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TCarlsonFrom Our Psychologist
The Power of Sleep 

We don't have to be physicians to know that having a healthy heart is important. By now most of us have heard that heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the US. We are constantly bombarded by messages of things we should do to protect our heart like eat more vegetables, exercise, quit smoking, etc. Okay, so we get it!  It's a big deal and there's a lot that we should do…. But it’s hard to make time for all those healthy behaviors, right?

What if I told you that you don't have to eat vegetables, exercise, or quit smoking to improve your heart health?  You would think I was crazy right?  Don't misunderstand – all of those behaviors are extremely important and they can make a tremendous difference in your overall health and quality of life!  However, they only help if you're willing and able to do them.  And what if you aren’t?  Well, there might still be something else you can do.  What if I told you that building a healthy heart starts in the bedroom?  That's right, not the kitchen, not the gym, but the bedroom.

Harvard University conducted an extensive study on the sleep and health habits of more than 70,000 women over a period of 10 years. They accounted for factors like age, weight, and smoking, and then specifically looked at sleep patterns. Women who slept less than five hours per night were 40% more likely to suffer from heart disease than women who slept an average of eight hours. Other studies have found similar results in both men and women.

Short-term sleep deficiencies can raise blood pressure and increase stress hormones.  Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a number of health consequences including obesity and diabetes, both of which are risk factors for heart disease. Sleep apnea is also a significant problem for heart health. This is a condition in which people stop breathing at night.  If left untreated, over time it can cause significant increases in blood pressure, a predominant risk factor for heart disease.

Another important factor that can impact both your heart and your sleep, is anger.  Have you ever tried to go to bed angry?  It’s difficult, if not impossible! Everyone experiences anger, but research shows that chronic anger, especially the kind that is suppressed and not expressed, tends to increase blood pressure and rates of coronary artery disease, commonly known as a heart attack.  Although holding anger in can lead to resentment and cardiac problems, those who are short tempered and frequently explode, yelling or screaming at others may actually be at the greatest risk. Those who learn how to express their anger in reasonable ways can actually have the healthiest hearts.

The good news is that all of these habits can be improved upon! They are all learned behaviors and all things we can re-learn and do better. There are many changes we can make to improve the health of our heart, the quality and quantity of our sleep, and our overall quality of life. We can learn to manage anger and express it in healthier and adaptive ways. These skills take time and practice, but they are absolutely possible and I've seen the dramatic changes they can bring in one's life.

If you currently struggle with poor sleep, or difficulty managing anger, be sure to contact our office for treatment options including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia and Anger Management services.  Also, watch future newsletters for my series on “Sleep Solutions”.  Remember, we only get one body and one heart – so it's essential we take care of it!

For more information visit:

~ Dr. Tabitha Carlson, Licensed Clinical Psychologist


Therapist's Corner
Mistakes are an Opportunity 

Ah, the new year. The time to find new resolutions. To find new promises. To find new ways to get out of doing them! Yes, it’s time to put aside those New Year’s Resolutions and focus on “real life.” In fact, in case you missed out, January 17th was officially tagged as Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day. Sorry I didn’t warn you in time…this just means, maybe, that you kept your goal longer than average. On the other hand, if you’ve waivered from your resolution, given up all together, or are thinking about it, there’s something I want you to keep in mind: every day is a new opportunity to start over.

I’m going to use my home as my example. It’s clean (mostly) for the first time in a long time…just don’t look in my kids’ closet, the pile on my bedroom floor, or the laundry room. I admit, I’m not the best housekeeper in the world and my home definitely reflects my stress level. I’m rapidly approaching my most stressful time of the year, when I not only engage with clients in therapy and add a few hours at another job, but I also take on the challenge of coaching junior high track…on top of being a mom.

Stress=off the charts. Home=disaster.

But not this year. This year will be different! Why? Because I screw up every day…yes, every single day…but I get to start over the next.

Many times we set extremely high expectations for ourselves and then we beat ourselves up when we can’t achieve that goal. The truth is, humans make mistakes. Without mistakes, we can’t learn nor can we appreciate the efforts it takes to attain our goals and dreams. Without mistakes, we’d be perfect, and how boring would that be?

