Stress Answers

My brother just passed away from cancer and I already have undiagnosed anxiety/depression, advice?

Dealing with the sudden death and grief of a loved one is a challenge that requires the ability to truly allow yourself to process. Sometimes, there can be triggers that can bring about more anxiety and depression with or without treatment. The goal in therapy is to assist in processing this, understanding healthy ways to come to terms with loss and aid in finding appropriate coping skills that can help make the process less debilitating. We often put up a defense unknowingly at times when a trauma is too much to bear. I'd like to help resolve some of that by finding ways that cope.  Trauma can be triggered from so many things as well: a smell, a thought, a phrase, resemblance and the list can go on. In finding out what your triggers are and how they can impact your anxiety and depression is a great tool for you to understand and know when to apply the coping skills discussed in therapy to get through. With grief there are multiple stages as well. It can take some time to truly process, but with patience and consistency as well as the lack of judgement it can be easier to work through.  Recalling memories or expressing the thoughts of what you would have like to say or hope that your loved one understood can help resolve the unanswered questions, racing thoughts and doubts that can arise after losing a loved one. Having a strong support system can also be beneficial as you can process the grief together with those that have also been affected by the loss. It can also be hard to find the words to describe the feelings that can come up. With therapy, there can be a new perspective or way to tackle the underlying feelings and thoughts and help bring you to a space of acceptance and healing. When those memories or thoughts come up for you, let's find ways to get through them. The goal is to be at a space mentally where you can navigate through without being impacted negatively with the thoughts and feelings that can come up thereafter. 
Answered on 01/12/2023

How could I manage overwhelming emotions?

Hi - thank you so much for reaching out with your question!  Sometimes it can be so difficult to process thoughts and emotions, especially when feeling alone and overwhelmed.  Sometimes it is helpful to talk with others that you know, and it sounds like this is something you have tried.  It can be beneficial to have more than one trusted person to talk with.  However, sometimes things can continue to feel overwhelming and it can be helpful to reach out to professionals who are trained in helping others manage stress, anxiety, and difficulties with emotions or thoughts.  You have made an important step in asking for professional help.  You are on the right track and not alone! I'm wondering if the following things to try may be helpful for you: 1.  Scheduling a medical evaluation.  Sometimes underlying medical conditions, vitamin deficiencies, or hormonal imbalances make it difficult to manage emotions and thoughts.  It will be important to rule this out first. 2.  Scheduling a session with a licensed therapist.  As mentioned before, therapists are trained to be able to assess and support in the way that will be most beneficial for client stresses, worries, thoughts and feelings of being overwhelmed.  Therapists have specialized training to help clients sort out things and process difficulties so that they don't feel so strongly or as overwhelming. 3.  Then some practical things to help get you started: Always remember to breathe.  When you breathe deeply, your body can reset so that you are more able to think with both the rational and emotional parts of your brain.  I know this sounds basic, but you would be surprised at how many people either breathe very shallow or hold their breath or breathe too quickly when things get overwhelming!   Slow your body and brain down by breathing deep breaths.  Slowly breathing in through your nose, hold it for a few seconds, then breathing out. Get it out in a healthy way.  This may be through journaling, doing something physical such as taking a walk or exercising, or by doing something creative such as painting or making a collage. Practice distraction techniques to distract yourself from feeling/thinking so much at once.  It can be helpful to distract yourself by things such as watching a funny movie, thinking about things you are grateful for, helping someone in need, listening to music or hanging out with friends or family. Practice mindfulness skills.  Mindfulness can be helpful when you want to be able to focus on things and don't want to have to continue to be disrupted by strong emotions or thoughts (such as work or when you are having a conversation with someone or need to get things done at work or home).  Mindfulness techniques consist of allowing the thoughts/feelings to happen, recognizing them and acknowledging them without judging yourself, and then returning your attention and focus on the task you are trying to complete. Remember that strong emotions do not last forever.  Anything that you are feeling strongly will settle down when given time and when you practice coping strategies like those mentioned previously.  Emotions are like waves and you can handle them.  If they feel strongly right now, they won't always feel this way.  Be kind to yourself and take care of yourself throughout the process. I hope this has been helpful.  You can manage your emotions, one step at a time!  
Answered on 01/07/2023

How do I stop from stressing so much?

