Category: <span>Communication</span>

Helping A Loved One Struggling With Mental Health

It can be confusing and frustrating when someone you care about is struggling with mental health symptoms and you don’t know what to do. It’s natural to want to fix things as you care about them and want to see them feel better. I know it’s hard, but this is something you can’t just fix. However, there are many things you can do to help them improve their state of mind and mood.

Educate yourself

One of the simplest things you can do is find information on what your loved one is struggling with. If their struggling with Depression, Anxiety, Grief, an Eating Disorder or anything else, do research and find out common symptoms. Simply educating yourself helps you understand what they’re feeling and most importantly, it could help you become more patient. No one chooses to struggle with a mental health disorder.

You don’t have to know what it feels like to be of help. Understanding more about their struggles, helps you take a step back and not get frustrated with them.

Ask them what do they need from you.

Again, naturally we want to be of help and fix things. But maybe you trying to help is not helping at all. Simply ask them what can you do to help them.

For example, people with Depression struggle with being around people but at the same time feel isolated. Ask them if it’s ok for you to be around them physically but not talk. Or if you’re far away, ask how often is it ok to check in with them.

Be supportive.

Being supportive may sound obvious, but sometimes you may have good intentions but are not being helpful at all. I see this a lot with clients who struggle with Anxiety. People who struggle with anxiety are constantly worried and thinking ahead. Loved ones with good intentions say things like “just relax” or “don’t worry be positive” This is not helpful at all. Instead find out what they are worried about and focus on finding a solution. You can reassure them that you’re there for them no matter what.

Encourage them to get help.

When you feel like you’ve tried to help but the person is still struggling, encourage them to get professional help. You can suggest different Mental Health apps where someone can chat with a licensed professional, such as or 

You can even go with them to their first appointment with a therapist for emotional support. Getting help can be overwhelming. Being there supporting them can make it easier. 

Take Care of Yourself

We can’t give to others what we don’t have ourselves. One of the best ways to help others is to make sure that you are good. When you are rested and have energy, it’s so much easier to be a good friend and be there for others. But if you’re struggling with your own problems, trying to be there for others can feel draining. 

Make sure you’re practicing your own self-care by doing little things to feel good or having your own hobby

Relationships are work. With these tips hopefully you find a way to be of help to someone.

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.




They’re all over the place. The rude stranger. The “friend” who tends to criticize everything you do. The person who’s always complaining. Or simply put, difficult people.

Being around difficult people can affect your mood and leave you feeling irritated or drained.  You can’t always avoid dealing with negative people and you can’t control them. But you always have control over how you react to these types of people. Try these strategies next time you’re dealing with a difficult person:

BREATH. Slowly and long.

Negative people will push your buttons and trigger the fight or flight response. You may feel like yelling at them or hitting them, but that’ll only make things worse. Staying calm is the way for you to keep an upper hand and think clearly of how you’re going to respond.

When you emotionally react, you don’t think clearly and end up mixing up your words or saying something you wish you hadn’t.

Ask yourself “I wonder why they’re acting like this?”

Asking this question gets you to take a step back and try to look at the bigger picture. Maybe they’ve had a bad day, maybe they just dealt with a negative situation, or maybe they are just a rude person and have a lot of issues within themselves. This does not justify their behavior. Instead, it helps you realize their behavior is most likely due to something they’re going through and has little to nothing to do with you.

When you take things personal, that’s when you react defensively. When you realize that the other person’s behavior is their issue, not personal, you don’t react in defense.

Step back.

Literally put room between you both. This again helps you not trigger fight or flight because that person is in your personal space. If you could, try going to another room to breath and cool down to stay in control.

Emotions are contagious. Physically putting some distance between you and someone who is complaining and being negative, could help you not catch their negative mood.

De-escalate the situation.

When dealing with negative people, naturally you’re going to want to raise your voice. However, that only makes the situation worse. To decrease the intensity between you both, try matching their voice volume but decrease it slightly. For example, if they’re yelling, speak firmly but don’t yell back. You want to control the tone of the interaction.

