Coping skills, Education

How To Get Better Sleep

Katie Donahoo

Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe the habits and practices that help you get a good night’s sleep. It’s important to prioritize good sleep hygiene because sleep is essential for our overall health and well-being. Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can lead to a number of negative effects on our physical and mental health, including weight gain, poor concentration, irritability, and an increased risk of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

So, what can you do to improve your sleep hygiene and get a better night’s sleep? Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule

One of the most important things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene is to follow a consistent sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. By following a consistent sleep schedule, you can help regulate your body’s internal clock, which will make it easier to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.

  1. Create a sleep-friendly environment

The environment in which you sleep can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep. Here are some things you can do to create a sleep-friendly environment:

  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Use a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Remove distractions such as TVs, computers, and phones from the bedroom.
  • Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out light.
  1. Practice relaxation techniques before bed

Relaxation techniques can help you wind down and prepare for sleep. Some options include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation. You could also try using a white noise machine or listening to calming music before bed.

  1. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed

Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake, so it’s best to avoid consuming it within four to six hours of bedtime. Alcohol may make you feel drowsy at first, but it can actually disrupt your sleep later in the night.

  1. Get regular exercise

Exercise can help improve your sleep quality, but it’s important to avoid vigorous exercise within a few hours of bedtime. Instead, try to get some moderate exercise earlier in the day.

  1. Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet can contribute to good sleep hygiene. Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime and try to limit your intake of sugary or high-fat foods.

  1. Avoid screens before bed

The blue light emitted by screens (such as TVs, computers, and phones) can interfere with your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep. It’s a good idea to avoid screens for at least an hour before bed.

  1. Manage stress

Stress and anxiety can interfere with sleep, so it’s important to find ways to manage these emotions. Some strategies include practicing relaxation techniques, talking to a therapist or counselor, and setting aside time to unwind before bed.

  1. Use the bedroom for sleep and sex only

It’s important to associate your bedroom with sleep, so try to avoid using it for activities such as work or watching TV. This can help your body and mind relax and get into sleep mode when you’re in bed.

  1. Seek help if you have ongoing sleep problems

If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep despite trying these strategies, it may be helpful to speak with a healthcare professional. They can help identify any underlying causes of your sleep problems and provide guidance on how to address them.

Overall, good sleep hygiene is essential for maintaining good health and well-being. Hopefully you find these tips helpful in improving your own sleep.

Coping skills, Education

How To Practice GRATITUDE

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Katie Donahoo

Gratitude is the practice of feeling and expressing appreciation for the good things in our lives. It can be a powerful tool for improving our well-being and building stronger relationships with others. Here are some ways to practice gratitude on a daily basis:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal: Each day, take a few minutes to write down three things you are grateful for. These can be big or small, serious or silly. The act of writing them down can help you focus on the positive aspects of your life and cultivate a more grateful mindset.
  2. Share your gratitude with others: Whether it’s through a simple “thank you” or a heartfelt note, expressing your appreciation to others can help strengthen your relationships and make you feel more connected to the people around you.
  3. Practice mindfulness: Gratitude is often easier to cultivate when we are present in the moment and paying attention to our surroundings. Taking a few minutes each day to focus on your breath and the present moment can help you become more aware of the good things in your life.
  4. Help others: One of the easiest ways to feel grateful is to do something kind for someone else. Whether it’s volunteering your time, donating to a charity, or simply performing a small act of kindness for a friend or stranger, helping others can bring a sense of joy and fulfillment that can help you feel more grateful for your own blessings.
  5. Look for the good in difficult situations: It’s natural to focus on the negative aspects of a challenging situation, but try to look for the silver lining. What can you learn from the experience? Is there something positive that has come out of it? Taking a moment to consider the positive aspects of a difficult situation can help you cultivate a more grateful mindset.
  6. Reflect on your blessings: Take some time each day to think about the things in your life that you are grateful for. These could be material possessions, experiences, or even intangible things like your health or relationships. Reflecting on these blessings can help you appreciate the good things in your life and feel more grateful overall.
  7. Be thankful for the small things: It’s easy to take the little things for granted, but taking the time to appreciate the small pleasures in life can help you cultivate a sense of gratitude. This could be something as simple as a warm cup of coffee on a cold morning or a beautiful sunset.
  8. Practice gratitude regularly: Gratitude is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Make it a habit to express your gratitude on a daily basis, and over time you will find it becomes easier to feel and express appreciation for the good things in your life.
  9. Surround yourself with grateful people: The people we spend time with can have a big influence on our attitudes and behaviors. Surrounding yourself with grateful people can help you cultivate a more grateful mindset and make it easier to express appreciation for the good things in your life.
  10. Express gratitude in difficult times: It can be especially hard to feel grateful when you’re going through a tough time, but expressing gratitude can actually help you feel better. Even if you don’t feel particularly thankful in the moment, taking a few minutes to focus on the things you are grateful for can help shift your mindset and bring a sense of perspective.

