Access and adherence to medication also known as antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV/AIDS has allowed for people diagnosed to obtain undetectable viral loads, stay healthy, and live long fulfilling lives. Sadly, there are still many who are unable to access life-saving medical care and medication due to potential cost, fear, and potential lack of education or awareness around access.

In the United States, Health Care Providers can be very expensive. When contemplating the cost of a treatment plan and treatment services, most individuals will turn to their insurance provider. If you have insurance, it’s a great option for staying current with your health care provider. But sometimes insurance doesn’t cover all types of medical interventions.

It’s for this reason that we’ve compiled a list of important resources you can use to pay for the various types of care you might need if you are living with HIV/AIDS.

HIV Medical Care

Medical care (Medical Appts)

If you have insurance through an employer or purchase insurance on your own:

Health Insurance Premium Payment

  • Obtaining insurance on your own– If you’re eligible for insurance and make above the federal poverty level you can apply for Obama Care/Covered California and obtain an HMO or PPO insurance. If you make under $64,400 as a single you qualify for OA-HIPP through ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) which can assist with monthly premiums.
  • Obtaining insurance through your employer- If you make under $64,400 as a single you qualify for EB-HIPP through ADAP which can assist with monthly premiums.
    • Your employer is not required to know your status. Your portion of the insurance premium payments are sent directly to the employer on a monthly basis.

To find an agency that helps with ADAP enrollment click here.
To obtain additional information about ADAP visit the California Department of Health here.

State and federally funded medical insurance programs:

Medi-Cal (California)

Making under the federal poverty level- you qualify for Medi-Cal insurance and all medical appts, specialists, and medications are at zero cost. As well, Medi-Cal is free. Medi-cal enrollment can be done online or through a benefits specialist.

Medicare

If you are over the age of 65 or have certain disabilities before the age of 65 you qualify for medicare. To find out more about Medicare go to medicare.gov or go to your local Social Security Office.

Ineligible for Medi-Cal, undocumented, or Underinsured

  • If you are undocumented or do not have access to medical insurance but are HIV positive, you qualify for Ryan White (AOM), which pays for all medical appts related to HIV and specialists if related to HIV. Assistance with applying for Ryan White can be found on FindHivCare.
  • If you are uninsured or underinsured and need a specialty referral, you may qualify for Los Angeles County CHAIN, Medical Subspecialty Services Referral Program, which covers certain outpatient specialty consultations and outpatient surgeries and procedures for patients with HIV/AIDS-related health conditions. For more information, visit CHAIN.

u=u

Financial assistance with Medication to keep your viral load undetectable

  • ADAP: If you are only eligible for Ryan White services, you may sign up for ADAP to help cover the cost of medication. HIV medications are covered through ADAP as well as other classes of medications not necessarily related to HIV.
  • Patient Access Programs – These are programs for people that do not qualify for ADAP that assist with medication financial assistance. Ask at your pharmacy. Most pharmaceutical manufacturers have co-pay cards to assist with high co-pays to medication, or patient support programs for those who are ineligible for ADAP or may be lapsing medication assistance for whatever reason.

Additional information about HIV medication coverage can be found here.

Mental health care for HIV

Mental Health Support for HIV/AIDs Patients

Clearly, having access to the medications you need is a major priority, but your medications alone don’t constitute the complete care many individuals might need. HIV can also take a toll on your emotional well-being. The National Institute of Mental Health states that people living with HIV/AIDS are at higher risk for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and cognitive disorders. It’s important to remember when looking for a therapist to make sure they are HIV/AIDS affirming in how they work with clients.

I have compiled a list of agencies in the Los Angeles area that are well educated and HIV/AIDS affirming and offer no charge or sliding scale therapy. Many of these agencies have been working with people diagnosed with HIV for over twenty years. It’s imperative that you work with a clinician or agency that has inclusive health care services. Many of these agencies assist with applying for ADAP and Medi-Cal.

Agencies

As with any disease, getting the care you need is paramount. The financial challenges can be significant, but as you can see there are a plethora of resources that can help reduce out-of-pocket costs. Being diagnosed with HIV is understandably overwhelming. With the diagnosis come a lot of new responsibilities, conversations, treatments, and decisions. At times like these, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are many organizations in this article brimming with people who have answers and are happy to help. In the end, you’ll see that though it might seem initially overwhelming, you’re not alone, you will get through this, and likely meet new and amazing people along the way. If you have any other questions about the services, resources, and organizations listed here, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d be happy to help you any way I can.

 

Many of us dread going to medical offices. It may not be the medical consultation per se but rather the traffic we have to face to get there, the nuisance of finding a parking spot and sitting in a waiting room next to other people. Often when you have physical symptoms anxiety can increase.

This is why telemedicine may save the day! More than 80% of a medical consultation entails a conversation with the physician who listens to what you have to say, observes, and asks questions. Telehealth, virtual care, or telemedicine uses digital information and communication technologies to deliver clinical health services. Patients can benefit from health care services remotely, through computers or mobile devices, in a variety of settings, including at home, at school, or in seniors’ residences.

