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Kathy Marshack News

Stressed? Take a Break and Let Your Brain Do Its Job

Monday, March 24, 2014


when stressed, take a break and let your brain workYou’ve got a deadline and you’re starting to sweat. The project you’re working on just isn’t coming together as you’d hoped. It’s like your brain has shut down, but now is when you need it the most. What can you do?

Rather than sitting there and becoming more anxious and stressed, we’re commonly advised to get up and do something not associated with the problem, such as taking a short walk, do some cleaning, or listen to your favorite music. Does this advice really work? And if so, why?

If you’ve tried it, you know that it does work. And here’s why:

Your prefrontal cortex (your forehead area) works to concentrate on the task in front of you but it’s also supposed to retrieve stored information from your memory. Then it combines these two elements so you can solve the problem. The problem that’s described above arises because you keep your prefrontal cortex too focused on the task. It can’t do the search and retrieval from your memory. When you get up and get involved in a different activity, it gives your brain a break. Now your prefrontal cortex has the freedom to search through your memory unhindered. It can then put together pieces of stored information in completely new ways.

For your brain to come up with creative solutions for your problems, you need to allow your brain to go through these four phases.

Put the knowledge into your brain’s memory banks. Your brain can’t retrieve what’s not in your memory. By reading extensively, conversing with experts, and attending workshops, you can gather a great deal of useful information. This exploration gives a variety of perspectives that you can apply to the problem.

Give your brain a break. Engage in activities totally unrelated to the subject. If you can, take the sage advice: "Why don't you sleep on it?” Getting away from a problem and letting the subconscious mind work on it often allows creativity to spring forth.

Let the brain combine the present task with the retrieved knowledge. This phase of the creative process is the most exciting because it’s at this time that you discover the idea or solution that you’re seeking. Don’t simply dismiss your ideas because they seem too far-fetched. Instead, jot them down. You can refine them later. And, who knows, they may be the beginning of a great solution.

Have the courage and self-discipline to train your brain to evaluate and Implement. Identify the ideas that are workable and that you have skills to implement. If you encounter temporary obstacles, don’t give up. Failure will lead to better ideas.

If you find that you’re prone to jumping from one project to the next, take a look at my website – Personal Growth/Gifted Adults - for why this might be happening and how you can develop your abilities more fully.

Need help unleashing your creativity? Consider setting up an appointment with a psychologist. You don’t have to be suffering to get help, especially if you want to optimize your mental health. If you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area, please contact my office for an in depth consultation.

One Woman’s Inspiring Journey to Wellness

Thursday, March 20, 2014


hope of mental and physical wellness through holistic health approachIf you heard of a woman who struggled with debilitating anxiety, panic attacks and depression, who sought treatment through many medications, ongoing psychotherapy, electro-convulsive therapy, hospitalizations, and yet attempted suicide multiple times, would you hold out much hope that she would get better?

It may sound hopeless, yet her inspiring journey proves that we can change. Gayathri Ramprasad is a mother and homemaker. Her story on CNN proves that where we are right now can be changed to where we want to be. While recovering in the hospital from her last suicide attempt, she made up her mind to take charge of her life and create a life of wellness. She was tired of being chronically mentally ill and wanted to be well.

Despite the fears of many, she weaned herself off all medications under the supervision of her psychiatrist and turned to a holistic health approach as a way to achieve wellness.

First, she explored transcendental meditation. In the beginning, she couldn’t sit still or be calm. In time, however, she acquired those skills. She learned how to become aware of her thoughts and emotions. Instead of letting them control her, she began to control them and to live more purposefully.

Secondly, she joined a health club and started aerobics, free weights, and yoga classes three times a week. She found that exercise energized her and elevated her mood. It also helped her create a social network outside of her family.

Lastly, she learned how cognitive behavioral therapy could transform her life. Her therapist proved to her that thoughts, feelings, moods and behavior are interconnected. To change her world she needed to identify negative, faulty thoughts and replace them with positive, life-affirming thoughts.

While this approach may not work for everyone, I believe you have all the resources within you to make changes that are as dramatic as these. My role as a therapist is to assist you in discovering these inner resources and drawing them out so you can fully utilize them. If you want to achieve your optimum health and wellness, please contact my Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, WA office to schedule an appointment. Do you have non-confidential questions about how cognitive behavioral therapy works? Join me on Facebook and let’s discuss it.

Learn more about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Do You Need Creativity to Survive?

Friday, February 28, 2014


creativity means thinking outside the boxCreativity has long been associated with the arts. The general population may feel that they aren’t creative. While some do have a greater aptitude for creativity than others, it is not a rare gift reserved for only a few. Creativity comes when you learn to look at the world in a different way. You see relationships between things that others can’t see.

