’s Resolutions for 2019

Tips for Planning for Self-Care

Reaching the point of burnout is, unfortunately, an all too common experience for many. Given the fast-paced, productivity-based work culture that exists in America today, burnout has essentially become the marker by which we measure success. The message we receive is this: “If you feel like you have exhausted your limits, then you are doing something right!” There is this tendency to equate how much we produce to whether or not our lives are worthwhile, but this could not be more untrue. Similarly, rest is often portrayed as something you earn once you have put in the work, but this is also false. Rest is not something we need to work toward, it is something our bodies and minds require in order for us to make it through life. With this in mind, I have compiled a list of helpful tips to utilize when planning for self-care. While I wish I could tell you I picked this up without error, the only reason I am able to make such a list is because I have tried and failed many times… And this is what I have learned!
1. Identify the difference between things that make you feel rested versus what makes you feel fulfilled. Some activities might fall into both categories, but it is helpful to distinguish between the two. Restful activities often alleviate stress and induce a sense of tranquility. Fulfilling activities are things one enjoys and are often fun. For example, meditating or going on a walk might help one feel rested, whereas painting or gardening might be fulfilling.
2. Identify the people and things that hinder your ability to unwind. For instance, if you are a parent and being around your child is stressful in that you focus solely on their needs, you may need to find someone to care for your child during your self-care time. Similarly, having your work phone on you while you attempt to rest might prevent you from being able to relax as your phone might go off or you might feel compelled to check it regularly.
3. Review your weekly schedule and identify spaces of time in which you are able to engage in self-care. Whether your schedule is wide open or packed with commitments, making time for self-care is something one has to be intentional about planning because it will not always “just happen” or “work itself out.”
4. Once you have decided on a restful or fulfilling activity, have ensured you will not be distracted by certain people or things, and have chosen a date and time for self-care, make sure all of your regular responsibilities are tended to prior. As an example, one might handle all of their house chores, clear out their inbox, and predetermine dinner plans in order to set themselves up for nothing but rest on the day of their self-care. This is important because “past you” is taking care of “future you” in a way that will make you feel even more taken care of.
5. Finally, make sure you plan for self-care at least once a week. While there are ways to find rest and fulfillment in small ways throughout the week, it is imperative that you care for yourself and separate blocks of time. If you are able to give so much to others (i.e. work, school, family, etc.), you need to be able to give yourself much as well.
Written by Cindy-Joy Rosado – Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

Elevate Your Mood

How can we turn our good mornings into good days, and our good days into good evenings? One simple but potent way to help steer your mental health in the right direction is to be consistent about getting your daily dose of morning sunlight. Research heavily suggests that exposure to
early morning sun elevates mood by producing serotonin, a crucial chemical for the prevention and treatment of depressive symptoms. Being diligent in getting that morning sunshine is also a great way to create a routine that helps set the tone for the day, likely increasing productivity and overall satisfaction. It may be especially helpful to get outside in the sun for some physical activity in the morning, such as walking or running. This will increase endorphins, elevating your mood even further.

Furthermore, exposure to full-spectrum morning sunlight will help reset your circadian rhythm by suppressing melatonin in your system until it is needed later in the day, while increasing your serotonin giving you a boost in both energy and mood. When consistent, evidence suggests you’ll experience more restful, uninterrupted sleep creating a healthy sleep-wake cycle which plays a huge role in overall mental health and wellbeing. This one small change to your daily routine packs a powerful punch.

So grab your cup of coffee, and a good book, or put your walking shoes on and bask in that soft, early morning sunshine as you get ready to face the day ahead!

Written by Nicole Geddie – Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

Six Dimensions of Wellness

On the heels of world changing events like a global pandemic, many communities were intensely affected by Hurricane Ian in September. As we adjust to new challenges and situations which have arisen from these, we continue to experience the problems that existed before pandemics or natural disasters. Now, as we approach holidays and other stressful situations it is more important than ever to focus on key concepts for maintaining wellness.

Mental health counseling focuses on striving for wellness in all areas of our lives as foundational to managing stress and other mental health concerns. If you currently feel overwhelmed, lack direction, or simply don’t ‘know where to start try using the six dimensions of wellness listed below daily to gain control over your mental health and wellbeing.

Environment: First, take a look at your daily routines throughout the week and on the weekends. Your environment is your home, your commute, your workplace, etc. As you evaluate your space, you may feel calmer when your space is tidy and organized. This would become an area of focus each day by spending time to clean and organize and then to maintain this space. If your commute is stressful, take a look at areas you can improve. For example, choose calming music, an entertaining audiobook, or podcast to reduce the focus on the stressful aspects of the ride. Or turn the music off and use this time to transition from work to home.

