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Life Coaching to Help with Coronavirus Stress

Mental Health Coaching Strategies to Help During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Life coaching strategies to help stress during COVID-19.Have you been noticing a spike in your stress as a result of COVID-19? If so, you certainly aren’t alone. Pandemics are not declared lightly, and an increase in your stress is actually a normal response. However, not only is stress unpleasant, it can also hinder your immunity. The World Health Organization emphasizes that preventative care plays a crucial role in fighting the Coronavirus, therefore, it’s helpful to boost your coping in an effort to improve your overall well-being. Here are four strategies to help you maintain your mental wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recognize your stress

Stress is a normal part of life. It is a natural response to an external pressure that disrupts your equilibrium. It often causes symptoms such as:

  • Sadness, confusion, irritability, anger, uneasiness, and suicidal thoughts
  • Reduced concentration, efficiency, and productivity
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Interpersonal problems (e.g., lies, defensiveness, communication concerns)
  • Tension (e.g., headaches, jaw clenching, teeth grinding)
  • Body pain (e.g., headaches, muscle spasms)
  • Reduced energy (e.g., tiredness, weakness, fatigue)
  • Sleeping problems (e.g., insomnia, nightmares)
  • The first important step to managing these symptoms is to recognize that they are related to stress. According to the Four Branch Model of Emotional Intelligence, the ability to recognize your emotional state is essential in order to understand and manage your emotions. Therefore, if you skip the phase of acknowledging that you are stressed, you impede your ability to manage your stress.

This notion may seem simple, but it’s often easier said than done. It’s common to miss the signs of stress early on, preventing your ability to handle them before they grow. Even if you notice these symptoms, it’s also tempting to think that you can manage them by brushing them under the rug. The danger in this tactic is that it doesn’t allow you to tackle the problem head on, and the catalyst of time can cause you to miss the crucial moment to intervene before your stress becomes overwhelming.

If you have been noticing these symptoms since you learned about the Coronavirus, it is possible that you may be experiencing a normal stress response. Not only is it natural to be concerned about physical illness, but the uncertainty about a spreading virus can increase your stress level as well. The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic to highlight the level of concern and spark measures of precaution. In a parallel process, your stress is doing the same for you as it sets off a warning alarm that calls you to action.

Manage what you can; release what you cannot.

Once you acknowledge your stress, tracing the stressor can help you tackle the problem at hand. Understanding the issue can help you to problem solve. If used as a signal, your stress can motivate you to manage what you can. Taking action to combat a part of the problem can help you to reduce your symptoms.

As information on COVID-19 continues to develop, it is important to stay updated with information from reputable sources such as this prevention guide and this myth busting list from The World Health Organization.

While the current knowledge we have pertaining to the Coronavirus is increasing, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the virus. Recognizing this, it is important to manage what you can with the information you are provided but also release the need to control what you cannot. A key difference between stress and anxiety is the false sense of control that may arise from over worrying and overcompensating. While there are a lot of attempts to fill in the gaps to inform us about COVID-19, falling in to false information or conspiracy theories may not be the best method for your stress management. In addition to seeking information from reputable sources, try to be mindful of the myths that may be misleading and pulling your focus from what you can control.

This is not a suggestion to abandon your methods of preparation, but to do so in an informed manner. Instead of adding to your stress by trying to control elements beyond your grasp, try to follow expert guide to manage what you can and let go of the temptation to try to control what you cannot.

Continue reading at Psychology Today.

If you are feeling stress during COVID-19 isolation and looking for help, contact me to set up a Telehealth appointment.

Tips for Teens From a Counselor on Surviving Isolation

What Can Stressed Teens Do About COVID-19?

For the first time in their lives, teens are facing a worldwide epidemic in the form of a novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. In just a few short weeks, millions of students have made the transition from spending their days with friends and teachers at school to spending all or most of their time at home.

LGBT teen isolation tips from Irvington counselor.For teens in areas where strict social isolation is the norm, this might mean never leaving the house, spending day after day in a small space with parents and siblings. The combination of stress, isolation, and no breaks is enough to drive any family to the brink, no matter how happy. And for families with a history of violence, isolation can be dangerous. These strategies can help teenagers manage the crisis, whether it lasts a few weeks, a few months, or longer.

1. LEARN ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS
There’s a lot we don’t know about the coronavirus. That makes it scary. There’s also plenty of inaccurate information circulating, from claims that it’s a government conspiracy to assertions that the entire United States population will die. Knowledge may help you gain a sense of control. It also helps you identify specific strategies you can adopt to reduce your risk and manage your fear.

Seek information from reliable sources, such as:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus page
The University of Washington’s coronavirus map
The World Health Organization’s coronavirus page
The National Institutes of Health coronavirus page
Most state departments of health now offer weekly or daily briefings on the virus, including updated state-level virus counts and death tolls. For a more in-depth understanding and a chance to improve your scientific literacy, use this Google Scholar search to see recent studies of coronavirus.

One of the most important things teenagers should know about the coronavirus is that their risk of dying is about 0.2 percent. At the height of the epidemic in China, just one person between the ages of 10 and 19 had died from the virus. For young people, the death rate may be similar to that of the flu⁠—so you are likely safe. The people you love may face a much higher risk.

2. PROTECT VULNERABLE PEOPLE
Public health experts, epidemiologists, and researchers studying the virus all agree: the best way to control its spread is to avoid contact with other people, as well as surfaces infected people may have touched. That means staying home as much as possible and maintaining physical distance from other people—even friends and neighbors you know and love.

The reason for this is that the coronavirus has an incubation period of up to 2 weeks, and maybe even longer. A person who seems well might be shedding the virus and spreading it to others. Avoiding others protects you from people who might have the virus without knowing it. Perhaps more importantly, it ensures you will not spread the virus to vulnerable people such as grandparents or people with disabilities.

Teenagers are relatively safe from the coronavirus. Their symptoms are not as severe, and their risk of dying is very low. That might make it seem like the coronavirus panic is an overreaction, but it’s not. This virus has the potential to kill 10% or more of older people as well as a large portion of people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, respiratory conditions, and more. Your healthy-seeming neighbor might be in danger. Your friend who recovered from cancer could get the virus and die. There’s no way for you to know who is in danger, so it’s best to treat everyone as a vulnerable person worthy of protection.

3. MASTER A FEW NEW SKILLS WHILE SCHOOL’S OUT
Sooner or later, this will end. Things are already improving in China. How do you want to emerge from this crisis? What new skills can you master? This period of seclusion offers the chance to learn things you never had the time or motivation to do before. Try watching YouTube videos to master your favorite instrument, scheduling video chats with a friend in another country so you can improve your language skills, or ordering a stack of books to help you learn a new craft.

