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Pink Sugar

Starting to think about back to school and wondering about how to manage the transition for everyone?


Check out this post on that our therapist, Elizabeth Mann, was featured in!


Getting back into the school routine after a fun, relaxed summer can be particularly challenging for kids and parents. If you have concerns about what the school year will bring, here are some practical tips to help the transition go smoothly.

1. Think ahead: map out what the routines will have to look like in advance and create a plan for adding elements gradually a few weeks before school starts so everyone gets lots of practice on individual elements before putting them all together. Leave plenty of time for them to learn and practice so they can feel confident about mastering the routine.

2. Focus on sleep: both kids and adults function better when their sleep cycles are consistent. If you know that your child will have to get used to early mornings, begin moving up their wake-up times gradually so their bodies can adjust and keep them consistent. For example, if they wake up at 9am now and will have to wake up at 6am for school, start moving their wake-up time 30 minutes to one hour earlier each week prior to school. Make sure to adjust their bedtimes, too, to ensure that they are getting enough sleep.

3. Use visual cues and practice: especially with younger children, remembering all the steps to their routines and completing them can be challenging. Their brains aren't quite developed enough to independently go through it all. Start with telling a "story" of how the morning will go while they are still in bed. Create a visual task list with simple photos of their tasks that you go over with them. For example, have a sheet of paper (I recommend laminating it if you are able) with a photo of an outfit that shows it's time to get dressed, followed by a photo of their toothbrush/toothpaste for brushing teeth, a photo of a hairbrush, etc. for each step of their routine.

4. Make it fun: kids gain most of their motivation from doing things that are fun, so game-ify their routine while they are completing it. Make it into a treasure hunt or offer some kind of incentive for completing the routine in a certain amount of time. Try to avoid competition between children, as this can turn into fights or cutting corners and can also hurt self-esteem and relationships between children.

5. Practice calming strategies when the children are calm: Most kids get some form of anxiety before school - for some it shows up as excitement, but for many it shows up as nervousness. Excitement and nervousness feel remarkably similar in the body, so it may be hard to tell which emotion is being displayed. Practice simple calming strategies such as pretending to blow out bubbles or pretending fingers are birthday candles (these are akin to taking deep breaths or regulating breath), using sensory fidget toys, or simple kid-friendly yoga poses (YouTube is amazing for this). Always validate your child's feelings; although you may know that there is nothing to be worried about, each new school year is a completely new experience with uncharted territory. Encourage your child with lots of reassurance, closeness, and unconditional love.

About the author: Elizabeth Mann is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in Minnesota and is the owner and lead psychotherapist of Winding Path Counseling. She has over ten years of experience working in the mental health field with a variety of ages, but much of her work has been with children and teens in intensive settings, focusing on parent-child attachment, building healthy development, neurodiversity-affirming and trauma-informed care.

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Starting the process of therapy can be super overwhelming - you probably type in "therapy" or something like it into google and you get ads and websites and agencies galore, yet usually none of those resources explain how to choose a therapist. Research shows that the relationship between the client and the therapist is essential and foundational to the healing process, so choosing one that you can truly connect with is, too! Here is a step-by-step process to finding the right fit for you!

Before we dive into the specifics, let's first identify that there are several different types of therapists. You will probably see a bunch of initials after people's names and have no idea what they mean. There are lots of variations depending on the state, but for Minnesota, here are the standard ones: LICSW (Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker), LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor), LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) and LP (Licensed Psychologist). All of these individuals have at least a master's degree in counseling and are independently licensed (meaning they completed all their provisional license hours and passed an exam proving their competency). Each type of therapist will bring something unique to the table based on their counseling orientation, but all are qualified as therapists.

There are different ways that people can be seen for therapy. They include:

  • Agencies (think bigger names like Nystrom, Associated Clinic of Psychology, etc)

  • Online Platforms (BetterHelp, TalkSpace, etc)

  • Private/Group Therapy Practices

There are pros and cons to all of them - generally you will get the most bang for your buck going with a private or group therapy practice due to more flexibility on the therapists' end.

So, what is the actual process for finding the right therapist for you?

First, how will you pay for it?

  • Are you using insurance? Call your insurance company and ask them to send you a list of therapists they are contracted with. Make sure you know if you have a copay and how much it is.

