Anxiety Answers

How do I cope with immense feelings of guilt and stress?

Dear Stacey, I am so glad that you are taking the step to ask about what to do with your present emotional and mental struggle.  It is humbling to ask for help and it is so important to do so! First of all, it seems like there are some deep emotions swirling around inside of you.  You had shared that you "shouldn't be having" some of these emotions.  One of the first things that we need to do, to help us move through our emotions is to be able to accept that our emotions are important and necessary.  You may not like them, but saying that you shouldn't have them is shaming yourself for being an emotional person.  You don't choose these emotions.  They are connected to something in your life that wants to and needs to be sat with and dealt with, with kindness.  So please seek to be kind to the fact that you have these emotions.  You are not wrong or bad or shouldn't have these emotions.   Secondly, emotions truly come and go.  Some emotions will linger if we are not willing to look at them, talk about them and deal with them.  But if we are willing to be honest about what is going on, emotions are like waves, they come and they go.  When we try to avoid the emotions that want to come, they can start to swirl around us.  And then we have to continue to seek to let them come and go in and through us.   Third, I want to help you, in this answer to your question guide you in some next steps.  It seems like you are struggling with some emotions and thoughts that are taking you over.  So we will talk about some steps you can take to seek to help yourself in this emotional state.   Now, obviously, I don't know all that is going on for you, so I do not have all the information and so I will be guiding you with some missing pieces to the puzzle.   When we look at how emotional processing works well, we have to acknowledge that we have feelings and that they are worthy of being heard, talked about, sat with, labeled and dealt with.  If we don't do that, we can't have movement through emotions.  So this step can be done with another person - this can be done with a friend, someone you feel safe and cared for and they will love you well in your emotions.  This step can be done with a mentor or guide or therapist.  It is most important that you have a safe place to share and that you are honest.  Seek to share all that you are feeling and all that you are experiencing.  Label your emotions.  Notice where you are feeling your emotions in your body. You can also do this step while journaling by yourself.  In this part of emotional processing, be honest, be kind to what emotions you are having, label the emotions and seek to be willing to look at all that is going on that might be bringing this emotion up.  Another part of emotional processing is to recognize what actions you are needing to take within the emotion.  So if you fear that your relationships aren't doing well because of something you have done, then it is time to have a heart to heart with your friend or family member and be honest about how you are feeling and why.  Then seek to hear their heart in this struggle.  You long to be there for your parents, but you know that this time in your life it is wise for you to take steps to be on your own, close to your sister and traveling.  I can see how you feel torn in that.  Do you want to move back by your parents so that you can help them?  Is that a healthy decision for you and for your future?  That is something to talk over with someone you trust that would be able to help you make a wise decision.   It seems like you are seeking to be strong and brave and strong for your boyfriend and his emotions.  When we do that, we are actually hiding parts of ourselves and feeling that we need to do that.  That does not bring about intimacy within in those relationships.  And I wonder if your boyfriend wants you to hide yourself from him? I would ask him that question and see what he has to say.  I also would love to have you sit with and talk with someone wise ... What are you scared of, if you are honest with your boyfriend while he is also anxious? I wonder too, if it would be wise to acknowledge and be kind to the fact that you may be experiencing very normal and human feelings with having moved away from your family that clearly likes your support, that you are feeling some emotions about being in a new place and having to navigate that.  It is also very emotional and can be a struggle to move forward with a significant other and move together.  Of course, that can feel weird to feel that way because you want to be with him and want the relationship.  But it is also uncomfortable to have to navigate how to deal with different emotions and wants and struggles.  This can be very emotional and also something you still want.  I hear about this often with people who move with their significant others.   Your body mind and soul are telling you that you need some support emotionally.  I encourage you to get that support either through counseling, mentorship or a safe loving friend.  You need to express what is going on and seek to then step into caring for your emotions on a regular basis.   Sometimes when our anxiety is high, it can also be tied to the fact that you have a lots of different emotions that you don't like to talk about and deal with.  So you may have just anxiety, but many times, my clients actually have lots of different emotions that may be harder to acknowledge - like disappointment that living in this new place isn't what I wanted, that living with my significant other is harder than I had hoped, uncomfortability that you left your parents and that they really want your support back at home.  I hope that you can express what you are going through in safe places as well as seek to be caring for the things in your life that you need.  Check in with the ways that you are or are not caring for yourself ... Are you moving your body in kind ways?Are you eating food that your body wants?Are you feeling loved and safe to be you?Are you being fulfilled spiritually? Seek to check in with a wholistic view of how you are doing as well.  I wish you the best of luck with moving forward with your emotions and your mind!Paula
Answered on 11/15/2022

How can I move on and be happy when everyone leaves me and hurts me?

