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Parents - How Do You Know When Your Teen is Depressed?

Monday, October 09, 2017


1 in 5 teenagers will suffer from depression, so it is vital for parents to stay alert to these signs of depression in their teensDo you have a moody teen at home? With all the pressures and changes teens face as they grow up, it is expected that they will experience intense feelings of frustration, anger, or sadness from time to time. This is a normal part of growing up.

Sometimes, though, their anger or sadness are signs of a bigger problem – depression. While no one wants their child to have to deal with something severe like depression, it is estimated that 1 in 5 teens will suffer from depression at some point during their teen years. It’s so important for parents to stay alert to signs that their teen could be dealing with it.

How do you know if your teen is depressed? These are some common signs:

  • Irritability, anger, or hostility

  • Sadness, hopelessness, or discouragement

  • Frequent crying

  • Negative thinking and highly critical of self and others

  • Withdrawal from family and friends

  • Loss of interest

  • Poor performance in school

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits

  • Fatigue or lack of energy

  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Unexplained aches and pains

It can be hard for parents and other adults to know when a child is depressed. An irritable or angry mood might seem like a bad attitude or disrespect. Low energy and lack of interest might look like not trying. Parents may not realize that these can be signs of depression.

Depression also tends to look different in teens than it does in adults. Irritability is usually the predominant mood in depressed teens, as opposed to sadness with adults. They are also very likely to complain of unexplained pains like a headache or stomachache. Adults will often isolate themselves completely if they are suffering from depression. Teens are more likely to isolate themselves from their parents, but still maintain some of their friendships.

If you see some of these signs in your teen, but are unsure if they really signal depression, think about how long the symptoms have been happening, how severe they are, and how different your teen is acting from his usual self. Continuous unhappiness or irritability, for weeks or months, it is definitely not normal, and should be addressed.

The good news is that depression can get better with the right attention and care. Here are some steps to take if you think your child might be depressed:

  • Talk with your child about depression and their moods. Teens might ignore, hide, or deny how they feel. They might not realize they’re depressed. Even if they act like they don’t want help, talk with them anyway. Listen without judgement. Offer your support. Show them and tell them that they are loved and needed.

  • Schedule a visit to your teen’s doctor. The doctor will probably do a complete physical exam. A full exam lets the doctor check your child for other health conditions that could cause depression-like symptoms.

  • Contact a mental health specialist. A therapist can evaluate your child and recommend treatment. Parental counselling could be part of the treatment, too. It focuses on ways parents can best support and respond to a teen dealing with depression.

As an experienced family therapist, I can help you and your teen get through this difficult time. Please contact my office to set up an appointment. I have an office in Jantzen Beach where we could talk in person. I also offer online therapy if it is more convenient for you.

Infidelity in the Family Business? How Therapy Can Help

Wednesday, October 04, 2017


With infidelity, therapy is key to finding the root of the problem fixing it from the inside out to mitigate the effects on the family and business.Infidelity - it is a fairly common problem that doesn’t get addressed often enough. Of course, what goes on in a marriage should be private and a couple dealing with infidelity should be given space and time to work out their next steps. But it is not usually that simple.
 
Infidelity can cause aftershocks that affect the lives of many people, not just the marital partners. When a family is part of a larger system such as a family business, the people affected include not only family members, but also employees, vendors, customers, and others who play a role in the family/business system.
 
As much as those engaging in infidelity may think they are being discreet, eventually those around them find out. Even if they can’t quite put their finger on exactly what’s going on, they will pick up on the deception and secrecy. Deception makes people uncomfortable, and uncomfortable people make mistakes. This leads to more stress in the workplace, and the problem will spill out to customers, vendors, and clients.
 
Many people see infidelity as a moral issue, but it may be more useful to see it as a problem of practicality. Infidelity destroys trust not just between marital partners but among those who know the people involved. This type of behavior can be very harmful to your business in terms of respect and market share. It can also influence your employees. Deception in the upper levels of the company could foster that quality in others.
 
