Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recommended Reading

Manage Your Depression through Exercise:

The Motivation You Need to Start and Maintain an Exercise Program

By: Jane Baxter, PhD Sunrise River Press

Research has proven that exercise helps to lessen or even reverse symptoms of depression. Whether depressed readers are aware of the research or not, most of them already know that exercise is good for them. They know they need to do it, but many can't muster the energy or motivation to take action. How to Manage Your Depression through Exercise is the only book on the market that meets depressed readers where they are at emotionally, physically, and spiritually and takes them from the difficult first step of getting started toward a brighter future. Through inspiring facts that explain the neuroscience behind how movement helps mood, the Move & Smile Five-Week Activity Plan, the Challenge & Correct Formula to end negative self-talk, and words of encouragement, author Jane Baxter uses facts, inspiration, compassion, and honesty to help readers get beyond feelings of inertia one step at a time. Includes reproducible charts, activities list, positive inner-dialogue comebacks, and photos illustrating various exercises. (

Did you know . . .

That there are things you can do to get a better night’s sleep?

Sleep is essential to our bodies, minds, and spirits. A good night’s rest can help us be more productive at school and work, give our bodies the time they need to restore and rejuvenate vital energy, and keep us feeling emotionally balanced. Unfortunately, for many of us, a peaceful night’s sleep isn’t always the norm. Here are some tips from on how to set yourself up for a better night’s sleep.

· Keep a regular sleep schedule. This means setting a regular bedtime, waking up at the same time everyday, and taking a short nap when you need to make up for some lost sleep time.

· Naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Increase your natural light exposure to the sun by taking off your sunglasses, going outside during breaks in your day, or even considering a light therapy box during the shorter daylight hours of winter. This increases the natural hormone, melatonin, which helps our bodies regulate our sleep cycles.

· Make your bedroom more sleep friendly. Consider keeping your room cool (65° is a good temperature for optimal sleep). Keep any noise to a minimum and consider using a sound machine for white noise to block out neighborhood and other noises. A comfortable bed is also a plus for getting a good night’s sleep.

· Eat right and get regular exercise. Cut back on caffeine in general and particularly close to bedtime. Avoid big meals and a lot of liquids before going to bed, especially stay away from alcohol close to bedtime. Also, smoking is not good for many health reasons, but for sleep in particular it acts as a stimulant and is disruptive to sleep.

· Reduce your anxiety and stress. Use deep breathing exercises and relaxing visualizations to calm yourself before bed. Try to stay away from thoughts and worries. Make relaxation your goal, not sleep.

Stress Management for Families During the Holidays

The holiday season is filled with images of family traditions, togetherness and joyful children. We look forward to the holidays with excitement and a vision of the perfect celebration, but how often do these images fade into a less than perfect reality? One with frazzled parents running around trying to find the gift their child must have, but they cannot find. One with over-tired children having a meltdown in the middle of a "fun" holiday activity. Or sadly, one of parents who look at the giant to-do list and start to count how many days until the holiday season is over? Often, despite our best efforts (or maybe because of them), the holiday season turns into a time of stress for many families. Here are a few strategies that may help you have a more relaxed and pleasant holiday season:

Be Realistic

Heightened expectations can get us into trouble during the holiday season. We often think that things need to be perfect - the perfect decorations, meals and gifts. We are inundated with images of fancy feasts on meticulously set tables, happy families opening a bounty of gifts and children exclaiming with joy as they open the one thing they've always wanted. The reality is that our lives remain the same during the holidays as they are the rest of the year – filled with work, school, family issues and financial worries. Be honest with yourself about what you can afford and what you have time to do. Decide ahead of time what is realistic for you and your family and plan accordingly. Overspending can lead to more stress down the road, and trying to do more than is reasonable can lead you to feel overwhelmed. Prioritize what is truly important for you and let go of the rest.

Plan Ahead

A little organization can go a long way. Make to-do lists and shopping lists to keep track of what you need to do and what you have accomplished. Make a budget and stick to it. Do a little research ahead of time to minimize trips to the store and reduce shopping impulsiveness and indecisiveness. When children will be with you for shopping or to attend holiday functions, make sure you plan for their well-being. In order to avoid meltdowns, keep children engaged and fed and manage the time for these activities so that it is appropriate for their age and abilities.

Keep a Routine

While shopping, decorating, baking and attending parties can be fun, they can lead to the disruption of your family routine when added to an already busy schedule. For children this can be unsettling and lead to sleep and behavioral issues. To minimize the impact of these additions to your schedule, try to maintain some of your family routines – homework time, family dinners and bedtime routines. The stability of these structures will help children manage the chaos of the holiday season.

Be Flexible

This may seem like a contradiction of the previous suggestions, but we all know the old adage about the best laid plans. Flexibility can be defined as the ability to withstand stress without injury. In terms of our holiday planning, we can become frustrated and stuck when things do not go as planned, or we can stay positive and adapt to the change. So, take a deep breath, think about what you want or need out of the situation and create a new plan. Welcome opportunities to be surprised, as sometimes our greatest enjoyment is found in the unexpected.

Quiet Time

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the season to just be quiet. Sit quietly and practice deep breathing before getting out of bed in the morning. Take ten minutes in between activities to sip a cup of tea. Pause for a moment of prayer or silence before dinner. At the end of the day, try reading together as a family.

Eat Healthy & Exercise

During the holiday season we are often eating on the go, increasing our intake of sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol and caffeine and/or skipping meals or overeating. Our exercise routines often go by the wayside as we feel more crunched for time. These changes in diet and exercise can lead to fatigue, mood fluctuations and a decreased ability to handle stress. Maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet and exercising are two excellent ways to minimize the impact of stress.


Gratitude is simply the recognition of something you appreciate. Sometimes amongst the commercialism of the holiday season, the simple things get lost. As our stress levels increase, so can our pessimistic thoughts. This can include feelings of failure, comparisons with others and disappointment in what we cannot have or cannot do. Research has shown that people who are able to experience gratitude experience a decrease in stress, sleep better and feel happier. We often associate gratitude during the holidays with big things – our family events, the gifts/food we receive. Recognizing and appreciating the everyday things are important too. Be grateful for the parking space in the overcrowded lot, the friendly salesperson who made shopping just a little easier and the "I love you" as you kiss your child goodnight after a busy day.

Have Fun

No matter how busy you are, remember to enjoy this time. Baking cookies can be a chore that you have to get done or it can be a fun activity with your child. Focus on really being present in the activities that you are doing with your family, and make the most of them, rather than just going through the motions because it is something you need to check off your list. Smile, laugh, be silly and enjoy the time with your family and the traditions that you share.

By: Kristi Hallman, LCSW-C

301-712-9015, Ext 1012