Saturday, December 12, 2009

Holiday Survival Guide (Part III) - How to survive feelings of loneliness this holiday season?

Over the last few blog posts, we looked at why the holiday season is such a difficult time for many people. One of the most challenging parts of the holidays is that it can be a very lonely time for many people. Let’s take a look at why that is, and what can be done about it.

In this day and age, families are more spread out, more distant, and busier than ever. For many, not having family to celebrate with is difficult. Others may be single at this time, and not want to participate in holiday activities because they don’t have a partner to go with them. Meanwhile, many people do have family or friends around them, but they still feel very alone due to strained relationships or personal issues that can interfere with their enjoyment such as depression or anxiety.

What can you do when you are feeling lonely this holiday season, or throughout the year?

1. Stay connected. Invite friends to your home. It can be your single women friends, a few friends from work, or more of your acquaintances that you want to get to know better. Or, call an old friend you haven’t spoken to for a while. Talk more with your coworkers instead of rushing them out of your office. If you want to feel more connected to people this holiday season, offer to connect with them!
2. Take care of you. Treat yourself to a holiday gift, perhaps a stress relieving massage, guitar lessons, or a vacation to somewhere you have never been before. By eating right, exercising, and taking care of yourself this holiday season, you will be more likely to feel good about your self and where you are in your life.
3. Know you are not alone. During the holidays, many people share these same feelings of loneliness, isolation, sadness, confusion. It is important to understand that you are not the only one having these feelings so spend time talking to others who you think share some of the same feelings. Understand that movies and television portray the holidays and family lifestyles that are not as realistic as they may seem. In talking with others, you might be surprised by how many people feel the same way you do.
4. Appreciate what you do have. Change your focus to the wonderful things you do have in your life. It’s OK to take a friend to a holiday party or go alone, be grateful that you were invited. May be your aunt Jane’s sarcastic remarks are the only way she knows how to share her feelings, and that she really does love you.
5. Give To Others. Volunteer at a local homeless shelter or in an elementary school or nursing home. Make cookies or cards and send them out to those who are less fortunate than you. Connecting with people who give, and giving to others will allow you to be part of something larger than yourself, and to be sharing your love and your self with others who feel lonely this holiday season.

I would LOVE to hear your feedback! Send an email to with any questions or comments. All communication will remain confidential.

Thanks for checking in!
–Amy L. Hooper, LGSW
Director, Another Look at Healing, LLC

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Holiday Survival Guide (Part II) - What can you do to not only survive, but thrive during this holiday season?

Last month, we looked at why the holiday season is such a difficult time for many people. A few of the reasons we overviewed were: Time with family, The In laws, Traveling Issues and of course Holiday Meals. In this blog, we will look more specifically into a few of these topics and discuss some specific steps to help relieve holiday stress. We will be answering the questions many of you wrote in about your particular holiday stressors.

“I always overeat during the holidays, how can I stop?"
1. Be Present! During the meal, pay attention to yourself.
Are you filling your plate to the brim just because that’s what everyone else does? Are you drinking alcohol to “loosen up”, if so, identify what is making you feel uncomfortable and address it directly. Are you actually tasting each bite, or just the first few and then you slip into robotic eating mode? Do you eat to quickly to even give yourself time to feel full?
2. Treat Yourself! Allow yourself permission to feel good both before and after the meal. If you always end up feeling so stuffed it is painfully uncomfortable, or you feel guilty afterwards, treat yourself to the gift of feeling good. Know that you can eat a wonderful meal, and even have dessert without completely filling yourself until you want to pop! Take less food – you can always go back for seconds if you are still hungry. You earned the right to feel good.
3. Enjoy Nature! Take a Walk. After the meal, get the family together or a special relative to take a walk with. This will give you some time to talk, get some fresh air, use your muscles and energize.

