Happiness Answers

How do I discover myself

The first step before you can focus on how others feel about you. Is to improve how you feel about yourself. When you think back in your life to when you were happy what was going on for you then? What is different now? The other part to that is what is happiness to you? Once you begin to think about those three things you can start to look at what is missing. Happiness is different for everyone and only you can define what it means to you. Confidence within ourselves grow as we begin to feel comfortable in who we are. We are constantly discovering ourselves throughout our lives. Discovery is about trying new things to see what you like and don't like. Have you tried anything new? Through therapy you can begin the journey of discovery and begin to build your confidence. As a therapist I'd like to work with you in finding out who you are. Because the real you is always there, sometimes people get so accustomed to pretending that we forget who we really are. That in itself can cause internal conflict. When it comes to your boyfriend has he said that he does not like you? It's important not to assume what others think or feel. When we struggle with being satisfied with ourselves we tend to think that others could not be happy with us. However there is nothing to say that is true. I would recommend having a conversation with your boyfriend and talk to him about what you need, so that you feel the connection that you are missing. The first step is to start working with a therapist to help you tap into the source of you feeling like you are not enough. The next is to think about the last time you were happy and to see what changed. Also communicate with your loved ones about what you need in order to feel loved. Finally discovery is about being open to trying new things that match with your values. As you find things you like you can continue to do them and things you don't like you can stop.
Answered on 01/20/2023

What's the true meaning of happiness?

This is such a great question, and as such, can produce a plethora of different responses! As a means to provide an appropriate response, it's important that we take some time to break down aspects of desire and pleasure, as well as human nature surrounding this and mindsets. In essence, we as humans are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. When we experience continuous instances in our life of which don't produce a sense of joy, it wires in our brains all or nothing thought patterns. For instance, if someone were to continually be ghosted despite numerous inquiries for social engagement, it reinforces the thought pattern that "no one wants to spend time with me." In essence, themes of lacking happiness (which we call anhedonia in therapy) can be a plethora of conditioned responses based on the example I provided, as well as genetic components of which one may be less prone/sensitive to the experience of happiness as a whole. Even though it may not seem like it, anhedonia and depression are defense mechanisms. The mind is predictive, and bases such predictions on past experience. It's important to note that what we focus on, grows. If we continue to harbor thoughts in our mind such as, "I will never experience happiness", or, "It's only a matter of time before this person ghosts me", our thoughts will take hold of our emotions, and in turn, root in dissatisfaction and anhedonia. However, if we do the work to identify such thinking patterns that don't work to help us, we can challenge them in healthy ways with a skill called "re-framing." Re-framing is where we identify thoughts that don't serve us, and frame them in a way that begin to serve us. For example, the thought, "No one wants to hang out with me, I am better off alone", can be re-framed to, "Although there have been instances where I have been ghosted, I am hopeful that the right friend comes about for me." Call it wishful thinking, but the more we focus on the latter thought, the more likely it is that happiness will begin to come to fruition more often in our lives.  We can also achieve more periods of happiness by leaning into our values: the things that are important to us. When we begin to gain insight as to what we have passion for, and in turn, create space for such passion, we find that happiness isn't a state of constance, rather, something that comes and goes. When we cling to it too intensely, we actually experience less of it.  For what it's worth, a combination of mindfulness (the observation of the present moment, without assigning meaning and judgment to it) and re-framing techniques will likely aid in eventual days of experiencing more happiness. 
(MA, LCMHC-QS, LCAS, CCS, (he/him))
Answered on 01/09/2023

I realise I’ve returned to this website almost a year to the date?