The key to mitigating the effects of infidelity on the family and business, and to preventing it from happening again, is communication. Among families in business, because of the need to be supportive, nurturing and protective of the family, sexual improprieties are often covered up. However, avoiding conflict and ignoring infidelity can lead to serious problems. Issues can fester, and progress isn’t made. In order to get to the bottom of conflicts and move forward, you must confront the issue.
 
Communication is vital to understanding why the infidelity happened in the first place. The first step would be for the couple dealing with infidelity to speak with a professional psychologist. Infidelity is a symptom of a deeper problem that needs attending to. The really difficult part is figuring out what the symptom is telling you. The last thing the person engaging in infidelity wants to do is discuss their misbehavior, but talking about what happened and why, is exactly what is needed to get to the root of the problem.
 
Eventually other members of the family business may need counseling as well. The natural tendency of all families, whether they are in business together or not, is to cover up problems with the idea that doing so will keep the family safe. A professional psychologist can guide the family toward solutions that work instead of ignoring or hiding the problem. Your family can benefit from the objective guidance of a professional trained in helping families heal and rebuilding trust in the workplace.
 
If this comes up in your business, the minute you get wind of the symptom of infidelity, confront the problem immediately. Don't cast blame, but talk openly and honestly about what the real problem is. If the person is a family member, this is easier said than done! If you need advice on how to handle infidelity in the workplace, please know I have worked with many families, including families in business, on this very issue.
 
Please contact my office in Jantzen Beach to schedule an appointment, or try online therapy if that is best for you.

Male and Female Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Monday, October 02, 2017


Have you ever wondered if you’re autistic? Do you wonder about your daughter, your mother or your sister? After living with an Aspie for a few years, you may be a bit quirky yourself. Tragically, girls are typically under-represented in studies and treatment programs for high functioning autism, because they do look different.

In fact there’s emerging research that demonstrates that women on the Autism Spectrum have different brain organization than men on the Spectrum. For example, ASD women and girls seem to have more access to some of the empathy circuits in the brain. Not as much as NT women, but enough that they also are quite confused and suffer in relationships with ASD males.

Current estimates of the ratio of ASD male to female is 4 males to 1 female. However Simon Baron-Cohen suggests that once female ASD is diagnosed effectively, the numbers will change to 2:1. Right now females tend to get diagnosed for ASD only when they’re low functioning. More often than not they’re receiving alternate diagnoses like ADHD or OCD.

Have you noticed the differences between male and female Autism? Or would you like to discuss this topic further? If you’re a member of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD meetup, be sure to register for the free, international Teleconference: Male and Female differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder on Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 2:30 PM PT. We’ll dig into the research on girls and autism. Bring your personal examples. Even if you have no experience with women and girls on the Spectrum, you’ll gain insight into your male Aspies by comparison.

Other resources:
NPR’s Morning Addition: ‘Social Camouflage’ May Lead to Underdiagnosis of Autism in Girls.
Barry Carpenter Education pdf
What is it like to be a girl with autism?
“Putting on My Best Normal”: Social Camouflaging in Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions

Do you suspect that one of your female family members has undiagnosed autism? With a proper diagnosis, you can begin the process of helping her live a better life. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

You can read my story and that of others’ in my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). Click on the image below to download a free chapter.

How Adverse Childhood Experiences May Be Affecting Your Health Today

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


How Adverse Childhood Experiences May Be Affecting Your Health TodayHas your physician ever asked you if there was a childhood trauma or stressors that might be contributing to the extreme level of inflammation you’re experiencing today? If not, they should be according to authorities on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE).

Yale researchers discovered that when inflammatory stress hormones flood a child’s body and brain, they alter the genes that control stress reactivity and re-sets the stress response to “high” for that person’s entire lifetime! This increases the risk of inflammation and diseases such as cancer, heart disease, irritable bowel disease, migraines, and autoimmune diseases.