Learning new things gives more structure to your day. It also helps you focus on the future. This reminds you that there is a future beyond coronavirus and can help you remain positive. Find a goal and work toward it, even if you’re not sure when you’ll get to debut your new accomplishments.

4. ENJOY SOME INDEPENDENCE
Your parents are likely overwhelmed. They may be trying to work from home, stock up on supplies, plan lessons, or care for your younger siblings. One of the very best things you can do to make their lives easier is to reduce their workload. That means asking less of them. For many teenagers, that can be a great thing. Your parents don’t have the time or energy to supervise everything you do, to nag you about screen time, or to interrogate you about what you learned today.

So enjoy the independence. Find ways to entertain yourself—and for bonus points, get your younger siblings in on the act, too. Showing your parents that you can make good independent decisions may encourage them to trust you more when things return to normal.

5. TALK TO PARENTS ABOUT RESPONSIBILITIES
Your parents need help. They may be overwhelmed and quick to get angry. They may expect you to know what they need. Work with them to make those expectations explicit. Try drawing up a parent-teen contract outlining the things your parents need from you every day. If you fulfill those responsibilities, the odds are very good that your parents will gladly give you more independence and let you have plenty of time to yourself. After all, they may be trying to work from home and keep the household running, so they probably have little motivation to police your every move.

6. FIND NEW WAYS TO CONNECT
You may be away from your friends for a long time. Dating is almost certainly out of the question. It can feel like torture, especially if you don’t love spending time at home with your family. Times of stress can help you develop creative solutions—and that creativity will serve you well beyond this crisis.

So find new ways to nurture the relationships most important to you. Start a daily group chat with your friends. Schedule video calls throughout the day. Start a blog to share your own experiences. Schedule a weekly virtual get-together. Attend an online yoga class. Humans need connection, and one of the best ways to protect your mental health is to prioritize your relationships.

FOR TEENS: GETTING HELP IN A CRISIS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
The coronavirus crisis doesn’t eliminate the many other problems you might face. It only adds another layer of complexity. This site can help connect you to emergency food and other basics. If an adult is abusing you, contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453. If you feel suicidal, you can get confidential, judgment-free help from the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you have a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, or if the coronavirus crisis is affecting your well-being, therapy can help. Many therapists have switched to an online model, allowing you to safely access care from the comfort of your home. I am not accepting TeleHealth appointments for counseling.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

Mental Health Coaching to Prepare for Life With COVID-19

Life Coaching to Help with Isolation Stress, Anxiety & Depression

Mental health is a growing concern after the stresses and losses of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, the pandemic feeds stress over health and finances. It can also exacerbate the challenges of managing underlying anxiety.

Life coaching to help COVID-19 isolation life.Also, the social distancing measures needed to slow the spread of the virus separates the most vulnerable people from their support networks. Our natural wiring to seek comfort from other people, especially during times of stress and fear, is short-circuited by the need to distance.

In the general population, evidence from early COVID-19 studies suggests we should expect elevated levels of anxiety, both through fear of contamination, and the stress, grief, and depression that can be triggered by actual exposure to the virus. Even without exposure to the virus or fear of the virus, anxiety can be compounded by high levels of stress driven by unemployment, lack of social contact, and/or the difficulties that come with working from home.

WORLD ISOLATION FINDINGS
China is a few months ahead of the United States in terms of the coronavirus. In the province of Hubei, a large segment of the population went into an unprecedented lockdown for 11 weeks. People were not allowed to leave their homes except for essentials. Images on the news showed overwhelmed hospitals and healthcare workers wearing full-body protective gear. Understandably, many people were frightened.

As in Hubei, many Americans have experienced a significant period of quarantine and isolation. Although enforcement in the United States is less rigorous, the quarantine was still unexpected and extremely stressful for many people. In addition, the isolation period may extend for a longer amount of time in the United States.

In China, researchers have had the opportunity to assess the mental health effects of the pandemic on the population in a nationwide survey. Study findings indicate that the pandemic triggered a wide variety of psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, and panic disorder.

EXPECT DIFFERENT REACTIONS IN DIFFERENT SUBGROUPS
Research found women were much more likely to experience high levels of stress compared to men, and women were more likely to develop PTSD symptoms.

There were differences found across age groups as well. Individuals aged 18 to 30, migrant workers, and those over 60 reported the highest stress levels. Researchers suspected higher stress levels among the 18 to 30 group may have been a result of high levels of media consumption while those over 60 were experiencing heightened stress due to increased vulnerability to the virus. Migrant workers were likely concerned over a variety of reasons including loss of income.

UNEMPLOYMENT AND RISK OF SUICIDE
The global lockdown measures are causing widespread unemployment. In April, in the United States alone, more than 20 million private-sector jobs were lost and the numbers continue to rise.

Previous research has indicated unemployment can raise suicide rates by 20% to 30%. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each completed suicide is accompanied by more than 20 suicide attempts.

Given the current global crisis, mental health workers can expect an increase in the number of people in distress and a spike in the number of people expressing a need for services. As a society, we need to increase awareness of mental health issues and develop a better understanding of the link between unemployment and suicide.

HOW SOCIAL DISTANCING IMPACTS STRESS RECOVERY
When we connect to and bond with other people, oxytocin is released in the body. Oxytocin is a hormone associated with touching, love, cuddling, and boding. Oxytocin is also known to be associated with a range of health benefits including aiding in the physiological recovery of psychological stress. For example, oxytocin plays a role in lowering heightened blood pressure, reducing cortisol levels, and encouraging growth and healing.

Many mental health experts have voiced concern over the potential mental health effects of social distancing and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know isolation is a major risk factor for depression and anxiety. In one study researchers investigating the effects of isolation in mice found lowered oxytocin levels correlated with an increase in depressive and anxious behavior. Once the mice were injected with oxytocin, anxiety and depressive behaviors were reduced.

In humans, researchers have found that while experiencing psychosocial stress, on average, oxytocin levels increase by 51%. While this oxytocin release does not reduce the stress response in the short-term, after a period of time had passed, higher oxytocin levels were associated with faster physiological recovery times from the stress response.

These findings are important in assessing the mental health fallout of COVID-19. One of the dangers of chronic stress is the ongoing reactivity of the nervous system. For some people, it is very difficult to calm themselves when they are experiencing worry or stress. Not only does the mind continue to replay continuous worst-case scenarios, the body is also responding with high cortisol levels. This is concerning as chronic stress can have serious consequences for long-term physical and mental health.

Oxytocin is known to be connected to the sensory system, and studies show that the release of oxytocin is linked to touch. This is likely why many people may automatically be inclined to reach out and pat someone on the hand or hug them in an attempt to provide comfort when they are distressed. In the current environment, this is challenging. Exactly the kind of supportive behavior that would stimulate the release of oxytocin at the time we need it most is severely limited for many people.

