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Non-Medication Ways to Treat Biological Issues In Mental Health

February 24th, 2016

stamp-895383_1920The treatment of depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns, typically involves a multilevel plan of intervention. We typically address social, psychological, spiritual, and biological areas. The area of biological intervention is the focus of this particular article.

Typically when we think about biological intervention, the assumption is that we are discussing medication. Yes, medication is a biological intervention, and in some situations, is an important part of the treatment plan. However, psychotropic medications are not the only biological treatments available. How we eat, our activity level, and even how much we get outside and get enough light exposure can affect our moods.

carrot-1085063_1920A healthy diet, can be a very helpful tool in impacting mental health concerns. We all know the circumstances where we’ve had a heavy meal or have indulged in poor choices of food, and as a result we don’t feel well for the short team. For the long term, healthy nutrition also plays a part in how our brain works. Having appropriate balances of macro nutrients, and micro nutrients is very important. One particular area that has shown some promise in improving mental health concerns is omega-3 fatty acids. There is a lot of research that suggests that these particular nutrients may have a mental health benefit. An increase in omega-3 rich foods may be helpful. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, such as fish oil capsules, might also be of benefit. However, do not begin any kind of significant dietary supplementation, without consulting your physician.

It has been well known for some time that exercise is beneficial for your mental health. Some well established research, has even suggested that exercise can be as beneficial as medication for the treatment of depression. We are not talking about training for a marathon, or becoming an Olympian. Going for a brisk walk several times a week is enough to create significant benefit for most individuals. Even increasing activity level by choosing to take the stairs as opposed to an elevator or walking more by parking further out in a parking lot, may be helpful. Again, exercise routines should not be implemented without consulting with your physician.

running-573762_1280Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a depression related diagnoses that is heavily influenced by the amount of light exposure a person receives. It is typically treated with exposure to bright light. This is a powerful and effective therapy for those who live in low light environments, such as wintertime in more northern areas. Recent research has suggested that the same light therapy may be useful for depression in general. So making sure that someone gets outside and receives an hour, or more, of exposure to bright light is a good idea. Most of the time it is suggested that this light exposure take place earlier in the morning. If someone cannot get outside, there are therapeutic light devices that facilitates getting enough light exposure to improve mood. The latest research has suggested that blue spectrum light is the source of the greatest benefit for this kind of treatment. In order to acquire one of these therapeutic blue spectrum lights, there may be a need to receive a prescription from your physician. Any decision to pursue such a line of treatment should be made in consultation with your physician.

I am not saying that these treatments by themselves will be a complete cure for depression or other concerns. However, in the context of a multi modal treatment plan, that includes therapy, possible medical intervention, and accessing social and spiritual resources, these interventions can be quite useful.

By Eric Clements

Little Things Count

February 17th, 2016

hands-437968_1920As couples consider ways to improve their emotional connection and friendship, they typically put a focus on efforts that take some effort. Going out on dates, weekend trips, efforts to improve physical intimacy and attending marriage enrichment events, are all useful and effective ways to increase a couples’ friendship. However, we often fail to recognize the cumulative effects of the very small interactions. In fact, healthy relationships are typically full of positive mini events.

Some examples of these moments can include, pointing out a post on social media, getting your partner something to drink, even a comment about the amount of traffic encountered on the way home. Simply put, these are small efforts to initiate conversation and positive interactions between partners. While it is important to get spouses to initiate these interactions, getting them to receive them in a positive manner, may be more important. Validating responses such as efforts to extend the conversation, a brief acknowledgement or even a responsive smile will pay dividends for both spouses.

On the other hand, a rejection, while seemingly small, can pierce very deeply. When one of these small gestures is made, that partner is taking a risk. The possibility of their partner accepting this bid for connection, also contains the very real possibility of its rejection. Rejections can be derisive statements and body language, or even simply ignoring their partner all together. This can create a pattern where partners are discouraged from making these gestures for connection and thus deprive the couple of a very important element to intimacy.