You’ll also want to be assertive in your tone by speaking firmly and specific. For example, “Please lower your voice and do not scream at me.

Focus on a solution.

What is the point of this negative interaction? Are you both arguing because you both think you’re right? Is the other person hurt or feels misunderstood? Is the person you’re interacting with an unhappy person and that’s why they’re constantly complaining?

Trying to understand the situation will help you find a solution. The solution could be changing the subject, trying to look at the situation differently or compromising. If a solution can’t be found, it is time to stop waisting your time and walk away.


Remember, you have no control over other people. You can’t jump inside their body and make them do what you want. But you do have control over how you react to people.

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and the Spanish speaking individuals in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.


15 Ways to Say “NO” and not feel bad about it.

Have you ever found yourself saying “yes” to requests, although you really wanted to say “no”. We all have moments where we have a hard time saying no. But if you find yourself always saying yes to everything, you can quickly feel overwhelmed.

Maybe you feel that you’re the only one who can really get things done so you have to say yes. Or you feel guilty saying No. For whatever reason, it’s important to say No when you truly can’t or don’t want to do something. It shows that you have boundaries and respect your own time, and theirs.

Try the following ways of saying No. A great way of starting out your answer is to pause, and wait a few seconds. You don’t have to answer impulsively. Take a few seconds to really notice how you feel. And when the answer is No, try one of these statements. These are general statements, so customize them for the situation.


  1. I can’t right now.  But I can (insert time or day that you can)
  2. I don’t want to right now.
  3. I’m not interested.
  4. I can’t. Have you tried (then given a suggestion)
  5. I can’t commit to that right now.
  6. No thank you.
  7. I already have other commitments.
  8. Unfortunately, it’s not a good time.
  9. I have too much to do.
  10. I’d love to/I’m interested, but I can’t.
  11. I haven’t thought about it. I’ll have to get back to you.
  12. I don’t feel comfortable doing that.
  13. I can’t/don’t want to. Is there another way I can help?
  14. I wish I could but I have something else to do.
  15. No


About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.






Do you get anxious just thinking about starting a conversation with someone? Do feel awkward after just saying “hello” to a stranger and thinking “okay what do I say next?”

Socializing is one of the biggest causes of anxiety. Public speaking and starting conversations are always ranking as one of the top fears individuals have. Why is that? And what could you do to improve your socialization skills if you are among the millions of people that hate socializing?

Many times there are underlying causes for your social anxiety, but with practical tips, you could feel a bit more confident next time you find yourself in a socially awkward situation. Try some or all of these 5 suggestions to help improve your social skills.


Imagine entering a room and there are two people already there. The one doesn’t even look up at you to acknowledge your presence, or worse, looks like they’re in a bad mood. The other one makes eye contact, gives you a smile, and goes back to what they were doing. Which person would make you feel more comfortable? The one that smiled at you of course.

This is so simple that it’s easily over looked. Every interaction that you have starts with a simple smile.

Think about it. It’s weird if someone just started randomly talking to you. That would be awkward. It all starts with eye contact, a smile, and maybe a “hi”

If you walk around with your resting B***h face on, people are going to feel intimidated by you. It’s already hard enough starting a conversation. Make it a little easier for people to approach you by smiling.

Watch your body language.

Along with a smile, be very aware of your body language. Make eye contact and pay attention to the way you’re sitting or standing. Is it welcoming or are you shutting people out?

Having open body language makes others feel comfortable and people that are naturally social will make it easier for you by approaching you.

Open body language is having your head up, not down staring at your phone. Try sitting or standing up straight, avoid crossing your arms, and face people when they’re talking to you.

Eye contact is also important. Naturally, we make long eye contact when we’re listening to a person speak, and  look away periodically when we talk.  If you feel awkward  staring at someone as they talk, try looking between their eye brows, it looks like you’re looking them in their eyes.

 Don’t over think it.

