<![CDATA[Mary Zoglo, Ph.D. - Blog]]>Sun, 10 Jan 2016 03:22:26 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Calming the Mind and Body]]>Mon, 06 Jun 2011 00:20:25 GMThttp://www.drmaryzoglo.com/blog/calming-the-mind-and-bodyHow to develop your practice of meditation
In previous blogs and newsletters I discussed the different reasons one might want to calm the brain and body.  I’ll continue to write about this in future newsletters and blogs, but the WHY and the HOW are very different.   You can’t learn to meditate or pray or use self hypnosis or muscle relaxation and deep breathing from a 3 paragraph blog.  Books and classes and seminars and workshops are the best way to learn one of these calming techniques.

And if you’re in Colorado, especially around Boulder, you have access to all of these.

Boulder Colorado is home to the Shambala Center which teaches Buddhist meditation and thought and provides weekly meditation support and practice (to augment your daily practice).

There is a secularized meditation practice descended from this Buddhist tradition called “Mindfulness” that is practiced and taught by many psychotherapists in this area, including me.  Here is a link to one such psychotherapist with meditation podcasts.

Colorado was blessed to have Father Thomas Keating, one of the Catholic monks who developed and taught “Centering Prayer”, a meditative prayer practice that is taught and supported  all over Colorado and the world (his monastery is in Snowmass!)

Centering prayer is a nondenominational meditative prayer practice that is supported by many Christian groups including the Wesley Chapel at CU Boulder.

But one thing you’ll find with all of these practices…they all involve practice. It’s not that different from working out or physical conditioning.  Some people go out for a run or to the gym joyfully and with great anticipation.  Some drag themselves out the door to exercise because they know it’s good for them.  Most are somewhere between these 2 extremes.   All tell themselves how good they’ll feel LATER, even if they don’t feel good NOW.  They will be healthier, more energized, more agile and more attractive in the long run.  And bonus!  Every time you need to turn on the afterburners, lift a heavy object, climb the stairs, prevent a fall, you’ll have the strength to do it.

You meditate or pray daily for the same reasons.  Your daily conditioning of your brain probably will feel wonderful when you do it.  But more importantly, over time it will calm your mind, calm your body, help you focus better, help your memory and generally decrease impulsivity.   And bonus!  Every time you get frustrated, overwhelmed or anxious  you have a well learned procedure for calming yourself, one which gets easier and easier to implement after days, weeks, years of practice.

<![CDATA[Change Your Mind... Change your Brain...]]>Fri, 29 Apr 2011 00:25:29 GMThttp://www.drmaryzoglo.com/blog/change-your-mind-change-your-brainPicture
The beginning of this 21st century witnessed a sea change in how neuroscientists understand our minds, bodies and brains. There is increasing evidence for “neuroplasticity”, i.e., changing the mind actually changes the brain. The previous decades were all about the opposite; “change your brain and it will change your mind”. For example, change your neurochemicals and your anxiety and depression will disappear. There’s a burgeoning awareness among scientists and lay people that it’s a 2 way street. Yes, your brain (and neurochemicals, etc.) affect how you feel and what you think, but also what you think and feel actually, physically, changes your brain as well!

Consider one of many studies in the last decade. Taxi-drivers in London, people who need to intimately know their way around very complicated city streets, have posterior hippocampi (a brain area associated with previously learned spatial information, e.g., mental maps) that are larger than other people. And the longer they’ve been on the job, the larger their hippocampi! Who knew! Well, actually neuroscientists have known this since 1999, but research since then has only amplified these kinds of findings.

Research shows that other types of practice and learning also physically change your brain. People have engaged in meditational practices for centuries and centuries because they found them either personally or spiritually beneficial. More and more research is focusing on how the brains of meditators have been altered, not just during meditation, but long term. There’s research that shows LONG TERM BRAIN WAVE changes in the brain. One study of Qigong meditators shows long term brain activity increases in areas of the brain related to calm awareness.

Buddhist meditation practitioners have higher than normal gamma wave activity (associated with focus, assimilating perceptions and memory) not just during meditation, but also before and after. And studies have shown STRUCTURAL brain changes in meditators. After just 8 weeks of meditating using “mindfulness meditation” in a stress reduction program 16 new meditators had gray matter density increases in brain areas associated with learning, memory processes, emotion regulation and compassion.And Buddhist monks in Tibet have been found to perform better on neuroscience tests of “perceptual rivalry” which are thought to be a measure of attentional control.

