Simple Financial Planning Tips For Parents

Simple Financial Planning Tips For Parents

Article By Sara Bailey–guest blogger

Author bio: Sara Bailey is a blogger and the founder of TheWidow.net, a support network for individuals who have lost their spouses and are raising children on their own.

Financial planning is a lengthy and often stressful process for most; it comes with thoughts about an uncertain future, providing for loved ones no matter what the economic climate is, and how to comfortably get through retirement. Few of us want to add on to our responsibilities, so those thoughts can bring on anxiety and even depression. However, the benefits of planning ahead greatly outweigh the drawbacks. With the right amount of preparation, you can ensure that your partner and your children are well taken care of after you’re gone.

Estimate Your Worth

Knowing your worth is essential when you’re financial planning because it can help you see where you’re spending too much unnecessarily. Seeing a figure associated with your net worth will allow you to get an idea of how much you’ve earned, how much you’ve spent, and what the difference is between your assets and liabilities. As a homeowner, the biggest asset you have is likely your house, so you’ll want to calculate the value of your property right away. Of course, there are several factors that can influence that number, including the age of the home, the value of adjacent properties, and curb appeal. If you feel your home needs a boost, consider a remodel or even a few smaller changes, such as updating lighting or flooring.

Think About Higher Education

With the costs of education these days, it’s never too early to start thinking about how you’ll pay for your child’s college career. There are several options that will help you save and plan, including a 529 account, which comes with tax benefits. This option is one that comes with a lot to consider, as it must be used with a participating college and often doesn’t allow for living expenses. An education savings account will allow you to switch your child from public to private school and receive funds to cover tuition, tutoring, and school materials, among other things. If you’re unsure of whether your child will attend college, a basic savings account might be the best way to go. This way, there will be no limits on how they use the money.

Create a realistic budget

It can be tricky to create a realistic budget that you and your partner can stick to, but it’s an essential part of making sure you’re financially stable. Take a look at your expenses; sometimes, having them all written down in front of you can help when it comes to figuring out where to make cuts. For instance, if you’re paying for two different streaming services, choose the best fit and let the other go. It also helps to set goals to pay off debt, especially if you owe a lot on your credit card bills. Setting goals will help you define where your money should go each month.

Plan for Your Final Arrangements

It’s something that few of us want to think about, but planning ahead for your final arrangements can make a huge difference in financial comfort for your loved ones. Depending on whether you want to be buried or cremated, a funeral can easily cost you $9,000, which is a sum that can put many families in debt. Preparing now for your final wishes can save your loved ones a lot of time, stress, and financial burden during what will be a difficult time for them. Think about the costs you can prepay, such as a burial plot or headstone, and make sure your loved ones understand what your wishes are by putting them in writing.

Financial planning doesn’t need to be scary or stressful. Thinking about the future can be a little overwhelming when you have a child to take care of, but that’s exactly why it’s so important. Making a few small moves now can go a long way toward creating security for your family.

Understanding Somatic Therapies

Understanding Somatic Therapies

Article by Paula Sadee, LMFT

Somatic therapies are a holistic type of therapy, using the powerful connection between the mind and body to create healing and lasting change. It is often used as the primary treatment for trauma and PTSD, and it’s very helpful for anxiety and other mental illnesses. Since trauma is held in the body, the body is seen as the pathway to healing in somatic therapies. It’s easy to understand how trauma is stuck in the body when you think of a war veteran. You can imagine how a loud noise, such as fireworks could create an automatic reaction in the body, as the body remembers loud noises being dangerous or life threatening. This brings intense physiological reactions like sweating, heart racing, and fast breathing, muscles tension, shaking, or dry mouth among other symptoms. Their body is in fight or flight mode. In that moment, that person may feel like they are actually back in a war zone.

This doesn’t just happen with trauma from war, but can also result from emotional, physical, or sexual abuse as a child or an adult. Examples can include abandonment or lack of attachment to a parent, bullying from a peer, car accidents, being shamed or humiliated, having a parent who is mentally ill or struggling from addiction, among many other things. And sometimes these unresolved traumas can often result in PTSD.

