Resilience Answers

Anger

Sir, I am so much in contact with the same emotions that you are feeling.  Texas politicians seem to be largely determined to pretend that science is not reliable and that either Faith will keep us safe from infection by COVID or that conspiracy theories offer us the best advice about our communal safety.   Obviously, as our Governor is ill after double vaccination, it appears that the vaccines are not foolproof and we are far from out of the woods.  I take great encouragement from the fact that the judicial system in Texas has a more balanced view of the scientific evidence and may keep our school kids safe despite the anti-vaxers and -maskers!   But what you are asking about really is how to be less angered by those who hold such odd and backward beliefs.  First, I hope you have done the work of proving them wrong by becoming vaccinated and wearing masks inside public places.  This should keep both of us safe to continue to state the truth loud and long to the people we care most about. I feel that by standing our ground and going “above and beyond” the minimal safety advice from our State government and following the national CDC advice, we demonstrate to others how seriously we take the problem and how hard we are willing to fight to keep ourselves and others safe.  Second, I would suggest that you consider who is being harmed by your anger which, unfortunately, is most likely to be you.  Chronic anger, of the type you are describing, has a host of proven negative effects on the emotional and physical health of those who experience it.  Anger opens us up to the possibility of heart disease, stroke, gastrointestinal upsets and disorders, problems with regulation of blood pressure, diminished immune functioning, poor sleep, unwise eating choices, and a host of psychological symptoms, including anxiety, stress, and hopelessness.  None of these things target the misinformed people whose opinions so dissatisfy you.  They only really affect you and those who love you, the very people you want to keep safe from COVID regardless of their beliefs.    We find ourselves in the odd position of having to keep the foolish safe by following the recommendations of the wise on their behalf as if we are somehow responsible to each other for the safety of the group.  Well, that is likely the case.  Herd immunity can only be obtained when a very large proportion of the folks in a given area have been effectively vaccinated and maintain their immunity with booster vaccinations as needed.  Think about all the loved ones and friends you have who need extra protection from getting the flu or pneumonia or whatever easily transmissible disease happens to be floating around in the air of the early Fall.  Focusing your anger on those not being vaccinated only distracts you from the loving actions of all those who are being vaccinated and listening to the CDC recommendations.  Even if the vaccines are imperfect and we will one day manage such disease outbreaks in a very different way, it can calm the heart to know that at least we are trying and following the best advice we have.    Also, please use this opportunity to reflect on whether you are made this angry by other conspiracy theories at large in the world or whether your own beliefs about the dangers of smoking, dumping plastic into landfills and the oceans, eating unsustainable foods, or using items that are damaging to the planets may be causing others the kinds of emotional and possibly physical discomfort you experience about COVID.  If global warming continues unabated, we shall surely all pay the price.  If the wildlife in our forests and seas are dying due to human-made contamination, none of us will eat or sleep well.  The overwhelming loss of pollinating insects is threatening a significant minority of our food crops.  There are plenty of causes about which to share useful information with others.  And if your heart and mind are so sore from the one cause about which you feel most strongly, others are unlikely to hear you about that cause or any other.  Take heart from the fact that so many people do care about the planet, the food supply, the resiliency of our earth and waters, the return of many insects vital to our survival, and other positive effects of vocal people like us who are willing to be a bit less than comfortable to talk to because we keep calling people to actions that they can take, every day, to make our world a safer and more balanced place to live.  Help a child build a birdhouse and hang it high enough to keep the fledglings safe.  Plant indigenous plants that encourage the local pollinators to live and help the food supply.  Volunteer at a food bank or an animal shelter to decrease the needless suffering in the world around you.  These are the ways to decrease your anger and contribute to the solutions we so desperately need.  Display your concern by helping people get transportation to the closest site for COVID vaccination and keep those around you informed about CDC studies of vaccination efficiency so you can let them know if they need boosters.    In other words, put your money where your mouth is and notice how much better you feel about those efforts.  We don’t have to all do the same things or find the same risks unacceptable, but we all can fight the menaces we recognize and try to save the world around us.  And the people we care most about!
Answered on 10/21/2021

Wife want separation but we still live together and have young kids together . She’s distant

Good morning.  I would want to know more about your lives together and about the ages of your children.  I wonder before I even start to talk about options how much the pandemic has affected your marriage and her view of who does what in the relationship.  You say that your children are all young and you have 7 years together.  It sounds as though you may be a very busy family that became perhaps isolated and even busier during the pandemic.  Much of what I would advise would hinge on your history as a partner before and since your marriage.  First, of all, I would want each of you to have your own individual therapist to see you with regard to assessment and individual treatment as appropriate given the outcome of the assessment.  I would want to see the individual assessment of each of you and the recommendations of your respective therapists to know when and how to weave what may be every other week or monthly marital counseling into the pictures.  I would want a specialist in family counseling to see you as a family as needed (assuming you have children - both of you and your children) and as it can be fit into your other counseling schedules.  If you do not have children there may be a reason to have both of you and your respective parents join since you say she doesn't get along with your mother but you get along with her parents.  There may be a reason for this that has its etiology in the past or present.  I would suggest basic communication psychoeducation and conflict resolution educational training for both of you.    Interpersonal effectiveness training would advance your progress together with mindfulness, emotional regulation, and distress reduction.  Most of these can be taught in individual sessions and practiced in both individual and couple sessions.   These methods of education and counseling are part of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and are appropriate for many treatment goals that are likely to be affecting your marriage and individual lives.  Prior to starting any counseling, I would recommend that both of you take the 5 love languages quiz for married couples and learn how to use the results of that quiz.  I would recommend that you purchase the Marriage Boundaries book and workbook by Cloud and Townsend.  In the event you wish to work with a secular boundaries book try Boundaries by Charles Whitfield   Please come to your first session at least have taken the love languages quiz.  
(Psy.D., LISW-CP/S, CACII)
Answered on 10/21/2021

I am actually looking for EMDR therapy.