Hi NP! It is really great that you are reaching out for support at this time. I can tell that you have been feeling concerned about how you will be able to move forward from your past experiences. I hope to give you some guidance and insight on how to manage your thoughts and feelings in addition to help you uncover what you could do next as you navigate your journey of self discovery. It appears that you have been trying to be the bigger person. You mentioned that you have been focusing on forgiving other people for their actions. This speaks to your many strengths, including your sense of bravery, resiliency and maturity. What are some of the barriers to seeking out forgiveness for others? Are you finding it tiring or exhausting to always be the better person in social situations? Take some time to reflect on your current role as a friend in your relationships. Where would you say that you are at in the process of forgiveness? Perhaps you can utilize a positive, self affirming statement as a means to seek out forgiveness from within yourself! Here is an example of a positive affirmation that encompasses the principle of forgiveness: "I free myself from anger and resent. I choose forgiveness as a guiding force and empowering principle." For more ideas and positive affirmations, check out the daily reflections written by Louise Hay. Here is the link to the website: https://www.louisehay.com/affirmations/ I realize that you have been trying to move on and feel happy. That is a really great goal that you have set for yourself. In addition, I recognize that you have been trying to pretend that everything is okay. What are some of the pro's and con's to pretending that things are alright with you? How long have you been trying to pretend for? How has this behavior been working for you? I would be interested in hearing more details about your experience with this. It sounds like you would benefit from building up your natural supports. I realize that you have been going through a lot. Who in your life is willing to support you? I want to encourage you to take some time to identify your social supports. Here is a link to the support circle worksheet that you can print out and complete when you have some time: https://www.citn.org.uk/resources/circle-of-support/ You mentioned that you have people in your life that say that they are your friends but, in turn, participate in activities without inviting or informing you about the plans. It sounds like this is a one way street, in that you are expected to be there for them, nonetheless. Have you considered writing in a therapeutic journal as a means to reflect on your past experiences? Journaling can be a wonderful way for you to organize your thoughts and express your feelings about your current relationships. There is a journal feature on the BetterHelp platform that provides clients with some ideas for daily writing and journal entries. You can pick an emoji that describes your current feelings and state of mind at the time of writing the journal entry. Sometimes writing down thoughts and feelings can be a valuable motivating factor, too! In addition, there are other resources for you to try when it comes to journaling. If you would like more information and ideas for journaling, check out the Therapeutic Writing Institute! What have you been doing to take care of yourself at this time? I recommend practicing self care skills as a means to manage your assessed self care needs. The BetterHelp therapists have access to a really great, in depth self care assessement that you can fill out if you choose to start therapy. In the meantime, do what you can to improve and build upon your self care skills. Be kind to yourself because you truly deserve it! Here is a link to some ideas for coping skills that you can incorporate into your self care routine: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5c154cf9372b964a03cbccdb/t/5c488d65352f534aa63aa58a/1548258661324/100+Coping+Skills.pdf In addition to utilizing journaling techniques and self care skills, I recommend that you practice a variety of therapeutic drawing techniques. Therapeutic art making can be a holistic approach that facilitates the healing and recovery process. Draw a picture of your ideal friendship. What would that look like for you? Take some time to draw your feelings in lines, shapes and colors. Maybe you can draw a house, a tree and a person. You can consider drawing a bridge that goes from someplace to someplace. Mark what direction you are going in and where you are at on the bridge. Here is a link to more information about the therapeutic benefits of therapeutic art making: https://psychcentral.com/stress/art-therapy-ways-to-draw-your-stress-out#drawing-exercises At this time, I would like to recommend that you begin attending individual therapy sessions on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. It seems like you are open to trying out new ideas and learning new skills. I believe that you would find one on one counseling sessions to be helpful for you. You may find great joy by simply being heard.It sounds like you may also benefit greatly from attending a weekly support group. Would you be willing to meet other individuals and connect with others as a means to process your experiences in a therapeutic setting? There are a myriad of elements specific to group therapy that you may find to be healing and inspiring. In addition to attending individual and group counseling, you may benefit from going to a class or an activity. Perhaps you can join a pottery class, yoga class, photography group or a paint night! Thank you again for taking the time to reach out for support on the BetterHelp platform. I hope that my response has been helpful for you in some way. I want to wish you all the best on your therapeutic journey. Take good care and have a nice day!
(LMHC, ATR-P, MS, NCC)
Answered on 11/15/2022

How do I learn to not care and push myself out of my comfort zone?

Thank you so much for sharing your question through the forum. Our comfort zone can be our psychological and emotional behavior construct that defines the routine of our daily life. It can imply familiarity, safety, and security. It can also be comprised of fearful and insecure behaviors we might exhibit at times. Your comfort zone can end where an action requires courage and effort. This can be accompained by feelings of fear, insecurity, and feeling uncomfortable. If you are able to leave your comfort zone you may experience stress or feelings that the situation is no longer under your control. Sometimes the only way to overcome fear is through fear. When you leave your comfort zone, you may enter what is called the fear zone. As you navigate through your fear zone, things may change, and over time you can gain back control over your thinking and behaviors. It can be difficult to move past the fear zone if your automatic negative thoughts are telling you that you will always be the sidekick or that people are choosing to ignore you or talk over you because your opinion is not as important as their opinions. The great part of what you mentioned was that you felt that you could mentally get through it. That is such a rare quality to have when you are faced with adversity. It is sometimes important to have that inner-voice to propel us into our purpose and help negate the negative worrisome thoughts that adversely affect our current reality or future promise. One thing I have suggested to clients is to work on developing positive automatic neutral thoughts. This thought pattern can lead to your learning zone in which you are discovering your current abilities and learning how to deal with stressful situations. You can start to feel safe and sound in your thoughts which can then lead you to a safety zone. But I want you to note that not all learning zones are safe zones. If you enter into a learning zone by leaving your limiting comfort zone, then you may call this your safety zone. This can entail you changing your environment, habitual patterns that appeared negative for you, and finding something good to replace it with (safety zone). Sometimes we can feel guilty about making changes due to the barriers it might create in our relationships with friends, co-workers, our spouse or partner, or even within ourselves. Sometimes we might even procrastinate (which can become one of the main barriers to overcome in order to reach our safety zone). Some reasons why we may procrastinate is because we have a fear of making a mistake, we may also struggle with poor time management (in which I suggest creating a time budget for you to monitor when and how you spend your time), and we also may be impatient due to not having quick or rapid results (success patterns). But the great news is that you can overcome procrastination by making plans and breaking down each and every task, learning how to allocate and manage your time, reward yourself, and even seek professional help for challenges that you deem difficult in nature that requires more assistance. I want you to become the best version of yourself to allow for opportunities of growth and self-reflection. It could take some time to believe in yourself due to having experiences in which you questioned your own self-worth. But, I hope that with the right help, care, and self-will, you will be able to connect yourself with the right individuals who will help increase your steps to positive well-being. I hope I was able to provide some insight to your question and if you need further assistance please reach back out to BetterHelp to find a licensed professional to help provide adequate care for your needs. Have a wonderful rest of your afternoon.
Answered on 11/14/2022

Why am I like this and overthink everything?

This sounds really overwhelming for you and it sounds like it is impacting very much on your day-to-day experience of life. I can see that these anxious thoughts and over-thinking are very powerful, as they are having a physical affect on you, which sounds debilitating. I can see you also experience occasional slumps which can be difficult to pull yourself out of - this sounds like when the anxiety has literally exhausted you, you experience this perhaps, as your mind and body are so worn out? Anxiety is a natural response, that is there to protect us - when we are in danger, we recognize this and adrenaline is released so we can either "fight" the threat or "flight", escape the threat. The problem arises when we are not in any danger yet somehow we are still being triggered to experience anxiety. But there is not always something there, or at least it is not something that we feel we should be unduly concerned about. An example might be, experiencing extreme anxiety about giving a presentation. Whilst a certain amount of adrenaline and anxiety can help with our performance and is useful, excessive anxiety can have the opposite affect - plus the fact we are not really in danger. A normal amount of anxiety about a presentation would be completely manageable and beneficial. An unhealthy amount would cause us to perhaps not be able to do the presentation at all. So, how do we look at managing anxiety? As a therapist I am trained integratively - this means I use different approaches as appropriate. The approach I usually adopt is the Humanistic stance. This approach is holistic, looking at the whole person as opposed to just singular areas (such as just the anxiety). I believe that everyone is capable of becoming the best possible version of themselves and that we inherently understand what is best for us - however, our experiences in life alongside other people's influences, can cloud our judgement and understanding of what is best for us. This is where counseling comes in! Being listened to by someone who won't judge you, will hold you in positive regard and has empathy with your situation. For many, this can be a unique experience as unfortunately not everyone has someone safe to share their experiences with. With these conditions, it is possible to reflect on situations and also our own role within them. This enables self-awareness and growth. Becoming self-aware enables us to make beneficial changes in our lives and better understand ourselves and what works for us. For anxiety, as well as looking holistically at the person's situation, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a really useful tool. CBT looks at how our underlying thoughts (of which we are not always conscious of) informs the way we feel about ourselves and the world around us. This in turn will be displayed in our behaviors. When our thinking patterns are negative, we will feel perhaps fearful or distrustful of things, and this will show as anxiety. By challenging our thinking patterns through CBT exercises, we can look at considering all aspects of the evidence available around a situation, so that thoughts become more logical and realistic. I hope this has been useful for you!
Answered on 11/14/2022

