Blog & Video Archives

Past Bridge Street Mental Health segment with accompanying text.

Coping with Coronavirus Anxiety: Tips for Keeping a Rational Perspective .

Over the past few weeks, there has been wall to wall coverage of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), epidemic. In addition to the impact on the sick, the fear of the spread of this disease has caused world-wide alarm and has had a devastating impact on industry and the world’s stock markets . Concerns about limiting and containing the spread of the virus have already resulted in significant daily living disruptions with measures such as quarantines, cancelled conventions and air flights. Going forward , how to prevent a general public panic is uncertain.
Unfortunately, the problem is made worse and more confusing because government preparation and responses have been inadequate and statements from the White House and public health agencies about the virus or what to do are often contradictory. As a result, it is difficult for the public to know what is true and just who to believe.
Fortunately, there is wide-spread agreement among health experts about what common sense measures should be employed to lesson the risk of contracting the disease: — Use disposable tissues. — Be mindful of what you touch. — Wash your hands frequently after touching things like door knobs, light switches, etc. — Avoid unnecessary public contact like shaking hands. — And MOST IMPORTANTLY — Don’t touch your face.
It is important to realize , despite all of the media attention, the virus is not the Black Plague. Although many will be infected by Coronavirus, most will not even feel sick. That said the threat of the virus goes beyond a medical risk. COVID-19 poses a severe psychological stress which create individual and even mass panic. Even for those who don’t get sick, the emotional strain of non-stop media hype in addition to the disruptive precautionary measures will pose a serious menace that will, in some way, impact almost everyone sooner or later. Although no one can control the spread or extent of the disease, there is a lot which individuals can do to control the anxiety produced by this difficult situation. Here are some important tips:

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Turned Away on Valentine’s Day: Tips for Dealing with Rejection and Loneliness

Depending on your romantic situation, Valentine’s Day can mean dramatically different things. For lovers and married folks, it can be a joyful time to reflect on and express love and affection for one another.

However, this heavily media-hyped day can be an excruciating and heartbreaking time for folks who have lost, are without partners or who are in the midst of relational strife or divorce. Indeed, the plight of those who are lonely can be overlooked and ignored in the wake of the red-hearted deluge of the holiday.

We need to remember that, for these folks, Valentine’s Day is at best awkward and at worst a painful reminder of loneliness, frustration, disappointment and loss.

Beyond the pain of being without or losing a loving partner is the destructive impact on one’s self-esteem . Unfortunately, partner-less and divorcing folks often blame themselves for their lack of romantic success and see themselves as defective or permanently damaged such that they will always be alone.

While some folks do suffer from emotional issues which make sustaining intimate relationships difficult or problematic, that is not the case for most. And for those who are bummed out on Valentine’s Day, here are some thoughts and tips for coping with loneliness until Cupid’s arrows work their magic.

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A Valentine’s Day Primer for Couples who want more Romance in their Marriage .

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and so it’s a perfect time to talk about romance and how important and necessary it is to a lasting and satisfying marriage.
It is ironic that , while that most folks think that romance is a good thing, many married (and unmarried) couples admit that there isn’t a lot of it in their relationship and would like more.
Unfortunately, many erroneously believe that once romance disappears from a marriage, there is no way to get it back. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to rekindle romantic feelings and restore excitement to your marriage. Given the all of the bad information and discouragement surrounding romance, here are some basic facts to remember that explain: 1) Why romance is so important, 2) The key factors that go into keeping romance alive and vigorous and 3) Tips for re-igniting romance and passion that may have flagged :

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Let’s Talk about Sexless Marriages: The Good News !

Recent studies have repeatedly shown that Americans are having less sex. One statistic reveals that over half of single folks under forty haven’t had sex in a year. Factors such as work-related anxiety and financial worries leave many singles either too busy or too stressed out to bother with sex.

Shockingly, more and more married couples are reporting that they aren’t having sex either. Sexless marriage hasn’t been talked about much in the past but, lately, it’s attracting more clinical attention because the fact that couples aren’t having sex is emerging more frequently with patients who are seeking help for other issues.

Sadly, many sexless couples don’t seek help because they are discouraged and feel that there is nothing that can be done. Unfortunately, untreated, the problem only becomes worse and worse. While sex may not be the most important thing in life, it’s probably in the top ten. Therefore, couples need to know that sexual problems in marriage, while difficult to talk about at first, are very treatable.
Here are some important facts about sexless marriages:

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Being Realistic about New Year’s Resolutions: Some things to think about before making one.

As we come to the end of the year, encouraged by tradition and media hype, many will think about new year’s resolutions and making important changes in their lives.

