December 28, 2012

Making your new years resolutions stick

For me, new years resolutions were all sizzle and no steak. They sounded great, but ultimately, they were just empty promises. I am not alone. Only 45% of us will keep our new years resolutions past the first 6 months. The good news is that research has shown that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to make changes than those who don't explicitly make resolutions. But, you do need a plan. I recommend that you set aside about an hour of your time to sit down and answer the following questions. The answers will help you build the life you want in 2013.

1. What did you achieve this year? What do you wish you had achieved?
 What did you enjoy and want to do more of?

2.  Once you figure out what you want to do next year, break down the
 steps necessary to accomplish your goals and put them on your

 Be specific. If your goal is to get in shape, write down how you will know you have achieved that goal.  For example, "I will exercise for 30 minutes 4 times per week. I will go to the gym and swim twice per week, and I will do yoga twice per week." You will be much more likely to follow-through if you find activities that are enjoyable. I really struggle with wanting to exercise, so this year I decided to join a recreational league for a sport that I find fun. That gives me the structure, and the motivation to keep my resolution.

3.  Look at what you need to let go of - (goals, projects, thoughts).
These things may have worked at one time, but they no longer serve
 your life. Sometimes we get so over-scheduled that we never take the 
time to see if these activities that fill our day still feed our needs
 and the things that we value.

 Then look at what worked for me last year--personally,
 professionally, and financially.

4.  You work hard. Don't forget to celebrate your achievements and 
your life! Give thanks for the blessings in your life. This type of
celebration gives you the energy to stay motivated and enjoy the new

Right now, before you do anything else, I would recommend you pull out your calendar and block out a time in the next week to go over these questions, and make a plan for your year. Don't just think about the answers in your head, but actually write them out. So, unlike my friend in the comic, you will not screw this up, you can rock this year!

Happy 2013.

December 19, 2012

Talking to your kids about the Newtown Tragedy

Our nation was rocked by the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Ct. Last Week. 26 people died, 20 of them young children. As a parent of a first grader, this hits particularly close to home for me, but it is still hard to imagine the depth of the grief those Sandy Hook Elementary parents must be feeling now. I had a client who lost a child describe his grief as a tsunami that would drag him so far down he could hardly breathe. The ache in his heart was palpable when he spoke. His body seemed to shrink from the weight of his pain. So, my heart truly goes out to all of those who are suffering and grieving as a result of this terrible tragedy.

For those of us with children, we are now faced with the important task of helping our kids try to make sense of such senseless violence. I know at the Houston school where my kids attend, there is talk in the carpool line, and e-mails going out about how to talk to your kids about this tragedy. I found this post from Marie Hartwell-Walker helpful, so I am reposting it here.

If you need help dealing with tragedy, grief, or even parenting stress, we have counselors who can meet with you. Contact our Houston counselors to find out how we can help.

December 12, 2012

Better Sleep = Better Me

How much sleep do you get a night? The answer to that question could tell me a lot about how well you are able to handle the every day stresses of life. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours a night for adults. One major study has shown that people with insomnia are five times more likely to develop depression and twenty times more likely to develop a panic disorder (a type of anxiety disorder). People who got only 4.5 hours of sleep reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad and mentally tired. Wow. But, before you panic about your poor sleeping patterns, read on to find out what you can do to get better sleep, and be a better you.

In a previous post, I discussed the effect of blue light from devices like smart phones on your sleep. Besides turning off those devices at least two hours before bed, there are quite a few other things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene.

Exercise early in the day. Daily exercise serves to improve your mood and also helps you burn off excess stress. Exercise will help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.

Maintain a regular bed time. Your body needs regularity. If you pull a late nighter, it is difficult for your body to adjust, even if you sleep in the next day. A regular sleep time will help set your internal clock. For many people, if you miss your sleep window, it may be very difficult to fall asleep.

Eliminate caffeine, nicotine, coke, chocolate, and any other stimulants at least six hours before bedtime.

Eat light at night. A big meal late at night will likely keep your body up. Try to finish dinner at least a few hours before bedtime. If you need a snack, try to choose foods that don't keep you up such as carbohydrates.

