Category Archives: Coping skills

Weekly Review of Consistency for management of Depression!

By: James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC
Senior Staff Therapist,
The Family Institute at Northwestern University

How to build structure for consistency in management of mood disorders!

This form helps you monitor your progress towards goals each week. Consistency is key when you have a mood disorder. People with mood disorders need planning and structure to help manage their symptoms. You can also track your marital/relationship goals if you choose. This tool helps track progress toward goals by adding structure to your week. Make multiple copies. Modify as needed; feel free to add or delete goals. Rate mood 1 through 10. Ten is best – 1 worst. Place copy on your refrigerator or someplace where you can check it daily. Mark the goals each day so that you can see the week in review. Note alcohol/drug use and your mood rating in the 3 days after use. Being consistent in your goals makes a huge difference in managing your mood. Try it!

Week of _________________

Goal:                                      Mon       Tues        Wed        Thurs        Fri        Sat       Sun
Medication compliance
Cardio/walking
Social activity
Hobbies
Chores
Date night
Civility and respect
Sleep # of hours
Drug, alcohol use
AA/NA meetings
Time out called
Time out respected
Mood
Family meetings
Psychiatric appt

Note: Always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Zoom!  Now I can work via Zoom with anyone, anywhere in the country and it is currently covered by BCBS Insurance.  Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

http://manageyourmood.net
http://family-institute.org
http://psychologytoday.com
http://takenotelessons.com    Highly effective online, one on one, SAT, ACT, GRE, test preparation, via face time or skype.

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.

How to be well when you have depression?

By: James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC
Senior Staff Therapist,
The Family Institute at Northwestern University

Ten Steps to Better Mental Health

1. Take the medication as prescribed by your doctor.
• “I don’t miss often; maybe once per week.”

The number one cause of relapse to symptoms is medication non-compliance. This is a tough one. For psychiatric medication to be effective, it must be taken daily as prescribed. I consider compliance to be missing no more than 5 pills per year! Many people don’t like to take medication, especially if it means daily for life. Let’s take one step at a time and see what it’s like to function to your capacity for a year or two before you make decisions about the rest of your life.

But remember, clinical depression is a lifelong illness and it’s all about a chemical imbalance. It is a biological problem first and foremost. It’s like being a diabetic: you must take the medication as prescribed in order to be well. You wouldn’t like it but you would take the insulin injection. This is just chemistry.

2. No caffeine, substance use/abuse, or alcohol.

• “It’s not the caffeine. I like coffee. It doesn’t affect me. I’ve always drank coffee.”

Whether it’s coffee, power drink, soda or tea, caffeine can interfere with sleep and create anxiety. It is the most obvious reason for poor sleep. With your doctor’s supervision to avoid anxiety and headaches, gradually reduce your daily caffeine use. Eventually, when you are caffeine free, I believe, you will feel and sleep better.

I would certainly recommend gradually reducing caffeine use before asking the doctor for a sleep aid. Caffeine may interfere with your sleep/wake cycle. As far as your mental health, I recommend keeping caffeine to a minimum and before noon.

I also don’t recommend working the night shift i.e., midnight to 8 AM. It is difficult for your body to adjust. For a person with a mood disorder, this is not recommended. The back and forth between day and night shifts and the social isolation are risky to one’s mental health. It also wreaks night havoc with the sleep/wake cycle. Lack of sleep for a client with a bipolar disorder may bring about rapid mood fluctuations and jeopardize stability. Tell your doctor or your therapist if you are not sleeping. Wouldn’t it be better to reduce the caffeine rather than take a habit-forming sleeping pill?

• “What? I can’t have a glass of wine with dinner? I don’t do it every day. It’s just one glass. It’s not like I’m an alcoholic.”

The second leading cause of relapse to symptoms of depression is alcohol and substance use. Some doctors and even therapists say that it is all right to have one or two drinks if you have no alcohol abuse or dependence issues. I still question this because alcohol is a depressant. Why would you take a depressant when you are already depressed?