Emotional: A daily focus on emotional wellness may begin with noticing your emotions throughout the day. Are you in control of your emotions? Do you struggle maintaining your level of calm, anxiety, happiness, sadness, or anger? Journaling is a great way to record your thoughts and learn more about the emotions you are experiencing. Therapy is a great place to jump start or explore this focus and to gain insight into how you are feeling and how you are currently managing.

Physical: Physical health is a dimension most of us are aware we need to focus on. A daily focus on physical health means eating foods that are nourishing, establishing a sleep schedule for adequate restorative sleep, going for a walk or taking time to stretch between activities throughout the day. These can be simple, but it requires us to make them a priority consistently to achieve wellness.

Intellectual: Learning something new every day can be the goal here. Or it can mean reading a new book, exploring a subject of interest at the library or online. Learn more about yourself as well by seeking to learn a new skill or hobby. Overlap between the dimensions might be helpful here, so use that long commute to listen to an audiobook or podcast.

Social: Focus on the social dimension might include calling a friend or a loved one just to check in and say hello. It may mean making time to visit a friend or family member. This could also be a time to overlap dimensions with the intellectual and join a group and learn to cook or paint. Volunteering your time is also a good way to develop friendships and make lasting contributions to the community.

Spiritual: This dimension is about your connection to your belief system. Meditation, prayer, or taking time to commune with nature are ways to recharge your batteries in this dimension. This also allows you to explore how you find meaning and the ways in which that meaning is influencing your life.

The six dimensions of wellness focus on our environment, emotional wellbeing, physical health, intellectual pursuits, spiritual involvement, and social interactions. Remember, we are individuals and our needs in each area will vary from person to person. Also, being flexible with how we focus on each dimension daily will help with making these a priority in some way every day. If you are having difficulty finding or maintaining balance in your life, reach out to a qualified mental health professional for assistance.

Written by April Daniel – Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

Restore Your Relationship

“The first step to problem solving in a relationship is to simply take the rope and set it down.”
When working with couple’s in conflict resolution. The first question I ask them is: “what is one step you can take to work towards a solution?” Being able to work towards healing and restoration in a relationship means creating a mental shift from focusing on all the areas the other partner is lacking, and begin to focus on what steps are needed to take to make your partner comfortable in working together as a team. It is easy to fall into a “tug of war” battle where each partner refuses to let go of their own personal perceptions, opinions, and truths. While it is important to acknowledge your own thoughts and feelings, it is also important to show empathy and understanding towards the other partner. Taking accountability of your own actions and coming together to fight against the problem versus each other creates a sense of “partnership”. Partnership means you are no longer on opposite sides of the playing field but working together as a team.
Written by Jessica Sagastume, MH# 16756 – Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Bilingual and Immigration Counselor

🌊🌊FLOODED🌊🌊

by Ria Ruane, M.A., LMHC

I’ve always been attracted to and captivated by the sea. The therapeutic, lulling sounds of the waves, the glistening sunshine as it kisses the surf and the incredible, fascinating life within, such a gift, an absolute pleasure to behold!

For as long as I can remember, I found peace and serenity in, on or under the water. Swimming, beachcombing, boating, snorkeling, you name it, I’m in.

     When I was 5 years old, I crossed three beaches collecting colorful seashells. When my mom called her seven children in for lunch, she realized her youngest was gone and thought for sure I had been swallowed by the sea. In fact, I was in the police station, eating ice cream and waiting for her to pick me up with my new, shiny treasures.

     Over half a century has passed and I am fortunate enough to own an awesome condo on the sand in SWFL’s lovely Bonita Beach. So perfectly named as the word  ‘Bonita’ translates to beautiful in Spanish and Portuguese. They say, “If you’re lucky enough to have a place by the sea, you’re lucky enough.” On September 28, 2022, meteorologist and Hurricane Ian said differently. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel incredibly blessed. I now have the loss of a home to add to my life experiences. At least, it will help me build empathy for clients and after all, things can be rebuilt and replaced.

     September 27, 2022 and Mandatory Evacuation meant take very little and leave. I took a few photos, secured Hurricane shutters and headed inland for hours and hours of 150 mph wind, water and wait. The salty, snappy sea swelled and surged, tore out my shutters, blew out six sliders and took out every inch of my happy place. All that was left was covered in glass, sand and muck.

     After the storm, our community took a huge hit with catastrophic damage and destruction. Despite our best efforts to prepare, protect and defend, we flooded. Our homes and the days of our precious lives were overwhelmed and placed on hold by the same sea water that also provided everlasting moments of joy, serenity and peace. Now, like beach sand through an hourglass, we must move on to recover. In fact, we are a resilient community that will overcome and grow stronger because of this experience.