When people push the trauma down and try to ignore it, the physical sensations can be so uncomfortable that it leads people to try coping by drinking, smoking, gambling, overworking or turning to comfort food. Over time they have to work harder and harder to avoid the uncomfortable sensations and the coping can quickly become excessive.

For people with unprocessed trauma, the imbalance in the nervous system can make them feel like they are always in fight or flight mode–fearful of danger. They can develop shame, depression, anxiety, sleep and digestive problems, as well as body pain. Their body feels disconnected from their mind and they often don’t feel safe in their body. They can’t trust themselves anymore about what is dangerous or safe, so everything can feel dangerous. They also can end up feeling numb, disconnected and different from other people.

Research has shown that people with PTSD store traumatic memories in an entirely different part of the brain than people who don’t have PTSD.  People with PTSD store memories in the right hemisphere of the brain associated with non-verbal memories, such as the sights, sounds, and smells associated with the traumatic event past. In contrast, people without PTSD show more activity in the left front of the brain, a region associated with storing verbal memories and narratives of past events. When someone has PTSD their trauma memories are stuck, unprocessed, in the right side of the brain and are often uncontrollably expressed through emotional and with physical sensations. This trauma remains unprocessed and people can experience repeated unwanted thoughts, feelings, or images because the the brain keeps replaying it, trying to make sense of it.

Somatic therapies can frequently help people in ways that traditional therapies like CBT, DBT and psychotherapy alone cannot. In fact talk therapy can sometimes even trigger someone with PTSD. When somatic therapies are utilized, the person isn’t retelling their trauma verbally. Instead, the somatic therapist works with feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Some people are so traumatized or overwhelmed that they can barely speak in therapy. Somatic therapies help them break free and regain their voice and personal power.

One type of Somatic therapy is called Somatic Experiencing, created by Dr Peter Levine in 1997. He noticed that when animals were under life threatening conditions that they would run and shake and be fine after. This is because the body releases adrenaline and cortisol and other chemicals when something traumatic happens to help us survive, which creates imbalance in our nervous system. Movement helps the central nervous system come back into balance because the extra energy is used and the body goes back to normal. With humans, when we face traumatic experiences, our body floods with these same chemicals, putting our central nervous system in imbalance. We often don’t move or shake or express it in some way so the body remains unbalanced with the flood of chemicals. Especially in today’s society, we are taught not to express our emotions and children especially often have no escape so trauma remains frozen in their bodies. Our ancestors used to be hunters and physically active which would help their body come back to balance after overwhelming events.

Somatic Experiencing helps people move past the place they are stuck in processing something traumatic to help the person be able to self regulate again. A client is guided to briefly and calmly notice the emotions or body sensations that follow a traumatic thought which allows the person to fully process the trauma in a safe environment and at their own pace, being fully in control. People begin to realize that their body can actually help them to become calm and to soothe their overactive nervous system. Breathing is a powerful tool to help clients switch from the stressed nervous system response to the calming parasympathetic nervous system, the relaxation response. When someone takes a deep breath, the air from the breath pushes down on their diaphragm which activates a nerve that goes directly up to the brain and calms them.

Somatic therapies are very effective and clients can often feel positive results and relief immediately. This often makes them eager to continue to work with other triggers until the trauma is resolved. It is becoming widely used because it is so effective. Somatic therapies can be used with EMDR. When combined, the results are very positive and powerful since EMDR helps both parts of the brain connect and communicate. Along with somatic experiencing, EMDR helps the trauma become unstuck as an isolated memory in the right side of the brain and processed and consolidated and healed.

With somatic therapies, people who have been trying to escape their bodies or distract themselves from their body’s sensations, begin to realize the answer is in their body. They begin to feel more connected to themselves again or for the first time, and they can see and feel a path to a life they used to have or have always wanted. Other somatic therapies that can be used with somatic experiencing are yoga, thai chi, and stretching. These techniques can actually help the body begin to self regulate. These calming, slow movements help the body to feel more empowered and they help to release energy from traumatic memories.

