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Kathy Marshack News

Are New Year’s Resolutions Too Superficial?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Every year you resolve to lose weight, quit drinking, or spend more time with family, yet the resolve fades, so why are New Year’s Resolutions so hard to keep? Every year you may resolve, “I want to lose weight” or “I want to quit drinking so much”, or “I want to spend more time with my family.” Yet as January fades away so does your resolve. Why is it that we can’t accomplish what we want? Because all too often we apply a band-aid when surgery is needed. We end up trying to fix the symptom or signal without addressing the real problem.

When problem solving the first question to ask yourself is, "Is this thing I’m observing the signal or the problem?" Recognizing and interpreting the signals is quite a complex process, but you can improve your skills.

However, there are two common mistakes people make when trying to solve a problem or create real change in their lives…

1. Ignoring signals until they grow into serious problems. For example, I often hear that people too busy to attend to themselves or their personal relationships. Too busy doing what? Working? You need to ask yourself why are you working so hard? Is that your goal? Most people want a close-knit family who enjoys being together. But if you’re too busy managing the nuts and bolts of a business or career and have no time to enjoy and communicate with your family, aren't you overriding one of the reasons why you working in the first place?

2. Mistaking signals for the problem. When a person is angry or aggressive, we tend to listen, but when a person is quiet or passive, we tend to ignore them. Actually, those behaviors are signals of something. Discovering the meaning of the signals takes digger deeper.

The bottom line is that all human behavior is meaningful. But the meaning may come disguised as signals that look like problems themselves. For example, alcoholism is a signal of a pervasive illness. Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, may be a sign of overwork, too much stress, a lack of parental guidance, or even confusion in the work place. If you try to solve the problem of alcoholism by reducing the person's stress at work, the alcoholic may just have more time to drink. Likewise, if you recommend alcohol treatment for the person who is abusing alcohol, they may stop drinking but find other self-destructive methods to cope with problems at work.

Many New Year’s resolutions are superficial but the underlying problems most likely require deeper probing. So if there’s something about your life that isn’t working don’t just settle with a quickly forgotten resolution. Instead dig in, assess, diagnose and search out the meaning. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to figure out what the signals are telling you. I’ll help you tap into all the strengths at your disposal to create workable solutions.

Seven Weight Loss Misconceptions that May Be Keeping You Overweight

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Seven Weight Loss Misconceptions that May Be Keeping You OverweightYou’ve no doubt heard the statistics that the obesity rate is on the rise in the United States. And you know that excess weight not only increases your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer, but it compromises your psychological welfare. Being overweight lowers self-esteem and heightened vulnerability to anxiety and depression.

Yet, many people have misconceptions about weight loss. Take a look at the following false statements. Have any of them influenced your thinking?

1. “You can’t lose a lot of weight and keep it off.”
Researchers have been surprised at how easy it was to find people who have achieved major weight loss goals. The National Weight Loss Registry found that the project’s 2,800 respondents have maintained an average 67-pound weight loss for five years, with up to 14% of them staving off a more than 100-pound weight loss.

2. “Your ‘set-point’ determines how much you weigh.”
Studies show that when you lose weight, your metabolism actually shifts to a normal rate for that new weight, in spite of your individual differences. Some want to blame their bodies rather than their own behavior for their weight-loss failure.

3.”Poor willpower is to blame for excess weight.”

It’s not that simple. There are genetic, metabolic, biochemical, cultural and psychosocial factors. It doesn’t help that there’s an increase in easy-access, delicious, high-fat foods. Nor does it help that our lives are more sedentary. Willpower helps but to lose weight and keep it off, an active lifestyle is a must.

4. “The best weight loss regimens incorporate structured exercise three to five times a week.”

A physically active lifestyle is important, but you don’t have to live at the gym to do it. Walking 30 minutes most days may be all you need to effectively lower body fat.