Hello Henny! Thank you for reaching out for support on the BetterHelp platform. I admire your courage and bravery for asking this important question on the "Ask a Licensed Therapist" forum. In regards to making the decision to return to therapy services on BetterHelp, I would be interested in hearing more about your experiences. I know that you mentioned that you have decided to revisit this platform about one year later. What has changed in the past year? Can you think of any major set backs, milestones or progress that stand out for you in the last year or so? Take some time to answer these questions through therapeutic writing or journaling. The writing process can be a helpful resource for you as you prepare to find your purpose and sense of direction through therapy. As you may already know, there are daily journal prompts on BetterHelp. If you are interested in trying out some art therapy interventions in addition to talk therapy, that could be a great option for you. Art making directives can be a way for you to understand your own experiences as well as expressing your through to and feelings! Similar to the therapeutic writing process, therapeutic drawing can be a holistic and meaningful strategy for self expression. Scribble drawings are thought to be a great way to displace psychic energy. Simply find a surface to write on and draw a line or a shape or form. Look at your scribble and determine what you see in the design. Then, turn your scribble into the thing you see! Kinetic drawings may be another possible option for you to try. Projective drawing assessments help individuals understand themselves and the people in their lives. An example of a kinetic drawing is the standardized art therapy assessment. This assessment is called the "Kinetic Family Drawing." You can certainly try this projective drawing technique or you can start by drawing a picture of you doing something! In addition, I would be interested in hearing more about what you mean when you state that are unsure of or "thought this would be me." Would you say that you are having challenges with establishing your identity? I want to instill some hope that you are exactly where you are meant to be and that you are already who you are looking to be. I realize that you mentioned that you are experiencing challenges with depression. How long has this been going on? What sort of symptoms are you having? You can utilize the self report assessment known as the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ 9), which is free online, in order to quantify the symptoms that you are having. Other interventions for managing feelings of depression include: self care, self love and self affirming statements. The combination of these three "self" principles can be truly healing, calming and, at times, convincing. Self care is a pretty standard approach in the therapy field. From my perspective, self care means doing any activity that benefits mental health. Coping skills can also be considered self care. Take some time to research self care and coping skills online. There are many lists online with a variety of ideas. Self love can be tricky because of societal, spiritual, cultural and even religious views that state that selfishness is inherently "bad." The truth is that self love is necessary for survival. We, as humans, have to be selfish in order to survive. Take some time to practice this idea of selfishness, not in terms of no one else matters but in terms of "I matter." The self affirming statements are a powerful cognitive behavioral therapy tool in which you can utilize to change your thinking. Look up positive affirmations by Louise Hay for immediate inspiration. Lastly, I really admire how you added in your question the advice that you would give yourself. I would like to encourage you to continue to expand on this piece of advice. What would be the most gentle, kind hearted advice that you can imagine giving yourself? Would you be willing to make a plan to follow your own advice? You can start this process by checking out the concept of SMART goals if you are not already familiar with this technique. It seems like you have the ability to recognize your strengths and see the positive aspects of your situation. You mentioned that you consider yourself to be lucky and relatively successful, which is great! I would like to encourage you to take a look at your other strengths. In addition, it may be helpful for you to write a gratitude list. Keep track of at least one thing that you are grateful for every day. At this time I recommend that you attend counseling sessions. I realize that you are looking to converse with someone who may understand your specific situation. I hope that my response to your question has inspired you to get connected to a licensed therapist on BetterHelp and resume the journey of self discovery through the invaluable therapeutic process. In addition to resuming individual sessions, you may also benefit greatly from group therapy. Group therapy sessions are guided by a licensed therapist and are also on BetterHelp. For more information about the principles of group therapy, please look into the writing of Irvin Yalom, who has pioneered the field of group therapy. Thank you again for your time asking this valuable question on the "Ask a Licensed Therapist" forum. 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. I hope that you take good care and that you have a nice day.
Answered on 01/05/2023

How do I cope better because my coping mechanisms aren’t working anymore?

Off the Mark As the title of this passage indicates, you have found coping skills that worked before don't anymore. Has anything changed in your life to lead to this conclusion that they aren't working anymore? What do you notice about yourself and your situation, or have your thoughts on things changed? It's an obvious statement, but though we sometimes perceive the world and our place in it as stagnant, it is constantly changing, and it's best we do as well.  What we do with change is not try to apply old mechanisms on new things but to work on stepping back from the entire war that is being played out at our expense. We get dragged into this push and pull and feel the only way to manage is to participate in this battle every day. We wake up and feel stressed because we believe something about ourselves and others, our environment, and what it takes to survive in that environment. We believe that stress or being stressed or anxious is how to stay vigilant and productive. In reality, we believe our thoughts too much that tell us something is or isn't working.  I asked the initial questions if anything in your life has changed. It is an exciting phenomenon when people's environments change, and they don't recognize that they did. Our mind is meant to see patterns and fill them in without noticing a difference. The reality is your old "coping" does still work just as well as it did before, but you have changed, and now you need to change how you perceive what "successfully managing" your mental health looks like.  The first thing to do is to practice the awareness of yourself, the internal self, however. In his book Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl talks about being a prisoner in the concentration camps in WWII. He talks about laying there one night, realizing that all he had, his family, career, clothes, and a full belly of food, had been taken from him. He realized that no matter what the outside could take from him, they couldn't take his inner values. This provided him with overwhelming peace because he still got to live for the one thing satisfied people live for, their purpose.  The purpose is not driven by good days or bad days but by the desire to accomplish what you set out to do. However, your accomplishment in values-based living is not always measurable or an observable goal, but it is like a direction that you head towards, never fully complete. For example, I value being transparent and wanting to see that in others because I know it provides peace and energy when people are. I practice this every day and ask other people to do it as well. I ask people reflective questions and give them the room to say anything they don't otherwise put into words. This helps people to get to know themselves and get to sit with who they really are, not what their minds tell them they are.  Who are you? What do you stand for? What is your mental health interfering with, merely your peace? Why do you let it, and what stops you from accepting it and learning to live with it and saying that this is your life, it is not good or bad, it is yours, and you own all aspects of it? When you buy a house, you also buy all the house's problems. These are just as much yours as anything. Having gone through life, our mind and thinking are no different; they all make up you. No one thing is you, and no one thing will make you "better" than how you see yourself and your situation.  Do yourself a favor and drive all of this pain into a purpose. Pain without purpose is suffering. Find meaning in it all. Otherwise, you will constantly be held to the belief that you will not find the elusive contentment until.... (fill in the blank). 
Answered on 12/29/2022

How can you stop having poor self belief.

