Know the Warning Signs: Mental Health Issues in Children & Teens

As a parent or caregiver, it can be hard to know whether your child is exhibiting behaviors that are normal for their age or if there’s something deeper going on.

You may find yourself saying “I guess that’s just how they are at that age,” or “Teenagers, am I right?” when they are being difficult or acting out. 

However, it’s important to be aware of the signs that your child or teenager is struggling with their mental health because, if ignored, this can greatly impact important development milestones and areas of life including: relationships with peers and family; learning ability; emotional development and physical development; and even your child’s ability to navigate the world or simply get through each day. 

Keep reading to learn how to spot the signs that your child or teen is struggling with their mental health—and what you, as a parent, can do to help them thrive.



Signs of Mental Health Issues in Children

Children may exhibit signs of mental health issues in many different ways, which can vary from child to child.

Here are some common signs to look out for:

  • Outbursts, tantrums or lashing out
  • Extreme anger, rage or irritability
  • Persistent sadness lasting two or more weeks
  • Hurting oneself or expressing a desire to hurt oneself
  • Fascination with death or suicide
  • Hitting or acting violently towards other children or adults
  • Drastic changes in mood or personality
  • Sleeping problems such as having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, bedwetting or nightmares
  • Loss of weight or refusal to eat
  • Frequent stomach aches
  • Frequent headaches
  • Extreme shyness
  • Poor academic performance
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Avoiding or missing school 
  • Bullying others
  • Reporting being bullied
  • Being socially withdrawn or avoidant

Signs that your child is struggling with their mental health can differ depending on what age they are. This blog post further discusses additional signs of mental health issues in infants, toddlers and young children.


Signs of Mental Health Issues in Teenagers

According to Verywell Mind, the following signs are indicative of mental health issues in teenagers:

  • Being irritable or angry frequently
  • Feeling overwhelmingly sad, worried, scared, or hopeless
  • Experiencing extreme mood swings—such as alternating between euphoria and depression
  • Behaving moody and withdrawn. They may stop communicating with you and prefer to be isolated. They may stop seeing their friends, or communicating with them via phone, text, or social media.
  • Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Developing a fear of common things or being scared to try new things
  • Having difficulty coping with everyday activities and stressors
  • Being unable to relate to others or express their emotions
  • Changing their appearance drastically or neglecting their personal hygiene
  • Picking fights with friends, family members, teachers, or school authorities
  • Sleeping all the time or having trouble sleeping. They may often feel tired or low on energy.
  • Eating all the time or having no appetite. You may notice changes in their weight or eating habits.
  • Having unexplained physical ailments such as headaches, stomach aches, or other complaints
  • Having difficulty with learning, thinking, remembering, or concentrating
  • Performing poorly at school or having no interest in school work
  • Using substances such as alcohol, marijuana, or drugs
  • Engaging in risky, unsafe behaviors or causing trouble at home, school, or in their community
  • Engaging in self-harm
  • Talking about death or suicide



How to Help Your Child or Teen

Healing starts at home. If you notice your child is acting differently or having a difficult time, encourage them to talk openly with you about their feelings. Create safe spaces for them to talk without the fear of being judged. Voice your concerns to teachers, coaches and other adults who are involved in your child’s life. They may be able to provide extra information about what is going on, or simply play a supportive role in your child’s life.

Provide your child with downtime, space and opportunities for self-care. Treat them with compassion, especially if they are acting out. Don’t forget to treat yourself with compassion and practice self-care too. Be patient—they might not feel like opening up at first, so continue to encourage them and remind them you’re here for them when they need you.

Your child or teen may also feel more comfortable talking to a mental healthcare professional who can provide them with additional support and an outside perspective. 

Valera Health’s Child and Adolescent Program (CAP) was designed specifically with children, teens and adolescents ages 6-17 as well as for parents and caregivers. Through an age-appropriate and data-driven approach, our CAP therapists, psychiatrists and nurse practitioners have continually seen improved outcomes for their patients. Our Health Connectors are here to help you and your child find a licensed mental healthcare provider who’s the perfect fit. Visit or click here to schedule a free consultation.

Valera Health is Here to Help Your Child or Teen with Their Mental Health

Emotional and mental health plays a pivotal role in developmental milestones for children and teens. If you’ve noticed your child, teenager or adolescent is struggling emotionally or behaviorally, Valera Health can help. 

Our therapists, nurse practitioners and psychiatrists are highly experienced with working with children, teens and adolescents ages 6-17 and use a science-backed and age-appropriate approach to telemental healthcare.


Valera Health’s Child & Adolescent Program (CAP)

Valera Health’s licensed therapists, psychiatrists and nurse practitioners use data-driven treatment methods tailored to the individual needs of each child, teen or adolescent. Our providers work around you and your child’s schedule by offering flexible sessions that range from 30-45 minutes to accommodate after school needs. 

Our providers have a proven track record of improving outcomes for Child and Adolescent Program (CAP) patients. 

According to recent statistics, Valera Health’s CAP outcomes have shown an average decrease of 4.9 points from the baseline score (based on intake) for GAD screenings (standard screening model for Generalized Anxiety Disorder). PHQ scores (a.k.a. Patient Health Questionnaire) decreased 4.8 points from baseline on average. 

Our CAP providers specialize in helping children and teens with bullying, anxiety, depression, ADHD, school stress, grief and loss, childhood trauma, childhood mood disorders, behavioral issues, parenting issues, family/parental issues, anger management, self-harm and stress management. 