Alcohol may affect your mood for days, even weeks. At least track your mood on the calendar after you have been drinking to see if it has made your symptoms worse. Especially monitor the first three few days of being alcohol free. As far as alcohol and substance use, it is as simple as it is hard. If it interferes with your life, your daily functioning, or your relationships, don’t do it! Need help! Contact your doctor.

There is a negative correlation between the use of alcohol or drugs and symptoms of a mood disorder. Their is an increased chance of dependence and risk (70% to 90%) of relapse to the symptoms of your mood disorder. The consequences are just not worth it. Connect the dots! Denial or not! The essential point here is that for many people USE IS THE SAME AS ABUSE!

I recommend you discuss this with your doctor. If you already know you have a problem, get into Rehab. It’s never too late to turn your life around. Get professional help and go to your Alcohol or Narcotics Anonymous meetings as often as it is necessary to maintain sobriety. Even if you are not dependent, alcohol or pot may not be a healthy choice for you. Don’t deny the obvious. So, remember, the healthy use of alcohol for one person, may not be a healthy for you. Make healthy choices!

3. Take care of your physical health.
Be sure to have annual dental and physical exams. Some medications require regular blood testing. Some physical ailments can cause depression. See your doctor regularly.

4. Exercise
People with mood disorders tend to be sedentary. They need to walk and get exercise as much or more than any of us. You don’t have to join a gym; all you need to do is take a brisk walk. You don’t have to run but you do have to hustle a little bit. Studies going back thirty years or more say that cardiovascular exercise lifts one’s mood and reduces anxiety. The more recent studies show that those old studies are true but the walk needs to be at least 40 minutes to get the full benefit toward lifting your mood and reducing anxiety.

Walk at least 4 times per week. I also recommend that you pick your days, otherwise you will say, “I don’t feel like it today; I’ll do it tomorrow.” Tomorrow comes and the same thing happens. If you make a schedule and stick to it (say, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday), the day of the week makes the decision for you. “Oh darn, today is Monday. I have to walk.” Remember, depression affects one’s motivation; if you wait until you want to do it, it may never happen.

Note: Always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

5. Plan to have fun
It’s good to have fun; have fun! When my son was about four years old, I remember distinctly, it was a beautiful summer day. Our front door was open and he stood there and saw children outside playing. He said, “Dad, there are kids out there! Can I go out and play?”

My point is that when you are a child, all it takes is something as simple as finding other kids and the party is on! As an adult, it takes planning, especially if you have a mood disorder. You need to take time to plan to have fun. Join a bowling league, take a pottery class or cooking class, take ballroom dancing, or take a photography class at the local park district. Take an adult education class at your local community college or park district. It’s not about the grade so you can also skip the tests and homework. These are inexpensive and fun and a great way to meet your socialization goals!
• Do it to be more social.
• Don’t do it for a grade.
• Do it because you are interested in it.
• Do it to help manage your symptoms and to structure your free time.

6. Make time to nurture your relationship.
Line up sitters so you can have time alone with your spouse or significant other. This may feel awkward at first but keep it up anyway. Gentlemen, don’t let the wife be responsible for all the social and vacation planning. Do your share. Plan a date night. When you go to dinner, discuss your next date night, event, or do vacation planning. Don’t use the date night to discuss difficult issues. This is should be a fun time and a way to nurture your relationship. If you are going to have fun, you are going to have to plan ahead!

7. Be social
A common symptom of a mood disorder is social dysfunction or social isolation. Human beings are by nature social creatures, but unfortunately, a common symptom of mood disorders includes social isolation and/or withdrawal. Call a friend and make a lunch date. Have people over to play cards or watch a sporting event. If you don’t have a large social network, use the park district or local community college to meet people. Taking a class or joining the volleyball league at least gives you an opportunity to be with people and make a friend. While meeting strangers may seem intimidating, think of it this way: if you don’t know them to begin with, then you really have nothing to lose if things don’t work out. On the other hand, you never know when a stranger can turn into your new best friend, business partner, or love interest!

