A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body

It's been a LONG time since I've written about my weight struggle. That's because there hasn't been much of a fight to report. For a while there I surrendered to my impulses for whatever I craved. Plus I wasn't getting up early to exercise (and if exercise doesn't happen in the morning, forget it). The result? No surprise. The skinny jeans are back on the shelf and I reach for stuff with elastic waists. You have no idea how hard it is to admit that.

It would be easy to blame the dark mid-winter, lack of Vitamin D, stress at work or family demands. But really, there are no excuses. I eat as a reward and as a punishment. I know what I need to do but I sabotage my efforts gladly for the rush of immediate gratification. That's the life of a food addict.

My path to this place was part Nature: While everyone else in my family got the skinny genes (no pun intended, haha), my grandmother's pudginess skipped a generation and landed squarely on my belly.

And part Nurture: It didn't help that my stick thin Mom constantly asked me if I wanted her "help" to lose weight. "Are you going to eat that?" is a refrain that haunts me like the Jaws theme does an ocean swimmer.

But frankly today it doesn't wash because I am A GROWN-UP! A grown up who needs constant reminding that I have the responsibility to make good choices. I eschew (love that word. Notice it has 'chew' in it) I es-CHEW diets. Been there, done that a million times a la Oprah. The high of initial success is inevitably followed by the depression of defeat. Sorry but my self-esteem just says no!

It was my son who got me back on track again. He asked me (yes, I have a teenager who actually wants to know what I think! It's a miracle!) what ideas I had to help him study for the SATs. Without thinking I told him to start exercising regularly. I recited all the brain benefits of exercise (scientifically proven, thank you very much) and how years ago, I ran three miles a day while I was studying for my licensing boards. It helped so much. He said thanks and immediately started running as soon as he got home from school.

Well, gee whiz. As a mom, how do you think I felt giving out advice I wasn't following myself? Answer: Like a bit of a jerk.


Too Many Jobs Have You Stressed? 5 Ways to Get Out from Under

2107535714_52fb014000Remember Atlas? Strongest of the Titans, he shoulders the Earth to keep it from falling. Despite his superhuman ability, he was not a free entity. He was trapped by his job.

And he only had ONE job!

These days most of us have more like five jobs and counting. It can be so overwhelming. People come to my office hoping to get a grip over their
anxiety or depression often because life stresses have creeped up on them, the frog in the pot syndrome. They tell me that they have no time for
themselves. The complaint goes something like this:

"There is no way I can find time for myself. I get up in the morning and first thing is I do feed the kids, get them ready for school, and make sure they make it out on time for the bus. Then I have to get ready for work. At work everyone expects me to do everything. After work, there's the PTA, church events to organize, kid's sports to coach, games to attend, the kids homework, dance, piano. Not to mention my parents, who are getting more and more dependent on me. And you want me to find time to exercise?"

Yes, I do.

As seemingly impossible as finding time for ourselves is, the alternative is not pretty. It's downright dangerous. Anxiety and depression, medical illness, head aches, stomach problems, high blood pressure, insomnia, food and alcohol abuse, strained relationships, irritability… are a few of the consequences of poor self-attention.

We seek to find a balance but forget that the fulcrum beneath the balance beam is (you guessed it) ourselves! A crumbling fulcrum causes the whole apparatus to crash and burn. So how do you do the impossible and find time for yourself?


Fall In Love at Least Three Times a Day

DSC00197 Today I woke up nice and content in my own skin.

Why? (you may ask) Could it be because I got a good night's sleep? Because for a few days in a row I didn't eat that second cookie? Because the days are longer? Because health care reform passed?

Does it matter? Why look a gift horse in the mouth? Why not just let it be?

Too often it feels like we are on the other side of the mood spectrum. Glum and out of sorts, we work on our cognitions to boost our mood with reasonable self-talk and affirmations. That's important and effective for those dark days, but for once, wouldn't it be nice to have a day that, for no obvious reason, just felt good?

Instead of questioning it, I decided to get on board and enjoy the ride…

I thanked God for putting this new day before me. (And for giving me the day off!)

Outside my window, the sky was cloudy but the cool wetness contrasted with the coziness of being inside where it was warm and dry.

My dog had an appointment at the groomer's. Instead of driving him there and driving all the way back home, I brought along some 'homework' to do at the Starbuck's close by. A tall, skinny, vanilla latte, please!

My most excellent dog was excited to see me when I picked him up. Nothing like unconditional doggy love!

After a light workout, I took a shower. If you have ever traveled abroad you know what miracles hot, steamy showers are.


7 Ways to Tame the Panic Attack Monster

3070033956_2c956ba776 When I was eight or so I was watching that old Frankenstein movie, the black and white one with the great Boris Karloff. I was all alone on a dark and stormy night, or maybe my brothers and sisters were watching with me and it was a sunny afternoon. Whatever… The point is, it was a scary movie and I was totally into it. Dr. Frankenstein was well on his way to building his monster when he came upon the idea to transplant a living brain into the body of his creation. That’s when I lost it.

Suddenly I was no longer in my body; the world had shifted out of my reach. Untethered to my usual reality landmarks, my heart beat frantically. The sensation was terrifying! My mouth went dry, my breath constricted in my chest like someone was trying to choke the life out of me. I looked around, no one else seemed concerned, just a boring old movie. My mind screamed, what if my brain is taken from me? What if I wake up in someone else’s body!?

