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Kathy Marshack News

Stress Can Be a Friend or an Enemy

Monday, May 23, 2016


Stress is your friend because it’s telling you that something isn’t right in your life and you need to do something; it’s how you react to stress that’s good or bad.“What?! Everyone says stress is bad, Dr. Marshack. How can you say stress is your friend?”

It’s true that we hear everyday about how stress is killing us. It’s often associated with problems such as:


Increased appetite for sugar and fats
Abdominal obesity
No energy
Poor concentration
High cholesterol levels
Heart disease and hypertension
Risk for strokes
Diabetes
Alzheimer’s disease
Osteoporosis
Anxiety
Depression
Compromised immune system

But without stress you wouldn’t be motivated to do anything. You wouldn’t get out of bed. You wouldn’t leave your home. You wouldn’t work to solve problems. You wouldn’t strive for excellence. You wouldn’t work at patching up relationships. You wouldn’t get out of the way of a speeding car.

Stress is simply a red flag that you NEED TO DO SOMETHING. It’s telling you that something is not right in your life. How you react to that red flag is the good or bad part of stress. Often you know what you should do, but you don’t follow through, so you add fighting against yourself to the original stressor, which launches the dangerous threat to your health.

It’s your choice to get angry at something someone says or let it go. It’s your choice to suffer in silence or to stand up for yourself. You can decide to sit on the couch watching TV eating bags of chips or go outside and walk in the sunshine. You can choose to tell yourself, “You’re so stupid and you can’t do it.” Or instead say, “I am capable. What I do is good enough.”

However, if stress is prolonged and has already caused serious health problems or is the result of trauma, a chemical imbalance or a nutritional imbalance, you’ll need more than positive thinking and meditation to get you back on track to optimal health. Maybe it’s been going on so long you don’t even know where your stress is coming from.

A psychologist experienced in a holistic health, NET and varying forms of psychotherapy can provide you with a mental and physical health program tailored to your specific biochemical, emotional and mental needs. If you’re experiencing unrelieved stress, please consult with a professional as soon as possible. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more: Mind and Body Health.

Feeling Blue? Five Ways to Deal with Holiday Depression

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


holiday depressionWhile the holiday season is a happy time for most people because it’s exciting to get time off work and spend with family. For others the festivities become an unbearable stressor that creates greater depression in their lives.

Perhaps the loss of a loved one, financial pressure, divorce, or a job loss causes you to feel depressed. When you see everyone else is happy and joyful, you feel worse because you’re not like them. It makes the depression seem so much darker in comparison.

How can you cope with depression during the holidays?

1. Don’t overextend yourself physically, emotionally or financially. Know your limitations and say “No” when you must. It’s an act of love to create these boundaries.

2. Rest more. That could include sleeping, deep breathing, or other relaxation methodology. Dealing with depression is exhausting, so you need time to recharge your mind and your body. This gives you strength to keep going.

3. Confide in a trusted friend. It’s easy to isolate yourself when you’re depressed, but being around those who love you reminds you that there’s more to life. Their support is what you need to remind you that you’re not alone. It can also distract you from thinking only about yourself. You’ll find that the people around you are also dealing with difficulties. Recognizing that can give you some necessary perspective.

4. Don’t expect too much of yourself and others. The “miracle of the holiday” isn’t going to fix your problems like the movies portray. However, with forethought and planning, you may be able to initiate healing conversations since people may be more open to making peace. Cut yourself some slack. You’re only human. When you’re feeling down, find something that makes you feel good about yourself and do it.

5. Cultivate a grateful attitude. What are you grateful about you? Many have found that regularly keeping a gratitude journal really helps elevate their happiness.

I urge you, if your depression doesn’t improve, speak to your doctor or a therapist immediately. They can help by providing you with the right tools to get you back on your feet. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

For more information, visit Overcoming Depression.

Could You be “Almost Depressed”?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


Everyone experiences some unhappiness or “the blues”, perhaps due to a setback or loss. The painful feelings that accompany these changes are appropriate and necessary and present an opportunity for personal growth. But what if there are persisting low feelings, although you can’t say that you’re really depressed? Is this something to be concerned about? Should you just wait for it to blow over or is there something that should be done to improve the situation today?

I found an article on CNN, “Could You be Almost Depressed?”, to be very informative. It reports that as many as 12 million people in the United States may be suffering from low-grade depression symptoms. The author, Shelley Carson, described findings from a Harvard Medical School investigation. “People who are almost depressed report lower job satisfaction, lower satisfaction with their marriage and other personal relationships, more anxiety issues, less control over their lives. In fact, on some of these measures, people who are almost depressed report feeling worse off than people who actually fall into the clinically depressed range. Even though almost depression does not rise to the level of a diagnosable mental disorder, it is nevertheless associated with a substantial amount of distress and suffering.”

There’s a greater likelihood that people who are suffering these low feelings will fall into major depression if something isn’t done. Major depression is a serious mental health concern that can lead to other problems such as heart disease and even dementia. Persistent low feelings should not be ignored.

What can you do?

Get daily exercise. It improves moods due to the release of endorphins and also releases stress and frustration. Find time daily to exercise even if it is just for a few minutes. Since we are approaching the winter season, click here for some tips on how to exercise during this time of year. Getting outside as much as possible is good for everyone!

Improve your sleep habits. Without adequate sleep, your mind and body suffer and whatever you may be dealing with will only be aggravated. Depression, anxiety and stress have been linked to sleep disorders like sleep apnea. If you suspect this may be a problem for you, contact your doctor.