PSYCHOLOGICAL SUPPORT DURING COVID-19
During this period, when hugging and touching is problematic, we can apply other tools that can aid in coping and even stimulate the release of oxytocin in our bodies and the bodies of our loved ones.

Evidence suggests that purely psychological support can trigger the release of oxytocin. This means connecting to others.

For individuals struggling to cope with anxiety, depression, and stress, reaching out to a mental health professional helps. Life coaching can not only help you learn good coping strategies to reduce anxiety and depression, but it can also help you reduce conflict in your relationships.

If you are struggling, connecting to others who can support you even if you can’t engage in face-to-face contact is still helpful. Try talking on the phone or using online meeting platforms such as Zoom, Facetime, or Skype. In addition, Telehealth and online coaching offer an opportunity to connect to professionals who can help you reduce your stress levels and recover from the mental health effects of the pandemic.

Choose your support network carefully to select supportive contacts. Reaching out to people who are not supportive or who tend to increase your anxiety will be counterproductive. Reach out to family or friends that can help you reduce your anxiety or set an online appointment with a therapist.

The emotional difficulties triggered by COVID-19 – lockdown, social isolation, and uncertainty – are substantial. Connecting and receiving support may make a greater difference in how you feel than you expect. I am accepting TeleHealth appointments for Life Coaching & other counseling in the Portland area.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

TeleHealth Life Coaching Can Help You Manage Anxiety

Learn What Telehealth Life Coaching Is & How it Helps

Online Telehealth life coaching for anxiety.If you live with serious or persistent emotional distress related to an anxiety condition, you may have given some thought to how professional support might help you manage your symptoms. But reaching out for help may not always be easy.

Even in ordinary circumstances, certain barriers might make it difficult for you to leave home in order to see a therapist or attempt to make an appointment. For example, many people who have panic attacks or live with specific phobias often find it challenging to go new places. Conditions like agoraphobia may keep you from leaving home entirely.

Depending on your location, you might even have trouble finding a therapist in your area. But telemental health, also known as distance therapy or online counseling, puts therapy within reach from anywhere—even the safety of home.

THE RISE OF TELEMENTAL HEALTH
In recent years, stigma surrounding therapy has decreased. Talking to loved ones and acquaintances about mental health symptoms and your efforts to address them has become a more normalized and accepted practice. This change has also normalized the act of reaching out for help, and the demand for therapy has increased.

Along with this increase in demand has come an increase for alternative types of mental health treatment—in short, more convenient approaches to therapy. As experts begin to recognize more unique, specific presentations of mental health conditions, the demand for therapists who specialize in addressing these issues also grows.

Technology no longer exists on the fringes of our lives. It’s become indispensable. Busy people want convenient, quick solutions, and the increasing use of technology in daily life makes this possible for all manner of services. Therapy is no exception.

Telemental health care fulfills the need many people have for more accessible therapy. Whether you prefer to connect with a therapist over a weekly video conference, telephone, or regular text message, distance counseling enables you to get help on your own time, without having to face certain challenges like transportation, limited parking, or limited therapist availability.

Since telemental health care allows you to work with a therapist located anywhere in your state, it also opens doors to specialized treatment. That is to say, if you need a specialist, you may be able to find one more easily than if you were limited to local providers.

ANXIETY AND TELEMENTAL HEALTH
Current COVID-19 lockdowns can impact your ability to access in-person therapy for the time being. But for many people, other barriers to treatment may still linger once quarantine and social distancing requirements have lifted.

Distance counseling can be an accessible option for people working to manage their anxiety symptoms. Many different conditions exist under the umbrella of anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety (what many people think of when they hear “anxiety”) is only one of these. Other common experiences related to anxiety that might lead someone to seek out telemental health care include:

  • Severe obsessions or compulsions, such as a fixation on germs or persistent thoughts of doing harm to others, that make it difficult to have close contact with other people
  • A phobia of something regularly encountered outside your home, such as dogs, birds, or cars
  • Agoraphobia, or a strong fear of being somewhere you can’t easily leave. This phobia usually relates to panic disorder
  • Panic attacks, especially if you haven’t identified triggers and fear having one without warning
  • Social anxiety severe enough to make in-person interaction terrifying or unbearable even to consider

HOW TELETHERAPY SUPPORTS PEOPLE WITH ANXIETY
While distance counseling may not be ideal for every mental health condition, it can work well for some issues. Online therapy is generally effective for treating anxiety. The types of treatment therapists typically provide for anxiety can be offered fairly well online through a video platform.

Anxiety treatment approaches can vary, since not every treatment will work well for everyone. But if you work with an anxiety specialist online, your therapist may use treatment strategies such as the following:

Cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps you learn to recognize distressing thoughts, challenge them, and reframe them so they no longer have a negative impact
Exposure therapy, which helps you slowly become accustomed to facing a specific thing or situation you fear (typically used to treat phobias)
Exposure and response prevention, which helps you learn to face situations or things that trigger obsessions without performing a compulsion in response
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, a type of CBT that prioritizes mindfulness, or staying grounded in the present moment without getting trapped in cycles of unwanted thoughts
When working with a therapist online, you’ll also have a safe space to explore underlying factors that contribute to anxiety, talk through distress in your everyday life, and develop safe, healthy coping strategies—just as you would when working with a therapist in person.

Therapists can also offer guidance on methods that can help you address anxiety symptoms before they reach an unmanageable level. For example, they can teach skills to counter rumination, or circling thought patterns, that often come up for many people living with anxiety.

You can also learn (and practice) mindfulness and meditation exercises in distance counseling. These practices may help ease certain mental health symptoms over time, lead to decreased stress, and help you get better sleep, which can also help relieve anxiety.

A telehealth therapist can also work with you on making changes in your life that lead to greater well-being overall. It’s not uncommon for anxiety to stem from difficult situations, relationships, or life circumstances. Even when these issues don’t cause anxiety directly, they may make your symptoms worse. Addressing these triggers may not make anxiety disappear entirely, but it can have a significant benefit overall. A mental health professional can help you recognize these triggers and how they contribute to your emotional distress.

A therapist can also offer support as you explore improved self-care habits, such as:

  • making sure to get enough sleep
  • taking time to do the things you enjoy most
  • spending time with positive people
  • Telemental health doesn’t appeal to everyone. If you prefer connecting with someone in person, but experience struggles severe enough to prevent you from getting support, you might consider distance counseling as a short-term option: You’ll work with a therapist online until you reach a position of being able to attend therapy face-to-face.

If you or someone you love is anxious and in need of help, contact me for more information on how telehealth life coaching can help you.

Courtesy of GoodTherapy.

How Online Telethealth Therapy Works for Couples

What is Telehealth Therapy & Tips for Couples

How tele therapy can help lgbt couples.Romantic relationships demand a lot: each partner must find a way to support and nurture the other’s needs while identifying and asserting their own needs.

