Juuling – Is Your Teen Indulging in This Potentially Dangerous New Fad?

juulingParents – have you heard of juuling?  If you haven’t, here is what you need to know:

What is it?

Juuling is the new fad among teens – it is a form of vaping that is illegal for those under 18 (and 21, in some states) and is extremely addictive.  The juul is an electronic cigarette which has a long, metallic, sleek design and looks similar to a large flash drive.  They are easily accessible and can be ordered online – these websites are not sufficiently monitored or regulated.  Because of this design, they are easily hidden in a hand or pocket, and often go unnoticed by parents and school personnel.  A juul pod (pictured above) is colorful and at first glance looks like it could be a mini flash drive. The pods themselves often have a sweet smell as they are fruit or floral flavored.  Teens get the chemicals for the e-cigarettes from these pods.

What are the dangers?

Although extensive research has not yet been completed involving vaping or juuling, Yale research scientist Krysten Bold reports that juuling involves breathing chemicals into your body which can potentially be a health hazard.  Any time any foreign substance enters our body, it can cause health problems.

Here is what is most concerning about juuling though: according to the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse, the pods themselves (pictured above) have a high dose of nicotine in them – in comparison, each pod is equivalent to a full pack of cigarettes.  Doctors and researchers report that nicotine is damaging to the developing brain, is extremely addictive, and can be a gateway to other illegal drugs and alcohol use.

Not only that, but if your child is taking ADD/ADHD medication, anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds while juuling, it can lead to increased anxiety, depression and increased thoughts of suicide.

What are the potential signs my teen is juuling?

Finding these pods or the juul pen in your child’s room is one sign they are #juuling. However, if your teen is complaining about a frequent sore throat, is coughing a lot, and seems more irritable or more anxious than usual, these are other signs they might be juuling. The cough and sore throat are related to the side effects that vaping can have on the throat, lungs and heart.

What are the legal consequences if my child is caught juuling?

Each city ordinance is different, but cities as close as Park Ridge recently passed an ordinance that says minors who are caught vaping or juuling will be arrested, ticketed, and face an adjudication hearing, where they will pay $500 in fines and be required to enroll in a diversion and education program. And parents – you will be required to attend this class with them!

Parents – if you suspect your child might be vaping or juuling, have a conversation with them.  If they are juuling,  there may be a more serious underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Counseling can help with this!  Please don’t hesitate to call me with questions at 630-797-9192.

 

 

What’s Your Guilty Pleasure?

Hello Beautiful People!

Today, I want to talk about two of my guilty pleasures. Honestly, I have several (like Reese’s eggs which are on sale right now because Easter is over), but my focus today will be #MEALPLANNING and #FOODPREPPING! Before you roll your eyes, if you are looking for a chance to gain more time for self-care or for the family during the week, read on….

As a small business owner I have a pretty demanding schedule, and any extra time I can pinch during the week is GOLD. I know I have mentioned my affinity for meal-planning and food prepping in a previous post, but I cannot express enough how much it helps me throughout my week!  I not only prep my lunches and dinners, but also my snacks.  Although it may take a little pre-meal planning, grocery shopping, and some prep time on Sunday, the benefits far outweigh the time spent!

My lunches tend to look like a salad with grilled or oven-baked chicken (pictured above). Sometimes, I will throw the chicken into a low carb wrap with some honey dijon mustard and lettuce, which I think is just tasty!

My snacks can range from yogurt, homemade granola bars (pictured above), carrots and hummus, and fruit “bowls” (pictured above).

Dinners usually consist of some type of brown rice base, meat and veggies.  We mix it up by using different spices and stir fry low sodium sauce (usually gluten free).   They are filling and generally healthy.  Sometimes, we will make naked chicken fajitas (pictured above), and add a tostada on the side for a little crunch. Or, we might use the slow cooker (generally in the cooler months) to make something quick and easy, like three-ingredient slow cooker chicken and salsa (chicken thighs, salsa and spices)!  This is one of the go-to recipes in our house because it is so versatile- sometimes, if we are feeling a little feisty, we will even and add black beans, frozen corn and hot sauce to the crock pot!

My dinner ideas often come from @skinnytaste or @gimmesomeoven or @fitslowcookerqueen, to name a few.  They have A TON of great recipes and you can find many choices based on your dietary needs!

