Feeling anxious or worried is something everyone experiences and feels. It is absolutely okay to feel anxious. Most of us feel symptoms of anxiety when we are about to take a test, interview for our dream job or if we have to perform in some way in front of others. Feeling anxiety is not always negative as everyone has an optimal level of anxiety, which is needed for the ideal learning environment. Anxiety symptoms become problematic when they are impacting our daily lives in a negative way. When we find ourselves using “What If” statements when thinking about a situation, when we have trouble sleeping at night because we cannot turn off our mind or when we feel keyed up or stressed out. During these times, we may need to utilize coping strategies to reduce these excessive anxious symptoms and feelings.
Here are 5 ways to reduce anxiety symptoms:
1. Journal: some people find it useful to write down their worries and concerns. You do not have to write in paragraph form or even sentences. You can simply write a list of your concerns/worries. It also helps to set aside some time to worry, think of it as a time out for worrying. The idea is, if you have a set time to worry, you can write down your concerns and worry about them at a scheduled time and not throughout the day and at night while trying to work and/or fall asleep.
2. Breathing: when some people feel anxiety, their heart rate increases and other people hold their breath. When you realize you are feeling anxiety/stress symptoms such as What If thinking, excessive worry or a change in your breathing, you can utilize deep relaxed diaphragm breathing, which can assist with putting your body into a more relaxed state. Sometimes doing deep breathing for a count of 30 can make a difference. Trying yoga and/or meditation can help with learning how to regulate your breathing and also assists in reducing anxiety and stress symptoms.
3. Exercise: not only is exercise good for your body, it is also great for your mind. Exercising such as running, swimming or yoga assists with reducing anxiety and stress. In addition, regular exercise increases mood, overall wellbeing and assists with sleep. If you are having trouble with beginning an exercise program, find something you love to do such as tennis, biking, whatever it is, find an exercise buddy and start. If you are having trouble finding time to exercise, schedule it. Start by walking once or twice per week, to get your body moving. Please speak with your physician before starting an exercise program.
4. Caffeine: decreasing your caffeine intake can help reduce anxiety. Caffeine can increase anxiety symptoms and feelings of stress. It can also interfere with your sleep. If you are consuming caffeine and find you are experiencing anxiety symptoms, notice the next time you have a caffeinated beverage if you feel calmer or more keyed up and stressed out. Try decreasing the amount of caffeine you consume. You can try decaffeinated products or having less caffeine. In addition, decreasing and/or eliminating caffeine from your diet will also assist with sleep issues such as feeling exhausted and alert at the same time as well as difficulty with falling asleep.
5. Self-care: increasing self-care, things that you do, just for you, will help reduce symptoms of anxiety. When we are anxious and stressed, the first thing we usually cut out are the things we do to feel grounded. We remove these from our routine due to lack of time, a sick loved one or a big meeting, etc. When these things are happening and our anxiety is increasing, this is when we need to do self-care and take care of ourselves the most. If you are not taking care of yourself, you will not be able to do the best job you can when you take of others. I am not saying this is an easy thing to do, but if you take care of yourself, you will have more to give to your family, friends and career.
Anxiety is something everyone feels, what is different is the level of anxiety which is individual to each of us as well as how we cope with these anxious feelings and symptoms. To find out more information regarding symptoms of anxiety, please see my blog on the signs and symptoms of anxiety at http://www.droshea.com/blog/top-5-signs-you-may-have-anxiety. In addition, there are some great apps that you can download for your phone or iPad to help with relaxation and breathing which can decrease the symptoms of anxiety and stress.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for diagnosis, treatment or therapy. Please consult with your physician before beginning an exercise program.
“Anxiety disorders share features of excessive fear and anxiety and related behavioral disturbances. Fear is the emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is anticipation of a future threat” (DSM-5). Everyone experiences anxiety and that is absolutely normal. We typically feel a little anxious when we have a job interview or a presentation. Feeling a little nervous, concerned or apprehensive around these events is to be expected. Research shows that we learn best when an optimum level of anxiety is reached. The optimum level is different and unique to each of us. However, anxiety becomes problematic when these feelings start to impact our daily living in a negative way.