If you think that your relationship could benefit by increasing the frequency of these small moments of connection, there are two things I would encourage you to do:

  1.  take the risk and make the effort to initiate these small interactions. Be active in serving your partner in small ways, give an affectionate squeeze of their shoulder, make small talk, and find small ways to serve them.
  2. look for and acknowledge the things your partner is doing for the relationship. If you have gotten in a negative pattern, challenge those negative thoughts and appreciate that they are still making an effort to connect. Even if it feels awkward at first, work though it with a sense of humor and let your friendship grow.

by Eric Clements

Where Have The Fathers Gone?

February 10th, 2016

fathers-day-822550_1920The number one deficiency in our society today is Fatherhood. That’s right. Quite simply, there are too many children and not enough fathers. You many ask “How can this be?” We all know where children come from. Every child has a father, right? WRONG! Every child has a Male Biological Contributor, but unfortunately, a decreasing number of children have Fathers.

So, what does it take to be a Father rather than simply a male biological contributor? While this is likely not an exhaustive list, I have included characteristics that I believe bring men into Fatherhood.

1. Fathers are men, not boys. I am not speaking of age here. I know many mature boys and immature men. I could write an entire book on what it means to be a man, and some authors have done so. Stu Webber’s Tender Warrior comes to mind as a good one. Suffice it to say, men/fathers do manly things and boys do boyish things. This may ruffle feathers, but playing video games, refusing to take responsibility for his actions, going to clubs to get drunk or physically abusing any woman or child are just a few activities that boys do. These are not activities that men do. Quite simply, to be a father, the most important thing you must do is grow up.

2. Fathers are present. Having a father present in the lives of our children is important to the family and to society as a whole. According to the Census department and other U.S. government agency studies, there are far too many homes/children with no father present. According to these studies, 43% of children live without their male biological contributor present. This poses a number of problems which include: 90% of homeless and runaway children are fatherless; 71% of pregnant teenagers are fatherless; 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders are from fatherless homes. And the list goes on and on.

3. Fathers are not only present, but they are daily involved in the lives of their children. You may have heard “It’s about Quality time rather than Quantity time.” Well, that’s a myth. Children need a father who is present daily in their lives. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that we lead busy lives. But being there counts, big time. I’ve heard “Kids spell LOVE=T.I.M.E.“Here are some ideas to make quantity and quality time with your kids:

  • Do bedtime. Do not ever just send your kids to bed. Read, sing a song, pray, cuddle. This is a great way to end even a bad day.
  • Schedule a “date” with each of your children. I like the idea of a once a month breakfast date with each child, but there are other ways to have a date time with your children.
  • Play card games (Go Fish) or other board games with your kids.
  • Tell your children fun stories about family members they have never met (i.e. deceased grandparents, aunts/uncles).

father4. Fathers love their children’s mother and treat her well. Maybe someday I will write about how to overcome all of the excuses that men make to get out of this one; “we are divorced and she_____;”“We had a one night stand and there never was a relationship;”“She hurt my feelings when she_____.” None of these scenarios free men from the responsibility to show love and respect toward the mother of their children and treat her well. No matter what, children need to see you show respect to their mother, even if you have major disagreements with her and/or have to set serious boundaries with her. Trust me, it is possible. Your kids need it for their future.

These are just a few ideas of what fatherhood means and how to be a Father rather than just a male biological contributor. For the sake of our children and our future, we need more men to commit to being fully present and involved Fathers.

by Chris R. Giles, MS, LMFT

Self-Talk

February 3rd, 2016

criticism-440219_1280You are a powerful influence over your mood and self-esteem. How you think about yourself and the words you say (your self-talk) matter. Through self-talk, you provide opinions and evaluations on what you’re doing as you are doing it. When it’s upbeat and self-validating, the results can boost your confidence and motivation. When the messages are critical and harsh, however, the effects can be emotionally harmful. People with clinical levels of depression may have frequent and relentless forms of destructive self-talk. The more you talk yourself down and second guess yourself, the less free you are to creatively find solutions to daily problems.