Dear Alia,   Thank you for your message and for sharing with me how you've been interacting with yourself, especially how you've been handling unpleasant feelings and emotions. As you said this has also affected your life significantly. Perhaps by addressing how to handle unpleasant emotions in a healthier manner, we can dive into addressing the issues in your life as well?   Although I cannot offer you EMDR therapy here via this format, I thought maybe I can offer you some tools to cope with these strong sensations you feel as you continue to search for an EMDR therapist.   Often the experience we've had about anxiety (or any strong emotion such as stress/depression) was so terrible (even physically) that our body sort of becomes traumatized by it. We naturally become nervous about these unpleasant feelings because we don't like these sensations and experiences. As a result, we would do everything we can to avoid/fight these anxious feelings, often using numbing techniques such as using substances or distracting ourselves. Yet only to find that the anxiety gets stronger over time because we have never been able to make peace with it.   Therefore rather than trying to "change" / "fight" / "get rid of" these unpleasant sensations, perhaps the best thing that we can do is to make room for these feelings and even sensations while staying on track to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment. Floating without judging / blaming ourselves through the anxiety experience, while focusing on making room for anxiety can be helpful.   Here is a short video put up by the author of the book "The Happiness Trap" which does a good job explaining this concept:   Please take some time to watch this and share your thoughts later :) I also highly recommend picking that book as well to supplement this therapy process.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI    We as human beings do not like suffering, therefore often times we would be doing our best to fight it. However just like the analogy of swimming vs floating that we have talked about before, the more we fight it, the faster we sink. While if we can learn to float with these waves, we will realize that we won't sink.   Radical acceptance / Expansion is about accepting of life on life's terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical Acceptance is about saying yes to life and all that life brings (including all sorts of emotions such as joy, sadness, peace, and pain), just as it is without forcing our ways into our lives.   Why do we want to accept life as it is? Because with anything that we do in life that brings us meaning and fulfillment, it always accompanies a wide range of emotions, we can't possibly just choose the ones that we like and fight/avoid those that we don't like. Learning to experience all emotions as they are, is a sign that we are living our lives to the fullest.   To do so we must learn to accept (and make room for) any unpleasant sensations, feelings or thoughts that we experience.   We don't want to fight it because the more we fight, the stronger they will come back.   We don't want to avoid it either because the more we avoid it, the more we'll be afraid of it.   So the key here is to make room for these sensations, feelings, and thoughts while continuing to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment in life.    Learning to "co-exist" with these feelings will naturally reduce their intensity.   Floating is a form of learning to accept these feelings and make room for it.   Let me give you some practical guidelines on what I mean by accepting these feelings and make room for it.   You can look up the "expansion technique" under Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for more information as well.   How to accept our emotions (and make room for them):   1. OBSERVE. Bring awareness to the feelings in your body.   2. BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe into and around them.   3. EXPAND. Make room for these feelings. Create some space for them.   4. ALLOW. Allow them to be there. Make peace with them   Some people find it helpful to silently say to themselves, 'I don't like this feeling, but I have room for it,' or 'It's unpleasant, but I can accept it.'   • When you're feeling an unpleasant emotion, the first step is to take a few slow, deep breaths, and quickly scan your body from head to toe.   • You will probably notice several uncomfortable sensations. Look for the strongest sensation - the one that bothers you the most. For example, it may be a lump in your throat, or a knot in your stomach, or an ache in your chest.   • Focus your attention on that sensation. Observe it curiously, as if you are a friendly scientist, discovering some interesting new phenomenon.   • Observe the sensation carefully. Notice where it starts and where it ends. Learn as much about it as you can. If you had to draw a line around the sensation, what would the outline look like? Is it on the surface of the body, or inside you, or both? How far inside you does it go? Where is the sensation most intense? Where is it weakest? How is it different in the center than around the edges? Is there any pulsation, or vibration within it? Is it light or heavy? Moving or still? What is its temperature?   • Take a few more deep breaths, and let go of the struggle with that sensation. Breathe into it. Imagine your breath flowing in and around it.   • Make room for it. Loosen up around it. Allow it to be there. You don't have to like it or want it. Simply let it be.   • The idea is to observe the sensation - not to think about it. So when your mind starts commenting on what's happening, just say 'Thanks, mind!' and come back to observing.   • You may find this difficult. You may feel a strong urge to fight with it or push it away. If so, just acknowledge this urge, without giving in to it. (Acknowledging is rather like nodding your head in recognition, as if to say 'There you are. I see you.') Once you've acknowledged that urge, bring your attention back to the sensation itself.   • Don't try to get rid of the sensation or alter it. If it changes by itself, that's okay. If it doesn't change, that's okay too. Changing or getting rid of it is not the goal.   • You may need to focus on this sensation for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes, until you completely give up the struggle with it. Be patient. Take as long as you need. You're learning a valuable skill.   • Once you've done this, scan your body again, and see if there's another strong sensation that's bothering you. If so, repeat the procedure with that one.   • You can do this with as many different sensations as you want to. Keep going until you have a sense of no longer struggling with your feelings.   • As you do this exercise one of two things will happen: either your feelings will change - or they won't. It doesn't matter either way. This exercise is not about changing your feelings. It's about accepting them.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Is Better Help a resource that I can use to learn to feel less bitter and mean?

Good evening! Sorry for the late response, it's been a busy week!  First off, I would like to thank you for reaching out to BetterHelp for some answers to your questions.  I agree with you about this past year being very tough, as it still is (and has been) on everyone, especially when trying to stay positive during this horrible pandemic period.  I hope you're not feeling isolated and alone in this particular area as this is major stressor for pretty much everyone, no matter what your background is or where in the world you are. Having to navigate life during this time has been a "nightmare" to say the least...for all of us.  This Covid-19 thing doesn't discriminate....it has it's way with everyone.  As far as your self-judgment and fear of failure is concerned, it would be easy to relate this to our current time in history/society. Having the need and the desire to succeed right now appears to be paramount and almost feels as if a "survival" type of instinct has kicked in. What motivates you? Are you setting unachievable goals? Sometimes, our goals are set a little too far ahead of us... and when we set them too high, they appear to be unachievable. Is there a way to lower your own expectations? If you are able to write down the goals, it is often a good practice to kind of "reverse engineer" it.  By this, I mean take it from the top to the bottom.  Work each individual step of reaching the goal from the top down, and try to break it down (step by step) to where you are right now. If you do this step by step, and break down each step of what it would take to reach the goal, you can accomplish each step from the bottom to the top in a manageable and feasible manner. Think of it like "eating an elephant"...one bite at a time. Reward yourself at each step of the goal that is accomplished and move on to the next step until you get to the top! The bitterness and meanness is most likely coming from the frustration you are experiencing - which is a direct effect of feeling your goals are being blocked.  Your self-judgment and fear of failure also may be coming from things that may be related as far back to early childhood developmental years as well.  But, without more information other than what was provided in the original question, it would be hard (and probably a little presumptuous) to determine the root of this particular issue. It would be my recommendation to seek out therapy (either in person or via BetterHelp) as both modes are fully qualified to help walk with you through this and process these concerns with you. Have a great weekend! ~Jim
(M.Ed., MA, LPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I reduce my stress levels?