If you’re interested in learning more about somatic therapies or EMDR, ask your therapist for more information.

The Gut/Brain Connection

The Gut/Brain Connection

Article by Dana Stewart

We have all felt physiological reactions to stress and trauma, but did you know that these physiological responses are also greatly impacted by our gut and what we eat? In November, Andrea and I attended a training called “The Gut-Brain Connection: Facts, Fads, & Fallacies”. This is an area that I have had interest and excitement in for a number of years now. Part of my interest in being a part of Cardinal Psychotherapy was the shared interest all of us have in this area of mind-body connection. It can be tempting for people to shy away from the topic because it can be so overwhelming. Never hesitate to bring up the topic of nutrition, stress, or mind/body health in your therapy sessions because it is both important and relevant!

While I would love to share all of the information learned from this training, it is impossible in such a small space. Instead I will share some of my favorite takeaways from the day. 

The Role of Vagus Nerve

Have you heard of the Vagus Nerve? Many people haven’t, despite the fact that it plays a huge role in your health and wellbeing. The vagus nerve is one of 12 cranial nerves that connects your brain to the rest of your body. It runs from the brain, through the face and thorax, into the abdomen, thereby hardwiring the gut and the brain and allowing them to send signals back and forth. One of the important functions of the vagus nerve is to help regulate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (the calming system in our body). When our parasympathetic nervous system is activated, we have responses such as better bowel motility, a stronger immune system, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and a calmer mood. When your vagus nerve is stimulated in the right ways, it not only helps with digestion, but it also helps to improve your mood. One way to stimulate your vagus nerve is through slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing–breathing from your diaphragm, rather than shallowly from the top of the lungs stimulates and tones the vagus nerve. If you need help learning how to breathe from your diaphragm, let one of us know and we will happily take you through some breathing exercises.

Creating a Healthy Gut Biome

Did you know that the gut is home to 100 trillian microorganisms! This is 10 times greater than the number of cells in our entire body, which means that microbes in your gut are a more accurate identifier than your DNA! One of the key functions of the microbes in your gut is the development, function, and health of the brain. Neurotransmitters (the feel good chemicals in the brain) such as GABA and Serotonin are localized in the “gut brain” and reach our “big brain” through the vagus nerve. In fact, more than 95% of the Serotonin in our body is found in the gut, which is important for sleep, mood, appetite, and digestive functions. Therefore, maintaining a healthy gut is imperative for maintaining a healthy brain. Research is telling us that “the gut is the theater in which the drama of emotions plays out.” 

Historically, the view point was one of separation of the brain and body. That belief system is drastically changing and there is plenty of research to prove the connection and how the function of our gut and brain works together and impacts a whole host of systems in the body. So the important take is this—not only does emotional stress impact what is happening in our gut but what we put into our gut directly affects the functioning of our brain. 

All of us at Cardinal believe in and value a holistic model of care. We all believe that what we put in our bodies and how we regulate stress greatly impacts our mental and emotional health. We see the benefit in incorporating this topic into our discussions in order to better serve you.  Additionally, we help you to find other holistic practitioners that can aid you in your efforts for better mind-body health. We look forward to further assisting you on your path to wellness!

 

Preventing Winter Blues

Preventing Winter Blues

By Andrea Scharlatt

Many people are familiar with the term Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD, as it is aptly referred to). SAD is the clinical term for a seasonal condition that often commences in the fall and winter months and includes symptoms such as low energy, lack of interest in things you typically enjoy, problems sleeping, changes in appetite or weight gain, difficulty concentrating, and even suicidal ideations. But even people without full-blown SAD can feel some of these symptoms during the cold winter months. I think most of us have woken up on more than one dark Minnesota winter morning and felt the impossibility of getting out of bed with a smile on your face! It can be especially bad for people who don’t love living in Minnesota but are here because of family, work or other obligations.