When one person in a couple experiences stress, that stress can affect their partner and the relationship. Factor in kids, jobs, and financial entanglement, and it’s easy to see why so many people struggle in their relationships.

There’s no right way to be part of a couple. No matter what challenges your relationship faces, therapy can help you identify your needs. In couples counseling, you’ll work with your therapist to manage relationship challenges and address your needs in a way that’s consistent with your values.

Sometimes face-to-face therapy is not available or easy to access. Online couples therapy offers similar benefits to in-person therapy, with the added convenience and privacy of getting support at home. Here’s what you can expect from online counseling.

WHAT IS ONLINE COUPLES THERAPY?
Online couples counseling offers the same benefits of in-person counseling, but over the internet. You’ll use a secure platform to talk with your therapist—by video, in most cases. Couples usually meet with their therapist together, from the same location. However, online counseling can also be a good option for couples who live apart, or who are separated by military deployment, long-term hospitalization, or other barriers.

People who choose online therapy report similar levels of satisfaction with their treatment to those who choose in-person counseling. For some couples, online therapy may even mean the difference between accessing therapy to heal the relationship and getting no help at all.

Telehealth may be especially beneficial for:

  • Couples with busy schedules.
  • People who live in geographically isolated areas.
  • People who find driving or going out in public stressful.
  • Couples who do not want someone else to see them at a therapist’s office.
  • Couples in which one or both partner has a disability that makes it more challenging to attend in-person therapy.

DOES ONLINE COUPLES THERAPY WORK?
Romantic relationships are a source of love and comfort. Many people rely on their partners to fill the role of best friend, mentor, financial partner, and co-parent. So when a relationship is struggling, many people feel as if their entire world has been upended. It’s easy to feel hopeless about couples therapy, especially if you feel like you’ve tried everything. But the research shows that couples therapy works. According to a 2015 analysis, couples therapy is most effective when therapists identify the goals of couples therapy; use standardized tools to assess progress; and systematically monitor both the progress of therapy and the quality of the therapeutic alliance.

Online therapy follows a similar model to traditional counseling. In fact, therapists can do nearly everything online that they can in person. It may take a little more time to get comfortable with one another, especially when there are technical difficulties. Quality online therapy on a good platform works well, and even allows the therapist to read subtle cues such as tone of voice and body language.

WHEN TO AVOID ONLINE COUPLES THERAPY
Online couples therapy is not for everyone. When there is domestic violence, most experts advise that the couple avoid joint therapy. That’s because therapy treats the partners as equals, each of whom has valid concerns. When there is violence, the partners do not contribute equally to the problems in the marriage, and the abusive partner may even use therapy to justify their violence. Moreover, traditional couples therapy aims to keep the couple together, and some therapists may even ask the couples to commit to a certain number of therapy sessions. This may cause a victim to remain in an abusive relationship longer, potentially endangering their life. The online context may make it easier to conceal abuse, intensifying the risk.

Some other signs online therapy may not be a good fit include:

  • The couple can’t access the internet or only has very old computers or tablets, making it difficult to see or hear the therapist.
  • One or both members of the couple distrusts technology and feels anxious about distance counseling.
  • One or both members of the couple feel stressed or anxious in the family home, and prefer the environment of a therapy office.

QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT ONLINE RELATIONSHIP COUNSELING
When searching for a couples therapist, it’s important to find someone who can offer specific details about their treatment philosophy. You can ask potential counselors the questions such as the following to see if they are a good fit for you:

  • What therapeutic philosophy do you use? Can you show us research indicating this approach works?
  • What is the goal of therapy? Are we working to decide whether to stay together, or is the goal to improve the relationship?
  • How will we know therapy is working?
  • What do we need to do outside of therapy sessions to improve our relationship?
  • How long does therapy typically take?
  • How much do you charge?
  • Do you accept insurance or offer a superbill so we can seek insurance reimbursement?
  • What do you do to ensure our privacy? Do you use an encrypted therapy platform?
  • Will we share our ideas about what constitutes a healthy relationship?

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM ONLINE RELATIONSHIP THERAPY
Most online counseling uses video so that you can talk, read one another’s body language, and create an experience similar to traditional counseling. During the first few sessions, you will work with your therapist to identify treatment goals, share the history of the relationship, and cultivate a sense of trust.

As therapy progresses, you’ll each talk about your issues in the relationship, then work to identify strategies to manage these issues. Your therapist may give you homework, ask you to notice specific feelings or behaviors in between therapy sessions, or encourage you to come to therapy prepared to talk about a recent dispute. In some cases, the therapist may recommend individual counseling to deal with issues such as depression, trauma, and anxiety.

Your therapist should gently challenge each of you. If therapy is going well, you’ll be encouraged to confront unhealthy thoughts and feelings. Your therapist should also validate your emotions, and should not take sides—though they might offer insight on various conflicts, or help you identify unreasonable expectations. You should feel comfortable giving your therapist feedback, and the therapist should regularly assess and revisit treatment goals.

If you or someone you love is interested in learning more about online telehealth therapy, contact me to learn how I can help.

Courtesy of GoodTherapy.

3 Counseling Tips for Well-Being If COVID-19 Is Making You Feel Hopeless

Counseling Tips to Take Control of Hoplessness During COVID-19

Counseling tips to combat hoplessness during COVID-19

Just one month ago, many would not have imagined that our world would be turned upside down. Who would have thought that we would be practicing social distancing or being at home in self-quarantine? The U.S. looks different today. Fewer people on the streets, less traffic on the freeways, and no one in the parks or at the beaches.

What about our home life? Never in my imagination did I consider that my son would be home from college doing all his classes online. Nor did I consider that my husband would be conducting office meetings with nearly three hundred people from our home. I have been seeing clients online, so it wasn’t a huge stretch for my private practice. However, never did I imagine that all my therapy sessions would be virtual.

I suspect many of you never considered that you, too, might be in a similar predicament. How could you? The world changed drastically in less than 30 days. Since my last article, 15 Self-Care Activities You Can Do at Home During COVID-19, things have changed even more. Now all the schools in my state of California have closed down for the rest of the semester. All non-essential businesses have been temporarily shut down, and most everyone has been sent home. This seems to be the case for most of our country.

In the midst of this pandemic, we are seeing heroic efforts by our fellow country men and women on the front lines. God bless you all! I am praying for your physical health and well-being. Thank you for what you do for all of us: People stepping up and buying food for the elderly; nurses, doctors, and health care providers risking being exposed to COVID-19 for you and me; even our corner grocery workers are doing their part.

No doubt we must all do our parts. Practice safe measures. Social distancing. Staying home to prevent spreading the virus. However, we can reframe some of our current thinking and choose not to panic. Instead, let’s choose to take control of what we can.