They’re not alone in their conclusions. A 1996 Kaiser Permanente-CDC Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) links childhood stress to adult illness. In fact, over 1500 peer-reviewed studies have replicated these findings.

You can read an informative article by Donna Jackson Nakazawain about how ACE contributed to her own health crisis. Here are some highlights from the article…

Two-thirds of Americans report experiencing Adverse Childhood Experiences. People who’d experienced four types of ACE are twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer and depression as adults. Women who experienced three types of ACE have a sixty percent greater risk of being hospitalized with an autoimmune disease. Suffering six types of ACE may shortened one’s lifespan by twenty years.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) can include:

  • sexual abuse,
  • physical abuse,
  • witnessing physical abuse of parent or guardian,
  • suffering from economic hardship,
  • divorce or separation of parents or guardians,
  • depressed, mentally ill, or suicidal parent or guardian,
  • parent(s) or guardian who abuse alcohol or have a drug addiction,
  • death of parent or guardian,
  • imprisonment of parent or guardian,
  • witnessing or experiencing neighborhood violence,
  • and even being the brunt of belittling parent(s).

The Kaiser Permanente ACE Study showed that the type of trauma doesn’t matter as much as the number of types of different trauma experienced. When physicians acknowledged and validate their patients’ childhood trauma, they can help them begin the healing process mentally and physically. I’m so pleased that some medical schools are finally training students to recognize the link between ACE and adult disease.

If you suspect that Adverse Childhood Experiences are making you sick, please speak with your physician as soon as possible. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you’d like to learn how a holistic approach can help you heal, please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. If it’s more convenient, I also offer online therapy.

Read more on my website: Holistic Health.

Why Do Those with Asperger’s Syndrome Say the Strangest Things?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Here are four reasons why your Asperger friends or family members sound like Mr. Spock when they’re sharing their feelings, and what you can do about it.Have you ever noticed that your Aspie friend or family member sounds like Mr. Spock when they’re sharing their feelings? So unattached and impersonal. Why is that? It’s because people with Asperger’s Syndrome have a disconnect between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. Many also have Alexithymia, which contributes to a disconnect between understanding their own feelings and finding words to tell us what they’re feeling.

In addition to that, Aspies also have developed a belief system as a result of living in a world where others make no sense. For example, have you noticed how they draw a conclusion based on one experience and hold to it forever, no matter how much you plead with them that it’s no longer true?

Another confusing element is when they’re trying to chit-chat but can't remember any important information about the person they’re talking to…as if this is their first encounter? They could be talking to your aunt or the next door neighbor and be totally clueless.

It's like a primary school child who is learning to read and only sounds at the words. By third and fourth grade most children are starting to gather information from their reading, not just dutifully reading words on the page. Our Aspies seem stuck in first grade when it comes to social interaction. They have a few basic rules of engagement but haven't mastered the depth of connecting with others.

Some of you may not care why they say the strangest things, or you may have given up trying to translate. However, some of you are still trying to understand the unfathomable logic and language of our Aspies. I actually think the key to our mental health comes from understanding their disability just a little bit better. This enables us to detach and not take so seriously the odd, hurtful and sometimes mean things they say.

If you’re a member of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, be sure to register for the October Video Conference: Why do Aspies say the strangest things? There are still opening for this low-cost, hour-long session on either Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 3:00 PM PDT or Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 9:00 AM PDT. Please bring your questions about this phenomenon. I bet you have insights too.

Would you rather have a one-on-one session with me? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. Or if it’s more convenient, I also offer online therapy.

Expats – Be Prepared for Mental Health Challenges Abroad

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Along with joy relocating to a new country can bring frustration, anxiety, and depression, so prepare for these mental health challenges before you go.Have you decided to make a move abroad? Maybe you have accepted a job in another country or are moving to participate in volunteer work. An adventure like this is full of excitement and opportunity. But to be successful, you have to prepare yourself for the challenges that can come along with it.
 