We walk parents and caregivers through every step of their child’s treatment plan, so they can rest assured their child receives the high-quality care they need and deserve. Additional parental and/or familial support is also available as needed.




Our CAP practitioners are highly-trained in age-appropriate mental healthcare for kids exhibiting signs of mental health issues. Our complete care model has been shown to be highly effective when it comes to treating common childhood difficulties such as anxiety, mood fluctuations, ADHD, school or family stress, adjustment issues and more. We offer treatment for children ages 6+.



We offer a wide-array of specialized therapeutic and psychiatric services to help teens and adolescents adapt to challenges such as anxiety, depression, identity, trauma, confidence-building, stress management and much more. Our CAP providers understand how to connect with teens on both an individual and age-appropriate level. Teen and adolescent services are available for patients ages 13-17.



Parents and caregivers play a pivotal role in their children’s mental health—which is why we include them in their children’s wellness journey every step of the way. Providers meet periodically with parents to review their children’s progress through measured results. When appropriate, therapists may also meet with parents to review individualized parenting and communication strategies. We also provide individualized adult care for parents, families and caregivers to help them face familial and parenting/caregiving challenges head on.



How Do I Get Started?

We make finding mental health support for your family easy with our simple consultation and matching process. The first step is to submit an online consultation form to let us know what services you’re looking for. After you’ve submitted your consultation form, a Health Connector will help you find a provider who is a perfect fit for your child, adolescent or teen. From there,  you can expect individual intake meetings for both yourself and your child with your chosen provider(s). 

Parents/caregivers will be included in their child’s ongoing care and communications so they will always be in the know. 

Get started today by clicking here or visiting to schedule a free consultation!

More Than PMS: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments for PMDD



Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a serious disorder that affects millions of women everywhere. Yet, many people confuse PMDD with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). So how do we tell the difference between PMDD and PMS? Keep reading for answers. 


What is PMDD & How is it Different from PMS?

While PMS and PMDD share some overlapping symptoms, PMDD goes well beyond PMS symptoms and can be debilitating for those who experience it. 

Clinically, PMDD is classified in the DSM-5 as a mood disorder in which symptoms occur in a cyclical manner in relation to menstrual cycles. 

PMS, on the other hand, is not classified as a mood disorder in the DSM-5, which psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists use to diagnose mental health conditions. 



Signs of PMDD

According to the National Library of Medicine, “In the majority of menstrual cycles, at least 5 symptoms must be present in the final week before the onset of menses, start to improve within a few days after the onset of menses, and become minimal or absent in the week postmenses.” 

PMDD symptoms include:

  • Depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness or self-deprecating thoughts
  • Anxiety, tension, and/or feelings of being “on edge”
  • Decreased interest in usual activities
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lethargy, fatigue or lack of energy
  • Change in appetite including overeating or specific cravings
  • Hypersomnia or insomnia
  • Feeling overwhelmed or feeling like things are out of control
  • Physical symptoms including breast tenderness/swelling; joint or muscle pain; bloating or weight gain 


In addition, one or more of the following symptoms must be present for the diagnosis of PMDD:

  1. Marked affective lability (such as mood swings, a sudden onset of sadness, sudden crying or tearfulness, increased sensitivity to rejection)
  2. Marked irritability, anger or increased interpersonal conflicts

The severity of PMDD symptoms often cause interference with work, school, usual social activities or interpersonal relationships. 

If you’re curious about what people living with PMDD experience, check out this Women’s Health article for personal stories. 



Tracking PMDD Symptoms

Tracking PMDD symptoms and the dates when these symptoms occur is an important part of PMDD diagnosis. Some doctors require that symptoms be tracked over two or more menstrual cycles in order to provide a diagnosis. Typically, the onset of PMDD symptoms begin 7-10 days before your period and reside by the end of menstruation.

Menstrual cycle tracking apps are a great way to track both PMS and PMDD symptoms. Many allow you to select symptoms you are experiencing throughout the month, as well as help you track your monthly menstrual cycle so that it’s easier to predict. Here are 11 OB-GYN recommendations to help you track your menstrual cycle.


Online PMDD Support Groups

Fortunately, there are a ton of online communities and educational resources out there to help those struggling with PMDD.

Here are 3 PMDD support groups we recommend:

    • This website has both resources for those with PMDD and for medical professionals who treat PMDD. It’s packed with PMDD related blog posts, symptom management advice, peer group resources (including a Facebook support group) and more.
  • r/PMDD on Reddit
    • This reddit sub is a support community where those with PMDD can come together for support, advice and to share personal experiences. If you need to vent, this is a great place to do so!
  • Inspire Premenstrual Disorders Support Group
    • This non-social media group welcomes open discussion and questions from the PMDD community.

If one of your loved ones has PMDD, this blog has great information on how to help them with this disorder. Try to learn as much about PMDD as you can, while also taking time for your own self-care. 

If you or someone you know are having a mental health emergency, including suicidal thoughts or actions, call 988 for emergency help. The 988 hotline is available nation-wide, 24/7. 

While PMDD can feel isolating and strange, remember that you are not alone and support is available.



PMDD Treatment

If you are experiencing the symptoms of PMDD, know that it isn’t “all in your head” and that your experience should be taken seriously by both yourself and medical professionals. A licensed mental health professional, such as a licensed therapist or psychiatrist, can help diagnose PMDD or rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.  

Therapy, antidepressant medication and lifestyle changes can also help alleviate some of the mental health symptoms caused by PMDD. At Valera Health, we offer affordable, remote therapy and psychiatry services from the comfort of your own home. Click here to schedule a consultation and talk to a Health Connector for free today!

