Ask a therapist

How can I recondition myself out of this unhealthy feeling.

Hello Jay, It is very nice to meet you. You ask an excellent question. From what you are describing, it sounds as though you are experiencing low self esteem, often feel self conscious of yourself when you are around others and feel inadequate in groups of people. Family history can certainly affect how we interact as adults, as you mentioned your feeling that this comes from trauma related to your mother.  If you and I were working together in therapy, I would want to know more about your background and what you experienced with your mother as a child. Processing childhood trauma, while often painful, helps a person heal and find a sense of peace and self confidence. I would encourage you to reframe and redirect the negative and intrusive thoughts. Think of it this way - thoughts control feelings and feelings control actions. So, if you are in a group and are thinking that you are too quiet, not good enough, not confident even, etc, then you will feel insecure and uncomfortable and this leads to you showing this physically by slumped shoulders, quiet voice, fidgeting with hands, avoiding eye contact, etc. Work to change these thoughts, that's where it starts. Tell yourself that you are competent and know what you are talking about. When you have confident thoughts, you will feel more confident and then act more confident.  Practice telling yourself that you are qualified for the conversations you are in and that you know what you are talking about. Speak clearly and slowly when talking to others. I know that this can feel very uncomfortable and awkward at first. It will get easier and feel more natural with time. The same way that the unhealthy feelings have almost become normal, natural for you, you can also change them and make new, healthier feelings.  Working with a therapist can certainly help you with these issues you mention. You would be able to further identify healthy strategies for feeling more confident. I hope that you have found this information helpful and I wish you all the best moving forward on your journey. 
Answered on 08/09/2022

I am going through a breakup right now and I don't know what to do, what to think or how to feel

Dear Lola, Thank you so much for your question. Breaking up is so painful (and likely the reason why most songs on the radio are about break-ups). It’s a kind of loss that we can often gloss over, especially when the relationship has been relatively short. However, no matter how long you were together, breaking up hurts. Healing from a break-up takes time (even if you initiated the break-up) because you are losing more than just a romantic partner. You lose a friend, a confidant, and the life you had planned together. The longer we are in partnerships, the more of these plans we start thinking of and cutting them off can feel physically painful. Different people take different amounts of time to heal. However, every time you meet up with your ex (especially if you hook up and have sex or even just emotionally intimate conversation), the clock starts over. You are re-opening that wound before it’s fully healed. I’ll also throw this out there: if you are hoping to get together in the future, then it sounds like you haven’t really processed the fact that this aspect of the relationship (the romantic portion) is over. Although it may be counter-intuitive, I believe that engaging in the mourning process and growing will help you later on if you *do* get back together. If you get back together after many months apart, you will have matured and increased your insight into what you are looking for. Further, if you get back together now you may just hop back into the negative patterns that led you to break up in the first place. Once you are matched with your therapist, she or he will be able to help you identify the triggers for these feelings and specific ways you can find more happiness in your life. However, to get you started while you wait to be matched, here are some potential ways you can improve this situation. IMPROVE YOUR CURRENT QUALITY OF LIFE. It is possible that some of the positive feelings you have about your ex are partially about your old life. Further, if you are lonely in your new situation, then it is especially important to find ways to get social support. Please consider whether you can join a church, social groups, or if there are opportunities to meet people related to your hobbies or work. Please also consider what connections with your past may be healthier for you. Do you have old friends that you could meet up with more regularly? Please also consider what else you can do in your current situation to improve you quality of life (perhaps a different job, better sleep, better food). In summary, if you are happier where you are, you will reminisce less about where you were. REMEMBER WHY YOU BROKE UP. Ask a close friend or family member to help you remember the reasons you broke up with your ex. It may have been your decision or could have been his, but something in that relationship was not working. What were those reasons? What were the annoyances? Write them down or send it to yourself in an email so you can look at them often. MAINTAIN BOUNDARIES. If you are still speaking with your ex, I strongly recommend stopping any text or phone calls. It just re-opens the wound. Further, please stop following them on social media and hold back from Googling them. Keep in mind – everything looks better online than in person. We only post our most attractive pictures, we only post our most exciting vacations, and we only post our wittiest conversations. What you see there is not reality and it will only make you feel worse. TRY TO IDENTIFY THE TRIGGERS. We are creatures of habit, and we tend to be stressed or saddened by predicable things. It is important to start learning about the common themes of what makes you feel this sense of longing. Is it when you are lonely? When you are annoyed? When you are bored? When you are sexually aroused? Everyone is different. The best way to do this is to start keeping a log of the times you experienced these feelings. Jot down in a journal or in an app like Google Keep these times, including: -- Where was I when this happened? -- What was I doing? -- How was I feeling? Over time, you will see themes that can help you attack the triggers. CONSIDER WHAT YOU TRULY WANT. Consider listing what you would like to have in a partnership (whether it is with your spouse or someone else). Making a realistic wish list can help you identify your priorities. And please keep in mind that you are valuable and WORTH meeting these priorities. Ask yourself questions like: - How should my partner and I solve problems when we disagree about little things (for example, the best way to wash dishes)? How should we solve problems when we disagree about big things (for example, how we want to spend money)? - What kind of activities do I want to be able to do with my partner? - How should my partner and I talk about what we want in sex? - What kind of sense of humor is important to me? What kinds of things make me laugh, and is it important that my partner shares this? - How much are looks important to me? - What kind of dates do I expect? What do I like to do when getting to know someone or spending time with someone I care about? - How fast should my partner get back to me when I text or call? Do we always need to pick up the phone, or is it okay to have the call go voicemail if I’m busy? - Should my partner and I to do fun things apart or only together? Is it okay if we do fun things with out friends without the other partner? - How important is it that my partner get along with my friends? - How important is it that my partner get along with my family? - What are my limits? Are there any things that I absolutely will not allow from a partner (like physical violence, certain kinds of substance use)? After making your list, consider how it felt. Do you feel you deserve to have these needs met? (I think you do deserve to have a good partnership that meets your needs). Are the needs realistic? Which ones are the highest priority? When you meet with your Better Help counselor, I recommend discussing your grief about this loss. Even though your ex is alive, breaking up requires the same kind of mourning process and can help you identify ways you can grow from this experience and then be an even better partner later on (regardless of who you are with). I see good things in your future. Again, I am so impressed that you have reached out for help and I am confident that working with your therapist will help you in several areas of your life! Best, Julie Note: If you are in crisis and feeling like hurting yourself, please call 911, go to your closest emergency department, or call the suicide hotline (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) immediately at 800-273-8255. You could also go to their website to chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.    
Answered on 08/09/2022

I’m antisocial and dealing with emotional and mental health issues

Dear Omo, First of all, I am so glad that you have reached out for help. Coming to BetterHelp for therapy is a brave step and I think you will find that working one on one with a counselor here will really help. It is completely normal to feel anxiety around new people (and people you already know).This can result in shyness *or* sometimes acting overly social and sharing too much to compensate.  Often this stems from a worry about being judged or about being disliked. It seems like social anxiety has increased dramatically since the onset of the COVID 19 Pandemic since many of us have had more limited interaction and spending time with strangers was *literally* unsafe prior to vaccines (and even since then for some). As such, it is important to know that you are not alone in this. When you see people walk into a social situation with a smile and a warm handshake, often they are employing the “fake it ‘til you make it” approach. Further, we live in a society that makes us all feel like we need to be extroverts, whereas it is just fine to be a person who only needs a few close friends instead of a large group. Oftentimes when we are in our 20s we start to recognize whether we are the kind of person who feels recharged after spending time with others (extrovert) or who feels recharged after spending time alone (introverts). There is no one right way. The physical sensations you may be experiencing: increased heart rate, sweating, nausea, feeling overwhelmed and panicked are all signs of your fight or flight response. This is an evolutionary function of our sympathetic nervous system that helps our bodies prepare for dealing with predators (either to fight or flee). In addition, you may feel your muscles tense up and a surge of energy as glucose and adrenaline are released into your bloodstream.  The fight or flight response makes a lot of sense if you are dealing with a physical threat, but it does not help us much when our threat is a work deadline, being late for an appointment, meeting a new person, poor internet connection, or other modern stressors. Indeed, too much of the fight or flight response causes stomach upset, muscle tension, bad mood, trouble sleeping, and eventually even lowered immunity (do you ever notice how college students always get sick right after final exams?).  Back to the fear you may feel in social situations… Social anxiety becomes a serious problem when it starts to inhibit you from doing activities you enjoy, from succeeding at school or work, or from general happiness. What to do about it? - Learn about the links between anxiety, depression, and cognition. From what you wrote, it sounds like social anxiety and other anxieties are not new for you (but is certainly much more problematic right now). A few decades of social science research have helped us understand that our thought patterns and how we consider the world and events lead to specific emotions. Your therapist can teach you more about the cognitive model and describe some practical tools to change the maladaptive thought patterns (in other words, the ways of thinking that keep bringing you down). There are so many practical ways to get started with this work, and it can help strengthen you throughout your life. In the mean time, you can learn more by watching a Groupinar on Better Help about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to start learning about the links between anxiety and cognition. - Disrupt intense fear or the fight or flight response with deep breathing. Learning deep belly breathing (or “diaphragmatic breathing) is a great tool to add to effective stress management. Taking time to breathe deeply for a few minutes is a free and easy to learn method to take you out of the fight or flight zone and into a zone where you can think more clearly and not experience those side effects. You can Google “deep breathing” or “diaphragmatic breathing” to start learning a technique that really helps most people. You can find mobile apps to help (for example the Breathe2Relax or the Virtual Hope Box app – both are free and evidence-based) or watch videos online that can walk you through it. These are skills that not only help you now, but can assist you throughout your entire life (for example, dealing with road rage, poor customer service, annoying family). You can also disrupt the fight or flight response in the moment with just a minute or two of intense exercise (for example, push-ups, jumping jacks or walking up and down a flight of stairs). This helps use some of the adrenalin and glucose that are released into your blood stream when you have encountered a stressor and leaves you thinking a bit more clearly. - Try to identify triggers. We are creatures of habit, and we tend to be afraid of consistent things. Unfortunately, the more we avoid a fear, the stronger that fear gets (avoidance is like fuel for fear). As such, it is important to start learning about the common themes of what makes you anxious. Is it a fear of being judged? A fear of failure? A fear of not being loved or admired? Everyone is different. The best way to do this is to start keeping a log of the times you experienced the fight or flight response. Jot down in a journal or in an app like Google Keep these times, including: -- What was the triggering event? -- How long did it take to calm down?  Over time, your therapist will likely recommend that you also track “what was the automatic thought,” or the instant thought that just popped in to your mind that might have made you feel even worse (such as “everyone here is going to hate me.” Or “They all think I’m stupid.”) Your therapist can help you identify themes and come up with alternative cognitions or thoughts to battle these automatic thoughts. I see good things in your future. You have already taken a huge first step and I’m confident that you and your therapist here on Better Help will be able to figure out better patterns for you. Best, Julie Note: If you are in crisis and feeling like hurting yourself, please call 911, go to your closest emergency department, or call the suicide hotline (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) immediately at 800-273-8255. You could also go to their website to chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.    
Answered on 08/09/2022

Is this feeling normal? How can I cope with these thoughts? How do I feel at peace moving forward?

