Blog : boundaries

Microbes, Your Gut, and Your Brain | How new research is changing the face of anxiety

Microbes, Your Gut, and Your Brain | How new research is changing the face of anxiety

That phrase, “I just felt it in my gut,” might be true after all.

Researchers are now finding that what we eat actually has a profound biological effect on our mood. It’s because we’re feeding a bunch of microbe in our body. They react to what we eat. In fact, they out number our cells 10:1. In fact, they may be more in control of us that we ever thought possible!

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Joe’s new parenting book

Joe’s new parenting book

Joe’s New Book

Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier

 

From Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier:

Control vs. Voice

So how do we use this new information about guiding our kids to help them change their behavior? Ultimately, you have no control over your child. They make decisions every day. They are their own persons.

Webster’s defines “control” as: “To exercise restraining or directing influence over. To have power over. Reduce the incidence or severity of especially to innocuous levels <control an insect population> <control a disease>”

The part of this definition that I like is the “directing influence over”. I would argue that this comes less from control and more from having a voice in your child’s life.

One of Webster’s definitions of “voice” is, “wish, choice, or opinion openly or formally expressed.” So to have a “voice” in your child’s life is for your wishes, choices, and opinions to somehow take root in them.

Think about who has a voice in your life. Who can say to you, “Here is my opinion” and you consider it?

Is it your mom?

Dad?

Best friend?

Wife or husband or significant other?

How did they gain that voice in your life? Did they do something? Did they act a certain way? Is it because you have seen how they live their life and you respect that? Do you aspire to be like them or certain parts of them? What is it that allows them to have that voice, not control, in your life?

I believe that it is trust. They somehow built trust in you. Building a voice comes from trust. For kids, that trust comes from three specific things. To build trust as parents we must demonstrate:

  1. Consistency and love
  2. Set an example
  3. Spur something in our children that brings life

Consistency and Love

In future chapters I will discuss more in-depth what this looks like and ways that you can increase consistency and demonstrate your love. One definition of “consistency” is “agreement or harmony of parts or features to one another or a whole.”

To be a consistent parent, you have to have harmony in what you do. What does this mean? It means that it is better to say nothing at all, rather than a false promise. By false promise I mean not following through on things you say. If you give a warning to a child regarding their behavior, then follow through.

When you start thinking this way, two things will happen inside of you. First, you will slow down the frequency of threats that you make because you know that you need to follow through. Also, you will evaluate the intensity of threats.

One thing about threats: they don’t work.

 

Threats don’t work

Why don’t threats work? Think about it this way. Your boss keeps coming in your office for two weeks reminding you of a date that a report is due. She says, “If it’s not on my desk on November 12th, then I’m writing you up.” November 12 comes and goes, you had some crazy things happen in your family and you just couldn’t get it done.

Then in January she does the same thing for the report due January 29th. Again you miss the mark and it comes and goes, yet no write up. Imagine this happened over 18 years in the company. Sometimes she does write you up sometimes she doesn’t.

Now imagine a different scenario. At a staff meeting she announces that reports need to be timely. To try and help the staff keep it in their mind, if the November 12th report is in on time you will get an overnight at the hotel of your choice and if not, then you will be written up.

No more reminders.

Then she does what she says.

Often parents believe that they have a voice in their child’s life and that is enough, but really a voice is earned through consistency. Your action of giving positive or negative consequences will speak more than anything you could say ahead of time or threaten.

Even when threats do seem to work, it is usually not based on building a long-term voice in your child’s life.

The second part of this is building love. I trust that you love your child deeply; otherwise you would not be reading this book. So it is not how to build your love for your child that is the issue, it is how do children receive love?
Consistency in parenting helps kids feel safe. If you are about to manage a child in a grocery store and help her choose good choices there, then you can definitely take on any monster, bad dream, bully, and tornado. Kids fear all sorts of things.

A psychologist named Maslow created what he called the “Hierarchy of Needs”. His belief was that if basic needs are not met is it is harder or impossible to work toward higher needs. Thus, if safety needs of security aren’t met, it is harder to build feelings of love and belonging.

I had a client recently who had her apartment broken into. She was staying up all night because she was scared someone would break in, then she was sleeping during the day, but her classes were slipping. Her feelings of lack of safety made it harder for her to do more complex thinking like that which is required in school.

The same is true for kids, as they see that you can handle a variety of situations, they will trust that you can protect them…

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling. He is also the author of the books Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier
and Practice of the Practice | A Start-up Guide to Launching a Counseling Private Practice

2013 goals

2013 goals

Now that Christmas is behind us, 2013 goals are here. Maybe this will help you reach those goals this year. Whether it is to be a better parent, help your kids, improve your marriage, exercise more, or just create a better you…this should help!