According to Science, Telehealth is gaining popularity in the United States especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic as a solution to provide patient care without endangering public health. As long as both parties have a reliable internet connection and access to technology that facilitates virtual appointments, telemedicine is a convenient way to get a diagnosis for health issues not requiring physical contact with the physician. Moreover, Business Insider explains, it allows for remote patient monitoring (RPM) through devices that send patient readings (blood pressure, glucose level, etc.) to the monitoring medical team.

What is a telehealth visit?

A telehealth visit takes place on a telemedicine platform through HIPAA-compliant software. It is a synchronous audio or video appointment between a healthcare provider and a patient. It is important to remember that the telehealth platform is secure and allows for scheduling, patient intake, patient chart management, billing, e-prescribing, ICD-10 codes, etc. A virtual visit follows the same clinical guidelines as an in-person appointment.

Before any telehealth appointment, you need to make sure you have an internet connection and a networked device with a camera and microphone. The virtual appointment is a “face-to-face” online visit with the healthcare provider who will ask questions about your medical history and the current symptoms you need assessed. Depending on the equipment available during the consultation at the patient’s location, the healthcare specialist may ask for vital sign readings, such as temperature, weight, and blood pressure.

For example, in the case of COVID-19 symptoms, most patients who were diagnosed by phone or other mobile device had a thermometer at hand. Healthcare apps might also do the trick for estimated readings, although they are not entirely reliable. For physical symptoms, a camera is vital for the physician to inspect the area of concern and make an evidence-based diagnosis. When the virtual visit concludes, the patient may get the following if determined appropriate–  a diagnosis, a referral information about the next step of the evaluation, a prescription, or any other recommendations they may get following in-person visits.

Telehealth2

What are the applications of telehealth?

Telehealth has a wide range of applications, including tele-education and tele-consultation. While tele-education focuses on healthcare professionals reducing travel time and attending continuing medical education, tele-consultation addresses the need for virtual patient care. Most telemedicine visit centers focus on gathering symptoms and other information that can lead to diagnosis and treatment. Telehealth is an ideal solution for patients who deal with minor health issues, like a sore throat, flu, insect bites, allergies, cough, eye infections, or sprains, that don’t require lab tests or imaging for diagnosis.

Many primary care clinics have an online patient portal that allows for more secure communication of private medical information than through a regular email. Moreover, the portal is a useful online tool that facilitates access to test result reviews, visit summaries, prescription refills, and appointment scheduling. Everything gets done fast and securely directly on your mobile device or computer.

Additionally, telehealth facilitates counseling and therapy services. The visits are very similar to the in-person sessions allowing the therapist to interact with the patient over the phone or through video conferencing. Telemedicine is a very useful tool for people who battle mental health issues like depression, anxiety, stress, eating disorders, and obsessions and compulsions because it allows for easier access to mental health care.

Telehealth is an efficient way to provide therapy to people who have busy schedules, live in remote locations, or have limited mobility. Since the sessions can take place without the patient having to visit the therapist’s office, telemedicine may help the patient feel more comfortable and reduce the stigma associated with going to therapy. Furthermore, telemedicine may increase the effectiveness of the treatment because the patient will find it easier to show up for appointments.

How to prepare for a telehealth visit?

Check the patient portal of your health care provider for details about your appointment. Most telemedicine visit centers send an appointment link via email. Before clicking on the appointment email, make sure you find a private and quiet space for your virtual visit. Good lighting is important, especially if you have physical symptoms the physician should see.

Check your internet connection and test your device’s camera and microphone if you are scheduled for a video consultation. The internet speed should be at least 1 megabit per second, and the internet connection should be secure due to the private nature of your conversation. If the visit takes place by phone, make sure you have no family members, pets, or other distractions around you and use a telephone you are familiar with. Check the sound quality.

Log in onto the platform or the program 15 minutes before the appointment and have at hand your recent lab results and any other information that may be useful during the consultation. Depending on your medical condition, you should also be ready to use a thermometer, blood pressure monitor, pulse oximeter, or glucose monitor.

Prepare a list of questions you may have for the health care provider. If you’re experiencing physical symptoms that need to be assessed visually, like a rash, be ready to expose it to the camera. In most cases, the physician can prescribe new prescriptions and refills via telehealth, and these will be sent to a delivery service or a pharmacy from where you can collect them or have them delivered to your home.

health

You already know exercise is good for your physical health. The numerous benefits of exercise have been praised for decades now. It helps you burn calories and stay fit, protects your heart health, and improves your quality of life. But did you know that exercise has mental health benefits too? Studies have shown that exercise can be an effective tool against stress, depression, and anxiety.

While patients who battle mental health disorders often lack the motivation to practice any physical activity, an active lifestyle may help you keep your mental health conditions under control. Moreover, regular exercise can prevent mental health problems before they start.

How can exercise help with mental illness?

One of the positive effects of physical exercise is its power to enhance well-being. Exercise decreases stress hormones leading to a boost of endorphins, the chemicals that make us “feel good”. This process enhances our mood and improves energy levels. Consequently, we feel more positive and sleep better.

Physical activity can pull us out of the vicious circle of negative thoughts and emotions, often the source of our depression or anxiety, and redirect our focus towards the activity at hand. Exercise is often seen as a buffer against stress. While stress is an innate part of our life, people who work out regularly are less affected by it and find it easier to cope with everything life throws at them.