Some of the challenges you may face as an expat include:

  • Living in a place where few people speak your language. To be constrained by language barriers is isolating. Even when you have some grasp of your new language, fluency takes time and the process can be frustrating.

  • Adjusting to a new environment. Your new area may not be as safe as your previous neighborhood, limiting mobility and walks alone. Or maybe your spouse is working, leaving you to fend for yourself during the day. Unfamiliar foods and lack of access to the comforts of home can cause stress.

  • Understanding and adapting to new cultures and customs. Learning what is proper and acceptable in another country can be a long process. When you aren’t familiar with local customs it can lead to frustration and embarrassment. 

  • Being separated from family and friends. If you want to grab lunch with your mom or a friend they are all back in your native country, and phone calls can be expensive! It can also be upsetting if you have to miss important life events, milestones or beloved holidays.

This combination can lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, or depression. In fact, expats experience a significantly higher risk for anxiety, depression, and substance abuse problems than their domestic counterparts. This was highlighted in a recent study that showed that expats are at a higher risk for mental health problems.
 
These feelings can quickly derail what should be an exciting, engaging, and interesting chapter of your life. They can lead to poor job performance, marital problems, and physical health issues.
 
What can you do before embarking on your journey to prepare yourself for these challenges? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Identify both the strengths and weakness that change brings out in you. This awareness will help you maximize your strengths and not be blindsided by your weaknesses.

  • Let go of the idea that life has to be a certain way. View change, big and small, as an opportunity to grow. 

  • Do research. Find out as much as you can about the country, city, and neighborhood as you can before you move. If possible, visit before your move so you have some idea of what to expect. Talk to people who have made the same move or a similar one.

  • Learn some basic phrases in the new language. Having a greeting and some basic sentences you’ll need on a regular basis memorized before you go will help you feel more comfortable in your new environment. It will also make it easier to pick up the language.

  • Plan ahead to see family and friends. Plan a definite time to come back to your home country for a visit or have loved ones come visit you. Schedule phone calls and video chat sessions. 

  • Find a therapist. You may come to realize that you could really use the help of a therapist to navigate your transition to a new life in a new country. 

On the point of finding a therapist, how you do you find one in a new country? It can definitely be a challenge. Depending on where you are going, there may not be that many qualified therapists in your area. The local therapists may not speak your language. And in a small community, the local therapist could be someone you interact with in other circles. It can be uncomfortable to open up to someone who has connections to your outside life.
 
What if you could have a qualified therapist who speaks your language, and who is available at the touch of a button? I offer a service that provides exactly that! My Remote Counselling Services for Expats utilizes a HIPPA compliant, online video program to connect us, no matter where you are in the world via video conferences, I can help you navigate the unique situations that you face and find a healthy way to cope with your new challenges. Please take advantage of this unique service so you can get the most of your international experience and your life!

What is Anxiety Costing Your Business?

Monday, September 18, 2017


Anxiety can cost you your business so it is important to find out what you can do to combat negative thinking.Anxiety is costly. It costs you emotionally, mentally and physically. The mind-body connection is very real and very powerful. Our emotions affect our bodies and anxious feelings can cause many physical health problems.
 
What about the financial cost of dealing with anxiety? Doctor’s visits and medications are expensive. Personal steps taken to prevent anxiety, such as supplements or private forms of transportation to avoid crowds, can add up quickly. There is also the cost of re-doing a project or an activity if it has been disrupted by an anxiety attack, which was illustrated in a recent story in the NY Times of a woman whose panic attack cost her $1000.
 
Then there is the burden put on your business. Persons who suffer with anxiety take more time off work than their less-anxious counterparts. And if you own a business, your anxiety will eventually affect your bottom line. How?
 
Here are just a few ways anxiety can cost your business:

  • Anxiety can make you less solution-oriented. When you encounter a setback, you are likely to give up quickly instead of continuing to search for a way around the problem. It can prevent you from moving forward and persevering. 

