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The Impact of Loneliness

May 8, 2019

Scientists and researchers are discovering mounting evidence about the negative impact of loneliness and social isolation. One study found that 1 in 5 people suffer from persistent loneliness signifying this is no small problem. Loneliness affects people mentally, emotionally, and even physically.

The medical and physical effects of loneliness can be quite sweeping. Studies have found loneliness can be a contributing factor to heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, and can compromise immunity. They also found that lonely people are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Being lonely and isolated can increase stress hormones, disrupt sleep, impact energy level, and impair cognitive abilities. All this makes people more susceptible to developing depression and anxiety disorders.

People of all ages can struggle with loneliness, however some age groups are at higher risk. Surprisingly many young people are at risk. Despite having plenty of Facebook friends and Instagram connections, many young people feel lonely. Social media messaging is not a replacement for face to face human contact and/or touch. Having a few close personal friends is probably healthier than hundreds of online social contacts. That said, most studies find that social

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April 25, 2019

Most of us feel like we are plagued with a variety of stressors at all times. To a great extent, you are both correct and not alone. Despite what you may think as you walk by strangers in the grocery store thinking, “Gee, they all look happy and fine. What am I doing wrong?” Just because people don’t have their issues tattooed on their foreheads, don’t assume they aren’t dealing with their own stressors. For most of us, life is a revolving door of stressors. It seems like just as soon as we unload a few, we pick up some more. This is reality for most people. On that note, let’s try not to plunge into depression, apathy, and hopelessness. The thing that differentiates those who are overwhelmed by their stressors and those who simply manage them, are a set of skills and coping strategies. Let discuss a few of them and see if we can get you in the right camp.

The first thing we need to be able to do is identify the source of the stressor. With this we need more than a general area such as work. We need the specifics such as I am overworked, under staffed, being harassed, in conflict with a coworker, etc. To tackle a stressor, we want to be able to get at the heart of it. When the plumber comes to your house, he doesn’t say, “Looks like your sink is leaking.” You could have figured that

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April 10, 2019

With a divorce rate around 50%, there are millions of people looking to form new relationships that have children of their own, or are dating someone with children from a previous relationship or marriage. The statistics show that 16% of children grow up in a blended family, which is has been pretty stable for the past 30 years. Prior to moving in and/or getting married there are some things to be mindful of that can help facilitate greater success down the road.

One thing that is crucial is to take the time for everyone to get acquainted and spend time together. There is no need to rush down the wedding isle, especially when blending families. It is upsetting for a child to feel like their new step parent is a complete stranger. Taking the time to build a relationship with kids can payoff greatly later on. During the stages of getting to know each other and even into marriage, the parenting approach is important. Most conventional wisdom suggests that the biological parent should be the one to perform any discipline that is needed, at least in the early stages. As the step parent your primary task to build a friendship and relationship with your partner’s children, and taking an authoritarian role often undermines these efforts, especially when it’s met with, “You’re not my mom/dad, you can

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April 1, 2019

Four Pitfalls in Relationship Communication

Noted researcher and expert in marital therapy, Dr. John Gottman, has worked for years with couples who rate their marriages as happy and satisfying, and those who are unhappy and dissatisfied. In his quest to figure out what differentiates these groups, he found that it primarily boiled down to communication. Quality and effective communication is the foundation of any solid relationship.

Dr. Gottman found four communication styles and attributes that were particularly common, and also at the root of derailing conversation and spinning things into an escalation or utter collapse. These are four pitfalls that you want to be aware of in your own communication with your significant other, or anyone for that matter. These may be easy for you to see in others, but it is critical that you watch for them in yourself since you can only control your side of the communication.

CRITICISM  

This can take the form of any statement that suggests that there is something globally wrong with your partner, or is a lasting part of their character. It often starts with “you always

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February 25, 2019

One of the great stressors in life is dealing with difficult people. By definition a difficult person is anyone whose words or action evoke unwanted and unpleasant feelings in you. Before you start making a laundry list of the people you know, remember that we all have a difficult side. Sometimes despite our best efforts, we are only a couple steps away from becoming a case study in an article like this about difficult people. One thing to remember is that most difficult people are temporarily working from a negative side of their personality and are not consciously trying to be difficult. These people are often swept up in their own emotions and are unaware of their tone of voice, body language and behaviors towards others.

Knowing the type of difficult person you are dealing with can be helpful in situations and determines the steps you might take. Steam blowers are people who are upset with a particular outcome or situation and are generally not difficult people on a regular basis. Bullies routinely use aggression to get what they want. Pot stirrers enjoy instigating discord and use passive aggressive methods of expressing their dislikes and upsets. Attention seekers routinely interrupt or may come off as a know it all. Moaners and blamers tend to be negative, find the shortcomings in things and su

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February 13, 2019

As mental health providers, we are often asked by clients about whether what they are dealing with is a result of how they were raised (nurture) or whether it is all just genetic (nature). It is very normal to want to figure out the origin and root of issues, not only to understand how things evolved to be where they are, but also to get to the bottom of things in hopes of fixing it. The short answer to this question, that no one really likes, is that it depends.