5. “I have to lose a lot of weight to make a significant impact on my health.”
Even small weight changes can have a major impact on your health and quality of life. A five-pound loss can improve depression, anxiety, psychosocial functioning, and mood.

6. “You should eat only low-fat and no-fat foods.”
Many people avoid fatty food only to overeat “low-fat” foods. According to the American Medical Association, reducing fat intake is only effective if we reduce calories as well. And our brains need a limited measure of good fats from foods like avocados and nuts in order to function properly.

7. “Dieting doesn’t work.”

We absolutely need to be aware of what we put in our mouths. If you have a sensible diet plan that focuses on substituting healthy choices for the junk food you’ve been eating, you’ll see results.

Do you find yourself consistently struggling to keep the weight off because you’re an emotional eater? It may be time to request the assistance of a mental health professional who is trained in methods of permanent weight control. It’s not easy to change an ingrained lifestyle but if you use a psychologist as your coach you can do it. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Eight Ways to Meditate Your Way to Peaceful Relaxation and Renewed Purpose

Monday, January 11, 2016


eight ways to meditate your way to peaceful relaxation and renewalIn a too-busy lifestyle, you can begin to feel like you’re on a hamster wheel going round and round and round and not getting anywhere. Over time this can damage you emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. So it’s good to incorporate a meditation practice in your life that causes you to pause regularly and take stock of where you’re at in life and where you want to be.

Here are eight ways to add meditation to your life that will help you slow down and live more purposefully and intentionally.

1. Scan Your Body. Progressive muscle relaxation allows you to get in touch with parts of your body you might typically neglect. Lie on your back with your eyes closed. Starting with your toes, tense and then relax each muscle. One area at a time, move your focus to your calves, upper legs, pelvis, and slowly up to the top of your head. Feel the sensation of each individual body part along the way.

2. Walk a Labyrinth. Walking meditations can be a great way for fidgety people to meditate. You keep your body moving while you clear your mind. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has no dead ends or decisions to make – you simply follow the loops and circles and focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

3. Draw a Line. A zen board teaches you the art of living in the moment. Each brush stroke appears black against the white board but vanishes after a few minutes.


4. Try Biofeedback. It helps you train your mind to relax on cue. A trained practitioner hooks you up to a machine and monitors your brain-wave activity to help you learn what thoughts or actions make your brain reach total relaxation.

5. Breathe for Peace. Focusing on breath is one of the best forms of meditation. Learn simple breathing techniques to help clear your mind.

6. Light a Candle. Enjoy your meditation with a candle. Find candles made with plant waxes and essential oils to create a peaceful atmosphere and don’t pollute the air with synthetic chemicals.

7. Listen. For five minutes, close your eyes and listen to the small sounds around that you usually tune out. Allow any thoughts or emotions that arise to pass away so you can focus on the listening.

8. Make More of Your Workout.
Repetitive sports like swimming or biking are great ways to stay physically healthy AND provide convenient ways to meditate. Just focus you mind on your breathing, your movements, and the way your body feels.

We, as human beings, are very complex. If one thing gets out of balance, it throws everything else out of kilter. If you’d like to achieve balance again and live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: How to Relax If Meditation Is Not For You.

What Do You Need to Leave Behind in Order to Pursue Your Passion?

Thursday, December 31, 2015


pursue your passionAre you passionate about the life you live? When you think of people who follow their passion who comes to your mind? Perhaps a great humanitarian like Mother Theresa, Jimmy Carter or Mahatma Ghandi? Or maybe you think of those who sacrifice for their art?

A recent Op-Ed article in The New York Times discusses Lady Gaga and how, when she remembered her childhood dreams said, “I suppose that I didn’t know what I would become, but I always wanted to be extremely brave and I wanted to be a constant reminder to the universe of what passion looks like. What it sounds like. What it feels like.”

