Practice, Practice, Practice.

Written by Dr. Lynne Modzelesky, 11/28/22

It can feel very daunting to try and make any type of change, and with the holidays upon us we may find ourselves moving back in to old habits that we have vowed to stop.

Think- " I will not drink alcohol or eat dessert more than one day a week, I'm trying to be healthy." But with so many opportunities to celebrate and be social around the holidays it can be easy to go back to old habits that don't serve us anymore. Desserts are wonderful! But I guess they aren't wonderful if we see that we are indulging daily and start to feel badly physically because of it.

No one really needs a diet, the very nature of a diet makes us want more because we think we "can't" have something, then we want it more. So instead we think of a lifestyle change, and remind ourselves that this is our choice to live in a new healthy way. Healthy may not mean food, it may mean emotional well-being, rest, movement, etc.

In any lifestyle change, remember to be compassionate towards yourself. There is no such thing as perfect. And if you feel like one day, or two days, or three days, you slipped up on your health goal, be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that no one is perfect, and life is messy. But you can always make another choice to fulfill your goal the next time.

Life is a long-distance run, not a sprint. We don't have to get it right every single day. It would be impossible to do! Just get back up and try again.

If this is something you may need more support with, you might be interested in my therapy group Building Self Compassion. Please contact me for more information, and you can also see a description of the group on the List of Services page, then click on Group therapy.

5 Tips for Better Sleep

Written by Dr. Lynne Modzelesky, 9/15/22

The new school year is upon us, and with all of the hustle and bustle of homework, packing lunches and last minute school supplies, you may be feeling a bit drained. Ok a lot drained. So here are some tips to help you get a more restful night for your busy day ahead.

  1. Decide on a bed time. And stick to it!

Going to bed (and waking up) around the same time each day will help your body predict when it's time to wind down. You will set your circadian rhythm after doing this for about a week or so. Just try and stick to a schedule and it will be easier for your body to realize when you normally get to bed and wake up.

  1. Make your room quiet, dark and relaxing.

A restful space will help your body wind down. Some people like a noise machine, fan, or no noise at all. But try to pick nothing too loud or stimulating. Make your room dark. You may have to buy black out curtains if you live in a city where the light from outside may keep you awake. And try and promote relaxation in the space. Try to avoid having emotionally charged conversations in your room so you don’t associate the bedroom with anything but positive, peaceful feelings and thoughts.

  1. No screens right before (or in) bed.

I’m guilty of this. Pintrest right before bed. But the light from the phone screen, tablet or TV will actually trigger your brain to think it's time to wake up. Also, the things that you are looking at are probably stimulating to you in some way. Which will also keep your mind wandering and not sleeping.

  1. Cut back on caffeine.

If you have difficulty sleeping, try to not have caffeine after lunch time at the latest.

  1. Get moving during the day.

To make sure you are tired, try and get moving throughout the day. Take a walk, head to the gym or just be active with the kids/animals.

If you want more tips please contact me. You might also contact your primary care doctor to assess if there is an underlying reason why you aren't sleeping.

Dial 9-8-8 starts July 16, 2022 for Veteran's in crisis

Written by Dr. Lynne Modzelesky, 7/14/22

This weekend, the Department of Veteran's Affairs will transition the Veterans Crisis Line to a new, easier, faster way to get help. Currently, you have to dial 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 for the Veterans Crisis Line. On July 16th and afterwards, you or your loved one will be able to simply dial 9-8-8 and the call will be directed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The reason is basically that the less amount of time it takes to get help, the better the outcome. If you have to only dial three numbers to get to someone trained in crisis intervention (versus a 1-800 number) than this may help save lives in the most crucial moments.

The Veterans Crisis Line will still be operating as well. Along with the new 9-8-8 number. You can also still text 838255 for the Veterans Crisis Line, and even chat online with a member of the Veterans Crisis Line. Here is a link to the Veterans Crisis Line page, and here you can chat directly with a trained professional.

You can also see more resources for immediate help on my Resources page, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline information.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, please go to your nearest emergency center. People are there to help. Or call one of the resources listed above.