Hi there! I wanted to thank you for reaching out for support through BetterHelp today. It takes a lot of courage to seek support, and you should be proud of yourself for doing so. I want to preface this by saying that I am answering this question based off of the information you have provided. If we were meeting for a therapy session, I would want to ask follow-up questions to gather clarification. Since I am only given the information above, I do apologize if I have misunderstood anything. It certainly sounds like you are dealing with a lot of responsibility right now, and I can understand why you would be feeling stressed. I would definitely want to know more about being in a non-sexual marriage, and whether this is due to being unhappy in the marriage? I would also want to know more about the two elderly people you are taking care of and whether they live with you currently? Even without those details, I can imagine these things make your situation more stressful. It can be so hard to manage stress, especially if you are feeling it in different areas of your life. I would encourage you to try to take some time for yourself throughout the week for self-care. Self-care is so important in managing stress. This involves taking some time out of your schedule to do something you enjoy and/or something that fulfills YOU. It can help to even schedule this out on your calendar so that it is not optional - you can look at it like you would view an appointment (work, family, doctor's appointment, etc). Do you have hobbies and/or interests that have fallen off due to being busy and stressed? Try to think about that and create a list of things you may want to do again. Some examples would be: going for a walk, cooking a nice meal, calling a loved one, dancing, watching a movie you like, praying, reading, meditating ... the list goes on and on! Then, try to block out some time to do these when possible. Even if it is just 15-30 minutes a day - try to find a time that is realistic for you!  I would also encourage you to practice grounding techniques that can help decrease stress, such as deep breathing and guided meditations. You can find these online, especially on YouTube. These kinds of exercises can help with grounding back to center when you are feeling stressed. If you are feeling overwhelmed, one tip is to quickly name off what you can see, hear, feel, taste, and smell quickly - this is using your senses to ground you back to the present. This technique can be helpful when you are feeling overstimulated or stressed. I would also encourage you to try journaling as a coping mechanism. Journaling is a great way to get out your thoughts and feelings on paper (or on your phone). Try to just get it out without judging your own thoughts and feelings. This can be a great tool for stress management, and it can also help you form connections in your thoughts and feelings. I can imagine the body image issues also relate to your stress levels. I would encourage you to try practicing "positive affirmations" about yourself to help with increasing self- esteem. Write down 3-5 things that you like about yourself - whether it is personality or appearance based. This can help with focusing on the positive qualities about yourself. Exercise can also be a great stress management technique and a way to help improve self-esteem - I would check with your doctor if you need to about this. I would also encourage you to consider therapy, either individual or group therapy! Therapy can be a great way to work on stress management and also improving self-worth. I hope that this is helpful and I want to thank you again for reaching out today. I wish you the best on your journey! Warm regards and best wishes!
(LCSW)
Answered on 01/06/2023

How do I deal with a toxic work environment that gives me chronic stress?

Hi Lee, This sounds like a very difficult and anxiety provoking experience to be going through, I sense that you are feeling frustrated here and helpless because you think you have no where else to take this problem. Your disappointment sounds like it comes from thinking you were making a positive move in life and progressing in your career, and you now feel disheartened at the fact your co worker is sabotaging your work and you can get no one to see and understand what is going on for you. Not being seen or heard in this environment, sounds like this is what is having a detrimental affect on your mental well being, and the feeling of being trapped financially, as you say at a time when most people are finding it a struggle to pay bills and eat, also worrying if we can keep a roof over our heads, this sounds like it is causing you a lot of anxiety. Without knowing more about the way your colleague is sabotaging your work I can not help you find a solution to this problem, but i do wonder here if there is somewhere else you can take this issue to. Possibly to someone on the Human Resources team? I am also wondering if there is a way that you can budget in for this loss of earnings so that you do not feel completely trapped financially, and that you can somehow see some light at the end of the tunnel. I am sensing here that your situation is making you feel that you have somehow made a mistake, but you have to look at the reasons why you made the decision and that was to progress in your career. You had no knowledge of the toxic environment you were going into, and could have had no way of knowing this before moving jobs. Try to show yourself some compassion, and look at the solution to the the problem, do not look at yourself as being the problem. The problem is the environment you are in and the solution is to try and change the environment or move to different environment.
(Bsc, hons, counselling, and, psychotherapy, Psychotherapist)
Answered on 12/29/2022

How can I deal with middle age, being a mom, and a high stress job?

Talk About It I think you are aware of what you need more of, but what you might need is an opportunity to talk about what can be changed to allow for more time to do the things that are meaningful in your life. Your question is a typical one and becomes a common theme in middle-age. It is with proper maturity and trying and failing that we can come to these conclusions that we aren't happy with the way things are. Though you mention "stress" there is definitely something that causes this stress to be different now than other times in life. Could you be burned out on previous expectations and not yet aware of how much you are holding on to? Talk therapy can be great for this sort of situation because it will help you get to the point of what matters and notice how much of your life you live for so much that doesn't. The areas of life you mention in your question, being a mother, high stress job, your age, one thing therapy can do is to help determine what about these areas of your life are problematic. There are many "high stress jobs" that can be quite fulfilling. It could very well not be the stress, but expectations or shame or some irrational fear. Sometimes our mind tells us one thing is wrong when in reality what is really the matter is something else. Going through and identifying what specifically about your job or being a mom or your age or any other element in life is interfering in what you want in life is worth the effort. The second step is to identify that you value some things in life very much and need to start living and making decisions towards those values. What you value in life is being missed here which I think is why you find yourself in this predicament. Lastly, being a people pleaser is actually a significant indicator of someone who struggles with their self-worth. Though you may be convinced that people-pleasing is all about others, it is actually about how these others perceive you, or that you have value to them if you satisfy their problems. Remember this, your job is not to take on other people's feelings and problems. Your job is to be a kind person to people, which does not mean solving any problems, but maybe listening or praying for them. People pleasing leaves little to no time for yourself because you will then surround yourself with people who have many needs. You will make your kids need you and fail to solve problems themselves. People pleasers have to realize that THEY are their biggest problem in life, not the outward demand of others, but their perception that they are the one called to make everyone's life better. You were put here to be you to be living amongst those you interact with. Sit with people when they choose to talk, stop yourself from taking their problems on or pleasing them. Sometimes, people are allowed to be unsatisfied or upset. That is not yours to take from them. It could be the life lesson some people need to mature in life. 
(LCPC)
Answered on 12/26/2022

How can i cope with stress and anxiety, especially when you feel hopeless?

