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Kathy Marshack News

Caring for Someone with Autism? Make Time for Yourself

Friday, September 05, 2014


Out of Mind Out of Sight Parenting with a Partner with Asperger ASDHow do you blunt the stress of parenting a child with disabilities? Do you feel like you can’t take time for yourself? A recent NY Times article, When the Caregivers Need Healing, reminds us all that it’s vital for caregivers to make time for themselves so they have enough emotional and physical strength to continue to care for others.

All parents experience stress-filled moments when raising their children. However, parents of children with autism often experience more stress, depression and anxiety. That’s in part because the care for their autistic child is relentless – day in and day out for the rest of their lives. Plus there are the worries over how to pay for the necessary therapies.

Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, the director of Child Study Center at Yale University School of Medicine sums the situation up, “Having a child that has a disability is all-encompassing. You can see how people would lose themselves.” The article reports that researchers at Vanderbilt University tested the effectiveness of mindfulness training and positive adult development as solutions for the stress of being a caregiver.

The study did not focus on sharpening parental skills, but rather on teaching parents to tackle their stress in positive ways that helped them accept life as it is. Both methods resulted in significant reductions in stress, depression, insomnia and anxiety. Which method worked best?

The ones in the mindfulness treatment group who practiced meditation, breathing exercises, and qigong saw greater improvement than those who received positive adult development training on curbing negative thoughts, practicing gratitude and reclaiming life as an adult.

What solution is best for your specific circumstances? Enlist the help of a trained psychologist to help you create a strategy for managing the stress you deal with daily. I also share in both of my books invaluable, practical tips that I’ve drawn from years of experience helping families to thrive despite the affects of Asperger’s. If you haven’t grabbed your copies yet, now would be a very good time to do so.

Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge? is available on Amazon and AAPC Publishing.

Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) is available in Kindle edition and paperback.

Read more on my website: Depression and Stress.

Can Bipolar Disorder Be Treated?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


hope for those who suffer with bipolar disorderOur hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Robin Williams as they suffer such a terrible loss. It’s heart breaking that anyone, whether famous or not, suffers so much emotional and mental pain such as he did.

What especially concerns me right now is that some who suffer might to be frightened that they too could reach a point where they feel there is no hope. It is important for anyone, whether you have severe depression, bipolar disorder or a serious health condition such as Parkinson’s, to know that you can get treatment that will help you cope. Suicide is never the right option.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health “about 2.4% of people around the world have had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder at some point in their lifetime. The United States has the highest lifetime rate of bipolar disorder at 4.4% (more than 10 million people).”

The Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms for bipolar disorder. The manic phase can include:

  • Euphoria
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Poor judgment
  • Rapid speech
  • Racing thoughts
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Agitation or irritation
  • Increased physical activity
  • Risky behavior
  • Spending sprees or unwise financial choices
  • Increased drive to perform or achieve goals
  • Increased sex drive
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Easily distracted
  • Careless or dangerous use of drugs or alcohol
  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • Delusions or a break from reality (psychosis)
  • Poor performance at work or school

Symptoms of the depressive phase of bipolar disorder can include:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Sleep problems
  • Low appetite or increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities once considered enjoyable
  • Problems concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Chronic pain without a known cause
  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • Poor performance at work or school

The sypmtoms in children are much harder to diagnose and needs immediate attention from a doctor trained to recognize both bipolar disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. Why these two disorders in particular?

Did you know Asperger’s Syndrome often displays the same symptoms as bipolar disorder? Oftentimes people with Asperger’s are misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder, which can lead to the wrong treatment.

If you struggle with any of the above mental health issues or feel like life isn’t worth living, please don’t wait another moment to get help. Talk with someone you trust and consult a doctor trained in Bipolar Therapy and Asperger Syndrome. You deserve to receive an accurate diagnosis. If you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area please contact my office to set up an appointment.

For more information, visit Overcoming Depression.