Why Avoidance Is Not Helping You Heal

Written by Dr. Lynne Modzelesky, 6/21/22

When something happens that completely rocks your world- in a bad way- we tend to shift how to relate to others. And also, how we see the world in general. If this is something traumatic, our first reaction is probably to avoid the unpleasant thing. This is normal. No one wants to feel uncomfortable and scary negative feelings. But here’s the problem. If we are too good at avoiding, we can develop some unpleasant symptoms in the long term. These may even develop into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

So what do we do then? Here are some tips.

  1. Don’t Avoid the Unpleasant Thing.

Avoidance leads to fear. Which leads to more avoidance. The cycle goes on and on. Try to expose yourself to the thing that you fear, slowly, and in small doses. For example, let’s say you are afraid of dogs because you were bit by one. Instead of avoiding dogs or animals altogether, maybe try and watch a movie first with a dog in it. A nice, happy, calm dog. Then when that feels ok, try to be around a nice dog briefly, such as when your neighbor is walking their friendly little dog. With each positive experience you will feel more capable of being around dogs again. And realize that not every dog is bad.

  1. Talk about it.

Open up about how it feels to your loved ones. Don’t stuff those feelings and thoughts. Processing and feeling them is healthy.

  1. Work with a therapist.

Some things are difficult to do alone, and there are experts who work with phobias, PTSD, anxiety, and avoidance (including me!). It may be helpful to have someone to help walk you through this process and to gauge how anxious you are, and what is safe and healthy for you to do personally.

If you feel like you need expert help, or that you might be having an extreme anxiety reaction, please reach out. I would like to help getting you past this event and feeling better.

Please note that this is a very simplified discussion of one way to handle trauma and is in no way medical advice. If you feel like something in this post resonates with you, please contact me to get further help.

Hot Topic: Supreme Court Potentially to Overturn Roe vs. Wade

Written by Dr. Lynne Modzelesky, May 4, 2022

Information surrounding plans to possibly overturn the landmark case Roe Vs. Wade was leaked Monday evening. Women all over the United States, and the world really, are concerned (outraged?) at this thought. There are so many reasons for this reaction, and lawmakers may not understand the needs of the individual people that this would affect. In an article by USA Today titled 'It's a really scary time' the author states that the decision making would no longer be held by the Federal government about whether or not to allow abortions. The decision would be given to state lawmakers about the fate of abortion being legal in their jurisdiction.

You know that this doesn't mean the need for abortions will stop- right? It just means that women will now be traveling longer distances to get them, paying out of pocket at high rates, going to clinics that aren't safe or regulated. Some women may even try to take this into their own hands. These are dangerous situations; dangerous decisions with very far-reaching consequences.

There are many reasons why a woman would choose to get an abortion. Some are medically necessary, such as if the baby is not able to live for a medical reason, or if the mother will not live if she carries a baby or gives birth. Let's complicate the situation even more... what if a woman is told that she may not live if she chooses to give birth, and she already has other small children at home who rely on her to take care of them? Some are seen as psychologically necessary by the woman, such as in the case of incest or rape. These women are not monsters. The decision is theirs about what to do (or not do) to their own body. Taking away a woman's right to choose is dehumanizing. What other medical procedures does the government have the perceived right to regulate?

While I have not personally had to make this decision, I do have very close friends who have had to. Throughout my years counseling women who are survivors of sexual abuse and rape, some of them got pregnant from their assaults. Some decided to terminate the pregnancy, and some decided to carry the baby to full term and give the child up for adoption. Others decided to keep the child for their own. But guess what, these decisions were tough and affected them for years. It wasn't a decision that they spoke about to many. Some still haven't told anyone else outside the therapy room.

Whatever happens in the coming months will be very important. If states are given the power to decide whether or not to allow abortions, and the specifications around this, will have huge consequences for women. Even more so for women of color, who statistically are more likely than white women to have an abortion, according to an article in the Associated Press.

If you are in need of a safe space to talk about these issues, please call me and we can set up an appointment to start therapy.

Sexual Assault Awareness: Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

Written by Dr. Lynne Modzelesky, April 6, 2022

I wanted to highlight a topic usually only talked about in the world of active-duty military and Veterans- Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Many families send their loved ones away in the United States at age 18 to serve our country and trust the military to keep them safe while they are fighting for our freedoms. For many active-duty soldiers and Veterans, the reality is that they were harmed by one of their own.