Hi Lex, Having stress, anxiety, and feeling stuck are very common feelings - and typically won't last forever. Trying to develop more compassion and forgiveness for yourself and any past transgressions is a good start to letting go of any derogative self-judgment. Sometimes the relationships in our lives feel like they haven't progressed in the manner we had hoped that they would. Or a job we were working at falls apart or seems to be leading us away from the life we wanted.   In order to go a little deeper into the complex causes of why you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed you can begin by asking the following questions and responding to them as best as you can: 1. What specifically is contributing to making you unhappy or stressed out? 2. What in your life sparks joy for you? 3. What relationships are providing you with meaning and fulfillment? 4.  Do you have specific goals that motivate you and give you a sense of purpose?  If the stress you are feeling is overwhelming there is also nothing wrong with you scaling back the workload that you are trying to carry.  You can start by making small minor changes.  Don't allow this stress to completely restrict you from taking a step back from some of the things you are trying to do on a weekly basis.   Try stepping back from one or two things in your life to make the larger priorities more manageable. Once you can recognize where your energy is being drained from you can restructure some of the smaller things in your life. Don't forget to remember your own self-care. Do a quick check-in on yourself.  1. Are you getting enough sleep and rest at night?  2. How are your diet and nutrition? Are you eating healthy foods that nourish your body? 3. Do you take a time out for a vacation to allow your mind and body a chance to relax? Taking time off when you are feeling burnt out can be something as simple as giving yourself a quiet weekend at home to planning a longer vacation with friends, family, or a solo destination.  Lastly, recognize when the things you are experiencing are more than just the daily stressors in life that many people go through. If you have low energy and fatigue for a prolonged period of time, less interest in your daily activities, loss of motivation lowered self-esteem, or are having a hard time finding any joy in life, it might be time to seek out more emotional and behavioral support from a trained licensed therapist.  Therapists can offer compassionate judgment-free guidance and support as you work towards creating a healthier mindset and way of life.  Kind regards 
(Doctorate, Social, Work, LCPC)
Answered on 12/25/2022

How to deal with stress and anxiety, it’s disrupting my sleep and appetite

Aloha and thank you for asking your question.   I can see how that scenario can be pretty stressful and I'm sorry that this is happening.  Stress often does impact our sleep and almost everything else.  I can understand how job stress can be a big one since that is very closely related to our financial state and how we meet our other needs in life by using that income. If your area offers unemployment benefits, it may be worth your time to apply for that since you have been laid off.  If may be time to consider other employment as well to regain steady income. As far as managing the stress, it takes a systemic approach to put a foundation of wellness in place that keeps us balanced and health and more able to withstand whatever comes our way. This includes physical, emotional, spiritual, and other aspects of wellness.   I am a fan of the "Eight dimensions of wellness"  as listed by SAMHSA, which you can search the internet for to gain more info about.  This very well rounded approach grounds us in a solid foundation of full wellness.  This will include things like getting a regular amount of physical activity and fine tuning our sleep and many other things.  How we eat and sleep impacts our mood so that is an areas to look at as well. You mentioned having your sleep impacted recently, which is likely the result of the stress, more specifically what sounds like anxiety, or worry, and for good reason as I read your scenario.  It helps to put relaxation techniques in place that are intentional and routine so you can build the habit and make it more effective for you.  Many find "focused deep breathing" as one of the simpler ones to start since you are essentially just focused on breathing deep and slow.  This helps us shift out of the "fight or flight" and into the more relaxing portions of our nervous system.  I have witnessed others feel this benefit in as little as 60 seconds of effort.   I would recommend doing this just before bed to make sure we settle into a relaxed state of mind and make our sleep more likely and make our sleep more restful when we have it.   As far as appetite, it is quite common to have fluctuations there when we have stress but anxiety can mimic stimulants to a degree and make us have less desire to eat in the same ways that say caffeine can do.     All these items and more can be addressed with the help of a counselor so I encourage you to work with someone if you have not already, who can help take this journey with you and provide accountability to help you get through it.   I wish you the very best and hope you have a great rest of your week.
Answered on 12/21/2022

I don’t know how to express myself right now

Thank you for your question. You seem to be going through a lot of pain. Trying to stop the way you feel or the emotions you are experiencing is neither a healthy idea or a practical idea. Feelings are how our body communicates with us. If you want to express what you are feeling, you will first need to describe it. Scan your body to see where you feel discomfort then sit with whatever you're feeling and try to accept it. Do not push it away or suppress it. It is going to be there anyway. This may be very painful at the beginning. The good news is that once you discover the cause of your feelings and emotions, you can then create a plan to overcome your pain, and then your emotions will change.  You may feel "stuck or hurt" because instead of expressing your feelings, you have become your feelings. There is a thin line between what is a healthy behavior to express feelings and an obsessive behavior that adds to our feelings. If you feel sad, allow your self to be sad, or if you feel angry allow yourself to feel that anger. However, you must not give your entire day to these feelings. Rather, allow yourself a certain amount of time each day to let your emotions flow. Say 60 to 90 minutes a day. But when those minutes have passed, you must stop and focus on something else. During those minutes, though, you can cry, yell, scream, swear, journal or whatever else you need to do to get through those minutes.  Try to remember to be gentle with yourself when you begin this process.  And trust that what you are feeling won't last forever. There are some practical ways and activities you can practice to help quiet your thoughts, feelings and emotions.  Try looking for meditations that help teach you to change your body from a state of tension to a state of relaxation. The more stress, anxiety, and tension in your body, the more toxic it becomes, making it harder to process not only physical changes, but emotional changes as well. Sometimes we get confused about what we are feeling because our feelings are so closely tied to our thoughts and if our thoughts are confusing and intrusive, well the feelings and emotions attached to those thoughts will also feel confusing. One way to break free from this state of confusion is to journal what we are thinking and feeling. Putting pen to paper allows for clarity, organization, and truth. Once on paper we can no longer deny what we are thinking or feeling.  I hope this helps somewhat. Thank you again for your question. 
(LMSW, BSW, SAT)
Answered on 12/20/2022

How can I keep myself mentally healthy/ recover when I keep going through traumatic life events?

