Gera McGuire, MA, NCC, LMHC
Gera McGuire, MA, NCC, LMHC

Summer Blues

When you hear “summer,” do you associate it with fun in the sun, relaxing family picnics, swimming in the cool lakes, and frosty lemonade on the front porch watching the fireflies come out to play at twilight?  For some people, however, “summer” brings to mind struggles with anxiety, depression, seasonal affective disorder of the summer variety and manic depression.  This information is provided to help you learn to manage symptoms during summer months.

 

A Few Factors That Can Impact Mood During the Warmer Months

  1.  Summer is the season of work.  Kids are home and soon get the summer boredom blues; time to play “activities coordinator.”  Yards need mowed and gardens weeded.  Neighbors mill about, hosting play dates and potlucks.  Open windows mean more dust to bust and dogs take advantage of the summer months to relentlessly shed. The seasonal stress factors of summer can add to an already busy and hectic life. 

  2. Let there be light!  Longer, hotter, days can make people uncomfortable and awake for longer periods of time.  The heat can make people fatigue easier, disrupt sleep cycles and diminish appetites.  Consequently, summer can be exhausting.

  3. Maybe it’s in your nature.  Some individuals have a biological (not situational) form of depression or anxiety.  These disorders can be treated effectively with medication.  Work with your doctor to find the regime that works for your body.  Counseling plus medication has been found to statistically significantly improve anxiety, depression and manage bipolar symptoms.

  4. Howdy, neighbor!  Now that the windows and doors are open and folks are out tending their lawns and gardens, they interact more frequently with neighbors.  This can be good or not so good, depending upon the situation.  Summer is also swimsuit season and that can trigger depression with individuals struggling with body image problems. 

  5. Energizer bunny? Individuals with Bipolar I and Bipolar II may notice their manic symptoms flare once the days become longer.  Major Depression can have a seasonal pattern as well.  If you find a decreased need for sleep, lots of energy (more than is typical in other months) and some impulsivity, these can be possible signs of hyperthymia (manic like periods without clinically significant impairment) or hypomania (elevated or irritable mood lasting 4 days or longer).  Talk to your health care professionals to see what they think.

 

Ways you Can Beat the Summer Blues

  1. Talk to your doctor and counselor.  We specialize in teaching people strategies to combat depression.  Medication may or may not be indicated but we know that the sooner depression is treated, the better the prognosis. Work with us!

  2. Maintain a regular schedule.  It can be challenging to get adequate sleep during the light-filled days of summer.  When 10:00 pm rolls around and children are still playing outside because the last vestiges of sunlight tease the skyline, it may be difficult to experience slumber-inducing peace and quiet.  Not getting enough sleep can contribute to fatigue, irritability and depression as well as deliver a blow to your immune system.  Consider a white noise machine, light blocking curtains, ear plugs and healthy sleep hygiene habits.

  3. Embrace siestas.  Take a power nap of about 10-20 minutes.  Short naps in the afternoons after lunch can help refresh your mind, increase alertness and relax muscles. 

  4. Hydrate.  Dehydration causes foggy brain, confusion, decreased alertness and irritability. Did you know that a brisk walk can generate up to 16 ounces of sweat? If you’re thirsty, you’re already hydrated.  Know the signs: thirsty, muscle cramps, nausea, no more sweating, dry mouth, dark and low volume or urine, dry skin, feeling tired, dry eyes.  Water is your friend.

  5. Don’t underestimate the power of exercise.  Gotta love the natural effects of getting your heart and lungs challenged!  Endorphins are our body’s own anti-depressants and are released with hearty exercise.  Exercise also helps regulate sleep and decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Try getting out early before the sun warms things up or wait until after it’s cooled down a bit.  In humid climates, you’ll find people walking in an air conditioned shopping mall to get their steps in.   Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine and stay hydrated to avoid heat stroke.

  6. Love your body.  Unplug from social media.  Stop watching television and YouTube.  Put down the magazines and put your blinders on.  Run through the sprinkler like no one’s watching! Remember that no one’s judgment of you can hurt you if you don’t give it credence.

  7. My name is “no.”  If socializing is too stressful and you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s ok to not partake or ask someone else to host your event this year.  It’s ok not to answer the door or the telephone.  If this avoidance lasts more than a month, however, it’s advisable to see a professional about possible anxiety.

 

 

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not considered therapy, mental health treatment or an attempt to help individuals self-diagnose.  If you or are a loved one are experiencing extreme depression, please contact 911 immediately or go to your nearest emergency room.  Only a mental health professional is qualified to diagnose mental health conditions.  Please contact your family doctor or psychiatrist to obtain a referral to see a mental health professional if you believe that you need treatment for any mental health disorder.

Grief Lingers

This afternoon, I was pondering the time frame we all put on grief, our expectations about when society says folks should be “over it” and have “moved on.”  I think that’s really an unrealistic expectation and can be a defensive mechanism which some people use to not attend to their pain or their fears.  I believe that it’s important for us to realize that the love we share with others doesn’t have an expiration date and neither does our grief.  Continue Reading Here

Mommy, I Can't Sleep! Helping Your Young Child to Fall Asleep on Their Own

Sleep is a very important ingredient for a healthy child. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a child will spend 40 percent of his or her childhood asleep and about 70% of children under 10 experience some sort of sleep problem. (1)  



Many parents find their children coming into their room to be comforted. Do the little voices in your house ever say these words: “I can’t fall asleep!”   “I need a drink of water.” “Can I sleep with you?” If so, you’re not alone.   Read more here.

