Mindfulness: Why We Should All Practice It

By: Sanjita Ekhelikar

We live in a time when everyone is either living in the past or future. Being in the moment, or living in the present, seems to be a concept foreign to so many of us. By not living in the current moment, we are simply ensuring a life filled of stresses and regrets. How can we better learn to focus on the present?

Mindfulness means being aware of our surroundings, our body, our feelings, and thoughts in the moment. It involves recognizing and accepting our thoughts or sensations for what they are in a given moment without any judgment or negative perceptions. The practice of mindfulness gives our minds the chance to tune into the present.

It is critical for all of us to learn to practice mindfulness and how to be in the present. This will help us to avoid living a stressful life. This technique helps us learn to relax, be calm, and appreciate the present. Learning to practice mindfulness does not involve any major changes we need to make to our lives – simply setting aside a few minutes to be aware of ourselves and surroundings can have long term benefits. Here are some examples of mindful exercises we can all strive to implement in our daily lives:

  1. Mindful Breathing: Stand or sit down in a comfortable position and focus your thoughts and energy on your breath. Breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth. Be aware of only your breathing, and let go of your thoughts, letting them come and go as they pass.
  2. Mindful Observing: Look at any object in your surroundings/environment and focus solely on the object for a few minutes. Take a moment to notice every possible aspect of the object, including its color, shape, movement, features, and how it changes. Your mind will be focused on this object and will enable you to relax.
  3. Mindful Listening: Close your eyes and take a moment to listen to all of the sounds in your surroundings. Try to identify as many sounds as you can possibly hear and describe them. This allows your mind to again focus on something in the current moment instead of the thoughts in your mind.

If you or someone you know is suffering from stress or anxiety and wants to learn how mindfulness can help you, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

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Psychiatric Medication: The Stigma of Mental Health Medication

By: Sanjita Ekhelikar

When someone gets a fever, a bacterial infection, or any other physical illness, what do we tell them? “Rest, go to the doctor, and take some medicine.” We strongly encourage them to receive a prescription for and to take medication for their illness. If a sick individual were to not take their medication, we would tell them that they are being irresponsible, and that they are not taking care of themselves. Why do we not say the same when it comes to medication for people struggling with mental illness?

In a time when mental health is becoming increasingly important, society still has a stigma around this, primarily regarding prescription psychiatric medications for it. There is still a lack of understanding about what mental health is and how it impacts people. Some view those with these difficulties as “crazy” and “unstable.” Medications for such conditions are seen in a negative light, and are seen to be only for people who are labelled “crazy” or “unstable.” Since mental illnesses are related to the mind and are invisible to the eye, many in our society cannot believe that these illnesses are serious, and thus consider taking medication for them to be shameful and unnecessary. As a result, thousands of individuals feel ashamed to get the proper help and take medications. They thus must struggle and suffer silently.

In reality, mental health medications can be extremely beneficial, and can change the lives of those who take them. Mental illness can be grueling to live with and can compromise one’s life and wellbeing. Medication helps these individuals to overcome their condition and lead a better life, especially paired with psychotherapy. Antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs have been developed to help these people in need, and we should be encouraging people to take them and take the necessary steps in getting better instead of shaming them.

While we have no problem encouraging our loved ones to take Tylenol, Advil, Cough syrup, and many other medications for their physical ailments, we should be just as promoting of them taking Lexapro, Zoloft, Prozac, and other psychological medications. It is time to eliminate stigmas around taking care of our mental health, and encourage and applaud those who have taken the steps towards a better life through using mental health medications.

If you or someone you know is suffering mental illness and would like to consider medication, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Restrictive Eating Disorder: Orthorexia

By: Sanjita Ekhelikar

“Sugar-free,” “low-calorie,” “antioxidant-rich,” “organic.” These are all words we are surrounded by in a world where healthy eating is so greatly stressed and strived for. We are educated from an early age about how it is important to choose healthier options in order to maintain our wellbeing and avoid illnesses. Healthy eating seems to be failproof – nothing could possibly go wrong with wanting to make healthy food choices, right?

Wrong. While healthy eating is extremely beneficial in reasonable amounts, it can take an unhealthy turn when the desire to eat clean becomes obsessive. This condition is defined as orthorexia, an obsession with eating healthy foods and eliminating those which do not fall under this category. Although not formally diagnosed, this illness can truly affect one’s wellbeing. People with orthorexia completely ban foods that they do not think are healthy, and often restrict calories as well, thus destroying their relationships with food.