In conclusion, gratitude is a powerful practice that can have a positive impact on our well-being and relationships. By incorporating some of these techniques into your daily routine, you can cultivate a more grateful mindset and experience the many benefits of expressing appreciation for the good things in your life.


3 Easy Steps to Noticing Your Thoughts

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Katie Donahoo

Noticing your thoughts can be a powerful tool for gaining insight into your mind and improving your mental wellbeing. Here are three easy steps to help you start noticing your thoughts:

  1. Set aside time to focus on your thoughts.

To begin noticing your thoughts, it’s important to set aside dedicated time to focus on them. This could be as simple as taking a few minutes each day to sit quietly and pay attention to the thoughts that come to mind. It’s also helpful to create a conducive environment for this practice, such as finding a quiet place to sit or lying down in a comfortable position.

  1. Pay attention to your thoughts as they arise.

As you sit or lie quietly, allow your thoughts to come and go without judgment or attachment. Simply observe them as they arise and pass through your mind. It can be helpful to imagine yourself as a detached witness to your thoughts, rather than identifying with them or getting caught up in their content.

  1. Reflect on your thoughts.

After you’ve spent some time observing your thoughts, take a few minutes to reflect on what you noticed. What kinds of thoughts seemed to dominate your mind? Were they positive or negative? Did they relate to specific events or situations in your life, or were they more abstract or random?

By reflecting on your thoughts in this way, you can begin to gain insight into your mental patterns and habits. You may notice that you have a tendency to get stuck on negative or anxious thoughts, or that certain topics or themes seem to come up repeatedly.

It’s important to remember that noticing your thoughts is not about trying to change or control them, but rather about gaining a greater understanding of how your mind works. With practice, you can learn to recognize when your thoughts are unhelpful or unhealthy, and develop strategies for managing them more effectively.

As you continue to practice noticing your thoughts, you may find that you become more aware of your emotional state and the impact that your thoughts have on it. This can be particularly helpful if you struggle with anxiety or depression, as it can give you a greater sense of control over your mood and help you manage difficult emotions more effectively.

Overall, noticing your thoughts is a simple but powerful practice that can help you gain insight into your mind and improve your mental wellbeing. By setting aside time to focus on your thoughts, paying attention to them as they arise, and reflecting on them, you can begin to understand your mental patterns and develop more effective strategies for managing your emotions. So, these are the three easy steps to help you start noticing your thoughts.


New Year New Intention

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Katie Donahoo

As the new year approaches, it’s a natural time to reflect on the past year and set intentions for the year ahead. Intention setting is a powerful practice that can help you clarify your goals, focus your energy, and create positive change in your life. It’s a way to align your actions with your values and create the life you want to live.

But intention setting is more than just making resolutions or setting goals. It’s about creating a clear vision for your life and taking small, consistent steps towards realizing that vision. It’s about being mindful and present in each moment, and making choices that align with your values and goals.

Here are some steps to help you set intentions for the new year:

  1. Reflect on the past year

Before you can set intentions for the new year, it’s important to reflect on the past year. What were your successes and accomplishments? What were your challenges and setbacks? What did you learn about yourself and your life?

Taking the time to reflect on the past year can help you gain perspective, identify patterns, and learn from your experiences. It can also help you identify any areas of your life where you’d like to make changes or improvements.

  1. Set clear and specific goals

Once you’ve reflected on the past year, it’s time to set some goals for the new year. It’s important to be specific and clear when setting goals, as this will make it easier to track your progress and stay motivated.

For example, instead of setting a goal to “lose weight,” try setting a goal to “lose 10 pounds by June 1st by exercising for 30 minutes at least 3 times per week and eating a healthy, balanced diet.” This specific and measurable goal will give you a clear target to work towards, and it’s easy to track your progress along the way.

  1. Make your goals achievable

It’s important to set goals that are challenging but achievable. If your goals are too difficult, you may become discouraged and give up. On the other hand, if your goals are too easy, you may not feel motivated to work towards them.

Consider your current resources, skills, and limitations when setting your goals. Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable within the time frame you’ve set.

  1. Write down your goals and intentions

Writing down your goals and intentions can help you clarify your thoughts and make your goals feel more real and tangible. It’s also a helpful way to track your progress and stay on track.

Consider creating a vision board or journal to help you visualize and stay connected to your goals. You could also consider sharing your goals with a friend or accountability partner to help you stay motivated and accountable.