Hello, Here are some general ideas that can help with improving your self-esteem and believing in yourself more, and some self-doubt in your relationships with others.  1. As a therapist, I'm naturally going to suggest that you consider participating in therapy. Self-esteem challenges, a depressed mood, and feeling inadequate are very common reasons that people participate in therapy, and all of those challenges can absolutely be worked on with a therapist. So, while there are things you can do yourself, you'll probably have better success working with a professional who can help you navigate these concerns and cope with the challenges that you face along the way. 2. Positive affirmations are an extremely effective yet simple way of working on self-esteem. Telling yourself "positive" things on a regular basis can absolutely help. The key is to make these affirmations realistic for you. It's also important to practice them consistently. Changing how you view yourself takes time and practice. Your self-concept wasn't created overnight. Your belief that you "aren't good enough for people" didn't happen spontaneously. So, if you want to counter that way of thinking, it will take practice. Come up with some positive affirmations that you can get behind, and designate a couple times per day to review them, saying them out loud. Doing so in front of a mirror can be especially effective. 3. Evaluate your peer associations. If you're feeling like you're not good enough for others, determine whether the people that you're allowing into your life are good enough for you. Do they truly care about you, or do they take you for granted? Sometimes eliminating unhealthy relationships in our lives, even though it can be hard when we have limited support, can go a long way in improving our self-esteem. 4. As you described feeling depressed at times, know that while working on changing your self-talk can go a long way in changing how you feel, for some people psychiatric help can be incredibly beneficial and actually make it easier to utilize the therapeutic methods to improve your mood. Medications today are quite effective at treating mood disorders. You probably won't notice immediate relief, but many antidepressant medications can be incredibly beneficial if taken for at least 4-6 weeks.  5. Take a look at whether you're putting the needs of others before yourself. I don't know that this is what's happening, but if it is, you can do some research online to learn about codependency. If you feel that codependency is an issue, I suggest ordering and reading the book Codependent No More--it can be absolutely life changing. Anyway, I'm sorry I can't give you more specific responses, but I hope based on your message that something here was helpful. I do encourage you to give therapy a try (you don't have to do it on this platform--there are many opportunities to seek help). Take care of yourself. Nicholas DeFazio, MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC
Answered on 12/28/2022

How do I create a healthy "split" family with my young adult children?

Rebuilding For whatever it's worth, in your summary of recent life events and the identified toll it is taking on you, I must say you are likable. As odd as that seems to start the answer, I think it is essential that people know through how they choose to present themselves and their situation if it is read with favor for the person or if the conversation needs to change to accountability. For you, you have been wronged but seem to accept that wrong happens. You have every reason to be hurt, angry, resentful, and bitter, but bitter doesn't want a family that has hurt her back, even if it is the ideal version she imagines when she wishes for it.  How You Remember the Past Isn't Real I must note that what your mind is telling you isn't true. As hard as this is, as much as you want to hold on to the past and cling to that as the idea, it wasn't. I cannot admit I would have been able to say that in person, not like that and not this soon in a meeting. However, it would be best if you moved on so that you do not get bogged down by a false narrative from the past that things were ever as good as you imagined.  Hurt has a way of activating a retrospective look at life, covering the nuances that weren't so favorable. Hurt stimulates what we have lost, what could have been, but rarely allows us to see things as they really were. The phrase hindsight is 20/20 comes from this reality. You remember a family that never was; now, it is the anchor bogging you down. If the "whole" family would have been good and not on the road to where it went, it wouldn't be here today. In other words, there were underlying things that may have been missed in him, you, both, that would not have allowed for a continued relationship.  Adult Children Your adult kids should want to see you doing well. Since you being in their life is a primary concern, why would you think they wouldn't want to be in your life or that you are somehow not worthy of that? Does your ex-husband present a better narrative? Do they support you? Do they like your Ex because he blames you or something? Your adult children have options where to spend their time, and where do you think they will spend it, taking care of mom and her emotions or around a father who did wrong but can carry a conversation?  Sadness has its place here, and mourning for a loss is crucial.  However, it does seems like you may be digging a deep hole of despair, possibly because of the man you are with now. You have found comfort, you say, but he is not what you want. Despite him being a "comfort," you aren't very comfortable. I believe you are going about the divorce improperly by seeking comfort instead of letting go and mourning your loss of identity in the marriage. Comfort allows you to hold on to old beliefs about yourself and your family that are no more. There are assumptions I have to make for the sake of the question. What I have seen in your question is much hurt, accountability, and a realistic view of the future. With your foundation of insight, I think you will move on from this just fine if you start allowing what has happened to you to no longer be the reason you aren't happy. What has happened is tragic and unfair; you were wronged. However, in a marriage, there are two parties responsible for making it work; what do you think you can do to work on yourself so that you can grow and find yourself happy for others when they make choices you disagree with?  I do not know your current relationship with your children. However, children tend to go where they are accepted. Even adult children must be accepted for who they are, their autonomous persons, not just the children of their parents. This means that our adult children may say and do things that we disagree with, but they do so as an opportunity to figure out who they are, where their boundaries are, where they stop, and others start. Being a parent, you can listen to their lives as though you are the most curious person in the world, removing any preference or judgment. Your relationship from what has happened isn't necessarily affected. However, how you manage yourself from here on will influence their involvement in your life. Again, they won't want to hear if you are sad and mopey or talk about their father often. Learning more about your children would be best. I suspect that if you hold your previous family in nostalgia, you hold your children similarly. But neither the family nor the children are the same today as it was; it is better. As wild as it sounds, have you allowed the children to grow up in your mind? If so, what are they like, their interests, etc.? Like the family you once had, there has to be a letting go of what our mind tells us and practice of being present and accepting current reality.  Do not be scared to talk about any topic; get used to being uncomfortable, and the belief that you need to correct the wrongs must be eliminated. No more thoughts from the past; they are hurting you. The rest of your life is waiting. A therapist can give you that space to talk through some things without getting burned out, as family and friends can. However, a good therapist will hold you accountable and ask what you can do now to help the future you recover from this. 
Answered on 12/27/2022

I wanted to know what is your definition of real happiness as a human being?