Dear Jane,   Thank you for your message and for allowing me to understand more about how you feel and what you have been going through, especially regarding how you have been interacting with yourself.   Through your words I think we have touched on a very important topic about "should", which could imply a sense of perfection/control and how much we demand ourselves to do what is being expected and have everything figured out or under our control, hence the fear over unknown and the urge to be in control.    Through your words, I have a sense that we often match ourselves with some internal expectations that we demand ourselves to be this way or that way...and that can definitely create stress for us and make us wonder if everything/anything that we do are "normal". There seems to be a genuine sense of worrying over the unknown future, meaning that we have a hard time trusting in our ability to cope with anything that happens?   You have mentioned that you had a hard time accepting mistakes/making room for failures because perhaps we have never be assured by others that who we are and what are do are acceptable. This could also affect your relationship where your self-esteem was constantly sabotaged, which goes with the feeling of not being good enough. I can understand how much these images and perceptions have impacted you and made you think that you ought to be a certain way or achieve a certain thing.   Meanwhile, we are all different and we feel differently. One key to managing this anxiety and stress is to accept ourselves as we are and not judge ourselves over any actions or thoughts that we have. There is no "normal". What is normal to me may not be normal to you, what is normal to you may not be normal to me, what is normal to us may not be normal for others, and what is normal for others may not be normal for us.   This can be especially true when we want to be relieved so much from anxiety and fear. We often compare ourselves with others and we do worry about what if we can never live the life that we wanted to live, yet there are so many things that are beyond our control...   We want things to go well for us therefore we try our very best to make that happen. We try to control our anxiety, try to fight off our fear, try to manage our worries...   We get stressed, worried, and anxious when we don't know whether or not we will succeed, or where to go from here. That can also apply to how we see ourselves, our life and how we live our lives right now. Often we have this all or nothing thinking that I have to be perfect or otherwise I am a complete failure. Usually, this thinking will lead us to unnecessary pressure and stress, which takes away our capacity to enjoy life and learn to adapt when things don't go as planned, or when we have made mistakes.   Perhaps the first step is to give ourselves the permission to be ourselves and to be in touch with our being including all of our strengths and weaknesses.   Here are some words about perfection/control that might be helpful, these are often words that I say to myself over and over and over and over...again.   I am still working on it, let see if we can do this together :)   Here they are:   I don't have to be perfect.   I won't expect that of myself any longer.   I can be weak, I can struggle, I can panic, I can worry, that is perfectly fine.   I can be fine with myself, even when I don't feel fine.   Nobody can be perfect, and besides, there is no "perfect" way of doing anything. I just do things and no longer try to do them perfectly.   If I'm not doing something as good as I'd like, or I'm having problems because of anxiety, I will coolly and calmly accept it. By trying harder and pressuring myself more to do things in a precise and perfect way, I only make myself miserable, and I will actually hurt my performance. I just do what I need to do, and realize there is no perfect way to do them or no perfect way to feel. I accept it coolly and calmly if I have anxiety or if I don't understand something.   I don't have to be perfect. I won't expect that of myself any longer.   There is only pressure in a situation if I put it on myself. Nothing is that important. It's all small stuff. If others disapprove -- who cares? There is no pressure because there is no exact right way to do things. I repeat, there is no exact right way to do things. There is no pressure because there is nothing I have to do in a given situation.   I can do whatever I want. I can always do whatever I want. Whatever the consequences, they won't be that bad. There is no pressure because I can accept it if someone judges me to be nervous. There is no precise way to do things. I repeat, there is no exact right way to do things. Since there is not a precise way to do things, there is no pressure.   However, whenever I do something or however I act is OK. If I don't do something a certain way, the consequences will always be something I can deal with. There is no pressure because I can do whatever I want. There is nothing I have to do. There is no exact right thing to do. There is no pressure because whatever I do, nothing bad is going to happen.   There is no pressure because other people's opinions do not determine how I feel about myself or whether I am a worthy human being. If I want, I can just accept things peacefully and stare blankly into space and say nothing.   There is no pressure because I don't have to be perfect. I won't expect that of myself any longer.   I am putting a great deal of pressure on myself by analyzing every situation for the perfect way to do it. Remember, analysis = paralysis. When I feel pressured, I'm going to stop thinking and just do it. There is no universal perfect way of doing it, so whatever I do will be acceptable. If after doing something, I think I could have done a better job, I'm just going to say to myself, "Well, I learned something here, and this knowledge will help me do a better job next time.   It's OK. I don't have to be perfect. I am satisfied with my efforts.   My self-esteem is not determined by how I perform at a certain task or whether others judge me as being intelligent, competent, fun to be around, or good-looking. There is no pressure because I can accept it if someone judges me to be nervous.   If someone judges me as a failure in certain regard, I will be able to accept it, because I don't need their approval to sustain my self-esteem. My opinion of whether or not my work is good is more important than theirs. My opinion about whether my attitude is good is more important than anyone else's. My comfort with how I carry myself and what I do is more important than anyone else's.   And there is no pressure because as a human being I have the right not to have to justify what I do.   I can accept the fact that sometimes I am nervous and anxious. Just because I don't feel perfect, and sometimes experience more anxiety feelings than other people, doesn't mean that I am less valuable as a person or that I should feel ashamed. I have some tough feelings to deal with but I will keep using the techniques I am learning with cool, calm, confident, peaceful determination.   I will do things for my own enjoyment and growth and not for other people.   Thus there is no pressure, because if other people look down on my performance, looks, or the way I conduct myself, I can still be happy because I am doing things for my own personal satisfaction, not for other people's. I have the right as a human being to say "I don't know," "I'm not good at this task," "no", or "I don't care". I'm going to avoid using words like "should", "must", "can't", and "have to", because they make situations very rigid and pressuring. I will avoid worrying thoughts like "what if ____?" I will do whatever makes me happy.   The more I try to pressure myself into doing a perfect job, the more problems I cause for myself and paradoxically the more my performance suffers.   Pressuring thoughts are ANTs thoughts (Automatic Negative Thoughts).   Pressure is a lying ANT because no matter how I perform, things will be OK.   I don't have to be perfect. I won't expect that of myself anymore.   I won't pressure myself anymore. I have nothing to prove to anyone else or to myself.   Thus, I won't pressure myself anymore. There is nothing I have to do. Anything I do is OK.   I am who I am, and I am beautiful. Why? Because that is what I define myself with. It does not matter what the world thinks about me, what matters is who I see myself in the mirror.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Should I actually pay for and invest in a therapist?

Dear Lulu,   I love your question, so thank you for asking it. It really gets down to the heart of what therapy is and the purpose it serves. Because life is life, and sometimes it is very imperfect. So how exactly is sitting down and talking to someone supposed to help?   You said you initially looked into BetterHelp because you were experiencing symptoms of depression – lack of self-worth and hopelessness. But looking back on it now with a clearer head, you don’t feel those things so acutely. But it sounds like your job is taking its toll on you. And yes, I can only imagine that D2D sales are an exercise in dealing with brutal “rejection.” Not rejection of you personally, but I’m sure after hearing a certain number of “no’s” in a day it wears you down. So maybe it would be fair to say that, at this time in your life – your work life, anyway – you are in a discouraged state, experiencing chronic unhappiness. But you know that is not the same as being depressed.   Here are some thoughts about how therapy can be helpful when you are simply at a tough place in life…   Core beliefs:  The field of cognitive-behavioral therapy holds that our feelings are based on our thoughts, and our thoughts are based on our beliefs. But sometimes our core beliefs are so much a long-standing part of us, that we don't even think of them as something we believe - something that may or may not be true. Instead, they just seem like reality to us, and we never think to question them. Therapy can help you take a painful feeling and trace it back to the thought behind it, and then trace the thought to the belief behind that. If you question the belief and realize it is not even true (or maybe that it was true in your life at one time, but that time has passed) it clears space in your mind to see things as they are, not as they were.   Perspective:  We are each so embedded in our own lives that sometimes it is hard to see possibilities and alternatives that are right there in front of us. Picture your life as a painting; there is a lot to see there and make sense of, but your nose is one inch away, so you really don’t see most of it, just a small portion and even that is blurry. This can be true especially at stressful times. Therapy provides you with the opportunity to step back and get a better view. This is done by relating your perspective to the therapist. You describe the landscape of your life as you see it from the inside, and their outside point of view allows them to reflect it back to you. Their view of it will likely bring questions to mind: “But what about…?” “Does it seem to you that…?”  “What if you tried…?” These questions can lead you to see what you might be missing simply because you have been looking at the situation too long and too close. Regularly practicing this perspective shift can help increase your mental flexibility, your capacity to see that you often have more options than you had previously realized.     Seeing patterns, or putting the pieces together:  Good therapy involves a balance between talking about current factors in your life that you want to better understand and change and exploring your longer-term history and the people and experiences who helped shape you into the person you are today. When a person has difficulty with insecurity, poor self-image, or sustaining intimate relationships, it is often connected (usually in a very roundabout way, but still connected) to patterns developed in your growing-up years. Exploring and understanding those patterns can be an important first step in resolving the issues that you are struggling with. If you find yourself confused about your own behavior (as in “Why did I do that?”), making these connections can be very enlightening. And with awareness comes the possibility of change and growth. Coping skills:  I sometimes say that going to therapy can be like developing a user’s manual for your own mind. We all know the coping skills that are generally recommended for everyone: When you’re stressed get plenty of exercises, take a hot bath, take some downtime, talk to friends. And these are all good. But are there may be some things that are unique to you that can calm you and bring you clarity? A therapist can help you brainstorm and learn through trial and error what brings peace to your own unique mind.   A word about the hormonal aspect you mentioned – It is absolutely true that the world can become a very dark place for a woman on a monthly basis. For some it’s “regular” old PMS, for others it’s PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) which includes more severe depression-like symptoms that significantly interfere with your functioning. If you think you might be experiencing the latter, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about it. You have taken a good first step – awareness. While the connection is clearer after the fact, in the moment it may not be clear why life feels so bleak. Your mind concludes: if it feels this bad, it must be, why else would I feel that way? It is once again a matter of being so close to our own lives that we don’t see clearly. Being aware of hormonal symptoms while they are happening does not make them go away, but it can be a helpful “escape hatch” out of a negative mindset to resolve that you will try to look at your dark thoughts with skepticism, and wait until next week before you draw any conclusions or make any big decisions.   All that being said, you don’t necessarily need therapy to get some of these benefits. There are books, podcasts, YouTube videos – multiple resources out there that can help you guide yourself through a process similar to the way you would explore things in therapy. Two I recommend are: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D., and Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD.   Finally, even a few sessions of therapy can be beneficial when you are really struggling. You can sign up for a month of BetterHelp, work with a therapist to get an outside perspective, and then take the insight and skills you have gained and practice them on your own.   All the best of luck to you,   Julie
(LCSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I get through stress and lgbtq issues.