  1. Create a plan of action

Once you’ve set your goals and intentions, it’s important to create a plan of action to help you achieve them. Break your goals down into smaller, more manageable tasks, and create a timeline for completing each task.

For example, if your goal is to exercise more, you could create a weekly schedule that includes specific days and times for your workouts. You could also set specific goals for each workout, such as running a certain distance or lifting a certain amount of weight.

  1. Be flexible and adaptable

Life doesn’t always go as planned, and that’s okay. It’s important to be flexible and adaptable when working towards your goals. If something doesn’t go as you’d hoped, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Remember, the journey towards achieving your goals is just as important as the destination. Happy New Year!


3 Ways to Battle the Winter Blues

Katie Donahoo

As the seasons change, so too do our moods and mental health. For many of us, the transition from summer to fall and winter can bring about feelings of sadness and anxiety. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that is linked to the change in seasons. It is estimated that up to 10 million Americans suffer from SAD, with symptoms typically appearing in the late fall and lasting through the winter months.

But SAD is not the only way in which the changing seasons can impact our mental health. The shorter days and longer nights of fall and winter can lead to a decrease in overall energy and motivation. The transition from warm, sunny summer days to colder, darker winter days can also lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, as we may be less likely to engage in outdoor activities or social gatherings.

So, what can we do to mitigate the negative effects of the changing seasons on our mental health? Here are a few tips:

  1. Practice self-care

Self-care is a vital component of maintaining good mental health, and it is especially important during the winter months when we may feel extra drained and sluggish. Make sure to prioritize activities that nourish and support your body and mind, such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in regular physical activity. Additionally, consider incorporating relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga, into your daily routine.

  1. Seek out natural light

Exposure to natural light is important for regulating our body’s internal clock, which can help boost our mood and energy levels. Make an effort to spend time outside each day, even if it’s just a short walk or sitting in a park. If it’s too cold or gloomy outside, consider using a light therapy lamp or simply spending more time near windows to get some natural light.

  1. Stay connected

The shorter days and longer nights of fall and winter can make us feel isolated and disconnected from others. Make an effort to stay connected to your loved ones and engage in social activities, whether it’s a phone call, video chat, or in-person gathering. This can help combat feelings of loneliness and help you feel more supported during the winter months.

  1. Seek help if needed

If you’re struggling to cope with the negative effects of the changing seasons on your mental health, don’t hesitate to seek help. This may include speaking with a therapist or counselor, joining a support group, or consulting with a healthcare professional. It’s important to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength and that you don’t have to face these challenges alone.

In addition to SAD, the changing seasons can also impact other mental health conditions. For example, some people with anxiety or depression may find that their symptoms worsen during the winter months. This may be due to the added stressors of the holiday season, or simply the lack of light and warmth. If you have a pre-existing mental health condition, it’s important to monitor your symptoms and seek help if necessary.

But the changing seasons don’t just impact our mental health in negative ways. In fact, the arrival of spring and summer can bring about a sense of renewal and rejuvenation. The longer days and warmer weather can boost our mood and energy levels, and the increased opportunities for outdoor activities and social gatherings can help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.

It’s important to recognize that the changing seasons can have a significant impact on our mental health, and to take steps to mitigate any negative effects. Whether it’s practicing self-care, seeking out natural light, or staying connected to loved ones. If you struggle with SAD or increased depression in the winter months please seek professional help.


7 Tips for Managing Grief During the Holidays

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Katie Donahoo

The holidays can be a difficult time for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. The traditions and celebrations that are meant to bring joy can also bring reminders of what has been lost and can be a painful experience. It’s important to remember that grief is a natural and necessary part of the healing process and it’s okay to feel a range of emotions during the holidays. Here are some tips for managing grief during the holidays:

  1. Acknowledge and accept your feelings: It’s normal to feel a mix of emotions during the holidays, including sadness, anger, guilt, and loneliness. Allow yourself to feel these emotions and try not to judge yourself for them. It’s okay to take a break from holiday activities and allow yourself time to process your feelings.
  2. Reach out for support: Grief can be a very isolating experience, so it’s important to reach out to friends and family for support during the holidays. It can be helpful to talk about your loved one and the memories you shared with them. You can also seek support from a grief counselor or support group.
  3. Modify holiday traditions: The holidays can bring reminders of the loved one who is no longer with you. It’s okay to modify or skip traditions that are too difficult to participate in. It’s also okay to create new traditions that honor your loved one’s memory.
  4. Take care of yourself: Grief can be physically and emotionally draining, so it’s important to take care of yourself during the holidays. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat well, and engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. It’s also important to set boundaries and say no to obligations that may be too overwhelming.
  5. Find ways to remember your loved one: The holidays can be a time to remember and honor the loved one who is no longer with you. You can create a memorial or do something special in their memory. You can also share stories and memories with others.
  6. Be kind to yourself: It’s important to remember that grief is a process and it takes time to heal. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself the time and space to feel your emotions.
  7. Seek professional help if needed: If you are struggling to manage your grief during the holidays, it may be helpful to seek the support of a mental health professional. A therapist can provide a safe and supportive space to process your feelings and help you cope with the holiday season.