Exercise gives you a boost of self-confidence, enhances your self-esteem, and makes you feel better about yourself. Whether this happens because you lose weight, get more toned, or simply feel healthier, this benefit of exercise is all about making peace with yourself. Physical activity relieves tension and promotes mindfulness. While you focus on your yoga poses, weight training, or any other type of exercise, you concentrate entirely on your body and manage to be present, away from worries and negative thoughts that consume you. 

Additionally, exercise promotes social interaction and gives you the chance to meet new people, socialize, and escape your bubble of worries. Sometimes, a simple conversation or a smile is enough to boost our mood and feel grateful for what we have. Moreover, exercise materializes into a positive activity that helps you cope in a healthy way.

A study shows that running 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. Moreover, maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent individuals from relapsing and promotes various changes in the brain to help you feel calmer and at peace.

What exercise should I do for mental health?

There are many types of exercise that can contribute to your mental health and well-being. All physical activity promotes increased energy levels, stamina, and positivity. You should find exercises that you enjoy to make it easier for you to follow a regular schedule. It is important to remember that when we say physical activity we include everything from walking to formal exercise programs. Exercise is not only about swimming, running, or lifting weights. Daily physical activities like household chores, gardening, washing your car, or taking the stairs, all count and make a difference. Now, it would be great if you were to adopt a regular exercise routine, to add a certain structure to your day that will keep you balanced and grounded. You can try one of these types of exercise:

  • Yoga – a 2018 Science Direct study shows that yoga can help reduce stress levels, lower heart rate, increase energy, and ameliorate the symptoms of depression and anxiety;
  • Tai chi – an ancient Chinese martial art, this type of exercise, according to Science Daily, reduces stress and anxiety, contributes to the treatment of depression, and increases self-esteem;
  • Aerobic exercise – whether it is jogging, swimming, playing basketball, or cycling, regular aerobic exercise improves mental health and reduces the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and panic disorder.

Regardless of the type of exercise you choose, you can expect a prompt release of endorphins, an increased sense of self-efficacy, and lower levels of anxiety and depression. Exercise works just like an antidepressant by increasing the brain’s levels of neurotransmitters and enhancing mood.

How often should I exercise to see results?

Fortunately, you don’t have to exercise for hours to reap the beneficial effects exercise has on your well-being and mental health. Only 30 minutes of exercise a day for three to five days a week will be more than enough for you to feel more confident, happier, and less anxious. However, even smaller amounts of moderate exercise, such as 10 or 15 minutes at a time, may help. You can break your exercise schedule into several short sessions or simply plan your physical activity according to your daily routine. Choose to take the stairs, park farther away from your destination or cycle to work.

Remember that more exercise is not necessarily better for you. You don’t need to run 10k to improve your mental health and emotional well-being. The key is consistency. Regular physical activity over a long period of time beats any intense physical activity practiced sporadically.

Time Magazine explains, researchers have found a higher mental health burden for people who exercise for more than six hours a week than for those who keep it to three to five times a week. The answer is not at all difficult to understand: basically, shorter exercise sessions are easier to fit in our daily routine and promote consistency.

Nevertheless, before you begin an exercise program, discuss it with a health professional. They can help you choose the best form of exercise for you depending on your health, medication, fitness level, and lifestyle.

Whether you want to exercise for depression, anxiety, or any other mental health disorders, you should start slowly and keep experimenting until you find the perfect type of exercise for you. Our bodies are different and we should respect their limits. Make a commitment to your exercise plan and never overdo it. The role of exercise is to make you healthier and happier. However, if you start seeing it as a burden or task, it loses its therapeutic effects and just adds to your anxieties.

Yoga

In a world where heteronormativity, prejudice, and harassment continue to run rampant against the LGBTQ community, meeting with an LGBTQ affirmative therapist is imperative. An LGBTQ affirmative counselor can provide the tools for unpacking shame, deeper understanding, and overall acceptance. An LGBTQ affirmative therapist can remind you that nothing is wrong with you for being a part of the LGBTQ community. Despite the campaigns calling for inclusion, legalizing same-sex marriage, and anti-bullying education in schools, the LGBTQ community still encounters ongoing challenges.

Antiquated societal norms that label people as “normal” and “abnormal” create immense pressure for the LGBTQ community. These pressures double the likelihood that members of this community will develop a mental health disorder as compared to heterosexual individuals. Moreover, according to the CDC, they are 2.5 times more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. On top of the “usual” societal stressors, LGBTQ people have to endure bullying, discrimination, and abuse based on their sexuality and/or gender identity.

What is LGBTQ affirmative therapy?

The National Library of Medicine defines LGBTQ affirmative therapy as “a form of therapy that helps a person accept their intrinsic identity, gender, and sexual orientation and see beyond the damaging concept of ‘normality’ as imposed by a discriminatory society.” Fearing judgment and discrimination, many people find it hard to accept themselves as they are and embrace their gender or sexual identity. Unfortunately, this too often manifests as internalized transphobia or homophobia for many LGBTQ individuals.

