European Counseling Blog

Resources and Support for Europeans in the San Francisco Bay Area

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    We are licensed psychotherapists who moved from Europe to California many years ago and would like to offer this blog as an additional resource to our European Community.
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    The information on our European Counseling Blog is meant to give support and resources to our European Community and is not intended to serve as a substitute for seeking professional medical or psychological help. Additionally, we can not guarantee the reliability of any information provided here on this blog or on the links listed. The use of this blog is entirely at the users' own risk and we are not responsible for users’ opinions and views expressed.

Diet for Stress

Posted by europeancounseling on April 28, 2009

Dr. Babbel interviews Barbara Clark, a nutritionist in Marin.

Hello Barbara,

By observing my clients, I have found that most health problems are related to psychological stress and may not go away until the right solution has been found. During a traumatic event the body excretes hormones to help the body not only to prepare a person to fight, fight, or flee a situation but also to block out pain. Often, even though ones traumatic experience happened a long time ago, their nervous system still produces stress hormones and acts as if they are in the same situation. As a result, one might not only experience psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety but also have physical symptoms such depleted adrenal glands, constipation, numbness, headaches, and memory loss. In my practice, I help people to restore a balanced nervous system by addressing their psychological issues but what advice could you give them to boost their body after a long stretch of having this kind of stress on their body?

Barbara Clark:

I have seen good results with what I call the” Low Stress Diet”. The objectives are to minimize metabolic stress, support detoxification, and enhance overall health.

General Rules:

·  Eat whole foods as provided by nature; vegetables are especially beneficial, organic whenever available.

·  Eat raw foods with every meal. The best raw foods are salads. (The enzymes in raw foods help digest your food)

·  Eat small meals, but eat as often as you are hungry.( To keep your blood sugar balanced) Many people overeat at one particular meal and overload their digestion! The same amount of food eaten in smaller quantities, several times per day, would not impose a burden.

·  Best between-meal-snack- vegetables. Best dessert-fruit.

·  To improve a poor appetite, normalize excessive appetite or lose weight, eliminate sugar and starches.

·   Drink lots of pure water (free of chlorine and fluorides)-1/2 your body weight in oz. every day, example: 150 lbs:2=75 oz of water, which is about 2 quarts or roughly 9 glasses.

·  The less sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods you eat, the healthier you will become.

Important! Eliminate foods that contain:

· Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats

· Preservatives

· Artificial sweeteners

· High fructose corn syrup

I suggest this diet as a first step to regenerate physical health. Lifestyle, appropriate exercise and a healthy sleeping patterns are just as important. I may suggest testing for food intolerances or biochemical imbalances such as neurotransmitters or hormones. I also may suggest certain high quality nutritional supplements which will be tailored to the individual needs. However, a good basic plan will include a multivitamin, B vitamins and fish oil. Digestive enzymes and herbs for adrenal support are often also part of the protocol.

I hope that the above suggestions will be helpful to your readers. For more information I offer your readers to visit my website where they can find my contact information.


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Fall Ponderings

Posted by europeancounseling on September 26, 2008

Fall is officially here and although the warm weather might lull us into thinking of being in an eternal summer, turning on the lights earlier and earlier in the day reminds us that the carefree summer days are, indeed, coming to an end.

For many the winter months are the most difficult of the year: the days are shorter with less natural light around and one is more confined to being inside which makes us prone to feeling less energized or even depressed.

But Autumn and Winter are also connected to all the family oriented holidays.

Ah, yes – the holidays! They can evoke such different reactions in everybody! And being away from where you grew up, in a far away foreign country with different traditions can be another challenge altogether.

We would love to hear from you fellow Europeans what your thoughts are about the upcoming holidays, what you regard as challenging – and how you plan on getting through the darker months in case you even have a plan already!

With warm regards,

European Counseling Services

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Burnout: How Europeans are at risk

Posted by europeancounseling on August 25, 2008

We have been hearing about your struggles at work and have seen symptoms of burnout that include physical and mental exhaustion, depression and strong resistance towards your job.

The most common complaints we heard about are:
• Not meaningful or satisfying
• Too competitive
• Not challenging enough
• Vacations are too short
• No time for lunch or breaks
• Lack of creativity and movement
• Too many hours
• Workload
• Feeling undervalued and trapped
• Having headaches and nausea
• Experiencing depression about career
• Gloomy environment: No natural light, small cubicles etc.
• Work environment is impersonal and uncaring
• Sacrifices and hardships are not acknowledged

Europeans who have been in the United States less than 5 years are at higher risk for burnout because they often feel that they have fewer options to leave their jobs.

Six factors that might keep Europeans from applying for another vocation:
• Do not possess green card to move on to a different company
• Lack of English skills
• Feel obligated to their boss because they brought them to this country
• Already have been trained and now need different skills for the new job
• Afraid to earn less money and would not be able to afford current life style
• Work has become their primary focus because they do not have adequate support yet

Signs and symptoms of burnout:
• Disappointment in and disengagement from colleagues and supervisor
• Loss of motivation
• Increased Homesickness after work
• Depression
• Powerlessness
• Helplessness and despair
• Emotional exhaustion
• Isolation
• Irritability
• General frustration
• Feeling trapped
• Sense of being a failure
• Increased self-criticism

All these symptoms are also at risk to influence your private life and to have a negative impact on your primary relationships.