Here are some benefits of food prepping:

  1. Allows for more ME time in the evenings since dinner just needs to be heated up
  2. Lunches and snacks are already pre-planned so I can just grab and go
  3. Allows more time during the week with the family (in my case, my husband!)
  4.  Healthier food choices (I’m about 99% less likely to stop and pick up fast food).
  5. Helps keep me organized and on track with my fitness goals
  6. My husband and I often prep together, which keeps us connected and enjoying something we both like

I have suggested food prepping to many of my clients who also share a demanding schedule.  They tell me hardest part is making the commitment to do it, but once they plan, practice and get in the groove, it really is easy!  And it DOES free up time for other things during the week (which I know we can ALL use)!

What we put into our body has a direct impact on how we feel. By making healthier food choices, utilizing food prepping, and having more time for ourselves and our family, these strategies can make a world of difference by improving the quality of our lives!

 

 

Let’s Talk About Sex

Hello lovely people!

I read this article today (see link below) written by a gynecologist and I am interested in what others think about the concept of how some sexless relationships arise from men who have low libidos.

Gunter writes: “Libido can be affected by a number of things, including depression, medication, stress, health, affairs, previous sexual trauma, pornography, pain with sex and relationship dissatisfaction…”

I have worked with many couples over the last six years and am a certified L1 Gottman Couples Therapist. In a session where one or both partners are dissatisfied with their sex life, I will check in with each partner, assessing whether one or more of the libido killers is present.

About 25% of the time, I come across a case where the man has low libido and doesn’t have a desire to initiate sex.

When I do run into a case where the male is the one experiencing low libido, I think it is absolutely crucial to explore those factors that Gunter lists above, but I do so with great sensitivity. In my experience, men with low libido who come into my office are already at a point where they feel emasculated by their partner. I have seen stereotypical gender expectations surface here, such as: “Well, he’s the man- he’s supposed to want sex!” They are berated and shamed for not “feeling it.” This is where I insert education about the libido killers, which can be an eye opener for both partners.

On the opposite end of the couch, the partner who has been initiating sex is often left feeling rejected when turned down. This rejection turns into anger, sadness and resentment (that is then verbalized), which can be a recipe for disaster for the future of the relationship. This partner deserves to feel heard and validated too.

On a side note: I also think, regardless of gender, it is important to explore the messages about sex that the individual received growing up from his or her family of origin. Did they talk about it? Or, was it taboo to even bring up? These often impact how we view sex and talking about sex.

What about your family of origin? How did they approach (or did they avoid?) the topic of sex? If you brought it up, was it discussed openly or were you criticized or shamed for it?

If the goals of therapy are to reconnect, and increase intimacy and passion within the relationship, then any of the factors above that are creating a “sex block” in the relationship need to be addressed. Often, I will refer the partner with low libido out for individual therapy to help with exploring the block at a deeper level. Then, I will work with both partners to help them both feel understood and see the problem from each others perspectives. Once this is accomplished, we can discuss what each partner needs to do to help the other feel more desired. Usually, I incorporate some of John Gottman’s techniques for increasing fondness and admiration to help with this (for more information about this, contact me at 630-797-9192 for your free, 15 minute consultation).

If you know of an individual or couple experiencing mismatched sexual desire or low libido, I can help! Call 630-797-9192 today!

Link to the article is below:

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/03/10/style/sexless-relationships-men-low-libido.html?mc=aud_dev&mcid=keywee&mccr=dommob&kwp_0=751346&kwp_4=2626004&kwp_1=1113813&dclid=CIDusJiRo9oCFQU4TwodLcQK2w

Case of the Mondays?

mondays

Are you feeling it -that Monday vibe which comes around at the beginning of each week? I was talking with my trainer at the gym this morning, and he was saying how he found himself feeling a bit groggy…still in the process of waking up. He also noted that his clients seemed a little less motivated today.  Coincidence? I think not.

So how do we get out of this Monday funk?  Well, perhaps the first step comes before Monday begins. Perhaps, the first step begins on Sunday, by paying attention to your thoughts about the week ahead. So, what are the thoughts that you are thinking on Sunday about the week ahead? Are they positive? Or, are you dreading going back to work and/or to additional responsibilities?

The truth is, all of the thoughts you have on Sunday are setting the intention for Monday (and really, the whole week!).  Because our thoughts and feelings are directly connected, here are some things to keep in mind:   If your thoughts are positive going into the week ahead, you are more likely to have a great start to your week.  If your thoughts are negative, you are more likely to feel bummed heading into the week.   Our thoughts and feelings also impact to our behavior.  Think about it: are you MORE or LESS likely to hit the snooze button on Monday if you are thinking negatively going into the week?  If those thoughts are negative, are you MORE or LESS likely to groan, complain, or have a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach?

YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF HOW YOU WANT THE WEEK AHEAD TO BE.  If you find that you are one of those folks dreading the week ahead, carve out some time on Sunday and work on changing your thoughts to more positive ones. Tell yourself: “I got this! This is going to be a great week!” Write down some positive affirmations.  Maybe you want to take a step further, and jot down your goals for the week.  Trust me, adding these things to your Sunday routine will make a HUGE difference in how your Monday goes!

If work stress is getting in the way of your happiness, talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling.  If you are having some difficulty feeling motivated, or, you find that you are irritated or depressed when thinking about the week ahead, contact a professional (like me) to help you develop some coping strategies to bring back some joy in your life!

What Do We Tell Our Kids?

The number of school shootings we have had this year is sickening. And its only FEBRUARY folks! Our country has again been left shaken and bruised (and for some, cut incredibly deep) after the horrific Valentine’s Day massacre that occurred in Florida on Wednesday. 17 people lost their lives. I am sick to my stomach about it and have a few things to say.

First and foremost, my heart goes out to all of the grieving parents, family members and friends who lost a loved one. I can’t imagine the pain they must be experiencing. Please don’t try and invalidate what I am saying by telling me its not enough. I know its not.

I also wanted to give a nod to those NIU alumni and staff who, 10 years ago on Valentines Day, experienced something similarly as awful and may even have been re-traumatized in hearing this news about Florida. It hits too close to home and we will never forget.

We can go back and forth and argue all day that its a gun issue or a mental health issue. We can blame it on bullying or video games. Regardless of where you lean politically or what you blame, the truth of the matter is: it continues to be a traumatic, heart-breaking, life-threatening issue that is taking children and faculty away from their loved ones.

Since yesterday, I have had numerous parents ask me, “What do we do to keep our children safe?”

With our kids’ direct access to social media (including graphic videos from that day that have gone viral), parents have inquired: “How do we reduce our kids’ fear and anxiety about going to school?”

While I don’t have all the answers for parents or their kids, here are a few suggestions:

1. Create a safe place for them to openly talk to you about how they feel. Turn off your electronic devices. Sit down with them and face them. Push through your own discomfort and fear (you can talk with a trusted adult or professional about yours later) and LISTEN.

2. Reflect back what you hear them say. For example, “It sounds like you are feeling really scared right now.”

3. Validate validate validate. Let them know that how they are feeling matters and makes sense. Don’t tell them not to worry, and don’t assure them it will not happen to them. As much as it hurts, you can’t guarantee that. Instead, tell them you will continue to do everything you can to keep them safe. Because they are your flesh and blood, and you will.

4. Create a safety plan with your child to help them (and you) feel more secure. If you aren’t sure what this looks like, see #6.

5. Take action. Contact your school district administrators about what they are doing to address their students’ fears, concerns and most of all: safety. And whatever way you lean, contact your congressmen.

6. Seek professional guidance to help you and your child to process what has happened, to collaborate on a plan for safety, and to learn ways of coping more effectively with the understandable anxiety and grief that can manifest when tragedies occur.

If you are having a difficult time with this, you are not alone. I care about what happens in the community and most especially, to our children. I am working on ways to better support the community by taking a hard look at the holes that I am seeing in schools and communities when tragedies like this occur and finding ways to help fill those gaps. While I work to make a difference on a larger scale, I am also here as a source of professional support and guidance. Contact me at 630-797-9192 for more information or to schedule an appointment today.

Are You Being Gas-Lighted?

light at end of tunnel

Have you ever been so sure that something happened, only to turn around and have someone close to you deny it, insist that you are wrong, and spin a web of lies so intricately that you start to wonder if you are losing your mind?

Granted, we aren’t always right. We know this.  I can openly admit that there have been plenty of times where I have thought one thing and was wrong.  But there have also been times when I have been correct, and someone else has vehemently insisted that something I experienced didn’t happen and my reality was false.  Side note…this post isn’t about being right or wrong.  As a therapist, I believe there are always two perspectives, and reality falls somewhere in between.  Just keep reading…

I had this ex who cheated on me.  We dated for a several years, and the last leg of our time together we had a long-distance relationship.  When I found out he had cheated, he then lied, swearing up and down that he would never do such a thing.  He attacked me for questioning his character, then began questioning mine, saying some really hurtful things.  He knew me very well, and therefore used my vulnerabilities against me. Even though I had evidence, he kept denying it, and I wanted to believe him. He helped me through my parents’ divorce, and I wanted to hold on to that. I started questioning myself and felt guilty for accusing him.  After that trust was broken, our relationship couldn’t recover and we eventually broke up.  At that time, even though he had helped me through one of the most challenging times in my life, ending the relationship was the best thing that could have happened to me.