Now that you have made it easier for people to approach you by being mindful of your body language, now it’s time to talk. “But what do I say?” “How do I start?!” This is the part where your mind starts over thinking.

In reality, you can’t plan a whole conversation. You have no idea what the other person is going to say or do, therefore you have to go with the flow.

Be an active listener by paying attention to what they’re saying. Active listening means actually listening to what they’re saying, their body language and tone. A lot of times you’re not really listening because you’re thinking of what to say next while they’re still talking.

Take a deep breath if you’re feeling nervous and pay attention, instead of making up scenarios in your head.

Talk about “safe” topics.

While you’re actively listening, stick to a few safe topics that are good ice breakers. If you’re both at an event for a purpose, ask about the event. If it’s a complete stranger, ask them about their day or something that you both could observe around you.

Ask open ended questions where they’re forced to give a longer answer than a simple yes or no.

Some safe topics to use are:

  • Asking about their kids, pets, job or school.
  • Give a compliment.
  • Ask about their day.
  • Make a comment about a situation you both share.
  • Say something to make them smile or laugh.
  • The weather.

 Listen more than you talk.

Here’s some relief, you don’t have to talk as much as you think. A key to being a good communicator is to listen more than you talk.

If you only talk about yourself or do most of the talking you might appear self-absorbed. Of course there are times that you have to talk a lot about yourself, such as on a date or a job interview, and that’s actually good. But during day to day interactions, it’s easier to keep the attention on the other person.

Listening to them helps them feel heard, while not talking as much helps you reduce the stress of not knowing what to say.


“Self-consciousness kills communication”

-Rick Steves

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.








Have you ever found yourself reacting to someone else’s negative behavior impulsively? Maybe a friend or family member makes a comment that triggers you and you react with a passive aggressive comment? Or a boss or co-worker sends an email that rubs you the wrong way so you answer with negative attitude?

We have all been there from time to time. But reacting without thinking can get you into trouble, or even cause embarrassment. Here are some tips on how to better control impulsive reactions.

Take a deep breath.

When we feel threatened, physically, psychologically or emotionally, we go into fight-or-flight mode. Fight-or-flight is our survival instinct to protect ourselves by fighting (physically or verbally) or running away.  Take a deep breath to lower the emotional and chemical reaction of fight-or-flight, allowing you to think more clearly.


Wait a few seconds before replying, longer if you’re able to. A few seconds or minutes up front saves you hours or days of a headache. Unless it’s life threatening, you don’t have to answer the person right away.

Are you reacting emotionally?

Ask yourself (during the pause) if your reaction is out of anger, irritability, hurt, or any type of negative emotion. Or is it a rational reaction.

When we react emotionally, we often say or do things that we don’t really mean. Look at the issue for what it is and try reacting accordingly.

Walk away.

Walking away is not a sign of weakness. It gives you physical space between you and the person you’re reacting to and makes it easier to pause. Plus, it helps you not hurt the other person.

If you’re reacting to a complete stranger, like another driver or a random customer at a store, it might be easier since you don’t know them. They’re complete strangers to you so who cares what they think or say. You most likely will never see them again. Ask yourself, “is this going to matter in a year from now?”

If you’re reacting to someone you interact with frequently, you might be tempted even more to react impulsively. If it’s something they frequently do that irritates you, it’s important to set boundaries with them or tell them, appropriately, how their behavior makes you feel.

Ask for clarification.

Could you be misinterpreting what someone is saying? This happens often when communicating through email or text. Don’t assume that the person is being rude. Instead stop and ask for clarification.

Do you have trouble controlling your impulses often?

I’m sorry to tell you this but not everything is everyone else’s fault. Are you over reacting?

Sometimes when you have unresolved issues or hold your feelings in, you blow up more quickly. It could be the smallest thing that a person does, such as body language, tone of voice or even specific words that could be triggering something deeper in you. Maybe the way your teacher or boss talks to you triggers the way a highly critical parent would talk to you growing up.

Recognizing if it’s “your stuff” helps you separate the person you’re dealing with and your own feelings.


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About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.



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