Dear Klaus, First of all, I am impressed that you are reaching out for help. It is a brave first step, and I want to congratulate you on dipping your toe in the water here at BetterHelp to see if meeting with a therapist here will help you. You have raised several different issues here, and it is clear that you have a lot on your mind. Anxiety becomes a serious problem when it starts to inhibit you from doing activities you enjoy, from succeeding at school or work, or from general happiness. What to do about it? - Speak to your medical health care provider about whether anti-anxiety medication may be a good fit for you. Anxiolytics are safe and effective, and they can help increase the effectiveness of one on one talk therapy. - Learn about the links between anxiety and cognition. From what you wrote, it sounds like overwhelming feelings are not new for you (but certainly much more problematic right now). A few decades of social science research have helped us understand that our thought patterns and how we consider the world and events lead to specific emotions. Your therapist can teach you more about the cognitive model and describe some practical tools to change the maladaptive thought patterns (in other words, the ways of thinking that keep bringing you down). There are so many practical ways to get started with this work, and it can help strengthen you throughout your life. In the mean time, you can learn more by watching a Groupinar on BetterHelp about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to start learning about the links between anxiety and cognition. - Learn more about anxiety in general. Physical sensations like increased heart rate, sweating, feeling overwhelmed and panicked are signs of your fight or flight response. This is an evolutionary function of our sympathetic nervous system that helps our bodies prepare for dealing with predators (either to fight or flee). In addition, you may feel your muscles tense up and a surge of energy as glucose and adrenaline are released into your bloodstream. The fight or flight response makes a lot of sense if you are dealing with a physical threat, but it does not help us much when our threat is a work deadline, being late for an appointment, meeting a new person, poor internet connection, or other modern stressors. Indeed, too much of the fight or flight response causes stomach upset, muscle tension, bad mood, trouble sleeping, and eventually even lowered immunity (do you ever notice how college students always get sick right after final exams?). - Disrupt intense fear or the fight or flight response with deep breathing. Learning deep belly breathing (or “diaphragmatic breathing) is a great tool to add to effective stress management. Taking time to breathe deeply for a few minutes is a free and easy to learn method to take you out of the fight or flight zone and into a zone where you can think more clearly and not experience those side effects. You can Google “deep breathing” or “diaphragmatic breathing” to start learning a technique that really helps most people. You can find mobile apps to help (for example the Breathe2Relax or the Virtual Hope Box app – both are free and evidence-based) or watch videos online that can walk you through it. These are skills that not only help you now, but can assist you throughout your entire life (for example, dealing with road rage, poor customer service, annoying family). You can also disrupt the fight or flight response in the moment with just a minute or two of intense exercise (for example, push-ups, jumping jacks or walking up and down a flight of stairs). This helps use some of the adrenalin and glucose that are released into your blood stream when you have encountered a stressor and leaves you thinking a bit more clearly. - Try to identify triggers. We are creatures of habit, and we tend to be afraid of consistent things. Unfortunately, the more we avoid a fear, the stronger that fear gets (avoidance is like fuel for fear). As such, it is important to start learning about the common themes of what makes you anxious. Is it a fear of being judged? A fear of failure? A fear of not being loved or admired? Everyone is different. The best way to do this is to start keeping a log of the times you experienced the fight or flight response. Jot down in a journal or in an app like Google Keep these times, including: -- What was the triggering event? -- How long did it take to calm down? Over time, your therapist will likely recommend that you also track “what was the automatic thought,” or the instant thought that just popped in to your mind that might have made you feel even worse (such as “everyone here is going to hate me.” Or “They all think I’m stupid.” Or “I need to determine my life’s purpose or else I’m a failure.”) Your therapist can help you identify themes and come up with alternative cognitions or thoughts to battle these automatic thoughts. - Learn more about social anxiety. It is completely normal to feel anxiety around new people or people we already know. Often this stems from a worry about being judged or about being disliked. It seems like social anxiety has increased dramatically since the onset of the COVID 19 Pandemic since many of us have had more limited interaction and spending time with strangers was *literally* unsafe prior to vaccines (and even since then for some). As such, it is important to know that you are not alone in this. When you see people walk into a social situation with a smile and a warm handshake, often they are employing the “fake it ‘til you make it” approach. Further, we live in a society that makes us all feel like we need to be extroverts, whereas it is just fine to be a person who only needs a few close friends instead of a large group. Oftentimes when we are in our 20s we start to recognize whether we are the kind of person who feels recharged after spending time with others (extrovert) or who feels recharged after spending time alone (introverts). There is no one right way. I see good things in your future. Again, I’m so impressed that you have reached out for help and I’m confident that working with your therapist will help you in several areas of your life! Best, Julie Note: If you are in crisis and feeling like hurting yourself, please call 911, go to your closest emergency department, or call the suicide hotline (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) immediately at 800-273-8255. You could also go to their website to chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.      
Answered on 08/09/2022

How do I distinguish between self-abandonment/support and love?

Hello Frekkle, These are such great questions. It sounds like you have a lot going on, but also a lot of insight about why your lack of confidence in the relationship may be adding stress. I do think that meeting with a therapist here on BetterHelp will be very helpful. Please forgive me if I'm not fully understanding what is going on... your therapist will be much more helpful as they learn about you! Your therapist will be able to help you identify patterns in your past relationship that you can work on and also help you gain confidence with your current relationship. While you are waiting to be matched with your new counselor, here is some additional advice that may be helpful. Apologies in advance if this doesn’t fit – it’s hard to know much about your situation from your brief email, but your therapist will be much more helpful! 1) DON’T DEMAND IMPOSSIBLE ANSWERS. If you find yourself asking your partner lots of questions like “Are we good?” “Are you happy?” “Do you still love me?” “Is this going okay?” it suggests that you are insecure about the relationship status but don’t know how to improve things. Your intentions are good, but unfortunately asking questions like this to your partner can just stress them out since it’s difficult to answer and a simple “yeah, we’re good” probably won’t get rid of your sense of insecurity. 2) IMPROVE OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE. Sometimes we add additional pressure to our romantic relationships because we are generally unhappy with our life. I am wondering how much social contact you have with new friends as well as old friends and family from home. If you are lonely then it is especially important to find ways to get social support (in addition to the social support you get from your partner). Please consider whether you can join a church, social groups, or if there are opportunities to meet people related to your hobbies or work. Please also consider what connections with your past may be healthier for you. Do you have old friends that you could meet up with more regularly? Please also consider what else you can do in your current situation to improve your quality of life (perhaps a different job, better sleep, better food). In summary, if you are happier where you are, you will reminisce less about where you were and enjoy more about your partnership. 3)  TRY TO IDENTIFY THE TRIGGERS. We are creatures of habit, and we tend to be stressed or saddened by predictable things. It is important to start learning about the common themes of what makes you feel this sense of anxiety. Is it when your partner does something annoying? When you feel like you are not good enough? When you are bored or lonely? When you are sexually aroused? Everyone is different. The best way to do this is to start keeping a log of the times you experienced these feelings. Jot down in a journal or in an app like Google Keep these times, including: -- Where was I when this happened? -- What was I doing? -- How was I feeling? Over time, you will see themes that can help you attack the triggers. 4) CONSIDER WHAT YOU TRULY WANT. It is possible that this is not the right partnership for you. Consider listing what you would like to have in a partnership (whether it is with your current partner or someone else). Making a realistic wish list can help you identify your priorities. And please keep in mind that you are valuable and WORTH meeting these priorities. Ask yourself questions like: - How should my partner and I solve problems when we disagree about little things (for example, the best way to wash dishes)? How should we solve problems when we disagree about big things (for example, how we want to spend money)? - What kind of activities do I want to be able to do with my partner? - How should my partner and I talk about what we want in sex? - What kind of sense of humor is important to me? What kinds of things make me laugh, and is it important that my partner shares this? - How much are looks important to me? - What kind of dates do I expect? What do I like to do when getting to know someone or spending time with someoneI care about? - How fast should my partner get back to me when I text or call? Do we always need to pick up the phone, or is it okay to have the call go voicemail if I’m busy? - Should my partner and I to do fun things apart or only together? Is it okay if we do fun things with out friends without the other partner? - How important is it that my partner get along with my friends?  - How important is it that my partner get along with my family? - What are my limits? Are there any things that I absolutely will not allow from a partner (like physical violence, certain kinds of substance use)? After making your list, consider how it felt. Do you feel you deserve to have these needs met? (I think you do deserve to have a good partnership that meets your needs). Are the needs realistic? Which ones are the highest priority? Of these high priority items, which ones do your current partner meet? 5) CONSIDER COUPLES COUNSELING. BetterHelp has the option through “ReGain” to enter couples counseling to help strengthen the bond with your partner and to see if there are things you can work together to improve. I see good things in your future. You have already taken a huge first step and I’m confident that you and your therapist here on Better Help will be able to figure out better patterns for you. Best wishes to you for a beautiful spring, Julie Note: If you are in crisis and feeling like hurting yourself, please call 911, go to your closest emergency department, or call the suicide hotline (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) immediately at 800-273-8255. You could also go to their website to chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
Answered on 08/08/2022

How do I deal with the racist remarks that have been made to me?