The role of an LGBTQ affirmative therapist is to create a safe space for the client to communicate their emotions, thoughts, and actions and validate their needs. Unfortunately, many therapists still find it hard to accept LGBTQ people as “normal”. As a result, many of these therapists provide care that is subpar and can interfere with overall well-being. Still, even today, many states have not banned conversion therapy.  Many LGBTQ people have experienced horrific trauma from conversion therapy.

As an affirmative therapist and advocate for the LGBTQ community, I stand by the life-saving belief that affirmative counseling will never attempt to convert or “repair” someone’s gender or sexual identity. More than 700,000 LGTBQ people have been exposed to incredibly damaging and medically unjust conversion therapy. I want my clients, whether they are recently coming out or have been out for years, to know nothing is wrong with them.

therapist with patient

How will affirmative therapy help?

I know firsthand what it’s like to experience non-LGBTQ affirmative care and the impact it can have on one’s life and self-worth. Mental health professionals who provide affirmative therapy sessions encourage clients to discover their authenticity and embrace their gender and sexuality without guilt. They create a positive space for self-acceptance and understanding of gender, sexuality, and identity expression.

Affirmative therapy can also support one’s understanding of the ways in which their religious and sexual or gender identities coexist. Religion plays an important part in many people’s lives, but true self-acceptance can remain difficult in the face of religious dogma. Therapy can help integrate the two and provides the necessary support for clients to affirm their genuine identity in all realms.

The lack of support and understanding from family members and friends can be very painful. The absence of this support may contribute to a deep sense of loneliness that may eventually lead to a mental health issue.  Some people turn to harmful strategies to cope with the stigma and discrimination, such as isolation, self-harm, and substance abuse. Debilitating fears of violence, depression, anxiety, and PTSD may also arise. Therapy helps you identify and acknowledge the source of harmful behavior and replace it with a healthy coping strategy so you can find, accept, and love yourself.

How will affirmative therapy work?

Affirmative therapists know that it is vital to create a safe space for LGBTQ individuals to reveal their true selves without the fear of judgment or prejudice. LGBTQ people, just like everyone else, come to therapy to solve relationship issues and work through mental health disorders. While conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and trauma are common, these mental health conditions are not LGBTQ issues but human issues. Members of this community just happen to experience an additional layer of shame and fear related to their gender identity or sexual orientation. After all, only a few decades ago homosexuality was deemed a mental illness, and, unfortunately, in some parts of the world, it still is.

Therapy should focus on helping the client understand that what they think, feel, or desire is natural and an important part of who they are. The affirmative therapist should be trained and ready to gently work with the client’s needs and expectations. It is important to remember that affirmative therapy focuses on the client’s relationship with their feelings and identity. Sexual orientation or gender identity is never the problem. Only through understanding, acceptance, and integration, can the client find peace and healing.

pride parade

 

Social media has brought the world to our fingertips, but what does it ask for in return? Although free to use, social networking tools can cost us more than we can imagine. On the one hand, social media sites allow us to stay in touch with family and friends, reconnect, and have easy access to news and various communities. On the other hand, they expose us to the dangers of isolation, constant comparison with others, and the fear that we are not enough. Is social media usage affecting our mental health? Can we integrate it into our life without the risk of developing an obsession with likes, comments, and validation from strangers?

Why do people use social media platforms?

Social media is a tool that allows people to come together. In fact, during the current pandemic, social networking sites have proven to be an indispensable part of daily life for people to communicate and check on each other. Moreover, they helped them fight the feeling of loneliness triggered by the quarantines and lockdowns.

Furthermore, social media can make people feel good about themselves and boost self-esteem. Social media platforms follow the same principle that applies to slot machines. Players are not addicted to the game itself but to the unpredictability of the outcome. The idea of a potential future reward is the one that keeps them hooked. The same applies to your social media activity. You post a photo eager to see how many likes or comments it will get without knowing when people will interact with it.

The unknown outcome is the hook that keeps you addicted to your social media account. As soon as you receive a like, a share, or a comment, the brain’s reward center is activated and releases dopamine, also associated with the feeling of smoking a cigarette, winning the jackpot, or eating chocolate. The more likes you get, the more you’re rewarded, and the more you want to keep coming back and repeat the experience that makes you feel so good.

girl browsing her phone

 

How can social media affect our mental health?

Social media is relatively new, and there aren’t any long-term studies on the relation between social media and mental health disorders. However, numerous small studies have brought to light the negative aspects associated with spending many hours per day checking our social media accounts on various mobile devices.

The University of Pittsburgh conducted a study that highlighted a correlation between the time spent on social media apps and negative body image feedback. Moreover, a different study out of the Pittsburgh School of Medicine found a connection between the time young adults spend on social media platforms and the presence of symptoms of depression.

Several studies have found a correlation between social media usage and depression and symptoms of anxiety. One of them was published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology and linked social media with negative effects on well-being, particularly depressive symptoms, anxiety, and the feeling of loneliness. Paradoxically, the more time you’re spending on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms, the lonelier you tend to feel.

Additionally, a large-scale study concluded that occasional social media users are three times less likely to experience symptoms of depression compared to heavy users. Humans are social beings who need face-to-face interaction to be mentally healthy. Social interaction skills like empathy and compassion are difficult to build in the absence of real human connection.