  • Anxiety can prevent you from trying new things and expanding your business. Anxious persons are afraid of change and failure. Instead of looking at a new experience as an opportunity to learn, you look at it as a chance of failing.

  • Anxiety affects your employees. Your anxiety can rub off on the people who are around you, thus reducing their efficiency and even their attendance at work. It can also lead your employees to feel like they have to walk on eggshells around you, hindering communication which is a vital part of managing a successful business.

  • Anxiety can cost you clients. Clients are more likely to work with you if they sense you are confident in your product and relaxed. They, too, can pick up on your anxiety, and it could prevent them from doing business with you.

To clarify, the type of anxiety I am discussing here isn’t the “normal” feelings of nervousness, fear, or apprehension caused by new experiences, high-pressure situations, or stressful events. This type of anxiety usually goes as quickly as it comes. Once the anxiety-inducing event is over, feelings normalize.
 
The type of anxiety I’m talking about is the kind that nags at you on a daily basis. It is the type of anxiety that can sometimes be pushed out of mind enough to get through the day, but that eventually starts to affect your business, relationships, and health. This anxiety becomes controlling, debilitating, and may even feel inescapable.
 
If these are symptoms you deal with, you may have developed an anxiety disorder. In this case, help is needed to manage the mental and physical discomfort, and learn how to cope. If you do suffer from an anxiety disorder, be assured you can identify and correct your negative thoughts and beliefs. You can change the way you think, thereby changing the way you feel.
 
How can you do this? I encourage my clients to Identify, Challenge, and Replace their negative, anxious thoughts.

  • Identify what you’re thinking when you start feeling anxious.

  • Challenge those thoughts and ask yourself if your fears and concerns are legitimate and warranted.

  • Then Replace your negative thoughts with new thoughts that are more realistic and positive.

It’s simple but it can be far from easy! In many cases, if you’re dealing with an anxiety disorder you will need the guidance and support of a doctor. Anxiety disorders are not all treated the same, and it’s important to determine the specific problem before embarking on a course of treatment.
 
Please contact my office in Jantzen Beach to schedule an appointment, or try online therapy if that is best for you. I will conduct a careful diagnostic evaluation to determine what type of anxiety you are truly dealing with and establish a plan of treatment to get you back to feeling and working at your best.

How to Handle Divorce When You're Running a Business Together

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


If you run a business with your spouse it would be wise to consider the possibility of divorce when developing your business plan.In an ideal world, partners in a marriage and business would work perfectly together and everyone would be happy and successful. But the world is not ideal, and almost 50% of marriages end in divorce. Marriages between entrepreneurs suffer an even higher divorce rate!

So as a business owner married to your business partner, it’s a good idea to consider the possibility of divorce when developing your business plan. Remember that planning for the worst does not mean you will create the worst. It simply means that you have wisely developed contingencies should the worst happen.
 
Interestingly, planning for the possibility of divorce can have the opposite effect. If you are aware of the full ramifications of divorce, it may very well give you the incentive you need to keep your relationship healthy. It could motivate you to work together to nip any problems in the bud before they become insurmountable.
 
I encourage my entrepreneurial couple clients to create a partnership agreement after or in contemplation of beginning an entrepreneurial venture. It is a document that can go a long way to define the parties’ mutual rights and obligations in the event of a divorce and dissolution of the partnership. The agreement may specify which spouse will carry on the business. It may define each spouses’ respective contributions to the business and how much would have to be paid to buy out the other partners’ interest in the business.
 
This is not to say that you can’t run your business together after dissolving your marriage. Some people choose to stay in business together, and they are happy and successful while doing so. But others cannot continue to work together and need to divide up their interest in the business.
 