Dear Riya, What a terrible experience! I'm so glad you came to BetterHelp; once you are matched with a therapist you will be able to work together to prioritize and set realistic goals to help you learn how to process experiences like this. Although this doesn’t sound like a major behavioral health disorder, if it’s causing you distress or feelings of discomfort, then therapy can help! I wanted to set some expectations for you so you know what therapy will be like with BetterHelp. Depending on your subscription you will likely have one live session a week with your therapist (by video, phone, or live texting). In addition, you and your therapist can text back and forth through the week, you can attend unlimited free “Groupinars” about behavioral health topics, and you can use the journaling feature. It’s good to shop around for the right therapist based on their specialties. When you are matched with a therapist, make it clear what you are looking for. It will not hurt our feelings for you to try out several of us until you find the correct fit (there are more than 25,000 on this platform alone, so you have choices!). We just want what’s best for you. Think of it like remodeling a home. You may just want help painting and changing some fixtures or going after walls with a sledge hammer. You would certainly want different kinds of professionals for these tasks, and you would also want to learn their specialties before getting to work. For example, I specialize in anxiety disorders, grief, sleep improvement, and sexual functioning. I also have been successful with many other areas. However, if a client comes to me asking for help understanding their dreams, I would (kindly) suggest they pick another therapist since that is not my area of expertise. Here are considerations as you look into therapy and shop around. 1. CONSIDER WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH. As I mentioned above, there are lots of styles of therapy, and many different practice specialties. Here are some of the main areas that people usually want help with (but there are many more, of course. You may want to Google, “types of therapy.”) - Empathy (unconditional positive regard). Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us without judging. You may come from a family or friend group where this is hard to find, and a therapist can listen to you kindly and empathically. - Reality testing (helping you separate the logic from emotions). Sometimes we have difficulty understanding whether a situation warrants the kind of reaction we feel. For example, you may become enraged at poor customer service. A therapist can help you understand why you feel this way and how to deal with such situations. - Learning new patterns for thoughts (cognitions). Sometimes we fall into logical fallacies or thought distortions such as-or-nothing thinking and catastrophizing. These lead to increased feelings of depression and anxiety. Your therapist can help you understand these distortions and what to do about them. - Understanding anxiety triggers. We are creatures of habit, and we tend to be afraid of consistent things. Unfortunately, the more we avoid a fear, the stronger that fear gets (avoidance is like fuel for fear). As such, it is important to start learning about the common themes of what makes you anxious. Is it a fear of being judged? A fear of failure? A fear of not being loved or admired? Everyone is different. The best way to do this is to start keeping a log of the times you experienced the fight or flight response. Jot down in a journal or in an app like Google Keep these times, including: -- What was the triggering event? -- How long did it take to calm down?  Over time, your therapist will likely recommend that you also track “what was the automatic thought,” or the instant thought that just popped in to your mind that might have made you feel even worse (such as “everyone here is going to hate me.” Or “They all think I’m stupid.”) Your therapist can help you identify themes and come up with alternative cognitions or thoughts to battle these automatic thoughts. - Disrupt intense fear or the fight or flight response with deep breathing. Learning deep belly breathing (or “diaphragmatic breathing) is a great tool to add to effective stress management. Taking time to breathe deeply for a few minutes is a free and easy to learn method to take you out of the fight or flight zone and into a zone where you can think more clearly and not experience those side effects. You can Google “deep breathing” or “diaphragmatic breathing” to start learning a technique that really helps most people. You can find mobile apps to help (for example the Breathe2Relax or the Virtual Hope Box app – both are free and evidence-based) or watch videos online that can walk you through it. These are skills that not only help you now, but can assist you throughout your entire life (for example, dealing with road rage, poor customer service, annoying family). You can also disrupt the fight or flight response in the moment with just a minute or two of intense exercise (for example, push-ups, jumping jacks or walking up and down a flight of stairs). This helps use some of the adrenalin and glucose that are released into your blood stream when you have encountered a stressor and leaves you thinking a bit more clearly. - Accountability partner. Your therapist can help you set achievable and realistic goals and help keep you accountable for making progress. This can prevent you from making goals that are too large and unrealistic. Your therapist can also congratulate you on the small achievements that you may not want to share with others (for example, “Yay! You were able to go through the day only reading the news twice!”). - Helping you understand how your early life affects you now. In our early childhood we learn many things and have many experiences that lead to our behaviors as adults. Some therapists (especially those with psychodynamic backgrounds) can help you understand these effects. - Coping with grief, mourning and break-ups. Therapists can help you grieve and mourn losses such as deaths, break-ups, and other ways that you have lost people close to you. - Processing and working through trauma. Therapists can help you understand the symptoms of posttraumatic stress and help you learn ways to reduce these symptoms. - Learning ways to improve sleep, chronic pain, sexual functioning, and other quality-of-life factors. There are many evidence-based techniques that therapists can help you learn to improve your daily functioning in these areas. - Improving communication skills with partners, family, children, friends, or co-workers. As the saying goes, “love is never enough.” To help maintain healthy relationships, your therapist can help you learn effective and clear communication skills. 2. CONSIDER YOUR “STAGE OF CHANGE.” Sometimes we may have the need to change but not yet the motivation (like reducing substance use, quitting smoking, or other healthy behavior change). Depending on your stage of change, it may not be the right time for therapy. Here are the major stages of change. Consider where you are: - Precontemplation: This is the stage during which you may not even be aware of the issue. - Contemplation: This is when you are just starting to think about making change. - Preparation: This is when you get ready to change. This is when a therapist is MOST helpful. - Action: This is when we actually start making the change. Therapists are also very helpful here. - Maintenance: Maintaining the change can be difficult, and therapists are very helpful at this stage as well. I’m sending you hopes for quick healing and lifelong growth. Thank you so much for reaching out! Best regards, Julie Note: If you are in crisis and feeling like hurting yourself, please call 911, go to your closest emergency department, or call the suicide hotline (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) immediately at 800-273-8255. You could also go to their website to chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
Answered on 08/04/2022

What do I do with my life?

Dear T, It's clear you have a lot going on. It can feel so empty to go through life without feeling that you are successful or even comfortable with yourself or the path you are on. I'm so glad you came to BetterHelp; once you are matched with a therapist you will be able to work together to figure out ways you can (1) improve your current progress and (2) make sure that the choices you are making will truly make *you* happy (not just your family). It can be very scary to think that you might be disappointing others, but this is your life and there are many, many potential paths to happiness. Sometimes we need to take a step back and reconsider what is truly most important.  I wanted to set some expectations for you so you know what therapy will be like. Depending on your subscription you will likely have one live session a week with your therapist (by video, phone, or live texting). In addition, you and your therapist can text back and forth through the week, you can attend unlimited free “Groupinars” about behavioral health topics, and you can use the journaling feature. It’s good to shop around for the right therapist based on their specialties. When you are matched with a therapist, make it clear what you are looking for. It will not hurt our feelings for you to try out several of us until you find the correct fit (there are literally 20,000 on this platform, so you have choices!). We just want what’s best for you. Think of it like remodeling a home. You may just want help painting and changing some fixtures or going after walls with a sledge hammer. You would certainly want different kinds of professionals for these tasks, and you would also want to learn their specialties before getting to work. For example, I specialize in anxiety disorders, grief, sleep improvement, and sexual functioning. I also have been successful with many other areas. However, if a client comes to me asking for help understanding their dreams, I would (kindly) suggest they pick another therapist since that is not my area of expertise. Here are considerations as you look into therapy and shop around. 1. CONSIDER WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH. As I mentioned above, there are lots of styles of therapy, and many different practice specialties. Here are some of the main areas that people usually want help with (but there are many more, of course. You may want to Google, “types of therapy.”) - Empathy (unconditional positive regard). Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us without judging. You may come from a family or friend group where this is hard to find, and a therapist can listen to you kindly and empathically. - Reality testing (helping you separate the logic from emotions). Sometimes we have difficulty understanding whether a situation warrants the kind of reaction we feel. For example, you may become enraged at poor customer service. A therapist can help you understand why you feel this way and how to deal with such situations. - Learning new patterns for thoughts (cognitions). Sometimes we fall into logical fallacies or thought distortions such as-or-nothing thinking and catastrophizing. These lead to increased feelings of depression and anxiety. Your therapist can help you understand these distortions and what to do about them. - Understanding anxiety triggers. We are creatures of habit, and we tend to be afraid of consistent things. Unfortunately, the more we avoid a fear, the stronger that fear gets (avoidance is like fuel for fear). As such, it is important to start learning about the common themes of what makes you anxious. Is it a fear of being judged? A fear of failure? A fear of not being loved or admired? Everyone is different. The best way to do this is to start keeping a log of the times you experienced the fight or flight response. Jot down in a journal or in an app like Google Keep these times, including: -- What was the triggering event? -- How long did it take to calm down?  Over time, your therapist will likely recommend that you also track “what was the automatic thought,” or the instant thought that just popped in to your mind that might have made you feel even worse (such as “everyone here is going to hate me.” Or “They all think I’m stupid.”) Your therapist can help you identify themes and come up with alternative cognitions or thoughts to battle these automatic thoughts. - Disrupt intense fear or the fight or flight response with deep breathing. Learning deep belly breathing (or “diaphragmatic breathing) is a great tool to add to effective stress management. Taking time to breathe deeply for a few minutes is a free and easy to learn method to take you out of the fight or flight zone and into a zone where you can think more clearly and not experience those side effects. You can Google “deep breathing” or “diaphragmatic breathing” to start learning a technique that really helps most people. You can find mobile apps to help (for example the Breathe2Relax or the Virtual Hope Box app – both are free and evidence-based) or watch videos online that can walk you through it. These are skills that not only help you now, but can assist you throughout your entire life (for example, dealing with road rage, poor customer service, annoying family). You can also disrupt the fight or flight response in the moment with just a minute or two of intense exercise (for example, push-ups, jumping jacks or walking up and down a flight of stairs). This helps use some of the adrenalin and glucose that are released into your blood stream when you have encountered a stressor and leaves you thinking a bit more clearly. - Accountability partner. Your therapist can help you set achievable and realistic goals and help keep you accountable for making progress. This can prevent you from making goals that are too large and unrealistic. Your therapist can also congratulate you on the small achievements that you may not want to share with others (for example, “Yay! You were able to go through the day only reading the news twice!”). - Helping you understand how your early life affects you now. In our early childhood we learn many things and have many experiences that lead to our behaviors as adults. Some therapists (especially those with psychodynamic backgrounds) can help you understand these effects. - Coping with grief, mourning and break-ups. Therapists can help you grieve and mourn losses such as deaths, break-ups, and other ways that you have lost people close to you. - Processing and working through trauma. Therapists can help you understand the symptoms of posttraumatic stress and help you learn ways to reduce these symptoms. - Learning ways to improve sleep, chronic pain, sexual functioning, and other quality-of-life factors. There are many evidence-based techniques that therapists can help you learn to improve your daily functioning in these areas. - Improving communication skills with partners, family, children, friends, or co-workers. As the saying goes, “love is never enough.” To help maintain healthy relationships, your therapist can help you learn effective and clear communication skills. 2. CONSIDER YOUR “STAGE OF CHANGE.” Sometimes we may have the need to change but not yet the motivation (like reducing substance use, quitting smoking, or other healthy behavior change). Depending on your stage of change, it may not be the right time for therapy. Here are the major stages of change. Consider where you are: - Precontemplation: This is the stage during which you may not even be aware of the issue. - Contemplation: This is when you are just starting to think about making change. - Preparation: This is when you get ready to change. This is when a therapist is MOST helpful. - Action: This is when we actually start making the change. Therapists are also very helpful here. - Maintenance: Maintaining the change can be difficult, and therapists are very helpful at this stage as well. I’m sending you hopes for quick healing and lifelong growth. Thank you so much for reaching out! Best regards, Julie Note: If you are in crisis and feeling like hurting yourself, please call 911, go to your closest emergency department, or call the suicide hotline (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) immediately at 800-273-8255. You could also go to their website to chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
Answered on 08/04/2022