6 Mental Health Support Groups for College Students

Navigating college can be a stressful and confusing, yet exciting process—and mental health issues among college students are far more common than one might think. A 2023 report by the National Education Association (NEA) shows that mental health disorders are at an all time high among college students. As part of this report, over 90,000 students across 133 U.S. campuses participated in a mental health survey.

The NEA survey results show:

  • 44% of students reported depression symptoms
  • 37% students reported experiencing anxiety
  • 15% of students surveyed reported considering suicide (the highest rate in the survey’s 15-year history)

The college mental health crisis affects students of all backgrounds, all income levels, all genders and gender identities, all sexual orientations and all races. Which is why Valera Health offers a flexible and robust virtual group therapy program perfect for any college student. Part therapist-led, part peer-led, group members will find support among their peers—no matter what they are struggling with.

What therapy groups are available for college students?

  1. ADHD Support: ADHD can play a huge impact on our ability to navigate school, work and interpersonal relationships. In this supportive skills-based group, participants will learn practical skills for managing ADHD symptoms, maximizing motivation, building confidence, reducing stress, increasing energy and mood, improving relationships and optimizing daily functioning.
  2. Anxiety/Depression: School, work, life stressors, worries and additional troubles can cause impairments in our lives that are challenging to navigate, manage and cope with. In this adult therapy group, participants will learn skills to help them alleviate anxiety and depression through thought processing, mindfulness, social engagement, exposure, and CBT while using a strengths based and person centered approach. Participants will gain social skills, problem solving abilities, decision making efforts, and emotion regulation skills to help increase awareness, mood, energy, and positivity so that they can build self-esteem and confidence to live a more fulfilling and purposeful life.
  3. Intersectionality: This group provides a safe space for those who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) to freely express themselves amongst a group of their peers. Topics of discussion include trauma, microaggressions, workplace stress, relationships/partnerships and breaking the cycles of unhealthy parental relationships and more.
  4. LGBTQIA+ Support: Open for LGBTQIA+ identifying individuals, this collaborative, community-building and identity affirming group is peer and therapist-led. Together, we will focus on topics including coming out, late bloomers, navigating healthy relationships, communicating with family, building community, queer parenting, accessing gender-affirming care, kink, and non-monogamy. Nothing is off limits!
  5. Anxiety/Trauma: Presented through a trauma-informed lens, this group provides participants with a safe space to improve decision-making skills as well as discuss life transitions, work and/or school-related stress, relationship stress and more. Participants will work with both a therapist and their peers to develop coping strategies that will help them better navigate how to handle daily stressors and other triggers/symptoms of anxiety. Participants will also learn how trauma can impact our daily functioning, life goals and wellbeing and will learn strategies to help overcome these obstacles.
  6. Trauma Survivor Support: Created for young adults (ages 18-25)  who have experienced relational and/or sexual trauma, this group teaches participants a variety of coping skills for responding to and processing trauma. Among the many things participants will learn are self-validation techniques, how to address triggers and grounding techniques for dissociation/fight-or-flight trauma responses. Group participants will also learn how to reframe cognitive distortions and negative thoughts, basic self-care techniques, mindfulness, journaling techniques, how to discuss trauma with family and partners, and how to communicate relationship needs and difficulties around sex. 

How do I sign up?

At this time, the virtual groups listed above are only available in the state of New York. For our group therapy programs, we accept most major insurances as well as offer affordable self-pay rates ($42.50/session). Members must be 18+ to join. 

Valera Health also offers virtual individual therapy and psychiatry in 10 states and 20 languages. 

In addition, patients receive complimentary access to the Valera Health app, which is full of mental health resources and exercises, and access to live chats with your Care Team so that you can continue to make progress inside and outside of sessions. 

We accept most major insurances, Medicaid/Medicare and self-pay in order to make mental healthcare accessible and affordable for anyone in need.

If you’d like to join one of our therapy or support groups, or are interested in receiving individualized care, visit to schedule a free consultation with a Health Connector today! 

8 Ways to Support a Grieving Friend


Grief is a complex and powerful emotion. When the people close to us experience grief, it can be challenging to know how to support them in such a vulnerable state.  When supporting a loved one who is grieving, compassion and empathy are key. 

Everyone grieves differently—some people need a shoulder to cry on while others feel your love through home cooked meals or simply letting your friend know you’re available if they need to talk.

If you know someone struggling with grief, we’ve put together eight ways to help our friends during this fragile time in their lives. 


8 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend

  1. Have a sympathetic ear. One of the best ways to help a grieving friend is to simply listen to them. Allow them to feel safe in expressing their emotions, thoughts and needs. Avoiding jumping to putting a positive spin on things or offering advice (unless asked). Really take in what they are saying and let them feel heard. 
  2. Help out with meals. When dealing with grief, even getting out of bed each day can be a struggle, so having the energy to cook yourself or your family meals throughout the day can be extra challenging. Bringing your friend home cooked meals can make all the difference when supporting someone going through a difficult time.
  3. Extend a helping gesture. Grief can make everyday tasks so overwhelming that they seem impossible. Offer to help your friend with things they may feel uncomfortable asking you directly. This can be watching their kids for a couple hours, going grocery shopping, taking their pet for a walk, or helping with sorting through certain belongings.
  4. Check in often. It can be easy to feel like you’re being overbearing, but showing constant support and compassion can go a long way for someone who is grieving. A daily or weekly check in to see how they are feeling and how you can support them can help them feel seen, supported, and loved. 
  5. Validate their feelings. When helping someone through grief, it’s easy to jump to cliches like “time heals all wounds.” Instead, try to acknowledge the difficulty of their grief journey and validate how they feel in that moment. 
  6. Remember the big dates. Dates like one month or year anniversaries, holidays, or birthdays can be extremely difficult for those who have suffered loss. Reach out, whether it means a call, text, note, or showing up to celebrate and remember or mourn. 
  7. Offer to connect them to someone you know who may have gone through something similar. Sometimes one of the most helpful things when going through a hard time is talking to someone who has been through the same experience. Connecting two friends who have gone through similar losses can be extremely helpful for them both. 
  8. Support them in talking to a professional if needed. Grief can be overwhelming and a long process for many. If you notice your friend really struggling to cope,  encourage them to see a professional and offer to look for a professional with them, or even join them for their first session. 