Thank you for asking your question. Experiencing stress can cause us to freeze and not complete task that need to be completed at work or at home. What you are experiencing with the need to give up and the physical symptoms of sweating is not unusual. I would encourage you to have a morning and evening routine of meditation, excercising, taking in some vitamin D, or talking to a close friend that will listen to your worries and concerns. I mentioned eariler that stress can cause someone to freeze. The way to counteract the frozen state is by writing your task down on paper. It's something about putting the pen to paper and writing out what need to happen, that is fulfilling. Each day write down what is important and has deadlines and complete those task at the moment when you have the highest energy. The other task with less deadlines, complete those task at the lowest energy of your day. Having a good routine each day that keeps off stress is very important and maintaining your self-care. 1. Do something you enjoy first thing in the morning, 2. Take time to be in the stillness by reading a book, listening to music you enjoy, or taking a walk, 3. Tell yourself positive affirmations every morning, you can write them down on a sticky note and place it on your mirror in your bathroom (I am worthy, I am important). I hope these tips help you with reducing your stress level. The other part of your question talks about you coming out as bi-sexual to your parents. That was a big step and congratulations for being honest about who you are to your parents. When looking for relationships, being honest about who you are to your partners is really important, because you will find a partner that will accept you for who you are and be on the same page with you. Open communication is the first step in any relationship and if you maintain that openness it will save hurt and pain. Continue to be your authenic self, continue to be honest, and you will find that someone that will love you for you. Remember, every relationship rise and fall on communication. I hope this answer will help you manage your stress and encourages you to be your authentic self and continue with open communicaton. I am here if you decide to pursue couseling with Betterhelp. 
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021

What’s your best suggestion for me?

This is a very important question worth asking! It can be challenging to live in an environment that is not accepting of someone, whether it be due to their sexual orientation/preferences, as well as race/culture! Moreover, having a lack of support in friendships can also create self-defeating thoughts and hopelessness! Although there may be difficulty in setting up savings, don't lose hope! Ask yourself: "How might my life be different should I begin to make incremental preparations for change?" Oftentimes, this includes starting with adherence to a budget, using assertive communication for those persons around you who may treat you poorly, and more importantly, identifying those persons in your life, such as your girlfriend, who allow for such emotional expression to occur! When we have a "why" surrounding our reasons for self-betterment, the pursuit becomes less arduous, with time!    Loss of confidence and emotional draining can make these pursuits seem challenging, however, the most daunting part of any sort of change are the initial steps! In conjunction with your "why", as well as the question asked previously on how your life may be different, consider resources that you may have within your environment, whether it be a resource like BetterHelp, a local community resource, or even a support group for LGBTQ+ individuals, etc! If you think about it, confidence tends to correlate with feeling as if one is in charge of their life, that they have a say in what happens to them, that they have choices as to the outcomes of their circumstances! Even if it isn't there initially, fake it until you make it! Use of appropriate body language, such as looking someone directly in the eyes, chest out/shoulders back, exudes confidence, even if one may not feel this confidence initially! Moreover, the use of "I" statements, such as, "I feel upset that you don't accept me as a trans person", allows one to take responsibility for their emotion, as opposed to reacting to it!   I do wish you the best of luck in your journey of self-betterment in these areas, and hope that you find a clinician that can assist in building upon these realms! 
(MA, LCMHC, LCAS)
Answered on 10/21/2021

I work 6 days a week and need help and methods to decompress.

Thank you for your question. Work-life balance can be tricky, especially if you are working a lot of overtime hours. That can making scheduling in-person counseling appointments challenging. One aspect of live appointments at BetterHelp – they can be scheduled for a 30-minute session. So, if you cannot spare a 45-minute block of time, check with your counselor about a 30-minute block. That may be more manageable for your time management. Another feature of BetterHelp is groupinars. These are group webinars covering a variety of topics. When you register for one and are not able to attend it “live”, you will be emailed a link to the recording so you can watch it/listen to it when you have a chance (within a 1-week time period I believe). This way, you can still receive some benefits of a psychology-related webinar at a more convenient time for your schedule. At the time that I wrote this reply to your question, there is a Self-Care 101 and a Sleep groupinar offered – those topics seem to closely relate to your question/concern about being overly stressed. Let me suggest some ideas to decompress and manage your stress. First, getting adequate sleep can be very helpful as waking up refreshed can provide you with energy for your day. Establish a set bedtime each day (weekends too) so your mind knows when it should start slowing down. Using a routine each evening before bed can help too. Turn off electronic devices at least 30-minutes before turning in and avoid the temptation to watch TV in bed. The blue light emitted from electronic devices can interfere with melatonin production (which helps you sleep). Writing down notes from the day, so you can release them from your mind, may help (especially if you tend to wake up in the middle of the night with your mind racing about what you need to do the next day). Meditation and/or prayer can help relax your mind and destress your body, as can some light stretching. A bath or shower before sleeping can also relax your body and signal your mind that it’s sleep time. Just like establishing an evening routine, a morning routine can help you face the day in a good mood. Stretching when you awake and meditating or praying can help set an intention and tone for your day. Deep breaths and saying an intention for the day can help by starting the day on a positive note. A healthy breakfast is needed to fuel your mind and body.  During the day, eat healthy foods – avoid sugar, processed foods, etc. Aim for whole, nutritious foods to give your body and mind the nutrition it needs. Exercise, if you have time (even a few minutes) can help your heart and blood circulation. When stressed, take a minute or two to take some deep breaths – breathe from your belly. Also helpful during stressful times are affirmations and positive statements (reframe the stressful event into an opportunity) – ex: instead of: I can’t meet this deadline – reframe to: I can do this; I know how to prioritize my day and focus my energy. I can ask ___ for help, if needed. Reframing (switching perspectives) can help you focus on what you CAN do and away from what you cannot do. This helps you focus on solutions (and not on problems). Then, lean on your past successful healthy coping skills – what has worked for you in the past to manage your stress? Make sure to use those healthy coping skills, as well as to adapt them to work in your current situation. For instance, if you used to run 5 miles each day but don’t have the time now, adapt to fit in a 1-mile run – or set a time limit for what you CAN do (perhaps a 10-minute run in the morning is all you can fit in – you’ll still be fitting in some exercise). And, finally, on your day off, aim to do at least 1 thing that you find enjoyable. Engaging in hobbies is part of your overall self-care. I hope those ideas help! I wish you well as you manage your stress. In wellness, Dr. Sally Gill, LMFT
(PhD, MS, LMFT, C.C.T.S.I.)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can you make your positive thoughts overpower your negative thoughts?