Interestingly, a recent article in The New York Times by Laura Pappano reports that more institutes of higher learning are teaching creativity as a marketable skill for industries such as business, education, digital media, humanities, engineering, science, nursing, justice and safety.

She quotes Gerard J. Puccio, chairman of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College, “The reality is that to survive in a fast-changing world you need to be creative.” He heads the nation’s oldest creative studies program that has been offered since 1967.

Dr. Puccio developed a four-step system that he and partners market as FourSight and sell to schools, businesses and individuals. His steps are clarifying (ask the right question), ideating (brainstorming without listening to the inner naysayer), developing (trying out your solution until you find one that works) and implementing (convincing others your idea has value).

She also talks about Dr. Burnett’s Introduction to Creative Studies survey course, where students can enhance their own creativity by rephrasing problems as questions, learning not to instinctively shoot down a new idea but look for three positives first, and categorizing whether a problem needs action, planning or invention.

No doubt you can see commonalities between these approaches. Creativity requires open, positively thinking outside the box. Being willing to accept change. Feeling safe and confident in the way you perceive yourself. Having a willingness to fail and try again. Sounds like a recipe for success if you’re in therapy!

In fact, I tell my clients – especially entrepreneurs – that if you have a good idea, sometimes you just need to run with it. It may or may not work, but allowing your creative juices to flow will only enhance your entrepreneurial abilities. With practice and time you can improve your creativity skills and, who knows, a failed creative thought or idea may not work for a particular situation at present, but it may for another one down the line.

What do you think? How important is creativity in your career? Join me on Facebook – I’d like to hear your thoughts on this and other subjects.

What 40 Years of Science Reveals About Happiness

Thursday, January 09, 2014


the three main factors that result in happinessAfter over thirty five years counseling clients and helping them discover what happiness means to them personally, I was interested to read a recent article in the New York Times on this subject. The president of the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C., reported on what scientists have discovered about happiness after studying it for 40 years.

Scientists have determined that three major things impact happiness – our genes, events, and our values. Here's what the research shows:

Genetics: Researchers at the University of Minnesota have studied identical twins separated at birth and found that genetics is responsible for about 48.5% percent of our happiness.

Events: Measured to account for 40 percent of our happiness, the effect of events on our happiness is usually short-lived. Today we may be ecstatic about landing our dream job, but within a month or so that euphoria wears off.

Values: While the smallest percentage of our happiness is attributed to our values, this is something totally within our control. We get to choose what value we place on the basics – faith, family, community and meaningful work.

The article also went on to reveal that meaningful life and work isn’t successfully measured by the amount of money you have or what you buy. Mr. Brooks explains more, “Rewarding work is unbelievably important, and this is emphatically not about money. That’s what research suggests as well. Economists find that money makes truly poor people happier insofar as it relieves pressure from everyday life — getting enough to eat, having a place to live, taking your kid to the doctor. But scholars have found that once people reach a little beyond the average middle-class income level, even big financial gains don’t yield much, if any, increases in happiness.”

In order to be happy, you must know yourself first. This means becoming knowledgeable about the connections between your personal life, your family life and your work life. Understanding your personal family dynamics and how they interact with your career or business creates a more successful life balance.

This is especially true for family business owners, your personal life influences your business decisions, and vice versa. Therefore, it is well worth your while to become more knowledgeable about your personality style, your family values, your blind spots and how they shape your daily actions. Self-Assessment is a good place to start in reevaluating your attitude toward work and money. If you’re an entrepreneur you will find many self-assessment exercises, including Your Financial Plan in my book - Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and at Home.

If you need help discovering a more meaningful, and happy, work-life balance please contact my Portland Oregon/ Vancouver, Washington office and set up an appointment.

Will Insurance Companies Finally Make Mental Health More Accessible?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


health insurance to cover mental and physical health equallyFor years those with mental health issues have struggled with getting adequate insurance coverage or have been denied insurance coverage when their mental illness is diagnosed. As a psychologist I’ve had a front row seat – watching people struggle to use their mental health benefits, if they were fortunate to even have mental health benefits. I’ve written articles exposing the sometimes life-threatening situations that have been created by a broken system.

So I was happy to see the recent CNN article, Feds Boosting Mental Health Access, Treatment. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced new rules that, “Finally put mental health and behavioral health on equal footing.” Of course this has been in the works for years. President George W. Bush began the move to greater equality with The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which has made mental health care more accessible, but it hasn’t been enforced up to now.

Insurance companies have often limited the coverage for mental illness, which makes it tough on those seeking help. If you had coverage often times you were limited to five or ten visits with a counselor. If the problem cannot be resolved in five or ten sessions, you had to pay out of pocket if you could afford to do so.

The new rules require insurers to cover co-payments, deductibles, doctor visits, outpatient services and residential treatment equally for physical and mental illnesses. This is very good news for those with chronic mental health issues.

