Category Archives: Health

Helping Teens with Their Mental Health

Therapy doesn’t come without resistance, especially when you’re dealing with a teenager.  It can be very difficult to get a teen on board with therapy because there’s usually a lot of defensiveness.  I want to discuss a handful of reasons why teens resist treatment:

1. Social stigma.  Anything associated with therapy or mental health issues is a little bit of a taboo.  Kids worry about people pointing their fingers and saying they’re crazy. 

2. Rebelliousness.  No matter what you suggest, some kids will just go against you because you’re an authority figure to knock heads with. 

3. Poor insight.  Teenagers have a limited capacity to look at themselves honestly or realistically.  They often don’t understand how their behavior or problems are affecting them.

4. Fear.  They’re afraid of being “crazy,” that others will perceive them as such, or that they can’t get better.  They also may be scared to death of having to take a deeper look at themselves or their problems.

5. Embarrassment.  They’re embarrassed that they can’t straighten themselves out, and therefore, accepting help from others can be difficult.

6.    Facing their problems may be too painful or overwhelming. 

7. Misconceptions.  Most teens don’t know how psychotherapy works, and they’re worried about what will happen if they admit to things.  They don’t know that the therapist cannot give their parents the information (therapist-patient laws prohibit that, even with minors).

8. Concealment. They don’t want to admit that they’re hiding something – cutting, abusing drugs, etc.  

9. Holding on.  This is what my book, Bad Childhood – Good Life, is all about.  They’re holding on to the drugs or other habit.  They’ve become so dependent on a way of thinking and behaving that it has become their identity.  They’re scared to death of giving up their self-protective mechanism of hiding from reality because it means they will be stripped naked in their own mind, and that’s pretty scary. 

10. Unworthiness. Some kids get so beaten down and depressed that they don’t feel like they’re worth much or that anyone would care about them. 

So, those are some of the main reasons kids resist treatment.  But the question still remains: How do I get my child to attend therapy?

First off, don’t trap them.  For example, don’t say you’re going to the mall and then drop them off at a therapist’s office.  That doesn’t work well.  There are two really good techniques I have always suggested to parents:

1. Make it a team effort.  Say something like, “You know, you and I have been fighting a lot lately, and there’s just so little happiness in the house.  So, I’m thinking if you and I went into counseling together, maybe a therapist could help us sort all this stuff out and make things better.  You’ll be happier and you’ll be able to do all the things you used to enjoy and probably miss.  I’m not sure how to make things better myself, but a therapist could help us work it out.”  That way it’s not, “You wacked-out kid, I’m putting you in therapy because I can’t stand it anymore.”  Make it about how “we” – you and me – can’t figure it out and that you need to get somebody who can help. 
 
2. Make a definitive statement (e.g. “I’m going to schedule the appointment so we can sort it out together”) and then talk about it in the days before the appointment.  For example, say, “Are you a little nervous about the therapy?  Because I am.”  If you tell your kid that you’re having apprehension about the therapist saying you didn’t do everything right, they are going to look at you and think, “All right, this is more even-steven. It’s not only about me.”  The fact that you are both feeling discomfort will be comforting to them. 

When they start therapy, tell your child you want them to go to four sessions, and then after that, you, your child, and the therapist will discuss if there is more to do.  During the first session, your teen will usually be angry.  I remember I used to have so many kids come in to my office and just sit there and glare at me for an hour: “Is it over yet?!”…”Is it over yet?!”…  The second time they come in, there will typically be a little less anger and more movement toward talking about their pain.  At that point, a good therapist will say, “You know, last week you were pretty angry about having to be here, and I don’t blame you.”  The kid is immediately going to be surprised: “She doesn’t blame me?!”  Being forced to do something you really don’t want to do and open up to a stranger about very painful things (which you really don’t want to do), is hard.  However, a good therapist will make your teen feel like they’re not being forced to do any of that, and instead, simply help them be happier and figure out their parents better.  Slowly but surely, by the third and fourth sessions things will be less forced and more about reducing the pain. 

While your child is in therapy, the family has to be very supportive at home.  They should never ask what happened in therapy – that’s none of their darned business!  Instead, it should be all about subtle reinforcement (e.g. “You seem more creative and relaxed right now, and I think that’s wonderful”).  Remember: a hug and a kiss can go a long way.

Listen Up, Ladies! Ten Reasons to Ditch a Guy

In general, people say you shouldn’t pass judgment on others.  Well actually, when it comes to dating, you should.  When you date, you’re supposed to discern what is good, bad, right, wrong, healthy, and unhealthy about a person.  You need to know when to pull the plug because if you don’t, you’re going to experience misery, anguish, and frustration, and waste a hell of a lot of time.