Many social media users have also reported accentuated feelings of inadequacy about their life or appearance following usage of social media platforms. Even though they know the images are edited, people still tend to compare themselves and feel insecure about the way they look or how they live.

One of the many other mental health issues associated with heavy usage of social media platforms, FOMO or the “fear of missing out” has been taking social media users by storm. Constantly checking social media platforms to see what other people are doing can exacerbate the fear they are being left behind. This phenomenon can create feelings of anxiety and lead to even greater social media usage to keep up and respond to every alert and status update.

How can we combat the effects social media has on our mental health?

There is no specific amount of time recommended for social media usage. You need to focus on how much time you spend on social media and the impact it has on your well-being. You should keep an eye on possible signs that may indicate an addiction to social media:

  • you spend more time on social media than with your offline social circles
  • you constantly compare yourself with others on social media
  • you feel distracted from work, school, relationships
  • you feel envious and angry with yourself for not “measuring” up
  • you feel anxious or depressed
  • you use social media to avoid dealing with negative emotions
  • you experience cyberbullying
  • you suffer from poor sleep
  • you have no time for self-reflection and self-care activities

As soon as you notice one or more of these signs, it’s important to reevaluate your social media habits and take action before it impacts your mental health. The first step to take is to reduce the time you spend on social media platforms. Sounds easy, but it often proves to be rather challenging!

A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study found that mental health issues associated with increased social media interaction can be reduced to a minimum if the usage is limited to 30 minutes a day. While in most cases such a “radical” measure is not necessary, a mindful approach will have a positive impact. Use an app to track how much time you spend on social media sites and set a realistic goal. Avoid bringing your mobile devices to bed and disable notifications. Check your phone less, maybe every hour or so. These are all efficient and easy methods to help you reduce the time you spend online.

You can also try to get to the bottom of why you are addicted to your social media apps. If you’re using it as a refuge from real-life issues like loneliness or depression, take the necessary steps to improve them with real-life tools. If you’re feeling lonely, interact with a friend. If you feel bored, go to the gym or take up a hobby. If you feel depressed, talk to a therapist.

Whenever you feel like social media is making you feel disappointed about your life, make a list of the positive aspects of your life. Learn to be grateful for what you already have. You already know that perfect lives don’t exist, so don’t try to keep up with an edited version. Be mindful and switch your focus from everything that you wish and hope you’ll one day achieve to the present. Allow yourself to be happy with who you are today and what you have now, and social media will no longer have a negative impact on your mental health.

girl smiling with phone

While the belief that we can achieve anything we set our mind to is not enough to fulfill all our dreams, it is one of the important factors that contribute to healthy self-esteem. The luckiest among us are taught by our parents to believe in ourselves and to love ourselves for who we are. However, some people grow up in a dysfunctional family or are exposed to negative childhood experiences that have a negative impact on their development and mental health.

Furthermore, self-esteem issues can be a consequence of an abusive relationship, negative experiences, or a mental health disorder. Poor self-esteem is often associated with depressive disorder, anxiety, and negative thoughts. A poor opinion about ourselves, whether it is about our physical appearance or our intellectual ability, can be an indicator of deficient self-esteem.

If you are aware that you have low self-esteem, you are already one step closer to a solution. Take the time to learn more about self-esteem and what may interfere with it, talk to a therapist, and allow them to guide you through various types of therapy such as but not limited to cognitive behavioral therapy toward positive self-esteem. During your healing process, you can also make use of these 7 effective self-esteem tools and practices:

 

Get to know the real you

The path to healing starts with a clear image of ourselves. Take a step back from everything mundane in your life and get to know yourself. Learn about what you like, what you desire, what makes you happy! Evaluate your emotions and see what you can do to balance or strengthen them. Maybe there are some things you should stop doing to make more room in your life for yourself! Find what you are passionate about and what motivates you. People who are doing things they truly love have more chances to improve their overall quality of life and cultivate healthy self-esteem.

 

Learn to say no

Saying no to other people’s demands of you doesn’t make you a selfish person. Many people neglect their own health and sacrifice their self-esteem to please everyone else around them. But what does this really accomplish? Always trying to please people, to get in activities you don’t actually like, or to pretend to have qualities you don’t possess will only hurt you in the long term and take away from your self-esteem. Every time you try to please others, despite what you desire, you are telling yourself that you are not good enough to be loved and accepted for who you are. One of the first things you can do for positive self-esteem is to say no to others and yes to yourself!

 

Learn to Say No

 

Make yourself a priority

I know this is a lot easier said than done but it’s a necessity if you want to have healthy self-esteem. This is especially hard to achieve for parents and people who have others relying on them. However, when putting other people’s needs above our own, we are neglecting ourselves which may lead to hurting our self-esteem. I am not saying to ignore other people’s needs but I am strongly recommending to meet your own needs too. You matter! You have value!

 

Keep a self-esteem journal

Psychologists often recommend keeping a journal as a form of release but also as a way to acknowledge your true emotions. Your self-esteem journal should be filled with positive thoughts and good things that happened during the day. People with low self-esteem tend to have a negative outlook on life, so a positive journal is a valuable tool to unveil the good in their life. Write every day about positive things that happened to you and, with time, you will see there is more positivity than negativity in the world and in yourself. A self-esteem journal is a great way to discover the real you and boost your life satisfaction.