Negative self-talk is a thought habit that has likely formed our of frustrations over the years. It can be a reaction to stress and frustration and can over time become a form of self-harm which can be debilitating and make it harder for us to function well in our day-to-day lives. Negative self-talk can impact our self-esteem and confidence and erode our perspective of ourselves. These "thought" habits can also form from messages we have received during childhood from ourselves- when we didn't have an accurate perspective of the events around us or from others in our lives (parents, caregivers, and peers), most likely out of frustration also. Since it took time to create and establish these thought habits, it is important to keep in mind that it will take time to neutralize and eventually reverse them. One technique that can be useful is to answer the negative thoughts from the perspective of a positive caring outsider (this can be done by speaking the words out loud or silently in our minds). For example, imagine what we would say to a loved one if they came to us with these particular negative thoughts. Most of us would do our best to soothe the concerned loved one and help them see and understand that the situation is not the worse it can be and perhaps would even highlight reasons why they should be hopeful that things will get better, maybe citing possible ways in which the situation can improve. The idea is not to create resistance to the negative thoughts but rather minimize their impact. There is no hurry or mandate to eradicate them but rather when they come up, soothe them and counteract them in a gentle manner. The key to this technique working is regularity and repetitive action. In other words, the more often we practice this technique, the easier it will become. After a while of practicing the soothing thoughts will start to happen automatically also and will eventually over time become helpful and soothing thought habits themselves. The goal of the end result is that our mind over time will begin to recognize the negative thoughts and by this awareness, their typical automatic nature will be slowed to the point that we can respond in the same way throughout the day, and eventually many of the negative thoughts may be extinguished over time. 
(MSW, LICSW, LCSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I get rid or pain that’s been buried for years.

I think that the best start and most effective start for you is EMDR as it is a trauma therapy which puts clients into a better position right from the start.  There are a number of ways to control the pain of the trauma and build peace and a sense of calm quickly with EMDR which is essentially the need of trauma victims.  You should be able to reach that point (including initial assessment) within 2 to 3 sessions and move into processing the problems that bother you.  In order to assist you immediately, I am giving you a URL to the usual client handout that I use to explain the uses of EMDR and its purpose.  https://bhr-llc.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/EMDR-Client-Handout.pdf.  I would suggest that you read the material at the site immediately and then search for an EMDR clinician as quickly as possible.  EMDR is available and just as efficacious in person as in virtual settings.   I would also recommend that you take care of yourself.  Self care will put you into a situation where you are better able to spend quality tie with your child and family.  You will be less likely to be moody and lose your temper with people (anger you report) if you are taking care of yourself.  You may feel that I am only talking about your physical wellness when I say this but I am not.  I am talking about wellness as talked about by Ohio University.  There are 9 dimensions of wellness and this is a URL to access a piece about these dimensions https://www.rollins.edu/wellness-center/nine-dimensions-of-wellness/  I will address one of the dimensions which is often misunderstood and not addressed from a self care perspective - environmental wellness.  While one often thinks of the environment as the trees, solar system, etc. and that is correct as it does affect our wellness, I am also talking about one's home, work and community setting wellness.  They are extremely important to our emotions and adjustment to life stressor.  Please make sure that you are looking at your personal physical setting when you speak of your personal environmental wellness.  The other dimensions seem to speak for themselves and the document I sent you will explain it directly. Finally, schedule to see a counselor soon so that damage doesn't worsen as time passes.  You have the ability and resources available to you to address your situation.
(Psy.D., LISW-CP/S, CACII)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Self care therapy

Hello J, and thank you for taking the time to reach out for Betterhelp with your question regarding your need to fulfill a requirement of 35-70 hours of counseling focusing on self-care therapy. What is this requirement for? I would certainly be willing and able to help you with your request and am comfortable acknowledging the hours that we’d spend focused on self-care. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any additional questions or follow-up on this matter.   With that being said, I will provide you with some information at this time with regards to self-care. Below are some Self-Care Tips:   Self-care means taking time to do things you enjoy. Usually, self-care involves everyday activities that you find relaxing, fun, or energizing. These activities could be as simple as reading a book, or as big as taking a vacation.   Self-care also means taking care of yourself. This means eating regular meals, getting enough sleep, caring for personal hygiene, and anything else that maintains good health.   Make self-care a priority. There will always be other things to do, but don't let these interrupt the time you set aside for self-care. Self-care should be given the same importance as other responsibilities.   Set specific self-care goals. It's difficult to follow through with vague goals, such as "I will take more time for self-care". Instead, try something specific, such as "I will walk for 30 minutes every evening after dinner".   Make self-care a habit. Just like eating one apple doesn't eliminate health problems, using self-care just once won't have much effect on reducing stress. Choose activities that you can do often, and that you will stick with.   Set boundaries to protect your self-care. You don't need a major obligation to say "no" to others— your self-care is reason enough. Remind yourself that your needs are as important as anyone else's.   A few minutes of self-care is better than no self-care. Set an alarm reminding you to take regular breaks, even if it's just a walk around the block, or an uninterrupted snack. Oftentimes, stepping away will energize you to work more efficiently when you return.   Unhealthy activities don't count as self-care. Substance use, over-eating, and other unhealthy behaviors might hide uncomfortable emotions temporarily, but they cause more problems in the long run.   Keep up with self-care, even when you're feeling good. Doing so will keep you in a healthy routine. Plus, self-care might be part of the reason why you're feeling good!   Furthermore, when thinking of self-care, we want to make these new behaviors more regular in our lives and have them become more “habitual” as opposed to something we have to consciously think about and choose to do, as opposed to them coming more naturally and unconsciously. Below are some tips for Building New Habits:    Differentiate between goals and habits. Goals are outcomes, such as "getting healthy." Habits are the actions you take to achieve a goal. For example, eating vegetables with each meal and exercising every day.   Start with small changes. Make incremental changes toward the behavior you want, and work your way up from there. Even if you improve at something only 1% every week, the changes that accumulate over months or years are massive.   Update your environment. Make changes that encourage your new habit and discourage unwanted habits. If you would like to eat healthier, keep a bowl of fruit on the counter, and put unhealthy snacks out of sight.   Tie new habits to other activities. Make a plan using the format: "After ___, I will ___." For example: "After each meal, I will read for 5 minutes." This is a simple way to remember your habit each day and encourage consistency.   Some practice is better than no practice. Even if you don't have a lot of time or energy, do something toward building your habit. Too tired for a long walk? Walk for 5 minutes. Too busy to read a whole chapter? Read one page. Consistency builds habits.   Tell someone you're starting a new habit. Doing so creates accountability and makes it more difficult to back out of your commitment. Also, once others know you're working toward a goal, they may offer encouragement and support.   Track your habit. Keep a journal, calendar, or spreadsheet to record your habit each time you practice. It can be satisfying to record your behavior, and to look back and see all the hard work you've put in. Plus, it can be motivating to keep a habit streak alive.   Celebrate your successes. Healthy habits tend to have long-term benefits that take time to kick in. While you're waiting for these, give yourself immediate, small rewards to sustain motivation. Just make sure they don't contradict your goals.
(LMHC, MCAP, TIRF)
Answered on 10/21/2021