Although I could discuss the topic both ways, I’m going to focus on the ladies.  Here are 10 reasons to ditch a guy:

Reason #1: He’s base when talking about women
You know the music where the singer calls women “hos”?  That sort of thing.  If he leers, acts snotty, calls women “bitches,” or worse, it’s not a good plan to be dating him because his disrespect for women in general also includes you.

Reason #2: He’s a momma’s boy
Relationships are filled with enough decisions to be worked out between the two of you – it doesn’t need to be the three of you.  If his mom handpicks everything from his career path to his apartment, take caution.  I assure you my son’s apartment was definitely not selected or decorated by his mother (even if his taste is, as I like to say, “Eclectic”).

Reason #3: He’s primarily interested in himself
If everything is about his opinions, his concerns, and his dreams, or he likes to hear himself talk, then he’s not really interested in you to any great depth.  You’re just a window dressing on his life.

Reason #4: He has addiction issues
If he has had any trouble with drugs, gambling, or alcohol, don’t even bother.  That often requires a whole lifetime of management and counseling.  Instead of marrying into it, go to school and get a license to be a clinical social worker – that way at least you’ll get paid to do it.

Reason #5: He’s not honest and/or trustworthy
Now, I’m not talking about him saying, “Of course I enjoy your cooking,” and then going out to get a taco when he says he’s putting gas in the car.  That’s what we call telling a “white lie” in order to avoid hurting your feelings.  I’m talking about major things: He says he has never been convicted of a felony and you find out he’s got a rap sheet, or he swears he doesn’t have an STD and then you end up with a little surprise.  Big lies like, “I’ve never been married before,” or, “No, I don’t have kids,” set the foundation for a lack of trust, and if you can’t trust your man, you’re in store for a lifetime of anxiety, frustration, and big-time drama. 

Reason #6: He’s negative
You know the type: He doesn’t like his job, thinks everyone on the road is an idiot, and pouts about nothing ever going his way.  Everybody has bouts of negativity (I know I do), but dealing with a constantly negative person is draining.  It will eventually drag you – and the relationship – down.  If you’ve got a guy who is negative all the time, dump him.

Reason #7: He’s got Peter Pan Syndrome
Guys like this seem charming because they act like kids or perpetual teenagers.  However, unless a guy can take emotional and fiscal responsibility, you don’t have yourself a real man.

Reason #8: He lacks ambition
This funnels from reason #7.  He needs to have a goal – any type of goal.  Life is a challenge, and if you don’t want somebody who isn’t going to protect and provide for you, don’t stay with someone who has no passion or ambition.  A guy who gets fired and then sits back and doesn’t look for a job isn’t the kind of man you want.  If he’s got a “why bother” attitude about life, you should have a “why bother” attitude about him.

Reason #9: He’s a cheater
Life is short.  The last thing you want to do is spend your time worrying about who your guy is in bed with.  I think there should be a one-strike law: If you’ve made a promise to each other that you’re not going to date other people anymore and he strays, dump him.  Don’t accept any excuses.

Reason #10: He isn’t good boyfriend material
Though somebody may look good on paper, if they don’t mesh very well with your lifestyle, family, or friends, you don’t want to have a future with them.  Otherwise, it’s going to be a lifetime of dealing with them not bothering or caring, and making a mess when they can’t fit in.

http://yahoo.match.com/y/article.aspx?articleid=13124&TrackingID=526103&BannerID=1381809

Ten Small Changes to Be a Healthier and Happier Mom

Being a mom is tough.  I remember when my son was a baby, survival was the only thing on my mind.  Even though they’re cute and you love them to death, infants and toddlers can tire you out and even put you in a bad mood.  Here’s a list of 10 small changes you can make in order to be a healthier, happier mom:

1. Cut the caffeine.  Coffee might keep you going, but your caffeine addiction – yes it’s a chemical addiction – can dehydrate you (it makes you pee more) and cause you to feel jittery or anxious.  This is not a good thing when you’re already stressed out with a kid.  Have one, maybe two cups a day, but that’s it.  For the rest of the day, sip decaf, herbal teas, or just plain water.  That way, you’ll stay hydrated and energized.

2. Have sex.  A lot of new moms call my show complaining that they are too tired or don’t feel like having sex, as though it’s a terrible obligation or assignment.  However, with all the crazy hormonal changes you’re going through, sex might be just the solution.  Sex is therapeutic.  Orgasms release oxytocin, endorphins, and DHEA, which create positive emotions, release tension, improve mood, and give your immune system a boost. In addition, sex does wonders for that post-pregnancy belly pooch because it strengthens the pelvic floor and the lower abs.  Forget the apple – sex a day keeps the doctor away. 

