Family Psychiatry
Counseling & Wellness

A comprehensive, integrative psychiatric and wellness clinic serving the mental, physical, emotional and preventative health needs of all members of the family. Find better, one step at a time.

Holistic Psychiatry for your Mind, Body & Soul

At Family Psychiatry Counseling & Wellness, we specialize in performing comprehensive psychiatric and psychological evaluations to establish accurate diagnoses and prepare individualized treatment plans. We combine advanced conventional methods with safe alternative treatment approaches to bring about lasting relief and improved quality of life.

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Are You Afraid of Being Social?

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly. -Buddha

As restrictions are lessening and people are safely social distancing in public are you finding yourself unable to join them? Do you find yourself canceling plans or not wanting to see anyone? Do you feel like you are still living in full lockdown?

While it is good to be self-aware and take safety measures into account during this time, it is also important to notice if you are indulging in negative behaviors. One common factor that many of us are experiencing since the pandemic is social isolation. During the lockdown, it was mandatory that we keep our distance from people who we weren’t currently living with, but now that we are able to go outside and see people, there are still some that are incapable of making the transition back to regular social life perhaps due to developing social anxiety perpetuating further avoidance and further social isolation.

The effects of social isolation are associated with a rise in anxiety and depression along with an increased probability of cognitive decline and decline in general functions. “We’re a social species,” says Stephanie Cacioppo who is a social neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist at the University of Chicago. “We really need others to survive.”

One recent study focused on measuring the cognitive function of more than 6,000 adults taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). The individuals who reported having limited social interaction and activities showed a rapid decline in cognitive function, this was measured by verbal articulacy and memory recall after four years. Other examples, following spaceship members and scientists in remote areas, show side effects of loneliness involving the individuals experiencing confusion, shifts in personality, and moments of anxiety and depression.

How can we reduce social isolation?

Here are some helpful tips on how to be socially present.

Exercise Outside in groups. While getting exercise is already known to be beneficial to your mental and psychical health, try to add a bit of social to this activity. Try looking out for groups that do outdoor fitness, such as Yoga in the park or Pilates on the beach. Invite a friend or family member to go and join in on the fitness fun.

Go for a walk with a friend. Getting out of your house and moving around outside can be helpful to reset your mind and destress from current situations. Take that time to reset with a buddy, reconnect while you are stretching your legs.

Sharing a meal. Food has always been linked to social interactions, whether it be inviting people over for dinner or sharing a recipe with a coworker. While it is important to be socially aware of the current safety protocols, you can always make yourself a meal-to-go and eat it outside with a friend.

Beat the heat and go to the water. It is summer and the best way to cool off is to go take a dip in the water. Plan a trip with family or friends and go do some water activities.

There are many activities that can involve social interactions. Be creative, find what you already like to do, and think about how you can add your friends or family. However, if your social anxiety is so bad despite your best efforts at managing it, then please reach out to a medical professional. We are always here to help.

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Step Into Summer

Summer is officially here, and it is starting to finally feel normal.

California is slowly opening to the public and now with the weather heating up; it is time to enjoy the summer. It is time to stretch our legs and leave the heavyweight of the last year behind us. While we are transitioning into a post-pandemic life it is important to take some time to go outdoors.

Go For a Walk

Psychologists have found that going for a 10-minute walk has the same effects of easing anxiety as a 45-minute workout, due to walking’s ability to lower stress which is a common contributing factor for anxiety. Walking has been known to quiet the amygdala which is the primitive part of the brain that deals with anxiety. There are so many mental and physical health benefits from just taking a walk outside. Walking has been known to improve sleep, help with stress and anxiety, and clear up mental fatigue. When walking outside, you can include getting vitamin D from the sun which is essential for heart, bone, dental, nerve, immune, and muscular health.

Get Some Vitamin D

While we are constantly reminded to wear sunscreen and be mindful of the dangers of too much sun, we tend to forget the benefits. When we are exposed to the sun, our skin can produce vitamin D. This is essential for bone and immune health. Research shows that people who have lower levels of vitamin D are at a higher risk of a plethora of diseases such as higher blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and depression. Recent studies show that people who have depression tend to have lower levels of vitamin D. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is defined as “a type of depression that causes negative changes in mood linked to a change in the seasons, principally occurring in the winter months.” Sunlight plays a crucial role in SAD, people who are not exposed to the sun and lack sufficient vitamin D tend to be affected. Vitamin D deficiency negatively impacts serotonin regulation, which is the hormone that stabilizes our mood and helps with sleeping and digestion. If you need some vitamin D, researchers suggest going out around midday for 10-30 minutes when the sun is at its highest point. Remember to also take measures for safe sun exposure by wearing sunscreen.