What would be a good way to build my confidence back up since college kinda ruined it for me now

It can be hard to face new challenges. As human beings, we tend to be creatures of comfort and seek out things that are familiar. Familiarity breeds comfort. When we encounter unfamiliar situations or people it can cause discomfort because we don’t know how to negotiate the novel-we don’t know how it “ends”. The same can be said for changes in our routines or interactions. When we achieve a result or reaction we are unaccustomed to it can be uncomfortable, jarring even.    There is a direct correlation between comfort level and confidence. If I were to tell you that in the morning you were expected to get on a stage in front of 100,000 people you would probably feel quite nervous and you unsure of your abilities. What if I told you that all that would be required of you is to smile? Would this change things?     So how do we prepare for the unexpected and increase our comfort level in novel or unexpected situations?    1. Start where you are, not where you think you are.  Cognitive behavioral therapy asserts that thoughts have a large influence on our emotions. Cognitive distortions, or irrational negative thoughts occur when our brains make connections or associations between things that have no basis. In their extreme form, cognitive distortions can negatively affect the way we interact and view our experiences. Cognitive distortions or negative thinking can begin to happen automatically when we don’t even realize it’s happening. For example, someone who regularly received positive feedback at work might feel they are horrible at the job because of one criticism. Their irrational thought about job performance will dictate how they feel about themselves. Challenging irrational thoughts is the first step to helping us change them. A Licensed Professional Counselor can help. 2. Stop the thought drama.  Thought drama is a term for those unnecessary thoughts and feelings that occupy our energies, emotions and time which are based upon irrational interpretations of external events, interactions with others or perceived events. Thought drama serves no functional purpose other than to generate anxiety, worry and stress. Practicing unconditional acceptance can help cut down on the thought drama.  What is unconditional acceptance? You’re not perfect, people in your life aren't perfect and life itself is imperfect. Unconditionally accepting yourself with all your flaws, unconditionally accepting others with their imperfections, and accepting life unconditionally with its inherent discomfort, hassles, and unfairness is key to making changes that lead to a happier and more fulfilling future. If you got fired, for example, rate your job performance as poor, but never overgeneralize to conclude you're a poor or worthless person.  3. Remember, you’re always one experience away from a totally different life.  As humans we do what feels good even if at face value it does not appear to achieve our goals. Familiarity breeds comfort. We persist in unhealthy behaviors or relationships because they are familiar and we find comfort in the familiar. Growth comes from novel experiences and the discomfort inherent in trying new things. The temporary distress we experience from breaking with old thought patterns and behaviors can help remind us of our efficacy. When we push ourselves to change we venture into unfamiliar territory and challenge those feelings of comfort. Only then do we make real, sustainable change. 4. Your tribe impacts your vibe. Sometimes we wonder why we seem to find ourselves in the same situation over and over. Is it chance or do we have control over it? We implicitly and explicitly communicate to others what is acceptable and unacceptable. This often starts with the way we think about and treat ourselves and who we surround ourselves with. The way we treat ourselves sets the standard for others on how we expect them to treat us.   Ask yourself: How do I treat myself? What is important to me? What do I want? What do I think I deserve? We cannot change other people or their behaviors but we can affect a change in their reaction to us if we change ourselves or how we behave. How do we do this? Communicate your needs clearly. Ask for what you want or need. Do it in a respectful and assertive manner. Don’t assume others instinctively know what you want or “should know”. Show them how you want to be treated. Treat them how you want to be treated. Be that person you want them to be. Reinforce positive behaviors you like. If they do something you like-tell them and often. Have realistic expectations.  5. Build resiliency Resiliency is our ability to recover from challenges or stressful situations. It doesn’t mean that we always succeed. In fact, often we will stumble or even fail in our efforts. Resiliency is the ability to learn from these defeats and persevere. The next time you are faced with adversity after you’ve successfully moved through it take a moment to notice what you learned. Instead of ruminating over what went wrong focus on simply capturing what happened. Studies have shown writing down difficult events can help us put order to the events as well as develop insight. What would you do differently if faced with a similar situation? What would you change? 
(MEd, EdS, LPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I identify what's wrong with me? I think I have a mental disorder/illness.

Therapy isn’t just for individuals with a mental illness. Many people think that therapy is either for people with debilitating mental health issues or for self-indulgent, wealthy, people who just want to vent. Since the media usually sensationalizes mental health issues, often choosing to focus on only the most extreme situations, public discourse on mental health is limited to these aberrations creating a false impression of the incidence and severity. Hollywood often reinforce this misconception.   Let's face it, life isn’t always easy. Between long commutes and juggling work schedules and family responsibilities we can barely catch our breath. Even the most organized of us need help managing life’s challenges. At some point, you probably have experienced stress, felt anxious, overwhelmed, sad, or depressed. No one is immune to these conditions. Sometimes, we can work these issues out on our own by changing our lifestyles, reading books, taking classes, or through talking with friends, family members, or mentors. Other times, we notice patterns that we haven’t been able to change on our own, or issues start to overwhelm us and negatively affect our lives, relationships, and work. In severe cases, anxiety, depression, and stress can put our health and lives at risk. Therapy is often the fastest, most effective route to overcome emotional and behavioral issues that keep you from living the life you want. Sometimes, you can get better on your own, but in most cases you’ll get better results, faster, with a therapist.   Professionally certified therapists are experts in how humans process thoughts and emotions. Whether you want to learn tools to manage stress, build skills to be a better leader, or treat clinical depression, they’ll help you do that. A good therapist is like a coach–a coach for your mind. Therapists are professionally trained to understand the connection between thoughts, feelings, and actions and can help you figure out you why you are doing the things you do and how to stop. Sure, you might be able to figure some of this out yourself-but how long will it take and at what cost-your health, your relationship, your job? Change comes not from therapy itself but from practicing the skills and tools you learn in therapy. You are the expert of your own life. My job is to meet you where you are now and help empower you to resolve your own issues during and after therapy. Drawing from cognitive-behavioral (CBT), solution-focused and rational emotive behavior therapies together we will strive to change a situation that no longer works so you can live your best life. Let's talk!
(MEd, EdS, LPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Will I be ok? Will I be able to find a job that I want