 

Self Esteem Journal

 

Put a stop to negative self-talk

Words matter! Especially words with negative connotations directed toward ourselves. If you move towards having healthy self-esteem you may want to look at the way you talk about yourself. Whether you are bad-mouthing yourself out loud or just in your head, the damages you do to your self-esteem are significant. Negative self-talk leads to lower self-esteem that consequently leads to more negative self-talk creating a vicious cycle that only you can break. How? Through positive self-talk. Every time you feel the need to say something negative about yourself, stop and instead write something positive. Break the negativity cycle with a wave of positivity!

 

Stop Negative Talk

 

Forgive your mistakes and acknowledge your success

People make mistakes! It’s the way we grow and learn. So, don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes. You are not a bad person because you made a mistake. Mistakes make you who you are. They give you the chance to learn and improve yourself. To make a mistake is human and it’s a great opportunity to adapt and change the way you think. Accept them as part of your own and use them to find the motivation to do better next time. While it is very important to stop blaming ourselves for our failures, it is equally important to acknowledge our achievements and use them to boost our self-esteem. Do not downplay your success! It is a big deal and you deserve the praise.

 

Be mindful and exercise

I can’t stress enough the importance of mindfulness and exercise. The combination of the two can help us improve our mental health, our everyday performance, and our self-esteem. Mindfulness helps us to live in the present without unnecessary worrying about a past that can’t be changed and a future that can’t be foreseen. Only 10 minutes of meditation a day can help you get in touch with your true self and put you on the path to healthy self-esteem. Add to this regular exercising, like running, swimming, dancing, or any other physical activity, and you will notice improved stamina and physical health, as well as an “inclination” to feel good and have a healthy relationship with yourself.

Therapy, also called counseling or psychotherapy, is a journey. And like all the other journeys it can feel like an incursion into the unknown. The goal of therapy is aimed at decreasing overall emotional stress and other factors that may interfere with your emotional health. It is imperative to work with someone you feel safe with in order to identify your emotional problems and ways to work through them.
Counseling is not reserved only for persons who have suffered emotional and psychological trauma. Therapy can be of benefit at any point in your life. You can turn to a therapist for a multitude of reasons. If you feel like you simply can’t find your balance or you can’t reach your goals, therapy may be what you’re searching for. Mental health is critical and getting help is not something anyone should be ashamed of.
Many people who take their first step on the path to emotional healing and contact a therapist feel a sense of anxiety and uneasiness before their first therapy session. I am here to tell you that this is natural. After all, it can feel overwhelming and frightening to open up. Our role, as therapists, is to create a welcoming and safe environment for you to face your demons and emerge victoriously. Since professional therapists are bound by confidentiality, they will never betray your trust.

 

Therapist with Person

What is the counseling process?

The first counseling sessions will focus on getting to know one another. The initial visit will involve filling out paperwork with information about your medical history and medical record, as well as about your health insurance in some cases. You will also fill out a questionnaire about your symptoms and sign a therapy-patient services agreement.
During the first therapy session, we will establish why you have sought out counseling and talk about your life in general. I will ask you about your symptoms and what you feel is wrong. We will talk about your childhood and education and discuss a bit about your relationships, career, and current situation.
It’s useful to come prepared with something to talk about concerning yourself because therapy is about you! Never forget that talking about yourself is not a selfish act in therapy. It is recommended and encouraged! You will share only what you feel like sharing and go deeper when you are ready. Therapy is and always will be about patience. Patience with yourself and patience with the therapeutic process itself. Deeper issues will be discussed only when you feel you can talk about them.
Therapists never judge their patients. They conceptualize the issue to get to the root of the problem. I will never criticize you or make you feel uncomfortable about anything you feel the need to share with me. We will focus only on your emotions and try to establish what you feel concerning the situations you’re dealing with. Following a few counseling sessions, I hope we can delve into the depth of your being and bring to the surface the real issues that torment you.

 

psychologist with happy couple

How can counselors help?

Before going into therapy, you need to be aware of the fact that counselors will not have the answers for you. They don’t give advice and make the decisions for you. The entire therapy process focuses on your healing journey. You will be the one that identifies the emotions associated with the problems in your life and you will have to learn how to manage and face them. There are no shortcuts in therapy. Your goals for therapy should be realistic, honest, and clear. Your counselor will be there for you every step of the way guiding you along your revelatory inner journey.
While therapists don’t have the solution to your problem, they know how to help you find it. And this is vital for your mental health. You need to remember that your therapy process is based on a relationship with your therapist. You should be clear about what you want to obtain from therapy and what your expectations and preferences are.
While compassionately listening is an important part of the counseling process, therapists will also ask questions. The questions and tone used are meant to create a friendly space that invites open and honest discussions. Counselors use various techniques like person-centered therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, attachment-focused therapy, or existential therapy to help you achieve your mental health goals and open yourself to healing.

 

Psychologist with her patient

How long does therapy usually last?