      My work as a realtor, leaves me scrambling to help the many displaced residents of SWFL find a place to stay, a place to call home.  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sums up our situation quite nicely. As humans, we need to have our basic physiological needs met in order to survive. Think about it, how can we survive, never mind thrive, if we don’t have a place to stay, to be, to eat, to sleep, to live? It is also a basic human need to feel safe…safe from the storm. These needs are the baseline. Warm soup and a cozy blanket will always trump talk therapy. Safety, security, shelter, food, water, clothing, warmth, even sex rate high on our human needs check list. During this and other difficult life cycles, please remember self care. It is nonproductive to pour from an empty cup. Fill your cup and schedule time in your days (post-IAN daze) for activities that make your spirit soar.

     As a mental health counselor, specializing in grief and loss, I clearly recognize  the stages and cycle of grief that people are presently experiencing. Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance, it’s all right here in our community. Many think the stages of loss are linear. In fact, the stages are cyclical and like a child’s water spray park, we can’t determine or plan for if, when or where any will pop up. One thing is for sure, it is virtually impossible to avoid emotional flooding when dealing with experiences that involve catastrophic loss.

     In addition to the stages of grief, I acknowledge the very real connection between storm flooding and emotional flooding that coexist with this type of trauma. In both instances, there are precautions we could and should take.

     An analogy I often use with clients is applicable here. During times of increased physical, emotional and mental stress, imagine a traffic light. The norm is green (Go) as we attend to our daily lives with manageable anxiety. As the storm gates open and the water begins to pour in (a.k.a. emotional arousal), we are signaled to pause. We need to be cognizant of the impending destruction that may occur if we continue without taking a ‘time out’ to consider calming, next best steps. Self soothing is an important part of the amber (Proceed with Caution) stage. Finally, as we near the red (Stop) zone, emotional relaxation becomes a matter of survival. This stage is where flooding is bound to occur. It is very difficult to make good decisions, communicate effectively or make healthy choices when flooded. Senses may shut down to a point where it is difficult to see, hear or even think as you would normally.  In the red zone, it is common for people to feel dissociated, fuzzy, extreme anger or fear, etc. Working with couples in crisis, we often see this during our Vacation Counseling Retreats. One person might feel as if they are moving in slow motion. Others might react with Flight, Fight, Freeze or Fawn during these difficult moments. Oftentimes, this is simply our minds’ way of dealing with red zone situations and/or trauma.

     When exposed to an overwhelming, high-anxiety situation, we must tend to basic physical survival. It is also imperative to incorporate evidence-based practices to prevent emotional damage and protect our mental health. These calming techniques include deep breathing exercises, guided visual imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, prayer, mindfulness, music, art, positive thinking, etc. Solution Focused Therapy suggests we create an imaginary tool box in which we store helpful techniques that elicit the relaxation response. When one doesn’t work, we search for another until we find one that fits just right for each unique, stressful situation. Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) works best when we simply utilize positive, helpful strategies that have worked in the past and reduce or eliminate techniques that haven’t worked. Which works best for you? My absolute favorite relaxation “tool” is gratitude.

     I try to begin my day with a big stretch and count my blessings on the fingers of both of my hands. An example of some of the ten things I am grateful for might include the sunshine, my ability to get out of bed, my health and awesome music. Heck, I might include my toothbrush, toothpaste and flossers! Gratitude is a great way to start a great day even in the midst of storms that life might send our way.

     I’d like to end by thanking you for allowing me to share my story. First and foremost, I thank God for all of my blessings. I am grateful to all those that assisted others during this difficult time. I consider them angels on earth. I thank my mom for finding me when I am lost and always being there for me. I thank my siblings, my friends and my children for caring. I am grateful for my clients, for trusting me with their stories. I appreciate being in a position where I can help others who are experiencing grief and loss. It is an honor and a privilege to walk with them even for a little while on their journeys.

     If you are in need of emotional support after Hurricane Ian, please take advantage of Cape Coral Therapist Free Drop-In Support Groups for the Community. It helps to know that others may be struggling to get back on their feet and experiencing similar issues. Here at Cape Coral Therapists, you matter! We care and are here for you. We are all in this together as we discover how resilient we really are and move towards Recovery.

Every Voyage Needs a Captain’s Log

Do you ever get swept up in the momentum of a day, week, or month, then pause and try to make sense of the blur? Does tunnel vision ever make things blend and get jumbled for you? Life often takes us on voyages, grand journeys toward big picture goals. But without taking notes along the way, things can get disorienting. That’s why every voyage needs a captain’s log. And the good news is that these days we all carry one in the form of our smartphones.