“I spend so much time cooking and cleaning, by the time my family arrives, I’m exhausted, but I don’t know what else to do!”
1. Plan! What has been the most stressful in the past? Once you figure that out – decide how to best handle this situation again when it comes up again.
2. Simplify! What activities are the MOST important to you? Is it family dinner, gift exchange, sending cards, shopping? Think about if the activity’s hassle and difficulties are outweighed by the positive emotional results. If you are a visual person, write it out on paper to help you decide. Then pick a few tasks and really take the time to enjoy them.
3. No More Worrying! Often we are too busy doing everything that we are not enjoying doing anything! Live in the moment – stop and time the time to enjoy yourself, which means not worrying about preparing for the next activity and not worrying about previous mishaps from earlier in the day. Be Present in the here and now.
4. Stop Overdoing It! Scale down on everything; it will make life much easier. Instead of sending holiday cards, send e-cards or instead of making 5 different side dishes, make only one or have guests bring the sides.

It is easy to lose sight of what’s important when you have your plate full (literally and figuratively) with holiday planning and prepping. Let’s not forget what the holidays are really about - time for gratitude, love (for self and others), family and giving.

More tips to come in December for Holiday Survival Part III! Meanwhile, I would LOVE to hear your feedback! Send an email to with any questions or comments, and let me know what helps you de-stress over the holiday season. All communication will remain confidential.

Thanks for checking in!
–Amy L. Hooper, LGSW
Director, Another Look at Healing, LLC

Friday, October 30, 2009

Holiday Survival Guide (Part I) - Why are the holidays so stressful?

It is now autumn and with the chilling of the air comes one of the most difficult times of the year for many people. The holiday season. Thanksgiving will be here before you know it, then Chanukah and Christmas swiftly followed by New Year’s. But why is this time of year such a challenge for so many people? Let’s take a look at a few reasons…

1. Spending time (or not spending time) with your own family can be stressful.
- Do you turn back into your teenage self? Do your parents try to parent you like you're a child?
- Do you act a certain way around your family that is not the real you?

2. Spending time (or not spending time) with your in-law’s can be extremely difficult.
- Are there certain expectations?
- Do you feel judged?
- How do you decide how much time to spend with each family?

3. Travel is getting more difficult each year.
- Delayed flights.
- More cars on the road means tons of traffic.

4. Food. What you eat, when you eat, why you eat.
- Do you have eating issues that are exacerbated by being with family?
- Does it seem like the most important part of the holiday to your family, is food?

I would love to hear your feedback! Send me an email ( with a question about what to do about your holidays situation. Or let me know what makes the holiday season difficult for you or the people around you. All communication will remain confidential.

Stay tuned for Part II where we will address “What can you do to not only survive, but thrive during this holiday season”.

Take Good Care,

–Amy L. Hooper, LGSW
Director, Another Look at Healing, LLC

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Times of Transition - New Ideas for a New Season

Summer has ended and the leaves are turning color. Are you feeling stuck? What types of transitions are you thinking about? Are there some changes you are looking to make? If so, what is stopping you? What benefit do you get from not changing – is it less effort, more familiar, comfortable? What could be the benefit of making changes – do you want to feel renewed, energized, and back in balance?

If you are looking to start fresh or transition into a new chapter of your life, take a look at the below tips for how to start.

1. Make a list of what you want your life to look like in 3 months, 6 months or next year. Do you want to spend more time with friends or family? Do you want to decrease the stress in your life?

2. Once you have made your list, figure out how you can make the changes and what is stopping you. For example, if you want more time with friends, can you meet a friend on your lunch break, stop by to see them on your way home, or have a potluck dinner party?

3. Clean out your life. Many dream interpreters believe that when you dream of your house, you are really dreaming about your life. The main floor of your home is your daily life, the basement is the deeper issue. You can clean out that back closet you haven’t see the bottom of in years. Or, make some new curtains out of some old fabric. Rearrange the furniture in your bedroom. If you take action and make changes, you will find yourself feeling less stuck and more ready for the days ahead.