Is this anxiety/depression, or should I just ignore it and move on?

Jessica, I wish it was easy and you could just move on. Please do NOT ignore it! I am not sure why your parents don't think depression or anxiety are "real". I'm not sure if that's exactly how they feel, or could it possibly be your interpretation? Either way, it does kind of have to do with the way you think, but it is a little more complicated than that.  (It can help to go to therapy to change the negative self talk, for example). In my opinion, there are many factors in addition to the way you think that can contribute to anxiety/depression. The symptoms you describe above do sound like anxiety and possibly depression; however I would of course recommend you speak to a licensed therapist further. Always talk to a licensed therapist if you are having panic attacks!  Also you say you feel it is serious and nothing is changing.  Listen to your feelings and intuition.  If you are concerned, reach out for help. There is a saying: "It's ok not to be ok" :)  Around 1 in 4 adults in the US suffers from a mental disorder such as anxiety or depression each year. I hope you do not feel ashamed to seek help, and there is treatment for anxiety and depression. There are holistic ways to improve, such as meditation, exercise and therapy.  A therapist might ask you what is on your mind when you can't sleep at night?  Are you under a lot of stress?  What are you sad about? Are you grieving a loss?  Sometimes people can experience symptoms of anxiety or depression with no clear explanation of the cause, and other times there is really something bothering them underneath the symptoms. Sometimes it is after experiencing trauma, or even after having a baby, that is why it's important to talk to a licensed therapist, to get support and help you sort through what's going on.   Hang in there and thanks for your question!  I sincerely hope you feel better.  Remember that after hard times there's usually brighter days ahead. You are not alone!
Answered on 11/14/2022

How do I calm my anxiety before a test? How to stop thoughts that are not beneficial

Hello Adriana, Thank you for your sharing about your anxiety before a medical licensing exam. It is possible to tackle the nervous feelings and non-beneficial thoughts with techniques that will help you from start to finish. You have worked hard and you have been preparing for this exam for a long time. Think about all the study hours as deposits you have made in the medical license account. That studying happened because you took the time and made the effort to study chapter by chapter and day by day. I am going to lay out some positive psychology exercises, which are evidenced based techniques that have been proven to help with anxiety.  I hope these offer you support and structure:  Starting now, spend ten minutes each morning visualizing yourself taking the exam and doing well. Take deep breaths and if negative thoughts or feelings pop out, simply thank those feelings for sharing and keep going with the positive visualization. It is natural for negative feelings to pop up, but it also important to be in charge of your own visualization. There is a technique that is called square breathing which helps when people are anxious.Inhale for four counts, then hold for four counts, then exhale for four counts, and pause for four counts, and then start again on the inhale for four counts, etc. Square breathing can be used anytime, and anywhere. Use this if needed during the exam. Practice it each day to get used to the technique so that way you feel more prepared to do when you are having anxiety. Some people like to create a vision board and use poster board and cut magazine photos that capture their vision of passing the exams, or other important life goals. This may sound silly, however; the process of making the vision board is helpful in that it does give someone a physcial picture that represents the manifestation of their dream. That vision board or picture can become a source of positve energy in someone's personal space. Each time the person sees the vision they have created this helps that person stay focused on the postive outcome they are seeking. If possible, align your bed time for the same time each night and your wake time for the same time each morning. This optimizes sleep and good sleep is key. A daily gratitude exercise has been found to offer many people a positive forecast about their life, thus helping them through challenges. Repeat your key phrase over and over again. Imagine those words cover you with their golden light and guide you!  Tap into whatever phrase, mantra or song may cheer you on to victory!  Classic examples include:You Got This!!!Play like a Champion!Just Keep Swimming (Dory from Finding Nemo)  I hope that you find some of these suggestions helpful or that these examples helped you recall different tactics that have helped you before. I wish the you the best! YOU GOT THIS!! Kathryn 
(MA, LPCC)
Answered on 11/14/2022

Does therapy really help? I live in a country where it's not common and people don't understand it