It Only Takes a Spark

In 1972, researchers Isen and Levine conducted a very interesting experiment. They placed dimes in payphone coin return slots in San Francisco. An incident was then staged so that after the subject being observed left the telephone booth, a woman would drop some papers “accidentally.” The researchers discovered that the subjects who found the dime in the return slot were 22% more likely to help the woman in need than those who did not find a coin. Moral of the story: it only takes a spark to get a fire going!



Try your own kindness experiment at home. Give a little unsolicited love to your family – a cute party napkin in a lunchbox, an extra hug goodbye, a surprise plate of cookies and glasses of milk on the table with a note that says, “You’re so worth it!” Then sit back and watch the loving ripple effect.

 



What cute gestures of love are you going to try out today?

Mother Nature's Lessons

On Easter morning, I was outside and happened to notice a little Junco sitting in our neighbor's driveway up against their garage door.  Its right wing was sticking out from its body, apparently broken or sprained.  Slowly approaching him, I noticed that he was breathing laboriously but not making any sounds.  It looked like this little guy needed some wildlife rehabilitation attention.  After a bit of coaxing and following around the hobbling bird, I was able to scoop him up and transfer him into a small cardboard box lined with a towel for comfort.  My children were just waking up to search for the Easter Bunny baskets when I came into the house.  The story continues here...

Maximizing the Benefits of Therapy

Many studies indicate that clients in therapy do much better than those only taking medication to alleviate symptoms or treat their problems with self-help without professional supportive services. Therapy can be a very beneficial step towards improving wellness. Get the most out of your time with your therapist by investing yourself in the process.  Read more here...

Coaching Versus Counseling: What's the Difference? Part One

A lot of people wonder what the difference is between life coaching and counseling. It may seem more gauche to say you have a “Personal Coach” than “I’m in therapy.” Both professions have the potential to bring a benefit to their clients. Let’s take a look at some similarities and differences


Coaching Versus Counseling: What's the Difference? Part Two

Part One of this two part article addressed some of the confusion about  what's the difference between the helping professions of counseling and coaching.  Often what counseling means or what coaching means is  defined by the professional delivering the service and their mode of operandi.  Take that into consideration when you choose between  counseling, coaching and the specific individual you want to work with.   It pays to do your research since you may waste time and money trying to force a round peg into a square hole.  Click here to read more.

 

Bringing Back the "Holly Jolly" to the Holidays

Does the jingle of bells bring out the Scrooge in you? Does the scent of fruitcake turn you into the Grinch?  November and December may conjure images of snuggling up to a crackling fire in the fireplace with a cup of hot tea in hand for some.  For others, the cooler seasons may bring to mind lonely nights and bleak days.

 

You can not only survive the holidays but actually infuse some happiness into them.  For various reasons the holidays can be an espcially difficult time - dealing with the loss of a loved one, negotiating tense relationships during family gatherings, or scrounging for extra money to buy presents.  Survival tips can be found here.

 

 

Helping Grieving Children During the Holidays

Holidays are an especially difficult time for the child who is actively grieving the loss of a loved one.  Family traditions can change or be remiss of a special part that their loved one has taken part of.  Here are some tips to help the grieving child during the holiday season.

  • Don't be afraid to share memories of loved ones and your feelings.  Parents and adults role model for children and talking about memories can be very healing.  Allow your child to openly talk about their feelings and that these feelings are normal.
  • Find a way to incorporate the deceased person's memory into the holidays.  Some people put an extra plate out at dinner.  Others hang their loved one's stocking and fill it with a letter and special photos.  Some like to take flowers to the cemetary.  There are as many ways to as there are people.
  • Allow the child down time during busy events to decompress.  During a Christmas concert or a family gathering, the child may need to have some down time.  Lots of feelings and thoughts are being processed even though they may not be able to put things into words.  Build this need for quiet time into your schedule.
  • Be available.  You may need to carve out special time from the hectic hustle and bustle to give the pause necessary to be present for your child.  If a child feels that you are too busy or are too busy themselves to find the opportunity to talk, it may result in emotions that get bunched up inside and then pop out in the form of misbehavior.
  • Create new traditions or redesign old ones.  It is important to give children a voice in this matter.  Some traditions hurt too much or need to be put on hold.  Other traditions they want to keep.  Help them redesign their experiences as needed during the holidays.  Decide together as a group how you want to handle your traditions.

Holidays tend to be a stressful and busy time of year.  Being together and focusing on what you do have to be thankful for and being open to conversations about your deceased love one will be helpful during this poignant season.

My Children Are Driving Me Crazy!

I think it is in every child’s job description to - at least,
in some shape or form, during some point in their first 18 years of life - successfully stomp on their parent’s very last nerve and make them go beyond the point of patience. 

 

Why is that? Bad karma? Bad parenting techniques resulting in a sassy child? Having “bad kids” who came into the world “damaged?” 
   

I believe that our children drive us batty sometimes because we love them and what they do seriously matters to us… especially the things they do that drive us to the brink.  Read more...

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© Gera McGuire, MA, NCC, LMHC