Coming out on the Other Side.  If this were a therapy session, we would spend as much time as needed to sit in the context of your current state. There is much to unpack with what you have chosen to write. Mom's terminal cancer, depending on your relationship, could be many things to try and understand. We would try to determine which areas of her cancer and the possible outcome that is most pertinent could be a necessary beginning. Nan dying, is another thing to unpack based on your relationship with her and how this has affected you. Your cat, the reality of pets and their brevity in our lives, how innocent they are, and how quickly they seem to be taken from us. Not to mention, there is still work, bills, relationships, possible social interactions, and everyday stressors. Trying to "make sense of things" is often one area to start working on.  Stop trying to make sense of anything. You didn't say you were, but it's a typical occurrence that people get stuck in this way of thinking where they are trying to figure something out, even if it is how to move on, and it prevents them from living in the moment. Even with unfavorable moments, they are your life, and you must deal with them on life's terms. Death and death scares are often so abrupt they shake us. The death of someone close is like a mirror showing us our brief life and mortality. No matter what you do in this life, you too will be like nan, mom, and your cat. Don't try to make sense of it, legitimize it, or feel better. Just be in the moment. This is your life right now, it has never offered a more opportune time to be a part of it.  Experience the moment, but do not indulge in grief. Let yourself be sad when you are sad, happy when you are happy and relieved when you are relieved. Do not indulge in whatever thoughts that come up. At this point, you cannot afford to. There is already too much taken from your emotional bank to try and give it to another cause. Just sit with what shows up, remove expectations as to what to do with it, and try to reduce life stressors because they still exist.  Now is not the time to make big life decisions. Now is the time for rest and learning what pain is, what is really going on, and how to deal with it. As the title of this page indicates, you will come out on the other end stronger. Through tough times, you force your mind to react to painful, unavoidable situations where one builds their best self, the true and vulnerable self. Let this happen. Carve out time in the day to connect with your physical and spiritual self and feel the emotions you may have thought were inconvenient and wanted to rid yourself of. Do not try to do what you think you SHOULD do, but grieve when it comes up and talk to people about it.  I am not sure of the status of your spiritual life, but death often reveals to us that we are not meant to be here very long (I think I have said that a few times now). Accepting that this life is short, you can now start to live for what matters and how you perceive your afterlife. For Atheists, it can be sad to think there is nothing. To Christians, it is a joy to pass into the next, eternal and perfect life. Other religious groups have their own outlook that should shape how we approach death and life.  Let go of trying to find the energy to recover; that will come when it needs to. Think about if your body gave you that energy too soon. You would go about your life and not take this time to do what is necessary to learn about what grieving means to you and who you are when you are the most vulnerable and probably the most important thing, what is important in life. You are doing great in thinking about the things you asked about, and I encourage you to think of what can help you and what you would need or want to learn about yourself, others, and relationships going forward. 
(LCPC)
Answered on 12/20/2022

How do I gain self confidence and stop feeling sad?

Confidence?  Sadness is a part of life. Something about sadness that is difficult to accept is that it is inevitable, and we shouldn't judge the times we are sad as times when we are somehow "less than others." That said, it seems your sadness comes from a place lacking compared to others. You find yourself losing in the battle of life because other people live life better than you do. Maybe they make more money or have nicer things, better bodies, and more control over things. These are the arbitrary measurements you have perceived in others that you are losing to.  I will validate the difficulty in not comparing yourself to others. Many things in therapy are so easy to say but so difficult to do. Often therapy can be spent on figuring out what makes things so complicated, whereas others do those things without effort or consequence. Our mind plays tricks on us to make us get better than we are, and the comparison game is derived from a childhood of not meeting expectations and, therefore, not being enough. Thus our mind adopted beating ourselves up to try and make us better. It may have worked.  The "bad" parts of us aren't actually bad at all but misguided. Like any evil-doer in the movies, there is usually a backstory telling how this person became the way they are. Our mind is no different, and there are parts of us that must be utilized and depended on due to our environment. This doesn't mean that we get to blame mom and dad for everything, but we must start to understand that our minds and beliefs about ourselves and thoughts were all formed before our awareness, and now we are stuck with them. Radical acceptance is the skill that says, yes, I have this reaction to life, and when triggered, how do I move forward? Life is not about getting rid of the accumulation of experiences but learning to live with them.  So then, the first step to overcoming sadness is to be aware that you will be sad, love yourself, and take it easy on yourself when you are. This skill to sit with your thoughts and not let them control you will result in that confidence you desire. Give yourself room to be sad. If you don't, you will have problems. The types of issues you will have cannot all be discussed here, but trust me, let yourself feel sad when you experience them. Think of your thinking and think of your brain as the organ it is. Organs perform their function based on the information we give them. If we eat a lot of refined carbohydrates, the pancreas is left to pick up the tab, and insulin is released into the system. If our mind secretes "bad" and judgmental thoughts, that, too, is a product of the environment it was developed in, starting in the womb. So, you can begin to accept (acknowledge) thoughts as they are, secretions from your brain, and not let them dominate you. The judgment that sadness is wrong when it is necessary is one thought you can work on here.  This all comes down to your mind and how you perceive and interpret things. Confidence comes not with doing things right but with knowing how to adapt. Notice your thoughts, even when they are comparing you to others. Do not think confidence is not having those thoughts. Confidence is learning how to let those thoughts pass. Like leaves on a stream passing you by on an autumn day, the thoughts, too, will pass. This moment, "good" or "bad" will pass, do not hold too tightly onto anything because, in this world, it will pass. 
(LCPC)
Answered on 12/18/2022

How can I live a peaceful life without having panic attacks and anxiety?