Hi Dani,  Anxiety is actually something that many many people struggle with the world over. There are many ways to work on anxiety. We'll talk about non-medication ways to help work on anxiety Here's something interesting to consider about anxiety; it serves a purpose when its activated in a helpful way. When it gets activated when its not needed, that's when it becomes difficult. You're probably curious what I mean by that. Take for example, the reaction that you get when you're about to step off a curb into traffic. Your body reacts in this situation in a way that is helpful.  Your fight, flight, or freeze response kicks in and keeps you from stepping off the curb and getting hit. Now, say for example, your anxiety "turns on" when there is no actual danger in the situation. Perhaps the thought of doing something like talking to someone triggers the same response as stepping off the curb into traffic. This is one of the times in which our pre-built response is actually not helpful. Remember how I mentioned that anxiety is something that we are born with and is part of our overall brain functioning? When you think of how our brains are structured, they are driven by survival as this was important when humanity first began. It's still important today, of course, but not to the extent that our lives were in danger in say pre-historic times. In fact, the structure of the brain responsible for the flight, fight, or freeze response is the Amygdala which is also referred to as the "lizard brain" because it is the most ancient structure  So now the question becomes, how do we manage the unhelpful anxiety responses that we have. The answer is two-fold. We use techniques that challenge our thoughts and also techniques that address the physiological responses that we have when we are activated. Just as the Amygdala's job is to determine whether there is danger or no danger and to activate when it determines there is danger, the Vagus nerve tells the body how to relax. The way to activate the Vagus nerve is through diaphragmatic or "belly" breathing. To practice belly breathing place a hand on your stomach. When you take a slow steady breath in you want your belly to rise. When you breathe out (again slow and steady), you want to feel your belly fall. When we take in deep breaths like these our lungs expand and the space displacement actually activates the Vagus nerve. When the nerve is activated, you will physically feel yourself relax a bit. It won't solve the anxiety completely but will give you the ability to use the other stuff which look at thoughts since you'll have a bit of extra "processing space"  One of the ways we can challenge our thoughts is through the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also known as CBT. When we interact with our environment there is some type of automatic thought that arises. This is turn generates some type of feeling. The combination of our thoughts and feelings leads us to some type of behavior; doing something or not doing something.  Feelings are 100% valid and are unique to us and our experience. Although people may tell you that your feelings are "wrong" no one can actually tell another person that their feelings are not valid. So the key to this is examining the automatic thought.  Here's an example. Suppose I'm walking down the street and see a friend of mine. I say hello to my friend but they don't answer. The automatic thought that this caused is "Wow, what a jerk my friend is. I can't believe they ignored me".  The feelings that come up are anger, hurt, and frustration. In turn the behavior I engage in the next time is to ignore my friend and when they say hi to me I ignore them. Now let's run through this example with the CBT technique of examining the facts versus our feelings. The situation is the same: I see my friend and say hi and they ignore me. The automatic thought is still the same of "I can't believe what a jerk they are" But here is where things start to change. I say to myself "wait a minute, I actually don't know what's happening with my friend. Maybe they had a hard day at work, or just got off the phone with someone who made them upset. Heck, maybe they have ear buds in and actually didn't even hear me. I don't have any facts about this situation aside from the contact. I have no idea if their reaction is actually aimed at me or not". The feelings I then have are curiosity and concern. The next time I see my friend instead of ignoring them I ask if everything is ok. The very first question that you posed was "does therapy work?" Therapy is something that provides a safe space to talk about all the "stuff" that we want to talk about. The therapist does not judge, rather listens with a kind demeanor and offers perspectives to think about that you may not have considered. There are also many different tools that can be learned in therapy to help not only manage anxiety of all kinds but to help with the traumatic experience of being bullied. Sometimes therapy is the place to talk about simple things and other times it's a place for deep digging.  As a therapist, I actually have a therapist of my own that I talk to. It's helpful to be able to talk with someone outside of family or friends and can see things in a different perspective simply because they are not close to the situation.  Hope this sheds a bit of light on the things that you find yourself grappling with and the moment. Please know that you do have options and we would be happy to help support you on your journey 
Answered on 11/13/2022

How do you find joy in the every day?

hey there! I want to start by telling you that what you were feeling is not uncommon and that to be honest with you, I feel like a lot of people struggle with the same thing. It's not easy to sometimes be content and or satisfied with where we are right now in our lives. We all want that "ideal" life that is sold on television, social media, and maybe even we see from some of our close friends and family, but in reality no one's life is perfect. I love that you used the word "present" because the way we deal with the feelings you were having is through using mindfulness techniques and exercises. There are several strategies that you can use to help with this, from breathing to meditation to simply counting things around you. I would even and especially encourage you to look up Andy Puddycomb on YouTube and listen to some of his talks. He's one of the best mindfulness gurus that I know of. Another clip you can take a look at is "what you practice grows stronger." That one is a Ted talk also and discusses how it only takes a few moments a day to practice mindfulness. Now let's get into the nitty-gritty of what mindfulness is: the practice of being present in the very moment in which we sit. Being able to focus on only one thoughts or emotion at a time so that we aren't overwhelmed by all of them happening all at once. And it does indeed take regular, ongoing practice for this to be successful and to see a difference in our lives. One of my favorite ways to do this is by taking a deep breath, and then using 5–4 –3 – 2–1.  You take a moment to notice five things you can see, for things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Even if you can't get all of those out of the moment you were at least focusing on one sense at a time and it slows your mind down to focus only on that. You may also start some breathing exercises with a simple square breathing technique, breathing in for four, holding for four, out for four, and hold for four. Well it sounds simple if we are focused only on our breath we are also not allowing those outside factors to penetrate our peace. In using those techniques I think it's also important to incorporate gratitude and recognition that well we are not where we want to be at the end, where we are is not a bad place to be. It's important to give yourself credit for the things that you have done and accomplished, and recognized that this period of our life is not permanent if we are willing to work on it.  I hope that this has helped, and I wish you all of the very best! I know you've got this!
Answered on 11/13/2022

How to stop a life long thought?

I heard many times when you talk about this fear of losing your friends which feels connected to fear of abandonment. You speak of this fear as something that you attempt to banish and, get rid of, dispel or disprove or see as absurd. Your actions seem to parallel the fears and thought that this part of you has? You say there seems a part of you that likes it.  I wonder what it may feel like to listen and communicate more kindly toward that part of yourself that fears losing friends, to become its friend in a way? It may stop chasing as hard when it feels heard and loved and cared for by you?  Many times thoughts and feelings which are difficult or uncomfortable are something we naturally want to escape or get away from, and we tend to try and push or shut them down. Depressing them but still aware of them, in the background, they may seem to build in strength. A side effect of this can be that when we push down uncomfortable feelings, some good feelings can be limited also, by trying not to feel the difficult feelings you can be left with a more limited range of good feelings.  In listening to this feeling you are acting as a sluice tap on a dam of water to gently release some of the built up strength of feeling the fear has, much like a dam with pressure building behind it.  Therapy can offer a safe and supported space for you to feel heard, which includes all of yourself. I can offer a space which is judgement free to allow you to talk about those more difficult feelings, where you can begin to explore them and understand them in an empathetic environment with unconditional positive regard, which are key elements for supporting you to explore the inexpressible in ways that can become helpful toward feeling more at ease and accepting with all of your thoughts and feelings and through this awareness a shift can occur for you creating more choice and perspectives which being deeply heard can provide. 
Answered on 11/12/2022