Suggesting a grief therapy support group is another great way to help a friend through this difficult time. 

Valera Health offers multiple virtual grief and loss group therapy for individuals living in the state of New York. In these groups, participants will gain mutual support, have a safe space to process their feelings, and learn coping mechanisms to help them through the stages of grief.  Learn more about the benefits of joining a grief support group here

Supporting a friend through grief is a testament to the strength of our friendships and depths of our compassion and sympathy. While we navigate the terrain of loss alongside our grieving friends, it’s important to remember to be kind and help them toward healing and renewal at their own pace.

5 Empowering Quotes About Women’s Equality

Women’s strength, resilience, courage and compassion radiates throughout every corner of the world. 

This August we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, held on August 26, which commemorates the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote—a result of the tireless efforts of the women’s suffrage movement. It’s in their honor that we share our favorite quotes about women’s empowerment from five incredible women. 

We hope these words serve as a reminder to embrace the power within all of us!




“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.” — Maya Angelou




“Women don’t need to find a voice, they have a voice, and they need to feel empowered to use it, and people need to be encouraged to listen.” — Meghan Markle




“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” — Ruth Bader Ginsburg




“We all have an unsuspected reserve of strength inside that emerges when life puts us to the test.” — Isabel Allende




“Behind every great woman…is another great woman.” — Kate Hodges


At Valera Health, we believe the best way to create a world where we are all treated as equals is by taking action. Learn more about what you can do to support gender equality at


Summer SAD: What it Is & How to Cope

Sunshine, pool parties, backyard BBQs, clear blue skies, blooming flowers and picnics in the park come to mind when envisioning the much-anticipated summer season. But for some, as the temperatures rise and the sun comes out from hiding, so does increased stress and lowered moods. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is traditionally associated with crisp fall and frosty winter months—but its summer sibling can be just as dangerous. So what can you do if you’ve got a case of summertime SADness? Keep reading to learn more.


What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—also referred to as major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern—is a mood disorder marked by recurrent episodes of depressive symptoms in late fall and winter or in the summer, with alternating periods of normal (non-depressive) moods during the rest of the year. 

Research has shown that seasonal changes are the most likely cause of SAD because they can potentially cause chemical imbalances in the brain associated with depression and other mood disorders. However, the exact cause of seasonal affective disorder is unknown. 

Low levels of vitamin D and shorter days are also a possible factor of SAD in colder months, while conversely, long hours of sunlight may cause SAD in warmer months.



Summer SAD vs. Winter SAD

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder may start out mild but increase and become more noticeable as the season progresses. While both winter-pattern SAD and summer-pattern have some overlapping symptoms, there are key differences between the two.


General Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms:

  • Feeling sad or in a low mood most of the time
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having suicidal thoughts
  • Losing interest in favorite hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or feeling lethargic
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased motivation
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Appetite changes


Additional Summer-Pattern SAD Symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; insomnia
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Weight loss
  • Increased irritability or agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Episodes of violent behavior 


Additional Winter-Pattern SAD Symptoms:

  • Sleeping more than normal; oversleeping
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Regular cravings for foods that are high in fat or carbohydrates
  • Weight gain


Those with bipolar disorder are at an increased risk of developing seasonal affective disorder, and can experience differing or additional symptoms of SAD than those without bipolar disorder. 

An article by the Mayo Clinic states: 

“In some people with bipolar disorder, episodes of mania may be linked to a specific season. For example, spring and summer can bring on symptoms of mania or a less intense form of mania (hypomania), anxiety, agitation and irritability. They may also experience depression during the fall and winter months.”


Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

If you’re experiencing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, take them seriously. SAD can interfere with things such as school, work or interpersonal relationships, and can negatively affect your quality of life. 

While it’s important to be mindful of the signs or symptoms you’re experiencing, you also shouldn’t self-diagnose because there could be other health issues at play. 

A general physician can help you rule out other potential health issues, such as thyroid disorders, through medical tests (including blood tests). If your symptoms aren’t being caused by a thyroid disorder or other medical issue, a therapist and/or psychiatrist can provide a proper diagnosis and treatment. 

At home options for managing symptoms are available, but should not be used as a replacement for medical intervention from a professional. 


Tips for Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms in the Summer:

#1 Identify Triggers

Watch out for and make note of triggers that cause a spike in your symptoms. Therapists are great at working with patients to identify triggers and come up with coping strategies around these triggers.

#2 Prioritize Sleep

Since decreased sleep and other sleep disturbances are a common symptom of summer-pattern SAD, extra work needs to be put into place to make sure we are sleeping well. Check out this blog post to learn how to create a solid sleep routine. 