Maintain a balanced, healthy diet. A diet low in sugar and fat and high in protein, fruit, and vegetables is recommended. Better physical health contributes to improved mental health.

Identify faulty thinking. Emotional distress distorts our thinking and decision making skills. But we can combat these bad effects by retraining how we think.

Stay connected. Although you may feel like isolating yourself, it’s important to reach out to your network of positive friends and family so they can support you.

Talk to a mental health professional. You don’t have to have clinical depression to benefit from therapy. A therapist can help you identify underlying issues and come up with a plan to improve.

If you need help don’t hold back from getting it! You can speak to your doctor for a referral or if you live in the Portland Metro area you can schedule an appointment to see me.

You can read more on my website – Overcoming Depression.

The Key to Making Mistakes Work for You

Thursday, September 19, 2013


make mistakes work for youYou ate too much junk food while watching TV last night. You were late picking your daughter up from gymnastics. You hit the delete button when you meant to save the document you’ve just spent hours on… Everybody makes mistakes every day of their lives. Some can turn out well; others turn out badly. The important thing is how you handle them when they happen.

What makes it difficult is that we live in a society that is not tolerant of mistakes. It criticizes and punishes mistakes. There’s a constant pressure to do more and be better. As a consequence, it may become very difficult to accept the mistakes made by self or others. Mistakes often cause a person to become ashamed, defensive or angry. When a person’s view of mistakes become distorted, it can lead to social phobias, fearing you won’t be liked by others or striving to be perfect, which is an impossible and exhausting endeavor.

Rather than focusing on all the ways you failed in a situation, think about all the things you did right. For example, perhaps you lost your temper with your partner and said things you wish you hadn’t BUT then you cooled down and apologized and began a conversation that resulted in each of you understanding the other better. For every one mistake you make that really bothers you, list at least two things that you do right in the circumstances.

This exercise will remind you that you are not defined by your mistakes. It will boost your confidence to meet your mistakes head on, do what you can to fix them, or accept them and learn to laugh at yourself. See if it doesn’t give you a more positive frame of mind the next time you make a mistake.

If you find yourself worrying too much over what other people think of you, and fear of humiliation in front of others causes you to avoid situations where you are the center of attention, think seriously about consulting with a trained mental health professional so you can get realistic feedback about yourself. If you live near Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington, contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more about it on my website – Overcoming Social Phobia.

Identify Faulty Thinking and Relieve Your Emotional Pain

Wednesday, August 07, 2013


 replace faulty thinking with constructive thinkingEmotional pain is very real. In one study, people who were given Tylenol (acetaminophen) before recalling a painful rejection reported less emotional pain than people who were given a placebo.

Emotional distress distorts our thinking and decision making skills. But we can combat these bad effects by retraining how we think. If you can define faulty, irrational thinking and change it into more constructive thinking, you’re entire well-being will improve.

Let’s examine some faulty thinking and determine a better way of thinking:

1. “I should toughen up and dismiss my emotional distress.”

Constructive thinking
– A person experiences distress because something is not right, so it’s important to think about the situation in a constructive way and understand what happened in order to avoid future problems as well as identify how you can move past this experience.

Faulty thinking – Replaying the same thoughts and memories without gaining any new insights only creates a deeper hurt and can become a set pattern of thinking that is hard to dispel. It also releases stress hormones into your body thereby increasing the risk of heart disease.

2. “I failed, so I give up.”

Constructive thinking
– Consider what you could have done differently, perhaps getting more facts before you act or planning and preparing what you want to do and say ahead of time. Then try again using what you’ve just learned until you get it right.

Faulty thinking – Feeding your sense of helplessness by not owning up to your part, attributing it to bad luck or blaming someone else.

3. “I feel guilty so I must keep making amends.”

Constructive thinking
– Guilt alerts you that you’ve harmed someone so you can set things straight with that person. Put yourself in their shoes and feel what they’ve felt before you apologize, then your making amends will touch a responsive cord and you’ll receive their forgiveness.

Faulty thinking – An unfeeling apology or excessively apologizing are two extremes to be avoided, because these damage your relationship and hinder your enjoyment of life.

4. “Telling myself that I’m lovable doesn’t work for me.”

Constructive thinking
– Recognize and reinforce the qualities that you do have, e.g. “I’m a caring, loyal, hard-working person.”

Faulty thinking – If you don’t believe you’re lovable, you won’t be able to talk yourself into feeling it. So the positive affirmation, “I’m lovable” will only make you feel worse.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is powerful as it helps to retrain the way you think. If you’d like to make an appointment, contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office.

Is Stress on the Rise for Parents with Autistic Children?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Raising children today is extremely challenging, but how does it compare to raising a child with autism? The New York Times recently interviewed, Annette Estes, about this very subject. Annette Estes is the assistant director of the University of Washington Autism Center. Their recent study focused in on the stress levels of mothers with autistic children verses mothers with children who have developmental disabilities. Of course, both groups of mothers are dealing with very stressful situations and that can't be underestimated. The study did show that mothers with autistic children showed higher stress levels and psychological distress than the other group. As a psychologist and as a parent, I recognize the incredible amounts of stress that are on these parents. Finding solutions for managing this kind of stress is a continual process, but there are useful tools available. If you are a parent with an autistic child, visit my website for more information about managing stress. I also recommend my new book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Sydrome: Going Over the Edge? Even though I didn't specifically write it with these parents in mind, there are many basic principles that still apply. If you have found any useful tools to help deal with stress as a parent with an ASD child, I would love to hear what you have learned.


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