Does Trying to Converse with your Aspie Partner Wear You Out?

Sunday, July 06, 2014


difficult talking with asperger partnerPleasant conversation is governed by unspoken rules. We listen carefully, ask relevant questions, make eye contact, show genuine interest in the one we’re conversing with and we don’t interrupt or go off on unrelated tangents. All of this social give-and-take is very difficult for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Their lack of social awareness and empathy allows them do insensitive things or blurt out inappropriate comments.

Because of not knowing or understanding the rules, our Aspies tend to either control or avoid the conversation or the situation. Because they don't really understand where their partner is coming from, they feel really anxious, and they conclude that the best solutions to their discomfort is to dominate the conversation or avoid the subject entirely.

Often those with Asperger’s find it impossible to say “No”. If they receive an invitation and they want to participate, they can easily say “Yes”. However, they resort to the avoidance mechanism rather than actually decline an invitation. It’s just too much to acknowledge the person and say "No". So they avoid the person that invites them until it all blows over.

Another social norm that Aspies struggle with is saying “Thank you”. You might ask him if he would like a cup of coffee. Rather than answering, the Aspie just talks on about something that interests him. When he gets the cup of coffee, he takes it and happily drinks the beverage, but acknowledging it is just too personal for him.

How can it be that these simple interchanges are so difficult for our Aspie loved ones? The simple empathic process that Neuro-typicals use daily to acknowledge the other person is lost on Aspies. Why is that?

More importantly, are these simple not-so-ordinary moments wearing you down?

Join us Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 1:00pm PST at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup in Vancouver, Washington as we discuss the topic, Aspies Tend to Avoid or Control. We’ll discuss the reasons behind this behavior and the best ways to cope. Sign up to learn more about this group and find the details for the location. If unable to attend in person, you can also join our teleconference Meetup on the same topic on Friday, July 25, 2014 at 2:30pm PST and connect with our international group of supporters.

Notice: This is the last Meetup until October 2014 due to a very busy summer schedule. I will continue to check in daily with our Meetup postings, so let’s keep the spirit and conversation alive.

Read a free chapter of “Our of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”. This book discusses the science behind Aspie behavior and how you can initiate the rules of engagement that help your Aspie give you the emotional support that you need.

How Does Meditation Affect the Brain?

Friday, July 04, 2014


meditations affect on the brainMeditation is a relaxation method that many use today for managing stress, however, new research is showing that there may be many more benefits of meditating. Recent studies are showing that it makes the brain stronger and allows a person to process thoughts and feelings. But what kind of meditation works best for this?

A recent study by a team of researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the University of Oslo and the University of Sydney learned that the brain works differently during various forms of meditation. They divided meditation techniques into two groups, Concentrative (focusing on breathing or on specific thoughts while suppressing other thoughts) and Nondirective (effortlessly focusing on breathing or meditative sound, and allowing the mind to wander).

The results were unexpected…

One of the researchers, physician Jian Xu said, “I was surprised that the activity of the brain was greatest when the person’s thoughts wandered freely on their own, rather than when the brain worked to be more strongly focused. When the subjects stopped doing a specific task and were not really doing anything special, there was an increase in activity in the area of the brain where we process thoughts and feelings. It is described as a kind of resting network. And it was this area that was most active during nondirective meditation.

Another researcher, Svend Davanger, a neuroscientist at the University of Oslo, commented, “The study indicates that nondirective meditation allows for more room to process memories and emotions than during concentrated meditation.”

Previous studies conducted by researchers at UCLA showed that years of meditating thickens the brain in a healthy way and strengthens the connections between brain cells. A more recent study found that the more years a person meditates the brain’s cortex "folds"(gyrification), which may allow the brain to process information faster.

There are so many forms of meditation practiced by millions of people. Would you like to explore the benefits? A mental health professional can assist you or see if you would also benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office to schedule an appointment.