If you feel you suffer from SAD, you should definitely be talking with your therapist and/or doctor about options for treating your symptoms. Anti-depressants and light therapy can be very effective for SAD. If you don’t feel you have SAD, but know that the winter months can tend to bring you down, there are many things you can do on a day to day basis to help survive the cold winter months with more energy and zeal. Here are some of my favorite winter blues busters:

  • Take plenty of vitamin D every day. Most doctors recommend between 3,000 and 5,000 IUs daily. You can also eat vitamin D rich foods like salmon, tuna, yogurt, eggs, and cereals or juice fortified with vitamin D.
  • Eat with the season and enjoy the foods that we are meant to eat at this time of year. That includes squash, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and turmeric. These foods contain many of the nutrients that our bodies need to make it through the long winter months.
  • Stay away from sugar. This can be hard with all the temptation foods of the holidays, but limit your intake of cookies, cakes, and sweets as they mess with your blood sugar and will exacerbate feelings of sluggishness.
  • Cozy up by the fire. If you have a fire place at home, use it! If not, find a coffee shop that does. Take advantage of the season to curl up with a book and a cup of hot tea by a fire. It will make you feel grateful and cozy when it is snowing hard outside.
  • Wear clothes that keep you warm and that feel good on your skin. Scarves are a great way to keep your neck warm, which helps keep your whole body warm.
  • Get outside during the day. Take a walk during the sunniest part of the day–even if it is cold! Bundle up and get out there! It will invigorate your body and will help your sleep to get a dose of sunshine or natural light each day
  • Get plenty fo sleep, but not TOO much sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours per night.
  • Exercise or workout several times a week to boost endorphins and serotonin.

Keep in mind that we are all in this Minnesota thing together! Reach out to your friends, therapist, doctors, or family members if winter is getting you down. There is a lot of help out there if you need it.

Intimacy After Baby

Intimacy After Baby

Article courtesy of guest blogger, Emily Graham. Emily is the creator of Mighty Moms. She believes being a mom is one of the hardest jobs around and wanted to create a support system for moms from all walks of life. On her site, she offers a wide range of info tailored for busy moms — from how to reduce stress to creative ways to spend time together as a family. 

 

It’s certainly not uncommon for new moms to have anxiety about having sex after the birth of their child. Many women are hit with a variety of concerns they may not have felt prepared to handle: from feeling over-touched, uncomfortable in their postpartum bodies or hesitant due to the potential for pain. Read on for tips on how to work through the issues that can hinder romantic intimacy after the birth of a child.

 Breastfeeding and Your Sex Drive

The decision to breastfeed your baby is one factor that can affect your sex drive. According to a recent study, women who breastfed were more likely to delay a return to intercourse than women who did not breastfeed.A woman’s estrogen levels drop after giving birth, while their levels of prolactin and oxytocin rise. The increase of these hormones can have two different effects on your body, each impacting your sex drive by either increasing it or decreasing it. The change in hormones isn’t the only factor when it comes to a reduced sex drive and the challenges of breastfeeding. Most new moms feel drained from the demands of feeding a newborn. Researchers find that moms feel more inclined to resume intimacy once the baby begins sleeping through the night or is on some type of schedule.

Build a Better Body Image

Many women struggle with body image after giving birth. Images of celebrities who bounce back to bikini status fill social media and leave women unfairly judging their own bodies in comparison. If you’re feeling uncomfortable in your body, take steps to begin building a better body image to help you feel as amazing as you truly are. This doesn’t look any one way: for some it may mean putting on makeup, others may opt to wear sexy lingerie and others may decide to get outside and get some exercise. Body image plays an important role in rekindling your intimacy after giving birth. With time and perseverance, you and your body will find the way back to the bedroom for more than sleep.