In college, I had this friend who helped me through a difficult time.  I was in-between housing, and she let me stay with her for a while.  I was grateful for the help, but things slowly started to change between us.  I began to notice she would tell different versions of stories.  She embellished quite a bit, and when I questioned her about it, she would get angry.  She would verbally attack me, hitting below the belt when she knew I was down on my luck.  In the same conversation, should would throw in that it was a really good thing I got out of my last housing situation, and she was so happy she could help me, which was extremely confusing.  She also became extremely controlling, and did not like it when I wanted to hang out with other people.  I quickly learned I had exchanged one bad situation for another.  How did I get myself into these messes?  Luckily, with the help of some other friends, I was able to leave that environment. I had to set strict boundaries with the friend whose home I left, and eventually had to cut ties because it was just too toxic.

A recent event in my life has really made me pause, take a step back, and engage in some self-reflection and evaluation of my relationships.  For many years, I wondered if there was something about me that attracted these liars and manipulators (AKA gas-lighters).  What vibes was I putting out there?  Was it my kindness? My willingness to help? My ability to allow myself to be vulnerable with others?  A bit of introspection and evaluation of relationships once in a while is healthy.  Taking a step back for a moment helps us to recognize which relationships we should focus on continuing to nurture.  It allows us to examine those relationships in which we might need to adjust or tighten up our boundaries.  It also gives us the opportunity to consider whether we need to burn a bridge with an unhealthy relationship.  I call this process watering and weeding the relationship garden.

I went to a training a couple years ago facilitated by Alan Godwin, Psy.D., who explained the different types of manipulators: the Master (whose role is to control and who wants submission), the Martyr (whose role is to be victimized and wants to rescued) and the Messiah (whose role is to rescue and demands gratitude).  I realized I have come across each of these at one point or another, and that they aren’t mutually exclusive.  They know how to create drama and push our buttons.  They know our darkest secrets and vulnerabilities, and will willingly exploit them. They want us to react, so our reactions can be used as evidence that WE are “crazy” and they are not.  They will lie and deny they ever said or did something, even though we have evidence.  Their actions don’t match their words. They will often throw in kindness to confuse us and give us false hope that they can change, but shortly revert back to their gas-lighting behavior.  They project-accusing us of doing something that they in fact are doing to us (i.e. cheating).  They will tell others lies about us to isolate us. Or, they will tell us that other people believe what they believe too, that we’re worthless, to keep us questioning ourselves and increase our sense of loneliness.  The impact their behavior also has on us is that it makes us physically sick, drives us bananas, and wears us down.

I was grateful for this training for a few reasons:

1) For the confirmation and validation that this type of behavior exists.

2) Those who have been or are currently in relationships with manipulators are not alone.  Did you read that? YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

3) I also learned strategies to more easily identify gas-lighters and ways to help survivors in these relationships to protect themselves and cope with their antagonists.  This has been extremely helpful in my personal life and in my practice.

If you or someone you know is in a toxic relationship with a gas-lighter and wants help in learning how to navigate through the darkness, there IS a light at the end of the tunnel!  Call 630-797-9192 today to schedule an appointment!

Anxious Much?

Worry, panic, fear, stress, and that awful feeling in the pit in your stomach… these are all symptoms of anxiety. It’s uncomfortable, nauseating and even painful at times. However, anxiety is something that is universally felt.  Yes, that’s right. We ALL experience it throughout our lives.

Did you know that we need stress, anxiety and fear to survive?   Stress and anxiety actually can be beneficial at times, keeping us motivated. There’s a name for it. It’s called: Eustress (coined by Hans Selye).   And fear is instinctual; it sends signals to our brain to try and keep us safe from harm.  More on this and facing fears in a later post.

But what do we do when we feel anxiety and fear is taking over our life? What if we are constantly feeling on edge, and it’s affecting our ability to concentrate, make decisions, and complete tasks.  What if our worries become obsessive?  What if these symptoms are interfering with our ability to live our lives to the fullest?   For some, anxiety can be all-consuming.  But there is hope.  We can find relief from anxiety by practicing certain techniques.

There are many ways to reduce anxiety, and I work with my clients to help them find the ways that work most effectively for them.

Here are three ways I find helpful:

  1. Practice square breathing when you feel overwhelmed. It can evoke a feeling of calm.

What the heck is square breathing, you ask?  Square breathing is: taking a deep breath in through your nose, while counting to four. Then, hold your breath while counting to four.  Next, exhale through your mouth, while counting to four.  Finally, repeat this skill four times.