8. Hobbies
Try woodworking, paint by number, sewing, knitting, crossword puzzles, gardening, toy trains, arts and crafts, or whatever you choose! Go to a hobby shop and look around but pick something and stick to it. Work on your hobby several times per week or when you are feeling low, negative, or worrisome. It is quite possible you will enjoy the activity so much that you will forget about your symptoms for a while. Hobbies are a great way to distract yourself from troubling thoughts when one else is around.

9. Chores
Most any physical activity is a good distraction from your negative ruminating thoughts and symptoms. Chores are another way to distract yourself and give you a clean environment. When you have depression, the idea of cleaning the entire house or apartment can be overwhelming. Break your chores down into one or two chores each day. For example:
• Monday is vacuuming
• Tuesday is bathroom cleaning
• Wednesday is washing the floor
• Thursday is cleaning the kitchen
• Friday is changing the sheets and towels day
• Saturday is laundry day
• Sunday is a free day. It is your reward for doing your chores all week long.

Chores are a great way to distract yourself from your symptoms. Most any physical activity will help. Make a schedule and stick to it. Try to come up with your own list of distraction activities. The more things you try, the less likely you will be a victim of your disorder.

10. Make healthy choices
This is my generic one. This one may very well be different from person to person. A healthy choice for one person may not be healthy for you. If you have a mood disorder, poor sleep, too much caffeine, alcohol or drug use, and social isolation are mental health issues. Remember! You manage it, or it will manage you!

Zoom! Now I can work via Zoom with anyone, anywhere in the country and it is currently covered by BCBS Insurance. Check with your BCBS representative for more information.

Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

http://jamesdelgenio.com
http://family-institute.org
http://takenotelessons.com    Highly effective online, one on one, SAT, ACT, GRE, standardized test preparation, via face time or skype.

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.

Issues to discuss before Marriage. What you will learn in premarital counseling?

By: James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC
Senior Staff Therapist
The Family Institute at Northwestern University

Premarital Counseling is a really good idea! 

Premarital counseling can help ensure that you and your partner have a strong, healthy relationship. This will give you a better chance for a stable and satisfying marriage. Premarital counseling can also help you identify weaknesses that may become larger problems during marriage. Good marriages don’t happen by accident. Many issues can be resolved prior to marriage with the help of a therapist. Common issues addressed may include work, finances, lifestyle, spending habits, credit card balances, student loans, savings, retirement planning, roles and responsibilities, children, parenting, in-laws, and leisure and fun. Marriage requires an understanding of yourself, your future spouse, and the tools and skills you need to make it work.

Does your significant other have a Mood Disorder?
Some moodiness is a part of everyone’s life; sometimes we feel happy, other times we are sad; some days we have lots of energy, while at other times we may be fatigued and unmotivated. When mood changes interfere with your ability to function, work or go to school, when they harm your relationships significantly, when they cause you to miss sleep, abuse drugs, or behave in ways you later regret, or when they lead to risky behaviors, thoughts of suicide, or losing touch with reality, your mood requires professional attention.

If this sounds like you’re intended. All is not lost. The key factor in this decision is Denial. If your partner tends to deny issues now, do you really think it is going to get better later?
I find that most premarital couples are well aware of their intended’s mood and alcohol/substance issues. My main questions are as follows:
Is he/she:
• Willing to seek help?
• In need of psycho-education and symptom management?
• Willing to take medication, if prescribed?
• Willing to honestly address alcohol and substance abuse issues?
• Willing to see a therapist for relationship issues and support?
It’s not going to get better if your intended is in denial. Get out while you still can!