Natural Light Helps Sleep

Exposure to sunlight can halt or slow the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps with sleep. An absence of natural light can increase the creation of melatonin, that is why you might feel sleepy if you have been inside all day. Going outside and getting natural light can help regulate or stop melatonin production and help you stay awake and alert. This can also help regulate your sleeping habits and allow you to get better sleep.

Tips on How to Get Outside

Nature is fuel for the soul,” said Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “Often when we feel depleted, we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.” After being cooped up in our homes for so long, it is crucial for our mental and physical health to go outside and enjoy ourselves. While it might be daunting for some to transition back into society, here are some tips for spending time in nature.

  • Try to go for a morning walk or morning mediation. If you are a coffee person, have that cup outdoors.

  • Have a picnic, invite some friends and family, and enjoy a meal outside.

  • If you are stuck with work, try moving your work outside. Maybe take your laptop outside and finish off some emails out in the sun. If you cannot move your work outside, try moving your desk to face a window.

  • Walk with a friend, schedule a time to go out together, and get some social time along with exercise.

  • Maybe you want to escape the heat and take a dip in a pool or go to the beach. Try planning it in advance to give you something to look forward to.

There are many benefits to going outside, but sometimes that is not enough. If you or someone you love feel like they need some extra help, please feel free to reach out. We are more than happy to assist.

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Anxiety and Anticipation

The pandemic is coming to an end, so why does it feel bittersweet?

According to the CDC, if you are fully vaccinated you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic. After more than a year of waiting for the green light to resume normality, you would think we would be jumping with joy, but it seems like while that is a good thing, there is uncertainty and unease about leaving the house, socializing with friends, and family, and going back into workspaces.

American Psychological Association released statistics about the stress of Covid due to a year of social isolation. The studies show that a large population said they experienced weight gain, sleeping issues, and substance use. Not only that, nearly half of Americans say they feel nervous thinking about in-person interaction once the pandemic ends. Thanks to Covid, social anxieties and uncertainty became more acute and frequent. Martin Antony, a professor of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, and co-author of the book “The Anti-Anxiety Program,” states “One thing we can expect is that it’s going to affect everybody differently. It is not like everybody’s going to be more socially anxious. Some people will, for others it won’t be an issue.”

For those of us who are experiencing social anxiety and unease, here are some helpful tips to cope with entering post-pandemic life.

Set Boundaries

“Often when people feel anxious it’s because they are feeling a high level of uncertainty about things that are out of their control,” says Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler who is an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. For example, if you are nervous about the aspect of socializing again, you can decide who you want to see, you have the option to wear a mask, and you can pick an outdoor location. All those things can be under your jurisdiction. Making lists of things that you can control can be a helpful way to offset social anxiety.

Baby Steps

While the idea of socializing again for some seems like a dream come true, others might feel nervous. Those that have adjusted to the pandemic, find themselves anxious at the prospect of social interaction. It is normal to feel nervous about uncharted waters, but fully avoiding the situation might cause a bigger problem. “The worst thing we could do is completely avoid things causing us anxiety because avoidance can work in the short term, but it impairs us in the long run,” said Vaile Wright, senior director of health care innovation at the American Psychological Association. The avoidance helps add to the idea that everything is a danger. A gentle push to do things that cause discomfort can be better in calming the anxiety for the future. Doing small activities that bring slight unease can be a good transition to post-pandemic life. Try seeing a few people at a time and not overbook your schedule.

Getting Excited Again

With all the negatives the pandemic has caused it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is easy to think of all the stress and despair that this last year has caused but staying in that mind space is not helpful. Instead, start focusing on some positives. What are you excited about doing once things are fully open? Do you have a vacation planned? Long-lost friends to catch up with? Start making a list of positive things that you are looking forward to.

You Are Not Alone

It is important to know that these feelings are normal. This is a new experience for everyone and that comes with a lot of uncertainty and discomfort. Remember to be forgiving and gentle with yourself and others. If you or a loved one feel like you need some extra guidance on navigating post-pandemic life, please reach out. We are more than happy to help.

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(805) 341-3416
fpcw@familypsychiatry101.com
Monday - Friday, 9:00am - 6:00pm

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31194 La Baya Drive
Suite 202
Westlake Village, CA 91362

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30851 Agoura Road
Suite 304
Agoura Hills, CA 91301

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