What’s it all mean? Well, one thing it means is you’re not completely at the mercy of FATE…. your genes, your biology, your environment. You have more ability to change your concentration, your sense of calm, where you place your attention and your compassion….than perhaps you thought you did. Repeated practice, repeated emotional associations (e.g., my boss and criticism/anxiety, driving and anger, pain and anxiety) creates “neural grooves” or “learned nerve pathways”. Creating and practicing new and different associations creates new nerve pathways. And consistently practicing meditation or something like it, may increase your general sense of well-being.


<![CDATA[Performance and Test Anxiety? Breathe...... Just Breathe........]]>Fri, 12 Nov 2010 01:31:49 GMThttp://www.drmaryzoglo.com/blog/performance-and-test-anxiety-breathe-just-breathePicture
Got a presentation?  A test?  Feel that familiar sensation of your heart beating more rapidly and stronger?  Sweaty?  Chest tightening?   Mind unfocused or racing?  Just about everyone on the planet has experienced these sensations of strong anxiety or fear.  You may have heard of the old familiar explanation  of  the “fight or flight reflex”.  These physical sensations are a good prep for the human animal to fight like a pit bull or run like a deer in the presence of a predator.   They’re NOT good prep for the human social being facing  a presentation or a test.

When our mind perceives a threat, the very first  thing the body does to “help”  is a sharp focus of attention (which may later turn to UNfocused attention), blood pumping to the extremities (rapid, strong heart beat)  and shallow quick breathing (called hyperventilation).   It doesn’t matter if the threat is physical (e.g., attacker) or emotional (e.g., imagined ridicule or failure), the body responds the same.   Your body is often your ally in the case of needing to respond to an attacker.   “Not so much” in the case of an emotional threat.  Before and during a presentation or test, you’re going to have to convince your body not to be so threatened.

In my practice with clients there are a number of things I do to help them calm their anxiety and perform better, but the most basic, most effective and simplest is DEEP BREATHING.  Breathing is the most accessible and straightforward and formulaic part of anxiety you can control.  AND IT CALMS ALL THOSE OTHER SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY AS WELL!   So find a deep breathing practice that works for you, practice it when you’re calm, practice it when you’re mildly anxious and then plan to use it several times just before your test or presentation and during it.

The first  and most important, step is to understand WHAT is deep breathing.  Shallow breathing (what you’re trying to avoid or lessen) involves short quick expansion of your sternum (just under and around your collar bone).  Deep breathing involves getting air into your lower rib cage and down into your diaphragm (just under your lower rib cage around your belly button).  The first part of deep breathing practice is bodily self awareness.  Put your hands on your rib cage and belly button.  You may feel these better if you lay down.  Experiment with breathing in so deeply that you feel your lower ribs expand and/or your upper stomach area expand.    Practice this for a few minutes several times a day in various settings (e.g., relaxing on the couch, standing in line, at your desk) until you feel sure you can easily discriminate shallow breathing from deep breathing.

Once you’re sure you know the WHAT, practice the HOW. There are many systems of deep breathing exercises.  They all involve PRACTICE.  Practice for short periods several times a day in various circumstances.  Experiment with these practices:

1. Counted Breathing   (Classic and simple)

Inhale for a count of 5…exhale for a count of 6.

If your lung volume is smaller, inhale for 4 (or 3) and exhale for 5 (or 4).

If your lung volume is larger inhale for 6 (or 7 or 8) and exhale for 7 (or 8 or 9).  The point is, exhale LONGER than you inhale.

Do it in sets of 10 with breaks in between of regular breathing.

2.  Increasing Exhales (Short and effective, may want to repeat several times)

Inhale to the count of 2, exhale for 2

Inhale to the count of 2, exhale for 4

Inhale to the count of 2, exhale for 6

Inhale to the count of 2, exhale for 8

Inhale to the count of 2, exhale for 10

3. Five Count Energizing Breath (Short, but not subtle)

Inhale for 5

Exhale by huffing out your breath in short bursts for a count of 5,

i.e,.  “Huh..Huh..Huh..Huh..Huh”

You can enhance all of these by relaxing your muscles with each exhale.  Try imagining that with each exhalation, your body becomes like that of a rag doll;  limp and relaxed.    Or consider imagining as you exhale that your body is like a deflating balloon that was taut when full but soft and squishy (and  relaxed) when deflated.