Hello, I read your question as asking about what happiness means to the human existence. Aristotle said, "happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence." Now he is an old philosopher who may not define our current views of happiness. In looking at happiness for myself I define it as fulfillment in some sense whether that be emotionally, physically, or mentally. Sometimes that fulfillment comes in small doses or sometimes it might be enough to last us long periods of time. I have an analogy of fulfillment being a cup we constantly have to fill because the holes of stressors are bleeding the content out. Therefore, finding personal happiness is doing things we find pleasurable and rewarding. It seems from your question you have a difficult time feeling happiness and are wondering how others experience the emotion. The biological answer is doing pleasurable things releases serotonin which makes us happy and when we are lacking serotonin we don't experience the same levels of happiness as others. I also think our experiences and worldviews impact how we experience happiness. For example, people who see the world as black and white may not experience the same level of happiness as someone who sees gray because they will usually be disappointed with a result.  So why do some people feel like they can never be happy? And why do we constantly seek out ways to be happy even when it doesn't meet our expectations? I believe sometimes we have difficulty in life tuning out the negative thoughts and emotions we have. In part because we also have unrealistic expectations of happiness based on our perceptions of others. Additionally, it is easy for us to pass over positive experiences as a normal part of our day instead of holding on to them. Sometimes even getting a smile from a random stranger can make our day if we let ourselves believe in it. To sum up, happiness in a human being is the ability to find pleasure or fulfillment in an experience, thought, or any other part of the human existence. I hope this answers your question and thanks for asking it. 
Answered on 12/08/2022

Why do I operate from a place of fear?

Hello, Your question is great, and honestly, it's one that many people ask themselves. I can't answer it for you. Determining where all of this comes from is important though--and this isn't to say that therapy should be largely focused on the past, but likely there have been some experiences that have contributed to the challenges you're facing today. So, I would want to know where this fear stems from, what your childhood was like, what beliefs you developed about yourself, and others, and the world around you. I would want to know what your support system is like and if and how you have been hurt by others.  As someone who works a lot with clients who have experienced trauma, I would take a look at what trauma (if any) you may have experienced. Many people who experienced the world as a scary place. They lose trust in others, feel weak, are overly critical of themselves, etc. Of course, it's also quite possible you haven't experienced any trauma, but if you have, I would suggest trying EMDR therapy. Regardless of whether you have experienced trauma, it's important to look at your overall belief system. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is the most common therapy modality for anxiety and mood disorders today, focuses on identifying what's called your "self-talk". Paying attention to what you tell yourself about yourself and the situations you encounter can help establish patterns. It can help you explore what lens you tend to look through when viewing yourself, others, and your environment. Therapy can help you to examine these thoughts and then, once identifying what thinking may be irrational, to look at how to practice replacing that maladaptive thinking with healthier ways of thinking.  So, I certainly can't answer your question, but I hope my response at least gives you an idea of how you could approach the question. Whether you choose to engage in therapy on this platform or somewhere else, I encourage you to give it a try. It can be helpful to receive that support when encountering so much fear, and you may need some help identifying what's behind all of this. And you need to hear, not just from myself or others, but from yourself, that you absolutely do deserve to be who you are, and you do deserve to live.  Take care, Nicholas DeFazio, MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC
Answered on 12/07/2022

What do I do if I'm worried about my mental health?