Just feeling blah and burnt out and anxious

Hi Erica,  Thank you for reaching out for help. Seems like you might be shouldering a lot of uncertainty right now. The weather change can definitely get in the way of a lot of the things we often use to regulate our emotions or balance us out (sunny weather, lots of daylight etc). Many changes are also hard just because change is hard, and I hope hearing this can help you feel a bit less alone in your struggle to keep the same motivation/balance/etc in tact when things start to change.  If you were to start therapy, there may be several general anxiety reduction skills you could practice and learn with your therapist to deal with worry about job status, self-doubt about skill level etc.  We can also explore the things that you have been through on the journey related to your employment and how this relates to your life as a whole on a broader level. You mentioned you idealized leaving your current job, and I think that is very natural and could be a very healthy decision. Most work environments leave us with a lot of unmet needs for work-life harmony. It's probably a risk worth taking, as your intuition is telling you, but yes, it would also involve taking a risk and maybe having to 'believe' that there are better options out there or that WE could be qualified enough for those options.  You may be starting on the edge of the very important precipice in your life and that can come with a lot of just...raw anxiety. I have a lot of respect for anyone willing to make a move towards change even when it brings about anxiety, and like to remind folks that anxiety is a treatable condition and--in situations like this--can taper itself down once we start to open up.  I hope you are able to find the support and stability you need amidst this time of change. If we were to meet for therapy, even on a short term basis, it may help you find your ways to surf the waves of anxiety enough to give yourself a good chance and seeing the changes you want!  I wish you all the best!  Kavin Shah, LISW MSW
Answered on 11/11/2022

I don’t know what’s wrong with me

Hi Han! Thank you for reaching out here. I appreciate you taking the time to connect to the services available on the BetterHelp platform. It is truly a good sign that you have decided to reach out for support at this time. You did a great job of identifying the ways in which you have been experiencing difficulties lately. I hope that my response to your question helps in guiding you in your journey of self discovery! Based on what you wrote in your question, I can tell that you have many strengths that have yet to be uncovered. It appears that you have been dealing with anxious and intrusive thoughts. It sounds like the thoughts that you have been having are consistent with negative self talk. You may benefit from learning more about the cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) concept of Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs). The foundation of CBT principles is that thoughts, feelings and behaviors are interrelated and connected. Essentially, the founders of the ANTs theory purport that thought patterns can be cyclical and often repeat themselves in recurrent, maladaptive ways. Below is a link for additional information and insight into ANTs from the Positive Psychology website: https://positivepsychology.com/challenging-automatic-thoughts-positive-thoughts-worksheets/ My go-to treatment recommendation for navigating negative thoughts is to utilize positive affirmations. By practicing self affirming statements, individuals can actually interrupt negative thinking patterns and begin to break up the continuous cycle. An example of a positive affirmation that could work is: "I fill my day with loving thoughts. I feel safe in my body. Today, I choose to stay positive and practice the principles of patience and gratitude." The inspirational affirmations written by Louise Hay can be rejuvenating and healing. I recommend practicing affirmations multiple times per day. Write the quotes down on sticky notes, store them digitally in your phone and repeat these sayings aloud as you look in the mirror. Take some time to read "You Can Heal Your Life" by Louise Hay. This is the link to the daily affirmations written by Louise Hay: https://www.louisehay.com/affirmations/ In addition to experiencing intrusive thoughts, it sounds like you recognize that you have been experiencing mood swings. Would you say that these two experiences are correlated? Do the mood swings tend to happen after the intrusive thoughts arise, vice versa? Keep track of your moods in a daily planner or calendar. Try to notice patterns of mood changes over time. In addition to practicing affirmations and keeping a daily mood log, I recommend that you try out some mindfulness exercises. Essentially, mindfulness means being present in the current moment and removing judgement from the here and now. You mentioned that your thoughts just come and go. This experience is something that you can utilize as you learn mindfulness based techniques. Take some time to draw your thoughts and feelings in lines, shape and colors. The art making process can help cultivate spontaneity. You can enjoy an expressive experience as you draw, paint or color. Here is a link that provides an overview of additional mindfulness strategies: https://wellness.mcmaster.ca/your-health/mindfulness-and-relaxation/ I understand that having these mood swings can be incredibly difficult to navigate. The swift changes in mood combined with the anxious thoughts could be a contributing factor for stress, as you mentioned that you have been feeling nervous and stressed out lately. I can see how being in a constant state of heightened anxiety would be disconcerting and distressing, to say the least. What have you been doing to manage the feelings of stress that you have been experiencing? I will share with you a resource for stress management strategies: https://www.verywellmind.com/tips-to-reduce-stress-3145195 I realize that you sometimes have difficulty with maintaining healthy connections with the people in your life. Who, would you say, are the people in your support circle? Is there someone in your life who you feel comfortable with reaching out to for guidance and encouragement? Take some time to build upon your natural supports. It is imperative that you connect with the people in your life who you trust. It may be advantageous for you to begin attending individual counseling sessions on a weekly basis. It sounds like it will be beneficial for you to meet with a trained therapist on a regular basis in order to communicate, express and discuss your thoughts, feelings and experiences. In addition to starting individual therapy sessions, you may also want to consider attending a group or a groupinar on the BetterHelp platform. Becoming part of a group will help you to foster meaningful connections and establish healthy, supportive, relationships in a therapeutic setting. Thank you again, Han, for asking this essential question on the topic of managing challenging thoughts and emotions. I am so glad that you reach out for support. I hope that my response has been helpful for you in some way. I want to wish you all the best on your therapeutic journey. Take good care and have a good day!
(LMHC, ATR-P, MS, NCC)
Answered on 11/11/2022

What's the best way to deal with constant overthinking?

Hey there! Our brains are definitely difficult beasts to overcome at times, and I hate that you are struggling, but I'm so glad that you reached out for advice!  When it comes to our brains, it's hard to slow it down at times, but it helps to take a look at what our "wind down time" looks like if it's more prominent and problematic at night.  There are a lot of tips that may help with that ....  Stop using electronics (phones, laptop, computer, tablets, gaming systems, sometimes tv) an hour or so before bedtime - it really does keep our brains stimulated and active, versus quieting it down.  Try to cut back on caffeine several hours before bed Journal the things that are stuck in your mind --- are there things that you can address in the moment versus things you can't do anything about right away?  Separate those into different lists just to get them out of your mind.  What are things that you can control versus what you can't.  While it's not always easy, and it takes practice - try to sit with the feelings for a moment, and accept them, then think about letting those things go, out of your mind.  Some times writing things down and throwing away those things we can't change help to visualize and get them out of our minds.  Sometimes we need to look at what is most prominently going on in our minds.  What is it that we are actually thinking about, and can we do anything about it?  Is it something as simple as "did I lock the door", or is it something more trivial like "I don't understand why people don't like me"? By kind of figuring out what those thoughts are, we can start to look at how to break them down and stop that cycle.   If it's something simple like checking the door, we can solve that by checking.  When it comes to internalizing things and trying to figure out more trivial things --- I think we come to some Cognitive Behavioral Interventions that may help that spiral.  Why am I questioning this?  What's the evidence that i'm making the right/wrong decision?  What is the worst case, best case and most realistic outcome of this?   Most of all --- giving ourselves credit and recognizing that we aren't perfect.  Sometimes we have to learn to trust ourselves, and focus on taking things one at a time.  Using mindfulness practices allow us to focus on one thought at a time, rather than many thoughts a bit at a time all at once.  Here is a link that may help you to get started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-1Y6IbAxdM I hope this is helpful! 
Answered on 11/10/2022

Should I quit being a teacher?

