Self-Soothing Through Our Senses

Remembering back to when my oldest was born, especially those first few months of life experiencing the exhaustion of caring for an infant and the inevitable sleepless nights, so I thought. To my surprise, one morning I found myself groggy-eyed walking into the pediatrician’s office for a well-check and the doctor taking one look at me and commenting on my sleep-deprived appearance and then scribbled something down on his notepad and said, “Read this.” He was a family friend and knew me well enough to know that I would be interested in a science-based book about sleep hygiene. Well, he was right and introducing me to Jodi Mindell’s words of wisdom, Sleeping Through the Night was a game changer for our family. What I learned during this stage of motherhood was the art of self-soothing. Studies have shown that babies who learn how to soothe themselves to sleep have less sleep disturbances and make for happier babies and this undoubtedly extends to happier caregivers. Self-soothing is the art of regulating our emotional state in a healthy way, providing a sense of nurturing and balance to our nervous system. This foundational skill can be used throughout the lifespan to calm our bodies during distress from the oftentimes chaotic world around us.

But how do we self-soothe?

It’s simple if we just think of healthy ways to engage our senses. A few years ago, my brother-in-law was visiting and one morning made me aware that I had what may seem like an alarming amount of body wash containers in the shower. I think he said that he stopped counting after he got to a dozen. We laughed about it and then over the next several days I reflected on this conversation and realized that this is one of my self-soothing skills–I self-soothe through the sense of smell. After a long day, I unwind by taking a hot shower, spending time mindfully taking in the different body wash aromas by pouring some into my hands, holding it up to my nose and breathing in the calming scents. I tend to stick to my favorite scents and at any given time have some variation of vanilla or lavender body wash fragrances in the shower. The act of self-soothing engages our senses and allows us to experience present moment awareness, a difficult concept to imagine when we are often lost in everyday tasks, self-critical thoughts, and a range of emotions throughout the day. In these moments, I take a pause and engage my sense of smell to soothe my system. We can all use these skills to our benefit and here are some additional ways to self-soothe through our senses.

Additional Ways to Engage Our Senses

Touch: A study by Dreisoerner et al. (2021) showed that cortisol, our stress chemical, was lowered by touch. It is no wonder that those warm hugs from our loved ones feel so pleasing, there is a physiological basis for this reaction. Not only does it lower stress hormones but it activates oxytocin, a chemical in the brain that has been referred to as the “cuddle hormone.” Researchers also found that one can use the sense of touch alone by placing a hand on your heart as a way to manage distress. Other ways to soothe through touch: petting our animals, getting a massage, taking an Epsom salt bath, wrapping ourselves in a warm blanket or weighted blanket and bilateral tapping. Taste: sucking on a mint, chewing gum, drinking a warm cup of tea, and eating a piece of chocolate. And who doesn’t love the taste of chocolate? A recent survey showed a link between dark chocolate consumption and reduced odds of reporting symptoms of depression. Hearing: listening to the sounds of nature, listening to our favorite music playlists, podcasts, and guided meditations. Sight: scrolling through pleasant photos on our phones, looking out the window and observing nature and visiting a museum or art gallery. Smell: keeping our favorite calming scents handy like essential oils, fragrances, flowers, candles, and baking comfort foods that smell yummy.

These are just a few suggestions on how to self-soothe through our senses. So, the next time your system is overwhelmed, ask yourself… What are my favorite ways to self-soothe? And then practice your skills and challenge yourself to become an expert in the art of self-soothing.



Linehan, M. (2014). DBT? Skills training manual. Guilford Publications.

Mindell, J. A. (2010). Sleeping Through the Night, Revised Edition: How Infants, Toddlers, and Parents can get a Good Night’s sleep. Zondervan.


Tips for Staying Healthy While Working from Home

For some people, working from home is a normal routine. This is, after all, the gig economy, and many people have been freelancing, making a living from their home office for many years now. But for others, working from home is a completely new phenomenon brought about by the global pandemic.

For this second group of people, working from home has completely changed their day-to-day lives, and many have found their overall health has taken a toll. With lockdowns and social distancing still mandated in many areas of the country, it’s a good idea to discuss some things you can do to stay healthy while you continue to work from home:

Keep Your Routine

We’ve all heard the stories of people admitting they aren’t showering as often and are staying in their PJs all day. While this was fun and novel at the beginning of the pandemic, allowing this to continue can negatively impact your mental and physical health.

It’s important to keep a daily routine. This means setting an alarm, showering, dressing, etc.

Get Exercise

You may not even realize how much more you used to move around at your office or place of work. The office kitchen and bathroom were probably farther away, and you took breaks just to chat with coworkers. It’s important that you get up from time to time and move around at home as well.

