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Kathy Marshack News

Autism Caretakers – It’s Time Someone Took Care of YOU!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Autism Caretakers – It’s Time Someone Took Care of YOU!There is no way around it. If you live with someone on the Autism Spectrum, whether a child, or a spouse, or a parent, you are a caretaker. It is not easy! You deserve to know that we appreciate you and all that you’re doing. You are not alone in your struggles.

But not everyone is so understanding…

How many times have you been told to take care of yourself? As if you have time to actually get a pedicure, a massage, or just a nap, right? How many strings do you have to pull to actually make time for yourself?

It's one thing to put down your foot with an NT family member and demand some time for yourself. Not so with ASD loved ones. If you try the tough love approach with them, there’s no telling the damage they can wreak. They don't fully understand their connection to others, do they? It's always up to the Autism caretakers to clear the path.

Did you notice that I intentionally didn’t use the word "Caregivers" for this post? Why? I chose “Autism Caretakers” because the process of caring is not reciprocated by our Aspies much of the time. The word "Carers" is appropriate, of course, because it implies neutrality. But don't we often feel like caretakers?

It’s time we take care of you! If you’re a member of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join us on the free teleconference on the topic of Caretakers Dilemma on Thursday, September 21, 2017 at 2:30 PM. We’ll talk about realistic ways to create self-care in an environment where your options are very limited. You can do it with the support of those who care.

If you prefer one-on-one counseling, live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for you.

Autism Caregivers – Are You Down and Depressed?

Monday, August 28, 2017


Autism Caregivers – Are You Down and Depressed? Living in a constant state of emotional distress can cause a variety of health concerns, not the least of which is depression. Sadly this describes a chronic state for many of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD members. I think they’re a good sampling of families with Autism. This means that there are too many people dealing with this problem alone. Let’s change that!

Medicine and psychotherapy can help some, but what do you do when the stressors from caregiving someone with Autism never goes away?


One of the best methods of psychotherapy for depression in general is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which relies on helping you change your beliefs in order to alleviate the depression. It’s based on the idea that the depression is due to faulty thinking.

However, in the ASD setting we must factor in other experiences… ASD caregivers live in a depressing atmosphere, and they live with oppressive people.

I found that a more successful approach is a combination of education about ASD/NT relationships plus strategic intervention. This makes our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup part of the solution. Knowing that you’re not alone; knowing that others understand from personal experience; knowing that you do not have faulty beliefs; knowing that you need new strategies; this is what helps us cope with depression.

We’re kicking off the fall with a discussion about strategies that effectively keep us sane and connected to others who are loving and supportive. The next videoconference entitled “Down and Depressed?” will be held on two dates: Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 9:00 AM PT and Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 3:00 PM PT. Maybe you’ll even discover that you aren't really depressed at all; just down. And that can be fixed!

Note: We had to modestly increase the price for our low-cost videoconferences. For $18.00 per person you get a solid hour of healthful interaction with me and 11 other supportive attendees.

If you’d prefer one-on-one counseling and live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Struggling as an Entrepreneurial Couple? The Key to Lasting Change May Surprise You

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Woman holding signRunning a business with your spouse can be very rewarding. However, entrepreneurs deal with a unique set of challenges, and entrepreneurial couples experience these same challenges two-fold! Add to this the complications that come with marriage, owning a home, and raising a family and it’s no wonder entrepreneurial couples can feel at times that the arrangement isn’t working.
 
When something in your business and/or marital life isn’t working, what is your first inclination?

 
The most common response to life’s struggles involves a mental process where we solely consider external or technical reasons for the problem. When you encounter an obstacle in your business or your marriage is your first reaction to find an outside source for the problem?
 
Rather than being quick to look to external forces that are holding you back, could you look internally?
 
When working through obstacles in life, I encourage you to question every aspect of your approach to your business and relationship, including your methods, biases, and assumptions. This kind of rigorous self-examination requires that you honestly challenge your beliefs and goals, and work up the courage to act and make a change.
 
I’ve noticed that when people face a crisis or even just an ordinary problem, they are tempted to try a somewhat simplistic change. They change spouses, buy a new house, and so on. These simple changes are supposed to make them feel better. And sometimes they do for a little while. But in the long run, the new spouse presents problems remarkably similar to those of the previous spouse and the new house is still not big enough.
 
Rather than waste your time with pointless changes, put in the time and hard work to change yourself from the inside out.
 
Look deep and determine your personal definition of real success. What exactly are you looking for in life, business, and your marriage? Do your goals for your business truly align with your personal definition of success? Honestly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Everybody has both! Realizing who you really are will help you determine the best path to take and changes to make.
 
But what if you are dealing with a spouse who is dealing with a problem like addiction? Aren’t they the ones that need to change?
 