3 TIPS FOR WELL-BEING DURING COVID-19
1. Let hard times ignite creativity.
I am inspired to see how people are igniting creativity: major car companies using their ingenuity to make ventilators, cruise ships being converted to temporary hospitals, vocalists using cellphones to collaborate, making songs come to life. How can you, too, ignite your own creativity? Dare to think outside of the box. Try writing down your ideas, and then add to them daily, fanning the flames of creativity.

2. Find new ways to gather.
I am seeing people sending group text threads in an effort to socially engage amid a climate of social distancing. People are sending uplifting messages, helpful information, or funny YouTube videos to make others laugh. Zoom meetings are being used for education, business meetings, and social hours. Don’t let social distancing keep you back from socially connecting. We are social beings; we need to connect. Think of ways you can reach out either by phone, email, or Zoom. Don’t let social distancing become social isolation. Stay connected.

3. Dare to keep dreaming.
Don’t let boredom creep in. Use your imagination. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Make a list of your talents
  • Make a list of your gifts
  • Ask yourself the question, “What would I do if money wasn’t an issue?”

Now get going. Start thinking, writing, having conversations with your spouse, partner, or friends. Now is the time to envision something for your future. For instance, I am working on strategizing a new project I have in mind. We may be homebound, but we are not locked up. I am free to dream. To imagine. And so are you. So, I say, dream on.

We have some choices to make. Yes, for sure we are concerned about COVID-19. However, we don’t need to let fear and anxiety get the best of us. We can choose something different. We can acknowledge our concerns. and do the best we can to practice safe measures for ourselves and for our families. Beyond that, we don’t have a lot of control, besides how we respond to this pandemic. I encourage you to not let it get the best of you.

Portland clients can continue online counseling during this time of need, contact me for an appointment.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

Coaching Tips for Life During COVID-19 & Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

How is Our Motivation Changing In Pandemic Life? Coaching Do’s & Don’ts

Coaching tip: Facetime is a do of pandemic life.Understanding human motivation has been one of the goals of psychology founding fathers and current theorists to date. Motivation is often at the core of studying psychological processes in humans and understanding why we do the things we do.

Motivation is defined as “the process of arousing, directing, and maintaining behavior toward a goal” (Greenberg, 2002). Although this definition seems simple, human motivation is often more complex. In light of the current crisis situation we all find ourselves in amid the COVID-19 pandemic, how can one understand their own motivations and the motivations of others?

One way to understand this is to apply a classic theory of human motivation: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The basic premise of the theory is that “people will not be happy or well-adjusted unless they have their needs met” (Greenberg, 2002). Not only are humans motivated by meeting their needs, but their needs are ordered in such a way that if basic needs aren’t met first, then humans will not have the motivation to meet needs that aren’t considered basic. Basic needs are described as lower-order needs, while needs beyond basic are described as higher-order needs.

MOTIVATION AND THE FIVE STAGES OF NEEDS
In order to understand these hierarchical needs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s look at each need individually.

1. Physiological needs
The lowest order needs involve satisfying biological needs such as water, shelter, and food. Not only does this level of need require meeting basic needs, but it also requires that one’s body is healthy. A healthy body is also achieved through the proper amount of sleep, exercise, and appropriate balance of healthy foods, free of toxic substances.

2. Safety needs
Once one’s basic needs are met, Maslow believed that the next level of needs are triggered in an individual. The need for safety includes functioning in an environment that is physically and psychologically safe. In addition, the environment must be free of harm or perceived harm.

3. Social needs
These needs are activated once the first two needs are met. According to Maslow’s theory, if the first two needs are not met, then the person will not be activated to achieve higher order needs such as social needs. This need involves feeling loved by others and belonging to a social group. As social beings, humans have the need to connect with others.

4. Esteem needs
Once one feels accepted by their peers, the next higher-order need can be activated. The esteem need is characterized by feeling successful and having others recognize one’s accomplishments.

5. Self-actualization needs
The highest-order need for humans, once all of the above needs are met, is self-actualization. This need involves pursuing one’s maximum level of creativity and becoming all that one is intended to be.

MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS AND THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
1. Physiological needs during COVID-19
The current state of our world right now has caused many people to be motivated by more basic needs than they were before this pandemic. Due to the fact that many people’s employment situations have changed, meeting basic needs might now be more of a priority than it was before.

In addition, now that many people are on stay-at-home orders, the option of going to the gym or other things that one typically does to stay physiologically healthy might not be available at this time. Finding creative ways to keep yourself healthy might be all that you can focus on right now, and that is okay.

Do

Try to meet your basic needs first.

Don’t

Engage in activities that are unhealthy for the body and the mind.

2. Safety needs during COVID-19
If you are fortunate enough to not have to worry about meeting your basic physiological needs during this crisis, you are now motivated to achieve safety. For some, depending on the area you live in and the rate of infection, staying safe and keeping your family safe is your main motivation right now, and that makes the most sense. In addition, if you are an essential worker or married to an essential worker or medical professional, you will most likely be striving to meet this safety need throughout the crisis.

Do

Educate yourself about the facts about the rate of infection in your area.

Don’t

Put pressure on yourself to achieve higher order needs.

3. Social needs during COVID-19
Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have your basic needs met. Given your current profession and financial situation, this crisis has not greatly affected your basic needs or your safety needs. You most likely live in an area that is not dense in population or rate of infection.

Based on this, you can now focus on having your social needs met. During the current social distancing orders, it might be hard to achieve this goal. If you are at home with a loving family, these needs are met by them. If you are in a home with others, but the environment is not connected, then this time may be particularly challenging for you.

Do

Attempt to connect with others in your home daily through family activities. Attempt to connect with others outside of your home through virtual means such as FaceTime, group chats, and positive social media outlets.

Don’t

Ignore the attempts for connection from healthy members of your family.

Don’t

Assume that passive involvement in social media is satisfying social needs.

4. Esteem needs during COVID-19
If you are fortunate enough to have your basic, safety, and social needs met during this time of crisis, your next motivation on the order of needs (according to Maslow) is the need to achieve success and have others recognize your achievements. During this time, these types of needs might not be able to be met because many members of our culture are focused on meeting more basic needs. If you are currently working, you might be having these needs met by supervisors or peers. If you are in a loving home, perhaps your family members are encouraging you in your efforts at quarantine.

Do

Encourage family members and other peers in their current efforts at surviving this pandemic.

Do

Consider giving back to others who are struggling to meet basic needs. Altruism or the act of giving back to others in need was associated with “better life adjustment, better marital adjustment, and less hopelessness and depression” (Southwick & Charney, 2018). This might be a way to meet your esteem needs while also giving back to others who are working hard on the front lines of this pandemic.

