Dominica Liscio

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also known as CBT is one of the most popular forms of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety related symptoms. CBT focuses on the way in which thought processes influence our emotions, physical reactions, and behaviors.

A CBT therapist will specifically work with a person to thoroughly understand their life path and what has influenced them to think the way they do up to their current day of life, this will ultimately tell a therapist what the person’s beliefs about life are (belief systems). A person’s belief systems are directly tied to the way they perceive and therefore think about life. These thoughts are directly linked to our overall emotional, behavioral, and physical health. For instance, imagine a time in life where you had to pep yourself up prior to doing something nerve wracking (public speaking, competition, life changing conversation). Before attending this nerve-wracking event, you may have told yourself over and over “I got this” to drown out the negative, imagine how this mantra changed your physical reactions (breath, heart rate), your behaviors (you did not run away! Yay!), and your emotions (felt more confident). This cycle of influence between emotion, behavior, and physical sensation is what CBT is all about!

Want to experience some CBT therapy homework?

Carry a notebook for 1 week. Record random events throughout your day by describing the event, the automatic thoughts you had, and your physical actions/behaviors taken. Reflect at the end of the week on this journal, what did you discern about your underlying beliefs?

Posted by Dominica Liscio in CFLR In Action

Helping Children Cope with Traumatizing Events

Helping Children Cope with Traumatizing Events

Navigating the world can be challenging as an adult! Having the responsibility of helping to raise happy, healthy children surely adds to the stress of being a grown up. As news continues to flood our minds on a 24/7 basis, and we are bombarded with technology and social media, it seems that we have little room for joy in our lives. Daily traumatic events can take their toll on even the most resilient of individuals. So how do we take care of ourselves AND take care of the children in our lives?

Children and adolescents are strongly influenced by how adults respond to trauma. Caregivers and family members can provide better care to others when they support their own ability to cope.

According to the American Psychological Association, in the days and weeks following a trauma, it’s common for people to have a flurry of unpredictable emotions and physical symptoms. Recognizing that these feelings are normal for adults, adolescents and children will help you better cope with your own feelings after an event. These feelings can include:

  • Sadness
  • Feeling nervous, jumpy, or on high alert
  • Irritability or anger
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Relationship problems
  • Intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or nightmares
  • Trouble feeling positive emotions
  • Avoiding people, places, memories, or thoughts associated with the traumatic event

In most cases, these symptoms improve over time. However, some people experience more intense symptoms that don’t go away on their own. If these feelings persist and interfere with your everyday life, it is important to reach out to a professional.

The good news is that there are very effective ways to cope with and treat the stressful effects of trauma. Psychologists and other researchers have found that these actions can help:

  • Lean on your loved ones. Identify friends or family members for support. If you feel ready to discuss the traumatic event, you might talk to them about your experience and your feelings. You can also ask loved ones to help you with household tasks or other obligations to relieve some of your daily stress.
  • Face your feelings. It’s normal to want to avoid thinking about a traumatic event. But not leaving the house, sleeping all the time, isolating yourself from loved ones, and using substances to escape reminders are not healthy ways to cope over time. Though avoidance is normal, too much of it can prolong your stress and keep you from healing. Gradually, try to ease back into a normal routine. Support from loved ones or a mental health professional can help a lot as you get back in the groove.
  • Prioritize self-care. Do your best to eat nutritious meals, get regular physical activity, and get a good night’s sleep. And seek out other healthy coping strategies such as art, music, meditation, relaxation, and spending time in nature.
  • Be patient. Remember that it’s normal to have a strong reaction to a distressing event. Take things one day at a time as you recover. As the days pass, your symptoms should start to gradually improve.

** American Psychological Association

How can we ensure that children thrive, regardless of traumatic events? By creating a safe and supportive environment, remaining calm, and reducing stressors, caregivers and family members can help. It is critical for children and adolescents to know that their family members love them and will take care of them. Below are a few ways to help children process traumatic events:

  • Allow them to be sad or cry.
  • Let them talk, write, or draw pictures about the event and their feelings.
  • Limit their exposure to repetitive news reports about traumatic events.
  • Let them sleep in your room (for a short time) or sleep with a light on if they are having trouble sleeping.
  • Try to stick to routines, such as reading bedtime stories, eating dinner together, and playing games.
  • Help them feel in control by letting them make some decisions for themselves, such as choosing their meals or picking out their clothes.
  • Pay attention to sudden changes in behaviors, speech, language use, or strong emotions.

Contact a health care provider if new problems develop for an adult or a child, particularly if any of the following symptoms occur for more than a few weeks:

  • Having flashbacks (reliving the event)
  • Having a racing heart and sweating
  • Being easily startled
  • Being emotionally numb
  • Being very sad or depressed

Taking care of yourself is the first step in being able to take care of others! Find ways to unplug and get outside.  Keep healthy routines in place for you and your loved ones and do not hesitate to ask for help if you need it!

Where can I find help?

National Institute of Mental Health

**The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a Disaster Distress Helpline, which provides immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. The helpline is free, multilingual, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can call or text the helpline at 800-985-5990 or visit the Disaster Distress Helpline website.