What is MST? It is sexual assault, sexual harassment, and any sexual involvement that a person experiences against their will, while serving in the military.

The prevalence of this problem is staggering- 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 50 men, state that they have experienced MST while serving their country. That is unbelievable! Check out this Fact Sheet on MST produced by the Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) last year to learn more about the numbers and services that the VA offers.

In contrast to the LIFETIME prevalence of experiencing sexual assault or harassment in the civilian sector- women do still report experiencing sexual assault or harassment at the same rate. Men actually report experiencing sexual assault or harassment at 24% in their lifetime, in the civilian sector. For more of these statistics, check out the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

The military is it's own culture, and in this culture, you respect your superior, and you obey orders given to you. This could lead to being victimized, and fear of retaliation or career punishment if a soldier doesn't obey an order. A lot of women I have treated through the years spoke to me about the sexual assault they experienced which later led to a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many times new soldiers do not feel they have a voice to say "no" without being coerced, threatened, or forced into sexual acts by a superior. Some have had their careers threatened, their lives threatened, and even the lives of their families threatened if they told. Some were offered a promotion for a sexual act, or allowed to go on leave after performing a sexual act.

Add to this the fact that in the military it is still seen as taboo to go to a mental health professional. You may be seen as unfit to deploy, or perform your duties, and risk being discharged. For many service members, they do not want to risk losing the way they provide for their families, and so they don't seek help or necessarily report when they have been assaulted. This type of coercion is systemic, and sometimes subtle. For example, if a service member denies someone's advances, they may be retaliated against and being told to pull extra duties, promotions denied, failing PT tests, etc. Even if someone reports they were assaulted, this may be covered up instead of handled according to policy. It is common for survivors or assault to report that the alleged perpetrator was moved to another duty station or even promoted to make the situation "go away." If the survivor starts to exhibit mental health symptoms because of the MST, they can be discharged due to being unfit for duty. This is not always the case of course. I have also heard of officers being held accountable for sexual assaults. It just seems that there is a secrecy around how the military handles these things internally, and not much is publicized for civilians to see that this happens in the military.

If you are someone, or if you know someone who has experienced MST, contact me. I can help, and have years of experience in treating PTSD due to MST in therapy. I am also connected to community and VA groups to help refer you to the most appropriate place for you to get help.

Why my Building-Self Compassion group is an important piece of long-term mental health recovery

Written by Dr. Lynne Modzelesky, March 15, 2022

If you have ever experienced mental health treatment when your sessions were limited by insurance, or policies of the clinic you attended, this post is for you. This post is also relevant to any woman who feels like they don't have a solid support system. And this is what maybe keeps you from fully feeling confident in yourself or staying on track.

First, I need to give a little bit of background information on this group. I have been running this group at my full-time job at the Veteran's Affairs hospital I work at, for four years. It's for female identified Veterans. and runs for eight weeks. It is always full, and generally very helpful, and really an absolutely amazing space. We focus on topics to help women open up, challenge their expectations, be vulnerable, and seek support. We also work on coping with depression, anxiety, and how to communicate better with others. The group meets the topics of interest of that cohort, and no two rounds are ever exactly the same because of this.

But what happens after the group is over? You have completed the 8 weeks, and what, now you are done and sail off into the sunset? This is often a question I have heard after the group members open up, connect, and share support and feedback. This is why I have decided to give a space for women to continue the process, and this is what the Alumni support group is for.

After group therapy is over, and even if members are encouraged to connect during the group, some people lose connection. That doesn't always mean the person isn't doing well. They could be living and moving on. But what if it means they lack a support system, are feeling depressed or self-conscious about their mental health? They have no one to reach out to. Both of those types of people are necessary elements of a support group. Those who are doing well can help the other members who may need some more ideas, support, or just a listening ear who actually understands.

A missing part of our mental health system, in managed care type settings, is the realization that mental health is a lifelong process for many people focused on prevention of relapse of symptoms. If the person doesn't have a support system, a place to seek help from others who understand, or simply needs more knowledge and assistance, they may fall through the cracks of a managed care setting and end up seeking even more emergency services later on. This could be prevented systemically if we simply allow an ongoing space for people to connect, in some circumstances.

Therefore, the difference with the Building Self Compassion group is that its not only a group. Its a place to find continued support from other members, who have also been through the group. They understand and are searching for the same things. These are your people, and we can't wait for you to join!

