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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Stay Healthy with Good Humor

By Beth Healey, Director of Development and Marketing

“Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keep friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.” - Greenville Kleisser

I met my lifelong friend, Joyce, when we were both in the third grade. Although our personalities could not have been more different—I was very shy and never broke rules; she was very outspoken and loved to challenge rules—we developed a friendship that has lasted for decades. Even though many years often passed when we didn't see one another, our friendship remains as strong today as it ever was.
Both Joyce and I experienced difficult childhoods. I have expressed many times that if it hadn’t been for our friendship, I probably would have never laughed during those years. She had—and still has—a very unique way of making me laugh. I mean the kind of intense laughter that causes tears to stream down my face.

When we get together, our conversations last for hours. As friends do, we talk about everything. But the one thing all of our conversations include is crazy, fun, healthy humor. I always feel refreshed and uplifted after spending time with her. But most of all, I feel very blessed to have her in my life.

Having the gift of good humor has made all the difference for me. I cannot imagine an existence without it. This I can tell you with complete certainty: humor and laughter are essential in life. If you’re missing good humor, find it. Share it. And cherish it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What are Children 3X More Likely to Experience than Adults?
Beth Healey, Director of Development and Marketing, Samaritan Counseling Center
I try to focus on the good things in life…maintaining a positive attitude…spreading happiness and encouragement to others. However, none of us—including myself—can afford to ignore the horrendous wrongdoings in the world—one of them being child sexual abuse. The disturbing facts:
  • One in four girls and one in six boys under the age of 18 experience child sexual abuse in the United States
  • Children are three times more likely to be raped than adults.
  • It is more likely for a child to experience sexual abuse by a family member or other "supposedly" trusted adult than by a stranger.
Despite stricter reporting mandates, laws and heightened awareness (often brought about by shockers like the Jerry Sandusky horror story), this repulsive criminal act continues to occur. Right in our own families, neighborhoods, schools—and even in our churches. Chances are, you know someone who was sexually abused as a child. (I have a friend whose abuse began when she was a toddler. A toddler!)

The damage done by sexual abuse extends far beyond the physical effects—and well beyond childhood. Those who suffersexual abuse as children often experience the following as adults:
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Other mental and emotional disorders
Without help and healing, a victim of child sexual abuse can face a lifetime of pain. So, if we’re not turning a deaf ear to this problem, what can we do?

Here are just a few ways to help prevent and address child sexual abuse:
  • Learn to recognize the signs that
-        a child may be the victim of sexual abuse
-     another child or an adult may be at-risk for harming a child
  • Report abuse to the authorities
  • Encourage survivors to seek professional counseling
  • Learn how to protect your own children; help them set healthy boundaries, etc.
  • Become involved in a prevention program
What, specifically, can churches do to help prevent and address the sexual abuse of children?
The answer is: a lot! The SafeChurch program is sweeping the nation, empowering hundreds of churches to play a key role in ending this epidemic. Here in Western Pennsylvania, SafeChurch training was initiated this past year by the Samaritan Counseling Center and Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute. To date, over 40 representatives from 11 area churches are engaged in this training.

SafeChurch training is set to begin again in the summer of 2016. For more information, contact bhealey@samaritancounseling.net.
Are you or someone you know a survivor of sexual abuse?
If so, please get professional help if you haven’t already done so. Call the Samaritan Counseling Center at 412-741-7430. Most counseling services are covered by health insurance. If you do not have insurance or cannot afford counseling, you may qualify for subsidies from Samaritan’s Client Aid Fund. You deserve hope, healing and happiness. Learn more at www.samaritancounseling.net

Helpful Articles and Resources



Pittsburgh Action Against Rape
81 South 19th Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
(866) 363-7273

 The Center for Victims
5916 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 392-8582

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

'Tis the Season to be Healthy

Healthy Eating over the Holidays
by Hannah Perry
Is that an oxymoron? Is this the time to splurge with your calorie counting and exercising and give in to the rich foods and sweets of the season? Well, before you say, “sure, why not!?” please consider your stress level.

