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07

How Therapy Strengthens Love

Posted by Collaborative Counseling
love

The Valentine’s Day season is around the corner, and so is the pressure to celebrate it. During this time of year, there is no shortage of candy brands reminding us that the best way to express love is through treats. The fact of the matter is that love is a daily choice that requires much more than chocolate. 

Oftentimes we can get caught up in the overwhelming stress of life’s commitments. Therapy is a tool that helps us process our feelings and open our minds to giving and receiving love, thereby strengthening our relationship with others. 

Therapy teaches us to love ourselves with…

Compassion

Maybe you’re familiar with the phrase “You are your own worst critic”. 

Unfortunately, this phrase holds more truth than we want to believe. Psychology Today’s article discusses the negative impact that self-criticism can have on our mental health. Therapy creates a safe space where we can process the internal disapproval that we allow ourselves to be burdened with. By reducing some of these burdens, we can free our minds to make room for more positive mindfulness and self-love. 

Recognition

When we’ve learned to exercise compassion, there will then be space for recognition. The thought of having to be mindful and vulnerable is scary, but breaking down our internal barriers empowers us to see our strengths. All too often, we do not give ourselves enough credit for the good qualities that we have. We have a tendency to break ourselves down, instead of building ourselves up. By doing the opposite, and recognizing our strengths, we can master the art of loving who we are. 

Development

One way we can learn to love ourselves is by taking steps to help us meet our potential. Therapy creates a safe space where we can discover what we need to grow. This can be hard to do, as sometimes we are forced to acknowledge parts of ourselves that we hope not to. But, by managing bad habits or negative mindsets, we can develop into the thriving person we hope to be.

Therapy teaches us to love others with…

Communication

Communication is an important part of every relationship. If you google synonyms for “communication” you might find words like “give” or “deliver”. Very rarely do we equivocate communication with “receiving”. It’s important to remember that communication between two people goes both ways. While this practice requires speaking with calm tones and kind words, it also requires active listening. Therapy not only teaches us the techniques to be heard, but also the ability to hear others. This can be hard to put into practice, but, when done correctly, allows us to build a greater connection. 

If you’re looking for active ways that you can practice better communication with your partner, check out our blog on 10 Communication Tips for Couples

Recognition

When we interact with others, we tend to get caught up in the moment. It’s easy to forget that the other person has a different perspective from our own. Therapy teaches us to take a step back and recognize the kinds of burdens that others might be carrying. Check out Psychology Today’s article on the 5 Ways Empathy is Good for Your Health. By practicing empathy, we will find that we can build stronger connections with others. 

Compassion

Just like we should work to be less critical of ourselves, therapy helps us to be less critical of each other. It can be hard to let go of the things that hurt us, but the practice of compassion can help us move forward. Therapy creates a safe environment where we can learn this skill, together, and strengthen our connections.

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26

Simple Self Care

Posted by Collaborative Counseling
Photo by Dmitriy Frantsev on Unsplash

As we wind down from the holidays and settle back into our routines, we may find ourselves already dreading the season of cold and day-to-day living that awaits us. At times like these, it is important to actively engage in self-care. Some days, taking care of ourselves can come naturally. However, there are some days when it just feels like we don’t have enough time or energy to devote to proper care for our minds and bodies. 

Here are 5 simple methods of self-care that will have a big impact on how you feel with a small impact on your schedule.

Hydrate

We tend to associate being dehydrated with extreme physical symptoms. We forget that it can be a mild, everyday, occurrence resulting in a profound impact on our mental health. Drinking water throughout the day can help boost your energy and your mood, reducing overall feelings of depression and anxiety. If you struggle to keep up with your water intake, start with small goals. For example, drink a glass of water when you wake up, and at every meal. There are also great resources, and apps to help you track how much water you drink a day. Find a system that works for you, and start small. Remember to set achievable goals, and build as you go. 

Listen to Music

Listening to some good beats can be an excellent way to add simple self-care to your routine. It can help you gear up for your day, or wind down for the evening. You might have 5 minutes to sit and meditate, or have a day packed full of activities. Luckily, listening to music is an easy self-care method that can fit into any schedule. 