The length of your treatment depends on a multitude of factors. As you probably already know, therapy requires time and not many issues can be solved with just a couple of counseling sessions. You may need counseling services for just a couple of weeks or it can take years to fully overcome the issue that brought you to them. However, the effects of therapy will be felt from the very first sessions and you will be able to notice improvements on a daily basis. Each consultation will take you one step closer to your goals.
Whether you need a therapist for relationship counseling or you’re dealing with stress, anxiety, family concerns, illness, or depression, the length of your treatment will be impossible to know at the beginning. However, since some insurance plans cover only several sessions, it’s understandable that some hope to find the solution to their problems in the shortest amount of time. It’s important that these things are discussed with your therapist at the outset because a financial fit is also an important part of the process.
My counseling experience allows me to assess your needs, discuss and select treatment options, and guide you toward self-improvement and self-care. My personal goal is to help you walk out the door feeling better than when you arrived. Each and every session will take you a step closer to finding your voice, embracing your story, and feeling whole. This might take time but it will be the best investment you will ever make.

We were taught to be kind to others, turn the other cheek, and work hard. Helping others has always been seen as a noble and praiseworthy thing to do. The thought of putting oneself first was unbearable for many and an act of selfishness for others. We had chores to do, families to care for, and bills to pay. There was no room for silly things like mindfulness and self-compassion!

Fortunately, times are changing and, with them, the idea that we deserve less attention and care than the people we care for and love. Millennials have found the courage to talk about the power of self-care and there is no going back. We know the truth now! We know that self-love is the shortest path to follow if we want to live happy lives. We know that self-care is not selfishness, indulgence, or a trend. Self-care is a necessity!

As a matter of fact, studies have shown that self-care practices have a major impact on the successful management of diseases like diabetes mellitus. Patients with diabetes manage to have better glycemic control when they include self-care activities in their daily routine. From healthy eating and exercising to monitoring their blood sugar levels, everything contributes to the reduction of complications and a better life for patients with type 2 diabetes. However, you don’t have to be diagnosed with something to start exercising self-care.

If before the COVID-19 pandemic, we associated self-care with yoga classes, gym sessions, going out with friends, and spa treatments, given our current situation, we should think about self-care at a smaller scale but not lose sight of the big picture. There are plenty of self-care activities we can do in the comfort of our home that will invite self-love, peace of mind, relaxation, and motivation in our hearts and minds. We just need to make self-care a priority and treat every day as a mental health day!

 

lady exercising

Exercise daily

You can exercise as much or as little as you want and can, but do it regularly. Whether you take a short walk around the block, do yoga in the courtyard with your dog, or jog for 15 minutes, you will feel the difference. Any exercise is better than no exercise at all. There’s no need for me to tell you about the importance of staying active. It’s common knowledge. However, I will remind you that exercise has the power to improve your mood, well-being, and mental health. It boosts your energy levels and invites positivity into your life. Moreover, exercise helps you achieve better sleep. In other words, exercise is one of the most powerful tools we have against anxiety, depression, or simply a bad day. And of course, it helps you maintain a healthy weight and improve your body image, both important aspects for a healthy relationship with yourself.

 

woman taking a bath

Take a long and mindful bath

Forget about showers on the run once in a while. We know, the world needs you but it will not crumble if you decide to immerse yourself in a world of fragrances and calming music. Your bath can easily become an aromatherapy session if you add jasmine, lavender, or ylang-ylang to your bathing ritual. A 2009-study discovered that fragrances can affect our mood, physiology, and behavior, so include essential oils in your life for indulgent self-care experiences. Try to relax during your bath and focus on the present. Mindfulness is about focusing on the moment and experiencing everything it has to give. Keep any worry away from your bathtub. Focus your attention on yourself and all the positive feelings you exude on your self-care journey.

 

chamomille tea

Make time for tea

Tea time is not reserved only for royalty. It can be the best excuse to take some time off from your daily duties and enjoy a few moments spent all by yourself. Tea time is not necessarily about drinking your tea, although it has been proven that green tea may lower your LDL levels and black tea can lower the risk of heart disease. Tea time is about the ritual of mental self-care. You can savor your tea near a window or in the courtyard while reading a book or eating a piece of cake. The idea is to create a corner of serenity and inner peace. Silence the outside world and think about yourself for a moment or two while spending time away from your phone, to-do list, and everyday life.

 

friends talking

Talk to your friends

Humans are and always will be social animals. We need to interact with each other to protect our mental health. Whether we do it for support or simply to say hi, it’s important to make time for friends. We don’t necessarily need to meet face to face for our interaction to have a positive impact on our mood and state of mind. Hearing the voice of someone we care for floods our body with positivity and oxytocin, a chemical in your brain that boosts the feel-good sensation. Some time alone is a great way to reconnect with yourself but so are conversations with good friends. We often listen to ourselves better when voicing out our thoughts, hopes, and worries. Healthy and smart conversations may reward you with a clearer picture of your life.

Studies show that about 60% of the US population has reported experiencing at least one trauma symptom in their lifetime. The good news is that this is not a permanent condition, there are effective treatments! Read on to learn more.

What is Emotional and Psychological Trauma?

Emotional and psychological trauma occurs when a person is exposed to very distressing circumstances that leave them struggling to function normally afterward. The emotional response can range from extremely upsetting emotions and anxiety to feeling completely numb and disconnected.