Passion causes you to search out that which makes you feel complete. In the process, people may leave their former lives, homes, jobs, spouses, and families behind in their search for their true self. But is that necessary or even advantageous in order to lead a passionate life?

The article mentions a few underlying feelings that cause people to begin a search for their passion:

Trying to heal emotional and mental wounds
Needing to create something unique
Wanting to make a mark on the world
Fantasizing about the “perfect” life
Having an unquenchable thirst for new and novel experiences
Focusing on their inner nature and not feeling fulfilled
Feeling extreme loneliness

So when it comes to pursuing your passion your motives matter. When the focus is solely on self it doesn’t lead a person to feeling fulfilled and satisfied. To be happy, in addition to being passionate, you need to learn how to communicate your needs and wants while helping and giving to others. Achieving that balance is what makes our lives complete. “No man is an island” – we need to give love and be loved to feel whole.

You may love to sing but will never be a professional singer. You may love to help people but you’ll never be recognized as a humanitarian. You can still pursue your passion. Whatever your profession or role in life – you can become passionate about your life if you focus on learning how to do it to the very best of your ability, in your unique style. This will bring you the validation, praise, respect, honor and love you desire.

So instead of changing your external circumstances you may need to leave behind beliefs, feeling and thoughts that no long serve you. If you want to add more passion to your life or career and need help examining your motives and your options please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

5 Ways to Recharge Even If You Can’t Take a Long Vacation

Monday, October 12, 2015


5 ways to refresh yourself without taking a long vacationHasn’t summer flown by? Have you been able to make some down time to enjoy it? I was able to get out of the office for a couple of weeks and it made me feel recharged and invigorated to get going again.

Even if you can’t take weeks off or get out of town, what are some simple ways to reinvigorate yourself?

Disconnect from technology.
Even if you have to check in now and then, don’t start your morning by checking emails. That can ruin your day. And rather than spending time surfing the net, watching TV, or texting, it’s so much healthier for us physically and mentally to get outside into the fresh air and sunshine and enjoy the company of friends and family in person.

Disconnect from work.
You may not be going to the office today, but is your mind worrying about a business matter? We all need to take a complete break from our work routine so we can refresh ourselves.

Connect with what makes you feel good.
Have you fallen into a rut of routines and habits? Are they making you feel good about yourself and your life? Maybe you work at home and it’s tempting to spend all day in your PJ’s and just grab whatever food is handy. I guarantee you’ll feel and act more confidently if you honor yourself by eating a nourishing meal and wearing your best clothes.

Connect with people you admire and love.
How long has it been since you’ve had a really in depth conversation with a loved one? When we have these real conversations they refresh us and help us to grow.

Connect with what makes you joyful.
When was the last time you gave yourself the gift of doing what bring you joy, like singing, dancing, hiking, or a hobby? We all need to pay attention to what makes us feel vibrantly alive.

If you’re not living the life that you want, and you don’t know how to break out of whatever is holding you back, talking with a mental health professional may be exactly what you need. Just as we need yearly physicals to remaining optimally healthy, regular mental checkups are helpful too. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Mind and Body Health.

Happify – An App to Retrain Your Brain to be Happy

Thursday, August 20, 2015


phone app happify retrains your brain to be happyDo you wish there was a way to uplift your mood at the touch of a button? Well, there’s an App called Happify that is designed to do just that. Have you heard about it? It's designed by neuroscientists and psychologists like John Gottman. They claim it retrains the brain to shut off negative thoughts and reduce stress.

According to their website, “Happify has turned a decade’s worth of research into a series of activities and games that train your brain and build skills for lasting happiness. The program is designed to train people to disrupt patterns of negative thinking, manage stress and build skills to overcome life challenges.” Co-Founder & President of Happify, Ofer Leidner, got his idea from the book “Flourish” by Martin Seligman.