How does science link music to mental health? The University of Central Florida has a great tool that helps us understand how music positively impacts each area of the brain. Check it out here: https://www.ucf.edu/pegasus/your-brain-on-music/

Take a Warm Shower (or bath)

When we experience extreme emotions like stress or anxiety, our muscles can get very tense. We might start to feel like we are stuck, or that our bodies have locked up. Taking 10 minutes for a hot shower can help relieve a lot of that tension, and allow us to relax. If you find that you have some extra time, try taking a warm bath right before bed to get a good night’s sleep. 

Take a Hike!

…Actually, even a short walk around the block will do some good. A study done in 2013 found that people who suffered from depression experienced a positive mood shift after walking outside for 50 minutes. In addition to a mental boost, a walk around the neighborhood is a simple and free way to add a little exercise to the day. 

Check our our blog post on what happens when you spend time outside.

Breathe

This last act of simple self-care requires little effort but will have mighty results. Deep breathing sessions are a great way to help the mind and body find a space to relax. If you’re experiencing anxiety, it can also slow your heart rate, and help to regain control. This exercise doesn’t have to be complicated. Some smartwatches and phones come with guided breathing applications that make the process easy and convenient.  

If you want to give it a try, you can also check out this 3-minute guided breathing exercise video

These 5 acts of Simple Self-Care are a great way to boost your mood, and they only take 30 minutes or less. Consider adding just one to your daily routine, and you will find that even the slightest change can make a big difference. 

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12

The New Year is Finally Here

Posted by Collaborative Counseling
New Year's Sparkler

Amidst all the joy and excitement surrounding the holiday celebrations, we often find ourselves overwhelmed by all that the New Year has to offer. We get worn out by all of the holiday parties, or we put too much pressure on ourselves to live our next year better than the last. Here are a few small things that we can do to have a big impact on how we find joy in the new year:

Set some time to recharge

We can remember to charge our phone’s low battery, but how often do we pay attention to our own energy? Giving ourselves permission to relax physically, emotionally, and socially is important. It gives us the power we need to keep doing the things that we love to do. This doesn’t have to be something that is a big-time commitment – even taking a break for 30 minutes can make a huge difference. 

Once we’ve designated some time to recharge, we can choose any activity like:

  • reading 
  • listening to music 
  • exploring the outdoors
  • baking 
  • or snuggling our pets. 

Remember, pick an activity that draws you away from the hustle and bustle. Your mind and body need an appropriate amount of time and space to relax. 

If you find that you are still struggling to manage stress, check out our 5 Tips for Managing Stress

Celebrate Your Successes

Oftentimes, we get caught up in all the ways we can make the next year “better”. We get so focused on meeting future goals, that we forget to celebrate our past accomplishments. This year, take a moment to reflect on all of the things that you achieved in 2021. Perhaps there is a new habit that you developed that you hadn’t even noticed – rinsing your dishes, journaling, listening to a podcast, or drinking more water. Perhaps there were new chapters that you started like joining a league, owning a car, changing careers, or moving homes. Every time we accomplish something new, no matter how easy or hard, we deserve to give ourselves a little credit. 

Try Something New, But Simple

Around this time, we tend to start hearing more about trying new goals. We hear phrases like “saving 15% more of my income” or “biking an extra 200 miles”. While these big goals might be exciting for some, they can be daunting to others. There are plenty of ways to celebrate the “new” in New Year, without getting overwhelmed. 

Try picking one new thing to try that you’ve never thought of doing before. Maybe it’s visiting a museum, exploring a new park, or trying new food. New experiences can be exciting, without being big or expensive! Get out there and try something new

Apply Your Passions

One way we can try new things is to volunteer. Sometimes we tend to steer clear from “volunteering” because we associate the word with a high requirement of commitment and a low expectation of satisfaction. We forget that many times, there are opportunities to give back in ways that we know we’ll enjoy. 

For example:

  • Do you have a love of animals? Consider volunteering to walk dogs, or foster kittens. 
  • Are you an athlete? Consider volunteering to coach a little league. 
  • Are you passionate about history? Ask about volunteering as a local tour guide. 

There are plenty of ways to find opportunities that align with your interests and help the needs of others. 

Want to take these ideas and run with them? PsychologyToday.com’s article, “Rebooting 2022 for Fresh Awakenings”, has a list of ideas on where you can start.

Happy New Year!

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25

How to Live Your Best Life: Tips for Quarantine

Posted by Collaborative Counseling

We know that this is a stressful and overwhelming time in everyone’s life and we believe that setting aside some time for yourself helps you so you can help others around you. We have compiled a list of resources and tips for quarantine to help you make the most of this time quarantined at home.