Hello, So you've worked really hard to become a teacher, and it took a lot of time. I'm not going to tell you whether you should quit the profession or not, but I also believe that it's common when facing a lot of frustration trying something that's relatively new, it's easy to feel like it's impossible and that things can't get better. You also don't seem to be getting a lot of support as you're starting this profession. You're also starting the career at a time when there is a massive teacher shortage, and so maybe you're being asked to take on more than you normally would. Without having a regular classroom and the ability to build rapport and develop a stable routine at one particular location, this is a very, very difficult way to start.  You mentioned that you had a mentor who helped you when you were training, and it sounds like you've lost some of that support and guidance. You're losing passion and motivation, but that's not necessarily because you're in the wrong field, but perhaps because your early experiences as a teacher aren't at all what you expected, and they aren't necessarily indicative of what your future experiences will be like. Your statement of, "I feel like it has ruined my experience for me and it's doubting my skills as a teacher" suggests that you know that your current experiences aren't providing necessarily what you need as someone starting out as a teacher. It also suggests that you know that what your experiences are currently aren't reflective of what your experiences will be like in the future. It's common for people to seek therapy when experiencing work-related stress, especially when new at a job or in a career. This is a challenging time for you, and you may ultimately decide that teaching is not for you and that there is something else you'd prefer to do (even though it's hard now to know what you would do instead, the fact that you've made it this far through school and being placed in this position provides evidence that you could be successful in a number of different fields), but with some additional support it can get easier. It may also just take some time. My suggestion is to consider participating in therapy (whether that be on this platform or elsewhere in your community). I wish you the best of luck, and if you have any additional questions or if I can help at all, just let me know. Remember that you're probably doing much better than you realize, so try to pay attention to the evidence that shows that you're adapting, that you're competent, and that you're growing. Take care, Nicholas DeFazio, MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC
(MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC)
Answered on 11/10/2022

How do I stop self sabotaging and what should I do in this work situation?

Hi Freddy! I appreciate you taking the time to provide some additional details about yourself, your experiences and your current situation. I hope that my response will be helpful in giving you guidance and some overall direction. First and foremost, I would like to encourage you to continue to acknowledge your positive qualities and strengths. It is really great to hear that you consider yourself to be a strong willed person with an entrepreneurial drive. I know that you also mentioned that you have a keen sense of duty and responsibility. In addition, it sounds like you are able to be successful in life when you put your mind to it. Those all sounds like really admirable and amazing qualities. What are some of your other qualities and strengths? Take some time to write a list of strengths that you are willing to build upon, discover and explore more about. I, too, am a military brat (navy branch) so I can totally relate to that childhood experience. Thank you for sharing that. It is a good sign that you are recognizing how your experiences as a youth may have some influence on your life today. I understand that being a brat in the armed forces can be challenging. Being a brat also provides a key element in establishing identity in childhood and adolescence. What was it like for you to grow up as an army brat? How would you describe your overall childhood experiences? What are some of your other life roles, personality traits and aspects of your identity that you respect, honor and value? How would you describe yourself and personality traits? You may want to answer these questions for yourself through therapeutic journaling and writing. I always recommend the writing process as a means to clarify and contain life's challenges and experiences. Check out the Therapeutic Writing Institute (TWI) if you would like more information on the therapeutic benefits of journaling. I realize that you really value your job and that you are feeling concerned that you may no longer have your job come Monday. Even the thought of your position with your employer being terminated would bring anyone a sense of heightened stress and anxiety. I can also see why finding out that your boss was fired would be concerning news for you to hear. It almost seems like your initial reaction and inner dialogue to this news is: "You're next." What can you do to comfort yourself and feel more in control over your stress and worry? I will share with you this article on the topic of stress management in case this will help you get some ideas on how to destress from this situation. Here is the link below: https://www.verywellmind.com/tips-to-reduce-stress-3145195 In addition, I realize that you have been avoiding going into work because of this situation as well as because of your workplace environment. My basic and general advice on the issue of avoidance and anxiety is this: Anytime that you notice experiencing feelings of anxiety from doing something and you avoid doing the thing that makes you feel anxious, this, in turn, makes the anxiety worse and reinforces avoidant behavior. Essentially, it is important to face situations head on and not rely on avoidant behavior to manage things. Avoidance ultimately increases anxiety. Simply put, I think that you should go back to work on Monday and attend the scheduled meeting with the president of the company. There is likely nothing you can do to change the outcome of the meeting. It sounds like the agenda for this meeting has already been planned. Make a plan for what you can do afterwards, no matter what the outcome. In addition, I would like to recommend trying some art therapy techniques. If you are willing, you can draw yourself connecting with your future self. In addition, I recommend taking some time to create a house, a tree and a person out of modeling clay or through drawing. This House Tree Person (HTP) directive is a traditional art therapy based assessment. You may learn more about your beliefs about yourself and your life through this process. In addition, the therapeutic aspects of clay can be beneficial in fostering self expression and an expressive way for you to safely regress.Lastly, it would be wonderful if you could draw, paint or sculpt anything that you would like to. Take some time to express yourself and cultivate your creativity. I know that you mentioned in your title that you are contemplating self sabotage. You can create a drawing or collage out of scrap paper, rip it up and turn it into something new. I think it would be worthwhile to explore more about what self sabotage means for you. I would be interested in hearing more about how your life had changed when you were very young. What changes had you endured that stand out to you as difficult? Utilize some time for reflection on your past. Also, what does that mean for you when you state that you were not the apple of your mother's eye? This could also be a wonderful journal prompt or art therapy directive. At this time, I would like to recommend that you begin to attend counseling sessions. I realize that you may also benefit from career counseling, as well. If you have time and are willing, you may also want to consider attending a group therapy session or a groupinar. It is ultimately up to you to decide how you would like to address your concerns in a therapeutic setting. Thank you again so much for your time reaching out for support and asking this vital question on the BetterHelp platform. I sincerely hope that my response has been helpful for you in some way. I want to wish you all the best on your therapeutic journey. Have a great day!
(LMHC, ATR-P, MS, NCC)
Answered on 11/09/2022