Civility and Respect
Work on resolving conflicts in a civil and respectful way. Lack of civility and respect will eventually be the undoing of any relationship. It is possible to argue, resolve conflicts, and agree to disagree in a respectful manner. In order to do this, all couples need rules of engagement for conflict. It is important that couples express how they feel, but this needs to be done in a very caring and respectful manner. This definitely means there should be civility and respect when conflict occurs. That means no hitting (of course), no yelling, no swearing, no screaming or name calling or sarcasm. I encourage you to look at yourself and your relationship with your intended. Are you holding onto resentments? If so, you will need a therapist to help resolve this and teach you how to fight with civility and respect.

Zoom!

Now I can work via Zoom with anyone, anywhere in the country and it may still be covered by BCBS Insurance. Check with your BCBS representative for more information.

Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

http://manageyourmood.net
http://family-institute.org

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.

Symptoms of Bipolar Mood Disorders and how to cope.

By: James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC
Senior Staff Therapist,
The Family Institute at Northwestern University

Negative rumination i.e. negative thoughts on repeat often cause conflict in relationships.  Physical distraction of any kind will help some, i.e. cardio work, chores, walking, hobbies. If these don’t help you will need to consider medication.

Overwhelmed with anxiety, panic, depression. This causes lack of motivation and loss of interest.  Need for medication is a must.

Changes in the sleep wake cycle esp. little or no sleep.  Could be heading for a manic episode. Often caused by non-compliance with the medication or alcohol use and abuse.

Isolation and withdrawal from friends and family.  We all need social contacts for good mental health. Look at the pandemic!

Alcohol use or abuse. Either way alcohol and mood disorders do not mix. Alcohol is a depressant and it will increase your anxiety. Don’t drink; you will feel better!

Little or no impulse control; Risky behavior, such as sex, reckless driving.

Uncontrolled spending w/o regard for ability to pay.

Racing thoughts and speech, grandiosity, invincibility.

Verbally abusive to others.  Conflictual relationships. Never permit physical abuse; report it. Get out!  Go to a shelter but get out.

Denial, No need for help or medication! Can’t trust your own thoughts. Need reality testing with friends and family to get past denial.

Hopelessness, thoughts of suicide.

Medication is as necessary as insulin is to a diabetic.  It’s just genetics with faulty chemistry.

The Family Institute at Northwestern University

James DelGenio LCPC is a senior staff therapist who offers remote teletherapy and accepts BCBS PPO Insurance.  Teletherapy is HIPPA approved via Zoom.com 

His services include: Individual and family counseling, marital and premarital counseling, and treatment of mood disorders and substance use and dependence.

Offering Teletherapy anywhere in IL via zoom.  HIPPA approved and accepted by BCBS PPO Insurance.

TFI is a unique not-for-profit organization that is leading the way in all facets to strengthen and heal families from all walks of life through clinical service, education and research. No other institution brings together such a concentration of knowledge, expertise and academic credentials to help improve the lives of people in the Chicago area and around the globe.

As a practicing Psychotherapist for over 40 years, I employ a variety of clinical approaches including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in the treatment of couples, families and individuals.

Individual Practice: Assessment and treatment of anxiety, stress, panic, trauma, anger, grief, depression, mood disorders, mental illness and alcohol/substance abuse.

Marriage and Family Practice: Lack of intimacy, infidelity, poor communication, conflict over finances, lack of trust, parenting and behavior issues, premarital and divorce issues.

Specialization: Treatment of couples, depression and its impact on relationships and the family.

Zoom! Now I can work via Zoom with anyone, anywhere in the country and it may still be covered by BCBS Insurance. Check with your BCBS representative for more information. Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

http://manageyourmood.net
http://family-institute.org
http://takenotelessons.com   Highly effective on line one on one, SAT, ACT, GRE, standardized test preparation, via face time or skype.

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.

How to Cope with a mood disorder without Medication?

By: James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC
Senior Staff Therapist,
The Family Institute at Northwestern University

How to cope with a mood disorder.

It is good to have fun. Have fun! People with mood disorders often become engrossed in the past, consumed with depression and anxiety. They tend to have negative thoughts that just repeat over and over again. Learning to cope takes experiential learning with a CBT therapist.