It just seems like doors are constantly being slammed in my face and nothing is working.

Thank you for your comment/question. I will respond to this answer in a way that hopefully helps you to view some of the challenges that you have experienced in a more helpful and empowering way. First, I would like to take sometime to normalize some of the past experiences that may have led you to draw to the conclusion that, "Things haven't worked in the past and therefore probably won't in the future either." Although you may or may not have actually said this exact phrase, this could be the negative belief or message that you now subscribe to. What we believe about ourselves is one of the most important things about us as individuals. The reality is we all experience challenges, difficulties and adversities of various types. In fact, many people choose to walk away or give up when experiencing difficulty. However, when we walk away, give up, or quit, we are foregoing the opportunity for us to grow. In other words, the way we build our emotional muscle is by going through adversity and opening up those doors after we just got slammed in the face by them. As a therapist, one of the things that I find myself telling people is that we need to know that what we are pursuing is worth it. This means working through the difficulties that may come as a result of pursuing your goal(s). Someone once said, "Anything worth having take sacrifice." It's no different than someone who is training for a particular event or the person wanting to build muscle mass. Eventually, that person is going to have to go through the pain of training. The process is not always fun, but many times we need to go through that process to build the emotional muscle that will be required to succeed in whatever endeavor we are pursuing. It is also important to consider that there may be reasons why the doors are getting slammed in our face. Some of the times, we may be sabotaging ourselves and we may be part of the problem. Other times, there may be circumstances that are beyond our control that caused the doors to slam. We can see this played out in the area of relationships for someone who may desire to have a partner but finds repeatedly that after some time, people just walk away. Or we can look at the area of employment, when someone repeatedly applies for a job and/or a promotion but never gets that call back or seems to be repeatedly overlooked. As a counselor, I try to help individuals focus not so much on the door being shut, rather their response to the door being shut. I once read about the founder of Hershey's chocolate, Milton S. Hershey. Milton had nearly 1,000 rejections regarding his recipe for chocolate. Later, he was asked if he ever felt like giving up, after experiencing so many slammed doors, so-to-speak. Milton's response was impressive. He replied, no, rather he saw each rejection or "slammed door" as an opportunity to perfect his recipe, until it was finally accepted. There are countless similar accounts of individuals who have experienced quite similar opposition. Even Abraham Lincoln was rejected countless times before becoming president. You see, if Milton and Lincoln would let the slammed doors keep them from trying again, they would never have experienced success in the way they did. The same is true for us today. Sometimes we need to reconsider what we are pursuing while other times we need to continue to press on and move forward. Yes, we will need to adapt along the way. Yes, there may be times when we feel like giving up. However, feelings do not determine truth and we can use the power of reframing to help us see the bright side of things. I have encouraged many clients over the past several years to take the "mess" and turn it into a "message." What is it about individuals who are able to overcome and continue pursuing their goal? We may have a tendency to think these people were "special" and they had incredible abilities which helped them obtain favor and success. While this may be true to an extent, we all have gifts, abilities and are unique. It's not all about possessing the perfect skill set or having all of the right credentials. Rather, the thing that separates those who succeed from those who do not is resiliency.  Resiliency, as defined by the Oxford dictionary states that it is: '1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.' Or '2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.' Wow! Isn't this what we all need? A measure of resiliency. Resiliency says you can knock me down but you cannot knock me out. Resiliency says, I may be down but I'm not out. So as you get back up and move forward, consider the stories of Milton S. Hershey and former President Lincoln and countless others. And know that you do not have to go through this alone. We were not created to do life alone. Surround yourself with people whom you trust and who are for you. People who support you and help you get up when you may fall. Ask yourself, who do I have in my life who can help me along this journey I'm on? I would encourage you to consider talking to a therapist who may be an additional support for you. Someone who is not there to judge but to help you along your way. Someone who can listen to you when needed.  I hope this response has offered you, perhaps a new way to view the situation(s) you find yourself in. In addition, I hope you can be encouraged as you move forward opening back up those doors that once slammed you in the face or perhaps finding a new door to open.
Answered on 08/04/2022

How do I fix a relationship when we’re both unhappy? We both used to be very happy.

I'm so sorry you are having communication issues in your marriage. It is a very common problem in relationships and can definitely lead to strain and distance. Repairing communication can be a long painful process and I recommend you start couple's therapy so that a therapist can help you mediate and learn to communicate more effectively but I have outlined some steps you can do on your own below. The best option is to communicate to him by calmly explaining that you feel he is becoming distant from you. Be sure to do this at a time when you are not already upset and make an effort not to become defensive. If you are already fighting, anger and stress will make it difficult for you to stay calm and rational and you are both likely to say hurtful things. Wait until you are both in a calm mindset and spend some time having a conversation, not an argument. If the conversation begins to turn heated, calmly suggest that you take a break and return to it at a later time, just be sure that you do return to it and don't let the conversation disappear again.  Take time to listen to his answer and reflect back so he knows you hear him. For example, if he says "I just like having someone to talk to" you can respond with "I understand you want to feel heard and I want to be the person who listens to you, please let me try." It is also important to tell him how you feel, make sure to share how much it hurts you that he speaks to her so much. It is okay to think through how you want to say this to him and writing it down can be a very productive way to explain your thoughts without letting your emotions drive you. I often suggest writing an unedited letter to someone to purge all the emotions, no checking grammar or spelling, just let it flow. Then burn or shred that letter and start a new one where you spend more time thinking about what really needs to be said and focusing on statements that explain how you feel and make specific requests like "I feel extremely betrayed when you turn to her for conversation and companionship, please try to call me first in the future so I can be that person for you." When the letter is done, find a time to sit down with your husband and read it to him, start by asking him not to interrupt and explaining that he will have an opportunity to respond when you are done. Take your time, stop and take deep breaths if you find yourself getting upset, and listen to his response when you are done. If reading out loud sounds like too much, you may give him the letter to read and ask him to write you one in return, sometimes this is an easier way to start an emotionally charged conversation.  If after all these efforts, he is still not taking your concerns seriously, I strongly recommend getting into therapy with him so that you can both have a chance to work on communication and reconnect with each other. I wish you the best and hope you are able to heal your marriage soon. Take care!
Answered on 08/04/2022

Ad hoc advice to let ex-boyfriend go immediately ;)