More than likely, you aren’t aware of how frequent negative self-talk is occurring throughout your day. This destructive style may cause you to question yourself to the point of becoming paralyzed with self-doubt and uncertainty. Examples of these messages may include:

1) I am not interesting
2) I have no talent
3) People don’t like me

On the other hand, with constructive self-talk, you cheer yourself on, focus on the positive aspects of a situation and allow yourself to feel good. Positive self-talk has stress management benefits, productivity benefits and even health benefits. A few suggestions to try during stressful situations include:

1) This too shall pass and my life will be better
2) Look at how well I handled that situation
3) One step at a time
4) I am doing the best I can

Being aware of what you are saying to yourself is the first step. Changing the negative statements to more positive ones is the second. Other ideas on where to begin include:

1) Limiting negative influences in your life
2) Reading aloud positive affirmations
3) Identifying and confronting your fears
4) Focusing on the enjoyable moments in life

Implementing these changes a little at a time can bring satisfying results. If you need help, give us a call; the counselors at CFI are trained to assist you.

by Lois Trost, M.S.W.

(more articles on self talk)

How Does God Treat Depression?

January 27th, 2016

depressionDepression affects one in ten Americans at some point in their lives. Oklahoma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has one of the percentages of adults that meet the criteria for depression in the nation.

In my practice treating depression, I often see the pain of depression compounded by my client’s having some or all of the following beliefs. “I’m a Christian, I shouldn’t feel this way.” “If my faith was stronger, I’d feel better.” “I’m so blessed, how can I be depressed?” “I need to spend more time in the word.” “Pray more.” “God is not happy with me.”

So, if you or someone you love is struggling with depression, and self condemnation, let me share with you the way God treats depression. We’ll be looking at Elijah, who James describes as “a man with a nature like ours.” (James 5:17)

1Kings 17-19:18 tells us of Elijah, a man who was hated by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. He prayed that it would not rain until he said, and it didn’t rain for three years. He made provisions for one meal to last for three years. He raised a dead boy to life. In between some of these events, he went into hiding where God sent ravens to feed him. Perhaps the most famous event was when he called ?re down from heaven. After the prophets of Baal had been praying to their gods all day long to no avail, Elijah dug trenches around the altar and ?lled them with water. He then soaked the offering and altar with water three times, and prayed. God sent ?re that consumed the sacri?ce. Elijah then gave the people the order to destroy the prophets of Baal.

God does not remind Elijah of the reasons that he should not feel this way–not even one! He doesn’t tell him to “suck it up,” “have more faith,” “count your blessings,” or “pray harder.” Instead, God sends an angel who touches Elijah, and says to him, “Get up and eat.”

I tell you all this so that you can realize that this man with a nature like us was a man of great faith and was used by God in a mighty way. He was a solid believer.

After all this, the next thing we see in Scripture is Elijah hiding from Jezebel’s death threats. But more than just running away, he’s in the desert praying to die, crying out to God that he had had enough–he couldn’t do it any more.

So, we have this great man of God, fearful and depressed, praying to die. God’s response is the part of the story I want you to pay attention to. God does not remind Elijah of the reasons that he should not feel this way–not even one! He doesn’t tell him to “suck it up,” “have more faith,” “count your blessings,” or “pray harder.” Instead, God sends an angel who touches Elijah, and says to him, “Get up and eat.” Elijah looked beside him and there was food and water. After a time of rest, the “angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him” and told him to rise and eat. God then spoke to Elijah softly and reassured him of God’s plans and Elijah’s future success.

God responded to Elijah’s depression by sending support, the angel touched him and fed him. He allowed Elijah to rest and sleep. God took care of Elijah’s basic needs and required nothing of him.

So, I think we can safely say that God would not have us beat ourselves up or feel shame in being depressed. There is no shame in needing help!
The end of Elijah’s story is spectacular–check out 2 Kings 2.

Salley Sutmiller, M.S.

For more articles on depression, click here.