4. Mend or forgive old relationships. Is there a friend or family member who you are not feeling as close to as you used to? Friends change along the way, are these people the ones you want in your life, or are they not the friends you thought they were. Relationships take work. If you want to rebuild a relationship, start with an open, honest conversation. If you have moved on and the relationship is one you are ready to part with, forgive yourself. You are not being mean, you are taking care of yourself and filling your life with what you want, not what you are obligated to do.

5. Try something new! Have you ever joined a book club? What about going rock climbing? Or volunteering? Including new activities in your life can add energy, fun and excitement. It is also a great way to meet new people and help relieve stress.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Overworked, Under Appreciated and Stressed Out at Work?

Managing work-related stress can be particularly challenging – especially during tough economic times…

With so much downsizing and “reorganizing”, the workplace is changing and becoming more stressful than ever before. Whether you were laid off, or still working, but doing the work for the people who were laid off – managing work stressors are particularly difficult. This article will examine what work related stress looks like and what can be done to help alleviate the stress.

Work related stress affects both your professional and personal life. Work stress can spill over and affect your family at home just the same as family stress can spill over and affect your actions at work. Have you ever come home from a stressful day on the job and raised your voice at a spouse, your client or a friend when they haven’t done anything wrong? This can happen when we don’t recognize how work stress affects us and learn what we can do about it.

The following are examples of how work stress can affect you as an employee:
1. Decreased Productivity
2. Increased Absences due to illness, anxiety or fatigue
3. Decreased Attention Span/Focus
4. Increased Interpersonal Issues (fighting with boss/coworkers)
5. Tardiness

Here are examples of how work stress can affect your family and home life:
1. Increased negativity and pessimism
2. Decreased Positive Communication
3. Moodiness
4. Decreased Patience
5. Increased Fighting

So, what can we do about it? Following are some steps to take control of your work stress and get your life back in balance.

1. Separate your work and home life by setting up a boundary between them.
a. For example, you can change your cloths when you get home, or listen to calming music, or even journal about your day. Then, after your activity, recognize that work is over and family time has started. Having a specific behavior or activity can help you to put the workday behind you so you can focus on your life.
b. Turn off your work phone and email when you get home. Do not check your work phone or email until you get to work the next day. This way, you are not inviting work into your home.

2. Take care of yourself.
a. Find a hobby or activity you like to do. Playing soccer or joining a women’s group can help fill your life with meaningful, fun activities. This way, you are more than your job.
b. Talk to others when you are feeling particularly stressed. Be open about your feelings and do not bottle them up inside – or they will explode at a time when you do not want them to.

3. Use Humor – carefully.
a. Using humor can increase moral and a feeling of cohesion both at work and at home. It can also increase positive communication.
b. Smiling and laughing actually releases “feel good” chemicals in your brain that will help lift your mood if you are having a tough day.
*note* Humor can exclude and alienate if not used with caution.

4. Improve Your Time Management
a. Get Organized! If you need help, ask a friend or coworker to help you organize your workspace and your priorities. You will find yourself becoming more time efficient the more organized you are.
b. Take short breaks throughout the day – that way you are refreshed when you are working and use your time productively.
c. Set a goal and a plan for working towards them. This way you are working smarter, not harder.
d. Practice deep breathing or another relaxation technique if you find yourself overwhelmed with stress and anxiety.

5. Get Help
a. If you need help at work – talk to your boss, find a mentor, or confide in a coworker who understands and can help you to work through them.
b. If you are having difficulties at home – talk about them with your family. Opening up lines of communication will promote understanding and can lead to positive change and acceptance.
c. If you are feeling overstressed with work and cannot find a way to manage the stress, or if you begin to feel anxiety or depression that interferes with your life, call a counselor, therapist or coach in your area for help.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Stress Reduction Techniques for Everyday Practical People - One for each day this week!