There are many symptoms of orthorexia to note. Individuals with this disorder excessively look at nutritional facts and caloric information. They are continually concerned about health information and ingredients, and cut out foods that do not qualify as healthy (such as sugars, carbs, and fats). Orthorexia can cause individuals to spend lots of time thinking about the foods they need to consume, and makes them uncomfortable if they are only surrounded by “unhealthy” food choices. Orthorexia is often comorbid with obsessive compulsive disorder. As a result of orthorexia, individuals deprive themselves of key nutrients and essential calories for proper functioning. They and can develop issues such as decreased blood pressure, blood sugar fluctuations, digestive issues, impaired brain functioning and concentration, sleeping difficulties, hair loss, loss of menstrual cycle, and muscle cramping.

Although healthy eating can be advantageous, it must be encouraged in a realistic and reasonable way. People should be informed that having a well-balanced diet is important, and involves eating foods such as carbs, sugars, and fats which may be believed to be “unhealthy”. Overall physical health can be maintained even if eating those “junky” meals every now and then and not obsessively restricting one’s diets. By promoting this, we can also certify that we encourage both good physical AND mental health.

If you or someone you know is suffering from orthorexia and/or other eating issues, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Perfectionism: How Striving to be the Best can Leave us at our Worst

By: Sanjita Ekhelikar

We are commonly told that no one in the world is “perfect”, and that there is no such thing as “perfection”. Or so they say. Then why do so many people around the world still try to aim for this standard of “perfect” in what they do in life?

Perfectionists are individuals who strive for flawlessness. They set very high standards and expectations for themselves, have a set way of wanting to do things, and take time to be truly satisfied with their work. Aiming for perfectionism definitely has benefits. We all know that one person from school or work who would be the “perfectionist”: they would be the most successful, put out high quality work, and constantly keep pushing boundaries so that their final products are amazing.

However, being a perfectionist has its disadvantages and dangers. Individuals who seek to be “perfect” set extremely high standards for themselves, which results in their being very critical of themselves. Perfectionists tend to notice and fixate on all of their flaws, as they wish to not only produce “perfect” work but also to be “perfect” people. Whenever a perfectionist make mistakes, as does everyone in the world, he or she is unable to look past the “failure” and thus feel extreme guilt, shame, and sadness.

Perfectionistic thinking underlies several mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, OCD, and eating disorders. It can even lead to suicidal thoughts. Perfectionists’ inability to accept failure, constant self-criticism, and desire to act, be, and look perfect, drives them towards unhealthy behaviors and thinking. They are constantly hard on themselves for not achieving “perfect,” which is inevitable because there is no such thing as perfect! These patterns of thinking and negative behaviors need to be monitored for the risks they present in causing mental illness.

Instead of striving for “perfection,” we should be encouraging others and ourselves to be the best versions of who we are. Remind people that there is in fact a beauty in accepting yourself and your positive attributes, and in being kind to yourself. Encourage people to accept themselves, make mistakes, and to strive to not look perfect. We should truly appreciate ourselves and accept BOTH the good and the imperfect. By addressing and changing the perfectionist way of thinking, we can better prevent, understand, and heal many mental illnesses.

If you or someone you know is suffering from any of the aforementioned symptoms, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Lack of Intimacy – A Common Problem in Marriages

By: Gisela Serrano

One common problem that most marriages experience is a lack of intimacy. Couples tend to have different daily schedules – making it difficult to find time to dedicate to their partner. When children come into the picture, it becomes more complex as the children tend to become the priority and the focus of the parent’s attention. This means that the couples own needs and desires, including their sexual needs, are put on hold. Couples often become too tired or too accustomed to their daily routines and forget the importance of having a healthy sex life with their spouse. In cases like these, it is important for the married couple to communicate and talk about the issue at hand, as scary and uncomfortable as it may seem. You may even be surprised as to how well the conversation turns out, but you will never know until you take that next step. Having an open and honest conversation regarding your sex life can be the key to avoiding marital problems over the lack of intimacy. The bottom line is – sex is not the most important thing in a marriage and should not be expected to be the only thing to hold a marriage together – but it certainly is an important and healthy part of marriage.

If you and your spouse are having marital issues including, but not limited to, lack of intimacy contact Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy at our location in Paramus, NJ (201) 368-3700 or at our location in Manhattan (212) 722-1920. You can also visit our website https://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/ for more information.

Source: Madsen, P. (May 29, 2012). Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shameless-woman/201205/love-and-the-little-or-no-sex-marriage

Stress: The Endless Pressures on the Brain

By: Sanjita Ekhelikar

A common factor that unites all people is experiencing stress. Stress is the way that our bodies react to various situations including pressure, threats, challenges, or barriers. All individuals experience this in some form in their work, home, or school settings, some to a greater degree than others. We live in a world where we often encourage those around us to do more, work harder and longer, and essentially take on more stressors. This is a very dangerous situation, as stress can be very harmful to our brains.