Hi Beanie, Thank you for reaching out, I am sorry you are worrying about your mental health at the moment. I am hearing that you feel you are slowly losing track of your path in life and have no guidance which is causing you stress.  It sounds like you are feeling a little lost right now and struggling to decide which way your life is progressing.  Sometimes when we reach a point where nothing really excites us and there is no joy in anything we may need to evaluate what our goals and aims are in life, you do not say anything about your situation or what you feel may be contributing to this feeling of losing track of your path of life. Talking to someone about how you are feeling and your personal situation may help you to understand what is causing you to feel lost and stressed.  Therapy can be a safe space to talk about this to find some clarity, with a supportive therapist you can work out together what may be holding you back from becoming the person you want to be.  Helping you gain some clarity and foresight into what goals you want to achieve can help you with your focus for the future and the path you speak of.  You mentioned feeling that you are failing in everything you have attempted, and I am curious to know if you perhaps are being harsh on yourself and having high expectations. Sometimes by showing ourselves some compassion for the efforts we are making can help us grow in confidence and self-esteem.   If you find you are self-critical, it can be hard to feel proud of yourself for what you have achieved, it may be good to reflect on if you have received praise from others for the attempts you have made in the past, you may have had high expectations placed on yourself and not received praise, this can in turn make you very negative about yourself, causing you to feel you are never good enough and harshly critical of yourself. It can be hard to change this thought pattern and therapy can help you work through this, firstly you can explore where this unhelpful mindset has come from and question what you really need right now to make those changes.  Working with your therapist you can learn to be less judgmental of yourself and more accepting, this can be very freeing.  The weight on your shoulders of this can stop you from attempting new experiences from the fear of failure, keeping you stuck in this cycle of stress, worry, overthinking and therefore lacking enjoyment and excitement in your life.  When this happens, it can be safer for you to not try, but this is unhelpful in the long term, leaving you in this situation you describe, without growth and joy.  Being in your comfort zone can feel a safe place until the comfort zone feels "uncomfortable" and stifling, I wonder if that resonates with you right now? Taking some time out to be mindful and in the moment can help with periods of feeling lost and overwhelmed, it can help with the overthinking you mention, by trying to stay in the here and now, focus on what you are experiencing right now, such as a walk, or enjoying a hobby or being creative can all have positive effects on your mental health. When you feel yourself starting to think outside of that perhaps bring yourself back to some of the simple things that you can get some enjoyment from.    This can take practice, keeping a journal can help with this, write down all the little things that have given you pleasure that day, reflect and give yourself positive reinforcement for these small steps, they all add up.  You can look back on a week and instead of feeling like you have failed and have not experienced any excitement or joy, you can identify some achievements and see the light moments amongst these dark times.  Practice praising yourself for your efforts and share them with others who you trust.  As well as reaching out to a suitable therapist to talk over your emotions with, always talk to a healthcare professional who can assess your medical needs, this approach will ensure you stay safe and get the help you need. Take care and good luck. kind regards, Julie Cameron Counsellor and Psychotherapist 
Answered on 11/29/2022

How can I start feeling motivated and happy about life again?

Thank you for reaching out. It sounds like you have made some efforts to manage how you are feeling but find that you want or maybe even need to do more. I am glad to hear medication has been helpful, but in my practice, in most cases, medication is a bandaid rather than a solution. For a lot of people it helps to get them out of the deep, dark, depth of the hole they are in but there may still be digging out to do. I highly encourage counseling if you are not getting it currently, this way you are getting the tools and skills, as well as having the opportunity to process the things you may be feeling or struggling with. I would love to offer you some tips to help get you through this struggle (at least to start).  - motivation: it is hard to give specific feedback without more information on you and your situation, but in most cases motivation works best with a few other things.  1) routine: having structure to your morning and evening can help prepare you for a good night's sleep (so you have energy) and set you up for a productive day (refreshed). Creating a routine in those two areas and help you stay on task and also feel good about what you are doing.  2) self-care: super important you are taking care of yourself- if you are not having your basic needs met then it will be hard to move your focus to the things you want to do or even maybe need to do but are not dire. Things like staying hydrated, hygiene, eating regularly and well, moving your body and decompressing from stress. I know it is super easy to say, but starting with those things and getting in the habit may in turn help motivation. For example: the theory that an object in motion stays in motion, very much applied to our bodies. Going on a brief walk can get those chemicals flowing that encourage more positive mood but also more energy to do tasks.  3) time and task management: be realistic and keep it simple. It is SOOOOO easy to list out 300 things you need or want to do, then feeling overwhelmed and doing nothing, then feeling bad about it. I recommend keeping your to-do list for each day under three items and it can be even more helpful to make at least one of them an anchor task (something you HAVE to do ie: an apt, a call, etc).  In relation to happiness--- I wish I could answer that. Happy is something that looks, feels and is achieved in many different ways depending on the person. YOU have to decide what would make you happy and then make the plans and steps to achieve it. In conjunction to self-care above, taking inventory of your life and then setting goals can help you feel like you are working towards something and have purpose. Deciding what you want family, work, romance, friendships, hobbies, health, etc to look like that then make small goals to work toward. Again, you will need to make sure those basic needs are in check, otherwise it will be like swimming up stream to achieve those goals.  I hope you decide to utilize some support, you do not have to do this alone, and you can do this!
Answered on 11/22/2022

I feel overwhelmed, sad, I have low self esteem and when I feel alone then I'm having panic attacks.

Hi Julia, It's good you're reaching out for help--it sounds like you're dealing with a number of challenges right now. While I don't know exactly what's going on in your life and so can't suggest anything specific aside from talking with a therapist about your experience, here are some general questions I would ask to help determine what could be causing you to feel this way: 1. I would want to know about any trauma history you may have. Having panic attacks when you're alone could be a result of many circumstances, such as a difficult breakup or a significant loss in your life, but it can also happen when someone has experienced trauma and feels unsafe. If you have experienced trauma, CBT and EMDR treatments are both great options to work on this. 2. I would also inquire about what your routine looks like. You mentioned feeling overwhelmed and it sounds like you also feel a sense of hopelessness--that could be coming from work, family life, issues with friends, health problems--any number of things, but regardless, it's important to have balance in your life. I'm guessing that you have limited self-care currently, and looking at how you can increase your balance and self-care opportunities would be important. 3. What coping mechanisms are you using? There are a number of excellent coping skills that can help immediately when faced with symptoms, such as panic attacks, as well as preventative strategies that can help you cope on a more regular basis. If you choose not to participate in therapy, I would suggest doing your own research on coping skills including mindfulness strategies and grounding techniques. 4. What does your support network look like? Developing a greater support network, which sometimes really just involves utilizing more effectively the support network you already have, can make going through a difficult time much either. Unfortunately, some people struggle to open up to others or reach out for help.  5. Are you taking on too much? As with the last question, if you're someone who tends to be there more for others but not allow others to be there for you, whether that be at home or at the workplace or with friends and family outside of the home and workplace, that can absolutely impact your daily life. 6. How persistent/pervasive are these symptoms, and what have you tried so far? While I certainly encourage you to consider participating in therapy, if your mental health symptoms are particularly significant, you may want to also talk with a doctor to help you get through this difficult time.  Anyway, these are just some ideas of what you could start taking a look at. I urge you to sign up for therapy, whether that be on this platform or elsewhere. Whatever you're going through, even though I know it doesn't feel like it right now, it can and will get better. Take care, Nicholas DeFazio, MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC
Answered on 11/21/2022