Grief during the holidays can be a difficult experience, but it’s important to remember that it’s a natural part of the healing process. By acknowledging and accepting your feelings, reaching out for support, modifying holiday traditions, taking care of yourself, finding ways to remember your loved one, and being kind to yourself, you can navigate the holiday season with grace and find ways to honor the memory of your loved one.

Addictions, Coping skills

Trigger Warning

Self Harm and Other Maladaptive Coping Strategies

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Katie Donahoo

Coping skills are anything that helps you to feel clam, relaxed and brings you peace. If you read through previous posts I’ve written you will all kinds of positive, healthy strategies to help you when you are struggling. But what happens when the things you think are bringing you calm are actually hurting you? In this article you learn what maladaptive coping strategies are, how to recognize them in yourself and others, and what to do if you notice you or a loved one are using them. So lets get into it.

Maladaptive coping skills are harmful behaviors people use to cope with emotional distress. While these behaviors often provide immediate reduction in symptoms the effects are not long lasting and over time cause an increase in distress, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms. Maladaptive strategies are often learned through social influence, parental modeling, or experimentation in youth. When a person is raised in a toxic household where the adults use maladaptive coping strategies to deal with their distress it impresses upon the youth that this is how you deal with your problems. Some youth are not exposed to healthy coping alternatives and therefore rely on the maladaptive strategies to ease their burden. Others still experiment with maladaptive strategies in teen years whether from peer advice or modeling behaviors seen by friends and peers. Adults can fall into maladaptive coping patterns as well.

Maladaptive coping comes in many forms. The use of drugs and alcohol often beginning as a way to deal with stress from either daily life or a significant event. Smoking, tobacco use, vaping to manage stress is another substance use example. Self harm behaviors such as cutting, burning, or hair pulling are maladaptive coping strategies. Lesser known maladaptive strategies include gambling, emotional numbing, and social withdraw. Often, maladaptive coping goes undetected because the strategy itself is a socially acceptable behavior. Going to the bar to burn off steam after a long day at work or playing a few hands of poker with the fellas. Taking smoke breaks at work or home to get away from the hub-bub indoors. Behaviors such as pinching, pulling, or picking may even go unnoticed by the individual until commented on by a loved one.

If you are uncertain if your engagement in some of the activities listed is simply social engagement or maladaptive coping you can ask yourself the following questions:

Does engaging in this activity consume my thinking? Do you spend a lot of time thinking about when, where, or how you will be able to engage in this behavior or activity again? Is what I think about first think about in the morning? Is it on my mind most of the day? Do I spend a lot time trying to plan or acquire the things I need to engage in this behavior again? Spending large quantities of time thinking about or actively trying to engage in the behavior again is an indicator you are engaging in an unhealthy or maladaptive way.

Am I hiding it from others? Do my loved ones know I do this? Do they partake in this behavior with me or do I engage in this alone? Engaging in behaviors in secret is a sign you are utilizing the behavior in a maladaptive way.

Do I feel guilt or shame after engaging in the behavior? When we partake in behavior in a maladaptive way we often feel negative emotions about our use of the behavior. Your use of a healthy coping strategy would leaving you feeling better, confident, and proud.

Am I only engaging in this behavior when I am alone? Isolation during maladaptive coping is common. If you wouldn’t engage in the behavior in front of your support system it’s likely because you have an intuitive sense that the behavior is maladaptive in nature. If you are isolating from your supports even when not engaging in the behavior it could be because your attempts at coping are not effective.

Maladaptive coping strategies will leave you feeling worse over time because they do not deal with the root cause of your distress. In fact, maladaptive coping will increase your symptoms due to the shame, guilt, embarrassment, and other depressive or anxious symptoms perpetuated by the strategy itself. Alcohol is a depressant. If you use it to numb or decrease your stress it will likely work initially. Over time you will find yourself feeling more and more anxious and stressed as you continue to use alcohol to cope. Maladaptive coping doesn’t work long term, it doesn’t create positive change in your behavior, and doesn’t address the root cause of your distress.