Self-Sabotaging Behaviors that Elicit Rejection

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


self sabotaging behaviors that elicit rejectionA person’s own faulty thinking can cause so much unnecessary pain. Fear of rejection especially entraps people in a pattern of stress and depression. An article by Mike Bundrant recently highlighted five ways a person might be inviting rejection without realizing it. What are these five ways?

  1. Being afraid to ask for what you need. Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “I’d really like ______, but I know he or she will say no, so why even bother to ask.” (You’re making someone’s mind up for them without giving them a chance.)
  2. Wanting something so much that you keep pushing until your partner explodes. (He or she might agree given time, but you don’t allow them that time.)
  3. Avoiding confrontation by refusing to discuss hot button topics. (If it’s a hot button topic, emotions are already involved so it’s going to have to be dealt with sooner or later.)
  4. Hiding the truth. Your spouse notices you have new clothes, but you say, “Oh, this old thing. It’s been in my closet for a long time.” When in reality you just purchased in with the credit card that you both agreed to only use for emergencies. (Not only will your spouse find out this is a lie, but now you’ve violated his trust.)
  5. Agreeing when you really disagree. You promise, “Of course, I’ll cut the grass”, when you’ve already planned to go golfing with your buddies instead. (Agreeing in order to keep peace will ultimately backfire when you don’t follow through on what you’ve said.)

All of these are self-sabotaging behaviors. They’re setting you up for the very thing you’re trying to avoid – rejection. The good news is that you can retrain your thoughts through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, so you break the cycle of these habits and behaviors. The techniques of CBT are designed to change faulty irrationally thinking into more constructive, solution-oriented thinking. Often people are stuck because they have an irrational belief from childhood that keeps them from living the way they wished they could. CBT is usually considered short-term therapy, perhaps 8-10 one-hour sessions. If you’d like to make an appointment, contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office.

Learn more about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy here.

Balance Worry with Hope to Come Up With the Best Solutions

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Balance Worry wit Hope for best solutionsDo you worry? I worry. It’s natural to worry about all kinds of things. Not that all of this worrying accomplishes much. However it can serve a useful purpose if it directs your attention to problem solving. I think worriers, more than most take a hard cold look at reality. The problem is you can scare yourself to death if you’re worrying about things you can’t control.

A better approach is to use your worries as incentive to search for solutions. You can do this by balancing your worry with hopefulness. This doesn’t mean that you’re looking only on the bright side of everything, like the proverbial ostrich with his or her head stuck in the sand. You need to realistically account for the negative side of things, so you can plan and live your life fully.

This reminds me of a profound statement by Albert Einstein, “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” If we want something to change, we need to create that change. What are some practical steps to raising your consciousness or level of thinking? Here are seven ways this can be done…

  • Solutions come when we tear ourselves away from our negativity. (Hope tells us there’s a better way to live.
  • Solutions come from focusing on what is right, good, pure, and loving. (Hope tells us that we’ll receive back what we put out to the world.)
  • Solutions come when we first take care of your own mental, physical and spiritual health. (Hope tells us that this will give us the strength and energy needed.)
  • Solutions come when we give ourselves to others. (Hope tells us that we can make the world a better place.)
  • Solutions come when we are grateful. (Hope tells us that every day there will be something wonderful.)
  • Solutions come when we believe that the challenges we are facing are a gift. (Hope tells us that we will see our weakness and strengths and we can grow.)
  • Solutions come when your goals are realistic. (Hope tells you that you can do it.)

If you have faith and hope you will not only come through hardship but you will be better for it. Like me you may still worry, but let those worries guide you to the kind of solutions that can only come from your indomitable human spirit. If you’re struggling in a dark place of hopelessness, get help immediately from a mental health care professional. Life is too wonderful to waste. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, contact my office and set up an appointment.