The love you have for them may move you try to fix them, change their attitude and behavior. Understand that their life is not for you to manage. You can’t change them. For real change to come, they have to decide for themselves to get help and move forward.
 
I worked with a woman who was married to and ran a business with an addict. She spent years trying to change him, to no avail. Eventually she realized that the only person she could change was herself. She courageously tackled the task of working on herself and cleaning up her own bad habits, misunderstandings and superstitions. She began to recognize many dormant strengths that had been overshadowed by her need to protect and control her husband. This led her to explore new directions in life and business that better fit her personality.
 
When you look inside yourself, you take back your power.
 
You restore your independence as a person and as a successful entrepreneur. By focusing on changing yourself first, you expand your consciousness and gain self-awareness. You become more skilled at resolving immediate problems, correcting past mistakes, and moving ahead with the new opportunities. This approach also enables you to encourage the development of your spouse, partner, employees, and children, which benefits you, too.
 
Changing from a problem-solving mode into self-awareness mode may be difficult, especially for busy entrepreneurial couples. I’m here to help. Please feel free to contact my office in Jantzen Beach to schedule an appointment. If you live elsewhere, consider remote education for entrepreneurial couples.

Guidelines to Help Your Children Adapt to Change

Monday, August 21, 2017


Mother talking to her daughterOne of the best parts of life is change. One of the worst parts of life is change. How is that? As exciting as change can be, it can also be daunting, even frightening. Even a person who generally adapts well to change will experience apprehension about some of life’s changes at some point.

If we experience fear of change sometimes, what about our children?

Their lives are in a constant state of change. Just think about the physical changes they go through from infancy to adulthood. They’re also processing enormous amounts of new information and learning at a rapid pace. As a parent, you no doubt work hard to build in your children the resilience they will need to cope with these changes.

There are bigger changes that our children must adapt to. What about the loss of a parent or grandparent? Divorce? A parent remarrying? How can you help your children adapt to changes of this magnitude?

As a child, your son or daughter depends on you to help them make sense of major changes in their life. You must take the time to help them understand what is going on and adjust. The guiding principle here is to slow down and communicate.

Here are some key communication guidelines for parents:

Like all people, children need to know they are loved and cared for. It is also important for them to believe that someone needs and relies on them. They want to know their existence and presence makes a difference to other people. Listen to your children and support them. As kids navigate new situations and inevitable disappointments, they need to know that they’re not alone. Cultivate a warm, strong relationship.


Talk to them openly about what is happening, and give them opportunities to tell you how they feel, without criticism. Regardless of how you feel about the changes and how you are ready to proceed, you need to know what your child is thinking and feeling.


Be in tune with how each child is dealing with the changes in their life. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to children. Each child is unique and has different strengths and weaknesses. Some can handle more than others. This means spending time with each of your children individually and allowing them to share their own feelings on the matter, separate from the rest of the family.


A key part of developing resilience and dealing with change is emotional management. Teach your kids that emotions are okay! It’s okay to feel. And it’s okay to feel differently than their parents about a situation. They need to know that what they share will be respected and safe.


Answer your child’s questions. Some of them may be painful. You may think your child isn’t old enough to understand. But honesty is vital when helping your children adapt to big changes in their lives. If they can’t get a straight answer from you, who can they turn to?


Be honest about your mistakes. Some big changes come because of mistakes made. Making mistakes is a part of life. Life is about learning something new every day. Sometimes those lessons cause pain, or even permanent scars. It is natural to not want your children to see those mistakes or experience any of the pain associated with them. But know this: whatever stress you are feeling as a parent, your children are feeling it as well.


Use the situation as a teaching tool. Demonstrate to your children that failure is not the end of the world. Show them that it is absolutely possible to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on. Be honest with them about what is happening and why. If you are honest, it not only teaches your children a lesson, but it also helps them forgive and start to heal.


Even if you are doing the best you can to communicate with your child, there are times when he or she may need professional help to deal with big changes and stress in their life. Or perhaps you could use some support as you lead your family through life’s ups and downs. Please contact my office to set up an appointment. I have an office in Jantzen Beach where we could talk in person. I also offer online therapy if it is more convenient for you.

How to Change the Conversation at Work to be More Positive

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Two coworkers looking at a computer, shocked at the newsWe live in an increasingly negative world. Many people have told me they’ve stopped watching the news because they’re tired of all the negativity. Yet there are others who seem to thrive on the negative. It’s like they can’t wait for Monday to rehash all the bad news at work or to complain about their life to anyone who will listen. This negative outlook can be contagious and before you know it the entire workplace is infected!
 
The good news is that you can change the conversation at work to be more positive. And it’s worth the effort!
 