Likewise, many will look back on the year just past with disappointment and discouragement over the well intentioned but failed efforts from the previous year’s resolution list.

Frankly, change is hard. It takes more than good intentions to actually succeed in making significant and needed improvements in our lives. Many who undertake plans for things like losing weight, quitting smoking or exercising more, for example, fail to understand the necessary factors which are required on one hand and those which work against change on the other.

Taking a little time to reflect may not only improve your chances of succeeding but also help to help you to avoid the pain of not following through. With these complications and pitfalls in mind, here are a some things to think about before undertaking the challenge of a new year’s resolution .

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Give the Gift of Empathy During this Holiday Season : Here’s How.

It is tough to be blue during the holidays. Amid the hustle and bustle of the pre – Hanukkah and Christmas hype there are many folks for whom the season is not joyous or bright.
Although many of us look forward to Christmas as a time for gifts and to celebrate family and friends, there are many others for whom the occasion is difficult and even painful. Death , divorce, financial troubles , loneliness , depression and failing health are but a few of the reasons which keep many folks from experiencing the full joy of the holiday.
While we can’t make things all better when we encounter someone who is blue, being aware of his or her plight can help us to be more sensitive and compassionate in our interactions with them. It is important to remember that what folks who are blue really need during this painful time is empathy and understanding. Here are some tips to help you improve your empathy skills and to show more kindness and sensitivity to those you meet :

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The Deal : How To Restore Trust After Infidelity.

Infidelity is one of most painful issues married couples ever face. While the emotional wounds created by the break in trust are sometimes too great to repair, I have found that if the offending partner is sincerely repentant, remorseful and willing to work on the individual or relational issues which lead to the problem and, if the offended partner is sincere in his/her desire to reconcile and accepts that most infidelity stems from deeper relational issues which involve both partners, the wound can be healed, trust can be rebuilt and the marriage can actually grow and mature in deeper intimacy.
Over my many years of practice, I have discovered a fundamental communication deal, which, if agreed to and followed by both partners, can , with practice, accelerate healing and renewed confidence in their loyalty and fidelity. However, although the terms of the deal are very simple , carrying out the deal is complicated and difficult. Let me explain.

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When Expectations Don’t Work Out.

Expectations. We all have them, that is to say we all have a sense of what is going to happen in our lives. We have routines which we follow and much of our life is predictable. Part of life, however, is unpredictable and folks who naively or uncritically assume outcomes without sufficient reason can be shocked and sadly disappointed.
Indeed, unrealistic expectations or expectations that are not met are a major source of distress in life. The spectrum of disappointment is wide and ranges from trivial things like a sports team losing a game or running into a long line at the bank all the way to a life-crisis event like losing a job or being told that one has a serious disease.
There are lots of events in the middle, however, which, while not serious with a capital S, nonetheless, create inconvenience or worse. Being caught off guard by these kinds of life events is not only frustrating but an situation which can trigger an anger reaction causes us to act out in ways that are socially disruptive and unpleasant for everyone involved. Indeed, being shocked by unexpected happenings is one of the biggest causes of unpleasant outbursts of anger.
Today, we are going to look at how to 1) recognize amygdala-based reactions which often result from unrealistic or unmet expectations, 2) how to calm and reality-test panicked perceptions which generates anger outbursts and 3) how to problem-solve your way to more rational responses to negative and unexpected life events.

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Understanding and Coping with “Controlling” People.

Many have commented about the coarsening of our society and the decline of basic civility in politics and in every day life. Psychologically, this change in public decorum correlates with the complexification of life and a greatly reduced sense of control that people experience over there own lives.
Nowhere is the loss of control more painfully experienced than in intimate relationships and marriage. Indeed, one of the most common complaints of couples is that they feel that their partner is too “controlling”. Here are some important facts about our needs for control and some tips for dealing with controlling people:
1) No one has the right to try to control their partner.
2) Attempts to control are signs of anxiety and panic.
3) When in a state of panic, a person is not in touch with their cortex and thus he/she can not think reasonably.
4) It is not helpful or productive to attempt to struggle with someone who is in a panicked state.
5) Only when the experience of anxiety has been lowered can a productive conversation and respectful negotiations to reach mutually agreeable solutions take place .

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How Breathing and the “Tupperware” techniques can help to control anger.

Violent and uncontrolled expressions of anger are some of the most threatening emotional, social and cultural issues plaguing our society. One of the especially frustrating aspects of anger is its explosive nature which may erupt without warning.
Although it takes practice, a helpful skill to acquire to control the raw acting out of anger feelings is to delay the urge to immediately discharge the impulse . Using the mental image of a Tupperware container , along with breathing exercises, is an effective way to defer the immediate and unfiltered release of anger impulses and to allow time for a more reasonable response to be made . Here is how they work together to give you more control.