There are definitely some conditions and issues that lean much more heavily on the nature side of the fence. This often comes down to the genes we inherited from our family lineage, but can also include our particular biochemistry or physiology. For instance, schizophrenia is a good example of biochemistry gone awry. We have learned through research that there is an imbalance in dopamine that is largely responsible for the hallucinations and delusions that people with schizophrenia suffer. It most cases medication is a necessary treatment to correct this imbalance. Similarly, bipolar disorder is often the result of an imbalance in neurotransmitter that requires a mood stabilizing medication. ADHD is another condition that is more impacted by chemistry and physiology. PET Scans have shown that children and adults with ADHD do not have the same

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January 29, 2019

There are hundreds of books on parenting and nearly as many philosophies and outlooks on how best to parent. Across many of these books are a couple of critical parenting characteristics to make sure to utilize: consistency and follow through. Let’s take a look at each of these.

Consistency is about doing things the same over time. Kids of all ages thrive on predictability. Life is less stressful for children and teens if they know what to expect and what is expected of them. One area where consistency is important is with rules and expectations. If curfew is 10pm on weekends, then keep it consistently at 10pm. If you allow an hour of TV or electronics before bed, then try to watch the clock and keep it to one hour. Being consistent reduces the arguing and limit testing that all kids do. It’s hard to try to justify, explain, and enforce rules when your kids say, “How come last week I got 2 hours, and now I only get one hour?” Even when kids inevitably challenge the rules with, “How come I only get one hour”; being consistent makes it easy to reply, “Because that the rule.”

Another important area to be consistent with is consequences. If you do a 10 minute time out on the stairs with your six year old, then it should remain 10 minutes

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January 2, 2019

Description

Social phobia, more commonly known as social anxiety disorder, is the third most common mental health condition behind depression and alcohol abuse. Upwards of 7-13% of Americans will suffer with social anxiety at some time in their lives, affects men and women equally, and tends to start in childhood or adolescence. Social anxiety disorder is not the same as shyness. People with social anxiety disorder fear being in social or performance situations to the extent that it interferes with their lives. While people generally recognize their fears are excessive and irrational, they simply cannot overcome it. Situations that tend to trigger social anxiety include: public speaking, eating with others, using a public bathroom, meeting new people, being called on in class, being watched while doing something, going on a date, attending parties, or talking with people of authority to name a few.

Symptoms & Features

A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if the following symptoms are persisting and interfering with your ability to perform normal routines, function in work or school, or engage in normal social activities and relationsh

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December 19, 2018

Beat the Winter Blues

For many people winter is a down and depressing time. Often we don’t want to go out and contend with bad roads or cold weather. We end up cooped up in our homes, in the dark, getting lonely. For lots of us, it also means the loss of our usual hobbies and activities that rejuvenate us like hiking, golfing, gardening, and many other outdoor activities. As a result, our mood often takes a downturn and we can get to feeling depressed.

For others, winters spells the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a subtype of depression that occurs seasonally due to the reduction in exposure to sunlight. Late sunrise and early sunset has many of us going to work in the dark and returning home in the dark. Being covered in pants and long sleeves also reduces the amount of skin that can soak up the vitamin D that sunlight does provide. These variables induce a change in body chemistry that drives this depression. The only upside is that it lifts naturally in the spring and summer months.

If you are looking for some ways to beat the winter blues, here are some ideas that have some science and research behind them.

December 5, 2018

Despite how the holidays are portrayed on television and in the movies, they often create a lot of stress for people. Research says that 8 out of 10 Americans are expected to feel stressed out by the holidays. Nearly two-thirds of people claim that the holidays create financial stress in their lives. Upwards of 40% report eating unhealthy during the holidays in large part due to stress. Spending time with family and relatives, although enjoyable on one hand, often fuels stress on the other hand as old family dynamics are recreated and played out.   Almost 65% of people say that the lack of time to plan and prepare for the holidays is one of the top stressors during the holiday seasons. This year, try to take a proactive approach to keep your stress more manageable and in check. Talk with family members early on to coordinate dates, times, and locations. Start meal planning 2-3 weeks ahead of time so you have plenty of time to shop for food and get supplies. Consider splitting up the meal and have each family member bring a couple items. This will be much more affordable for everyone and you won’t have to try to prepare and cook so many dishes on the day of.   Gift giving is a wonderful expression of love and appreciation, however, don’t feel obligated to out-do yourself from last year. Talk to family members, set a spending limit that everyone is comfortable with, read more