As you know, the holidays can be a very stressful time. According to “The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale”, which is a tool that helps us measure the stress load we carry, Christmas alone adds stress. Then, there are the changes in eating and sleeping habits, social activities, the number of family get-togethers, arguments with your spouse and trouble with the in-laws...these are all items outlined on the stress scale that come with the holidays!

One way to manage stress is through healthy eating and exercise. This is the time of year we drink extra hot chocolate and eat too many cookies and fattening foods--and then, we all say “ho ho ho” and pass the eggnog! Yet, it should be the time of year we are most aware of our eating habits. I’m not saying you should insult Grandma by turning down her famous triple chocolate pudding cake. But, there are some tangible ways we can manage our health and wellness and in turn, our stress:

-        Before You Splurge...OK, eat grandma’s cake, but before you bite into your second slice, pause and eat a carrot, some celery, a piece of fruit or other healthy snack. . . You may find out that you’re no longer hungry for that extra slice after all.

-        Switch It Up. Instead of drinking that vanilla latté every morning, when you know you’re going to end up drinking eggnog at the holiday party that evening, make a switch. Switch the morning fat and sugar of the latté for an herbal tea and enjoy that eggnog later.

-        Appreciate Your Food. Concentrate on each bite and flavor of the food in front of you. This will help you to eat slower and appreciate what you’ve been given. It’s also the best time to pass on the manufactured food and savor the homemade goodness of local establishments.

-        Save It! Growing up with a dentist for a father during the holiday season we were bombarded with sweets and treats from patients (yes, even dentists' families eat sweets) which meant there was ALWAYS something around to eat. My mom started freezing some of the treats and saving them for later days to minimize our intake and the need to eat it all  before it went bad. By eliminating the presence of the treats we stopped reaching for them.

The best way to eat healthier over the holidays is to be aware of your weaknesses and use the tips above to tame the desire. Of course it’s not always that simple…but avoiding that sugar hangover you’ll have the next morning may very well be worth it!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Aim for a Stress Free Holiday
by Hannah Perry

The holidays are a fun time to visit family and celebrate the season. Unfortunately, for the past two years I spent the days between Christmas and New Year’s in bed at my parents’ house with the flu. It wasn’t due to the cold weather or a virus going through the family, but due to stress. I was in a high pressure marketing career with no pause or stop button. Despite the illness, I had to suffer my way through conference calls and emails all leading up to the big event I was managing that occurred mid-January.
The rest of the year I was stressed as well, but the added stress of the holidays and family, and missing out on the fun, made me extremely ill two years in a row. Thankfully, I’m no longer in that career and my stress level has gone down drastically, but how ironic is it that during these times that are meant to refresh us we often end up so drained!
In a previous article we discussed mindfulness, which is a great way to manage stress, but I’d like to provide a few additional tips that can help us all this holiday season:

-        Leave Work at Work: I know this is not possible for all careers but the more you can be present in the given moment with family and friends the better. If you must work then set aside a specific amount of time in the day and purely focus on work, trying to watch A Christmas Story while editing that excel spreadsheet never accomplishes much anyway. . .

-        Eat Healthier: There will be another post coming, regarding this topic, but eating healthier during the holidays will help you to feel better and provide you with more energy, as well as boost your immune system.

-        Exercise: Proven to be a stress reliever, exercise is a great way for your body to refresh itself. My new favorite phone app is called “Seven”, it offers a seven minute high intensity workout complete with an instructor to yell at you to keep going (in four different voice options – I prefer Drill Sergeant, but Hippie is pretty fun too).

-        Lower your Expectations: We often put too much pressure on ourselves to get the perfect gifts, to host the perfect party, and to make sure the entire family is getting along perfectly. But, it’s the imperfections that make us all unique and it’s not worth it to drive ourselves crazy striving for an unattainable goal. Savor the moments and stop comparing your life to others.