Once you start, you’ll answer a few thought-provoking questions about things such as your gender, age, work and relationship status, children, creativity, boredom, resiliency, and how comfortable you are with sharing your feelings. Then you sign up through your Facebook account or you can create an account with your email address. Then it reveals the recommended tracks you can follow based on the answers you provided. Leading experts in the science of happiness helped them create these specialized tracks.

If you try it, come over to my Facebook page and let me know what you think of it. I'd really like to know if it works for you.


Read more on my website: Article on Happiness.

10 Surprising Signs You May Need To See a Therapist

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


signs you may need therapy“I don’t need a therapist. I’m not crazy!” Have you ever hear someone say that? I’ve heard it many times. Often from people who are, for the most part, mentally sound and on the surface appear happy. But after conversing with them, I find that many of them want their lives to be better in one area or another. That’s a natural desire.

Did you realize that we turn to our friends and loved ones for therapy daily? Think about the last time you were really worried…didn’t you feel so much better after talking with a trusted friend? Or when you suffered a severe loss, like the death of a loved one. Didn’t their loving embraces, shared tears, and gentle words soothe you?

The difference between that kind of care and professional therapy is that psychologists and mental health professionals:

  • Can be more objective, since they see all sides of the story.
  • Have the freedom to tell you the truth, since they’re not worried about hurting your feelings.
  • Have greater experience, since they deal with issues like yours every day.
  • Have more insight, since they’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work.
  • Have professional training to help you make permanent change.

If there is a difference between what you would like your life to be and how your life actually is, then why not fix it so you can enjoy happiness and contentment right now?

But, you might say, “I’m not that bad off.” On the contrary, your body may be telling you that’s not strictly true. Whenever we sense a lack in our lives, we’re likely to react with the following responses:

  • Dramatic mood shifts
  • Constant fatigue
  • A drastic change in eating habits
  • Persistent guilt feelings
  • Insomnia
  • Recurring, irrational sense of panic
  • Persistent, overwhelming feeling of doom
  • Constant headaches, rashes, or backaches
  • Relationship problems
  • Excessive drinking or drug abuse

Do they sound familiar? Would your close family members or friends recognize any of these symptoms in you? Why not ask them? You might be surprised at their observations. Life is too precious to waste time on feeling less than your best.

When your emotional problems occupy your thoughts several hours a day, you should consider seeking professional help. A mental health professional will help you explore and assess your options. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Is it time to make some changes?

Learn more on my website: When to Seek Help and Therapy FAQs.

Should You Feel Guilty When You Get Angry at Someone You Love?

Friday, May 22, 2015


feeling guilty for being mad at each other“Urgggh! I can’t stand it when he does that…But he’s such a good guy…now I feel guilty for even thinking that way.” Love+Hate=Guilt. Doesn’t this describe the complex emotional problem that comes with some close relationships, whether it’s a parent-child relationship, marriage, or even best friends?

This kind of guilt, not being able to reconcile love and displeasure, is the natural byproducts of normal human development that hasn’t been allowed to progress to completion. Anger and love are healthy human emotions that emerge often in our daily lives. Learning methods to process these feelings constructively so that we can mature is the work of childhood. Guilt, on the other hand, is not a normal, nor healthy, human emotion (unless of course you have legitimately committed a serious offense).

To feel guilty for being angry at someone is a misunderstanding of the relationship. Nobody is perfect and so it’s likely that someone you love will do something that makes you mad, even if they don't mean to. You are under no obligation to stifle your anger or to feel guilty just because it’s a parent, husband, or life-long friend who has misbehaved.

Many people balk at the idea of blaming the other party. They feel guilty for being angry at the person they love and admire. They haven't learned how to reconcile those feelings of love and hate. They either feel guilty about their anger or more often they deny it altogether. Blame isn't really necessary, but holding others (even your parents) accountable for their mistakes is important. Just as you give others credit for their successes, it’s important to note the failures, the misunderstandings, and the faulty choices.

By holding others accountable you accomplish two important goals.