I feel anxious at my new job and want to quit

Hi! Thank you for reaching out for help! I know that it can be challenging to navigate anxiety in the workplace. Sometimes there are added pressures from co-workers, employers and sometimes even family to live up to certain expectations at work. There are a few things that I would consider when exploring anxiety at work. Anxiety often times is acting as an alarm system in our body. Anxiety is not always a bad thing. It often is highlighting something that we need to be more mindful of, or something we might need to explore within ourselves. So I would begin by asking yourself if there is something this anxiety might be highlighting? Is there something specific at work that feels overwhelming? Are the people you work with contributing? Would communicating with your boss or coworkers more effectively help the anxiety decrease?  Something else I would explore would be what does your self care look like outside of work? For many people, self care is simply making sure they are spending enough alone time with themselves doing something they think helps them relax. I like to explain to my clients that self care is something so much bigger and better than simply relaxing. Self care should help you grow your capacity to handle stress. Self care is the thing or the things we do that help our emotions come back into alignment. Self care helps us take the weight of stress and anxiety and put it down and/or help us eliminate it completely. Stress and anxiety are unavoidable in life, but when we have an intentional plan in place to help us manage our stress and anxiety, it becomes something that should ultimately make us stronger. I would encourage you to find and establish a good self care plan to hopefully help the stress and anxiety you are experiencing at work feel more manageable.  Lastly I would encourage you to find a therapist that might be able to help you explore more specific details of your anxiety at work. I am not sure if a therapist would tell you if you should or should not quit your job, but I would imagine that they will help you figure out where this stress and anxiety is stemming from and help you consider all of your options.  I hope you found this helpful and will take some time to explore what your anxiety might be highlighting and what type of self care you might be able to implement into your daily routine. Best wishes!
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 11/09/2022

I find it difficult to express my hurt when I’ve been wronged. I find it difficult stand up for me.

Hi Dee,  There are many reasons one can feel insecure or anxious about speaking up and also about how others view us.  One year at a job is actually not that long by the way, but I do hear you that you say you really do not feel comfortable setting boundaries and speaking up for yourself. You describe yourself as being conflict-avoidant so I am thinking it sounds like you are having trouble setting boundaries.  People can have trouble setting boundaries for various reasons, including how they were raised, etc.  If your boundaries were violated as a kid, for example, you might have trouble knowing how to maintain appropriate boundaries as an adult.  This can include asking for what you need and approprately saying no to requests that are not in your job description, for example. You ask what can you do.  Let's do some "fact checking".  What evidence do you have that there is word around the office that you are doing a bad job?  Please notice how you tend to focus on that vs. the fact that your BOSS (probably way more important) is telling you he or she does not think so.  You even consider that he or she is isn't telling you the truth to make you feel better, but I think this is probably doubtful because most bosses care much more about the job you do vs preserving your feelings.  Of course we hope they care about your feelings but why would he or she be essentially telling you not to worry if you were not a valued employee?  Also, if you are able to utilize the work from home option then I agree this is fortunate for now and let's do another fact check: are you sure you misuse it?  I am reminding you to focus on the positive feedback you are getting and not only the perceived negative.  This is not to minimize your feelings at all; I get that you care a lot about your job and work relationships a lot while at the same time learning how to speak up for yourself and your needs.  So hang in there, take deep breaths, and notice how you talk to yourself.  We as humans can often be our "own worst enemy" and it's always good to be aware of negative self talk, and then work on changing this.  Be gentle with yourself; it actually sounds like you are doing great at your job!
Answered on 11/09/2022

How to cope with overthinking and overwhelmed by stress without breaking down

Dear Ire: I am truly sorry that you are feeling such great pain, and have been enduring such great emotional distress! It seems that you have been working hard for years in order to assure graduation, with your degree.  It also appears as if right now you need a place, and the space to first focus on what is the most distressing aspects of your current life as a student, and to find the means to resolve those underlying issues.  Coping with these distressing elements, and seeking relief for what you describe above, is the first priority (it seems to me), because if that emergent crisis that you are undergoing is not addressed, and a resolution does not happen, you already anticipate what will occur: You “breaking down”.  So therefore, the first order of business is prevention of the “breaking down”.  This preventive step can help protect all that you have already done, plus will also preserve your health, and wellness.    Coping without “breaking down”, involves first of all: An Assessment.  Thereafter:  Decisions, and ensuing protective Actions.  There are planning questions that you can embrace, so as to discern the short term, and long term problems that you may be facing, and that can then be part of a plan to resolve what troubles you.  These questions can include the following inquiries: What is it that is leading you to feel so mentally exhausted, now?  Can you identify how much rest you will need in order to not “break down”?  When you indicate that you are “feeling too much at once”, can you list, and identify what it is exactly that you are presently feeling?  Are there also fears?  Are there perhaps any other traumatic events from either the past, or the present?  The answers to these questions, can lead you to prioritize what happens next.  You get to make this determination, and if you need help, you can go to a therapist to possibly help you structure this within the next few days, so that you can decide how it is that you will orchestrate what happens next, and how to execute the actions that will meet your immediate, and longer term needs. Please, notice that I am only addressing you, and your determinations, and your ensuing choices.  You are the only one who can play an active role on what your needs are, and how these needs can be addressed.  Once that is done, then you can enlist the opinion of others, and define how it is that those opinions can either help you, or not, but everything can be subsumed under your determinations, and decisions, moving forward. I hope this is a helpful anteroom to provide you the necessary steps to organize your set of actions, moving forward toward your success.
(M.S.W., L.C.S.W.)
Answered on 11/08/2022

What is the best thing to do to calm down when having a full blown panic attack?

When a person has a panic attack, their brain functions in the fight or flight responsive part of the nervous system;  this affects their impulse control, executive functioning, reasoning, and other brain activities related to safety. It is possible to recover from the physical symptoms of a panic attack. The first thing the person will want to do is ensure they are in a safe place; that means if they are driving, pulling into a parking lot, or in a meeting excusing themselves, stepping out into the hall, taking a seat so they can focus on Mindfulness and Breathing. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an effective skills-based therapy for treating many mental health ailments, including panic attacks. One of the group categories is called distress tolerance. TIPP is one of the distress tolerance skills that are highly effective.  TIPP stands for temperature, intense exercise, paced breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation.  T - Temperature = changing your core body temperature, drinking ice water, taking a hot or cold shower (not too hot or cold so that you burn yourself), splashing cold water on your face, rubbing ice on the back of your neck.  I- Intense exercise - speed walking, jogging, jumping jacks; the idea is to raise your heart rate and begin to produce endorphins.  P- Paced Breathing. My favorite technique is starfish breathing because it focuses on slow-paced breaths, and you trace your hand, stimulating a tactile response. P- Progressive Muscle Relaxation. There are a lot of techniques for Progressive muscle relaxation, but when at the moment, after your paced breathing, it has helped lots of people to do a small shoulder and/or neck role and shake their hands, shaking off the anxious energy.  Sometimes people will only need to use one of these techniques to control a panic attack other times; they will need to utilize all four techniques to regulate their panic attack. Practice makes perfect. Having a plan helps reduce the fear of an impending panic attack. The more you utilize these skills before a panic attack, the more likely you are to use them during a panic attack.  I hope this helps, and don't hesitate to contact a BetterHelp therapist if you have any questions or would like more support.
Answered on 11/07/2022

How do you prevent anxious thoughts from waking you up at night?