Stock Up on Healthy Food

It will be FAR TOO EASY to put on weight when working from home unless you make sure to get rid of most junk food and instead, stock up on healthy food and snacks.

Stay Connected

Not everyone is cut out for working from home as it can be isolating. If you’re used to being around a lot of people and are feeling lonely, be sure to check in with friends and coworkers throughout the day.

None of us really know when life will return to normal. If you are forced to work from home at this time, be sure to follow these tips so you can stay healthy!



What is Trauma Therapy?

Not many of us will get through life without facing our own share of challenges. But some people experience not just stress and strife, but actual trauma. Trauma may come in the form of a physically or emotionally abusive relationship, a physical accident such as a car accident, rape, the sudden loss of a loved one, or war.

When a person experiences trauma, their entire world changes almost instantly. Many trauma survivors have a hard time feeling safe and secure. They begin to feel anxiety and depression, have trouble sleeping, and may experience other behavioral changes that are frightening to them and their loved ones.


How Does Trauma Therapy Work?

When you have experienced trauma and begin to see some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it’s time to explore treatment so you can begin healing. The idea of therapy can feel scary and overwhelming to people with PTSD, mainly because they need to have a sense of total control to feel safe.

But trauma therapy is really something that can empower an individual with PTSD. With the help of a caring and qualified mental health professional, the person can begin to process past events, stripping that traumatic event of its power.

Trauma therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and has the potential to actually change the way your brain works through what is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity simply means our brains and neural pathways (how we think and feel) are malleable. Through specific mental health tools and strategies, we can retrain our brains to let go of the fear and begin to heal.

Some of the goals of trauma therapy are:

  • To safely process the traumatic event
  • To eliminate the symptoms of trauma
  • To improve day-to-day functioning
  • To regain your personal power
  • To obtain the skills and tools to prevent an individual from relapsing

If you or a loved one are living with PTSD, it’s important that you recognize the symptoms and seek help. Life does not have to continue to be scary or overwhelming. There are strategies that can help you process your pain so that you may continue to live your life full of joy and peace.

If you would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be very happy to help you leave the past in the past and move on to brighter tomorrows.



How to Talk to Your Young Child About the LGBTQIA+ Community

As a parent or caregiver, it can be difficult to know the right thing to say when kids question what we deem to be adult topics. Broaching topics of sexuality can be awkward for both parties, however, it is a necessary conversation to have.

When it comes to talking about homosexuality and transgender individuals, children should be given age-appropriate information so they can better understand and empathize with others. Regardless of whether or not your child is LGBTQIA+, having a conversation about LGBTQIA+ issues will help reduce prejudice while teaching compassion and empathy.

When to Talk

It’s never too late to start a conversation on issues of sexuality with your children. While there may be initial discomfort and reluctance from preadolescent children and older, ultimately having these discussions with your children will help them develop a sense of safety and security with you, while it teaches them tolerance and acceptance.

For young children, the age of 5 is a good time to begin discussing these topics by sharing some basic information with them.

What to Say

For young children, keep the conversation simple and focus on basic concepts. When talking about homosexuality, you can explain to your child that just as a man and a woman can fall in love, so can a man with a man, and a woman with a woman. When talking about transgender individuals, you can explain that how a person looks on the outside isn’t always how they feel on the inside. You can refer to the familiar adage about “not judging a book by its cover.”

Children should understand the basic concept that even though people may look different than us, they are people just like we are and equally deserving of love, acceptance, and respect.

You Don’t Have to Know Everything

Your child may have questions that you can’t answer. It’s okay to admit to your child when you don’t know the right answer. This could be a discussion point for later after you’ve done some research, or it could be a good opportunity for you to learn from your child.

Are you a parent in need of parenting advice and support? A trained, licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today, and we can set up an appointment to talk.


Healthy Food & Emotional Regulation

Are you an emotional eater? When you’re feeling stressed, do you find yourself ordering in pizza? When something sad happens, do you drown your grief in sugar? If so, you’re not alone. A majority of people deal with the challenges of life by turning to their favorite comfort foods.

The trouble is, these foods are only a temporary fix. They fill a void, and in the case of sugar, give our mood a boost. But then we come crashing down again and may even experience shame and guilt for having binged on food we know is not good for us. This can lead to a vicious cycle of more emotions, more eating, more emotions, more eating. This cycle can ultimately lead to weight gain and even the development of certain chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Your Brain on Comfort Foods

We are what we eat is a very true sentiment, especially when it comes to our brain. When life throws us challenges, we need our brain to work optimally so we can figure out the best way to deal with our circumstances or to process emotions. The trouble with reaching for comfort foods is, they are actually harmful to your brain.