There are numerous impacts that prolonged stress can have on our brains. When a stressor is present, the body has several physical reactions, including increased heart rate, sweating, raised levels of epinephrine, and constricted blood vessels. In our brains, a signaling pathway is activated involving the hippocampus and pituitary gland which results in the release of the hormone glucocorticoid, a stress hormone. This hormone is generally regulated by the body, released in fixed amounts when we wake up and is necessary for our body to operate. However, when stress is chronic and the brain pathway is activated excessively, glucocorticoids can inhibit growth, bone formation, and the immune response. They are linked to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, destroying neurons, impairing memory, and slowing down cognitive function.

As stress is faced recurrently, the brain learns to acclimate to the body being in constant states of elevated tension and anxiety. The circuitry of neurons and connections of synapses changes to adapt to the higher levels of glucocorticoids. Additionally, people exposed to more stress noted to have a larger amygdala in the brain, which is the region responsible for processing threatening and emotional situations. A larger amygdala indicates that the individual is more susceptible to stressors and is unable to recover from them well. Finally, such individuals were also seen to have a smaller hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, both responsible for decision making and rational thinking.

It is evident that the stressful lifestyles that many of us live can have a severe adverse impact on our brains and health, most invisible to the eye but nevertheless perilous. Instead of endorsing demanding lives and tiring jobs, which can have negative consequences, we should be inspiring people to learn how to relax and take time for themselves. People should be urged to engage in activities such as meditation, pursue hobbies, spending time with loved ones, and give their brains a break from the stressors and anxiety that are continuously causing pressure.

If you or someone you know is suffering from excessive stress and/or mental illness, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

OCD: Supporting a Loved one with OCD

By: Sanjita Ekhelikar

It can be devastating to see a loved one suffer through a mental illness. This holds very true for loved ones of individuals afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. OCD is a ruthless anxiety disorder that traps people in repetitive thoughts or rituals. The disorder is characterized by irrational thoughts, or “obsessions,” that people have, which are addressed through “compulsions,” or behaviors to appease the thoughts. Obsessions and compulsions can range from concern over hygiene or safety, resulting in recurrent handwashing or checking locks on doors, or clarifying meanings with other people, which result in repeating words and phrases. An attempt to resist the compulsion leads to extreme feelings of anxiety, which are extremely unpleasant.

Individuals with OCD are constantly fighting their minds every single day, and fighting the urge to give in to the compulsions while also experiencing anxiety. As a family member or loved one of the effected individual, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to best be supportive and help the significant other overcome their OCD. Here are a list of tips to support a loved one struggling with OCD:

  1. Do not accommodate the OCD. A large part of this illness involves the individual asking for reassurance or wanting to continuously repeat an action or phrase until the OCD is “satisfied.” While it may seem like giving them the reassurance is the nice thing to do, this actually worsens the condition. Reassurance may remove anxiety for a short amount of time, but allows the OCD to continue to take over and keeps the individual under the control of OCD.
  2. Uncertainty is key. When presented with the previous situation about being asked reassurance, the best thing to do is leave the individual with uncertainty. This will result in them feeling anxiety, which may be hard to see, but is crucial in their resisting the compulsions and in the long run overcoming the OCD. When asked for reassurance, simply do not respond, or say “this could be true, but I don’t know for sure.” Uncertainty = anxiety = healing.
  3. Be compassionate. While you should be firm in not giving reassurances, be compassionate, empathetic, and understanding of your loved one. OCD is tiring, and the individual does not want to be asking you for reassurances or fighting with their mind. Be caring and loving to them.
  4. Educate yourself! The more you can learn about OCD, how it works, and its symptoms, the more effective you can be in helping your loved one and in tackling the illness together.
  5. Maintain your own life. It can be a natural thought to want to take time from work or school to help a loved one with OCD and to be around them. Do NOT do this – it is important to take care of yourself, have your own life and space, and not cater everything around the OCD. Your loved one will feel guilty if you are giving up things to take care of them, and you will soon tire out and not be effective in helping. OCD can be a trying disease to overcome, but with the correct treatments and proper support, it can be overcome. By knowing the best ways to be supportive of your loved ones, you can facilitate the process of their working towards a life free of OCD.

If you or someone you know is suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Binge Eating Disorder: When your Appetite Cannot be Satisfied

By: Sanjita Ekhelikar

“Binging” is a word that is commonly thrown around and used in our everyday language. It is used in contexts ranging from talking about “binging” on a television show on Netflix, to “binging” on food at Thanksgiving dinner. However, this word and toxic is associated with a severe eating disorder known as Binge Eating Disorder, or BED.

In eating disorders such as anorexia, people have excessive amounts of control over what they eat, and as a result restrict calories and lose extreme amounts of weight. BED, on the other hand, is characterized by an absence of control over the consumption of food. Individuals with this disorder feel like they cannot stop eating, and can consume as many as 20,000 calories in one “binge” session.