Are you feeling stressed? Are you constantly worrying? Are you exhausted and just want to relax? There is a way to break this cycle and start feeling better now! Following are seven good ways to REDUCE YOUR STRESS. Try using one of these techniques for each day this week.

  1. Breath. We rush around in our daily lives, between getting the kids off to school, traffic, meetings etc., we rarely “stop to smell the roses”. Perhaps this phrase is more than just to remind you to appreciate the beauty around you, but to also remember to breath! Practice deep breathing... in through your nose, and out though your mouth...
  2. Practice saying “no”. Save your precious time and energy for the things you really want to do.
  3. Turn off your cell phone/email/blackberry/computer/pager for some period of time each day and enjoy the quiet.
  4. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need, you might get what you want!
  5. Stop trying to change that which you do not control.
  6. Exercise for at least 10 minutes a day. Go for a walk with your spouse, a friend, kids or pets. Park at the far side of the parking lot and walk to the building. While watching TV, get up and do a few jumping jacks or stretches, or get up and dance during the commercial breaks etc.
  7. Write in a journal. Sometimes it helps just to get the feelings out of your head so you can move on. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling” and “What am I thinking”.

Practice these seven techniques for one week and email me to let me know if you notice a difference! You can email Amy Hooper at

Or, for more helpful information, contact Another Look at Healing, LLC – A Counseling and Wellness Center today. Call our office at 240-274-5680 or email us at

Monday, June 15, 2009

Women's Wellness Workshop

Are you overworked, under appreciated, exhausted and ready for a change?
Are you a woman who puts the needs and wants of others before your own?
As a woman, do you know what your needs are and how to get them met?
Do you know how to feel good about yourself, your body and your life?

Women’s Wellness Workshop:
Strong Bodies, Strong Minds
Where are you on your to do list?

The focus of this workshop is on identifying women’s needs and meeting those needs using your inner strengths.

Topics to be Discussed:

Relaxation & Self Care
Priorities and Life Balance
Knowing Your Inner Strengths

June 20th, 2009 at 2:00pm in Bethesda, MD

Please pass the information along to any other ladies who you think might enjoy this type of workshop. And you can bring a friend or coworker for a discount!

Please register early to reserve your spot by calling or emailing:

Call: 240-274-5680
Or For More Information On-line:

Sponsored by: Amy L. Hooper, Director, Another Look at Healing, LLC

Monday, May 11, 2009

Stress, what is it? Finally an explanation!

Everyone has stress, but what is it really? Stress is the body’s normal, natural reaction to a perceived threat. Thousands of years ago, the perceived threat was a saber tooth tiger who was headed towards your cave to attack you. In that situation, your body releases certain chemicals such as adrenaline, which makes your heart pump blood faster, your muscles tense and your breathing become rapid and shallow. All of your senses become more alert so you can make the quick decision whether to fight or to flee.

Today, your body’s chemical stress reaction is the same as it was years ago, only the threats have change. Now, instead of a life threatening saber tooth tiger, the stressors are the car that cuts you off in traffic, or your boss calling you in for a meeting. As a result the tension has no release and your stress response builds. Each time you get “stressed out,” those chemicals are released and for many people, these chemicals are almost constantly streaming through your body. This constant stress can lead to physical, emotional and behavioral problems.

Examples of Physical Problems:
- Headaches/Backaches
- Fatigue
- Insomnia
- Stomach Pain

Examples of Emotional Problems:
- Depressed
- Anxious
- Fearful
- Irritated Often

Examples of Behavioral Problems:
- Overeating
- Feeling unmotivated to work
- Isolating from friends and loved ones
- Increased irritability and feeling overwhelmed

All of these symptoms can strongly impact your functioning in your daily life. If you are suffering from any of these issues, and want the symptoms to go away so you can get some relief, there is a way to feel better. Contact Another Look at Healing, LLC – A Counseling and Wellness Center today for more information at Call our office at 240-274-5680 or email us at