If you or a loved one are engaging in any of the strategies mentioned above as ways to deal with emotional upset, stress, or known mental health issues such as anxiety or depression there is hope. Please please please reach out for help. Somebody loves you, help is available. Crisis hotlines are for all kinds of crisis. You do NOT have to be suicidal to call a crisis line. Text 988 if you are in crisis.

If you are concerned for a loved one do not wait to address the elephant in the room. Learning new strategies and changing behavior patterns can be difficult. The person may have been using their maladaptive strategies for a very long time. Confront them immediately with love and support. Let them know that you know what they are doing and you are there to help. Whether for a loved one or for yourself seek professional support to gain healthy, effective strategies as soon as possible. Healing is possible, help is available.

Crisis Text Line: 988

Crisis Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8522


What’s In a Name?

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Katie Donahoo

While we use our names everyday it is not everyday we stop to think about what our name could mean. Perhaps your name was chosen for you with a particular purpose in mind. Or you may have been named after a relative or pop icon. Some have religious or spiritual connections. You may have even chosen a name for yourself very intentionally. Our names are just the beginning of our identity. What’s in your name?

The following activity will help your creativity start flowing while working on your self esteem:

  1. Write your name vertically on a sheet of paper in bubble lettering.
  2. List a positive quality that starts with each letter in your name.
  3. Fill in the bubble letter with a colorful deign to represent the quality. You can use color pencil, crayon, paint, chalk, ink, any medium you wish. Be sure to intentionally use colors that represent the quality.
  4. Step back from your work and reflect on how these qualities have been helpful to you in your life.

EXAMPLE: I used Sharpie marker as my medium.

Our self worth is often the result of the meaning we attach to ourselves and out lived experiences. If you want to increase your self esteem, self worth, self love, etc. complete this exercise and hang it in a place where you will see if frequently. Read through the positive qualities you have identified in yourself and remember, you are worthy. Not because of the things you do, not because of what other people think, and not because of any thing you have achieved. You are worthy. That is it. You are worthy.

If you are struggling with low self esteem reach out today. Healing is possible, help is available.

Coping skills

What Were You Thinking

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Katie Donahoo

Throughout your life you will be spending more time in your own head than in conversation with anyone else. If you find yourself saying things like “I’m so stupid. I can’t believe I did that. What’s wrong with me? I hate myself. No one likes me.” Then this article is for you. Our internal dialogue has a huge impact on our self-esteem, emotional state, and how we behave. When we have negative internal dialogue it can cause negative emotional states and behavior that is unhelpful. Beating yourself up over mistakes or ruminating on what you said or did isn’t helpful and it won’t change the past. Challenging your thinking and reframing your thoughts can change how you feel in the moment and impact your behavior in a positive way.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, teaches us about the interconnectedness of our thoughts feelings and behaviors. We have thoughts (likely negative ones), the thoughts tigger emotions, and the emotions impact our behavior, often leading to events that trigger more negative thoughts. And so, the cycle continues leaving us trapped in a downward spiral of negativity, depression, and anxiety. Sound familiar? “How do I stop it?” you ask. Well I’ll give you strategies to try.

  1. Thought Stopping: Interrupting your thoughts by utilizing imagery, such as visualizing a STOP sign, and then redirecting your thoughts to a different topic.
  2. Cognitive Challenging: Challenging the validity, fact basis, or likelihood of the distorted thoughts you are having. Then choosing to focus on the more realistic thoughts or outcomes.
  3. Cognitive Reframing: Challenging your thinking and then intentionally changing the thought you are having to a more positive thought. For example: If you have the thought “no one likes me” you would challenge that by identifying one person who you have even the slightest positive relationship with (ex: parent, sibling, local grocer, your cat, etc). You would then re-frame your thought to a more positive one: “I don’t always like everyone so it’s ok if ______ doesn’t like me. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s ok.”

Learning to interrupt, challenge, and reframe your thinking can a significant impact on your mental health. It’s not easy to start but once you get the hang of it you will be able to do it quickly therefore spending less time feeling down, depressed, or anxious. Start by noticing how often you hare having negative or distorted thoughts. Then, start identifying the thoughts you have most often or the thoughts that create big emotional responses within you. Write the ones down, literally word for word, so you can thoroughly challenge them and come up with reframes that feel genuine and true. Once you have done this you will have a mental tool box of more logical, more positive, and more genuine thoughts to use whenever you notice yourself spiraling into your negative thinking patterns. Over time this process will becomes easier and easier.

If you are struggling with your thoughts and having difficulty interrupting, challenging, or reframing them a counselor can work with you to practice, develop, and implement these strategies. Healing is possible, help is available.