Take the opportunity each day to try something new, to set new goals for yourself, to make mistakes and learn from them.  Use small, achievable goals that get you closer to your main goal (for example, I focus on cleaning a different room each day of the week instead of the whole house on one day). Make your life about the journey, not just the outcome. Enjoy what you do to reach your goal, otherwise it becomes a burden instead of a dream. Make time for your resolution (some people get up at 5:45 am or earlier to workout; otherwise, it doesn’t happen). Bring a friend in on the goal to hold you accountable. Tell them specific details about how you’ll get things done and when. This gives you deadlines and someone other than yourself to report to. Keep records of your achievements and celebrate them (“whoo-hoo, down 15 pounds, time for new jeans!” or “yes, my mom came to my house and didn’t make a single comment on any messes!”). If you’re tech-savvy, get the app. They have apps for everything now and your phone will remind you when you’re “due to-do.”

AND…make mistakes, learn and don’t give up. Reassess your goals. Revamp them. Change them. Set new goals. Keep your mind, heart and body engaged. Every single day. 

~ Jessica McCaslin, Therapist

SandstromTips from our EAP
Shooing Away the Blues

The rule with the blues is being patient with yourself, but persistent with intervention. If you have ruled out depression, get back to your old self by changing how you think and practicing behaviors that produce positive outcomes in your life.

Think Differently.  Much has been said about the power of positive thinking. Don’t dismiss it as too simplistic. It is easier to believe that external events control the way you feel and that the environment must change, not you. Sometimes the environment (or other people) should change, but what if change is not forthcoming? The only thing left is altering your reaction. This is the pathway to empowerment and the way ordinary people have accomplished extraordinary things.

Don’t deny it. When you feel yourself slipping into the blues, don’t deny it. Instead, take charge of your thoughts, and decide, “I am not going to let this happen. I am not going to let this drag me down.” Then take action. Do things that will cause you to think in more positive ways. Do things you enjoy, talk to people who will lift you up, seek out humor, dress cheerfully, alter your routine, and get proactive with important goals, exciting plans, and magnificent ideas you have for your life.

Focus on health. See your doctor regularly and get the proper nutrition and exercise. It will improve your stamina, make you feel better, and positively influence your mood. Eating properly, especially in the morning, limiting caffeine, reducing the intake of sugar, and taking a multiple vitamin daily can help your body and its ability to cope with stress.

But My Life Seems Mundane. If you drift along, only responding to cause and effects around you, you can expect “Monday morning blues” more often.  Life does not have to be mundane. Being proactive, thinking and acting “upstream” to prevent life crises, acting on goals, and fighting procrastination will invigorate your life. The payoff is feeling the blues less often. 

What Family Resources of Greater Nebraska Can Do For You. Family Resources can evaluate and refer you to medical treatment for depression. If you are not depressed, our therapists can help you examine issues that are making you blue. Ambivalence about your job, unresolved conflicts in relationships, new challenges in your life, adjusting to losses, and financial difficulties are just a few issues that can give you the blues. 

Signs of Depression
Major depression is a treatable psychiatric illness. It is not what we mean when talking about the blues. Depression often runs in families. If you experience depression, it can be life threatening because in its severe form, it can produce suicidal thoughts. Spotting symptoms of depression and seeking a professional evaluation is your first step. If alcohol or drug use is associated with any of the following symptoms, an evaluation for addictive disease is also important. 


▪ feelings of hopelessness and despair, low self-esteem;

▪ feelings of sadness, crying jags;

▪ sleep disturbances (too much sleep, or the inability to sleep); 

▪ noticeable increases or decreases in appetite with
significant changes in weight, either up or down;

▪ loss of concentration, memory difficulties; 

▪ low energy;

▪ inability to feel pleasure, reduced interest in
fun activities;

▪ loss of sexual interest or interest in being 
with others;

▪ feeling physically worn down and sick;

▪ thoughts of “wanting to be out of your misery”;

▪ suicidal thoughts or planning suicide 
(Note: This is a medical emergency. Get help immediately.)

~ Judy Sandstrom, EAP Coordinator

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