There are so many changes going on in healthcare right now that it can be difficult to keep up. Here’s a word of advice, stop looking for someone to take care of your every health or emotional need. There will never be a perfect healthcare system. Instead utilize your good old common sense and decide for yourself, with the help of professional advisors such as your trusted doctors, just what is the best psychological or medical treatment for you, your loved ones and your employees.

If you interested in scheduling an appointment with my office please take a look at Therapy FAQ page for answers to questions regarding insurance. Read more about the benefits of psychotherapy on my website – Psychotherapy Treatment Options.

Shining the Spotlight on Women Suffering from Concussions

Monday, December 09, 2013


female athletes suffer from concussions tooWhen the news reports on sports concussions, often it discusses male football players. Seldom, if ever, are female athletes mentioned. Yet they suffer concussions as well. Katherine Snedaker, MSW of PinkConcussions.com and Dr. Jimmy Sanderson and Dr. Melinda Weathers, two researchers from Clemson University, are gathering applicants for a national study of female athletes 18 years and older to research the past and present affects of concussions. These can be sports or non-sports concussions. Also being researched is why these incidents are being underreported. This is important research and I encourage you to check it out to see if this research is appropriate for you or someone you know.

Brain trauma can cause dementia, headaches, light sensitivity, memory loss and encephalopathy. It can also be responsible for changed behavior, such as irritability, anger, depression, suicidal thoughts and actions, learning problems, poor decision-making skills and subsequent substance abuse. But you don’t have to accept that this is what you have to endure for the rest of your life.

Much of the damage caused to the brain can be rehabilitated. If you or someone you love is experiencing mental side effects after a concussion, speak to your doctor immediately. A holistic approach to the health of the mind and body can put you back in control of your life. You can learn how to use your own natural healing power to regain health. Couple this will good nutrition, regular exercise and changing negative lifestyle behaviors and you’ve begun your journey to optimal health and wellness.

The mind and body are in a state of constant communication. What the mind thinks and experiences is sent from the brain to the rest of the body and vice versa. If you want to improve your mind-body communication, consult a NET practitioner who can remove the blocks so your body can repair itself. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, contact my office and set up an appointment so your healing can begin.

Learn more about Mind and Body Health on my website – Holistic Health.


SPECT Imaging of the Brain Reveals Hidden Reasons for Behavior

Friday, November 29, 2013


SPECT brain imagingSPECT imaging is a nuclear medicine study that looks at the blood flow and activity of the brain. It tells three things about the brain, the good activity, too little activity or too much activity. It’s an invaluable tool that helps psychiatrists help their patients. On a recent TEDx talk, Dr Daniel Amen spoke passionately about what he’s learned from the 83,000 brains that have been scanned, which has created the largest brain scan database on human behavior to date.

He spoke of the irony that every other doctor examines the part of the body that is their specialty, for example cardiologists examine the physical heart and so forth. Yet psychiatrists have for years been guessing based on symptoms, without ever looking at the brain. He likened it to throwing darts in the dark, which has had unintentionally hurtful consequences to patients.

SPECT Imaging is a treatment that is tailored to an individual brain, not to clusters of symptoms. And the exciting news is that they’ve discovered that troubled brains can be rehabilitated. The single most valuable lesson that they’ve learned is that you can change people’s brains. And when you do, you change people’s lives for generations to come. He gave an example of brain rehabilitation that is helping the severely injured brains of NFL players… an amazing 80% of them are showing improvement in blood flow, memory and mood.

In my own personal search for answers as to why my daughters have suffered from mental health problems, I turned to SPECT imaging. It was discovered that my older daughter suffers from Autism Spectrum Disorder. From her brain scan, I realized that she has a very "noisy" brain and can never get a break from the anxiety it causes her. The brain scans of my younger daughter show Post Concussion Syndrome, or diffuse brain damage due to soccer, snow boarding injuries and auto accidents which have caused her various health problems.

However, there is hope as Dr. Amens Tedx video shows. The use of medicines, whole foods, vitamins and supplements can heal the brain. This is the type of holistic health regimen that I often use with clients. Learn more about holistic healing on my website – Mind and Body: Holistic Health.

Sleeping Too Much? This Could Signal a Health Problem

Thursday, November 21, 2013


sleeping too much can be a symptom of sleep disorderWe often hear of people suffering from sleep deprivation – not getting enough sleep. They struggle through the day bleary-eyed and in a mental fog. Did you know, however, that these could also be the symptoms for those who sleep too much?

Is it really possible to sleep too much?

How much sleep you require depends a great deal on your general health and lifestyle habits. The common recommendation is to get on average seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you’re recovering from an illness or surgery you will naturally require more sleep. What if you don’t have poor general health but you consistently sleep much more than nine hours every day? Should this be a cause for concern?