#3 Create a Daily Routine

Following a structured daily routine can help combat stress and improve focus. Write your routine down in a calendar or planner, set alarms to help you stay on schedule, display your routine throughout your home, and lean on loved ones to hold you accountable.

#4 Stay Cool

Use air-conditioning to improve your mood and sleep quality. If you have access to a lake, creek, river or pool, go for a swim. Limit time outside in the heat and exposure to sunlight, dress appropriately for the weather, and wear a sunhat. Find fun indoor activities (such as bowling or going to the movies) to fill your time.

#5 Drink Water—Lots of Water!

Dehydration can make us feel crappy in more ways than one, and can cause both physical and emotional health issues. When we drink enough water, it becomes easier to remain both physically, emotionally and mentally stable. Incorporate drinking water into your routine, keep a big water bottle with you at all times, and track how much water you’re drinking in comparison to how much water (at minimum) you should be drinking. 

#6 Don’t Forget to Eat

Since decreased appetite is a symptom of SAD, it can be hard to make sure we’re nourishing ourselves properly during this time. Plan quick, healthy meals and snacks in advance and set alarms as reminders to eat. 


Remember that what you’re feeling is normal! It can be extra hard to feel depressed during a time when we’re “supposed” to feel happy and have fun. Depression happens to a lot of us, and it can happen to anyone at any time. What you’re going through isn’t a choice, but you do have tools available to help you feel your best and manage your symptoms. 

Therapy and medication management are effective ways to treat seasonal affective disorder. For further support, consider Valera Health’s virtual mental healthcare services which include individual therapy, group therapy, psychiatry, medication management and more.

Call 646-450-7748 to talk to a dedicated Health Connector who can help you start your wellness journey with a provider tailored to you.

The 7 Pillars of Self-Care


Self-care isn’t selfish. In our busy lives and fast-paced world, it’s easy to get stuck in our routines and a seemingly endless cycle of responsibilities, obligations and the stress that comes with it. We often tell ourselves, “Tomorrow I’ll take the time to do this,” or “This new habit starts next week,” and put the needs of others before our own. Whether it’s with work, our family, or our friends, we often neglect our own wellbeing in the process. Amidst the chaos of our daily lives, one crucial practice stands true for preservation: self-care!



What is Self-Care?

Self-care is more than just a buzzword—it’s a commitment to yourself to prioritize your mental, physical, and emotional health. Self-care is the deliberate actions one practices and incorporates into their life to help them to relax, unwind and maintain balance. According to the International Self-Care Foundation, there are seven main pillars of self-care that should be a part of every self-care routine.


What are the Seven Pillars of Self-Care?

Pillar #1: Knowledge and Health Literacy

The pillar of Knowledge and Health Literacy refers to an individual’s capacity to comprehend and grasp their own mental health and wellbeing. More precisely, it’s the knowledge that entails our ability to understand the body, what is good for it and how to nourish it. Another key element is access to resources that explain health conditions so that we can make smart and well-informed choices pertaining to our own health. Health literacy, in turn, encapsulates the manner in which people comprehend and assimilate health related information.

Pillar #2: Mental Wellbeing, Self-Awareness and Agency

Pillar two focuses on three main puzzle pieces that work together to create an essential part of self-care. Mental wellbeing emphasizes the importance of optimism, self-esteem and life satisfaction. Self-awareness highlights the everyday application of health literacy to evaluate how we feel mentally. Agency means calling attention to an individual’s commitment and intent to take action for their physical, mental and emotional health.

Pillar #3: Physical Activity

Physical activity is exactly what it sounds like! It’s any bodily movement that requires energy expenditure. Physical activity has so many benefits beyond looking and feeling good. It has the power to improve mental health. It contributes to better sleep, reduces stress, and can even help with self-esteem and building a stronger memory.

Pillar #4: Healthy Eating

Healthy eating sounds self-explanatory, but it’s more complex—and important—than you may think. Having a balanced and healthy diet helps build immunity, preventing disease and illness. Most importantly, the food you eat is what fuels you and helps you feel good throughout the day. Making sure all food groups are incorporated into your diet will help you feel better both mentally and physically, and can contribute to living longer.

Pillar #5: Risk Avoidance or Mitigation

Pillar five refers to the conscious caution and avoidance of behaviors or actions that are directly correlated with anything substantially dangerous, like getting a disease or, in some cases, death. Risk avoidance and mitigation highlight particular activities and due diligence that keep us safe and healthy. Some examples of this are drinking in moderation, taking medication only as prescribed, getting necessary vaccines on time, wearing a seatbelt, taking your daily vitamins and wearing SPF.

Pillar #6: Good Hygiene

When we first hear the word “hygiene,” what probably comes to mind is showering or brushing our teeth. In regards to pillar six, hygiene goes well beyond that. Hygiene in this instance refers to the circumstances and practices one initiates to keep steady with their health and preserve it. This can mean anything from drinking clean water to washing your hands in the effort to prevent disease. Good hygiene is a focal point in self-care. Access to proper sanitation and good hygienic practices are beneficial for not only our health, but well-being and economic productivity as well.

Pillar #7: Rational and Responsible Use of Products, Services, Diagnostics and Medicine

Pillar seven stresses the importance for individuals to make smart and informed choices when it comes to managing their health. This includes education about products and services, so that we can use medicine and other health products safely. It is the understanding of health services one may use like acupuncture, a trainer or a chiropractor. Acquiring the behind-the-scenes knowledge of risks and benefits of these products/services is crucial when it comes to making safe health decisions for ourselves.