Develop a relaxing bed time routine. For me, taking a hot bath, followed by a cup of herbal tea, and then a good book can be a perfect way to relax and unwind so that my body and mind can prepare for bed.  Find activities that are soothing for you.

If you have trouble falling asleep, or wake up in the night, try getting out of bed and doing something relaxing like reading a book or listening to music. Keep the lights dim, so they don't wake you up more. Then when you feel a little sleepy, get back in bed. If you find yourself still having racing thoughts when you get in bed, try journaling, or making a to-do list of what you would like to get done the next day.

I know it can be hard to make changes, but if you are having trouble sleeping, try these suggestions for a week and see how you feel. I have seen clients in my practice go from feeling slightly depressed and anxious to feeling strong and ready to tackle challenges after just a week of good sleep. It is a simple equation, better sleep = better you.

Happy Sleeping!

December 9, 2012

Ideas for people with eating disorders to negotiate the holidays

It's Holiday season in Houston. If you have an eating disorder, this can be an especially difficult time. Here are some helpful ideas from the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) about how to successfully negotiate your way through the holidays. Tips # 6 & 7 can be especially useful in talking about specific ways your support system can help you through this season.

If you or someone you love are dealing with an eating disorder, please contact one of our Houston counselors to find out how we can help.

December 8, 2012

How glowing rectangles can cause sleep deprivation

When clients come in to my Houston office complaining of feeling depressed or anxious, one of the first questions I ask them is about how they are sleeping. Inevitably, they are having trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep. I think we have all had the experience of lying in bed, feeling more anxious every time we look at the clock, wishing we could just fall asleep. But, we can't. Ugh. Sleep deprivation takes it toll one hard night at at time.

Besides feeling moody and tired, getting less than 6 hours of sleep at night for prolonged periods of time can lead to a suppressed immune system, increased blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and can even increase levels of the hunger hormones (ghrelin) which can lead you to feel hungrier. Scary, right? This is the kind of news that could keep you up at night. So, how can you conquer sleep?  Actually, there are many things you can do to get to sleep faster. We will be covering one of them in this first post about sleeping better.

New research has shown that exposure to blue light like the kind that comes from smart phones, laptops, and e-readers (really any glowing rectangle) can be especially detrimental to your sleep if you are exposed to it two hours before bed. The blue light suppresses melatonin, a hormone the brain produces during darkness, and basically tricks the brain into thinking it is daytime, causing you to feel more awake. If you want to sleep better, try turning off any of those glowing rectangles at least two hours before bed. Resist the urge to check your e-mail one last time, or check out the latest Facebook status updates. It may be bad for your health!

Happy Sleeping...

Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep? Our counselors are available to speak in person or via video. Contact our Houston counselors to find out how we can help.

December 5, 2012

How to suck the stress out of the holidays

image from:

Sometimes this does not feel like the most wonderful time of the year.  There is so much to do, the weather is gray, and there are food temptations galore. So, you may be feeling a little bit stressed out. Here are some quick tips to help you beat the stress, and actually enjoy the holiday season.

1. Whatever you do, don't stop doing the things you normally do to take care of yourself. Whether it is exercising, meditating, reading, coffee with friends, or a hot bath, take the time to attend to your needs on a daily basis. The small investment in your health will allow you to be more efficient, more energetic, and generally more agreeable. Even half an hour a day will give you the fuel you need to thrive.

2. When you start having visions of work dancing in your head, try making a to-do list. Writing down your thoughts will help you organize your mind. Break down your to-do's into short manageable tasks.

3. Learn to just say NO. When you have too much on your plate, it is probably time to start setting boundaries with people who are asking you to do things or go to events you just don't have time for. It is okay to say no. Pick and choose the things that work for you and your loved ones.

4. Make a plan for holiday eating. Fatty, sweet, abundant amounts of food can be ubiquitous during the holidays. But, overeating can lead to lethargy and a poor self-image. If you know you are going to be going to a party, try to eat a healthy snack before hand so you are not ravenous at the party. Also, try to fill up on vegetables, nuts or other nutritious options.

5. Finally, try to slow down and remember what the holiday season is about for you. For me, I will try to make extra time for family, for prayer, and for charitable works. Giving of your time and resources to others can be one of the most meaningful ways to enjoy the holiday season, and it will do wonders for your stress level, too!

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!