Hi Chantel, Thank you so much for reaching out and asking this question, it is not always easy to do that. It sounds like things have been really hard recently, especially since you lost your mom. When things like this happen to us it is really normal for our lives to feel overwhelming, our anxiety to increase, to feel lower in mood and to get feelings of panic that you say. It is also really normal for these things to impact on our physical health, like you say you have been sick and hospitalized for two years due to this. What we know is that all of these things link together, and can keep the cycles going which can be really hard when we feel like there is no way out.  It makes a lot of sense that you are worried about not attending school, and the impact this might have on you. Chantel, there is so much going on right now! I am really sorry that all of these things are happening, and you're feeling really sad about the situation, I think lots of people in your situation would feel similarly right now too.  I would really recommend that you reach out to a therapist who can work alongside you to make sense of what is going on for you right now, provide a place that feels safe and calm, and begin to think of ways to manage these really normal yet intense feelings that you have. There has been a lot going on and it might be that you need to process some of these things in order to relieve some of the anxiety and stress that your mind and body are currently under.  Please know that we unfortunately can't get rid of anxiety, this is something that we all have as humans. What we can do is learn to manage it, and live with it so that it is not impacting so much on our day to day. We can work towards doing things that are important to us, whilst navigating the difficult feelings that life brings us from time to time.  I do hope that helps normalize what you are currently going through and think about a way to move forward with this. There isn't always a quick fix or magic wand however (I wish there was!). Best wishes, Nikki 
Answered on 12/18/2022

How do I manage stressful situations better?

Good Afternoon Miley, Thank you for your question related to stress management. It sounds like you are specifically struggling with this skillset in connection with your personal relationships and that they are suffering in the face of your avoidant behaviors (as you described to me above). I hope my guidance will be helpful in allowing you to show up better in this area of your life.  I want to first give you some insights into stress as a whole, as there are two different types of stress. 1) acute stress and 2) chronic stress. I am not sure which you are contending with presently (could be both FYI), however, I think a brief definition of both might create more insight for you and help you in challenging your reactions to either. Acute stress includes short-term stressors that can cause intense, brief reactions. Generally these stressors arise when one is going to give a speech in front of important or a large amount of people, prepping for a final examination, or one has just had an argument with a colleague, family, romantic partner, etc. Chronic stress includes long-term stress related to ongoing stressors such as being in an unhealthy relationship with frequent episodes of conflict, financial difficulties, or a problematic job. In acute stress you may experience symptoms like sweating, shaking, irritability, and headaches, it can be greatly disruptive in the moment. In chronic stress symptoms may go unnoticed in the moment and have long-term negative health effects.  In order to address acute stress in the moment it is important to consider the thoughts you are contending with, as stress can sometimes be caused not by what is happening (a specific activator) but by your thoughts surrounding what is happening. For example, let us say you are listening on as your partner outlines something negative about your relationship. You might be thinking the following: 1. "I have to be perfect all the time or my partner will not want to be in a relationship with me", 2. "We have so many problems how are we going to survive them all and be good to each other?" 3. "I feel like my partner is purposefully always picking fights with me." These types of thoughts tend to spike anxiety and create heightened stress, as they make you feel you must defend yourself versus hearing your partner out and working to maintain connection through practicing conflict resolution. A change in thoughts to some that are more positive and give your partner and relationship the benefit of the doubt can be helpful or recalling the objective truths about your relationship can be helpful as well. Example: 1. "My partner and I are having a disagreement, plenty of couples disagree and still remain together", 2. "If my partner is bringing up a situation where we are not on the same page, it may be because they want to get on the same page and be aligned, they are invested in the relationship and in me." I hope that makes sense and gives you some guidance on how to address the cognitive setbacks that may be amplifying your stress levels. In order to address chronic stress it is important that you: 1. Create a new regime of speaking about your stressors immediately - in counseling or elsewhere 2. Meditate or participate in hobbies that alleviate stress - yoga, walking, singing I hope these tools will be helpful to you and provide a better outcome than the one you are currently experiencing. I am wishing you luck. Please return to BetterHelp should you have further questions!  
(MSSW, LCSW, LICSW)
Answered on 12/17/2022

Why do I freeze whenever my teacher, or anybody else asks anything from me?

Hi Anuu.  Thanks for reaching out and asking for help.  The feelings you are describing sound like the are stemming from stress and anxiety.  We can become overwhelmed and anxious when in stressful situations.  We can feel stuck and struggle with negative thoughts leading to shutting down.  In these moments we can become immobilized and struggle to respond and answer what is being asked of us.  Fear takes over and we experience a phenomenon known as flight or fight.  Our mind perceives a threat and we enter into flight or fight mode. The stress we go through causes a reaction when our body experiences a rapid influx of hormones. We may shut down in this case.  You can learn how to cope with this type of stress and anxiety by learning coping strategies. These simple mechanisms can be applied anytime in all types of situations where you feel put on the spot and get nervous.  Grounding techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, taking a walk, running water though your hands help manage stress by relaxing our mind and body keeping us focused on the present moment.  It is helpful to work with a mental health professional.  A therapist can teach you how to decrease anxiety and manage stress by using Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) techniques.  You will learn to incorporate strategies to help you become unstuck and decrease anxiety. In a few sessions you will develop the skills you need to effectively handle stress and adapt to changes that come your way.   Your therapist will aid with uncovering triggers that lead to unhelpful thoughts where you feel stuck. When you realize these triggers you can work on controlling these emotions and learn to remain calm and in control. You will learn to reframe these negative thoughts into positive thinking.  You will be able to focus on what is in your control, learn effective communication techniques, and build confidence.  Please do not hesitate to reach out for help and support.  You are not alone in this situation.  Many people experience anxiety and stress in learning environments, at work, and at home. 
(LPC, NCC)
Answered on 12/15/2022

What do you do when your adult children have just shut you off?