How Retirement Impacts Couples Who Work Together

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Spouse retiringEntrepreneurial couples journey through many phases in their lives. You have the excitement of starting out in business. Later you enter the phase of managing your business as you juggle the demands of home, family and job. Then comes dealing with the “empty nest” as you both continue to work and get to know each other again as a couple. A phase that often brings unexpected challenges is when one of you decides to retire before the other one is ready to do so.

When couples retire at different times, what issues will arise? And how can you cope?

A New York Times article, Coping When Not Entering Retirement Together”, pointed out two main areas where conflict might arise – how money is spent and how free time is used. This article brought up some interesting topics for conversation that entrepreneurial couples would do well to discuss long before retiring. Some of them are:

  • Are you still energized by running a business or is it creating health problems?
  • When can you afford to retire?
  • Are you going to sell the house so you can more easily afford retirement?
  • Will you want to move to a new location?
  • Will the one income match your expenses?
  • Is your retirement portfolio large enough to support you comfortably for the rest of your life?
  • Will social security kick in before your income stops?
  • What are you going to do to keep living a meaningful life after retirement?
  • Will you be happy engaging in your hobbies, or will you need something else to do?
  • Will the working spouse resent how you spend your free time?
  • Are you prepared for the emotional consequences of this major life event?
  • Will the retired spouse feel guilty, so that you withhold information and communication starts breaking down?
  • Will depression become a problem, because your self worth had been defined by the job?
  • Is it realistic to think the retired partner will want to do all the housework, cooking, shopping?
  • Will the retired individual begin viewing the income from the working spouse as “his/her” income not “our” income?
  • Will spending habits need to change?

As you can see, to make a successful transition to retirement, especially if only one spouse is retiring, open and honest communication is the key. Succession planning also is a key issue that can create conflict if you and your spouse disagree. If you both decide to retire will you sell the business or turn it over your children to run?

You might find it beneficial to talk with a marriage counselor on how to cope with emerging thoughts and feelings you didn’t expect. Join me on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and share what you think will be your biggest issue with retirement.

For more information, read on my website – Maintaining a Strong Marriage.

Does Stress Make Your Allergies Worse?

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Allergy symptoms worsen with stressWhy is it that, while your allergies don’t normally hit you so hard, today of all days it’s much worse? Why does this have to happen right before your big presentation at work? Or the week of your wedding? Your eyes water uncontrollably, you sneeze and wheeze, and your skin rash itches like crazy. Are you just imagining it? Or could there be a correlation between stressful situations and increased allergies reactions? According to a recent study by Ohio State University researchers, stress can indeed be a factor in allergy flare-ups.

The author of the study, allergist Amber Patterson makes this interesting comment, “We know there's a connection between our neurology and our immunology. What we ultimately found is that some people with allergies have a more sensitive neuro-immunologic trigger.”

Knowing this connection, allergy sufferers can alleviate stress by:


A free resource you might want to try is WildDivine’s Schedule of Recent Experience. It’s a tool to help you understand how recent events in your life can be contributing toward your stress levels. Once you gain this awareness, you can take appropriate actions to solve the underlining stressors.

If you can’t get your allergies under control by yourself, consult a certified allergist and ask if stress is a contributing factor. He or she can recommend a trained psychologist who can help you manage that stress. Or you can contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver,WA office and schedule an appointment As a NET practitioner, my clients have found Neuro Emotional Technique and hypnosis to be very effective in treating allergic reactions due to stress.


Please join me on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and share how stress has affected your allergies.

Learn more on my website – Managing Stress.

Get Off the Roller Coaster of Food Addiction by Retraining Your Genes

Monday, May 19, 2014


Get off the Food Addiction Roller CoasterNow that warmer weather is coming, many people are desperate to shed the unwanted pounds that have crept on during the winter. You see all kinds of crash diets being promoted and many try them. Does this cycle sound familiar?

For many, every year it’s the same roller coaster – lose weight – develop cravings – eat compulsively – gain weight – diet again. We all know this is harmful behavior, but knowing that isn’t enough to fix the problem.