3. Get sleep.  Sixty percent of moms say sleep is their primary challenge.  Are you having trouble falling asleep?  I suggest 10 minutes of yoga, prayer, or meditation before going to bed.  If you find it really hard to shut off your brain at night, keep a journal on your nightstand and before you go to sleep, jot down your to-do list for the next day. Anything that is worrying you, write it down. By getting it on paper, you can say to yourself, “It’s taken care of, now I can sleep.”

4. Eat breakfast.  It’s the first meal (you are “breaking the fast”), and it sets the tone for the rest of the day.  You need to put food in your belly within a half hour of waking up to rev up your metabolism and get your brain going.  Aim for a mix of protein and fiber, such as yogurt with fresh fruit or oatmeal with berries and almonds.

5. Don’t set unrealistic goals.  Don’t overload your brain with 40 million things you think you need to get done.  You won’t stick to what you can’t do.  For example, instead of looking at exercise in terms of weight-loss, approach it in terms of endurance.  When you start off, it may take you an hour to go around the neighborhood. A week later it may take 58 minutes, and then the next week 56 minutes, etc.  That kind of observation is better than stepping on a scale and getting demoralized.

6. Listen to music.  Just like Mother Laura has been saying for years, a recent scientific review published in the journal Nutrition reports that listening to music strengthens immunity, digestion, and pain perception, reduces the incidence of heart failure, and even improves recovery time after a strenuous workout. So, load up your iPod with the kind of music that makes you feel good.  For me, that’s Motown.  When the music comes on, my mind immediately goes blank and I’m just movin’. 

7. Cut out the packaged foods.  Eating any kind of food that can last a long time on the shelf makes you live a shorter amount of time.  Instead of packaged snacks, eat real food.  No antibiotics, hormones, chemicals, or added sugar.

8. Snack smart.  There are times when I get out a teaspoon of peanut butter, lay it in my mouth, and just let it melt (if you have to talk, I don’t recommend doing this).  It keeps my blood sugar up, and it’s a good source of protein.

9. Make your workouts work for you.  With little kids, you may not have time for a half hour or hour workout, but you can break it up into 5-10 minute increments throughout the day.  Or get up earlier.  When my son, Deryk, was little, I used to ride him around in a seat on my bicycle.  I rode him to the park and he’d play, and then we’d get back on the bike and go back.  I also took him to the mall. This worked great: like one of those wind-up toys, I’d set him down, face him in the direction I wanted him to go, and let go.  He would run forward and I would do my little shuffle run behind him.  It’s amazing how you can get exercise by doing simple things like this (of course you get tired and they don’t!).  You can get a good 20 minutes in just by chasing your kid around the mall (if they like to run in a straight line and you don’t take your eyes off them).

10. Stop stressing. Exercise, meditate, or do something fun with your husband.  Whether it’s sex or playing a board game, you need to have some fun before you go to bed.

Rekindling the Bedroom Flame

Sex doesn’t just happen like it does in the movies.  People are not always swept away with fireworks and mutual orgasms.  Instead, human beings have to learn how to make love.  Unlike dogs, cats, birds, and other animals that have sex as an instinctive joining for procreation, for humans it’s a learned behavior.

When people look at porn or read romance novels (the female version of porn), they think that’s how sex is supposed to be.  However, it takes time to get to know each other’s bodies and communicate (which is usually the part people don’t do).  Oftentimes, couples feel embarrassed or think certain things are taboo.

This is where sex therapy comes in.  Most people believe that something has to be broken in order for them to go to sex therapy. However, the first thing you should know is that you don’t have to wait until there’s a sexual problem in your relationship before you get help.  After many years of habits forming and walls going up, certain feelings and behaviors get entrenched and often become hard to reverse.   A lot of divorces could be avoided if people dealt with these things sooner.

There are all kinds of events and experiences which get in the way of people feeling comfortable, relaxed, and open.  If there’s a medical issue (cancer treatment, surgical procedure, physical disability, etc.), a history of sexual abuse or rape, or perhaps lovemaking has simply slipped from your schedule, sex therapy can help with a number of areas.

The goal is to talk about your feelings, thoughts, and fantasies with your spouse and put them out there for the therapist to examine.  If a guy is too quick to the draw or a woman can’t seem to be able to reach an orgasm, these kinds of issues can be addressed openly and honestly. It’s all about sexual and emotional enhancement, and having some fun too!

Now let me dispel one fear right off the bat.  When you go to sex therapy, you don’t have sex in the office.  Some people think, “Oh my gosh, are we going to have to get naked and do stuff in front of the therapist?!”  No, you don’t.  And by the way, if you do go to somebody who tells you to get naked and do things, get out of there and report them.