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!
Answered on 11/15/2022

How can I get past the lack of meaning in my life

Dear Jay, Life is difficult and challenging. Everyone has curveballs thrown at them and it can be hard to figure out what keeps you going each day. There are some ways to find meaning in things again if you feel open to trying them. It might be something that takes time and a little trial and error to see what ends up helping. One way to find meaning is to practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude entails making note of things that you are grateful for each day. As a way to start you can choose to make a mental note or write down in a journal one to three things you are grateful for each day. It can be simple things like a sunny morning, a good cup of coffee, or no traffic on your way to work. It can also be larger things like being grateful for your body, such as your lungs or your heart and all the things it helps you accomplish every day.   Another way to find meaning is to remember when was the last time you did feel more of a sense of purpose or meaning. What led to you no longer feeling this way? Did something change? Did something unpleasant happen? We sometimes go into an emotionally protective mode where we distance ourselves from feeling anything either good or bad because something puts us in this mode. If you can recall what used to help you feel a sense of meaning every day it might be something worth trying again. This might include things like hobbies, physical activities, social activities, self-care activities, or other things. Reflecting on what happened before you stopped feeling a sense of meaning can be helpful.  If you sincerely feel like you have a deep dark cloud that weighs over you each day even if you try to do things that used to help you feel like your life has a meaning then you might want to consider talking to other people about having this feeling. You might want to consider talking to family, friends, mental health professionals, or someone else that you trust. Joining something like an online or in-person support group can also be beneficial if the idea of starting one-on-one therapy sessions is not something you feel comfortable with. Hearing other people talk about similar thoughts or feelings can be validating. Talking and connecting with others can also help you feel a sense of purpose or meaning again.  One final strategy to focus on to regain a sense of meaning is to try to focus on the aspects of life that are within your control. You can control your thoughts about things, which will also influence you being able to manage your feelings. You can control what you do or who you spend time with. You can make different decisions for yourself that might be healthier for you in the long run. One huge thing that none of us can control is other people. Accepting what is within your control and what is not within your control can also be helpful when it comes to managing challenges. I hope you find this information beneficial to your process of rediscovering a sense of meaning. I believe that you even asking for help with this shows that you will be able to find meaning again, as it shows that you recognize that something needs to change.  Best, Jasmine
Answered on 11/13/2022

I could use someone to talk to and get guidance from but don’t know where to start?

Hi Finn,  You don't say how long you've been teaching for exactly, but there is a lot to unpack there. Could it be the teaching job you are doing now that you're struggling with, would a different school/environment help you to feel better? Just something to think about. You describe that you go through ups and downs, could this be just a down phase, rather than you wanting to give up teaching completely? Again, just something to think about.  I'm wondering where that feeling of helplessness comes from and if that is playing a part, being in a new work environment can be overwhelming, and can lead to feeling a bit out of control.  You mention feeling like a failure in many areas of life, so I'm wondering what else might be going on for you to cause how you're feeling at the moment. However, even if you were to give up your teaching role, that in no way would make you a failure, it would make you someone who wants to be happy, and that is totally ok. Again I'm wondering where this feeling of failure comes from, and if it impacts on your self-esteem. Is this playing in to some insecurities? All that said, I'm a massive believer in that we all have it within us to be happy, and if you believe that teaching is what is causing you unhappiness, then maybe you do need to explore other options, and what they might look like for you.  You mention that you get stuck in your head, if you try to tune in to your heart or your instincts, what do they tell you? Are they all in alignment with what's in your head or are there any alternative voices there? What are they telling you?  You mentioned mindfulness and self care, but I'm wondering if you are doing any other activities outside of work that are just for you right now? Teaching is a full on career choice and so I'm wondering if you're getting enough downtime or doing the things that bring you joy.  Hope this helps...
Answered on 11/12/2022

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!
Answered on 11/11/2022

Why can’t I recover from dysthymia?