Here are 8 ways you can make a small change in your daily life to live your best quarantined life:

1. Get up and move!

Many athletic and fitness clubs are offering free resources, so be sure to look around for tools to get moving and boost your immunity. For example, LifeTime Fitness is offering free on-demand exercise videos: https://my.lifetime.life/lp/video-workouts/strength.html. You can always go on a walk around your neighborhood to get some fresh air!

2. Internet

If you need access to internet, Comcast is offering 2 months of free internet to low-income households. The deadline to apply is April 30. https://internetessentials.com/covid19

3. Breathe

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, helps give you a basis for meditation and also has many health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Take some time today to consciously breathe and re-center yourself.

4. Meditation and mindfulness

In addition to deep breathing, there are several resources that can help you take a step back and relax. Calm.com, Headspace.com and VirusAnxiety.com provide tips to reduce anxiety and bring awareness to your breath.

5. Set screen time limits

It is easy to lose track of time when you are home all day. Most phones offer settings that allow you to set a limit of time for social media and overall screen time. Setting these boundaries can help you stay productive throughout your day.

6. Healthy eating

Food choices can make a huge difference in your life. Do your research, plan your meals, and make sure you are getting enough vegetables and fruits. Here are some ideas for immune boosting foods: https://www.pcrm.org/news/blog/foods-boost-immune-system

7. Learn something new

Take a break from your home office and tour hundreds of museums—virtually! Google is offering tours of many museums, and you can find more information here: https://artsandculture.google.com/partner?hl=en

8. Working from home tips

There are many tips and tricks to make working from home a great experience for you, and NPR outlines some of them here: https://www.npr.org/2020/03/15/815549926/8-tips-to-make-working-from-home-work-for-you

In addition to these at-home tips and tricks, Telehealth or online therapy is a beneficial tool that is accessible from your computer or smart device.

Our providers at Collaborative Counseling are set up to provide Telehealth services that can help you navigate this unprecedented time. Accessing therapy from the comfort and privacy of your own home or space is a great way to stay connected and our providers would be happy to help you. Make sure to check back for more tips for quarantine life!

Call our office today to get scheduled at 763-210-9966!

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02

Levels of Mental Health Care

Posted by Collaborative Counseling

There are many different program options for addressing issues with mental health. It can be difficult to know which type would be the best fit for you or a loved one. We are going to try to break down the levels of mental health care to make it a little simpler!

Outpatient Options

In outpatient care, the patient goes to the place of service, gets said service, and then goes back home all in one day. There are four levels of outpatient care: 12-Step programs, routine outpatient programs, intensive outpatient programs, and partial hospitalization.

12-Step Programs

12 step level of mental health care

In a 12-Step program, participants typically meet on a weekly or monthly basis to talk in a group about shared struggles. People share their experiences and build a support community through those stories. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is one really common example of this type of service. Other subject areas include gambling, sex addition, eating disorders, and many more.

Routine Outpatient Care

Routine outpatient care is what we do here at Collaborative Counseling. In this level of mental health care, patients meet with a therapist in an office. Sessions typically last around an hour. Therapists will facilitate conversation to help with whatever may be happening in their life.

Intensive Outpatient Programs

outpatient level of mental health care

Intensive outpatient programs are similar to routine care in that the client goes to an office for services. However, these programs often involve both group therapy and individual therapy on a regular basis. The sessions are typically longer or occur more often.

Partial Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization (PHP) is one step higher in care. These programs are usually all day. The client would spend their day in different therapy sessions and/or programs and then go home for the night. There is more structure and help with basic care needs.

Inpatient Options

These levels of care take place in a hospital or residential setting. People typically check to a hospital or another facility where they spend the night. The two levels of inpatient care are: acute inpatient care and residential treatment.

Acute Inpatient Care

Acute inpatient care is a short term hospitalization. When care in an outpatient setting is not enough, clients can go to an inpatient facility. Facilities are staffed 24 hours a day by trained individuals monitoring client. The goal is usually to get the client stable enough to go back home.

Residential Treatment

Residential Treatment options last a bit longer than acute care. They take place in a home or apartment setting. There are still medically trained staff present, but they may not be monitoring the client as close as in a hospital. Clients work on building community in their living space while addressing their personal concerns.

No matter where you are at in your mental health journey, there are options for you! Hopefully this information helped clarify the levels of mental health care available.

Need help in finding programs near you? Click here.