Finding Time Amidst the Chaos

Changing dirty diapers and washing piles of laundry leave little time for romance. Babies need lots of attention, and caring for them during all hours of the day and night leave parents tired if not exhausted. Once the initial chaos settles down and you begin to develop a daily routine, start carving out small pockets of time for one another. Find creative ways that you can spend time togetherwhile the baby is napping. You may just find that nap time is a great time to rediscover and to reconnect with your partner.

How Soon is Too Soon?

Most medical professionals recommend waiting 4-6 weeks after a vaginal or cesarean birth before having sex. After 9 months of reduced sexual activity, the waiting is often unbearable either for you, your partner, or both. Your body needs time to heal, and doctors warn that having sex too soon can cause a postpartum hemorrhage or a uterine infection. Allow your body time to recover from bleeding, tears and any complications you experienced while giving birth. Make sure you are ready for sex by discussing it with your doctor. Find alternative ways to please one another until you receive the green light for resuming intercourse.

Be Patient

The birth of a child is a life-changing event for you, your partner, and your body. Adjusting to a baby in your home turns your schedule upside down and leaves little time for self-indulgence. As your body heals from the birth experience, keep the communication lines with your partner open. Sharing how you feel as you both adapt to the multiple changes can prevent misunderstandings and ease tension. There’s no one rule when it comes to resuming sex after giving birth. Listen to your body, communicate with your partner, and find creative ways to celebrate your love. Within time, sex will once again become a natural and pleasing event in your relationship.

Just What Is Brainspotting?

Just What Is Brainspotting?

By Dana Stewart

As a therapist I am often thinking about the impact of trauma on people’s lives. Many people believe that trauma only refers to very large scale events, like a major car accident, sexual assault, the death of a loved one, or war. But trauma is different for everyone, and sometimes trauma happens in very subtle ways. A trauma can be any action or event that causes a pervasive negative psychological and physiological reaction, such as being bullied or teased at school, losing a treasured job, or being diagnosed with an unexpected illness.

It’s important to remember that one person experiences as traumatic, might not feel traumatic to another person, so it can be easy to dismiss some of the traumatic events in our lives as “no big deal”, when in all actuality, they caused a lot of pain. And even once an event has long based, the memory of that trauma can be stored and experienced in the body in ways that we may not recognize or cognitively understand. This trauma can continue to impact our body in various ways (i.e. flashbacks, muscle tension, nightmares, heart racing, sweating, feeling disconnected to surroundings or your body, feeling fear, hypervigilance, social anxiety, etc.)

Enter Brainspotting. Brainspotting was developed by David Grand as an offshoot of EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Brainspotting is a largely intuitive process that takes place between a client and a trusted therapist in order to allow your body to release past memories of stress and trauma. When we feel traumatized, it is normal for the body to want to shut down or repress the feelings, when what it really needs is to actively process through the feelings and sensations so they can then be released. Brainspotting puts your body into a state of temporary physical reactivation so that it has the opportunity to properly process the feelings, emotions, and sensations that it didn’t process at the time of the original event.

In Brainspotting, you find a spot within your field of vision that brings up feelings of activation in your body. This can show up in many different ways, such as anxiety, facial and body movements, emotional responses, shivering, feeling tired, yawning, etc. These are the feelings and sensations, within the fight/flight/freeze system in your body, that weren’t properly processed at the time of the original trauma. This spot (and we have many) is connected to areas in our brain and body that continue to hold onto this trauma. Because Brainspotting is focused on feelings and sensations in the body, we don’t have to attach them to any particular memory.

So Brainspotting can effectively alleviate many unpleasant feelings and sensations, even if they aren’t seemingly attached to a significant event that took place in your life. The beauty of it is that your body wants to heal and Brainspotting provides a pathway for that healing.

As with any kind of therapy, every individual experience is different. Brainspotting is a gentle and effective way of reducing the physical feelings and emotions you have in your body and mind that are uncomfortable.  Your body will start to shift and heal and you will feel, at some point, a calmer nervous system and feelings of greater confidence and safety within your body.

To learn more about Brainspotting, or to schedule an appointment, contact me at dana@cardinalpsychotherapy.com.