Hello Thank you for reaching out and asking a question.   I hear that you are struggling with finding a job/career that is meaningful since being on mat leave.   You have experienced a life-changing event and now you are facing the uncertainty of your career.   Unfairness in the workplace is a difficult situation and it happens to most of us in the workplace at some point in our careers.  Is there anything you can do about your position?  Was it protected when you went on mat leave?   Reaching out to HR may be a starting point for you.     Feeling worthless is an uncomfortable emotion.  You have a lot of worth, you just need a different perspective of the situation.  Maybe this is time to switch jobs/careers.   Also, many people's self-worth is tied to their jobs/careers.  You are more than just a career or job.  Ask yourself, "what do my loved ones say is my best qualities?"   You will find that you have much worth in your life and career.    Is there any projects at home or with your family that you can help out with while you are job searching?   Staying busy is a great way to boost confidence and even completing minor small tasks increases our sense of self-worth.  Make a to-do list daily.  Structure your days with job searching, household chores, family time, and self-care.   Many people seem lost and struggle with feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness without structure and building structure into your daily routine is essential.  Exercise can help boost your mood and how you view yourself. Engaging in exercise while combining deep breathing is also beneficial for increasing your mood.    Along with structure, I recommend engaging in opposite action for battling feelings of worthlessness.   Get up and get moving!  Do not read or watch sad tv shows. Do not listen to depressing music or podcasts.   Get active in your life either via chores or serious job searching.  You may have to take a position or stay in your position until something better pops up.   You are in the process of bettering yourself.  Promotions do not define you.   If you need more help or feel like your symptoms are getting worse, please reach out to us for help. 
(MS, LPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Is there an option for 2 sessions monthly instead of 4?

Hello Inquiring Minds! Thank you so much for reaching out to get your question answered. I want to set the stage in the right way for you. This process involving questions and answers is not meant to be therapy or any type of treatment or cure. This is simply for information gaining and education seeking. You asked about the quantity of sessions and how that works for your therapy. In many cases there are times where a client might seek out a counseling arrangement that suits a customized schedule that works for them as opposed to doing what seems more traditional. I think the best therapy plan works well when it is something that fits into your regular calendar and allows for consistency and less missed sessions. It is self-aware that you are trying to navigate what is best for you in a clinical arrangement. Every therapist is different so making sure that your proposed practitioner can make that work for you is wise before selecting a counselor.  You mentioned in your note that you do not have any major issues to work out. This is insightful. I will caution you that although at this point that you are confident that you do not have major issues to work through please be aware that sometimes once counseling begins you might see a change in opinion on this. Therapy has a way of bringing more things to light subject-wise that need to be addressed or changed. It might be wise to allow for wiggle room with your counselor in case you change your mind on this proposed schedule.  When you think of stress management what do you envision that is helpful to release stress for yourself? Do you hope for more coping skills? Do you want someone to talk to on a regular basis and gain clarity and reflection opportunities? What do you notice as far as your needs for processing and managing your stressors? A good idea is to write down what stressors in a journal and give it a day and go back and read it over and think through the origin of the particular stress trigger. You said that childcare has been a problem and that a drive to a therapist might be an obstacle? I wonder if telehealth is a good option to take some of those concerns away from you Inquiring Minds? Betterhelp has good opportunities for you to have a healthy relationship dynamic with a clinical professional and to gain a regular routine that can include sessions, webinars, goal management, and more. I hope that this helps with your hesitations. Please keep in mind that options outside of therapy include support groups, reading books and articles relevant to your stressor, and more. A comprehensive plan may be best to meet your needs including therapy as well as other coping habits that are healthy and consistent for you. Peruse your library and bookstores for books that may be good for you to have an outlet to gain more direction and insight as well. Take a look at Goodreads and Amazon for reviews to find the best books for you and your needs. Thank you again for reaching out.      
(LPC, NCC, RYT-200)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Is counseling here an appropriate venue for seeking guidance on this stuff?

Hi Nick, thank you so much for asking your question and sharing a little bit about your life. It sounds like you are dealing with a lot of different stressors not only with your wife but some within yourself. My heart goes out to your wife as she has been through so much and my heart also goes out to you as well because you have gone through the same as her support. It sounds like you have done a lot to support your wife with her concerns and struggles and now you are taking a look at your own concerns and struggles too. While it may feel selfish to even have those thoughts of setting boundaries with our loved ones it is something that is necessary for every caregiver. As a caregiver if we do not take care of ourselves we will not be able to take care of our loved ones. It does sound like you practice some self care as you mentioned doing other things with family and friends separate from your wife. It would not be a terrible thing to add even more tools to your self care tool box. The best way to add those other tools would definitely be to go to counseling. It does not hurt to speak openly and honestly with someone who is unbiased as they may be able to provide you with differing perspectives and helpful suggestions for how to care of your mental, emotional and spiritual health. Also just being able to speak to someone and get things off your mind can make you feel lighter which helps to think more clearly and reduce stress and anxiety. Setting boundaries for yourself is not a rejection of your wife but rather an act of love and caring for her and for yourself. In counseling you and your therapist can discuss what boundaries are, their importance, how to set them, and how to put them into action; you both can even discuss the feelings about putting the boundaries into action in case there is some push back or difficulty from yourself and others. It is also important to remember that the things that your wife chooses to do are her choices and not things that are your fault. She is still her own person and autonomous but I know as being the partner and supporter we sometimes take on our loved ones decisions.  From what you have shared it sounds like counseling would be beneficial for both you and your wife but even if she is not open to it at this time it does not mean you cannot participate. You and your wife are survivors just because there may not be a lot of positive healthy coping skills at this time does not mean you both are failing, what I hear is that you both are doing the best you can to survive. I hope this helps and I hope you can find even more support in counseling.  
(LPC, LCDC, LCPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

What are the ways that I can be in the present moment and not worry about the future or the past?

Being in the present moment has a lot to do with working on "mindfulness".  Everyone has the inherent ability to be mindful, to be focused on the here and now, but to be focused on our experiences as it unfolds and without judgment takes daily practice.  One form of practice that you identified, is meditation.  When you are meditating it's a practice of being with all different states of mind that can be anything from boredom to restlessness and so on. It can be difficult in the beginning, but worth the practice in the long run.  Meditation, in my experience, is also not about having a blank mind but rather not holding on to the thoughts as they occur to you.  Using visualization can sometimes help.  For example, when a thought occurs to you, rather than holding on to it (or thinking about the fact that you are thinking) picture it in a "thought bubble" above your head.  The thought is outside of you, where you can have an emotional distance from it and maybe see it from a different perspective.  Visualize the thoughts floatings away in the bubbles.  Focus your imagination on the experience of how these thoughts "float" peacefully away from you.  While you are doing this, breathe deeply, and with each exhale the thoughts float farther and farther away.  This is similar to what I would suggest with worrying thoughts about the past or the future.  Visualize the thoughts being placed in a "cloud" of bubbles, gently flowing away.  The idea is that you are focusing not on the thought but the peacefulness of floating and clouds, etc.   I would encourage you to "build up" when it comes to meditation; meaning do a little every day.  Try starting with 10 minutes a day for a week with the goal of the next week doing 15 minutes a day for a week.  Also, let the people that text or call know that you are going to be working on this and while doing so will have your devices away from you to eliminate the distractions.  In the same way, you are training your mind, you can eventually train the people around you that you are not responding during these times.  Slowly build up to it rather than cold turkey cut them off.   When you set these boundaries and stay consistent both your mind and the people around you respond better in the long run.   There are a lot of other techniques that you can learn to build mindfulness and there is a lot of material and people out there that can help you.  Don't give up!  You can do this!!
(LPC, CSAC, NBCC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Can chronic stress and anxiety cause distraction and inability to focus?