Hi Cici! I am so glad to see that you have reached out for support on the BetterHelp platform. The fact that you are seeking out guidance on this topic shows your courage and strength. My hope is that I can help to guide you in coming up with a plan of action as you continue the process of recovering from dysthymia. I understand that you have been struggling with managing symptoms consistent with dysthymia for quite some time now. What type of symptoms have you been having? Have you been experiencing fatigue? Are you feeling irritable lately? Have you experienced a sense of hopelessness? How would you rate the frequency and intensity of your symptoms on a scale of 1 to 10? Also, what have you been doing to manage your symptoms thus far? I hope that you have been doing what you can to take care of yourself. I realize that dysthymia is a chronic mental health disorder that typically lasts for two or more years. When were you first diagnosed with this condition? From your perspective, how did your symptoms begin to worsen over time to the point of clinical significance? Do you have a childhood history of depression?  Take some time to reflect on your experiences with dysthymia. Perhaps you can write a reflective journal entry about how these experiences have impacted you. Draw or create a timeline about your mental health history if you are willing to do so. Some additional questions that may be helpful for you to explore include: What are some of your personal triggers or warning signs for feeling depressed? What are some of your hopes about feeling better? How will you start to keep track of your symptoms in order to be able to notice improvements? If you could change one thing about your dysthymic condition, what would that be? What would your life look like if you were to fully recover from dysthymia? Take some time to envision your future without having to continuously cope with dysthymia. I know that you mentioned that you have been trying to uphold meaningful conversations with the people in your life. Who would you identify as being actively involved in your support system? Are there people in your life who you can trust and talk about this experience with? I think that it would be a good idea for you to recognize your support system and build upon the supports that you already have in place. What are some of the major barriers that are preventing you from feeling better? Are some days worse for you to get through than others? Based on how you mentioned the concept of recovery in your question, it seems like you have hope that things may begin to improve for you in the future. I realize that what you have going through is not easy, to say the least. I would like to recommend that you try some self care related activities on a daily basis. Active minds has some great ideas, resources and podcasts on this topic. Here is the link to some ideas for self care and coping skills: https://www.activeminds.org/about-mental-health/self-care/ I understand that you have been noticing yourself go into fight or flight mode and that you also notice yourself feeling tense. I would like to encourage you to practice some grounding exercises. Connect to the five senses and notice your feet firmly planted in the ground. Allow yourself some time to discover your sensory experiences through mindful breathing. Here is a link for additional ideas on grounding: https://www.healthline.com/health/grounding-techniques Also, I would like to encourage you to participate in meaningful activities, such as creative art making interventions. Art making can facilitate and fuel the healing process. You may want to start by coloring in mandalas using colored pencils, markers, or water colors. Drawing within a circular format can bring a sense of wellness and physiological relaxation to the body. Perhaps you can draw a picture of the things that you are feeling grateful for. Another art based projective drawings technique is the Draw a Person in the Rain directive. By drawing a person in the rain, you may obtain a clearer understanding about your own resilient nature. Here is a link to more information about this unique art therapy intervention: https://exploringyourmind.com/whats-the-draw-a-person-in-the-rain-test-about/# At this time, I would like to recommend that you begin attending individual counseling sessions. Having time to express your feelings and concerns with a trained therapist on a regular basis will likely be beneficial for you. You may want to explore cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches with your counselor. The basis of CBT is that thoughts, feelings and behaviors are interconnected. Another option that you have on BetterHelp is to attend group therapy sessions or a groupinar. Connecting with other individuals who are experiencing similar symptoms of persistent depressive disorder could be helpful for you, as well. Take the time that you want to consider your needs and explore your options for therapy. Thank you again for your time in asking this valuable question about dysthymia 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. Please harbor some hope that you can conquer the dysthymic experience. Have a good day!
Answered on 11/11/2022

How can I know my feelings?

Hi there, when something bad happens, it can leave us feeling sad, mad, helpless, disappointed, shamed, guilty, hurt, pain, and even anxious, it can be very confusing and leave us feeling conflicted about just how we feel, or should feel.  The emptiness you mentioned in your question is very real and painful.  There are a lot of factors that can make a difference such as: this time and what has happened in the past, with the same person or persons,  how we viewed what took place past and present, whether we are conflicted because of what was said, how it was said, when it was said, the surroundings when it was said, whether others were around when it was said--all of this makes a difference.   So not knowing the exact circumstances leaves us giving a VERY general answer. Many times we may have to "decipher" our own feelings and it sounds like that is where you are currently.  The feeling you have of being empty can also come from repeated instances of disappointment, discouragement and even a feeling of despair, which again can leave you confused and conflicted.   I often find many clients going through this type of confusion came from families where they often had to conform, many had learned to perform and did not have the "right" to be angry, the "right" to express their feelings without being ridiculed.  I find often when we don't know how we are "supposed" to react can be because we have not had the freedom, (whether real or imagined) to feel what THEY feel. We tend to conform to the guidelines and expectations of others.  You may have learned how to feel, how to think, how to act in order not to be made fun of, to be punished or shamed.  Making the decision to get in touch with the real you, not the one who has been "acting" or "performing" according to the predefined guidelines and family "rules" may very well help you with understanding your true feelings.  I believe the work to do this will be uneasy--at first, but so rewarding as you move toward feeling, touching, healing and releasing the old for the new.  I speak peace, love, and joy into all of who you are in your wonderful journey of discovery! 
(M.A., LPC)
Answered on 11/03/2022

How do I gain motivation and self worth?