Think of your brain like the engine in a car. You wouldn’t put frozen lattes in your gas tank because you know your car needs the right kind of fuel to run well. Your brain also needs the right kind of fuel. Your brain requires high-quality foods that are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These nutrients nourish your brain and protect it from oxidative stress.

Did you know that studies have shown a direct link between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function? And even a worsening of symptoms such as depression?

The bottom line is, while your instinct in the moment may be to reach for those processed comfort foods, do your best to make better food choices. It will be hard at first, but good habits can be formed over time. Your brain will thank you.


Mental Health Habits for 2021

We live in a society that seems obsessed with physical health and weight loss. A majority of people have tried one or more diets to lose weight. People join gyms, juice, and take supplements, all in an effort to optimize their physical health.

Sadly, most people don’t give their mental health a second thought.

The problem is, no matter how good you look in a bathing suit or how “ripped” you may be, or how low your cholesterol is if you aren’t mentally healthy, your life is negatively impacted.

In the age of Coronavirus, when many of us are dealing with health and financial struggles, the stress can really take a toll on our mental health. With this in mind, here are some good mental health habits to practice in 2021 and beyond:

Practice Gratitude

Gratitude is like a magic bullet when it comes to mental health. Too often, when we are feeling negative emotions, we deny our full reality, that is to say, we deny all of the wonderful things that are present in our life. Be sure to take realistic stock in your life each day and feel grateful for the people, events, and things in your life that bring you joy and happiness. And be sure to share your gratitude with others!

Value Yourself

The only thing worse than dealing with grief, sadness, and stress, is doing so while devaluing your own self-worth. Be sure to treat yourself as kindly as you do your loved ones. See the good in you and practice self-care and self-compassion every day.

Lose Control

Most of us cling to the idea that we can control every single facet of our lives. It’s just not true. This desire for full control brings with it a sense of anxiety. Make this year the year you finally let go of needing to control everything.

Surround Yourself with Positive People

Toxic people are bad for our mental health. It’s time to cut ties with those who bring you down in order to make room for people who will support you.
Along with these habits, you may want to consider speaking regularly with a mental health counselor, who can help you navigate any issues you may be dealing with and provide coping techniques.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. Let’s discuss how I can help you make 2021 your best year yet!



Celebrate National Walk to Work Day

April 2nd is National Walk to Work Day. The national holiday was started to help people get up and get moving. Many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, are allowed to take hold because of poor diet and lack of exercise. So it goes without saying that moving more is one STEP in the right direction of improving your health.

But with so many of us working from home due to the pandemic, how can we celebrate this holiday and walk to work when our office is now in our dining room? By following these tips:

Go for a Morning Walk

You may only need to commute from your bedroom to another part of your house these days, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking a nice walk first thing in the morning! Consider slapping on some sneakers and heading out for a 15- to 30-minute walk around the neighborhood.

Take a Lunch Break

Maybe it’s hard for you to walk in the morning because you need to feed the kids and get them ready for school. But why not take an actual lunch break and go for a walk then? Too many of us that are working from home, work while we eat, and this isn’t great. We all need to take a break from time to time. So head out for a quick walk during lunch. And if your kids are home, take them with you!

Head for the Stairs

What do you do if it’s raining out? Well, if you have stairs in your house, you can get your steps in by going up and down them as many times as you can. Just take them slow and go nice and easy.

If you find yourself working from home this Walk to Work Day, there’s no reason you can’t get your body up and moving around. Just follow these tips and get to stepping!



National Counseling Awareness Month

April is National Counseling Awareness Month, and so I thought it would be a good idea to take this time to talk a little about mental health and the benefits of seeking treatment for whatever issues you may be facing.

When we talk about mental health, we are talking about our emotional, psychological and social well-being. Our mental health not only affects how we feel but also how we think and behave as well as handle stress and make decisions.

Mental Health Statistics

Just how common are mental illnesses in the United States? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • More than 50% of American adults will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their life.
  • In any given year, one in five people in this country will experience a mental illness.
  • Children are not immune to mental health challenges, in fact, one in five will experience a serious mental illness at some point.

Causes of Mental Illness

While there is no single cause of mental illness, there are some common factors that are believed to contribute to the risk of developing mental health issues. These include:

  • Trauma or a history of abuse.
  • Stress-related to ongoing chronic diseases such as cancer or heart disease.
  • Chemical imbalances such as hormonal imbalances.
  • Use of drugs and alcohol.
  • Feeling lonely and/or isolated.

Therapy Can Help

Living with a mental illness can be incredibly painful. This is why National Counseling Awareness Month was started, to help those in need recognize there are people and resources available to them. A professionally trained therapist can help you uncover the cause of your mental illness as well as offer tools and coping mechanisms to turn your life around.