Hello Eva and thank you so much for asking a question. And this is a very good question! It's completely understandable for you to still feel this way at times. When we go through a break up, it can feel a lot like mountains and valleys, we will go through days where we feel great and are so thankful that we are no longer in this relationship. But then we will also go through days where we question the decision to break up, and we start to fantasize about what the relationship could be like if things worked out, this can easily lead to a spiral of anxiety where you start to question everything he said and did in the relationship. I think it's perfectly normal for everybody to do this, so when you find yourself doing this don't beat yourself up, instead you say to yourself, "this is a normal part of the process and it's going to happen once in a while, it's OK for me to feel this way." I would also like to say that the end goal for you is acceptance. Acceptance means acknowledging that what is done is done and there's nothing you can do about it now, this means the relationship is over and the best thing you can do now is work on yourself and learn to enjoy your life. Another really good way to understand acceptance is through a term called radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is the notion that suffering in your life is not caused directly by pain, but instead is caused by your attachment to the pain. So in your case you must ask yourself, "what is the pain I am so attached to through this break up in this past relationship?" I'm telling you to do this because we want to identify exactly where the suffering is coming from for you, if we can identify it and take away the power that it has over you then we can reduce the amount of suffering you are going through. So what do you believe you're still attached to from this relationship? You mentioned that the emotional side of you is still attached to what it could've been, this is something I see a lot and people who are having trouble getting over something in the past. As I was saying earlier, our mind can easily romanticize and create a life with somebody that doesn't exist yet, we let our mind get ahead of reality. We begin to imagine being with them long-term, buying a house and having children and enjoying life together, when realistically we just met them and don't know that much about them. Our mind creates the situation and then we begin to emotionally react to the situation that has never happened, it sounds so silly when you say it out loud but our mind does this all the time. It's part of it gives us hope and excitement for the future, which can be a very good thing. But it can also lead to having way too many expectations for a relationship that has barely started. And that is where we get ourselves into dangerous territory. I would encourage you to really brainstorm and journal what it is that you find yourself thinking about with him, doing so can help you get all those thoughts out so they're not always swirling around in your mind. The final parts that can help in getting over it is finding the silver lining. I think a great part of radical acceptance is understanding the silver lining, this way when you look back at that relationship you're able to tell yourself that you learn something very positive from that experience and are happy that you went through that experience. Doing this reframed the way you look at your past. So what positive things did you learn about yourself and from relationships through this relationship you had with this guy? We want to reframe this past relationship is something that changes you into a better view, instead of being something that you suffer from.  lastly I want to tell you something that I tell the vast majority of the people I work with. Right now is the time for you to work on you and make sure you are satisfied with your life. I typically tell the people I work with that they need three things in their life for a sense of satisfaction. The first thing they need is a caring community, you need people in your life that care about and support you and people that you care and support about back. We are not meant to go through life alone, humans have always lived in community and we crave being around one another. We need good and trustworthy friends around us and we need to be a good and trustworthy friend. The second thing that we all need is productivity, we are not meant to sit on the couch all day and watch Netflix or flip through our phones on social media. Doing so it only increases our anxiety and depression, and prevents us from reaching any goals. On the other hand when we are productive, it releases endorphins in our brain which makes us feel better and motivate us to be more productive. You can be productive through employment you find purpose in, volunteering, education, exercise, tidying up your own home or even cooking a good meal for yourself. The final thing that we all need is high-quality rest, this isn't about sleeping, instead this is all about you having something in your life that you do just for you simply because you want to. Our life can't be all productivity, we need to be doing things that recharge our batteries. In my own life it's being outdoors and traveling, having a trip to look forward to motivates me on difficult days and when I am traveling I absolutely love it, I feel recharged and ready for life when I come back. We all need something like this in our life, it could be a hobby or activity or something we only do a couple/few times a year. Do you see anything in your life you could improve on after reading these three things? I wish you the best of luck!  
(LPC)
Answered on 08/03/2022

How can I deal with feeling of lack of courage to get up or do anything at all or just being alive.

Hi Flora.   Thank you for your question. Feeling like everything is overwhelming is hard, you don’t know why you feel the way you do, people around you don't realize how hard things are for you and, you feel like running away and hiding. It sounds, too, as if you don’t know if you are anxious or depressed but something does not feel right for you- you have lost a sense of caring about what happens to you, though you have also reached out for help.   It might surprise you that it isn’t uncommon to feel this way. Some people might call it something else, or have a name for it, which can be isolating. The most important thing to know is that this is how you feel, it is your reality, and it is valid. At the moment, working out why you feel this way and how to change it is hard, which is why counseling can help.   Your experience could be for a number of reasons- it could be trauma, anxiety, depression, hormonal or grief to name but a few possible reasons. COVID-19 restrictions have made such factors a lot worse, too. These types of issues can be lonely, confusing and disempowering- why wouldn’t you feel something is wrong because of them?   The first step in learning to cope with how we are feeling is to listen to the wisdom of your body. You want to freely admit and be honest, accepting that just because you're struggling with how you feel doesn't mean you're weak, it just means you're human. Perhaps list all your sources of stress and how you might react to them differently and with empathy for yourself. And coming to terms with a problem is difficult, unless we stop denying that there is a problem with how it is responded to. You have been fine up until now, good enough is more achievable than perfect, but if you want to get up and face the day, something needs to change.   The kind of thoughts that we tell ourselves when we feel we can't cope give us permission to continue to stay in denial and not deal with our emotions, because that can be kind of scary, dealing with emotions, because what does that mean? It doesn't mean you don't want change things; but it might mean you may need help to see the resources you have to cope with what you are experiencing right now.   Sometimes, when life becomes difficult, we lose track of ourselves, including the things, people and connections that are important to us. Have a think about the quality of the relationships you have. How do you know your friends are just that and what stops you talking openly about how you are feeling? Emotional intimacy, active listening, support, and companionships are all important. When these are missing in your life, it could lead to feelings of emptiness and loneliness, too. Think about how you would be with a friend if they were going through what you are experiencing. Often, we don’t speak to ourselves the same way we do our friends, which damages our relationship with ourselves.   Likewise, to improve our relationship with ourself, it can be helpful to set goals that feel manageable given where you are at the moment. When we have an expectation of ourselves that is asking too much, it can be aspirational, but unrealistic expectations seem to get in the way of consistency at least as often as they support it.   Sometimes our expectations and plans can be so lofty we forget where we are and don't take into consideration how we feel, it is disempowering. As an alternative, we can create a simple list of things you feel able to do that moves you towards the general direction of your goal.   Organic growth over time helps identify what we can do with the resources we have. It helps to appreciate that our energy levels change and our resilience can ebb and grow. And anything that gets us to happily show up every day is the mechanism- expectations that are too high lead to feeling like we want to shut down.   Other times, it might be we don’t think we can talk openly about the thoughts and emotions that are occupying us; from the past, present or future, with the people around us. If we don’t feel we have the right words to explain how we feel, why would anyone listen? This is where therapy can help. Counsellors provide a third party, non-judgmental approach to what you are feeling, so you can find a language to help express yourself.   Even if it feels overwhelming and painful, thinking and talking about significant feelings, events or thoughts that trouble you may help you process them. Depending on how strong you feel about these events, going through the process with a counsellor is highly advisable.   It might be how you see yourself in relationships with others that impacts your relationship with yourself. It might help to think how you see yourself and who you prioritize. For some people, taking care of others might come first. Consider whether you put the needs of others first and if you struggle to make time for yourself. An aspect of this might be people pleasing. You may feel that making others happy makes you happy, too. Often, when you feel it is OK to meet your needs, you become better able ask for help and support others, too.   Take care of your physical needs. When bodies are run down, you're more susceptible to burnout. Make sure you have a good diet, especially your breakfast, eat something healthy. Avoid abusing yourself with rigid diets. Try to get as much exercise as you realistically can, avoid addictive substances and get plenty of sleep. Attend the basic needs you're not attending- don't work out for hours every day, just your basic needs- eating healthy, not too much caffeine and being mindful of getting enough sleep.   And then you also want to nurture yourself more than others. You need to show up for you as your own carer. You need to have a better balance and you do have a choice, although it is hard, to do so. I want you to always ask yourself, what am I doing today to nurture myself while I'm still there for others and away with my concerns?   It is important to remember that everyone needs support sometimes and care always, including you. Sometimes social media can impact this. Be mindful when you're on social media how much time you spend there and, what type of accounts you follow. How people present themselves is often different to their life- they present their best or worst parts of their day, but rarely show everything, particularly the mundane or things that won’t get them ‘likes’. It can cause comparative behaviour, where one never scores higher than the ones that seem ‘perfect’ or like they have their lives together.   Making time for self-care and listening to yourself is an important part of life. Not taking care of your needs can cause problems of self-worth which could also impact feelings of emptiness, too.
(MA, Counselling, Cognitive, Behaviour, Therapy, Level, 5, PGDIP, Integrative, Counselling)
Answered on 08/03/2022

What’s the best way to cope with grief?

I'm sorry to hear you lost your dad, it sounds like it was a very traumatic time for you.  Perhaps being aware of your mum's grief and her living alone, has triggered the original feelings of grief for you.  It is hard for your mum to live on her own for the first time in 60 years, but it is also important you are able to live your life too. It is only a year ago since you lost your dad and I think it is normal for feelings of deep grief to resurface when a major life event happens such as you moving out of the family home. The crying, wading through quick sand and confusion are all very normal in grief.  It does sound like it's hard for you to think of your life going ahead when your dad's has come to an end. It must be hard to imagine a future life without him in it and what that means for you and your mum. You miss him and want him back.  It might be helpful for you to think about Tonkin's model of grief.  His theory is that when you first lose someone the grief feels big and the life around it feels small.  In time the life around the grief gets bigger but the grief doesn't go away, it stays the same size.  This is helpful in accepting that grief is now a part of your life but you can build your life around it.  Your life doesn't have to stop because your dad isn't here and you also can't put your life on hold for your mum either.  Think of grief like the yolk in a fried egg, at first the white around the yolk is small, but eventually the white gets bigger.  However the yolk (grief) stays the same as it always was.  You will always miss your dad but it is ok to move on with your life and make plans as well. Another way of looking at grief is to think of life as a river. You are floating along the river of life calmly and then suddenly you lose a loved one and you fall straight down a waterfall. It takes a while to get your bearings and you feel you are constantly being bashed on the rocks.  Eventually the bashing gets less and less but occasionally a rock will still hurt you or you will be consumed by a wave. Eventually you leave the rocks behind and the water feels calmer again with less waves. You are then able to continue your journey in the river of life but every now and then something might trigger you and you might find yourself in the rocks again or hit by a wave.  Remind yourself this is temporary and this is very normal, especially if there is a big life event happening.  Take time to feel the difficult feelings but don't let them totally consume you. All that you are saying you are feeling is normal but those feelings will pass.
(Level, 5, Psychotherapeutic, Counselling, Level, 4, Therapeutic, Counselling)
Answered on 08/03/2022

How can I be less triggered by my partner smoking?