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Helicopter Parents Gone Wild

Helicopter Parents Gone Wild

traverse city counseling counselor therapist

A “helicopter parent” is a parent who hovers over their child, waiting to catch them before they skin their knee. “Helicopter Parents” schedule, plan, and create a world for their children. They are usually highly involved and deep down want the best for their kids. They are often high achievers or wish they had been high achievers. “Helicopter Parents” also are usually highly involved in their kid’s education, after-school activities, and social lives. Overall, they have great intentions. I may even end up being one, in some area intentionally and in others unintentionally.

The hardest transitions for “helicopter parents” are to stop when they are tired and to allow age-appropriate freedoms. Are you one of these parents?

When you’re sick of flying

When these parents are frustrated with their kids, it is often because they don’t want them to fail. They have a difficult time with skinned knees and broken hearts. They have created a dynamic where they are the safety nets for their children, rather than teaching them how to create their own nets.

This typically creates a dynamic where the parent is blamed for the child’s mistakes. Both the parent and child think that it is mom or dad’s responsibility to get homework done, wake up on time, and not be “bored.” Yet, ultimately, we each are responsible for changing our lives toward what we want.

So how do you land the helicopter?

Daddy needs a drink

When was the last time you took a bath without interruption? What about sitting outside and enjoying the evening? Time with friends without looking at your phone for texts from your kids?

Sometimes, a parent needs to just step back and let the kids experience natural consequences. Whether it is a teen waking up late for work or kids sorting out who gets to play the game system, stepping back will often show you what you kids are capable of. Usually, the worst case scenario is not that bad and the best case is that they will increase their abilities to be responsible.

But they’re not old enough

Every single generation does it. They think they are so dang special. In counseling sessions or even with friends, I’ll ask, “What did you do when you were (insert age here)?” Almost universally friends and client respond, “I did some inapropriate behavior but…

“…it was different in the 60s, 70s, or 80s.”

“…things were safer.”

“…we didn’t have the internet.”

But parents weren’t thinking that then. They were thinking the same thing that parents are thinking now. When we’re a kid, we are oblivious to the dangers, consequences, and ways of the world. How did we learn? Was it when mom said, “No” or was it when we tried it out and formed our own conculsions?

Now I’m not saying take a step back and let “Lord of the Flies” occur in your household. Otherwise, you may come see me in counseling for something else. The main goal is to transition toward the empty nest not to have it be a sudden change.

 

counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed therapist and counseling in Traverse City, MI where he owns Mental Wellness Counseling. He once flew in a helicopter in Nepal, it was a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

Photo from Creative Commons, thank you JD Hancock

Mental Wellness: More than beauty rest

Mental Wellness: More than beauty rest

sleep counseling Traverse City counselor family

Originally appeared in the Record Eagle, April 21, 2012 available at:

http://record-eagle.com/bodysoul/x1350020161/Mental-Wellness-More-than-beauty-rest/print

My grandma had a sleep mask. You know the kind that blocks out light? Hers was pink. I always thought it looked stupid. Then my wife gave me one last December, except mine is brown and black. When I got it, I thought, “Am I ever going to use this except on an airplane?”

Every morning when the light smacks me in the face at five something, I now put it on and have a glorious last hour of sleep. I love it.

We all know how important sleep is for kids. If they don’t get their naps they are cranky and everyone in earshot knows. We underestimate the importance of solid sleep for adults. Here are some things you should know:

Sleep is tied to mental wellness

Did you know that poor quality sleep is tied to anxiety, depression, attention, mood swings, panic attacks and self esteem? If you are fighting with your kids, spouse, or friends, feeling frustrated, or just anxious, maybe it isn’t medications that you need. Maybe you need more sleep.

Sleep is tied to memory

During the day our brains store most information in a short-term part of our brain. At night, the brain sorts through what is important and what is not. Everything from the color of your boss’s shirt to that marketing report gets sorted to keep or delete. If not given enough time to sort, the brain hits the delete button. Things you understood yesterday will be harder to recall.

Sleep can improve with a few simple changes

Going to bed and waking up at similar times can improve your body’s ability to get deeper and better quality sleep. As well, increasing exercise, time outside, and eating more fruits and vegetables will help. Eliminating caffeine in the evening and drinking more water can help unclog the sleep center of your brain.

Sometimes we make our lives more complicated than they need to be. What if all you need is a little more sleep? It could be the key to improving the relationships in your life, even if all it takes is a pink sleep mask.