Contact me for information about when the next round begins of group, and also if you have any questions.

What's underneath that lack of motivation?

Written by Dr. Lynne Modzelesky, February 20, 2022

Feeling unmotivated can be caused by so many reasons. Some are trickier than others to deal with. See if any of these resonate with you.

#1 You’re taking on too much.

Nope, burnout isn't a badge of honor. Everyone needs a break sometimes, even if you are usually someone who can take care of everything. Even our computers need time to reboot sometimes! And we are humans, so realistically we need this to perform better after our break for self-care.

#2 You’re in a rut.

Life seems like Groundhog Day the movie. Stepping in that same puddle every day! Time to really consider if something in your life needs to change. Some things to think about: What brings you joy? And are those things part of your every day?

#3 It may be depression.

Some signs it's not just a case of the ‘blahs’ are: feeling like nothing interests you anymore, you don't want to reach out to anyone, you feel helpless or hopeless. You have had eating or sleeping habit changes. You have no energy. It's hard to find happiness, or you think of hurting yourself. These are causes for a more serious look at your mental health.

Depression can show up also when there's been a hormonal change, such as getting pregnant, giving birth, breastfeeding or going through menopause. Certain medications can also cause these feelings. If this is something you’re experiencing, contact me. I can help sort this out and through therapy, guide you to feeling like yourself again. You are certainly not alone, and there are many people who have felt like this and have gotten better. If you are in more immediate need of help, please call 911 or present to your nearest emergency room. My Resources page has the contact numbers for the Veteran's Crisis Line, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also. Things can get better, and it's ok to ask for help.

January is Stalking Awareness Month

Written by Dr. Lynne Modzelesky, January 19, 2022

One lesser discussed type of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is stalking. Which is why it's important to bring awareness to this issue and work towards prevention and safety. Some may think that it’s a relatively victimless crime, but this isn’t the case. Let's discuss what types of behavior are considered stalking.

What does stalking look like? Contacting someone even after they are told to stop. Showing up uninvited to places, or showing up after someone is told not to come. Leaving threatening items or messages that the person will find. Spying on someone, watching and following from a distance, and cyberstalking.

I have heard personal stories about women being stalked by previous or current partners using stalkerware. But learning more about it myself through research I have alot of questions about how this is even legal to produce or buy these types of apps. There are many options available on the Apple store and the Google Play store. According to an article in the New York Times, there are ways in which the apps can be disguised as a calculator or something that's easily overlooked. Many of these programs can also be placed on a device without the knowledge of it's owner, as long as someone can get access to the device.

So what can be done if you are a victim of cyberstalking? This article written by the New York Times walks you through how to detect if this type of software is on your device. It also gives information about the types of apps out there.

What about on a larger scale? What is being done legally to stop this type of software from being used, sold, or produced?

Specifically, there is an organization The Coalition to Stop Stalkerware focusing on stopping the unwanted monitoring of others through software. There are examples of stalkerware on this site, and what it does. There are applications that can be downloaded to someone's phone without their knowledge and run in the background undetected. These programs can monitor a person's phone calls, messages, emails, applications, location, photos, etc. On this website there are also ways to get help if this is happening to you.

Clearly, stalking is not a victimless crime. Being followed, watched, listened to, and threatened causes fear in the person on the receiving end of these behaviors. You don’t have to accept this behavior, there is help available. Check my Resources page for more help if you are in an unsafe situation or are a victim of stalking.

3 Ways to make your New Year's Resolutions stick.

Written by Dr. Lynne Modzelesky, January 4, 2022

You turn on your favorite show, and the ads are all related to gym memberships, weight loss, plastic surgery, and meal plan services. The time of New Year's resolutions are upon us. For the entire month of January we will see these ads, reminding us to be a "Better you in 2022!" If you have decided to make a change in the new year, here are three tips on how to make your changes last, instead of whither away come February or March.

#1 Think lifestyle change.

Many resolutions fail miserably because we want to put in minimal effort, and only think about the short term goal. We want to lose weight, and hit the gym hard for a week. We go every day, and we also only eat salads and smoothies. Yes, this will lead to weight loss. But is it sustainable? Do you want to live this way for six months, or can you? No. You get tired from pushing yourself too hard and not resting. You are tired of one week without red meat, and you cave. You go to the fast food drive through and order a hamburger, fries and a milk shake. Why not, you have earned it! But then you feel guilty.