How to Create Your Own Self-Care Routine

So, how do we implement these pillars into our everyday life? Though it can seem a bit daunting at first, the solution might be more simple than you may think: A routine! 

Creating a personalized routine involves considering all of your individual needs in addition to the Seven Pillars of Self-Care. Self-care looks different from person-to-person and no two routines will look the same. Focus on what makes you feel centered, happy, and energized.


Here are some steps to get you started:

  1. Assess your needs. Reflect upon the current state of your emotional, physical and mental well-being. Try and identify areas which you think need a little more focus or nourishment.
  2. Find activities that rejuvenate you. Start by making a list of activities that you notice you feel your best while doing. This can be something big or small—from anything to listening to your favorite song or going for a hike.
  3. Prioritize these activities. Determine which of the activities you identified that align with what needs you want to work on and prioritize them.
  4. Establish a routine. Work on setting a designated time each day, week or month solely dedicated to self-care. Do it in regular intervals that work for you to create consistency. Treat this as a non-negotiable! 

Start small, then grow. Begin by incorporating these activities in small intervals where they fit best. Over time, increase how much time you spend on these activities, and practice them regularly.

Additional Self-Care Resources

A huge aspect of self-care is allowing yourself to have a space to express your emotions and work through stressors. 

Some people find this space to be an alone setting where they can enjoy their morning coffee with a book, while others find it more helpful to speak to a professional or connect with a group of others going through similar experiences. 

Valera Health provides both individual and group therapy for those interested in therapeutic self-care. 

At its core, therapy is a non-judgmental place that helps many work through large emotions that may be clogging up their minds. Therapy can help to understand and gain insight into these emotions. As we engage in therapy, we are engaging in the nourishment of prioritizing our mental health, honing in on pillar two of self-care. One of the very significant advantages of therapy, either in an individual or group setting, is the opportunity it presents to experience long-term mental wellbeing.

Along with one-on-one individual therapy, Valera Health offers many groups that support individuals at any point in their life, no matter what conditions they may be experiencing. From anxiety and depression, to parenting support, to a book club support group that was created as a cozy, supportive setting to gain knowledge through therapeutic literature and discussions, there’s a space for everyone at Valera Health. Call 646-450-7748 to schedule your first appointment.

For other resources check out the following:

  • International Self Care Foundation (ISF): ISF is dedicated to sharing more about self care and what that means from individual to individual. Visit their website at
  • American Psychological Association (APA): The APA has a designated page filled with all information about self- care and how to practice it in everyday life. Visit the website at:



Works Referenced:

Burkett, M. (n.d.). The seven pillars of self-care. Recreation Services. 

Iyarn. (2020, August 12). The seven pillars of self-care. 

Knowledge & Health Literacy – seven pillars – international self-care foundation. (n.d.). 

Lawler, M., Manning-Schaffel, V., Millard, E., Lucey, K., Dolan, M., Migala, J., Upham, B., Colino, S., Walsh, K., Lawler, M., & Byrne, C. (n.d.). What is self-care, and why is it so important for your health?. 

The seven pillars of self-care. ISF. (2020, July 20). 

Transtrum, T. (2023, April 20). Why therapeutic self-care practices can lead to long-term wellbeing. Valera Health. 

User, G. (2023, January 11). Understanding the 7 pillars of self-care. Mindful Maelstrom. 

What is self-care?. Global Self-Care Federation. (n.d.). 

Which kind of self-care do you need? take the self-care quiz!. The Blissful Mind. (2023, May 20).


PTSD Awareness Month: Understanding the Invisible Wounds


Almost 70% of adults in the United States have experienced some sort of traumatic event at least once in their lives—but not all who experience trauma develop PTSD or C-PTSD. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, C-PTSD, are two distinct psychological conditions that individuals who have experienced traumatic events can develop. 

While these two conditions are related, it is important to recognize the notable differences in their underlying causes and symptomatology. Read on to learn more about these mental health conditions and what types of help are available.


Defining PTSD & C-PTSD

PTSD and C-PTSD are mental health conditions that can have a very profound impact on one’s daily life, relationships and overarching well-being.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often a condition that is developed after a single traumatic event or incident. These incidents or events can include—but are not limited to—a sudden death, an act of violence, a natural disaster, being assaulted, or experiencing an accident. 

C-PTSD, in turn, is referred to as “complex trauma” and it typically emerges from long-lasting exposure to trauma. Complex-PTSD is often framed in the context of experiencing abusive, neglectful or very stressful environments for a prolonged period of time. 

While there are events that more commonly contribute to the development of PTSD and C-PTSD, it’s important to remember that all trauma is valid and you don’t have to experience a certain “type” of trauma to develop either of these conditions.



Signs & Symptoms of PTSD & C-PTSD

PTSD is a mental health condition that can manifest itself into many different and various forms of signs and symptoms following one’s exposure to a traumatic event. Understanding the signs and symptoms of PTSD is essential when recognizing the challenges one may face while living and working through this condition.

Signs & symptoms of PTSD may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Vivid flashbacks of the traumatic event, or feeling like you are reliving the moment the trauma first occurred
  • Physical effects such as dizziness, chest pain, elevated heart rate
  • Nightmares, especially if they are recurring  
  • Unable to express feelings or affection 
  • Avoidance of anything that may remind the individual of the event
  • Feeling on edge, or experiencing severe anxiety
  • Extreme alertness

Complex-PTSD can manifest itself in different ways that impact an individual’s life. When in a stressful environment for a long period of time, an individual may have a harder time recognizing signs and symptoms of C-PTSD. 