SAMHSA provides the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator, an online resource for locating mental health treatment facilities and programs in your state. For additional resources, visit NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses webpage.

If you, your child, or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You also can text the Crisis Text Line (HELLO to 741741) or use the Lifeline Chat on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.

Posted by Dominica Liscio in CFLR In Action, EAP

Over the Counter Drugs and Sleep

Over the Counter Drugs and Sleep

We all know how precious sleep is.  We watch babies struggle with it, then hope they somehow learn to self soothe themselves to sleep, and finally we relish in the peacefulness of watching that baby sleep.   Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly. This can impair your abilities to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories.

Most adults require between seven and nine hours of nightly sleep. Children and teenagers need substantially more sleep, particularly if they are younger than five years of age. Work schedules, day-to-day stressors, a disruptive bedroom environment, and medical conditions can all prevent us from receiving enough sleep.

Want to talk about a universal stressor? How is coping through a pandemic effecting our sleep patterns?

Since the pandemic began, researchers around the world have documented a surge in sleep disorders, with 2 in 3 Americans reporting they are now sleeping either more or less than desired. See more at link below:

Growing concerns about sleep

Upended routines, more screen time, increased alcohol consumption, and dissolving boundaries between work and private life are just a few of the factors contributing to problems with sleep…

Suddenly, we are expected to get back to the office, activities, school, and life. You guessed it! We are not sleeping, and many Americans are turning to OTC drugs to help them fall asleep.  This can be very dangerous, have long term effects and should be discussed with your doctor. Here is why:

Side effects associated with sleep aid medications include dry mouth, urinary retention, blurred vision, confusion, and constipation. The use of these medications is especially concerning in older or elderly individuals as they may be at a higher risk for confusion, dizziness, and falls.

Additionally, sleep aid medications often pair the active ingredient for sleep with other medications. For example, Tylenol PM includes diphenhydramine to help you sleep, and acetaminophen, a medication prescribed for pain relief. If you are taking other medications, you should consult with the pharmacist to make sure occasional sleep aids are safe.

The use of drugs containing diphenhydramine, such as Benadryl, are increasingly being used to help people fall asleep.  The dangers of using this inexpensive allergy medicine are often overlooked. To understand the danger, one must look at how the ingredients effect the nervous system.

Not only do drugs containing diphenhydramine block histamine, diphenhydramine and doxylamine succinate have anticholinergic properties. Anticholinergic drugs inhibit the action of acetylcholine in the central and peripheral nervous system.

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays a pivotal role in several brain functions, including short-term memory and thinking. Anticholinergic medications can produce cognitive impairment that persists even after you stop taking them. Researchers found that taking anticholinergic medications increased the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for up to 20 years after exposure.

So now what? What can we do to increase our probability of getting a good night’s rest? First and foremost, according to sleep expert Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan, give yourself a break!  Stressing over not getting enough sleep, is causing more sleep disturbances!  It is normal to wake up several times a night and soothing yourself back to sleep is a skill (remember the baby in the opening paragraph).

Check out:

Five non negotiables for good sleep by Dr Nerina Ramlakhan:

Try some basic meditation techniques and try to stay in a relaxed sleep state when you rouse. Do not look at your phone, for that matter, try to not look at the clock.  Knowing you only have a few precious hours to fall back asleep, can often stress you out and cause more wake time!

Love your sleep area, make sure your bed, is where you love to go! Keep it free from disturbances, cool and dark. Keep your screen time limited before bedtime.  The Cleveland Clinic lists these three reasons as why:

1)It keeps your mind psychologically engaged

The last thing our brain needs is more information and more entertainment when it is trying to rest and refresh!  (And that seems fair enough – we give our brains enough to think about during the day!)

“Checking your phone stimulates the brain so we are more active and awake,” says Dr. Walia. “Even just a quick check can engage your brain and delay sleep.”

2. The blue light from the screen suppresses melatonin

Let’s cut to the chase. The blue light that your smartphone emits is not only bad for your vision, but it’s bad for your brain too. Dr. Walia says that research has found a correlation between suppressed levels of melatonin and exposure to blue light. Melatonin is a hormone responsible for controlling your sleep-wake cycle. So, when your body runs low on it, you can experience insomnia, tiredness during the day and irritability.

3. The alerting properties delay REM sleep

You probably know what it’s like to scroll through Facebook right before bed and see something that makes you upset. Even seeing something right before bed that makes you happy can trigger a response that prolongs falling sleep, which consequently delays REM sleep. These emotions can leave you staring at the ceiling for hours feeling wide awake.

doing at night before bed is the exact opposite. It’s distracting you, keeping you awake, stimulating your brain and delaying REM sleep.

For more information on why technology is keeping us awake:

Put the phone away!3 Reasons Why Looking at it Before Bed is a Bad Habit

Try these tips for a few weeks to see if they help!

Posted by Dominica Liscio in CFLR In Action

Donations Needed for our Spring Makeover!

Donations Needed for our Spring Makeover!

You can drop off all donations to The Center for Family Life and Recovery.  If necessary, please contact Katie Burns at 315-733-1709 to arrange pick-ups.

Posted by Dominica Liscio in News, Recovery