Ten tips on dealing with stress and preventing burnout:
• Take breaks for lunch, to stretch, or to move a little, even if nobody else does – you are more productive with food in your stomach and a little rest. If you are afraid to take an official break, get a cup of tea or coffee as an excuse to leave your chair. Move and stretch your legs under your desk-nobody can see you.
• Enhance your work environment by hanging up your own pictures that indicate who you are outside the office.
• Take vacations-don’t let them expire or accumulate for years.
• Talk to your supervisor about how to improve your work situation. Perhaps you can be transferred to a different job or take a class in order to qualify for new job duties –your boss does not want to train another person or wants to lose you either.
• Ask to work from home once a week and make plans to reward yourself when you are finished with your duties.
• Start volunteering to find more meaning in life or to test out a new career.
• Overcome isolation by joining a group, a fun class or meeting with friends.
• Recognize the choices you do have.
• Empower yourself by looking for another job-just knowing you are not trapped will help.
• Let your friends and primary relationship support you after work.

Please, share your experience with us on this blog and tell us what has been helpful to you. We would like to hear from you.

Related links:


Burnout. By Herbert J. Freudenberger and Geraldine Richelson (Paperback – Jul 25, 1985)

WOMEN’S BURNOUT how to Spot it, how to reverse it and how to prevent it. By Herbert J. Freudenberger

Stress in organizations: towards a phase model of burnout.
By Robert T. Golembiewski, Robert F. Muzenrider, and Jerry G. Stevenson (Hardcover – Dec 15, 1985)

Das Burnout-Syndrom: Theorie der inneren Erschöpfung.
By Matthias Burisch

Stress, Mobbing und Burn-out am Arbeitsplatz. By Sven M. Litzcke and Horst Schuh

Freudenberger, H. (1974). Staff burn-out. Journal of Social Issues, 30, 159- 165.

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Creating New Roots:

Posted by europeancounseling on August 10, 2008

Recognizing the Stages Leading to Culture Shock

by Susanne Babbel, MFT, PhD

Leaving your support system and familiar routines behind, adjusting to new customs, and trying to negotiate a new identity can prove serious trials. In responds, you may feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or even suffer from physical illness.

Sometimes everything may seem fine until years later when suddenly relationship conflicts, health issues, aging, loss of a loved one, parenthood, or many other challenging and new situations appear in your life.

Consciously or unconsciously you may experience culture shock, which is defined as “the result of being overwhelmed by major life changes to established patterns without usual support systems”. Using basic strategies to minimize culture shock is not only important for the mental and physical health of a person but also in creating new roots and feeling at home again.

There are three stages leading to culture shock. Just as in any new relationship, people start with the honeymoon phase in which they experience great curiosity and excitement about almost anything. Then they enter the negotiation phase where they become more critical of others and try to figure out how to negotiate their identity into their new environment. In the third phase, people either assimilate the new culture successfully or start feeling like an outsider, showing a decrease in self-confidence and enjoyment of their lives.

6 Keys to successfully overcoming culture shock and creating new roots in America.

1) Explore and familiarize yourself with the local culture:
Reading books, watching movies, exploring Globe Smart (, and contacting the relocation department in your company for additional information helps to provide you with more knowledge and understanding of new customs you are encountering. A European woman wrote, “Reading a lot helped me because the US culture is very much dependent on understanding expressions, references, and the humor is based on puns a lot. So, for me that meant going back to the classics and reading them in English and keeping up with several newspapers. Today, I would recommend reading blogs for language fluency and currency.”

2) Receive Support:
Getting to know people who have thorough knowledge of both cultures, old and new, and letting them explain the fundamental differences may provide a space where you can reflect, vent, feel supported and be heard. Additionally, by joining a group, for example offered by the international Student office, or the Internet, you have a chance to discuss the pros and cons of cultural differences but may also become aware of possible misinterpretations of American behavior. As a man expressed, “The most difficult adjustment was misinterpreting the American friendly openness as friendship.” Talking with individuals, joining in a group setting or sharing your concerns with a psychotherapist might offer you additional resources you have not thought of as well.

3) Maintain an attitude of wonder:
Keep practicing your curiosity and being open minded. Try not to give in to your judgments every time you have them. Keeping a flexible attitude will help you to be open to qualities that are distinguished from yours and may potentially widen the doors to people that could become very good friends. See this is an opportunity to grow and to develop personally and socially.

4) Take responsibility:
Ask yourself if there are any shortcomings of your own culture? Taking responsibility is the basic principle of any successful relationship that can be applied anywhere. What part do you play in bringing mutual understanding and a positive dynamic? Be aware of your reactions as well as of others. Communicate with and educate native citizens about your customs and cultural differences. For example, often Americans express that Germans have a way of hurting someone with their direct comments and that they constantly complain. Perhaps a lack of understanding causes people to respond inappropriately and insincerely.

5) Improve your English:
The better you speak English and pronounce your words, the better you are understood by others, are able to follow discussions, are able to express yourself, and can engage in more meaningful conversations. When you first learn English write down what you want to say. Have reasonable expectations about your progress and attend free English conversation classes. Speak as little as you can in your own language. Ask others to speak slowly and to spell out words for you. Most of all, be patient with yourself!

6) Interact with Americans:
Find hobbies in your areas of interest, organize a get- together with your new colleagues and friends, or take them to a cultural event get to know you and your cultural habits.

Living in a foreign country requires constant adjustments to new customs and a different environment. Sometimes challenges may appear in the early stages of relocation and sometimes they appear years after people have settled in. Using the six basic strategies to minimize a culture shock is not only important for the mental and physical health of a person but also in creating roots and feeling at home again.

European Counseling Services offers help to people who are struggling with feeling uprooted and are facing new or old challenges of adjusting to a life in the San Francisco Bay Area. Please visit for more information.

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