Hi Connie.   Thanks for reaching out.  Sounds like you are going through a difficult and sad time right now.  This can be a stressful, confusing time.  How is your support system? Do you have family and friends you can lean on in this time of need? Family dynamics and relationships can become strained due to stress, anxiety, misunderstandings, and lack of communication.  Is reconciliation a possible option? You can reach out to your children and make it known you are there for them and the lines of communication are open.  In this kind of situation we often get stuck with feelings of guilt, blaming and wanting to find the reasons for the disconnection.  We may not receive the answers we are looking for.  This lack of closure complicates the situation.  What we can do is take care of ourselves and focus on what is in our control. Self care means prioritizing our mental, physical, and emotional well being.  Putting energy into the moments, activities, and relationships that bring joy and comfort can provide healing.  The loss of close relationships like the ones you have with your children can be painful and hard to process.  Grief counseling and/or joining a grief support group is helpful for processing loss and gaining acceptance to learn to navigate these changes and move forward.  Moving forward will require forgiveness, understanding, and acceptance.  Surround yourself with a network of close ones you can turn to in this difficult time.  Allow yourself to feel your feelings rather than burying them.  You will experience sadness, anger, and denial.  Know that it is ok to feel and process these emotions.   A professional Counselor can help you manage the grief process and teach the coping skills to help gain acceptance.  In the safe, judgment free environment of individual therapy you can talk about the feelings you are experiencing and come to terms with the absence of your children.  Within a group therapy setting, you will find and talk with others in a similar situation. Knowing you are not alone and gaining understanding from others can be soothing and comforting.   I am sorry you are going through this situation and wish you all the best.  Take care of yourself and be well.  
(LPC, NCC)
Answered on 12/12/2022

My head feels full and like it needs to be cleared what can I do to help with this?

Wow! You have a lot going on in your life, and need a listening ear.  Additionally, it appears you are struggling with multiple life changes and dynamics of your family roles.  From what you wrote,  you seem conflicted in many ways, because you are attempting to demonstrate how much you love and care for all the people in your family and work life.  Self-care is tough for you as you believe you cannot afford to take a break from your family.  You are busy attending to everyone else and their needs at the expense of yourself.  Consequently, you feel drained, fatigued and exhausted.    Always being the strong and dependable one can be overwhelming, stressful, and tiring.  I am glad you are engaging in self-care by walking even if you have brain fog beginning to consume your thoughts.   Brain fog is not a medically recognized term; however, it can be an indicator of several mental health conditions such as Generalized Anxiety.  Brain Fog can occur when you have had a lack of sleep and can leave you unable to think clearly and feeling spaced out.  When on overload, as you described, self-care and taking time for you, even for an hour daily is critical.  If you don't take care of yourself, due to your high stress levels, you are at risk for various stress related issues. Research by the American Institute of Stress and other well known sources have over the years utilized the Holmes-Rhae Stress Inventory (developed in 1967 and is still highly reliable today) to examine stress and its effects on the body.  From information you wrote, the inventory indicates you are 80 percent more likely to be in an accident, get sick or develop a serious illness within the  next two years.  According to the Mayo Clinic there are four successful techniques for managing stress:  exercise regularly, eat well, practice mindfulness, and try relaxation techniques. If you do not take care of yourself, you will end up not being helpful to those you care the most about. I am glad you have a support network in your family and friends.  It may be time to allow them to carry some of their own loads.  This does not make you a bad person or a failure as a partner, daughter, aunt or boss.  A good manager learns how to delegate responsibility.  In one way, you are a manager of your family as well as in your work environment.  I hope you make the decision to reach out for help by choosing therapy for yourself. Please be kind and gentle with yourself.  You are a very worthwhile human being who has so much weighing on your mind.  You deserve to be less distressed and to be the best you that you can be.
Answered on 12/10/2022

What can I do when I start to feel distant from everything?

First I want to commend you for reaching out for help. Emotional distancing can be temporary, in response to a stressful or unpleasant situation, or ongoing issues, which appears in people who suffer from attachment disorders. I think it is important to notice when you begin feeling the emotions and other symptoms that you are dealing with. Determining the cause behind your emotional distancing is the first and vital step in overcoming such emotional problems.  Sometimes, the cause behind becoming emotionally distant is simply a lack of excitement in your life. As simple as this may sound, the feelings you’re experiencing are still hard and difficult to deal with. Other times being emotionally distance is stemmed from a person attempting to shield themselves from unwanted drama, anxiety, or stress. For other people, emotional distancing is not voluntary, it is a result of events or situations that render a person unable to be open and honest about their emotions. One of the ways you can address your symptoms of emotional detachment is to reintegrate the emotional connections in your life. This may look like finding ways to be emotionally vulnerable by opening up yourself emotionally. This will require you surrounding yourself with people who you feel safe with. Secondly, you might consider strengthening your relationships as you build a greater awareness of your emotions. Again, this will require you being in a safe place to do so.  Thirdly, I think that practicing mindfulness would be a great idea. So what is Mindfulness? It is a technique that helps people focus on the present moment, including the physical environment and emotional responses. Please note that learning how to engage in mindfulness can help you learn to pay attention to your emotions and build self-awareness. I hope this information is helpful for you. I want to stress that if you are having issues with feelings or expressing emotions that have have caused issues in your personal life, it might be beneficial to seek out treatment or other support. A therapist or other mental health provider can provide treatment to address your issues with emotional distancing. 
(LMSW, LICSW)
Answered on 12/08/2022

What can I do to start living happier and stress-free?