Hello Frida,    I am glad you have reached out for some help with how to manage your reactions or your triggers.  I am sure your partner smoking is causing you angst and concern.  I can imagine that you are worried about many things including you partner’s health and wellbeing and how that impacts your future for you both. One thing is for sure, you can support your partner when they are ready, but meanwhile let’s take a look at how you can regulate your emotions so that you do not feel so emotionally triggered and less reactive to the triggers. Here are some strategies you might consider trying: Mediation can help us live more mindful and examined lives. When you meditate, you’re practicing noticing thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them and telling yourself a story about these emotions.  If you need some help getting to sleep at night, try one of the apps on your phone such as Headspace, Calm or Medito or take a look at some Your Tube Videos for free.  When we are emotionally reactive or triggered, it’s often done compulsively or unconsciously. Meditation helps us be more self-aware and more conscious of our emotions before we react to them. If you feel like you have no control over your emotions or that you can’t help but react, meditation might be a great solution for you. If it’s possible, surround yourself with people who are positive and helpful in the way they think and feel. Who you associate with has an influence on how you perceive things. When a tricky situation arises, and the people you circulate with all give varying suggestions that result in cheerful ones, you are blessed. And you will statistically be less disposed to stress and tension. When the wrong people give you advice that produces more anxiety or results in enemies and animosity, consider running away from them! Sometimes emotionally reacting without thinking is what generally gets us in the most trouble and causes the most emotional pain.  It’s also what makes it harder to stop being emotionally reactive. Get in the practice of thinking before you act on your triggers. It sounds simple but of course it’s not easy – this takes effort and commitment. When you sense intense emotions percolating in you, use that as a reminder to stop, take a breath, and think. You will soon notice the physical response comes on rapid: clenched fists, sweat, hotness on the face, etc. These are clues that should remind you to turn inward first, think about your situation, and then slowly respond. These few seconds of contemplation can offer the clarity you need to respond more productively, positively and calmly. You might be extremely sensitive. You sense disapproval or disappointment from your partner, and you emotionally react by emotionally breaking down. You may feel your value is being underestimated, so you are struggling.  You may even sense projection, manipulation, or offensive, or some sort of accusation, and you do the knee-jerk reaction of reacting to your partner in an offensive manner, too. Tit for tat. A vicious cycle of negativity resulted because you were emotionally reactive. You never did your research to validate your perception of things. Instead, have the decency to give everyone who gives you negative vibes a decent chance to be heard and observed.You will be shocked if, in the end, the other person also thought you were the one initiating the negative vibes yourself.  A previous negative experience may form a prejudice in your mind, even one you may not be fully aware of having. Remind yourself that whenever you are reacting to something in the present, you may be assuming because of an experience in the past. Detaching our previous experiences from our present ones helps us stop being emotionally reactive. We allow past experiences with people, places, and things to inform how we react to similar people, places, and things in the future. It is known that there are 6 basic emotions that are present in all human cultures, they are: surprise, happiness, disgust, fear, sadness, and anger. To add to this emotion list are excitement, shame, pride, satisfaction, amusement, embarrassment, and contempt. Notice that there are both positive and negative emotions here. Wherever possible, be more inclined towards the positive ones to protect your own emotional health because stressors could be significant sources of physiological diseases. But there are also positive emotions in the list that, when used in an overreactive way, which could be reasons for poor health or conflicts with your partner. Let happiness conquer sadness. Look beyond your initial perception of a person who makes you feel anger, disgust, or fear. In the final analysis, trust might overcome all these emotions when you see a positive character in someone you haven’t noticed before. Lower your level of emotional reactivity by immersing yourself in some self-care activities such as a relaxing massage or give yourself a complete spa treat. Go on vacation to a peaceful place.  Hiking in the cool mountains, or to a relaxing beach, consider experiencing the serenity of the woods as recommended locations to recharge and ease your burned nerves and upended emotions. If going to the gym relaxes you, then join one.  It is known that toxins are filtered out of your body and loads of emotional stress by sweating. If sweating is your thing, you can also go on a run or participate in a team sport. Meanwhile, yoga and Tai Chi all have passionate practitioners because of their emotion calming benefits. Tai Chi has health benefits, just like yoga. They both improve movement, your muscles and enhance your flexibility. As a result, your moods and emotions also benefit. Your emotions and your ability to have enough sleep have an intimate relationship. Sleep deprivation makes you more emotionally stimulated easily and more sensitive to stressful stimuli and scenarios (in a negative way). Adequate sleep (6 to 8 hours) is crucial to better handling emotional reactivity in everyday conditions. So when you need to stop working or whatever you’re doing because it’s bedtime, stop. The benefits far outweigh the cons. The regular ingesting of supplements and food that calms your nerves and will help you stop being emotionally reactive is a great habit. Research has taught us that there are dietary supplements that can help lower your emotional anxieties include vitamin D, saffron, magnesium, chamomile, omega 3, vitamin C, L-theanine, CBD, curcumin, and multivitamins. But be well informed from professionals of the proper dosage of these supplements because too much of anything can produce undesired side effects. Calming foods should be naturally rich in magnesium. Spinach, Swiss chard, and other leafy greens are examples. Other sources of magnesium are nuts, legumes, seeds, and whole grains. Zinc is also a natural emotion pacifier. It’s an essential component found in cashews, oysters, beef, liver, and egg yolks. But everything in moderation, as usual. You should also consider what to avoid consuming. For example, there are links between caffeine and anxiety that may make you consider avoiding that extra cup of coffee in the mornings. Absorb and learn all you can about what can help you stop being emotionally reactive. There has never been a time in history when all knowledge is at the tip of your fingers with the availability of internet. Specifically, when you anticipate being part of a stressful situation, narrow down your research to that niche. Like if you’re about to meet the parents of your partner. Research what should be your most appropriate behavior so that less tension will ensue. Laughter and joyfulness should be part and parcel of every effort to reduce being emotionally triggered. Finding something funny in every situation calms your nerves and makes you prepare with excitement, rather than fear or disgust, for the next chapter. A good old laughing spell mashes all emotionally reactive and triggering tendencies. I hope you try a combination of some of these strategies to help you feel less triggered by your partners smoking habits.  It will take work and effort on your part, but the benefits might b well worth it for you.  If you are still struggling t cope with the triggers, consider reaching out to BetterHelp for some support and guidance for a professional therapist.  Someone who can help guide you with further strategies to help you and someone to listen to your concerns and worries. I wish you much luck with your next step. Kind Regards, Gaynor 
(MA, LCSW)
Answered on 08/03/2022

How to deal with extreme anxiety and panic attacks after a sudden breakup?

Thank you very much for sharing your question. It's really hard when we lose a good relationship, I am so sorry about that.    The situation that you describe is really difficult as, of course, it's very tough to move forward when we are still in the same environment. I absolutely understand that. Also, if you are even sharing a bedroom it makes it much harder, as it's more challenging, indeed, to set boundaries and not to get confused with our feelings and emotions and also the others ... I find it completely hard, to be honest.   It's very good, though, that you managed to have this great group of friends that is supporting you, it's a great help and I am very glad that you have it. It's very important to share our feelings and thoughts with others and also to see other points of views for our issues. I understand that you feel like they could be annoyed for listening to you and giving you the same advice, but I am sure that they don't feel that way and they will be there to support you as much as you need it. Furthermore, I always recommend to share this kind of concern to be able to see what they think about it. You will probably see how they are just worried about you and look forward to seeing you better.   I suppose that moving to another place is a possibility that you have been thinking about and I know that sometimes it's just not that easy. However, it's important to have that in mind, as recovering from a break up is much easier and less harmful this way.   About your anxiety and panic attacks, I honestly believe that some sessions of therapy could be helpful for you. Sometimes, just sharing is good enough for us, as we all need to be listened to, but also, some other times, it is interesting to identify which patterns of thought or behavior are not working well for us and, eventually, to introduce some useful changes to start feeling better. Working with emotions and some mindfulness and, maybe, a couple more of approaches could be really useful for this. Also, it's something related to that situation of boundaries that you were describing and the assertiveness required.   Finally, remember that hard experiences are part of life and facing them head-on is something that, even when they are hurting us like now, will make you grow as a person, as long as you keep being authentic and as good a person as I am sure you are.    I hope you choose your best way to achieve your purposes and to feel better. I am sure you will do it.
(Master's, Degree, in, Third, Generation, Psychological, Therapies, Bsc, in, Psychology, Msc, in, Prevention, of, Addictions)
Answered on 08/03/2022

How to stop food and body focus

Hi there,  Thank you for sharing. You have done well in recognizing that this way of being is potentially becoming unhealthy for you. This is a complex issue, but essentially it sounds like the perfectionism and weight loss is about control. So maybe you could start off by thinking about other areas of your life, such as relationships and work, etc, and see if anything there feels out of control. Likewise, thinking back over your life and childhood and exploring what felt safe and secure and what perhaps felt more chaotic or unstable. Food is so often used to help us manage emotions and to feel in control, or to reflect how out of control we feel. You have lost a lot of weight but do not say if you are now at your target weight or if you have gone too far. However, regardless, you sound unhappy with your body. I wonder how you feel about yourself as a person. Do you have low self esteem? Sometimes if people don't feel good about themselves, this is channeled into how they feel about their bodies, and appearance and weight becomes the focus. It may be helpful to look at what is going well in your life and what you do well. You could make a list of your achievements. These do not need to be huge things, but day to day things, like helping someone out, or even just smiling at a stranger and making them feel seen. You could also think about all the wonderful things your body does for you every day, like keeping you alive, moving you around, digesting food, breathing, and so on. You also mention exercise addiction. I don't know what or how much you are doing but if you feel it is excessive perhaps you could set yourself a small goal here, such as taking an extra rest day, or swapping out a high intensity work out for a long walk instead. Remember that rest and recovery are an important and essential part of any exercise and training program. Hope this helps get you started. Warm regards Corey
(Psychodynamic, Counselor, CBT, therapist)
Answered on 08/03/2022