Here are 5 signs you may have anxiety:
If you are experiencing several of these symptoms and they are causing you significant distress in your life and you do not have a medical condition or another mental health disorder that may have similar indicators, you may be experiencing anxiety. However, there are some things you can do today to begin to feel better. Check out my blog where I discuss 5 ways to reduce stress today: http://www.droshea.com/blog/5-easy-ways-to-reduce-stress-today. If you have tried some of these strategies already and/or feel stuck, frozen, or as though nothing is helping, it may be time to reach out to a mental health professional.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for diagnosis, treatment or therapy.
It is often that we hear people saying "I am so Stressed Out" or some other phrase of the same meaning, I have heard this said waiting in line at the grocery store, at work, in the gym, at the ATM and the list goes on and on. In the age of multitasking, most people at times feel as though they are overwhelmed by life, family, work or relationships. Here are 5 simple techniques that you can implement today in your life to reduce stress, the acronym is BREES
1. Breathe: Start by sitting in a relaxed position, either in a chair with your feet flat on the floor or lying down. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take slow, deep breaths using your diaphragm. Take 30 breaths. At the end of this exercise you should feel less stressed and more relaxed.
2. Relaxation techniques: Progressive muscle relaxation involves tightening your muscles and releasing them. Start with your right foot, tighten the muscles in your toes and release them. Continue up your leg to your head, then go down your left side, from your shoulder all the way down to your left toes. Do not forget to tighten and release your midsection. This is for the whole body, not just the limbs. After trying this you should feel more relaxed.
3. Exercise: Research suggests that 30 minutes of Cardiovascular exercise 5 days a week will decrease stress and feelings of anxiety and depression. Exercise also aids with sleep, as long as you exercise up to three hours before you go to sleep.
4. Eating: Eating a healthy diet and keeping unhealthy foods to a minimum, will help with overall health and well being. I know it is difficult for some of us to eat healthy as we tend to crave "comfort foods" when we are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. This is when you should be making better food choices. Poor diet does not help reduce your stress level. You may feel satisfied for the time you are eating, but it takes its toll on your overall health, which can add to your stress level.
5. Sleep: Sleep is very important in reduction of stress. Sleep is very important for your body to function appropriately and to help you manage your stress better. The average adult needs 8 hours of sleep per night. Which means that some people need more to feel fully rested and other people need less. Know your body and how much sleep you need to feel fully rested. Not how much sleep you need to get through the day, there is a difference. If you are sleep deprived, you may rely on caffeinated products to help you perform or be more alert, and this may impact your sleep in a negative way as caffeine can cause sleep issues. For some people, caffeine can cause difficulty falling asleep, where you may feel alert and tired at the same time. If you are experiencing high levels of stress and difficulty with sleep, you may want to decrease your caffeine intake to alleviate stress symptoms as well as increasing sleep. It is important when feeling stress to get a full night's sleep.
Disclaimer: Please check with your physician or health care provider before you begin an exercise program. This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for treatment or therapy.
Anticipatory anxiety is a symptom of anxiety, it is not a diagnosis or disorder. However, many people who suffer from anxiety or have anxiety traits have these common concerns/worries of “what if” thoughts. Many of us find ourselves predicting the future by trying to foresee every possible negative outcome to a situation that may or may not happen. These concerns or worries can be categorized as anticipatory anxiety. There are different degrees of anticipatory anxiety, as the symptoms range from mild to severe.