Often, we don’t think of these things ahead of time. Most entrepreneurial couples just wing it when it comes to business or marriage. They trust their drive and intelligence to get them through life’s roadblocks. They believe love is enough to carry them through as a couple. But as life becomes more complicated by marriage, children, and an expanding business, the weaknesses in this style begin to emerge.
 
So if you are in a stable marriage, please read on. Be advised of the preparations you can take now that could save you anguish should a divorce occur down the road.
 
And if you are at the point where you have made the decision to divorce your partner, please note the following steps to dissolving your business partnership when you divorce:

  1. Contact a qualified attorney. Try to work with an attorney that is familiar with entrepreneurial couples and your unique needs.
  2. Ask the court to decide which spouse will have the management responsibilities of the business until the divorce is final. During a divorce, trust is low and secrecy is high. Bypass these issues by having the court give one person management responsibilities. This can be done in a way where the non-managing spouse still has access to inspect the business premises and financial records.
  3. Honestly appraise your business. It is possible that your business doesn’t need to be appraised. If it does, hire a neutral business appraiser. When a modest business is involved, you can take the practical approach of valuing the equipment and accounts receivable. It is a relatively inexpensive and non-combative way to value your business. Fighting over intangible assets of your business, like goodwill, reputation, and position in the market, isn’t usually worth it.
  4. Decide who will get the business. If you have both put your hearts and souls into the business, this can be a tough decision. If the two of you can make this decision before going to court, you’ll save yourself a lot of money and heartache. Keep in mind that typically the court will award one spouse the entire marital interest in the business, which also includes the debts. The other spouse receives an equitable share (typically half) of the net value of the marital interest in the business.
  5. When it’s over, move on. Even if things don’t go the way you wanted, you still have the choice as to how you respond. Dust yourself off and move on. Look to the future. Remember, you’re an entrepreneur. Divorce doesn’t take away that spirit.

If you want to get started planning for the worst but hoping for the best with regard to creating a healthy, long-term, successful marriage and business partnership, try asking yourself this question: If we decide to divorce in the future, why would that be and what can we do now to prevent this? Often it helps to consult with an objective family therapist who can facilitate this conversation. Please contact my office in Jantzen Beach to make an appointment or utilize my online therapy option.

Train Your Brain to be a Successful Entrepreneur

Monday, September 11, 2017


Entrepreneurs - your attitude is integral to your success so make these small, simple changes to literally rewire your brain to think positivelyWhen you think of training you might think of learning a new professional skill. Or you might think of a personal training regiment that whips your body into shape. But have you ever considered training your brain to be more positive?
 
To be a successful entrepreneur, you need a positive attitude. Is it really that important? Yes, here are a few key reasons:

  • Entrepreneurship is like a roller coaster ride. There are ups and downs, things that make you happy that turn right around and make you want to scream. Because of the constant changes and challenges that can arise, it is necessary to cultivate a positive attitude. It will keep you grounded and able to see beyond your current circumstances. Optimistic entrepreneurs are better at problem-solving and bouncing back from disappointment.

  • Your attitude rubs off on those you work with. If you are consistently negative, the people you work with will reflect back that attitude. In contrast, if you make the effort to have positive conversations in the workplace, your employees will follow suit. Happier, more positive employees make for better, more efficient and effective employees. It also contributes to a healthier work environment for everyone.

  • Clients can perceive what your attitude is. When you show a positive attitude about life and your product, customers will want to do business with you. This, of course, will lead your business to greater profitability and success.

  • Your attitude affects your day-to-day life. When you are positive, you feel in control and confident. You are motivated to take good care of your physical and mental health. These are the tools you need to perform at your best and make the most of your entrepreneurship.

What if you aren’t a naturally positive person? That’s okay, because with a little bit of effort you can literally change the structure of your brain to think more positively.
 
In your brain you have neural pathways that control your emotions. If your inclination is toward the negative, the neural pathways for negativity become stronger. It is like a muscle. It gets worked most often, so it becomes the strongest.
 