Hi. You can talk back to your thoughts. You can even name it if you would like. You can call it a name like Bobby or something like "the worry monster." When you ask yourself "what if they're right?" reply with "What if they're wrong?" A couple ways to increase your self-esteem is to state a positive affirmation many times a day and also to say or list 3 of your qualities daily. State, "I am enough" repeatedly as you shower. Write "I am enough" on every mirror you own. Listen to an "I am enough meditation." You can find this on YouTube. I recommend one by Marisa Peer. However, if you don't like that one, choose one of your liking. Write "I am enough" on your hand. Set a reminder in your phone that goes off twice a day that says, "I am enough."  Think of 3 of your qualities daily. Write them down in a journal or look yourself in the mirror and say 3 kind things to yourself. Tell yourself the things you would have wanted to hear from your dad or brother, a boss, friend, anyone. Say things like "You're amazing!" "You're kind." "You're successful", etc. Listen to 3 Secrets to Boost Your Self-esteem by Marisa Peer on YouTube. Also listen to Why All Our Insecurities Come From This One Thing by Marisa Peer.  Think of 3 things you did right today. What does that say about you? If you listened to a co-worker, it could mean you're a good listener. If you finished a project, it could mean you're diligent. Another way to think of your qualities is to think of qualities you don't like in others such as lying. If you don't lie then you can say, "I am honest." Or what positive things do others say about you? Write it down.  We are operating from our subconscious 95% of the time. Your subconscious doesn't differentiate from fact and fiction. It will believe whatever is repeated enough. You only believe your dad and brother because you heard it 16 years. It wasn't true. You can reprogram your mind by telling it new affirmations like "I am enough" and reminding your subconscious of your positive qualities over and over again---every single day. Consistency is key.  It's great that you're exercising. Other things that build happiness are practicing gratitude (look up the scientific benefits of gratitude), meditating, positive journaling, acts of kindness, and fostering social relationships. 
Answered on 11/03/2022

What would advice would you tell a 20 year old about something you wish someone told you?

This is a really good question and one I believe a lot of young people are struggling with right now.  If I am going to stay strictly with the question of what would I tell a young adult that I wish someone had told me the response would be: "Work toward self-acceptance - that is key. Have experiences, remember you are young and all of your life is ahead of you.  This is the time to explore, find your passions, your interests and your people and nothing is out of bounds for you.  Find out who you really are and what you like, what you dislike and what you are willing to do and not do.  Be brave, have courage and remember that bravery and courage are not the absence of fear, they are proceeding in the face of fear.  Talk to people, find those who have your back through thick and thin and stick with them.  Give yourself grace and room to make errors. This means letting go of the idea of perfection - allow for mistakes from you and from the people you love.  Feel the feelings, identify what works for you in your belief system and get rid of what doesn't lift you up and improve your life when it comes to your thought processes.  If you have thoughts that are dragging you down, figure out the reasons, take what you need and leave the rest - there is no need to drag your bag of shame behind you throughout your life. You will have your own identity and that identity will grow and morph as you go through life - you will still be you underneath, just with new and developed layers!" That is the beginning of what I would say to a young adult that I wish someone had said to me.  I also wish someone had told me I am doing the best I can with what I have at any given point in time.  This is one of the truest statements I have ever heard and one I tell myself every day, whether things are going right or things have gone sideways somehow.  As an individual it is important to find our own levels of measurement with which to measure ourselves and in the young adult years we are usually still using someone else's measuring levels and believing we are failing horribly.  When we step back and take a real look at whose measurements we are trying to live up to it can give perspective on how we are looking at ourselves, what we are saying to ourselves and our own basic beliefs about ourselves.  Finding someone to help sort all of that out is vitally important and young adulthood is a great time to get started with that process! 
Answered on 11/01/2022

How do I keep the depression away and be a normal functioning adult?

Depression is a sign that your body needs time to rest and is tired of going through the motions of daily life. First, take an inventory of what you like in your life and what you would like to change or things that don't align with your values. Once you find things that are depleting your time and energy do your best to eliminate these things to live a more fulfilling life. Also, there are some things you could do daily that help correct those symptoms of anxiety. These include incorporating exercise into your day and routine. Exercise has been linked to improved mental health and improved mood. Another thing to include is setting daily goals. Make sure that they are S.M.A.R.T. goals, which stands for S- Specific, setting real numbers with real deadlines, M- Measurable, making sure your goal is trackable, A- Attainable, working towards a goal that is challenging but possible, R- Realistic, be honest with yourself and knowing what you are capable of, and T- Time-bound, giving yourself a deadline. Also creating a special diet and eating foods that are known for improving energy and improved focus and avoiding junk food. Another is to establish a routine for sleeping and waking. This will give the body a proper schedule and a better sense of control and routine in your life. Another is to limit the use of alcohol and other drugs, they only give temporary relief and don't get to the core of the problem. Lastly, you are also welcome to reach out to family and friends even if it is just to catch up and see what they are doing in their life. Making an appointment with a therapist can also help with discussing your triggers, and coping skills that you can use in daily life. The theory that is one of the most effective with people experiencing depression is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It explains how thoughts, behavior, and emotions are all connected. The thoughts are the internal dialogue that you tell yourself, your emotions are how you feel in the moment of the activating event, and behaviors are your actions or what you did at the moment. In order to change your emotions you have to change your thoughts. Which would then change your emotions and actions to follow.  I really hope this was helpful for you and provided actionable steps towards correcting those feelings of sadness.
Answered on 10/28/2022