First of all, I just want to normalize your feelings of stress.  People experience stress for all kinds of reasons. Some stress can actually be helpful, (positive stress can a big life change like getting married or starting a new job) but other types of stress due to negative stressors (financial troubles, legal issues, relationship stress) can lead to impacted quality of life. Writing out a list of the positive and negative stresses in your life can help clarify what all might be contributing to feelings of unhappiness.    The adult phase of life can sometimes feel like an unlearning and relearning of what we think and believe.  Working through and processing any past trauma from childhood can be very helpful in the adult growth process.  Sometimes that means doing the work on our own (reading self help books, stress reduction workbooks, journaling, mindfulness etc) and sometimes it can be helpful to seek professional help to work through things.  Finding a good fit with a therapist is key to establishing a helpful therapeutic relationship.   When clients are looking to lead a happier and less stressful life, I recommend a combination of mindfulness (breathing techniques and tools to apply in stressful moments) practicing gratitude, and journaling to get thoughts and emotions out.  There are a lot of things that you can do on your own but if you feel like you have already tried a lot and nothing has worked I would gently suggest thinking about talking to a mental health professional.  A therapist can help to lead and guide you toward your goals and also help to process any big or small traumas.  It can be very powerful to feel heard and seen and to have a safe space to talk. You are the expert of yourself and your own life so you probably know what is helpful and what isn't.  Some level of stress is just a part of life but severe stress and worrying can impact sleep, eating, relationships, health and day to day functioning.  Sometimes it can be easy to pinpoint where stress is coming from and sometimes the stress turns into symptoms of anxiety that doesn't always seem to have an origin.  Whether you navigate this on your own or reach out to a counselor, life coach etc. I wish you the very best of luck.  Taking time for self care can be a big part of stress reduction as can getting plenty of rest, water and good nutrients. We all deserve to live a content and meaningful life and wherever your journey takes you, I hope that you remember & believe that you deserve to be happy.  Your story doesn't have to end here and you can take the leap to create a new chapter at any point.  Life is short and we each have the ability to continue growing and learning & challenging any negative beliefs that we have.  Practicing self compassion can also be very helpful in reframing our outlook and seeing all of the good traits that we each possess.   Warm Regards, Elizabeth Gough, LCSW
Answered on 12/04/2022

What exercises can i be doing to help me be more patient?

That is a great question! Thank you for allowing me the chance to answer it!  During the process of therapy, I generally utilize something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that makes the connection between our thoughts and behaviors.  If we can change our thoughts then we can change our behaviors... or the opposite, if we change our behaviors then we can change our thoughts. Often at the beginning of therapy, I start with more of a "teaching" technique.  This helps clients to identify skills they already had as well as learn new coping strategies.  After I have helped a client build their "tool box," I introduce a concept called Pause, Process, and Proceed (PPP).  This concept is really geared to help clients organize their coping strategies into a purpose– slow down, reduce impulsive interactions, and act intentionally on rational thoughts instead of emotions. Pause is the step in which we exercise distraction or thought-stopping techniques.  In this step of the PPP method, the goal should be to lower your emotion and allow you to return to rational thought processes.  Pausing is the act of disengaging or removing from the situation and placing either physical, mental, or emotional distance between the trigger and yourself. You may stay in this step for a very brief moment or it may be a time in which you remain there for a longer period of time.  If you cannot begin to Process, problem-solve, or prepare for proceeding then you will need to remain in the pausing step.  This may also mean that you will employ a variety of skills and techniques to remain present in the moment of pausing. You may also return or shift back to pausing while actively trying to Process if your emotional state escalates. Process is the step in which we begin to prepare for a change in behavior or action.  In this step of the PPP method, the goal is to problem-solve, talk-through, and/or prepare to Proceed with new behaviors or actions.  This step really is a time to think, develop a plan of action, and determine the implementation steps.  During the change process with therapy, we are beginning to learn new behaviors and skills that can result in better outcomes and be more effective.  These skills often take time to feel more natural and apply effectively.  Taking time to focus on the “why’s”, “what’s”, “how-to’s”, “who’s” and “when’s” of changed behavior creates intentionality in seeking a different result. You may need to utilize someone else, like friends or family, during this step or it may be done independently.  During this step, if your emotional state escalates, shift back to Pause until your emotion adjusts. Proceed is the step in which we implement the changed-behavior.  Acting out our prepared plan of action in the new “healthy” skills with the intention of a changed outcome.  The changed outcome may be internal or external.  It may result in changed emotions, changed behaviors, and/or changed relationships. Slowing the process down will allow us to reduce impulsive behaviors, acting on emotion, and potentially reduce negative consequences. Sometimes the act of proceeding looks like implementing a new skill or it can be doing “nothing”.  When we do “nothing” this means we have internally changed through the Processing step either through emotion management, changed perspective, or internal problem-solving. If the changed outcome is external, this will be done through the implementation of our plan of action and using new skills effectively. Keep practicing your coping strategies. This will be important because they often don't come naturally at first. Practice them regularly, even when you don't feel it's necessary.  This helps the body and the brain get accustomed to the new behaviors so that when you need them, your body will be more likely to know how to respond.  CBT is about re-wiring the brain, making new pathways for improved thoughts and behaviors. Just like a path in the woods, that takes time, energy, consistency, and work.  I wish you good luck in your journey! Keep asking for help and support, keep exploring new ways to respond, and if you haven't already, consider therapy!
(M.Ed, LPCC-S)
Answered on 12/03/2022

I need a way to find peace with my Mama's illness and no cure.