Please enjoy the holiday season, relax and be safe. Time goes by so quickly and it’s important to spend time with the people we love and to be there for people that don’t have such supportive families and friends.

Friday, November 6, 2015

How Much Does "Outside Noise" Clutter Your Life?
- By Hannah Perry

When I was in college I used to write my friends “stream of consciousness” emails. Let me say these friends are still my best friends today, mostly because they put up with such ridiculous emails about my life, and even encouraged them. These emails rarely had punctuation and would jump from one thought to the next as fast as my brain could travel. At the time I wasn’t aware I was practicing mindfulness but as our lives continue to be more and more cluttered by outside “noise” it’s a practice I believe is becoming more and more important today.

Think about it. When do you sit alone and just think, or pray, or meditate? Even when we’re driving in our cars our attention is outside of the vehicles (as it should be!) in addition to the radio or passengers.  Even when we’re trying to rest we start scrolling through our phones and checking facebook, email, messages. 

Well, I suggest we spend some time practicing mindfulness; which is a practice involving paying attention to the moment, bringing one’s complete attention to the here and now. Mindfulness has been proven to help with anxiety, relaxation, and stress reduction. Some tactics include: writing in a journal (forcing yourself to sit and focus on your thoughts) and meditation (sitting for 10 minutes and strictly focusing on your breathing – I like to also think of things I’m thankful for).

Instead of turning to life’s distractions when you’re feeling overwhelmed, give it a shot, maybe it’ll end up being a rejuvenating practice that you’ll routinely add into your life.

Friday, October 30, 2015


By Hannah Perry

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

 – Albert Camus

Living in Pittsburgh and struggling with seasonal depression most of my life, you can see why this is one of my favorite quotes. The doldrums of winter can hit people hard in different ways. It gets darker earlier and the sky rarely offers the pure blue sunshine bliss.  A stagnant gray sky seems to appear and never disappear. In these times it’s important to remember that the sun will still shine. You may not always see it, but it’s there and this is only a season (unless you live in Alaska where the sun really doesn’t come up for days at a time).

Please also remember that seasonal depression, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real disorder that can improve with therapy.  Maybe it’s time to start light box therapy, get your Vitamin D levels checked, regularly exercise, eat healthier, and schedule an appointment with one of our licensed counselors. And remember, there is always hope.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Anger Management

Anger. It’s something all of us experience. Although unpleasant, it is a normal human emotion. Is anger good? Is it bad? Should we hold it in? Let it out?

Just about everyone has heard of anger management, but do you know what anger management therapy entails? Let’s back up. First, let’s explore the ways we express our anger.

We can choose to express our anger in healthy or unhealthy ways. Frequently flying off the handle, screaming, spewing abusive words, throwing things and punching holes in the wall are obviously unhealthy expressions of anger. But so is bottling it all up inside, ruminating about what made us angry and refusing to speak to the person we’re angry with. In other words, both aggressive and passive anger are detrimental to ourselves and to others.

Unhealthy anger makes us—well—unhealthy. Headaches and stomach aches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, anxiety, depression and impaired judgment are just a few of the health issues that can evolve from unhealthy anger. Worse yet, uncontrolled anger frequently leads to broken relationships and acts of violence.

But there is help. Anger management therapy helps us learn techniques to calm down, redirect our energy and develop healthy communication skills and coping strategies. It helps us explore the roots of our anger and recognize our triggers and physical symptoms. Group therapy for anger management provides the opportunity to share and learn from each other. Individual therapy for managing your anger is also effective.

Do you or someone you know need help managing your anger? If you’re not sure, read these nine bulleted items. Most importantly, know that you’re not alone. Just like all of our counseling and program services, Samaritan’s Anger Management Program provides hope and healing to get you to a better place—emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.