I don't know if I have anxiety or panic attack

ANXIETY: Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. It can be a normal reaction to stress. For example, you might feel anxious when faced with a difficult problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision.   At times Anxiety is a trauma response.    Sorry to hear you struggling. Please email/contact us at contact@betterhelp.com. Call us – 888-688-9296.   There could be many different things going on with you and a therapist could definitely help you figure this out. Perhaps run some Inventories with you (screeners). Its sounds like you may be too hard on yourself to meet your goals and over thinking may be causing some overwhelming feelings thought processes etc...   When individuals are overwhelmed without support, symptoms may arise. Symptoms related to anxiousness, depression, or low self-worth and people tend to start thinking of them-selves negatively. Over time they become stuck in this pattern of self-defeating thinking (negative thought pattern). This is often the case with people struggling with mental illness/ trauma/ addiction/ COVID etc....   There are many treatments/modalities/interventions to use for these symptoms.  The following or an integration of these therapies are a good way to navigate these issues: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy combines several ways to help you change how you think: ·You learn to notice irrational thoughts about yourself. ·         You learn to stop the thoughts. ·         You learn to replace the negative thoughts with accurate thoughts. ·         You can learn to relax your mind and body. ·         You can learn to manage your time better. Humanistic approach: ·      Explore Needs ·      Explore self actualization and self realization ·      Resolve conflicts ·       Reorganize your values and approaches to life ·       Interpret your thoughts and feelings. ·       Change behavior that you believe is interfering with your mental health   The quality of our thoughts changes how we act in and interact with the world around us. Not only does it affect our self-perception but also the relationships we keep with other people. Esteem impacts the jobs we look for, opportunities we take, and what we think we are deserving of. That is why it is necessary that we work on ourselves to get rid of self-defeating thoughts. They are incredibly limiting and can alter the course of the lives that we live. Thankfully there are some ways to help turn around your negative thoughts so that you can fulfill your potential:   Think about the person you would be without the fear and worry. Ask yourself a number of questions. Is your self-doubt keeping you away from the career opportunities that you would like to have? Are you creating problems in your relationships and friendships that would otherwise not be there? Where would you be without all the negativity? It is important to imagine yourself in this position, and know that you are capable of accomplishing all of that. Having the job you want, the relationship you want, living where you want to live. Once you are mentally healthy, you will see that all of this is within grasp and not simply a dream.   Do not assume that everything you feel is a necessary reality. Sometimes honesty is not always the truth, and you should not take it as that. You may feel insecure about your body, which does not necessarily mean there is anything wrong with it. You may feel that someone is critiquing you or does not like you, but that could be entirely false. It is okay to feel insecure and unsure about yourself and situations. But you must take those emotions with a grain of salt as they can be far-fetched. Sometimes the things in your head are just thoughts and nothing more. You may think you are failing in certain aspects of life because you may have not met the goals you personally held. Objectively, however, you probably are flourishing.   Always try to succeed and be better even when you do not feel like it. If you are feeling unwell or incapable, that does not mean you must sit in those emotions and dwell on them. You must push yourself to overcome those self-defeating thoughts and not let your mental health dictate your actions. Negative thoughts make you do what you think you are capable of doing, however, sometimes you can achieve so much more and it is important to be aware of this. Think about what your long-term hopes are and how to go about achieving them without daily setbacks deterring you from that path. Accomplishing something despite everything in your mind working against you provides a great sense of relief. You feel stronger than ever and it is always beneficial to surprise yourself with what you never knew before.   Be realistic about your emotions. If you are feeling unworthy, you might think you cannot do something when in reality you do not want to. “Can’t” and “won’t” are very different things, so recognize the difference. If a task feels particularly difficult, you may think it is impossible to do when in reality it makes you feel uncomfortable and so you make excuses to not do it. And also keep everything in perspective. We take so much for granted in life. Allow yourself to feel grateful for the opportunity to challenge yourself and not have it be something forced onto you. There are many people who must do things every day to survive. They have no options, but knowing that you have a choice makes all the difference in how you approach things.   Being aware of your needs is the first step.   I hope this was helpful and you seek the aid you need. Hang in there you are not alone. You can make it through this.    Read this to your self out loud over and over: 1.     My sadness and my depression do not define me 2.     I don’t have to be productive to see value in myself 3.     I am resilient in the face of any challenge 4.     I am in charge of my life, and my happiness and I feel happy and content 5.     Not everybody will understand my situation, and it is okay 6.     I am much more than what I think I am 7.     Every day is a gift, and I am blessed to see today. I will see tomorrow and the next and bless them too 8.     I have made it this far, and I won’t stop now 9.     I am loved and appreciated even when it seems like I’m not 10. I am a work in progress, and I welcome every positive change. The darkness s in the past, and I open my eyes to new beginnings 11. I am more than what people think I am, and my thoughts do not shape my life 12. I am needed regardless of how worthless I feel 13. Everything will work out perfect for me, and I will watch it unfold 14. I forgive myself, and I don’t blame myself for my current situation 15. It’s in my head. It won’t last forever, and I will come out stronger 16. I deserve love, joy, and happiness. I deserve everything good 17. I don’t have anything to prove to myself or anybody else. I am enough, and that is okay 18. This darkness won’t last forever 19. I am not perfect, and it is okay. I forgive myself, and everyone for not being perfect. We are enough, and that is all that counts 20. I love myself, and I am happy! Also, work on self-care and healthy coping mechanisms  Ways to Relieve Psychological Stress:   1. Large muscle exercise triggers a drop in nervous system activation like fighting or fleeing from physical danger.2. Changing thoughts and perceptions about the stressor. “This project is important to me.”“I really care about this person.”“I’m excited!”3. Relaxation techniques: Train the mind and body to let go of tension and stress   •Deep breathing•Meditation•Progressive muscle relaxation•Visualization•Biofeedback •Autogenics•Self-hypnosis•Body scan•Soothing music   -----5, 4, 3, 2, 1 GROUNDING EXERCISE:   HOW TO DO IT: This technique will take you through your five senses to help remind you of the present. This is a calming technique that can help you get through tough or stressful situations.   Take a deep belly breath to begin.   5 - LOOK: Look around for 5 things that you can see, and say them out loud. For example, you could say, I see the computer, I see the cup, I see the picture frame.   4 - FEEL: Pay attention to your body and think of 4 things that you can feel, and say them out loud. For example, you could say, I feel my feet warm in my socks, I feel the hair on the back of my neck, or I feel the pillow I am sitting on.   3 - LISTEN: Listen for 3 sounds. It could be the sound of traffic outside, the sound of typing or the sound of your tummy rumbling. Say the three things out loud.   2 - SMELL: Say two things you can smell. If you’re allowed to, it’s okay to move to another spot and sniff something. If you can’t smell anything at the moment or you can’t move, then name your 2 favorite smells.   1 - TASTE: Say one thing you can taste. It may be the toothpaste from brushing your teeth, or a mint from after lunch. If you can’t taste anything, then say your favorite thing to taste.   Take another deep belly breath to end.      
Answered on 08/03/2022

Do I need a therapist if I just got out of a long-term relationship with someone? or will it pass??

Hey there! Thanks so much for reaching out in regards to your recent relationship loss, that is such a tough road to navigate when emotions are so raw and you may be feeling an immense amount of grief and loss. They say breakups are one of the toughest things we go through as humans, so I am happy you are reaching out to possibly engage in therapy. It is going to take some time and space for you to regain your emotional equilibrium. You have to think about grieving the loss of a relationship but also all the hopes/dreams you may of been planning or expecting to go through with that person. Not sure how your relationship ended but now you are having to rewrite your story with a new character. This can be scary but also exciting because you don't know what lies ahead. It sounds like you are really leaning into friends and doing things you enjoy which is very important, but you also need to give yourself time to feel your emotions and process what went on in your relationship- was there some areas you perhaps need to do some self reflection? Was this partner good for you and your life, did you have shared values and dreams that aligned? If so, taking the journey you had together as a wonderful memory and thing you can cherish but also teach you valuable life lessons about who you are, what you learned in that relationship and what you may want in future relationships as well. I want to share some ideas of things you can do to help take care of you during this hard time, and let yourself grieve your relationship which is a common thing for most when romantic relationships end.  Here are 50 self-care ideas to use when you are having a down day: Call or text someone you love Drink a cup of tea or coffee Journal about how you’re feeling Take some deep breaths Listen to your favorite music Go for a long walk in nature Cook or order in your favorite meal Read a book Light your favorite candle Do a digital detox Go to your favorite place Stretch Try a new face mask Read inspirational quotes Get some sleep Organize or rearrange your space Buy yourself flowers Exercise in a way that feels good for you Write down 5 things you’re grateful for Spend quality time with friends or family Turn on a diffuser with your favorite essential oils Watch the sunset Practice mindful meditation Take a bath or shower Watch your favorite show Turn your phone off for a bit Go for a drive (no destination required) Put on an outfit that makes you feel good Practice yoga Sleep with a weighted blanket Try learning something new Let yourself have a good cry (sometimes we need it) Implement a morning and night routine you enjoy Make a playlist of your favorite songs Write down 5 things you love about yourself Try out an adult coloring book Listen to a podcast or audiobook Do something creative (painting, writing, drawing, etc.) Bake a delicious treat Clean out your email inbox Drink more water Donate to a cause you care about Take a break from the news Start a skincare routine Cuddle with a pet Unfollow people on social media who aren’t serving you Get some fresh air Write a letter to a loved one Sit and be still for 10 minutes Do a full-body scan These are just some of many ideas for how you can practice self-care. What makes you feel the most rested and at peace is unique to you. Still, I hope you realize you are doing what is best for you right now, and whatever that looks like. I say if you are feeling like you are stuck or can't seem to get over these sad feelings therapy is a great place to process all this with a neutral professional who can help guide you and offer support.    Best of luck to you!
(MS, NCC, LPC, CRC)
Answered on 07/26/2022

Should I let go or try working it out?