Thank you for telling your story and asking these hard questions.  I am sorry to hear about what you are going through with your mother.  Sounds like such a special bond the two of you have. What do the two of you do when spending time together? Are you able to reminisce on past memories while creating current memories?  Anticipatory grief is complicated and not easy. The loss of a loved one, especially a parent is painful.  How do we prepare for grief like this?  Recognizing and feeling our emotions rather than burying them is an important step.  Grief will present as inability to concentrate, anger, frustration, feeling numb and distanced, anxiety, sadness, longing for a different outcome or things to be the way they were before.  Validate these feelings by letting yourself experience them rather than suppressing them.  Know that it is ok to grieve the way you grieve.  Nobody can tell you how to grieve.  Show yourself and others grace during this very hard time.  You are doing the best you can.  Know that distractions are ok, and welcome them when you need a break or space from grieving.  Let others be there and help you.  Nobody can be strong all the time.   Rather than wait to celebrate the life of our loved one, we can honor their memory with them while they are here with us.  We can create memory books, write down family recipes, document favorite stories and memories, record audio and video tributes.   Talking about it can help us process the grief and loss.  It's important to surround yourself with supports, like family, friends, and the church.  Many people find it helpful to express their thoughts and feelings during this difficult time with others going through a similar experience.  For example, a medical illness support group or caregiver support group can be comforting and helpful.  These groups can be attended physically and/or virtually. To take care of others, we have to first take care of ourselves.  We can restore and strengthen our mind and body by taking breaks, listening to music, going for walks, sitting in the sun, journaling, and engaging in mindfulness. Find a safe space to talk with a mental health professional to guide you through the grieving process.  
(LPC, NCC)
Answered on 11/29/2022

I feel like no one will ever love me because of my insecurities. I don’t know what to do please advise me

Hello, thank you for reaching out. My name is Julie and I am a clinical psychotherapist. I've been working in the field for over 20 years and I am happy to help you with your question. I understand that you have been going through a rough period for a while.  I also can sense that you're ready to take steps to help yourself and have more support. Therapy is a wonderful way to identify your strengths, support systems, build self-esteem, develop healthier skills and impart hope. A large part of women's self-esteem is based on maintenance and interactions and relationships. In a broader context, women often view society as a series of relationships. The nature of these relationships shapes self-esteem of the group as a whole. For centuries, men have ingrained in women the belief that attractiveness, not character or achievement, is their most important attribute. Women, in turn strive not to fulfill their own needs and desires, but the desires of men. These beliefs are crippling to a woman's self-esteem. A lot of times, women tend to underestimate their abilities. Society tends to attribute women's success to looks and men's success to a skill. Many women feel a sense of responsibility for everyone but themselves. They put the needs of others above their own. Women must come to appreciate the need for personal responsibility to be happy and well-adjusted themselves. Responsibility involves understanding the importance of making time for yourself and nurturing yourself in order to be able to better nurture others. Moreover, in order to truly love and support others, you must first learn to love and respect yourself. You had mentioned that you have been feeling quite alone and you are scared of being alone for the rest of your life. Chronic disconnection can be the source of most human suffering. With therapy we can involve healing that disconnection and bringing you back into connection and back to intimacy with yourself and others. With therapy you will feel empowered. Empowerment is the process whereby the therapist works together with the patient to instill power, both social and individual. You will start to heal, love yourself, and increase confidence and self-esteem.  Shaky self-esteem and having insecurities are things that we can work together to help you overcome. As long as our esteem remains dependent on the approval and evaluation of others, we will remain preoccupied with what others think of us and with trying to meet their expectations. A solid sense of self esteem tends to be the one of the natural rewards of discovering that we indeed have the inner strength to be self supportive and by tapping into that inner strength you will feel a solid basis and as a result, you will feel better about yourself. Doing psychotherapy is a way to gain unconditional self acceptance. When you accept yourself unconditionally, you will be able to give up the elusive search for worthiness through others' approvals and free up energy for the meaningful question of how you can most enjoy your life. Another part of therapy will include changing old patterns that have kept you feeling scared and insecure. Over the years there has been groundbreaking studies on neurological research. Proactive new neurological research suggests that old habits die hard for a reason - they may be woven into the fabric of brain states. We are "wired" for specific kinds of neural activations very early in life and these habitual responses are automatically activated in daily living, often without conscious awareness. Once they are set - for instance, "I'm scared I will never be enough" - they are likely to continue throughout a person's life. For the most part, we don't volunteer for those response states but we simply find ourselves under the influence. Through psychotherapy you will learn techniques to not only identify but change the unhealthy cognitions. You will be able to  "rewire" those neural pathways that have been keeping you in this unhealthy holding pattern. Once these thoughts are identified and you gain more self-awareness you will be able to create a positive outlook and healthy efficacy.  I hope this information can help. I would look forward to working with you if you would like to continue on your journey of healing. 
(LPC, NCC)
Answered on 11/28/2022