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23

Stressed? Take a Step Outside

Posted by Collaborative Counseling
yellow flowers with a view of mountains outside
Spending time outside can greatly reduce stress levels and improve physical health. #outdoors #healthyliving #mentalhealth

Life is stressful. For most people, the term ‘stressful’ is a major understatement to say the least. From work to studying to being home with kids or whatever your day consists of, it’s often tough to relax. Taking a moment out of your day to step outside and enjoy nature can ease some of that!

Here is a look into what happens in your body when you are in natural spaces:

  • Lowered cortisol levels – when your cortisol levels are constantly raging, like in periods of high stress, there is more risk for depression/anxiety, weight gain, trouble focusing, and issues with your heart
  • Lower blood pressure – the fresh air and view of nature help in keeping your heart and mind healthy
  • Better sleep – spending time outside helps people not only get a deeper sleep, but sleep longer through the night
  • Improved immune system – being outside exposes your body to a wide variety of healthy bacteria that work to improve your bodies natural defenses
  • Increased exercise – people are more likely to get moving when they spend time outside whether that is walking/biking/swimming/etc which is always great for you as a whole

There are many ways that immersing yourself in nature can get you that much needed break! Not sure where to start? Walk through a local park on your lunch break. Maybe go for a bike ride with a friend. Even having a view of natural environments or plants in your house can make a difference!

It’s time get serious about caring for the bodies we live in every day. Take that step outside and enjoy the warm summer weather that is just around the corner! (But don’t forget your sunscreen!)

Want to learn more? Click here.

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02

The Power of Validation

Posted by Collaborative Counseling
Happiness

Validation is a powerful tool that can be implemented in almost every relationship we have. According to Karyn Hall, PhD: “Validation is the recognition and acceptance of another person’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors as understandable. Self-validation is the recognition and acceptance of your own thoughts, feelings, sensations and behaviors as understandable.”

Why Do We Need Validation?

Validation is important for us to feel accepted by others. As most of us can attest to, feeling like you belong and matter is an important part of  feeling good about yourself. When we validate others, it brings us closer and strengthens the relationship. Additionally, validation helps us to build understanding with others and aids in effective communication. Validation also helps people feel important and cared for. This is especially true for kids who need validation to feel connected to their parents, express emotions and to develop a secure sense of self.

Levels of Validation

Marsha Linehan, PhD, has identified six different levels of validation and some tips on how to implement them.

  1. Being Present: giving your complete attention to the person struggling in a non-judgmental way
  2. Accurate Reflection: Summarize what the person has said, try to really understand and not judge the person’s experience
  3. Reading someone’s behavior and guessing what they may be thinking or feeling: pay attention to the person’s emotional state and label their emotion or infer how they may be feeling. Be sure to check in with the person to make sure your guess is accurate!
  4. Understanding someone’s behavior in terms of their history and biology: think about how someone’s past experiences may be affecting how they are feeling now, in this moment or situation.
  5. Normalizing or recognizing emotional reactions that anyone would have: recognize that many people may feel the way that you or the other person is feeling in a given situation and let them know that it’s okay to feel this way as many people do.
  6. Radical genuineness: this happens when you are able to understand how someone is feeling on a deeper, personal level. Perhaps, you have had a similar experience. Sharing that with the other person can help to validate their feelings and reactions.

Putting Words Into Action

Learning to validate others can be easier said than done. However, being more conscience of how our words affect others and even implementing the first few levels of validation can make a big difference in our relationships and interactions with others. An essential tenant of the therapeutic relationship is validation. It is important to know that we must first be able to validate ourselves before being able to validate others. Therapy can help you to achieve self-validation skills as well as learning skills to validate others. For more information about our clinicians and how they can help, visit: https://www.collaborativemn.com/meet-our-team.

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20

How to Cope With Holiday Stress

Posted by Collaborative Counseling
Woman Stressed about the Holidays

While the holidays can bring plenty of joy, for many people it can be a very stressful time of year. Almost a quarter of American’s report feeling “extreme stress” around the holiday season. Even if you are not someone who experiences a great amount of stress around this time of year, here are some coping skills you can use yourself or share with others who may be struggling with the stress of the holiday season.

Let Go of Expectations

We often become fixated on our expectations and become upset when reality does not match those expectations, especially when it comes to the holidays and traditions. Remember that things may not go perfectly or exactly as planned but that is not what really matters. The holidays are an opportunity to surround ourselves with friends and family and to share in experiences that bring us closer together.

