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What is Sleep Hygiene?

July 31, 2021

Causes of Sleep Problems Many people have sleep difficulties at some time in their life, and others have on-going sleep problems. There are a number of factors that can have a negative impact on a person’s ability to get good quality sleep. Stress is one common culprit to transient sleep troubles and often warrants examining issues in our life that may be preoccupying our mind and preventing us from quickly drifting off to sleep. It should also be noted that alcohol and other drug use can disrupt a person’s regular sleep cycle. Some people with chronic sleep issues may have a medical condition that impairs their sleep, such as sleep apnea. Additionally, some people who start to have sleep problems start to worry about their sleep, which in turns compounds their sleep troubles. A vicious cycle starts where a person worries about their lack of sleep and not being able to fall asleep and that in turn makes it that much more difficult to fall asleep. Many have thoughts such as, “Will I get enough sleep tonight so I won’t be tired at work tomorrow?” or “If I can’t fall asleep soon, I’ll never get to sleep tonight.” These types of thoughts increase our physical arousal and prevent us from being able to fall asleep. What is Sleeplessness? Sleeplessness can take several forms, but what follows are the three most common: read more

March 14, 2021

Many people use the terms guilt and shame interchangeably and are not even really sure what makes them different. There are important differences; especially in terms of the impact they can have on you and how you address them. Let’s look at what makes guilt and shame differently. Guilt: Is an emotion that occurs as an automatic reaction to acting against one’s own morals and values. For example, if Bill values honesty, but he goes home and lies to his wife, he will suddenly feel guilty. Interestingly, the purpose of function of guilt is that it is designed to get you back in alignment with your values, i.e., to be a good person. In our example above, Bill’s guilt will hopefully propel him to get honest with his wife, or simply stop lying to her in the future. Shame: Is an emotion that occurs in reaction to a perception of self-defectiveness. For instance, Beth might believe there is something bad or wrong with her when a guy didn’t call her for a second date. In many instances shame causes people to hide parts of themselves that they believe are self-defective from others in an effort to avoid humiliation. Most people who do this only allow others to see and interact with the persona they portray, because of the fear that if they were genuine and real, they would be humiliated in front of others. The primary diff read more

November 1, 2020

In the last article, we talked about the incredible impact and effect that suicide has on individuals, families, and the community. In this article we are going to talk about how to prevent suicide. With proper knowledge and awareness, there are things we can do to intervene and hopefully prevent unnecessary losses.

Predisposed Temperament

The greatest triad of factors that account for most suicides are a person’s predisposed temperament and genetic vulnerabilities, severe psychiatric illness, and acute psychological distress. A predisposed temperament can include things such as an impulsive nature, a tendency to be emotionally volatile and reactive, and genetic vulnerabilities can include a tendency to have mental health issues or even a family history of suicide. By severe psychiatric illness we are referring to severe depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and substance abuse. If one or more of these are going on, a person is it high risk for suicide. Acute psychological distress are often environmental factors such as loss of a job, divorce, or breakup of a relationship to name just a few. Whether it is yourself or a loved one, being alert and on the lookout for this perfect storm can let you know when you need to be aware and possibly intervene. Temperament may or may not change read more

August 22, 2020

Since the beginning of the field of psychology, researchers have been studying people and trying to understand personality. There have been numerous theories proposed over the years and a fair amount of debate. Most studies agree that there are the “Big 5” personality traits proposed by Costa and McCrae. McCrae went so far as to study over 50 different cultures and discovered that these five personality traits are universal.

Big 5 Personality Traits

The Big 5 personality traits are: extroversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. It is important to note that all these traits fall on a range between two extremes with most people being somewhere in the middle but leaning more one direction than the other. For instance, one trait most of us are familiar with is the spectrum of introversion to extroversion. Rarely are people at the extremes of either end, but most people lean more towards being introverted or extroverted. With each of the Big 5 personality traits people tend to be high or low on a trait. People who are high on the openness trait tend to be open to trying new things, are creative, imaginative, and tackle challenges. People low on openness dislike change, do not enjoy new things, resist new ideas, and dislike abstract and theoretical. For the personality trait conscientiousness people who are high on this trait tend to be thoug read more

July 26, 2020

Don’t we all want to be in charge?

Everyone wants to feel like they have control over things in their life. Having some power and control helps us accomplish tasks and orchestrate things in our life the way we want or need. Even small children want power to be able to control their environment suggesting this is an innate human desire and need. Not everyone wields power and control very fairly or effectively; children being a good case in point. When it comes to relationships most people want a sense of power and control just like they do over other things in their life. In healthy and mature relationships people are able to discuss and negotiate the sharing of power and control so that there is a mutual meeting of needs. Unfortunately, many people are not real good at navigating this balancing act. Additionally, a lot of people are not even consciously aware that some of their actions and words are driven by their unconscious need for power and control. Needless to say, this can create issues, conflicts, arguments, or even the demise of relationships.