Dear A.S,   Thank you for your message and for sharing with me how you've been interacting with yourself, especially how you've been handling unpleasant feelings and emotions. As you said this has also affected your life significantly. Perhaps by addressing how to handle unpleasant emotions in a healthier manner, we can dive into addressing the issues in your life as well?   Often the experience we've had about anxiety (or any strong emotion such as stress/depression) was so terrible (even physically) that our body sort of becomes traumatized by it. We naturally become nervous about these unpleasant feelings because we don't like these sensations and experiences. As a result, we would do everything we can to avoid/fight these anxious feelings, often using numbing techniques such as using substances or distracting ourselves. Yet only to find that the anxiety gets stronger over time because we have never been able to make peace with it.   Therefore rather than trying to "change" / "fight" / "get rid of" these unpleasant sensations, perhaps the best thing that we can do is to make room for these feelings and even sensations while staying on track to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment. Floating without judging / blaming ourselves through the anxiety experience, while focusing on making room for anxiety can be helpful.   Here is a short video put up by the author of the book "The Happiness Trap" which does a good job explaining this concept:   Please take some time to watch this and share your thoughts later :) I also highly recommend picking that book as well to supplement this therapy process.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI    We as human beings do not like sufferings, therefore often times we would be doing our best to fight it. However just like the analogy of swimming vs floating that we have talked about before, the more we fight it, the faster we sink. While if we can learn to float with these waves, we will realize that we won't sink.   Radical acceptance / Expansion is about accepting of life on life's terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical Acceptance is about saying yes to life and all that life brings (including all sorts of emotions such as joy, sadness, peace and pain), just as it is without forcing our ways into our lives.   Why do we want to accept life as it is? Because with anything that we do in life that brings us meaning and fulfillment, it always accompany a wide range of emotions, we can't possibly just choose the ones that we like and fight / avoid those that we don't like. Learning to experience all emotions as they are, is a sign that we are living our lives to the fullest.   To do so we must learn to accept (and make room for) any unpleasant sensations, feelings or thoughts that we experience.   We don't want to fight it because the more we fight, the stronger they will come back.   We don't want to avoid it either because the more we avoid, the more we'll be afraid of it.   So the key here is to make room for these sensations, feelings and thoughts, while continue to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment in life.    Learning to "co-exist" with these feelings will naturally reduce the intensity of them.   Floating, is a form of learning to accept these feelings and make room for it.   Let me give you some practical guidelines on what I mean by accepting these feelings and make room for it.   You can look up "expansion technique" under Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for more information as well.   How to accept our emotions (and make room for them):   1. OBSERVE. Bring awareness to the feelings in your body.   2. BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe into and around them.   3. EXPAND. Make room for these feelings. Create some space for them.   4. ALLOW. Allow them to be there. Make peace with them   Some people find it helpful to silently say to themselves, 'I don't like this feeling, but I have room for it,' or 'It's unpleasant, but I can accept it.'   • When you're feeling an unpleasant emotion, the first step is to take a few slow, deep breaths, and quickly scan your body from head to toe.   • You will probably notice several uncomfortable sensations. Look for the strongest sensation - the one that bothers you the most. For example, it may be a lump in your throat, or a knot in your stomach, or an ache in your chest.   • Focus your attention on that sensation. Observe it curiously, as if you are a friendly scientist, discovering some interesting new phenomenon.   • Observe the sensation carefully. Notice where it starts and where it ends. Learn as much about it as you can. If you had to draw a line around the sensation, what would the outline look like? Is it on the surface of the body, or inside you, or both? How far inside you does it go? Where is the sensation most intense? Where is it weakest? How is it different in the center than around the edges? Is there any pulsation, or vibration within it? Is it light or heavy? Moving or still? What is its temperature?   • Take a few more deep breaths, and let go of the struggle with that sensation. Breathe into it. Imagine your breath flowing in and around it.   • Make room for it. Loosen up around it. Allow it to be there. You don't have to like it or want it. Simply let it be.   • The idea is to observe the sensation - not to think about it. So when your mind starts commenting on what's happening, just say 'Thanks, mind!' and come back to observing.   • You may find this difficult. You may feel a strong urge to fight with it or push it away. If so, just acknowledge this urge, without giving in to it. (Acknowledging is rather like nodding your head in recognition, as if to say 'There you are. I see you.') Once you've acknowledged that urge, bring your attention back to the sensation itself.   • Don't try to get rid of the sensation or alter it. If it changes by itself, that's okay. If it doesn't change, that's okay too. Changing or getting rid of it is not the goal.   • You may need to focus on this sensation for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes, until you completely give up the struggle with it. Be patient. Take as long as you need. You're learning a valuable skill.   • Once you've done this, scan your body again, and see if there's another strong sensation that's bothering you. If so, repeat the procedure with that one.   • You can do this with as many different sensations as you want to. Keep going until you have a sense of no longer struggling with your feelings.   • As you do this exercise one of two things will happen: either your feelings will change - or they won't. It doesn't matter either way. This exercise is not about changing your feelings. It's about accepting them.   Does this make sense so far?   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I better allow myself to slow down and relax?

Good morning Busybee!  This is such a relatable question to so many people!  So just know first off you aren't alone in this struggle.  When we keep ourselves super busy, it truly is a protective behavior.  When we slow down and actually have to sit with out thoughts, at first it can seem our thoughts our loud and never ending, but really its more about slowing down enough to work through what our feelings, emotions, heart, and brain are telling us.  In a society and life that tells us our value comes from what we do and how well we do it we forget the power and skill set it takes to slow down.  Remember you value is in the role you play not just as a mom but as an individual human being.  You are worth the time to learn to be fearless and really sit with your thoughts and feelings and see who you are, what you want, and how you feel.  One of the hardest things to do is be present with yourself.  However, learning to slow down, be present, it helps you enjoy life a little more and also helps you get to know yourself more.  Daily quality of living is so important.  So that loud thought patterns you have now wont always be there, you just have to be willing to walk through it, and embrace what life could be like if indeed you showed yourself all of you, your thoughts, your beautiful ideas, and all of you is important.    It can feel scary to pivot and embrace letting running at a extreme pace go.  It can feel intimidating learning to slow down, be present and actually listen to yourself.  What if you coud know yourself better as a person?  What if you found more of a daily peace as you adjust to embracing slowing down and being present?  Small changes make a big difference and that is really what this question and scenario is about.  By the way, sometimes when things are just in our brain they seem very very loud and when  you take a breathe and a moment to process those concerns out loud, you find they arent so overwhelming.  You got this!
Answered on 10/21/2021