To find a therapist near you, you can use this directory, which lists therapists by state and specialty. Keep in mind that many therapists are now offering sessions over the internet, so it may be best to pick someone you feel more comfortable with instead of someone who is geographically close.

I do offer telehealth services and would be more than happy to speak to you about what is going on. Please feel free to reach out to me.



Intuitive Eating During COVID-19

COVID-19 can be compared to freshmen year of college – it’s stressful, you feel overwhelmed, and it’s way too easy to pack on an extra 15 pounds! Many of us, having been stuck at home and dealing with stress for the past 4-5 months, have found our eating habits have taken a nosedive.

So how do we remedy this?

Many of us are still in lockdown mode and still dealing with the fear and stress of the pandemic. Are we supposed to try and put ourselves on a strict diet so we can lose weight and get healthy? Strict diets almost never work for most people, particularly when they are dealing with a stressful situation.

A far better solution is to turn to intuitive eating.

What is Intuitive Eating Exactly?

Intuitive Eating is an evidenced-based, mind-body nutritional approach that helps people honor their body and their health. By listening to the body and giving it what it needs nutritionally, you are able to meet your physical and psychological needs.

Now let’s talk about what intuitive eating is NOT.

It is NOT a diet or a specific food plan. It is not something where you restrict certain foods or count calories, carbs, or macros. Dieting and food restriction has never worked long-term. It is not sustainable.

But intuitive eating IS sustainable. This is not a diet but a new way to become self-aware and practice self-love and self-care.

How Does it Work?

Most diets put foods into one of two categories: Spinach goes into the “good” category and cake goes into the “bad” category. Intuitive eating gives a person permission to view all food as good and to eat whatever you like because you are trusting your body to tell you what it wants and needs. Anytime we can tune out the exterior world and tune into ourselves, we are far more apt to find balance and optimal health.

Getting Started

There are a few steps I always recommend clients take to get started with intuitive eating.

1. Start Listening

From a young age, we’re taught to listen to others. But rarely is a young person taught how to tune into themselves. It’s time you start. Check-in with yourself throughout the day to see how you are feeling and what you are thinking. Just begin to listen to your own inner voice more over the coming days and weeks.

2. Drop Those Judgements

What foods have you been told are an absolute no-no? Red meat? Butter? Sugar? It’s time to start reevaluating what you have been told by others and let your body tell you what is “good” and “bad” for YOU.

3. Eat More

If you are someone who comes from a diet mentality that has had you eat less, try and eat more and see how your body responds. Remember, you want to really LISTEN to what your body tells you. Eat 3 meals a day and 2-3 snacks. Do you find you’re still hungry? Do you find you get full easily?

Intuitive eating works and it can help you if you’re dealing with stress eating from COVID. If you need any help or guidance with this new lifestyle, don’t hesitate to get in touch.



How Therapy Can Help Families Be Resilient During COVID-19

All of us have struggled in our own way to deal with the effects of the coronavirus. But if you are a parent, you most likely have even more concerns about the impact the virus and subsequent lockdown have had on the emotional health of your children.

You’ve most likely taken certain precautions over the past few months to ensure your family’s health and well-being. You’ve made sure to social distance yourself from others, taking care not to visit with those in your family that are senior citizens.

In stores, you’ve worn your masks and stayed 6 feet away from others, and at some point you probably started to limit the amount of news and social media you consumed, realizing it was making all of you stressed and anxious.

But there is something else your family can do to help ease the burden of the pandemic, and that is to seek therapy from a licensed mental health therapist.

What Family Therapy Offers

Family therapy provides a safe space for people to talk through any issues the family may be experiencing. One primary focus of family therapy is communication training. If you and your family don’t have the healthiest communication patterns, it can feel devastating when you are all dealing with a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Family therapy helps individuals identify and correct any dysfunctional communication patterns. A therapist teaches family members how to listen, ask questions and, most importantly, respond to others in a non-defensive way. This is important for those families who deal with dysfunction on a daily basis, but who are really grappling now during the quarantine.

Even in families who are generally healthy and happy, it can be a very positive experience speaking with a neutral third party and help to shed the stress and concerns you’ve all been having. A therapist can validate your feelings as well as provide helpful stress management techniques.

And, if you have any concerns about how healthy it is to be visiting in person with a therapist, you needn’t worry as therapy can be had online through telehealth. That’s right, simply sit your family around the computer and share how you’re doing with your therapist in a safe way.

If you and your family are feeling out of sorts these days and believe you could benefit from family therapy, please reach out to me. I offer telehealth services and would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.