Typically, when most people think of emotional trauma, they associate it with life-threatening events such as military combat, domestic violence, or sexual abuse. However, there is a very broad range of situations that can yield traumatic experiences.

What is a Traumatic Event?

A few elements that are commonly present in traumatic events are:

  • The person was not prepared for the situation or it was completely unexpected
  • The individual felt incapable or powerless in preventing the event
  • The stressful occurrence happened during childhood
  • What transpired was associated with extreme cruelty

Even though we typically associate trauma with a single event, it’s not always necessarily the case. Though people can certainly experience trauma from a single occurrence, it can also be the result of continual exposure to unrelenting stress. It may be the cumulative toll of living in a dangerous neighborhood, daily bullying, years of domestic violence, etc.

Whatever the source, its magnitude or perceived severity is less important than the effects on the individual. There is no shame in experiencing trauma from stressful events that others may not perceive as severe. Every person is different and their causes for, and reactions to trauma are also different.

 

girl experiencing emotional trauma

Symptoms of Emotional Trauma

Emotional reactions to trauma vary from person to person. Though there are many common reactions, each person may exhibit their own subset of symptoms of trauma. They encompass a wide array of emotional and physiological responses. We won’t cover all of them here, but among them are:

Physical Symptoms

  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Easily or frequently startled
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive alertness, always looking for threats, low sense of safety
  • Racing Heartbeat (Tachycardia)
  • Constantly agitated or on edge

Psychological Symptoms

  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating, loss of memory
  • Disorientation
  • A persistent sense of fear
  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Guilt and/or shame
  • Numbness, feeling disconnected
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Mood swings, irritability

Remember, people don’t need to experience all of these symptoms in order to qualify as a trauma response. However, if some of these symptoms persist for at least a month, it is very likely the case.

Effects of Untreated Psychological Trauma

If emotional trauma is left untreated, it can continue to worsen and slowly make the world of the affected individual smaller and smaller until they’ve completely isolated themselves. These individuals can manifest avoidance behaviors, aggressive behaviors, and various self-destructive behaviors that can worsen over time. Effective treatments for trauma are available and it’s important to get help. If left unchecked, common effects can be:

  • Substance Abuse
  • Depression
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Alcoholism
  • Compulsive behavioral patterns
  • Hostility
  • Sexual Problems
  • Self-destructive Behaviors
  • Dissociative Symptoms

When to get Treatment for Trauma

When you begin to feel that your past or current traumatic experience is interfering with your life, you should get help. Particularly, if your symptoms are worsening; even if the event was months ago. There are many effective treatment options available and trauma recovery is possible.

A licensed mental health therapist can assist you on the path to recovery. Studies show that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be especially helpful for trauma. This is a type of talk therapy where negative emotions and thoughts are identified and then discussed. The goal is to replace them with healthier ones.

For Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy isn’t always as effective. However, there are other treatments like computerized treatments or animal-assisted therapy. A mental health professional can help you find the right treatment for you.

Immediately I can hear some of you asking, how long does it take? Though unsatisfying, there is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. Every person is different and their journey to recovery and restoring their sense of security is different. It can take weeks or months. No matter how long it takes, it’s worth it. It’s also important that you understand that anyone guaranteeing that you can recover in x number of days is either uninformed or more interested in your wallet than your mental health.

 

Girl by the ocean

Tips for Recovery

Though there is no substitute for the help of a qualified mental health professional, there are several things you can do to help promote healthy behaviors and reduce the frequency and development of unhealthy ones.

Exercise

The physical symptoms of trauma can put your body into a constant state of hyperarousal. The fear spikes your adrenaline and it’s healthy to engage in activities that help burn through it. Exercising for at least 30 minutes on most days can provide relief. Rhythmic exercises where you can involve your arms and legs, for example, walking, running, swimming, or dancing are best.

Connect With Others

As time goes by, you may feel the urge to isolate yourself. It’s important that you don’t give in to that and instead connect with your friends, family, loved ones, meet new people, etc. Needing some time alone is healthy, but too much time alone dwelling on your traumatic event is counterproductive. Try to cultivate hobbies that you can do with others, accept lunch invitations and spend time with other people. If interacting with others is uncomfortable or creates anxiety seek help from a counselor or therapist that can help you work through it.

Meditate

The traumatic event can generate a lot of stress and anxiety. Meditation is a great way to alleviate some of that stress. Your goal during meditation is to bring your focus and attention to the present moment. Focus on your breath instead of engaging with your distressing thoughts. It can be difficult, but with practice, it can help reduce the stress you are feeling.

One More Thing

We covered a lot about emotional trauma today. We discussed physiological and psychological symptoms, treatments, and even a few helpful tips that you can practice on your own. The last thing I want to add may also be one of the most important.

Remember that even though it may not feel like it, your feelings are normal. It’s the event or circumstances that created the trauma that is abnormal. It’s critical to understand that, so I’ll say it again, your feelings are normal. During this time, remember to be gentle with yourself and practice self-compassion, you deserve it.

There are many great options to help you manage and overcome your trauma-related symptoms. If you’d like my help dealing with trauma, feel free to reach out to me. I’d be honored to take this journey with you.