1. You’re actually treating the other person with respect. You are offering them the opportunity to correct their error. In other words, you are treating them as if they are capable. By stuffing your anger, you feel helpless and like a victim with nowhere to go with these feelings except to build up resentment (i.e. Love/Hate).

2. By holding others accountable, you’re able to view your own flaws more objectively. Not only can you learn from your mistakes but from theirs as well.

Many have found that talking with an objective professional helps to sort out feelings such as these. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Two Keys to Unlocking More Romance in Your NT-AS Marriage

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


helping your asperger husband be more romanticLove and romance are basic human needs yet they are so very complex. Movies, TV and books raise our expectations to “happy ever after”. But no relationship thrives without both parties working at it. Especially is this so when one partner has Asperger Syndrome.

Recently, I wrote an article for PsychCentral that discussed the challenges that NT-AS partners face and what can be done to create a greater sense of connection. (NT refers to the partner without Asperger’s Syndrome. It stands for neurotypical.) Let me share some highlights…

Firstly, it’s important to remember that Aspies do love. They just love in a different way. What are some things you can do to increase romance in your AS-NT marriage?

1. Non-Aspie partners – don’t take your Aspie partner’s actions (or lack of actions) as a slight or personal affront. See it as an area for further communication. Not being romantic isn’t a hurtful decision they make. When the neurotypical more accurately understands the actions, or inactions, of their Aspie loved one, feelings get hurt less often.

2. Help your Aspie create his/her own rules of engagement in order to act in ways that really matter to you. This personalized list tells the Aspie what to do and when – without them needing to understand the incomprehensible “why.”

Does this really work? One Aspie husband explained it to me like this, “I just can’t say or do the first thing that pops into my mind. It might be all wrong. It’s like I need a ‘politeness checker’ running in the back of my mind to remind me to be a gentleman.” This marriage was strengthened when he and his wife wrote down rules about appropriate engagement in a notebook. He keeps it with him and refers to it frequently for guidance. Without that tool, he says he’d be lost.

Aspies may not understand why something is important to their loved one, but learning to make the effort, the gesture, represents good intention and love, just a different kind.

If you want to make sure your ASP/NT marriage fills the needs of each spouse, you have to frankly talk about what those needs are. Many have found that consulting with a mental health care professional can facilitate this conversation. Are you ready to take that step? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Even if your Aspie mate doesn’t want to come with you, we can still find ways to improve your situation.

Does Your Gut Health Really Affect Your Mental Health?

Thursday, April 23, 2015


good gut health promotes good mental healthYou’ve heard the expression “it’s a gut-feeling.” Is it merely a coincidence that the gut has been associated with our feelings and our mental health?? Science is revealing some fascinating insights into this question.

Scientific American reports that when a person’s digestion is impaired or leaky gut is present, the symptoms of depression worsen. This may be due to increased autoimmune responses and inflammation. A more recent article explores the connections between gut health and autism.

A NPR story about Dr Emeran Mayer, a profession of medicine and psychiatry at U.C.L.A. reports that gut bacteria influences our minds. He’s researching MRI scans to see how the brain structure compares to the type of bacteria found in the gut. He’s already found some interesting connections. This same story talks about a study on mice and how their brain chemistry and behavior changed when gut microbes were introduced.

Nature reported on a study that found that feeding mice the bacterium Bacteroides fragilis can reverse autism-like symptoms. They found that mice born by caesarean section had significantly more symptoms of depression since they didn’t pick up their mother’s microbes, which they would have done during a vaginal birth.

A recent Huffington Post article reports that treating participants with probiotics lessens negative thinking and depression.

Will all of these findings translate into real treatments for humans? Time will tell. I find these studies fascinating because of their impact on the world of Autistics. They often suffer from gut problems and learning new treatments for them is always exciting.

Improving a person’s physical health will improve their mental health. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and would like assistance in reaching your optimal physical and mental health through holistic methods, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.



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