Recreation and exercise

Recreation and exercise play a key role in management of symptoms. Especially cardio exercise such as walking is good maintenance of depression, anxiety and panic symptoms.  These are a great distraction when one is experiencing symptoms. Any physical activity is likely to be therapeutic.  Join a park district team, like softball or volleyball.  It’s a good social activity too!

Social activity

Regular social activity is important and healthy; get out with people at least 3 times per month. Consider joining the Park district, volunteering, church groups and activities, or working a shelter.  Find something!  Avoid alcohol.

Hobbies

Get a hobby!  Hobbies to consider? Try paint by number. It’s easy but it takes concentration.  Helps deal with negative thoughts and repeat that often accompany depression. You can also walk away easily by simply rinsing out the brush.  Plan 1/2 half hour per day.

Chores

Even chores can also help with distraction. Make a schedule of chores and stick to it.  Monday is vacuuming, Tuesday is laundry, etc. This also helps keep your living environment healthy.

Distraction from symptoms is an important coping skill. The tendency to isolate and withdraw also need to be overcome. The Internet, video games, TV or reading, generally do not qualify as distraction for most individuals.

Planning is key because mood disorders require structure. If you are going to have a good weekend, you will need to plan ahead to meet your exercise and social goals.

Unfortunately, sometimes these are just not enough, therefore medication will need to be considered.

When to consider medication?

I am sorry to have to say this but moderate to severe mood disorders require medication to control the symptoms. It’s all about chemistry. If you are diabetic, you would take insulin; you wouldn’t like it but you would do it.  This is no different.  It is just a chemical imbalance.

When coping skills don’t work, you will need to reconsider seeing a doctor and getting on medication. Even with medication, however, you will still need to practice coping skills.  Medication does 6o% and coping skills do the rest.  In these instances, the medication becomes the foundation and will help the coping skills work effectively.

Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC  847- 733-4300 Ext 638.

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http://family-institute.org

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.

What are the Leading Causes of Relapse to Symptoms of Depression?

By: James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC
Senior Staff Therapist,
The Family Institute at Northwestern University

The Leading Causes of Relapse to Symptoms.

The causes of relapse to active symptoms of mood disorder have been well documented over the years. It’s no surprise that these reflect the relapse warning signs listed below.

They are:
• Medication non-compliance (Not taking the medication as prescribed).
• Alcohol and substance use and abuse.
• Little or no sleep.
• Lack of social support, isolation.

Non-compliance with medication and alcohol or substance use or abuse are by far the leading causes of relapse to symptoms. These are self-explanatory. However, little or no sleep and lack of social support also need to be addressed.

Sleep is an important issue for most with mood disorders. People with Bipolar disorders usually report that they don’t need much sleep. They have a tendency to play with their sleep/wake cycle. They like the euphoric hypomanic feeling that lack of sleep creates. It is very much like the moth and the flame. There is an attraction to the high that one gets when they are sleep deprived. Unfortunately, you can take anyone in the world and keep them awake for two, three or four days, they will become actively psychotic. For people with a mood disorder, sleep is a mental health issue.

Social support is also very much a part of maintaining good mental health. Even if one is compliant with medication and not using or abusing alcohol and drugs, social isolation can create considerable stress and ultimately cause a relapse to symptoms. It is imperative that people with mental disorders, have an avenue to combat their tendency to isolate and withdraw from people. I encourage my clients to maintain regular social contact. This contact creates reality testing. We don’t think of socialization as reality testing but it is. For example: You have an argument with your spouse; you call a friend and say here is what happened. What do you think? You get feedback on your situation and behavior. That is reality testing. Lack of social support may result in an inability to test the accuracy of what one is feeling or experiencing. This is obviously a very important component of maintaining good mental health.

Zoom!  Now I can work via zoom with anyone, anywhere in the country and it may still be covered by BCBS Insurance. Check with your BCBS representative for more information.  Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

http://jamesdelgenio.com
http://family-institute.org
http://psychologytoday.com

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.