A Good Nights Sleep

January 20th, 2016

sleeping childQuality sleep may be one of the most important things to maintaining our health. Regarding to mental health, sleep has all kinds of significance, both diagnostic and interventional. Often times, mental health issues will affect someone’s ability to sleep. This can ultimately create a negative cycle in which the lack of sleep makes the mental health concern more significant and then the mental health concern can further disturb sleep. Doing some things to improve sleep quality and quantity, can be very helpful in alleviating these concerns.

A common concept, foundational to helping improve sleep is Sleep Hygiene. These are a set of suggestions that are designed to set the stage for healthy sleep to occur. If someone is dealing with a serious sleep disorder these may not be enough to overcome that problem, however, they are still important in achieving a solution. If you are struggling with any kind of difficulty sleeping, you may want to implement some of the following ideas.

Eliminate anything from the bedroom (especially the bed itself) that has is not conducive to sleep. This would include a television, computers, even radios and reading material. The idea is that the bedroom, and the bed specifically, is for sleeping and that should be its lone focus. OK, those who are married might find another use for the bed.

Be careful what you eat and drink. Avoid foods and drinks that are going to upset your stomach and caused distress. Minimizing fatty and spicy food, anything that might upset the stomach or cause distress should be avoided for understandable reasons.

Avoiding caffeine, especially at least six hours before bedtime, is very helpful. Even those people who think they’ve developed some resistance to caffeine, should eliminate it during the evening hours. There’s a reason over-the-counter medications designed to help people stay awake are essentially caffeine tablets.

Avoid thinking of alcohol as a sleep aid. The problem with alcohol, while it may induce some drowsiness or sleepiness, is that it actually decreases the quality of sleep.

Develop a calm down routine before bed. For about an hour and a half before you go to sleep, it is a good idea to do something soothing and relaxing, preferably with the lights dimmed. This could include reading, prayer time, personal Bible study, even a soothing bath or shower. It would be best to avoid anything like roughhousing with the kids or watching something that is likely to rile you up.

Regular exercise is an important part of sleep hygiene. Just be sure it is done several hours before going to bed. Exercise does have a stimulating affect for the few hours immediately after the activity. So sleeping right after exercise should be avoided. When you are exercising, intensity is a lot less important than simply being active. Brisk walks several times a week should do the job. Of course consult a physician before beginning a new exercise program.

The environment of the bedroom is important. A cool room has proven to be more conducive to healthy sleep. Also, a dark room is very important for fostering a healthy sleep environment. Light exposure is an important part of waking up, thus eliminating light is an important part of getting to sleep.

Maintain a regular schedule. It is a really good idea to go to bed and get out of bed at the same time every day. Developing a sleep/wake routine, can be very helpful in setting your circadian rhythm, also known as your sleep cycle.

While this is not an exhaustive list of sleep hygiene suggestions, it is good place to start. If you are having significant sleep issues and would like some help regarding them, please contact us at Christian Family Institute. We can help you determine exactly what your sleep issues may be and help you in overcoming those concerns.

by Eric Clements, M.S.

(more articles on managing stress)

Stronger Relationships 2.0

October 21st, 2015

CFI Staff is presenting a series of seminars on Managing Emotions.

stronger-relationships1-770x433

CFI on Mental Health

September 8th, 2015

Greg Pittman, minister at Cedar Ridge Christian Church, interviews Dr. Dale Doty & Eric Clements on mental illness and how the church should play a part in mental health of individuals and families.

7 Tips on Dealing with Depression

July 1st, 2015
Depression

Depression

Depression causes negative thinking, withdrawal, and inactivity. These symptoms, in turn, make you feel more depressed. The more depressed you feel, the more you think negatively, withdraw, and reduce activity. It’s a self-feeding cycle.

1. Get Real. You cannot prevent stressful things from happening in your life. However, learning to maintain balance and recover quickly when shaken puts you in control of a situation rather than a situation being in control of you. The following are a few suggestions on steps to take to refocus.

2. Get Involved. Volunteer work with a library, church or civic group. Go out with friends, or join a club (book club, knitting club, car club). Being around others rather than isolating yourself is a helpful way to resist depression.