Don’t

Meet your esteem needs through others’ achievements, especially your children. According to Maslow, a human can only meet these high order needs through their own accomplishments. Basing your happiness on how your children are doing puts too much pressure on them, especially during a time of such uncertainty.

5. Self-actualization needs during COVID-19
According to Maslow, this need occurs when all other needs are met sufficiently. In the light of the current crisis that most of the nation is facing right now, the majority of people are not able to focus on these higher-order needs.

Do

Be creative about how you can give back to and help others who are struggling.

Don’t

Assume that all others are able to focus on their creativity at this time.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one theory in many theories of human motivation. Some critics have questioned his theory, and like any theory in psychology, there are other competing theories of motivation. If you are interested in this topic, you can also check out this article.

Are you or someone you love needing a little extra help during COVID-19? Make an online life coaching appointment.

Article courtesy of Good Therapy.

When Social Distancing Becomes Social Isolation: How Online Counseling Helps

Online Appointments With Your Counselor Helps Reduce Feelings of Isolation

We are in unprecedented times with the outbreak of COVID-19, and we are all striving towards best practices around hygiene and social distancing.

This is an incredibly difficult time to be alone for many. If you are working from home and keeping yourself isolated in order to avoid infection, you are doing the right thing. This is actually pro-social behavior in service of our communities right now.

Regular appointments with a counselor online can help with feelings of isolation during social distancing.

However, when these right actions backfire on us—when our minds begin a negative cycle of withdrawing from all life—we may create a downward spiral into negative thinking. Counselors trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) understand that negative thoughts can lead to negative emotions such as panicfear, and hopelessness. These feelings can lead to further negative actions, and the cycle continues to feed upon itself. This self-destructive cycle can wreak havoc not only on our emotional lives, but on our immune systems as well.

STRESS REDUCES THE STRENGTH OF YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

“Living with fear and panic activates our sympathetic nervous system, which releases fight-or-flight stress hormones and can deplete precious resources we need to support a healthy immune system. A robust and strong immune system is an excellent first-line defense against invading viruses and bacteria,” says integrative and functional San Francisco based psychiatrist Karin Hastik, MD.

Furthermore, neuroscience guru Dan Siegel states: “[The mind] occurs throughout the body, in the distributed nervous system, which m

onitors and influences energy and information flowing through our heart and our intestines, and even shapes the activity of our immune system.”

We all need a healthy immune system to protect us right now. Limiting your media intake may be one way to aid your immune system in becoming more resilient. While quarantine is one measure to keep us healthy, it can be difficult to stay out of negative emotions when we isolate in front of the TV and watch fear-inducing news about the coronavirus pandemic.

ONLINE COUNSELING CAN REDUCE FEELINGS OF ISOLATION

What else can you do to stop this negative cycle when all the media around you relay such catastrophic information? How can you do more to boost your immune system, which is potentially your primary defense against COVID-19 at this time?

Consider reaching out to an online counselor and connecting via videoconferencing for help.

Christopher Fagundes, an associate professor in the department of psychological sciences who studies the link between mental and immune health says, “There is some evidence that it may be better to video conference versus having a regular phone call to reduce feelings of isolation.”

While it may seem counterintuitive to attempt authentic and meaningful connection through technology, the neurobiology of attachment speaks to the fact that mirror neurons are activated while in attunement within a relationship—even through a screen.

In Praszkier’s 2014 article, Empathy, Mirror Neurons, and SYNC, in which he speaks of our engagement with film, he states, “The mirror neurons embedded in our brain reflect the movement and sounds seen on the screen and beef up the spectator’s empathy. More than that, a body-based, empathy-kindling path (called kinesthetic empathy) induces an inner image of movements seen onscreen. The observer essentially ‘internally simulates’ the observed movements and, without actually moving, feels his own body configuration change in response.” My clinical work as a somatic movement counselor affirms this as well.

INTERPERSONAL NEUROBIOLOGY: MIRROR NEURONS CREATE EMPATHY WHILE TELECONFERENCING

Mirror neurons in synchrony, resonating together, create empathy in human relationships as well. “Connections with visceral and emotional circuitry now allow the same systems to support emotional resonance, attunement, and empathy. It is hypothesized that mirror systems and resonance behaviors evolved into our ability to attune to the emotional states of others,” says Louis Cozolino, author of The Neuroscience of Human Relationships. When one attunes to another within a healthy and secure attachment, mirror neurons inside the brain and body rise to the occasion, in effect elevating consciousness and physical well-being during the attunement process.

Siegel speaks about how our very minds are created through the context of shared information with others. “The mind is a relational process. Energy and information flow between and among people, and they are monitored and modified in this shared exchange,” says Seigel.

SECURELY ATTACHING TO A COUNSELOR CAN HELP YOU STAY EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY HEALTHY

Linda Graham, author of Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, says, “If you haven’t yet had the help of enough true others to aid you in claiming the birthright of what I call your inner base of resilience, you can use the new experiences in new relationships to recover it now.” A healthy and secure attachment to a counselor can help you navigate through your anxiety and fear and shed light on how negative beliefs can be undermining your best intentions. Rewiring your brain towards positive thinking can create more buoyant emotions within you, which are protective factors against disease.

We all need as much positivity as we can get right now while this pandemic becomes our new reality. Working with an online counselor can be a great way to make sure you stay healthy, in your mind, body, and spirit while navigating your way through these uncertain times. Please contact me to set up an online appointment during social distancing.

Courtesy of GoodTherapy.

Surviving the Coronavirus: 9 Practical Steps for Couples

Therapy Tips for Couples During COVID-19

Instead of our usual date, we embarked on a nighttime adventure to Costco. It was the last task before my husband, Bob, and I hunkered down in our condo. We are both marriage and relationship therapists and made the decision to do sessions virtually for the next week or two.

COVID-19, the coronavirus or the novel coronavirus, also known as a pandemic, had arrived in the U.S. with a bang.

My thoughts raced: Do we already have it?

We are over 60, so we’re in the high-risk group with elderly people in their 80s and 90s. Wow, I never thought of myself or Bob as that old. We still work full-time, are in pretty good physical shape, and lead a very active life.

My next thought: Will we survive?

As marriage and relationship counselors, we see lots of couples as a team every day in our small, cozy office. Before we packed up to leave, I actually measured the distance between our chairs and the sofa where clients sit. To my dismay, it was only about 5 feet. The experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say we’re supposed to stay at least 6 feet away from others to minimize the risk of catching the virus.

 

Next, I wiped down door handles, bathroom fixtures, desks, office equipment, telephones, and anything else I could find that people may have touched. Our suite of five offices had more “surfaces” than I ever imagined. Was I overdoing it? I do have some obsessive tendencies.

I left each of the ten therapists who work in our suite a precious gift, a bottle of hand sanitizer. The bottle I’d placed in our waiting room somehow disappeared. Thank goodness I ordered them before all the stores were sold out.