Be Present and Mindful

The holidays are obviously a very busy and fast-paced time of year for many people. While it can be easy to fall into this pattern of go, go, go, be mindful of when you are experiencing stress or anxiety and when it may be time to take a break. Around this time of year, we tend to be focused on the needs of others and let our own needs fall by the wayside. It is important to make time for self-care, whatever that means for you.

Set Boundaries

Know your limits and know when to say “no” to things. Stress and anxiety can often arise from taking on too much at once. Part of good self-care is knowing when you have reached your capacity and setting boundaries around the use of your time (including who you spend time with and when). Know that you do not have to attend every holiday event you are invited to or spend time with people who do not make you feel your best.

Maintain Your Routine

With the holidays come plenty of fun events and delicious treats to enjoy. However, trying to maintain most of your daily routine can help greatly when it comes to coping with stress. Exercise, diet and sleep are key components to both mental and physical health. Most people do not get enough sleep and holiday stress can exacerbate that problem. Taking a daily walk, setting a “bed-time” for yourself and/or starting your day with a healthy breakfast can help you to feel and stay on track and maintain healthy habits during a time when schedules tend to fluctuate.

The holidays don’t have to be a time of extreme stress! Try to focus on the things that fill you up rather than the things that drain you. Spend more time doing things and spending time with the people who lift you up and make you feel your best. Most of all, remember that the holidays are what you make them, no more and no less.

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13

Understanding Depression

Posted by Collaborative Counseling
Growing Plant Symbolizing Hope for Depression

There is a common misconception that depression is a choice. The truth is that depression is a common yet serious mood disorder that has to do with a chemical imbalance in the brain. People experience depression in a number of ways and symptoms can range from mild to severe. Depression can affect how someone feels and thinks as well their daily activities such as work and sleeping. There are a variety of factors that can put someone at-risk for developing depression such as:

  • Genetics: Depression can be hereditary and runs in families.
  • Environmental Factors: exposure to neglect, abuse and violence can be risk factors for depression.
  • Personality: Traits such as low self-esteem and being easily overwhelmed by stress can make people more vulnerable to depression.
  • Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop depression.

It should be noted that depression can look different for everyone. Some common symptoms of depression include.

  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of interest in hobbies/activities
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability

Treatments for Depression

There are several therapeutic treatment options for depression. Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based CBT and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) have all been shown to help reduce depressive symptoms and increasing coping skills.

Many courses of treatment for depression will include medications such as anti-depressants in combination with psychotherapy to treat depression. Remember, no two people are alike and therefore, neither are their treatments. What worked for one person may not work for you.

Additionally, activities such as yoga and exercise in general as well as meditation and healthy eating can all have an impact on our overall mood and help to decrease depressive symptoms.

If you are struggling with depression the first step is reaching out for help. Visit our website at: https://www.collaborativemn.com/  to learn more about the services we offer and the people who can help.

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10

Tips for Going Back to School

Posted by Collaborative Counseling

Getting ready for and going back to school can be a very stressful time. Following the slower pace of summer, many struggle to get back into the mind frame to focus on learning and schoolwork.

Here are our favorite tips for parents to help prepare for the transition into a new school year.

Practice Getting Back on a Schedule

Take the week or two leading up to the first day to transition back to your school-year schedule and routines. In addition, work to get you and your kids back on the usual sleep schedule for school.

Take Care of Any Health Needs

If your child needs a physical, check up or needs medication refills make sure to follow up with appropriate health care providers. Also, try to be proactive in getting help for both physical and mental health needs your child may have going into this next school year.

Get Oriented

If your child is going to start in a new school this year spend time getting familiar with the space. Practice finding their classrooms, restrooms, the office or nurse and any other areas they need to be familiar with. The best way to ease anxiety about this first day of school is to help your child feel as prepared as possible.

Be Prepared for the First Day

To decrease the stress of the first day help or remind your child to pack their bag. Also, have them pick their outfit the day before. In addition, make sure to have healthy breakfast and snack foods available for your child.

All of these tips are aimed at helping your child to be successful on their first day of school. Anything you can do to decrease the stress and anxiety of the first day of school is recommended. Remember, anxiety is often just about the unknowns. Therefore, the more of those you can decrease the better off your child will be. Most of all, we want to send kids into the school year focusing on academics and of course, friendships!

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