2.  Ground yourself in the present moment. Sometimes we spend too much time dwelling on the past, or worrying about the future. This takes us away from what is happening in the “here and now,” and because of this it is likely we will miss out on something really great or important.

You can ground yourself in the present moment by tapping into your senses.  An easy way to do this is to find and name five things you can see, then four things you can hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.  This skill is great because you can practice it anywhere.

3.  Engage in movement with a purpose.

For many individuals who suffer with anxiety, sitting still for too long can actually increase one’s   level of   anxiety.   So unless you plan to do short, quick meditations or are preparing to go to sleep, here are some other things to try: Working out, Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, water aerobics, basketball, volleyball, tennis…

If you or someone you know needs help with building some coping skills to reduce stress or anxiety, I can help. Call 630-797-9192 today.

Disclaimer: Any advice or comments in this blog do not replace professional counseling and therapy services. If you or someone you know is having difficulty navigating through a challenge in life, please encourage them to seek professional help.

The Coast Visualization

 

boar pic

There’s something about the coast that brings me peace.  I don’t get there often, and perhaps that’s why I can really appreciate it.  This trip was my first time to California. San Diego was beautiful and sunny when we visited.  Its an active community, but there are certainly many people that I observed strolling along the marina.  I can see the appeal in living there.  I am realistic and know that its not sunny and 75 degrees every day, but am grateful that it was when I was there because that is the memory I can recall.

Really digging into this feeling of peace more, I think a lot of it has to do with my ability to allow myself to be fully present here, tapping into all of my senses.  I hear the waves crashing against the shore, feel the cool breeze provide comfort on a warm day, smell the salt of the ocean, and feel the sun on my face.

In appreciating my senses and all that nature had to offer that day, I felt the experience to be very therapeutic.  I love this photo, not because I like boats (which I do), but because I think it sums up my experience walking along the marina.  On days when I feel more stressed, I close my eyes and think about my time here, and all that my senses took in.  The visualization helps bring me back to that state of calm.

Are there any experiences or visualizations that you find to be therapeutic?

Good Vibes Only

I was having a challenging day yesterday in dealing with the 40 minutes to an hour long waits while trying to connect with my oh-so-fun and favorite insurance companies regarding claims.  I am sure both members and providers can relate to my pain, in trying to get in touch with their insurance rep.   Anyway, I was feeling all the feelings of frustration, and I knew I needed to do something to turn my frustration into something more positive and productive.   As I was on the phone listening to hold music, I thought to myself, what could I do to improve the moment?  I closed my eyes, and imagined being on a beach, listening to the waves crash on the shore. Each wave that crashed against the shore, I matched to my breathing, and immediately felt calmer.  I did this for about five or six minutes, and felt better.

To continue the positive thought train, I began planning in my head all of the things I would do during my next vacation.  I don’t know if other people feel this way, but having a trip or something else planned that I can look forward to tends to keep me motivated.    I started thinking about where I would like to stay (bed and breakfast versus a hotel), imagining big fluffy pillows, the smell of clean sheets, comforters, candles, and the carefree feeling that I can allow myself to adopt when I vacation.

While I continued to wait on hold, I shifted my thoughts to some things I could do to relax later.  I knew I had this bath bomb (pictured below) waiting for me at home, to be used at the right moment.  A smile flickered across my face, and I had a feeling that later tonight would be the right moment to kick back and enjoy a warm bubble bath.  They always make me feel more calm.

good vibes

I was definitely feeling better after I used my skills!  Remember, you are in control of the direction your day can go!  If you can focus on something positive and change your thoughts, you can change your negative feelings!   Have a great day everyone!

Solo Practice

Folks, I did something scary exciting.  Yes, both scary and exciting.  I launched my own practice! The last four years, I worked my tail off at a group practice. Before that, I found my way in the field by first interning and then working at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois as a therapist/case manager.  I learned an incredible amount at both places and will always be grateful for the experience!

If you read my other posts, then you know I went through a health scare last year.  Given that I had to take six weeks off of work, I had a lot of time to think and really identify what I wanted for myself and my career.  I always imagined working for myself, being my own boss! After a crap ton of paperwork and working with the insurance companies (still an ongoing battle), I did it!  As of January first, I am officially in independent practice!

I love my new office.  I have a large window overlooking the river, and the natural light is much needed, especially this winter!  I have made the space my own, and I share a lovely suite with some really wonderful, kind, intelligent suite mates who independently practice in a few different fields!

I accept most major insurance, including: BCBS PPO, BCBS Blue Choice PPO, United Healthcare, Cigna and Magellan.

Call 630-797-9192 today to schedule your appointment!

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