The answer lies in our genes.

Yes, some are predisposed to be more sensitive to food than others, just as some are predisposed to the effects of alcohol. However, there’s so much more than our inherited genetics going on in this equation. Our genes have our unique information encoded in them. When our bodies are healthy, the genes easily and accurately transmit their information throughout the body. But if something detrimental is introduced, the genes lose their ability to communicate accurately.

Neuroscience is proving that the types of foods we eat, such as, excessively fatty, sugary, and salty foods alter the brain chemistry at a genetic level. But that’s not all. Other research shows that overeating any food can alter the brain chemistry. When a person dumps all of these excesses into the system, the genes release great quantities of dopamine so that a person gets a feel-good high comparable to what’s felt by those who use cocaine. This becomes addictive, especially if your life is stressful or you have unresolved emotional problems. So you begin a cycle of overdoing it regularly in order to feel good. This pattern of behavior interferes with how the genes communicate.

Once a person has become addicted to food and has rewritten their genetic makeup, can it be reversed? Most definitely yes, you can make it easier for your genes to communicate once again. Each time you choose to engage in a healthy behavior, you are rewriting your genetic makeup.

What are some healthy behaviors that support good genetic function?


Our bodies are amazing machines. Knowing that you can change how your genes function by the choices you make is empowering. You can change who you are from the inside out. Yes, it does take time and effort, but it’s worth it. Would you like to improve the quality of your life by getting off the dieting roller coaster forever? Take the first step and get a physical from your doctor, then consult a mental health professional who can help you stay on track. Contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office and schedule an appointment today.

For more information, read my website – Weight Control and Holistic Health.

In a Bad Mood? It Could Be Coming from Reading Social Media

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


social media influences our moodThe brain/body connection is truly amazing. Your brain has the power to influence your body in either a negative or positive way. Studies have proven that maintaining an optimistic mood improves health. And our mood is greatly influenced by the people we let into our lives. Does this also apply to the short little tweets or posts we daily read on Social Media?

According to a fascinating new study, the answer is “YES”. An article written by Mike Bundrant, a retired psychotherapist and regular contributor to PsychCentral, discusses how the study was conducted and the discoveries it made.

Researches from the University of California, Yale and Facebook examined Facebook posts created between January 2009 and March 2012. They especially focused on how the weather influenced the posts. They found that the mood reflected in the post generated similar postings. For example, negative comments generated negative posts. However, they found that the positive comments generated more positive posting. Either way, the study shows that the mood has the capability of going viral around the globe.

That’s a lot of power! People have, at times, exploited this power to generate political and social unrest. Since Facebook has 1.23 billion users as of January 2014 and Twitter has 243 million active users, it’s very likely that you are using one of these or a similar Social Media site to stay connected with your friends, family and community. So how can you protect yourself from being infected by the negative posts? Here are some suggestions:

  • Consciously monitor your own mood, before logging onto your Social Media.
  • Be proactive and share your happy mood.
  • Before you get agitated over a comment, make sure you have all the facts. Check the source and verify “facts”.
  • Feeling down? Re-read your post, and make it more positive before you hit the send button. You’ll be helping yourself and others.
  • If someone consistently posts things that alter your mood in a negative way, don’t hesitate to unfollow them.
  • Start your day with positive thoughts, rather than reading Social Media first thing every morning.
  • Increase your face-to-face contact with people who help you stay positive.
  • Log off and go do something you really enjoy – walking, playing with your pet, gardening, and so forth.

This study’s findings are hardly surprising since we’ve known that journaling and reading positive affirmations can empower the subconscious to believe the stated affirmation. It only makes sense that what you read in Social Media will affect your mind and body, too.

Do you have any experiences with this that you’d like to share? Join me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D ). Yes, I’m on Facebook. It’s one way of reaching and helping more people through support and education. But let’s keep it helpful and positive!



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