Journaling is well-documented as having tremendous benefits on our mental health and can help us notice patterns, connections, and opportunities that we may otherwise miss. Like many good habits though, it can be challenging to get started and stay consistent with it. Recently, many people are finding success in journaling by linking it with a smartphone use many of us know all too well: checking social media.

So, you get the urge to lift your phone and check your favorite app. But now that you remember every voyage needs a captain’s log, you go first to your notes app or a journaling app of choice. You jot down things like what time you woke up, how you’re feeling today, what things you want to get done before bed, and even some things you’re grateful for. Now, feeling grounded and mindful, you can click over to social media or move on with your day. Either way, taking brief moments to jot down where you’re at can be a great way to turn your smartphone use into something restorative and beneficial.

When journaling becomes a daily habit, it can be a fantastic resource for growth and direction. Ever get into a slump? Look back on your notes and find a time when you were feeling well. What were you eating then? How were you spending free time? Who was fostering your positive mindset? Let your past self remind you of the things that bring you joy and fulfillment, as well as some things you may want to steer clear of. Start building your captain’s log today and see where the voyage takes you.

Written by Louis Nicholas – Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

Feminist Theory and Self-Care in the Modern Age

Rebranding the “Bimbo”

In 2022, young people have abandoned traditional theories of feminism and equality. Instead, they’re concentrating on something far more optimistic and unexpected: “bimboism.” But what exactly is a bimbo? Isn’t “bimbo” a derogatory term? And what does this have to do with mental health? The answer is, shockingly, quite a lot.

Traditionally, “bimbo” was defined as an attractive but insipid or “dumb” woman. Nowadays, young people are looking to reclaim the word. Feminist Theory has been prevalent in mental health counseling for decades; The work of Karen Horney comes to mind. But Millenials and Generation Z have a new take on feminism. Shot into the zeitgeist by Tiktok and Generation Z, the modern “bimbo” is the lovechild of social media and third-wave feminism. She stands for equality for all and, surprisingly, self-care & mental health. Syrena, a Tiktok creator known as @fauxrich, defined a bimbo as a traditionally or hyper-feminine woman often villainized for her love of traditionally feminine things, including self-care, caring for one’s physical appearance, and being in touch with one’s emotions. Griffin Maxwell Brooks, a Tiktok content creator, expanded on “the study of bimbology” in a video, saying, “nobody can tell you how to be a bimbo, since it isn’t about how people see you.” They continued, “There is no gender, class, color, or ability in the bimbo. The only prerequisite for bimbofication is embracing and reclaiming your body in the name of independence.”

For years, psychologists, therapists, and other mental health workers have worked for equal rights for both men and women. Unfortunately, in modern media and Western culture, traditionally feminine interests (such as watching romantic comedies, enjoying a spa day, or participating in any form of feminine activities as self-care) were seen as superficial, shallow, and for the unintelligent. Even in medical and mental health fields, the deep disdain for female emotions can be seen. For example, the verbiage of Histrionic Personality Disorder, with “histrionic,” originating from the Greek prefix hystera, meaning “womb” or “uterus.” Extreme emotions, attention-seeking behavior, and even being excessively consumed with grooming are all female-coded symptoms of HPD.

While the sub-culture of the new-age bimbo is relatively new on social media, what she represents is clear: a new, radical acceptance of all things traditionally feminine, including the full spectrum of her emotions, interests, and preferred self-care.

Written by Victoria Baker, Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

Nothing Changes if Nothing Ever Changes

Regardless of our thoughts or intentions for ourselves or others, this phrase reminds us we are experiencing difficulty because doing the same thing over and over isn’t working. We need to change. We need to break a cycle or a way of being.

Change can be very difficult which is the reason cycles repeat. Anyone can fall victim to habit or routine and the excuses that maintain them. We can see these cycles repeating among our families, friends, coworkers, and others. It is also evident when someone chooses to change. To do something different. This breaks the cycle.

Change doesn’t have to be big or even scary. Sometimes it is just the way we think about a certain situation, ourselves, or others. Thinking differently is the beginning of change.

Impactful change can result from changing our vantage point or location. These changes may alter our moods! Skeptical? Give it a try, the next time you feel anxious, depressed, hopeless, or frustrated.

Challenge yourself to stand up and walk to another room, to a window, or outdoors. See how just moving yourself can feel like the beginning of a bigger change. At the very least, you handled your situation in a different way. You chose to think of it differently and to act upon those thoughts which lead to powerful, meaningful changes.

If the small change felt good, challenge yourself to consider the next step in this change. Will you incorporate this change into your routine? Will you add to this step by taking another step toward your goal of changing your self-perception, your situation, or relationships? It can!

It all starts with one small change.

Written by April Daniel, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern #21443