My first panic attack. Somehow I survived without telling anyone what had happened. Then it happened again a few years later when I was in high school. I was reading an article about someone who woke up to find themselves totally paralyzed. Like a ninja, the panic attacked out of nowhere! The only defense I could think of was to hold onto my dog, a sweet old Golden Retriever, who patiently let me cling to him until the shadow of death passed.

It wasn’t until I was in graduate school, (I kid you not, I was that naive) that I discovered a name for these episodes. By then I had come to the conclusion that I had such a vivid imagination that I actually lived what I saw or read about. Which was true, but ‘panic attack’ came closer to a working diagnosis.

The attacks came at me again, fast and furious right before I got married after my second year of grad school. This time I got my ass back into therapy and worked hard to figure out why I was losing my mind when the best thing in the world, finding a great guy and getting married, was happening to me.


5 Reasons to Consider Therapy via Skype

Throughout the United States and around the world, people are connecting with Explore What’s Next for therapy sessions through Skype and telephone.
No longer are you limited by geography from getting the help you need!

With the use of a web video camera we can see and hear each other in real time no matter where you are on the globe.

You may benefit from Skype or telephone counseling if you:

1) Live in a remote place where counseling services are not available.

2) Are living overseas for school or for business.

3) Live in a small community where everyone knows you, making privacy and confidentiality a challenge.

4) Your work or lifestyle requires you to travel a lot making a commitment to therapy

5) Finding a local therapist with the qualifications you require is tough.

As long as you have a computer and an Internet connection you can download the Skype program and start using it right away. Download Skype

The following tips may be useful to make your sessions more effective:

  • Before the session find a private space free of distractions and potential interruptions.
  • I ask that you call me. That way I know that you are ready for the session.
  • Give yourself 5-10 minutes or so before to prepare and after the sessions to transition into your regular day.
  • It’s not necessary but for best sound quality a head set with microphone is better than using built-in microphone and speakers. We might look a little funny but you get used to it.
  • Have some paper, pens or pencils handy in case you wish to take notes or write down ‘homework’ I may ask you to do.
  • If you have phones, alarms or a radio please turn them off or put them in silent mode before the session.

Skype sessions are more like office visits than you think. Just like face-to-face visits ,we schedule our Skype sessions for 50-60 minutes. For your comfort, we do our best to create a safe space in which we can talk without distraction. Your privacy is assured.

Email us at explorewhatsnext@gmail.com to schedule your first 30 minute consultation at no charge!

3 Danger Signs Your Partner May Be Having An Affair

Mira Kirshenbaum is one of my favorite relationship experts. She has written two books that I often recommend to my patients: Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay and Women & Love. They are easy reads, full of compassion and insight.

Last week as I contemplated writing a post about how couples become vulnerable to affairs I read this interview of Ms. Kirshenbaum Is Your Partner Cheating on You? on Mira’s blog. Here she talks not only about real risk factors, she also rules out signs that could be about something else altogether. Not all signs point to an affair…

The Interviewer (Q): We know what cities are at risk of being hit by a big earthquake.  Well, affairs are the earthquakes of relationships: there is terrible devastation and it is very difficult to rebuild.  But can you assess the risk that your relationship will be hit by an affair, that your partner (or maybe you!) will end up cheating one day soon?  

…it’s not so much about warning signs.  It’s about risk factors.  And if you know what the risk factors are, you can do something about them and have a better relationship to boot...

Mira: Here are the three big, real danger signs that your relationship is at risk of one of you having an affair.

1. Things aren’t good between you.The two of you are distant, disconnected, fighting, not making love as often as you used to, and not having fun when you are together.

2. You’re leading very separate lives.  You’re not spending much of your free time together.    

3. Even if you’re not fighting and even if you are spending time together, if you start having the feeling that your guy just doesn’t care about you that much any more, that there’s a ‘whatever’ quality to how he treats you, then there’s a real risk that he is having an affair.

Q:  Is this a risk factor?  He flips the script.  All of the sudden he wants to know where you are all the time and with whom.  He’s realized that if he is cheating and it’s not that hard, well, you might be cheating on him too.

Mira:  If a guy is cheating the last thing he wants to do is ruffle the waters.  So he’s going to want to just treadvery softly.It’s unlikely that he’s going to start acting all suspicious of you.If for no other reason than he’s not going to want to have the whole cheating issue out there in the open.If he flips the script on you, then he’s at risk of your flipping the script back on him.This has never happened in all the cases I’ve worked with.Only a very stupid person would do this.


Friday Life Candy


There is a video going around Facebook that is only four seconds long but guaranteed to make you smile!

Click here to view it. Happy Friday!

Therapists Wanted!

Today I am launching a campaign to find a qualified psychologist or social worker to join me in growing Explore What's Next.

Explore Whats Next (EWN) is a forward thinking private practice. We offer services using state of the art practice models for individuals and couples, as well as life coaching, wellness and business consultation. We use 21st century tools to market these services world wide, to reach those who need what we have to offer.

Not your (or my) Dad's private practice. The success of the EWN business model is remarkable and makes it necessary to grow in order to serve everyone who comes to us for help.

Explore What's Next offers beautiful office space, back office management, marketing, professional development consultation and more. The EWN associate has an entrepreneurial spirit, wants to work smarter, not harder and is dedicated to quality service to their patients.

Interested? Then call me, Dr. Aletta, at 716.308.6683 or email me at draletta@explorewhatsnext.com.

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