Although BED impacts about under 10 percent of individuals in terms of eating disorders (Psychology Today), it is an extremely serious problem that should be given proper attention. People often develop this eating disorder as a result of struggling with emotions or another aspect of life, from feeling pressure from society to have a certain body type, or from hormonal causes. Effected individuals can never feel satiated with eating, and often feel shame, guilt, and low self-esteem as a result of their behaviors. BED is frequently comorbid with other mental illnesses including depression and anxiety, and can cause physical complications such as gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular problems, and type 2 diabetes. BED can be devastating to live with, but with proper treatment, therapy, and medication, it can be stopped and treated.

So next time before you say “binging” in a context unrelated to this illness, think about the implications of the word, and the severity of BED. While you may have the ability to stop “binging” on a TV show or holiday meal, this presents a large challenge for those afflicted with this disease.

If you or someone you know is suffering from binge eating disorder, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Communication Differences Between Genders

 

By: Dianna Gomez

Where would the world be without communication? Whether it be conscious or unconscious, we communicate in one way or another with those around us every minute of every day. We communicate in the work place, in relationships, with our friends and family – sometimes even when passing by strangers walking down the street. You would think that with the amount of communicating we do as a human species on a daily basis, we would have it all down to a “ T ” by now but that is far from the truth. Every once in a while we experience miscommunication and other frustrations related to interacting with the people around us. In order to improve the quality of communication in one’s own life, it is important to begin by understanding the different methods of communication between each gender. There are so many fundamental differences regarding the way in which men and women behave and think when it comes to communication. On average, women tend to speak more than men and when each gender is communicating, they do so for different reasons and from different perspectives.

Here is a list of these differences:

  1. Reasons For Talking
  • Men believe that communication should always have a clear purpose. Whether there is a problem in need of a solution or a specific question needing an answer, men use communication to get to the bottom of any topic of conversation in the most efficient way possible. On the other hand, a woman views communication as a way to discover how she may feel about something. Women like to lay all the potential pros and cons out on the table and discuss each more thoroughly. When it comes to relationships, communication is a way in which women increase intimacy with their significant others. They share their thoughts to rid themselves of any negative feelings they may be having.

2. How Much Should Be Said

  • Similarly to the first point, men always put productivity and efficiency at the very top of their lists. When telling a story, men only share the details that are absolutely necessary to get to the point. Women tend to share as much detail as possible, even if it isn’t necessarily needed. This is often times why men may interrupt women half way through an explanation when they have already received the point that is ultimately trying to be made.

3. What Does It Mean To “Listen?

  • When a woman first initiates a conversation with a man, she assumes they are doing so to obtain some type of advice or assistance. They automatically think to themselves “what can we actually do about this?” From the woman’s perspective, having the conversation all on it’s own is a way of finding a solution to any problem. Women just want to feel like they are being heard and understood, and if they feel this is happening any problem will already feel partially solved.

Communication is so important in every aspect of our lives. Especially when it comes to having relationships with significant others, if these fundamental differences aren’t already understood, there will be many disagreements and arguments about things that there wouldn’t be otherwise. Regardless of what gender you are, the next time you find yourself feeling frustrated when communicating with the opposite sex, take a step back and try to see the situation from their point of view. If this is done over a long enough period of time, you will find that life will soon go a lot smoother in all areas of your life.

 

If you or anybody you know may be having trouble with communication or may be having relationship problems they can’t seem to resolve, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit us at http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

ADHD: How Medication Helps Your Children

By Samantha Glosser

Stimulant drugs, such as Adderall and Ritalin, have been used for numerous years as the frontline treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. ADHD is a disorder characterized by the following symptoms: inattentiveness, distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The five to seven percent of children diagnosed with ADHD have difficulty concentrating, become disruptive and defiant, and have a hard time getting along with family members, peers, and teachers. These behaviors are clinically proven to improve with the use of stimulant drugs.

Treatment with stimulant drugs can improve classroom performance and behavior in children diagnosed with ADHD. But how does the medication do this? The medication works by targeting and improving specific cognitive processes, such as working memory, which is your ability to hold and manipulate information in your mind. Stimulants help kids store more information in their working memory, while also helping them to inhibit negative behaviors (i.e., raising their hand when they know the answer instead of shouting it out). Improvement of these cognitive processes also helps to increase attention span, which allows kids to stay on task for longer periods of time. If you believe medication is not the best option for your child, behavioral treatment and parent training can also be beneficial in improving these cognitive processes. Children can be trained to improve their self-control and sustain concentration.

If you or someone you know appears to be suffering from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Nauret, R. (2018, July 31). Study Probes How ADHD Meds Improve Cognition & Behavior in Kids. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/07/31/study-probes-how-adhd-meds-improve-cognition-behavior-in-kids/137456.html

ADHD. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/adhd