  • Are you paying out of pocket? What is your price range? Therapy is an investment in yourself so you should expect to invest monetarily as well. That being said, many therapists do sliding scale or reduced fees based on income or need.

  • Are you using a benefits card (HSA/FSA)? What limits do you have on it and what time frame and price point would you need to make it workable?

  • Do you have out of network benefits? If so, you may be able to work with more therapists if they provide a superbill (a fancy insurance company receipt) so that you get reimbursed for sessions.

Next, get specific about what you want help with and how you want to be helped

  • Identify your main concern with your mental health (i.e. anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, etc)

  • Do you want to do talk therapy? Do you want to create behavior changes? Do you want to change your thinking? Do you want to learn new skills? Do you want to process something?

  • How long do you see yourself committing to the process? (Hint: you should give yourself at least 3-6 months, as you are creating a relationship with another human and learning new things and that takes time)

  • What characteristics are you looking for in a therapist? Do you want someone who just listens/validates? Challenges you? Has certain availability? Has specialized knowledge in a specific topic? Is part of a specific group/identity? Etc.

  • Do you want to be seen online or in-person?

Once you have an idea of what you might want, use google. Optimize your search by including some specific information such as:

  • "LGBTQ+ counselor near 55455"

  • "Trauma therapy + Minneapolis"

You will likely see therapist directories such as PsychologyToday, Mental Health Match, Therapy Den, Open Path Collective, and more when you search. These tools are a great way to see snippets of different therapists all put together in one area.

If you are using insurance, you can skip right to the directory of therapists that your company provides to you.

Once you narrow down a few therapists that you are interested in, check out their websites and book a consultation. Many therapists will do free consultations to see if you are a good fit for them, too. When you are looking at their content, do you feel like they already understand you? If so, that's a good sign that you are an ideal client for them. Their marketing messages are speaking directly to you because you are who they are great at working with. If you are not feeling that spark, it may not hurt to still do a consultation with them to see if there is something with their personality or approach that pulls you in!

Once you have the consultation booked, it's a good idea to have some questions ready for your therapist so you can get a feel for them. Some ideas for questions include:

  • How much do you charge per session? What is your cancellation policy?

  • How often do we meet? How does scheduling happen?

  • What types of therapy do you do

Once you have your therapist all picked out, the rest is up to you! Each therapist has their own style and they will guide you on the next steps.

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It's common knowledge that mental health and physical health are closely connected. Research consistently shows that taking care of your physical well-being is crucial for good mental health, and vice versa. When we talk about physical health, it's essential to consider various aspects beyond just going to the gym. Today, let's focus on the gut-brain connection.

The Gut-Brain Connection

You may have heard the saying that your gut is like a second brain. Surprisingly, about 95% of your serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood, is produced in your gut. But serotonin doesn't only impact mood; it also plays a significant role in cardiovascular function and digestion.

The gut-brain connection acts as a communication highway for your autonomic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system (HPA). Your autonomic nervous system takes care of vital functions like heartbeat regulation, respiration, lung function, and digestion, all without conscious effort. The HPA system regulates hormones and cortisol production.

So, how does this relate to your gym routine?

To optimize strength and conditioning, your gut microbiome needs to be in good shape, supporting these bodily functions. This is why nutrition is key – it ensures your gut microbiome functions optimally, creating an environment that regulates your mood, autonomic nervous system, cardiovascular system, hormone system, and digestion.

Here are some simple ways to support your gut microbiome and improve the gut-brain connection:

  1. Avoid processed foods: Your gut microbiome thrives on whole foods that supply essential nutrients for cellular function. Processed foods with added preservatives or other unnecessary ingredients are not ideal.

  2. Stay hydrated: Water is vital for every cell in your body to function properly. Hydration is essential for best performance.

  3. Eat enough: Adequate calorie intake is crucial. If you don't provide your gut with enough of the right calories, it can only do so much with what it's given.

  4. Eat intuitively: Restrictive diets, consuming foods you dislike, and excessive exposure to diet culture can create problems. Listen to your gut and give it what it truly needs.

By following these tips and prioritizing your gut health, you can enhance the gut-brain connection and support its many functions. Remember, your gut plays a significant role in your overall well-being, so taking care of it goes beyond the gym.

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