Hi Cris!  I'm glad you took the time to reach out for support. The dilemma you're facing seems difficult and likely confusing. When facing relationship transitions or decisions, I encourage clients to really listen and tune into a few things. First, instincts are very significant to validate and honor. Additionally, look at the general theme or larger messages that your partner is sending you over the smaller messages or gestures. From what you are describing, it seems the larger message your partner is sending you is that she is not interested in nurturing the needs of your relationship right now, such as private time together and prioritizing your relationship. The smaller gestures of still offering some supervised time together may be more of a gesture of not hurting you, but it does not seem to be suggestive of prioritizing a relationship or larger commitment at this time. I suggest expressing your observations to your partner to review what she is wanting at this time, while also honoring your needs. You may want to consider a trial run of spending time together the way your partner has suggested to see if it feels practical. This may then allow you the ability to bring up concerns with her if it doesn't feel practical or manageable. I know that my response doesn't give you clear direction, but hopefully you will find that as you clarify your needs and request clear and direct communication from your partner.  I also like to encourage that whenever making any major life decisions that you are taking time to engage in activities that you enjoy and that also allow you time to recharge and reflect. Boosting your coping skills right now and also identifying and nurturing your additional support system will be helpful to you as you navigate through this time. Seeking support from family and friends that you trust can be very beneficial and is different than seeking advice from them. Having a good network of others to spend time with will be helpful to you. Please reach out for additional support as needed. Take Care! 
Answered on 07/26/2022

I am 41 years old and just now have pinpointed that I may have trauma from when I was a teenager.

Hello, I'm sorry to hear about your struggle. It's really common for people who experience trauma to have some unhealthy coping skills (like drinking too much, or seeking attention/affection from other people). There are definitely some things you can do to try and take better care of yourself while you're trying to work through the trauma. Some of the things you can do are pretty basic self-care skills (like eating well, exercising, getting good nutrition), and some things may push you outside of your comfort zone a little (like getting involved in some kind of supportive community). Even in rural areas, there can be places for you to go to get into some of this healing stuff.  I know in my state, there is a Recovery Center in every county, where people can go to engage in supportive groups or supportive one-on-one coaching. If there's nothing like that close to you, the internet can offer a whole world of these kinds of supports. I know during the pandemic, there was an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting starting every hour online. There are also other kinds of online groups, like SMART (which stands for Self Management and Recovery Training) that use Cognitive-Behavioral tools, or Refuge Recovery, which uses Mindfulness and Meditation. One of my favorite quotes that I've heard is that the opposite of addiction isn't sobriety, it's connection.  This connection can also be really important to try and find when you're healing from trauma. Knowing there are other people out there in the world who are supportive and caring, despite what you've been through and what you've done to try and stop the pain from the trauma can be so helpful. Also, knowing there are many other people who have also gone through traumatic experiences and have also used unhealthy coping skills can be very validating.  Ultimately though, trying to find more healthy ways to cope and heal is a great goal! Sometimes, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can include trying to give back to your community or the world in some way through volunteering or through some kind of service, which can be a huge part of the healing process. When I was working at a Recovery Center in my community, we had a whole team of volunteers who reported getting a lot out of spending time at the center helping other people who have just started their recovery journey...there's something about going through the pain and suffering of addiction that leads people to try to help other people in a similar situation. It not only uses the knowledge you have gained to inform others, but  it can also be a strong motivator to stay sober, if there are other people looking up to you as a sober guide. Those are some ideas I have for you, I hope they have helped in some way!  
(LICSW, LADC)
Answered on 07/26/2022

How do I know if I have ADHD

Dear Thanos, First of all I want to commend your remarkable insight that led you to seek support here on BetterHelp. As you may know from experiencing issues with attention, ADHD is often co-occurring with anxiety, meaning that individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are more likely than the general population to experience anxiety.  Unfortunately, BetterHelp therapists aren’t able to provide diagnoses, nor can we prescribe medication. However, here are a few ways your counselor here can help (in addition to your seeking diagnostic and medication support elsewhere – like starting with your primary care provider and seeking referrals to local providers): - Learn more about ADHD and ways to cope and understand how to change your environment to help you be successful at work, school, and in social situations. - Learn about the links between anxiety and cognition. From what you wrote, it sounds like these symptoms are not new for you (but certainly much more problematic right now). A few decades of social science research have helped us understand that our thought patterns and how we consider the world and events lead to specific emotions. Your therapist can teach you more about the cognitive model and describe some practical tools to change the maladaptive thought patterns (in other words, the ways of thinking that keep bringing you down). There are so many practical ways to get started with this work, and it can help strengthen you throughout your life. In the mean time, you can learn more by watching a Groupinar on BetterHelp about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to start learning about the links between anxiety and cognition. - Learn more about anxiety in general. Physical sensations like increased heart rate, sweating, feeling overwhelmed and panicked are signs of your fight or flight response. This is an evolutionary function of our sympathetic nervous system that helps our bodies prepare for dealing with predators (either to fight or flee). In addition, you may feel your muscles tense up and a surge of energy as glucose and adrenaline are released into your bloodstream. The fight or flight response makes a lot of sense if you are dealing with a physical threat, but it does not help us much when our threat is a work deadline, being late for an appointment, meeting a new person, poor internet connection, or other modern stressors. Indeed, too much of the fight or flight response causes stomach upset, muscle tension, bad mood, trouble sleeping, and eventually even lowered immunity (do you ever notice how college students always get sick right after final exams?). - Disrupt intense fear or the fight or flight response with deep breathing. Learning deep belly breathing (or “diaphragmatic breathing) is a great tool to add to effective stress management. Taking time to breathe deeply for a few minutes is a free and easy to learn method to take you out of the fight or flight zone and into a zone where you can think more clearly and not experience those side effects. You can Google “deep breathing” or “diaphragmatic breathing” to start learning a technique that really helps most people. You can find mobile apps to help (for example the Breathe2Relax or the Virtual Hope Box app – both are free and evidence-based) or watch videos online that can walk you through it. These are skills that not only help you now, but can assist you throughout your entire life (for example, dealing with road rage, poor customer service, annoying family). You can also disrupt the fight or flight response in the moment with just a minute or two of intense exercise (for example, push-ups, jumping jacks or walking up and down a flight of stairs). This helps use some of the adrenalin and glucose that are released into your blood stream when you have encountered a stressor and leaves you thinking a bit more clearly. - Try to identify triggers. We are creatures of habit, and we tend to be afraid of consistent things. Unfortunately, the more we avoid a fear, the stronger that fear gets (avoidance is like fuel for fear). As such, it is important to start learning about the common themes of what makes you anxious. Is it a fear of being judged? A fear of failure? A fear of not being loved or admired? Everyone is different. The best way to do this is to start keeping a log of the times you experienced the fight or flight response. Jot down in a journal or in an app like Google Keep these times, including: -- What was the triggering event? -- How long did it take to calm down? Over time, your therapist will likely recommend that you also track “what was the automatic thought,” or the instant thought that just popped in to your mind that might have made you feel even worse (such as “everyone here is going to hate me.” Or “They all think I’m stupid.” Or “I need to determine my life’s purpose or else I’m a failure.”) Your therapist can help you identify themes and come up with alternative cognitions or thoughts to battle these automatic thoughts. - Learn more about social anxiety. It is completely normal to feel anxiety around new people or people we already know. Often this stems from a worry about being judged or about being disliked. It seems like social anxiety has increased dramatically since the onset of the COVID 19 Pandemic since many of us have had more limited interaction and spending time with strangers was *literally* unsafe prior to vaccines (and even since then for some). As such, it is important to know that you are not alone in this. When you see people walk into a social situation with a smile and a warm handshake, often they are employing the “fake it ‘til you make it” approach. Further, we live in a society that makes us all feel like we need to be extroverts, whereas it is just fine to be a person who only needs a few close friends instead of a large group. Oftentimes when we are in our 20s we start to recognize whether we are the kind of person who feels recharged after spending time with others (extrovert) or who feels recharged after spending time alone (introverts). There is no one right way. - Reducing symptoms of trauma. This may include nightmares, intrusive thoughts, feeling like you are constantly in danger (“hypervigilance”), and other not-so-fun ways that our brains are trying to protect us. Your Better Help counselor will be able to help you understand these symptoms and use evidence-based methods to reduce them. While waiting, you may want to look at the free app made in the VA: PTSD Coach to start learning about the effects of trauma (it’s an app that is free for everyone; not just military combat veterans). You may not have any traumatic events in your past, but I’m noting this one just in case :) - Coping with loneliness and increasing your social network. It’s possible that you have fallen in to a fantastic friend group and that this isn’t a problem for you, but if you are lonely and needing help increasing your social network, this is another great task your therapist can help with. Further, your therapist will be kind and empathic – the kind of person you can tell anything. Sometimes just being able to open up can help us feel so much better (especially if you are having trouble trusting others). Bottom line, there are ways to feel better. Even if you just start with one of these ideas, you and your therapist can collaborate to help you cope and function better. I am wishing all the best for you and hope the next years bring you happiness and joy! Best regards, Julie   Note: If you are in crisis and feeling like hurting yourself, please call 911, go to your closest emergency department, or call the suicide hotline (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) immediately at 800-273-8255. You could also go to their website to chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.    
Answered on 07/26/2022