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

 

 

 

Joseph R. Sanok is a licensed counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling. He helps angry kids, frustrated parents, distant couples “¦ and just about everyone else. Check out his “Happiness Resources” at www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com/resources/happiness/.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo used with Creative Commons license, care of blue.sky

Parenting and stepping back

Parenting and stepping back

counseling Traverse City counselor

There are so many factors that go into parenting. It seems that every friend, website, magazine, and blog is telling you how to get more organized and structured in your parenting.

But what if I told you that you were too organized and rigid? Would that be freeing?

Of course there are times that you need to focus on structure and consistency. I teach parents those skills all the time. But I was thinking about this the other day. I was feeding my 13 month daughter. Everytime she would take a bit of banana, she would spit it out, smear it all over, and often then throw it on the floor. At first, I was saying, “No, we don’t eat that way,” or “Let’s not smear the banana.”

Then I stopped.

She has the rest of her life to eat in a polite way. So I just enjoyed the moment with my daughter. My stress dropped and almost immediately I was laughing with her.

Here are some things that most kids need more of:

1. Unstructured time to explore and play. This helps the brain learn to create, rather than be told how to create. For example, kids that watch a TV show and then have the action figure of that show are more likely to engage in play that has been defined by the TV show or by what the action figure is “supposed” to do. Over time, kids may say to one another G.I. Joe is a person, you can’t pretend that it’s a rocket ship.

2. More toys that don’t have a “meaning”. Why do you think kids love sticks, boxes, and tape? They are totally free.

3. Messy time to get dirty, covered in paint, and feel free. As well as the fact that it is just plain fun, it also helps them develop sensory skills.

4. Time to make their own choices. If their time is scheduled by adults, they will not learn the important skills of working hard and resting hard, or even saying, “I don’t feel like doing that.”

By giving kids the abilities to have choice, create, and get messy, it will help them learn and adapt in ways to help them become more agile in how they live life. Also, it will cause much less stress as a parent to let go.

 

private practice

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed professional counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He enjoys playing outside with his daughter.

Bus Monitor Bullied

Bus Monitor Bullied

Bus Monitor Bullied

counseling traverse city

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About a week ago, my wife was changing my daughter’s diaper. She was parked outside a pharmacy in Traverse City and she was changing the diaper on the front seat of our car. I wasn’t there.

Some teens pulled up and were seated with their windows down. They started making comments about “the crying baby” and “shut that baby up.” Of course, the audacity of the teens caught my wife off guard and in the moment she didn’t think of what to say or do, she just wanted to leave.

The recent viral video about a bus monitor being bullied has touched a nerve. In the video, a bus monitor is called a litany of names and she ends up crying. The video is just plain terrible.

People are asking:

What has happened to our society?

How are kids this terrible?

Where is the respect?

What is going on?

In some ways, kids are just as cruel as in past generations; however, they have more tools for learning and spreading this cruelty. The point for me is not how we got here, but how do we get out?

When I work with families in counseling, at my Traverse City practice, we discuss a number of factors. Here are a few steps that can help with this discussion.

Schools have been limited

In past generations, teachers and principals spanked, paddled, and hit kids. It is essential to strong learning and emotional development for kids to feel safe. Those days are done and I am not advocating for them to return. However, due to the culture of lawsuits and continued restraints on teachers to give detentions, in-school suspensions, and other negative consequences, it has created an environment where youth will dictate their own culture.

Parents are less involved

As parents evaluate their interactions and involvements in their kid’s lives, they need to continue to seek consistency and a culture of both positive and negative consequences. Our society continues to function based on us all seeking that most of our actions have clear consequences. As parents build this social skill in kids, they will collectively gain traction.

Society as a parent

Even though we are more connected, most cultural tools have been de-centralized. As a result, specific parenting and expectations have become less clear. As  a result, we don’t want to “step on toes”. Often people don’t speak up when their “gut” is telling them to speak up.

The answers to these behaviors are not clear cut like many talking heads are saying, but, as we evaluate empowering schools, parents, and individuals, we may see bullying decrease.

 

private practice

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He has worked with bullied, at-risk, angry, and hurt kids since 1998. He also loves sailing.

Money, Couples, and Mayo

 

It all started when we were shopping for mayonnaise. I mean, we didn’t go to the store just for mayo, it’s not like we have an all mayo diet, but it is now known as the “Mayo Incident.” I would say that it started years before that incident, but it was the catalyst.

We had been married a month. I was determined to live frugal so that we could make ends meet. My wife knew that I was frugal and wanted to establish that we could have fun in life. I saw it as an opportunity to focus on living poor, so as to be rich later. She saw it as a quality of life issue. We both entrenched into our positions. I wanted the generic mayo that was fifty cents cheaper, she wanted to “bring out the best.”