9 CORONAVIRUS SURVIVAL TIPS FOR COUPLES

Therapy tips for couples during the coronavirus.

Back to survival. Bob and I had food, shelter, sanitizer, and so far, no symptoms of the virus. During the first 48 hours home, we immersed ourselves in “breaking news” to make sure we were fully prepared for the coronavirus onslaught. Of course, there was nothing else we could do to prepare. We did get one thing from watching all that news: anxiety and fear that went through the roof.

  • What was going to happen?
  • Were we getting the facts?
  • Were my elderly relatives going to die?
  • How would they cope with visitors not being allowed in their retirement community?
  • Should we see our millennial kids, since they might unknowingly carry the virus without symptoms?
  • Would we lose our entire nest egg since the stock market was down and our business might suffer?
  • Was this going to affect the election?

I could have obsessed for hours. I used my relaxation app and finally got to sleep, only to have dreams about other disasters.

This morning when we awoke, Bob and I decided we were going to stop freaking out and do what we tell our clients to do. Here are the nine practical steps we came up with to survive the coronavirus–for ourselves and for you:

1. Limit the amount of time you spend watching news.

We need to stay informed, but overdoing it is not healthy. Bob and I, like many of you, at times become obsessed with the news. We watch it hoping to hear something that will give us a sense of relief. However, that rarely happens. Watching too much news often creates more anxietyfear, and helplessness.

We are choosing to tune in to one or two news shows per day and otherwise listen to music, find some shows to binge watch, or catch up on movies.

Decide how much news you need to watch.

2. Stay present and practice mindfulness.

We all tend to get stuck in our “what ifs,” and linger in the question. When my mind starts fixating on the “what ifs,” I answer the question.

Of course, the worst “what if” is, “What if I or a loved one get the virus and die?” Here is the answer I give myself: “If I die, I will have nothing to worry about,” and “Heaven forbid someone I love dies, I would have to bear the grief, and life would continue.” I don’t mean that to sound cold, but that answer helps me stop obsessing. Then I remind myself that the chances of the worst happening are low, and I bring my mind back to the present to focus on what I can control.

Being mindful means being fully present and aware of what is happening in the moment. Bob and I practice mindfulness and meditation.

3. Focus on gratitude.

When we’re in crisis, we tend to focus on the negative, which can lead to a general feeling of doom and gloom.

When we recognize this happening, we know we can refocus on what we are thankful for: my health today, my family members, my friends, my ability to work from home, having food and sanitizer. The list could go on.

Create your own gratitude list or journal.

4. Focus on what you can control.

When you catch yourself caught in the cycle of fear about what is out of our control, refocus on what you can do.

This morning I super cleaned our condo. I called family and friends. I decided to write this article. I made a decision to use this time to further our business and create some eBooks on relationships. I will practice the piano, one of things I never get to do.

Identify what you have control over. Then immerse yourself in those things.

5. Make a plan.

Bob and I brainstormed ways to use this time productively. We plan to do some projects at home that we never seem to prioritize. In addition, we are going to work on redoing our website and creating some products that couples can use.

Since we don’t want to go to the gym and my exercise classes were cancelled, we committed to doing some type of exercise daily.

We don’t have children at home, but I know many people do. Make a list of ways you can keep your kids productive and entertained. Talk to your partner and friends about ideas. Work with your partner to build in alone time for each of you.

Plan to make the best use of your time.

6. Schedule your activities.

When you create a schedule for yourselves and your kids, there is often a greater sense of organization. We are more likely to be productive when we have a schedule. If your kids are old enough, they can participate in creating this.

We are scheduling wake up time, work time, exercise time, movie time, and bedtime. It’s important to have a routine and stick to it. This is what we have control over, and it will help us stay focused on the present.

Post your daily schedule in the kitchen.

7. Offer to help others.

There is so much need out there. We called some of our neighbors, especially the ones who live alone, and told them to call on us if they need food or other supplies.

Being concerned and compassionate toward others stops the preoccupation with our own anxieties and puts the focus outside yourself. Connecting with others reminds us we are not alone. We are in this together.

Figure out who you can be of service to.

8. Have virtual dates with friends and family.

We thought we would have to cancel the dates we had planned with friends and family. Then I had an idea. We can keep those plans and have “virtual dates.” Using Skype or Zoom, we can actually prepare dinner and then have a meal and talk, “as if” we were out to dinner. Connection decreases feelings of isolation and gives us a greater sense of calm.

Make some virtual dates for yourself.

9. Love each other.

I’m referring to love as a verb. This is a great opportunity to connect with your partner, emotionally and sexually. Giving and receiving love is like food for the soul. And who knows, maybe in nine months we’ll have a generation of post-coronavirus baby boomers.

Let’s hope this pandemic gets under control and subsides sooner rather than later. In the meantime, use these steps and the support of neighbors, friends, family as well as your virtual therapist to get through this storm. The sun will eventually shine.

Set up an online couples therapy appointment to help survive the coronavirus.

Courtesy of GoodTherapy.

University Counseling Can Help When Stressed With Student Loans

Portland State University Students – Don’t Underestimate the Stress of Student Loan Debt!

Higher education can open up a wealth of opportunities. A college degree can make it easier to secure a high-paying job and pave the way toward further education, such as graduate school—a necessary step in becoming a therapist or other health care professional. But the potential rewards of a four-year university degree come at a cost, often a staggering one.

College tuition costs have vastly increased over the past few decades. According to statistics from College Board, a college student in the late 1980s could expect to pay just over $3,000 for 4 years of tuition at a public university. But today, 4 years of tuition at a public university cost around $10,000. Note this figure only includes tuition, not books, board, and other necessary expenses, which may double or even triple your projected expenses.

Private universities, of course, cost far more. And these numbers rise each year, faster than inflation. This means wage increases don’t account for the higher cost of college, and many students are left with more debt than they can easily (or realistically) pay off.

Portland State University Students stress over student loans can be helped with mental health counseling.Student loan debt can certainly impact your financial future, but it can take a toll on your emotional well-being, too.

STUDENT LOAN STATISTICS
While many students seek grants and apply for scholarships to attend college, not everyone qualifies for grants or can afford to spend time chasing down multiple scholarships. What’s more, plenty of hopeful students find that the cost of college is still prohibitive, even with these other types of aid. So, lacking the funds to pay for an education, they turn to loans to finance their college years—often without realizing the full cost of these loans.

According to statistics from Pew Research Center, almost half of American adults 30 and younger with a bachelor’s degree or higher have outstanding student loan debt. But even people who don’t complete their education still have to pay back their loans. Among adults under the age of 30, 34 percent have student loan debt, whether they have a degree to show for it or not. Among adults aged 30 to 44, 22 percent still have outstanding student loan debt.