While those with C-PTSD are also likely to experience the PTSD symptoms above, the key difference between the two disorders is that PTSD often occurs after a singular traumatic event, while C-PTSD can develop after experiencing chronic (long-term) trauma, or multiple traumas. 

Additional signs and symptoms of C-PTSD may include the following:

  • Feeling distrustful and hateful towards the world
  • Feeling hopeless and as if there is no end to one’s suffering
  • Feeling as though no one understands them or their trauma, or that no one can relate to what they are experiencing
  • Experiencing dissociation, depersonalisation, or derealisation
  • Thoughts of suicide

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of all possible signs or symptoms of C-PTSD or PTSD. While most people with these disorders experience similar symptoms, C-PTSD or PTSD may look different from person-to-person.

If you or someone you know has experienced these signs or symptoms, we encourage you to speak to a licensed mental health professional, such as a therapist or a psychiatrist.


How PTSD & C-PTSD are Treated

When treating PTSD and C-PTSD, there are many different recommended interventions, but each and every person’s treatment journey is different depending on the individual and their needs. 

One of the most common therapies used to treat PTSD is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT aims to challenge the unhealthy thoughts that come with trauma and increase one’s emotional insight. Another therapy many providers try with patients looking to work through PTSD is prolonged exposure therapy. This approach helps individuals through gradually reprocessing repressed memories of the trauma they experienced in order to improve and build distress tolerance. 

Eye movement desensitization and processing therapy (EMDR) is another popular form of therapy that can be highly beneficial for individuals with PTSD.  Through EMDR, the individual reprocesses memories from the traumatic event with both guided instructions and rhythmic movements known as bilateral stimulation. Stimuli used in this treatment modality may include visual, auditory or tactile stimuli. Commonly repetitive and rapid eye movements are used as stimuli but tapping, tactile stimulation or auditory tones may also be used. The ultimate goal of EMDR is to give the individual the tools to no longer be distressed by memories of the traumatic event.

While the treatment of C-PTSD can be similar to the way PTSD is treated, there are a handful of additional therapies for individuals who have endured long-term trauma. Trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is often used for individuals who suffer with C-PTSD. This type of therapy helps individuals reframe their traumatic memories and overcome negative thoughts through developing effective coping skills. 

Another kind of therapy recommended for those with C-PTSD is exposure therapy. Through exposure therapy, individuals are slowly encouraged to enter situations that make them uncomfortable or anxious and work through the situations to learn how to cope with the resulting feelings rather than suppressing or running away from them. 

Group therapy is another kind of therapy that plays a crucial role in one’s treatment of PTSD or C-PTSD. A group therapy experience can allow an individual who may feel like they are not understood by anyone to connect with others who have endured similar traumas and provide them with a sense of validation and social support. 

“It’s important that any treatment of trauma be through a trauma informed lens ensuring that the client feels safety, trust, collaboration, choice and empowerment and that the use of the therapeutic relationship be the cornerstone of treatment,” says Kelly Clark, who is Valera Health’s Clinical Lead for Trauma Informed Care.


How Valera Health Can Help

Valera Health provides telemental healthcare services tailored to meet the needs of any one with mental health disorders or related concerns. This includes trauma-informed care for those who suffer from conditions like PTSD and C-PTSD and anyone who has experienced trauma.

As part of Valera Health’s trauma-informed approach to mental healthcare, we have launched two group therapy programs designed to fit the unique needs of trauma survivors. 

One of Valera Health’s providers who co-leads our Anxiety and Trauma Group, Abby Fink, shares the benefits of group therapy for those who have experienced trauma. 

“Through group therapy, individuals within the group are able to offer each other a unique form of support that they may not receive from a one-on-one provider. Through the group experience, members are able to offer support to each other and gain a deeper level of understanding, empathy and, most importantly, validation.

C-PTSD, PTSD and trauma can lead many to feel isolated. Group therapy is an opportunity for individuals to connect with others who have also gone through similar struggles which can help reduce their sense of loneliness.”

Anxiety & Trauma Group: In this group, participants will find a space to discuss life transitions, school stress, and stress around relationships and decision-making. In this group, we will work together on developing coping skills to navigate daily stressors and other symptoms of anxiety. We will also explore how previous trauma impacts our daily functioning and impacts our goals in life.

Trauma Survivor Group: Designed for young adults (ages 18-25), this trauma group teaches participants how to identify trauma responses as well as how to build coping skills for these responses. Participants will learn self-validation techniques, how to address triggers, grounding techniques for dissociation and fight-or-flight responses, how to reframe cognitive distortions and negative thoughts, basic self-care and mindfulness, the basics of journaling, how to discuss trauma with family and partners, and how to discuss relationship needs, boundaries and difficulties around sex. 

This group is perfect for participants who are seeking a comfortable space where people share their trauma. This group was specifically designed for people who have experienced sexual trauma and/or relationship trauma.

To learn more about our virtual group therapy programs, click here. Please note, at this time our group therapy programs are only available for those residing in NY or MA, however we plan on expanding these services to more states in the future. 

Valera Health also offers virtual one-on-one trauma-informed therapy for those who prefer individual therapy, as well as psychiatric services and medication management. If you are ready to start therapy, or are interested in learning more, call 646-450-7748 to speak with a Health Connector who will help you find the right treatment for you. 

Whether you decide to go the group therapy route or prefer individual therapy, know that you have many options when it comes to your treatment.

Request a free consultation with us today to start your healing journey.