3. Get Physical. Exercise plays an important role in your well-being and self-esteem. Join a gym or go for a walk (alone, with a friend or take the dog). Get on a bike and ride the trails. Tulsa Metro Area has over 80 miles of bicycle/pedestrian trails to keep you safely off the streets while enjoying fresh air. There are 75 free bikes to check out and use thanks to Saint Francis Health System. These are located along Riverside at 21st, 41st and 96th Streets.

4. Get Active. Learn a new skill, such as photography, cooking, gardening or woodworking. Learning raises self-esteem and makes you a more interesting person.

5. Get Relaxed. Listen to music and let your mood be uplifted. Learn yoga or Pilates from a book or DVD (stretching is relaxing!) or simply take the time to breathe slowly and deeply for several minutes.

6. Get Personal. Be aware of what you are doing and thinking that keeps depression around. Your mood is dependent on how you think, not on what happens to you, and the messages you tell yourself (your self-talk) influence your mood. Get in the habit of thinking about what you are thinking. Try changing negative thoughts into encouraging ones. Non-negative thinking is more powerful in terms of reducing depression than just thinking positive thoughts. This exercise can be difficult, however, because it is hard to concentrate when you are depressed. Your ability to minimize the negativity in situations allows you to take control away from depression and helps you feel empowered.

7. Get Help. The tips listed above are suggestions for you to try on your own. If you are unable to overcome a depressed mood on your own, call a qualified therapist to assist. There are many factors that cause depression and a therapist is equipped to help you find avenues to successfully overcome it.

Lois Trost, M.S.W.

(Click here for more articles on depression.)

Insights into Depression

June 24th, 2015

BIBLICAL INSIGHTShead-196541_640

Christians sometimes have the mistaken notion that they are immune from depression, and that depression is a result of failure in their Christian walk. This may not be the true as there are many causes of depression as we have indicated above.

The Bible records many examples of depression in God’s people. David repeatedly experienced depression (Psalms 43, 69, 88, and 102). Job, Moses, and Jonah of the Old Testament all experienced depression. Elijah, following the greatest victory recorded in the scripture on Mt. Carmel, sat under a broom tree and prayed to die (I Kings 19:4).

Scripture indicates “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, . . . (Gal. 5:22).” It is God’s desire that we experience peace and joy, the opposite of depression. Phillipians 4:8 gives us a prescription for our negative thoughts. We are told to think on the things that are true, honest, lovely, excellent, virtuous and worthy of praise.

Comfort may be found in the scripture as clients are helped to realize that depression affects even the greatest of God’s heroes of faith. Faith and hope produce the opposite of hopelessness and contribute to recovery.

For clients experiencing separation from God, unforgiveness, or unrepentant sin, submission to Christ’s Lordship may produce healing and restore joy. For clients who have distorted notions of who God is, or what the Bible teaches, instruction and correction of faulty notions may increase a sense of hopefulness and healthy self esteem.

PSYCHOLOGICAL INSIGHTS

Psychological theories and research also give us insight into depression. We know that changes in brain chemistry take place in the person who is depressed. For some patients, those changes occur in response to medical disorders. In other cases, brain chemistry may be altered by stress, and thoughts of hopelessness, helplessness, and self-depreciation.

For the person whose depression is primarily caused by negative thoughts, cognitive therapy has been proven to be effective. Cognitive therapy is the application of behavioral and self management techniques to assist clients to change their thought-life which in turn affects emotions. The theory behind cognitive psychology is that emotions result from thoughts. As one changes their thoughts in conformity with a positive Biblical perspective, depression often disappears.

When depression is related to family and marital problems, marriage and family therapy may produce relief. This therapy may be directed at improving conflict resolution and communication skills, and may facilitate negotiation between family members. Some patients have unresolved conflicts going back to their family upbringing. Helping people look at the origins of their depression, bitterness, and anger may lead to forgiveness and reconciliation.

For those experiencing reactive depression due to loss, life stress, or change, emotional support and encouragement may speed recovery. “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone (1 Thes. 5:14).

– Dale Doty, Ph.D.

(Additional articles on depression.)