I “won”, in that we got the off brand. She then decided that she would only eat sandwiches with mustard. I was stuck eating crappy mayo. Finally, after two months, I caved, threw it out, and we have had Hellmann’s ever since.

When I step back from the Mayo Incident, I see patterns that we have both sought to overcome. She has recognized that she did not make financially sound decisions in the past, whereas I realized that I have missed out enjoying the fruits of hard work. I don’t know exactly how we each arrived at those unique positions, but somehow, somewhere, we did.

Our first year of marriage was rough; it was not the bliss we imagined. We had to struggle through many other areas we had entrenched ourselves. What helped us was finding a common goal to work toward that was bigger than either of our own personal agendas. When we focused on where we were going as a couple, it made more sense to step back from our entrenchment.

I think this is also true in work and friendships. So often, I see that I am distracted by the present situation, that I don’t look at the broader goal. For example, I just started learning about ways to expand my counseling practice. My thought was, “If I could someday make money in a passive way, then I could spend more time with my family and not work as hard.”

That’s a good thought, but I found that instead of playing with my cute 11-month daughter, I was on Twitter, Facebook, building a website, and listening to podcasts on passive income. I had lost sight of the goal. I was giving up family time to have more potential family time.

Now I have shifted to trying to only reply to emails/Twitter/Facebook when my daughter is asleep and after my wife and I have had time together.

I think that I’ll always struggle with the balance of new, exciting projects and family time. But it is helpful to see what is happening, step back from my current project and look at the real goal. In that way, I hope to avoid another Mayo Incident and work toward my true direction I am seeking.

Joseph R. Sanok is the owner of http://www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com where he helps angry kids, frustrated parents, and distant couples. He also helps private practice clinicians be more awesome through his blog http://www.practiceofthepractice.com, where he discusses marketing, running a business, and setting up a website.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Joseph_R_Sanok

 

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Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

Boundaries | Tantrum-Toddlers to Tantrum-Teens

First let me say “welcome” to all of our new subscribers. It has been overwhelming to see how many new people joined us in the last month. Welcome, welcome welcome and thank you! Those of you that are the vets of the list, thank you as well for sticking with me! Now, down to business.New Website
I have completely redesigned the Mental Wellness Counseling website, so that we can have not just counseling things, but items that are of interest to anyone seeking happiness, better parenting skills, or to improve their relationships. We have had some debates within my family about the front page design, I want to know what you think, please go towww.mentalwellnesscounseling.com and let me know. Do you love it? Hate it? Think it is cheeeezzzzy?Have a question for Joe? 
Contact me now 

Ask Joe
Think “Dear Abby” for a new generation. Each newsletter I will select one or more questions to answer. So if you have a parenting or mental wellness question, please send it my way.

Dear Joe,
I was out with my six-year-old and he wanted a soda pop before we left the mall, we were on our way home and I knew he’d be headed for bed. How can i reduce his tantrums over these little things?
-Soda-Pop-Mom

Dear Soda-Pop-Mom,
First, I would get down to his level. I would then say, “We are about to head home and it is going to be bedtime when we get there. A pop (or soda or “Coke” if you’re from Texas) is not going to help you sleep, so right now you can’t have a pop.” Then stand up and let him throw his tantrum.

After about 30 seconds, get down on his level again and say, “That’s not going to work, we need to head home.”

Most kids will eventually get it together within 3 minutes or so. If they seem to go longer, ask yourself if you have been giving in to this behavior. If so, are you teaching them to tantrum to get their way?  More times than not, when this approach is applied, the problem behavior disappears within a few times of consistently following this approach. The book Common Sense Parenting has a number of resources that can help, check out my website for some other ones that I think are great:http://www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com/resources/parenting/.

-Joe

By Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

I just spoke at this group in Traverse City called Single MOMM. We talked about boundaries, kids, and friends. We discussed three things: 1. Make the boundary clear 2. Give feedback on the boundary 3. Make following the boundary easier.

For kids, being specific and clear about the boundary is the most important part. They will find a way around it or genuinely not understand. You then may mistake ignorance for defiance. So make it really clear.

Second, consequences are a great way to teach kids. Giving positive consequences to encourage positive behavior is the most effective way to change a behavior because you are teaching a new skill to replace the old skill. Thus, when you stop reinforcing and old way of getting something and encouraging the new, the child starts moving (sometimes very slowly) in the correct direction. Shoot for a 5:1 ratio of positive:negative.

Lastly, all this should lead into making the right path the easiest. Tear down barriers, if there have been problems with homework, design it so they can make the right choice easiest. The old way should be the hardest way to get what they want.

If that doesn’t work, send me an email, I’d love to help you out.Contact me now 

Do you agree?

That’s it for now!

-Joe

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.