When power and control turn abusive

In extreme situations some relationships become abusive. For a long time, people in physically abusive relationships, and those people outside, have been able to see that the person who becomes abusive is driven by an intense need for power and need to control things and peo read more

July 5, 2020

The transition to school for many children is quite a challenging endeavor. They are faced with the mental, emotional, and social challenges of learning to interact appropriately with peers, learn good boundaries, deal with emotional frustrations, and navigate the process of making friends. Ironically, these trials and tribulations are all secondary to the main focus in school, which are the cognitive and educational tasks of learning. The curriculum is designed sequentially and incrementally to be in line with the natural developmental milestones that most children are achieving at any given age. The material is challenging and intended to help with propelling a child forward through their development. For upwards of 7 million students, or roughly 14% of kids, their learning is impacted by any number of challenges that create the need for special education services, and nearly one-third of these students are struggling with a specific learning disability.

What are Specific Learning Disabilities?

The Colorado Department of Education defines it this way: Specific Learning Disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as read more

June 27, 2020

Part Three: Proactive Tools for Anxiety

In the last two articles, we talked about the physiological chain reaction that occurs with anxiety and some of the reactive tools that we can employ to mitigate the escalation of anxiety at a physiological level and keep that anxiety from building or culminating into a full-blown panic attack. In this article, we are going to discuss how we go about keeping the anxiety from ever manifesting in the first place.

Principles of Proactive Tools

The primary goal with proactive tools is to intervene at the source of the anxiety where it is originating. As we alluded to in the previous articles about anxiety, most anxiety is originating at the cognitive level. By this, we mean, that it starts with our thinking, perceptions, and interpretations. When we arrive at conclusions that are anxiety-provoking interpretations, this triggers the emotions of anxiety, and from there activates a physiological response and drives our behaviors. When we teach people how to control and check their thinking and conclusions, they end up of having far less anxiety over time.

The Brain is a Noisy Place

Most people will agree that our minds are filled with a running stream of consciousness that some of us refer to as our inner dialogue. Most people feel like they are simply along for the ride when it comes to their thinking. The brain just read more

June 21, 2020

In the last article, we talked about the physiological chain reaction that occurs with anxiety. As anxiety triggers the release of stress hormones into our bloodstream the body is switching from a state of relaxation to a state of arousal. For many people, this creates a rapid snowball effect that causes anxiety to spike quickly in the moment.

Principles of Reactive Tools

The primary goal with reactive tools is to try to reduce anxiety in the moment and prevent the cascading snowball effect and keep anxiety from building or triggering a full-blown panic attack. Unfortunately, we cannot control much in the physiological chain reaction in order to keep our body in a state of relaxation. The main objective of reactive tools is to try to get our body back into a state of relaxation. With some conscious effort, there are a couple of things we can control to try to force the body back to a relaxed state.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

When we feel stressed and anxious, physical tension builds in your chest which causes chest muscles to contract. This causes breathing to become short, shallow, and choppy. This general lack of oxygen, in turn, causes your veins and arteries to constrict and the heart has to pump harder to circulate blood flow. All this facilitates increased arousal. For the most part, our breathing operates read more

June 7, 2020

ADHD is a complex issue to diagnose due to the number of symptoms that are shared by ADHD and other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, behavioral disorders, and substance abuse issues. read more

May 9, 2020

In the fight against COVID-19 and its rapid spread, the human race is going to great lengths to ensure the safety and survival of ourselves and the ones we love. It seems that until we have an effective treatment or eventual vaccine, the best precaution and tool we have at our disposal is social distancing. Washing our hand and keeping a social distance is good common sense and pretty easy to implement in the name of safety. Because these measures are pretty simplistic, most of us have been dutifully complying. The worst we get from all the handwashing is some dry skin, which can be remedied with lotion. Social distancing, on the other hand, maybe having a negative cumulative impact that we are unaware of. Our species has evolved over a couple hundred thousand years to be a highly cooperative and social creature just like our primate cousins. We have an innate and hard-wired need to be with each other and engage in physical touch. An interesting experiment by Harlow done in 1965 drives this point home (Harlow, 1965). In the study, a rhesus monkey baby was presented with the choice of two artificial surrogate mothers in its cage. The first was a wire monkey mother that had a bottle that would supply milk to the baby. The other surrogate mother provided no nourishment but was designed to be soft and comfortable having been made from terry cloth. Researchers were amazed that the b read more