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Rethinking the language of mental illness: From nuts and crazy to irrational and disordered.

Recently, a husband in a counseling session turned and asked me to tell his wife that she was crazy. In declining to do so I asked if he could tell me what he was feeling when he made his request. He responded by saying that he felt exasperated. Indeed , sometimes we hurl words like nuts or crazy when we are frustrated and don’t know what else to do. When we feel powerless, name-calling is sometimes the only thing we can think of to do. That’s because cutting remarks about the other person makes them appear smaller and makes us feel better .
Apart from the session, it got me to thinking about how his comment , in addition to being hurtful, is a sign that, despite all that we have learned and despite all the progress that we have made, that we still have a long way to go to get beyond the fear and stigma attached to mental health issues.
Part of the prejudice stems from ignorance and a gross misunderstanding of psychological disorders. This confusion has been and continues to be perpetuated, in part, by the common usage of antiquated and misleading terms such as “crazy” and “nuts”.
Today, let’s explore the linguistic origins these hurtful anachronisms and consider better alternatives to use when discussing mental health issues.

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S.H.I.E.L.D. : Six steps to protect your brain from Alzheimer’s Disease

This is Alzheimer’s awareness day and here is an acronym that everyone should learn: S.H.I.E.L.D.
SH.I.E.L.D. stands for the six things that everyone can do to help protect their brain from this dreaded disease.
In the past research was aimed at protein build-up (plaques and tangles) but the latest thinking is that INFLAMATION is the culprit.
Here are six life-style changes that can help reduce inflammation in the brain and better protect you from Alzheimer’s disease.

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The Absense of Empathy: Psychology’s Take on the Origin of Sin and Evil.

The incessant reports of gun violence has stimulated deeper questions about the very notion of human sin and evil. A recent report in the New York Times interviewed a theologian and a psychiatrist about their understanding of these mysteries. As one who is an ordained minister and also a licensed psychotherapist, I found the discussion fascinating and relevant to modern concerns about why bad things such as mass shootings happen. Further, the dialog provides a good example of the kinds of issues which pastoral counselors address.
In a recent article in the New York Times a theologian and a psychiatrist were asked about their understanding of evil and sin. Specifically, the psychiatrist expressed the widely held view of how modern brain research and psychology understands the concepts of evil and sin. This evolving bio/psycho/social perspective provides a different slant on traditional religious views of evil but, ultimately, is congruent with the fundamental message of biblical beliefs. Here is a look of how science informs and relates to the theological concept of sin.

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First Aid for Anxiety : Part II – Anticipatory Anxiety

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how to employ first-aid for anxiety. In that discussion, the type of anxiety being addressed was the kind which was triggered by a perceived external stressor in the person’s environment, such as a having a difficult conversation with a person or receiving bad or threatening news .
— Today I want to talk about a different kind of anxiety which can also produce intense dysphoric symptoms but which originates in the neo-cortex of the brain and comes from an internal-anticipated threat, rather than an actual or immediate one.
— Rather than relying on physical isolation from the distressing stimulus, a technique which I call Sensational Distraction (SD) can be used to disrupt distract the stressful cascade of thoughts and anxious feelings. With SD a person can shift the focus and attention of their immediate experience from thinking thoughts to perceiving sensations in their body and thus stop the flow of disturbing thoughts and calm the distressed state of mind.
— Although many distractors can be used , an especially effective technique for lessening and stopping anxiety I call the Orange. The orange relies on SD and is the first step, after a person realizes that they are experiencing anticipatory anxiety, calming one’s mind. The technique involves four steps and goes like this:

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Political attempts to blame the mentally Ill for mass shootings is wrong.

I know it has been a couple of weeks since the tragedies in El Paso and Dayton.  I also know that mass shootings have become so frequent that our ability to really comprehend and feel the horror has been saturated beyond human limitations.

That said, it is important, in addition to not giving up or giving in to emotionally accepting gun violence as a fact of life, that we not fall victim to our fatigue or fall prey to bogus political attempts to offer facile explanations for  complex problems.  Likewise, we must be careful not to blame an innocent population for inexplicable horrors. You may have heard some politicians suggest that mental illness is the cause of these mass shootings. Frankly, those who do this simply don’t know what they are talking about and are wrong. Here is why:

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Rekindling Passion: Part Two – The Secret to Re-igniting the Fames of Desire



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