The thing that was missing was balance. Sustainability. Your goals should be something that require small, consistent changes in order to maximize success. Maybe instead of hitting the gym like a professional bodybuilder for 7 days a week, you go two days a week. And you give yourself days of rest, and days to do other things that you enjoy too. This way you don't feel deprived. Speaking of deprived; balance in eating can also help in the above example. Only eating salads and smoothies for most of us isn't a lifestyle we can keep up. Maybe allowing yourself a small dessert, a steak, or popcorn helps you maintain healthy eating habits. This needs to be something that you can do day after day, in order to achieve long term success.

#2 Make it achievable.

Speaking of losing weight, don't give yourself two weeks to lose 20 lbs. That's unrealistic. Pick a goal that is reasonable and achievable. Maybe losing 20 lbs. IS your goal. But, the steps to get there should be possible to attain. Maybe "I want to lose 5 lbs. by March" is better than focusing on the long term goal. It's on the way to 20 lbs., but there's no feeling of failure if you have only lost 5 lbs. Instead, you see success when you have made your first 5 lb. goal. Then give yourself another goal- maybe a total of 10 lbs. lost by May. With each goal you achieve, you will feel stronger to keep going, and hopefully meet your ultimate goal.

#3 Enlist help.

Having a supportive person, family member or friend join your cause can be helpful. Some of us need to be accountable to someone to stick to a goal. They can give encouragement, pull you up when you are slipping, and celebrate your successes with you. They can even complain with you on the treadmill next to you at the gym! Support is key, and you don't have to try it alone. If you want to try a new exercise routine, check out social media. There will be Facebook groups, encouraging videos on YouTube, and experts giving free advice for so many things related to bettering yourself in some way.

If you are more interested in finally taking care of you emotionally, seek a therapist, life coach, spiritual advisor or doctor to help. If you think therapy with me would be worthwhile exploring, please contact me for a free 15 minute consultation.

What are some issues that are unique to women in therapy?

Written by Dr. Lynne Modzelesky, December 28, 2021

While there may be certain areas of struggle that apply to any gender identity (such as depression, anxiety, etc.), there are some facets of being a human that identifies as she/her that is unique. At a basic level, biological functions such as pregnancy, mood-related changes that accompany the stages of pregnancy, and menopause are unique to the female body. Digging deeper, there are more complex issues that can be related to our femininity, such as how we FEEL about our changing bodies during these biological changes. We see our bodies change to accommodate, carry and nourish a baby (or multiple babies!). Sometimes this can be amazing, or sometimes we feel HUGE and unattractive. Birth, infant loss, miscarriage, and fertility struggles also relate to this process and greatly affect our moods, thoughts, and behaviors.

There are also social aspects related to our self-image as a mother, comparing ourselves to others, and what we "should " be doing better. Maybe we think we "should" breastfeed, feed our families only homemade meals and be supermom and carry the household and a full-time successful career as a high-powered executive. No problem, right? Our society, via the media, does portray women as having a higher value if we look good physically. Most of these depictions are unrealistic and can lead to depression, anxiety, or even eating disorders. We constantly try to live up to something impossible, unless we start to realize we need to make a shift in how we think. What is really important to YOU?

As women, and really people in general, we are predisposed to a need for community. A tribe where you belong. If we lack this, it can lead to depression, loneliness, and further isolation. We may question why we don't have a social support system and start thinking there may be something wrong with ourselves.

We may have grown up thinking that a woman's place in the world was predetermined, and we can only expect to accomplish certain things. Or that we have a role to fulfill and stepping outside of that role isn't good. For example, maybe now that you don't rescue your family every time they need help- they tell you that you aren't being "nice" or they get angry that you are now asserting boundaries. In previous generations, women were seen as caretakers mainly, and qualities such as independence and assertiveness were seen as not lady-like.

The good thing is, now you get to decide what you value, who you want to be, and what feels right to you. What are your goals, hopes, dreams, and beliefs? Individual and group therapy with me can help you more clearly define these things. Reach out to me below and let's get started on finding you again.