Positive thinking is linked to better health. In addition to better physical and emotional health, positivity can also impact your workplace for the better, whether you are a business owner or an employee. Optimism helps you to be solution-oriented. When you encounter a bump in the road, you don’t give up. Instead, you continue to search for a way around the problem, convinced that there is a solution.
 
No matter what your role in the business is, positivity in the workplace begins with how you choose to communicate. How can you cultivate a more positive way of speaking in the workplace? Take a look at these ideas:

  • Be aware of the way you describe certain situations and make a conscious effort to turn those comments into something more optimistic.

  • Focus less on the problem, and more on the solution. If no solution is obvious, focus on the fact there must be a solution somewhere and that you and your team are capable of discovering it.

  • Discuss the smaller, more manageable steps, you can take to solve a problem. What can you do right now, in this moment? It helps you and those you work with focus on what they can accomplish without getting overwhelmed.

  • Cultivate a more positive, meaningful start to conversations. If someone asks how you are, don’t lead with the negative (i.e. “I’m tired/hungry/anxious”). Tell them something good that has happened.

  • Show gratitude. Discuss things you are thankful for, big and small.

Interestingly, as you make the effort to make your conversations at work more positive, others will follow. We are often told to not bother trying to change people because it can’t be done. But that is far from the truth! We are changing people every day just as other people are changing us. As humans, we are constantly influenced by those around us. So don't get discouraged and think that your contribution of positivity isn't going to change the dynamics at work. You are more influential than you may think! Take the lead in conversations and guide them into positive territory.

 

Most of us have heard of how one small act of kindness can trigger a chain reaction. A similar thing happens when you choose to inject positivity into your daily conversations. It also triggers a chain reaction. You lead a conversation in a positive direction and the person you spoke with will be left with a positive feeling. It may take awhile and you won’t have 100% success, but if you stick with it you’ll see a shift towards more positive conversations in your workplace. Don’t give up!
 
Each day you experience hundreds of moments where you can choose to react in a positive way. It isn’t a matter of ignoring the negative in your life or work. It comes down to making a choice to not get stuck on the negative. Focus on the good in your life, and help those around you to choose to appreciate the good as well!
 
Are you convinced that you can change the dynamic in your workplace by being positive? Sometimes it can be challenging to be positive if you are dealing with a lot of internal or external stress. If you could use some help, please contact my office to set up an appointment.  I have an office in Jantzen Beach where we can meet in person or I offer online therapy if that’s a better fit for you.

Avoid a Crisis – How Entrepreneurs Can Be Proactive About Mental Health

Monday, August 14, 2017


Man in suit holding happy face signWhat kinds of qualities come to mind when you think of a successful entrepreneur? Are they creative, tenacious, self-sacrificing? What about depressed, anxious, or obsessive?

The same qualities that make a person a successful entrepreneur can also make them vulnerable to a host of mental health issues. Some issues like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) can, in the beginning, propel an entrepreneur to success. But there is a fine line between healthy and harmful.

Depression, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, and a lack of motivation can arise and develop when entrepreneurs are overly focused on their business. Because entrepreneurs are driven to succeed, it is easy for them to push through tough times without pausing to evaluate if their negative feelings are part of a bigger issue that needs attention.

Do you find yourself paying little attention to the effect your schedule and lifestyle may be having on your mental health?

When you put your mental health on the back burner, you set yourself up for a mental health crisis later. If you neglect your physical health, you run the risk of disease, injury, or a traumatic event like a heart attack. Similarly, if you neglect your mental health, your brain and body will force you to slow down and take a break, but not in a manner that feels good for you or helps your business.

Wouldn’t it be better to be proactive about your mental health, caring for it before you experience a crisis? They key is to not wait until you’re broken. By waiting too long to take care of yourself, you’ll make it much harder to get back to where you want to be.

The good news is that you don’t have to be sick to get better. Here are four things you can do now to maintain good mental health and avoid a crisis later on:

  1. Care for your basic needs. As an entrepreneur, you work long hours. That’s a given. But prioritize sleep, healthy eating, exercise, and time with friends and family. Adequate sleep is absolutely vital to function at optimum levels. Eating good food gives your mind the nutrients it needs to make brilliant business decisions. Exercise relieves stress. Time spent with those you love keeps you balanced
  2. Simplify your life. The life of an entrepreneur is full of activity and decisions. Don’t make things harder than they need to be. Where you can simplify, do it. For you that may mean using a grocery delivery service or having limited wardrobe options to sort through each morning. Simplify as many things in your life as you can so that you can focus on the areas that will benefit most from your attention and creativity.
  3. Get help with the details. To make your vision succeed, there are a lot of teeny-tiny details to work out. Hire someone to help you. You have skills, but you are not skilled at everything. So outsource the things you need to. Let other people care for the details while you continue focusing on what you are best at.
  4. Hire a psychologist. People who regularly attend to their psychological health are not only stronger emotionally, but they are less prone to illness and experience a better sense of personal well-being. Engaging in psychotherapy enhances your analytical and intuitive abilities by utilizing the full range of your conscious and unconscious talents. It helps you take charge of your life.