If you’re not feeling satisfied, if you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, if you want to experiment but your spouse doesn’t (or vice versa), if painful issues from your past are interring, or if you feel like infidelity is the only answer, then you and your spouse should see a sex therapist.

That being said, not all sexual issues require therapy.  I have some tips for you and your spouse to try first:

In the beginning of a terrific relationship, most people are in the mood most of the time.  But with careers, kids, and the house, life becomes busy with demands and responsibilities.  People underestimate the importance of hugging, touching, and loving on a daily basis.  You need to make time for each other.  Be sure to talk about something more than what bills need to be paid or what has to happen tomorrow. 

When you’ve made time together, it’s important not to expect that you will both be aroused and filled with desire immediately.  In addition, don’t stick to a formula.  For example, “I do this same thing to turn him/her on and then we go to sleep” isn’t romantic.  Playful interaction is important.  Think about it as improvisational jazz or a dance: make it spontaneous and have some fun with it.

Moreover, don’t make the orgasm the be-all, end-all.  It’s been calculated that we spend eight hours of our lives in orgasm.  That’s not a lot of time.  Having an orgasm is great, but it’s not necessarily the point.  Your focus should be on the amount of time spent lovemaking or else you’ll miss out on a lot of fun.

Most importantly, communication is the best way to get positive feedback.  When you go to an expensive restaurant, you take time with the menu, you discuss the possibilities, you savor every bite, you share from each other’s plates, and you talk about the meal afterwards – the presentation, the flavors, the sauces, the ingredients, etc.  Do the same with sex (e.g. “I love it when you touch me exactly like that.”).  Talking about sex does not take the romance away, and in fact, giving feedback to your partner about what you find pleasurable is a wonderful gift because then he or she knows they’re not failing. 

How to Make Healthy Choices

A woman recently called my program wanting to know why she couldn’t maintain a diet and exercise regime.  I asked her, “Do you know the difference between you and a person who doesn’t stop?”  “No,” she responded.  “They don’t stop,” I said.

There are two ways we make choices.  The first way is reflective.  In the moment, we are consciously aware of our actions and motivations, and we make a choice with a goal in mind.  The other is reflexive.  Similar to lower animals, we don’t change our behavior because of the consequences; we don’t stop to think at all really, we just do it like some kind of machine.  For example, many people sit down with a plate of food and don’t make choices about what’s on the plate or how much of each thing they’re eating – they just eat.

Routine behaviors are very hard to control.  However, the more you make things reflective and consciously parallel your behavior with your goals, the easier it will be for you to achieve them.

Last year, a man called my show who was struggling with pornography.  Wherever he was – in his office, car, etc. – his reflex was to look at porn and masturbate.  I told him to photocopy pictures of his wife and kids and put them on his cell phone, the visor of his car, and every computer he owned.  I then said, “The next time you’re preparing to masturbate to porn, look at the pictures of your family and make a choice.  Do you want to have dignity as a husband and father, or do you want to do that?”

He called me back a week later saying that when he reflected on it, he chose not to do it.  When he didn’t reflect on his actions, he grabbed for the porn and his parts.  Taking the behavior from automatic to conscious was all about reflecting on the behavior and making a choice.

Unfortunately, a lot of people want immediate gratification and do most things without thinking. More than half of deaths worldwide are due to four big diseases: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease.  The main causes are smoking, overeating, excessive alcohol consumption, and sedentary lifestyles. It’s estimated that 75 percent of diabetes and heart disease cases and 40 percent of cancers would be prevented by changing the behaviors that cause them. 

With all the information out there, you wouldn’t think so many people would make such poor health choices.  And yet, they do.  Remember the ads with the woman smoking through a hole in her trachea?  Remember the “this is your brain on drugs” commercials with the egg frying in the pan?  Well, even after seeing these, people are still smoking and doing drugs.  Personalizing the threat isn’t enough.

One time I asked a waitress in a restaurant if she thought the calorie counts printed on the menu affected people’s decisions about what they ate.  She candidly responded, “To fit people, yes.  But to overweight people, the calorie count means nothing.”

The reason people don’t make healthy choices simply comes down to the fact that they don’t reflect on their decisions.  Information by itself means nothing if you don’t care.  That’s one explanation for why there are so many diet books on The New York Times best-seller list: people buy the books thinking that simply reading them will get them to change and when they don’t, they move on to the next one.

So the next time you sit down for a meal, reflect, “Is this what I should be eating? How much should I be eating? Which things on my plate should I toss?”   Make a conscious effort to cut your portion size in half, and eventually, it will become habit to put less on your plate.  As I have said time and again, it’s all about character.  Some people use theirs and others don’t.

What will you choose to do?