Practice!  But remember, almost everyone has to figure out a way to deal with anxiety.  You are not alone.

This blog does not create a doctor/patient relationship.  Dr. Mary Zoglo is a licensed psychologist only in the State of Colorado, USA, and can give specific mental health advice only to her patients.  This blog is for educational and informational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for professional medical, psychiatric or psychological advice. See full disclaimer.

<![CDATA[Ten Things To Do if Your Teen is Talking About Suicide]]>Tue, 28 Sep 2010 00:33:39 GMThttp://www.drmaryzoglo.com/blog/ten-things-to-do-if-your-teen-is-talking-about-suicide“I don’t want to live anymore,” “I’m not going to be around anyway,”  “I just want to go to sleep and never wake up,” or even more clearly “I’m going to kill myself”.  How does a parent respond to this?  Of course you’re concerned, probably very anxious.  Perhaps you think “maybe they’re just saying this for attention…..or…..maybe they mean it.”   Or maybe you think they may mean it at this very second but the impulse will pass quickly.   Or perhaps you’re angry because you are in the midst of an argument with your teen and the thought occurs to you, “they’re just trying to manipulate me emotionally to get what they want”.   If your teen is talking about suicide, here are some practical and timely actions to take:

1.       Stop and Listen. Be still for a moment.  Maybe you’ve just been in an argument with your teen or maybe you’re very afraid.  Just listen and use any skills you possess to draw out your teen and allow them to reveal their struggles and feelings.  They probably are feeling very alone with their struggles and sometimes, a person needs to feel his or her burden is shared.  You may feel an impulse to jump in and give them advice or give them perspective.  Don’t rush to that.  When someone feels so hopeless and desperate that they make suicidal statements, they are thinking emotionally, not rationally, and if you immediately start using logic, they’ll just feel less understood and more alone.

2.       Call your teen’s psychotherapist if they are in psychotherapy.

3.       Call 911 if you’re concerned a self-injurious behavior is imminent.

4.       Call 1-800-SUICIDE in Colorado for advice for you or for someone to whom your teen can talk immediately.   Click here to see their website.

5.       Find a therapist , if your youth doesn’t already have one.  Look for a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in treating adolescents.  Often, but not always, a teenage girl will work better with a female psychotherapist and a teenage boy will work better with a male psychotherapist.  You know your child’s adult relationships and can best judge which gender therapist to look for or if gender even matters at all. Check the Psychology Today website for psychotherapists practicing near your zip code.

You can also try calling a nearby hospital with an adolescent psychiatric unit.  In Colorado you might call Children’s Hospital or Centennial Peaks.  There is also an extensive list of mental health agencies on the endteensuicide.org website.

6.       Lock it up.  Get weapons, pills, ropes etc. out of the house or locked up.

7.       Don’t let them be home alone and check on them often.

8.       Try some “mood changers”. You may know for yourself that watching a funny or uplifting movie, talking with friends, going for a walk, exercising or walking the dog can change your mood.  Get your teen to do one of these with you.  Obviously, this is only a short term solution, but it is something practical you can do for the short term and, if it helps a little, it teaches your teen that impulses come and they go and that there are practical things they can do should they have another suicidal impulse in the future

9.       Remind your teen of the people who love him or her.  If you think your teen is angry at some of them (or you) and would like for them to feel guilty and horrible then don’t talk about how guilty and horrible that person would feel should the teen kill himself or herself.  Otherwise, make it clear how a suicide would affect your teen’s loved ones.

10. Don’t fool yourself that doing any or all of these things is enough. When people are experiencing long and intense depressions, they are going to need more than “mood changers”.  When social or family conflict is ongoing and your teen is angry and alienated, talking to them.

This blog does not create a doctor/patient relationship.  Dr. Mary Zoglo is a licensed psychologist only in the State of Colorado, USA, and can give specific mental health advice only to her patients.  This blog is for educational and informational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for professional medical, psychiatric or psychological advice. See full disclaimer.