If you’re ready to take a proactive stance, I can help you achieve strong mental health so you can grow your business and succeed as an entrepreneur. Please contact my office. I have an office in Jantzen Beach, and I also offer online therapy if that works best for your lifestyle

Girls with Autism – They’re Different Than Boys with Autism

Wednesday, August 09, 2017


Here are seven ways that girls with autism are different than boys with autism and the reason why girls and women are being undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Historically it’s been thought that autism is four times more common in boys than in girls. However, studies are now suggesting that the true ratio is one in two. Why the shift?

The current methods for diagnosing autism are skewed toward how autism affects boys. To be diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s, girls need to display more behavioral problems or a significantly higher intellectual disability. Girls with less severe symptoms are more likely to be misdiagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anorexia.

Behavioral and preliminary neuro-imaging suggests that autism manifests differently in girls. Scientific American has a must-read article outlining some of these differences. Here are some highlights:

  1. Females can more easily mask, camouflage or compensate for ASD symptoms than males.
  2. Girls obsessively focus on reading, looking for rules for social life so they can connect and fit in.
  3. The difference between typical and autistic development in girls is in their intensity. They may refuse to talk about anything other than their topic of interest.
  4. Autistic girls exhibit less repetitive behavior than the boys do.
  5. The pastimes and preferences of autistic girls are more similar to those of typical girls rather than stereotypically male interests.
  6. Girls with autism are more likely than autistic boys to pretend play; they just don’t put themselves into the story.
  7. A study published in 2014 by Baron-Cohen and his colleagues found that “66 percent of adults with Asperger's reported suicidal thoughts, a rate nearly 10 times higher than the general population. 71 percent of them were women, who made up about one third of the sample”.

Kevin Pelphrey, a leading autism researcher at Yale University's Child Study Center says, “Everything we thought was true of autism seems to only be true for boys." For example, his (unpublished as of yet) studies show that the brain of an autistic boy uses different regions to processes social information such as eye movements and gestures than a typical boy's brain does.


Yet that’s not true of girls. Each girl's brain “looks like that of a typical boy of the same age, with reduced activity in regions normally associated with socializing.” So according to the tests, these girls appear to be normal. But they’re remarkable different from typical girls of their age.

I experienced first hand many of these things when I was raising my autistic daughter. Until she was diagnosed, I was frantic. I know all too well that hopeless feeling of watching a child struggle in life and not knowing what to do.

Do you suspect that one of your female family members has undiagnosed autism? With a proper diagnosis, you can begin the process of helping her live a better life. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

You can read my story and that of others’ in my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). Click on the image below to download a free chapter.

Do You Talk to Yourself Out Loud? Science Shows Why It’s a Good Idea

Monday, August 07, 2017


Do You Talk to Yourself Out Loud? Science Says That’s GoodHave you always thought that talking to yourself out loud means you’re going crazy? Well, science is showing that it’s actually a good way to see a situation more objectively.

Psychologists call talking to yourself out loud “external self-talk”. And it can take two basic forms: instructional self-talk (walking yourself through a process) or motivational self-talk (“I’ve got this. I can do this.”)

Interestingly, studies have shown that motivational self-talk works best if you refer to yourself in the second or third person (“You can do this. Insert-your-name, you’ve got this.”) It distances you further from the experience, enhances your self-control and lowers your anxiety more. As a result, it helps you to be more objective and less emotional. (Ethan Kross, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan has published a pdf of his findings. Click here to read it.)

A recent New York Times article gives further insight on how instructional self-talk benefits you. For one thing, it blocks out distractions so you can focus better. It also employs the feedback hypothesis, namely by hearing it out loud you can visualize the object, which makes your brain connect to its “file of information” on that object.

For example, in their experiments, they asked people to locate a specific item out of series of random items. Those that spoke the name of the object out loud located the object more accurately and quickly, because their brains retrieved the visual image of the object.

So, no, you’re not going crazy if you talk to yourself out loud. It’s a smart thing to do – with one caveat – make sure your self-talk is always positive and encouraging. Negative self-talk is very damaging. It can even change your brain chemistry.

When you’re controlled by habitually negative patterns of thinking, it’s time to seek professional help. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Does neuroscience fascinate you? Why not review some of my past articles. Simply type “Brain Science” into the Search Box on this page and enjoy!


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