In a recent article on CNN, Are You Sleeping Too Much, Dr. Lisa Shives, director of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois, was quoted as saying that people who wake up groggy after sleeping a long time are suffering from "sleep drunkenness." If you have slept an appropriate amount of time, you should wake up feeling refreshed not feeling disoriented, anxious, with memory problems, loss of appetite or diminished social skills.

If you or someone you love is experiencing a sleep problem, there may be a condition that needs to be treated by a physician or mental therapist. It may indicate any number of disorders such as hypersomnia, sleep apnea, thyroid disease, kidney disease, liver disease, or even depression. As a psychologist, one of my major concerns about sleep disorders is that they can easily escalate into more severe illnesses, so it’s important to identify the cause of your sleep disorder without delay and then learn how to deal with it.

Getting good sleep is vital to healthy living. It’s the body’s way of healing. One of my clients was experiencing psychosis and when he got help for his sleep apnea, he regained his normal healthy self. As a psychologist I always check the physical health issues of my clients to make sure I am treating the right problem. The mind and body are interconnected and in order to enjoy overall well-being, we must look at the both areas. If you are looking to improve your mental health, don't delay in seeking assistance! Contact my Portland OR/Vancouver, WA office to set up an appointment.

For more information visit my webpage – Overcoming Depression.

Emotional Intelligence Plays a Part in Our Decisions

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Many don't realize that making good decisions is not based on high IQ. Rather it’s based on how perceptive you are with your emotions. Those of us who feel our feelings, interpret them correctly, and then act upon that information, have an advantage over those of us who rely solely on intellect to make decisions.

A recent article in the New York Times by Noreena Hertz, a professor of economics at University College London, caught my attention, Why We Make Bad Decisions. When she was confronted with a debilitating health problem, she became interested in researching through the academic literature in the fields of economic, neuroscience, psychology, sociology, information science, political science and history to discover the various factors that cause us to incorrectly process challenging news.

Research show that there are a number of the factors that influence our decisions such as:

  • Our perception of “expert advice.” A 2009 Emory University experiment showed that when a group of adults was confronted by an expert’s claims, they simply gave in to the advice without any further thought of their own.
  • Anxiety, stress and fear. These negative emotions can make us see only a narrow view of the situation so we become more conservative and less likely to take risks.
  • Natural born optimism. Neuroscientist Tali Sharot conducted a study that showed that people tend to ignore new information if it reveals that events will turn out worse than expected. If people think “it can’t happen to me” even unconsciously, they’ll grasp at information that agrees with the outcome they want. When information supports our hopes apparently we get a dopamine rush similar to when we eat chocolate or fall in love.

This information is empowering. It can help you to avoid mind games or self-told stories to rationalize your decisions. Instead, you can take control of your decision making process by acknowledging your feelings and then ask probing questions as you evaluate the pros and cons involved.

Often it helps to talk things through with another individual. If you’re faced with a life-changing or business decision that has you perplexed, seeking the counsel from a professional will help. A psychologist is skilled at helping you sort out your choices and get clear on your objectives when making big decisions in life. If you’re ready to gain that kind of clarity in your own life, make an appointment with my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office.

Learn more on my website: Entrepreneurial Life.

Does What You Read Affect Your Social Skills?

Thursday, October 24, 2013


reading literary fiction is good for your social skillsDo you enjoy reading? Many families like to read together as a way of connecting and spending time with each other. That helps the social skills within the family. Did you know that reading can improve how you interact with others in general? According to a recent study, the benefits depend on what kind of literature you chose to read. It found that social skills are improved by reading literary fiction.

Why does literary fiction work this way? Unlike popular fiction that focuses on the plot, literary fiction explores complex personalities and relationships that cause the reader to put him or herself into that person’s shoes and to think, “What would I do in this situation?”

The New York Times recently spoke about this study in their article, For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov. They reported, “Reading literary fiction enables people to do better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence.” One of the tests asked the participants to see if they could accurately “read” the expression in the eyes of the people in the photographs. Those who read literary fiction first scored better than the groups who didn’t read anything or who read popular fiction.

The researchers say, “The reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.” This promotes more empathy. When we are better able to read body language, then our social skills improve.

Could this help someone on the spectrum? Perhaps. Those with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome don’t always respond appropriately in social situations. However, it has been proven that parents can train their children on the spectrum to recognize emotions in pictures and then in people’s faces so they learn how to respond to someone when they see that same expression in real life situations.

There are inseparable connections and complicated interactions that take place between the mind, body and our environment that impact the kind of people we are. If you would like to improve your social skills, therapy can help. Make an appointment in either my Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington office.

Read more about the connection between your mind and body on my website – Mind and Body Health.


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