The amount of debt varies widely, especially depending on the type of degree pursued. According to 2016 survey results, a median figure for amount owed, among all borrowers, was $17,000. Among borrowers holding a bachelor’s degree, this figure rose to $25,000, while borrowers with postgraduate degrees reported a median debt of $45,000. About 7 percent of borrowers (or, 1 percent of all American adults) reported owing more than $100,000. Higher debt appears most common among people holding postgraduate degrees.

This survey also found that almost a third of American adults between the ages of 25 and 40 believe the benefits of their college degree(s) are not worth the lifetime expense of paying it off.

HOW DEBT AFFECTS CURRENT STUDENTS
A better understanding of debt’s heavy impact can provide clarity on just why so many students believe the value of their degree doesn’t measure up to the costs incurred.

Not everyone worries about loans coming due while still attending college. More often, these approaching payments seem like a distant concern, one dwarfed by the immediate reality of exams, group projects, and part-time jobs. Many students also don’t fully comprehend the total amount of the monthly payments they’ll eventually need to make, or the number of years required to completely pay off their loans.

Students with greater awareness of the looming burden of debt may feel intense pressure to study as much as possible and earn good grades. They may hope doing well and graduating with honors will help them find a good job right away and stay on top of loan payments. While this goal may have merit, it can nonetheless leave them with little time for self-care, rest, and forming relationships and friendships. Some students may even burn themselves out with volunteer work or participation in activities they hope will appeal to potential employers.

Many students may prefer to avoid thinking about the debt they’ll face. But avoidance doesn’t always help, and it might eventually come out in the form of anxiety and other distress.

It’s also fairly common for students under pressure to neglect their health:

Students who have to work while attending college often have less time for restful sleep.
Busy students may end up snacking or choosing fast-food or convenience store meals because they don’t have time to prepare more nutritious, balanced meals.
Spending the majority of their time studying and working leaves students with little time for physical activity, socializing, or relaxation, important factors in physical and emotional wellness.
These challenges can trigger even more serious concerns. Students under a lot of pressure, especially those who already struggle to adequately meet their physical or emotional needs, may have a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

HOW STUDENT LOAN DEBT CAN DECREASE QUALITY OF LIFE
The significance of the debt burden tends to hit, for many borrowers, once they’ve graduated from college and made it through the 6-month grace period. Some students manage to secure a good job, perhaps one that pays well and offers benefits like health insurance. This can help relieve some debt-related anxieties.

In a best-case scenario, someone finds a position in their ideal field, earns promotions, and eventually sees their salary increase over time. The ability to make monthly student loan payments and still have enough money left to live a comfortable life is ideal, but it’s not a common scenario.

Research from the Centre for Global Higher Education suggests student loan debt can have a negative impact on life after graduation in the following ways:

Student loan debt can limit career choices by making it necessary to accept any available job in order to make loan payments. This can decrease workplace satisfaction, which can contribute to depression over time.
Debt, particularly higher amounts of debt, can lead many women to delay getting married, having children, or both.
Many people with student loan debt also delay buying homes. They may also have little or no savings and also lack money for retirement.
Not only does student loan debt make it harder to take care of daily financial needs, like rent, groceries, and clothing, it can make it almost impossible to budget for needed extras, like medical emergencies, car trouble, and so on. For some people, unnecessary expenses—vacations, trips to visit family members, or the occasional dinner out—might be completely out of the question.
Worries over debt often present physically, with symptoms like loss of sleep, muscle and head pain, or gastrointestinal distress.
Overall, people with student loan debt report higher levels of anxiety and financial distress, according to a 2013 article published in the American Psychological Association’s gradPSYCH Magazine. The article cites research that suggests people having trouble paying off student loans have almost twice the risk for mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression.

Complicating the issue is the fact that many people avoid talking about debt and other financial worries due to stigma, or fear of stigma. People with high levels of student debt may feel anxious about pursuing relationships, due to concerns about their future financial situation or worries about what their future partners may say about their debt.

STUDENT LOANS AND SUICIDE
It’s not uncommon for people with a lot of student loan debt to have a hard time talking about their financial worries. Many people simply struggle to open up about financial issues in general. But others might associate debt with a sense of failure or shame. This can make it difficult to reach out for professional support from therapists or financial counselors.

Avoidance of the problem doesn’t lead to improvement. It often makes the problem worse. Borrowers struggling to pay off student loan debt may come to believe they’ll never get ahead and feel hopeless about their financial future. For many, a bleak financial outlook translates to a bleak outlook overall.

Student Loan Planner, a financial coaching website, surveyed 829 members of their mailing list in 2019. According to their results, one out of every 15 people paying off student loan debt had considered suicide as a result of their debt. The results also suggested student loan debt plays some part in around 9 percent of deaths among young professionals who die by suicide.

The survey also found evidence to suggest borrowers with higher levels of debt are more likely to consider suicide: Just over 11 percent of borrowers who owe between $80,000 and $150,000 report contemplating suicide.

A final finding: Nearly 6 percent of those who replied to the survey knew someone whose student loan debt factored into their death by suicide.

Student loan debt is a serious concern among American adults. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or distressed by your debt, consider reaching out to a therapist for support. A therapist can’t help you resolve your debt. But they can offer compassion without judgment and help you address related mental health symptoms, enabling you to feel more capable of tackling debt in a productive way.

If you or someone you know is showing stress and wants to know how counseling can help – contact my Portland office for more information.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

References:

Cilluffo, A. (2019, August 13). 5 facts about student loans. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/08/13/facts-about-student-loans
Dickler, J. (2017, October 17). Student loans take a mental toll on young people. CNBC. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/17/student-loans-take-a-mental-toll-on-young-people.html
Lockert, M. (2019, September 4). Mental health survey: 1 in 15 high student debt borrowers considered suicide. Student Loan Planner. Retrieved from https://www.studentloanplanner.com/mental-health-awareness-survey
Maldonaldo, C. (2018, July 24). Price of college increasing almost 8 times faster than wages. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/camilomaldonado/2018/07/24/price-of-college-increasing-almost-8-times-faster-than-wages/#6a03ae1966c1
Novotney, A. (2013). Facing up to debt. gradPSYCh Magazine, 1. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2013/01/debt
Student loan debt has negative consequences in later life, review by IOE researchers suggests. (2018, June 11). UCL Institute of Education. Retrieved from https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/news/2018/jun/student-loan-debt-has-negative-consequences-later-life-review-ioe-researchers-suggests
Trends in college pricing 2019. (2019). College Board. Retrieved from https://research.collegeboard.org/pdf/2019-trendsincp-highlights.pdf
Walsemann, K. M., Gee, G. C., & Gentile, D. (2015). Sick of our loans: Student borrowing and the mental health of young adults in the United States. Social Science & Medicine, 124, 85-93. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953614007503