On the up side, your brain is capable of generating new pathways. So it’s possible to train the circuitry in your brain to promote positive responses. When you look for the good in life, you activate different neural pathways in your brain. Dopamine and serotonin production is increased, soothing and calming you.  The more you stimulate these circuits in your brain, the stronger they become. Positivity will become a more automatic response.
 
It doesn’t take much to rewire your brain this way. You can learn to be more positive by practicing simple skills that foster positivity. Some of these skills include:

  • Beginning each day with a positive thought. Simple, right? But it is very powerful. It will help you set the tone for your day and make the choice early on to think positively.

  • Practicing gratitude. Take note of the things each day that you are grateful for. Some of my clients find it helpful to keep a gratitude journal.

  • Doing good for others. If you focus on thinking about other people and working to make their life better, you think about your own problems and worries less. This, in turn, keeps you from dwelling on the negative and moves you to focus on the positive.

  • Living one moment at a time. Focus on the present and making that day the best it can be. The practice of mindfulness helps many of my clients to focus and see the good in their day.

Sometimes a negative attitude is a signal of something more serious. It could be that you’re suffering from depression or anxiety. Don’t put your mental health on the backburner. It may be time to consider enlisting the help of a trained professional. Please contact my office in Jantzen Beach for an appointment. If it works better with your busy schedule, I also offer online therapy.

How to Rewire Your Brain to Learn More Easily

Wednesday, September 06, 2017


Keep your love of learning alive, even if you struggle with learning new concepts, by using this proven formula for fully engaging your brain in the processOne of my clients, a 10 year old boy, wanted to beat me at Scrabble. Secretly he'd started playing an online word game that he called "Scrabble on steroids." He didn't beat me last time, but he came darned close. His score jumped from an average of the low 50s, to 151! Furthermore, he knew the meaning of the words.

As a psychologist, I use a variety of less formal techniques such as playing board games with my young clients. My goal is to put them at ease and level the playing field so that they will open up about their problems. I had no idea that this child would develop an interest in words and in competing with me. By the way, he has shown disinterest in reading and is falling behind at school. We shall see if his new love of Scrabble portends improvements at school this fall. I hope so.

This just goes to show that, by sparking desire, any of us can improve the way that we learn. To further illustrate this, a recent New York Times article reports on how Dr. Oakley, co-creator of the popular course, “Learning How to Learn,” has helped more than a million students from 200 countries.

Dr. Oakley’s lessons are rich in metaphor, which she says helps get complex ideas across, because metaphors use the same neural circuits in the brain as the underlying concept does. It gives your brain a pattern to follow so you can understand the difficult concept more rapidly and easily.

Cognitive scientists show that your brain has two modes of thinking: task-positive networks (“focused” so you can concentrate) and default-mode networks (“diffuse” so you rest and let your brain make connections and attain insight).

To fully engage both modes, Dr. Oakley recommends you set a timer for 25 minutes of “focused” work, followed by a break for “diffuse” reflection. Use the break for taking your mind off the task. Listen to a song, take a walk, do anything that helps you relax. This allows your brain to subconsciously connect the new knowledge with what you already know.

Over time, we all create a mental library of well-practiced neural “chunks” (Dr. Oakley’s term for the patterns we impress into our brains). For example, we work hard to learn how to ride a bike or play a musical instrument, and once we know it, we don’t forget it. We can do it automatically.

You can build and connect new chunks on previous chunks, so your neural network of automatic patterns keep growing and expanding into more difficult information. For example, elementary math is the building block for Algebra and Calculus. With enough practice, they too can become a breeze for you.

We never want to lose our joy of learning because it contributes so much to our joy of living. If you’d like to learn about how to enhance your potential, consider scheduling an online NLP session with me. It’s an efficient technique for being more successful in your chosen endeavors. It eliminates the guesswork as it gives you a time-tested structure to follow for understanding emotions, goal setting, negotiating, problem solving, creativity and more.

Read more on my website: Gifted Adults and NLP.



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