Additional Resources + Hotlines

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): NAMI offers information, support groups, and educational resources for individuals with PTSD and their families. Visit their website at

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): NIMH provides comprehensive information on PTSD, including treatment options, research updates, and resources for finding mental health services. Explore their PTSD page at

PTSD United: PTSD United is an online community that offers support, information, and a platform for individuals with PTSD to connect and share their experiences. Find them at


Works Cited

American Psychological Association. “Treatments for PTSD.” Https://, June 2020,

“C-PTSD vs PTSD: Understanding the Differences.” Choosing Therapy, 21 Mar. 2022,

Child Welfare Information Gateway. Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Children Affected by Sexual Abuse or Trauma. 2018.

“Complex PTSD.” Cleveland Clinic, 5 Apr. 2023,

“Free Photo | Eyes behind Broken Mirror.” Freepik, Accessed 9 June 2023.

“Free Photo | Young and Depressed Adult at Home.” Freepik, Accessed 9 June 2023.

Mayo Clinic. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2018,

Mind. “Causes of PTSD.”, Jan. 2021,

—. “What Is Complex PTSD?”, Jan. 2021,

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing. How to Manage Traum

6 Mental Health Benefits of Yoga

Now a worldwide practice, sacred texts trace the origins of yoga back to India over 5,000 years ago. Among the many benefits of yoga are flexibility, controlled breathing and other physical and mental health benefits. Throughout this blog we explore mental health benefits of yoga that anyone and everyone can benefit from. Keep reading to learn more about this powerful practice.


How Yoga Was Born

First mentioned in the Rig Veda—a sacred collection of texts, songs, mantras and rituals—yoga was developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization of northern India. The founding principles of yoga are ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, aparigraha, shoucha, santosha, tapas, svadhyaya and Ishvara pranidhana.


Non-violence for and towards all living beings. 


Truthfulness in thoughts, words and deeds.


Do not steal—both from others and yourself (such as limiting your own potential). 


To stay in conduct with one’s own self; to live a life of celibacy.


The virtue of non-possessiveness or non-greediness.  


Purification of self. 


Contentment and satisfaction. 


Discipline, self-control, perseverance, and austerity.


Educating oneself, in particular, studying the Vedas and other sacred texts. 

Ishvara Pranidhana

Honoring a higher power in order to reach the state of one’s true self. “Om” comes from Ishvara pranidhana. 

Throughout its long-standing history, yoga has been refined and expanded into various different forms of practices. While these practices still draw from yoga’s roots, fundamental concepts have evolved into mind, body and spirit.


6 Benefits of Yoga for Mental Health


At the core of all meditative practices is mindfulness: “The practice of being with yourself, your body, your thoughts and emotions in order to observe them without judgment.” Yoga is a type of movement meditation that incorporates repeated movements rather than total stillness, teaching us to be present with every breath and posture.  

Stress & Anxiety Relief

An article by Healthline explains that “Yoga poses may help you release physical blockages like muscle knots, helping release emotions and tension.” The practice of yoga can also release mood-boosting endorphins, which combat stress and anxiety. Breathing exercises used in yoga, known as pranayama, can help calm the nervous system, therefore improving our stress responses and helping us stay in the present moment. 


Since yoga releases “feel good” brain chemicals including GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, it can actually help fight depression and make us feel more joyful. 

Better Sleep

Better breathing can result in better sleep. Pranayama can slow down our breathing and heart rate, resulting in increased relaxation. One study found that pranayama decreased snoring and daytime sleepiness in study participants, which may result in more restful sleep. 

Improved Brain Functioning

Yoga can actually affect the brain’s neuroplasticity by activating areas of the brain that are responsible for executive functioning and focus. An article by Harvard Health Publishing published on June 12, 2021, explains “When you do yoga, your brain cells develop new connections, and changes occur in brain struc­ture as well as function, resulting in improved cog­nitive skills, such as learning and memory. Yoga strengthens parts of the brain that play a key role in memory, attention, awareness, thought, and language. Think of it as weightlifting for the brain.”

Positive Self-Esteem

Because of its focus on self-validation, openness and self-awareness, yoga helps us practice self appreciation through the power of positive self-affirmations. One approach to yoga that stands out for its focus on building high self-esteem and self awareness is body mindful yoga, which combines yoga with positive language to help us understand the power words can have when it comes to how we think, speak and process information.


3 Easy Yoga Poses to Try

Mountain Pose

  • Mountain Pose is the base for all standing yoga poses. This pose teaches us how to stand with the majestic steadiness and strength of a mountain, and helps us practice our alignment and focus. 

Warrior I

  • Also called Virabhadrasana, Warrior I is an excellent pose to use to build strength and improve stamina throughout your yoga practice. This pose both stretches the hips and thighs while also building strength in our lower body and core.


Child’s Pose

  • This gentle resting pose promotes relaxation while also stretching the hips, thighs, legs and arms and releasing tension throughout the body.  

For more beginner yoga poses, click here.



Final Thoughts

The mental health benefits of yoga have been supported through both scientific research and anecdotal experiences. Therapy used in conjunction with yoga can help optimize these benefits and provide additional support for your wellness journey.

Valera Health offers affordable and accessible virtual mental health services including individual therapy, group therapy (currently available in NY and MA), psychiatry and medication management. 

Our Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) therapy group offers participants the opportunity to learn more about how to incorporate mindfulness into their daily lives while expanding their support system. To learn more about our extensive list of group therapy offerings, click here

If you are interested in learning more about any of the telemental healthcare services we offer, call 646-450-7748 or click here to schedule a free consultation with a Health Connector who will help you find a mental healthcare provider that’s the right fit for you.