Hello Bella, This is a great question. Anxiety is a common problem that often accelerates at nighttime. The reason being, is this is the time of day when you get quiet. Activities slow down. You aren't as physically busy at bedtime as you are during the day. Therefore, the brain sometimes becomes more active. Your thoughts may drift to thinking of things that normally wouldn't bother you. The brain may overthink or second guess your decisions throughout the day. Sometimes it seems to look for things to worry about, such as conflict or drama. The spotlight effect of anxiety makes the problem seem bigger than it is. It can magnify the problem giving you tunnel vision which makes it hard to see the solutions.  Author, Jen Sincero says, "There are no stressful situations - only stressful ways of perceiving situations." She goes on to say worrying is like walking around hitting yourself in the head with a rock over and over, so you are prepared in case you get hit in the head by a rock one day. Worrying is often the worst case scenario amplified to the point of causing you physical symptoms: insomnia, headaches, stomach discomfort, panic attacks, etc. Even if the worst case scenario (which really isn't likely) does occur, you will have experienced it twice by worrying about it ahead of time.  You seemed to have mastered control of your thoughts during the day. The struggle is mostly occurring at night. Here are some ideas to help you manage your thoughts before bedtime: 1) Keep a notebook or journal near your bed. Write down any intrusive thoughts that come to mind. Consider this activity a brain dump. You are downloading your thoughts from your head and onto the paper. Don't think of it as a formal journal entry or homework. Don't worry about grammar or writing in complete sentences. This is just an exercise to get rid of the anxious thoughts. Once the thoughts are on paper, the brain lets go of them. You will want to keep is close when you are sleeping in case you wake up and need to write any new thoughts down.  2) Try to limit screen time and blue light before bedtime. Screen time can stimulate brain activity and may contribute to keeping you awake. The blue light that your phone emits (which is as bright as daylight), discourages sleep. There are ways to filter out the blue light. Try using a blue blocking app, like Twilight for Android phones or Unblue for Apple phones. iPhones have a night shift setting to make nighttime viewing more bedroom friendly. It's a good habit to to turn your phone off 30 minutes before you go to sleep. It's also helpful to charge it across the room on in another room, so you are not bothered by distractions. Another idea is to turn off the notifications if you don't need your phone for an alarm in the morning.  3) Make a routine for yourself before going to bed. Do the same thing every night in order. This sequence lets your brain know it's time to settle down. Go to bed at the same time each night. An article from Harvard Health explains a regular sleep schedule not only tends to increase the amount of sleep people get each night, it can also improve the quality of sleep. 4) Listening to a guided meditation or sleep story may be helpful. The brain will have something relaxing to focus on versus finding things to think about and/or worry about. There is an app called Balance that offers 3 minute and 5 minute meditations. You can also select sleep specific meditations that are longer.  5) Use externalization to shift the anxiety to a physical form. Picture yourself conquering the problem. For example, you can imagine yourself sitting by a stream. Use imagery to make the picture vivid in your mind. Take each worry and place it on a leaf. Watch the leaf float downstream and away from you. Picture it leaving your field of vision and going far away where it can no longer bother you.  6) Talk back to your brain. When anxious thoughts pop up, talk back and tell your brain, "No, I'm not going to think about that." Picture yourself hitting the "delete" button. "NO, Brain. We aren't going there." DELETE.  7) Talking to a therapist might also be helpful. A professional can listen and offer coping strategies. A therapist is a nonjudgemental party who can help you gain insight about the root of the anxiety. A therapist can also help to identify potential triggers and make a specific plan for managing each one. 
(M.Ed, L.P.C.)
Answered on 11/06/2022

How can I approach anxiety, negative thinking and the circus in my head. How can I focus on genuine intention?

Hi John, It's great you're reaching out for some help. I can't say for sure what's causing your anxiety based on your message alone, but I can give you some ideas of how your challenge would be approached from a Cognitive Behavioral perspective. 1. Because our thinking influences our feelings and behaviors, we have formed beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world around us based on how we have interpreted our past experiences. You may have some beliefs about yourself (and/or women) that contribute to your anxiety. That anxiety in turn seems to be contributing to you have racing thoughts that make having the conversations with women seem overwhelming. By identifying what those underlying beliefs are and gaining a little insight into where they come from, you can start to replace irrational thinking with more adaptive ways of thinking. By doing so, you'd decrease your anxiety and feel more confident with these situations. 2. Coping skills are also huge. There are so many that can help with anxiety, and the key is to try several of them, see what works for you, and then practice them so that using them becomes automatic when faced with anxiety-producing situations. For example, deep breathing (breathing in through your nose for five seconds and out of your mouth for seven seconds) can be a great quick way to reduce anxiety. Pleasant imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness and grounding techniques, and many distraction activities like counting backwards can all help. 3. In addition to the immediate strategies to reduce anxiety, preventative measures could involve improving your self-esteem. Recognizing your strengths (and allowing other people to help you recognize your strengths) could improve self-esteem and thus reduce anxiety in these situations.  4. Cognitive behavioral therapy often involves role playing, and role playing stressful situations can help someone to prepare for situations that they know will produce anxiety. By practicing how you will approach a conversation with a woman, that preparation may help you to feel more confident once in that conversation.  5. Writing down your thoughts as they occur is another strategy. You described a "circus in your head" and sometimes it can be useful just to break down what's going on. Being able to look at those thoughts on paper or on a computer can also help us to more objectively evaluate them. Anyway, those are some ideas of how a Cognitive Behavioral therapist may approach your challenge. I hope that you'll consider participating in therapy. What you're describing is very common and can absolutely be worked on if you're open to doing so. I hope you have a nice rest of your weekend, and take care. Nicholas DeFazio, MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC
(MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC)
Answered on 11/06/2022