What If Syndrome is NOT actually a syndrome but a term I use to explain the symptoms of anticipatory anxiety. It is when people think about an event or situation and think of all the different ways the event could go wrong and try to plan for what they feel will be the most common negative outcomes. Unfortunately, most of us do not have a working crystal ball, so predicting the future is difficult at best. If you find that this resonates with you, ask yourself “Does the outcome change when I What If?” Most of the time, the answer to that question is No. So why do we continue to do something we know does not change the outcome? Many of us feel that if we are prepared for the worst, when it happens we will be ready. One of the issues with this type of thinking is that you cannot possibly come up with contingency plans for every possible negative outcome and it actually has the opposite effect. The process of What If is mentally and emotionally draining and increases stress levels and anxiety instead of decreasing it.
Possible ways to reduce What If Syndrome is to be aware that you are doing it and to learn what is triggering this behavior.
Insight into your behavior is a great first step; here are some concrete things you can do:
1. Utilize thought stopping: A technique where you realize the behavior, put a stop sign up in your head and have a prepared other topic to think about. If you do not have something else to replace the thought with, your mind will continue to return to the thought.
2. Exercise: Exercise is a great way to reduce anxiety symptoms, it is recommended that 30 minutes of Cardio exercise up to 5x’s a week decreases anxiety symptoms.
3. Distractions: Find something else to do, play with your kids, pet, or engage someone in conversation.
4. Reach out to your support system: Sometimes talking about these issues with a friend or loved one, helps people let go of the concern/worry.
On the other end of the spectrum, examples of a severe reaction would be someone with PTSD or a fear or phobia who may become panicked at the anticipation of that fear becoming a reality, such as a fear of flying. Someone with a severe fear of flying may have a panic attack at the thought of being on a plane and may dread an upcoming vacation due to this fear. The anticipatory anxiety feels just as real and threatening as the fear itself. If you suffer from some of these more severe symptoms please contact your healthcare provider as a Psychologist, Psychiatrist or Social Worker who has experience and training in working with fears and phobias can assist you with these issues.
Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to be considered therapy or treatment for these symptoms. This blog is for informational purposes only.
Why do we find it so difficult to change our behavior and maintain that change in our everyday lives? Many of us find the idea of change to be scary. We have routines, relationships and families and any type of adjustment can tip the homeostasis of our lives. Whether the change we are making is for the better or not, it still can upset the apple cart.
The thought of change and the process of change can cause anxiety, worry and fear. These feelings are not usually welcome feelings in our lives such as joy, relaxation and happiness. Most of us do not embrace feelings that may cause us discomfort, so the idea of making a change that will cause us discomfort may seem counter-intuitive. However, many of us need to make changes for health reasons or to improve our lives and the discomfort may be for a short period of time where the actual change in behavior may bring a positive life outcome. Change is not always easy, can be good and sometimes is necessary as we evolve.
When we decide to change a behavior, such as not smoking, weight loss, or starting an exercise program many of us find it extremely difficult to make a permanent change. Using weight loss as an example, some of us have difficulty losing weight, some can meet a partial weight loss goal and others can attain the goal but have difficulty maintaining the weight loss. Changing our behavior involves moving through several stages. Motivation and emotional well being are an integral part of the process of behavior change.
Two famous researchers, James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente developed The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM) also known as The Stages of Change, which include five stages of change. This is the process that each of us progress through as we are attempting to make a behavioral change. This process is not simple and at times there is frustration and demoralization when we feel we may not be successful on our journey. This model assists us in offering us a vocabulary and a better understanding of the thoughts and feelings we have while we move toward our goal.
The Stages of Change:
Precontemplation: While in this stage we may not see our behavior as problematic. We are sometimes characterized as unmotivated, in denial or resistant to change. We will not be taking action within the next 6 months.
Contemplation: We are sometimes characterized in this stage as ambivalent. We are struggling with the pros and cons of our particular situation, but moving toward the benefits of change. We will be taking action to change in the next 6 months.
Preparation: We have a plan of how we are going to attain our goal of change. We have taken some small action, for example if weight loss is our goal we have been choosing healthier food options. We are intending to take action in the next month.
Action: We have implemented our action plan and have taken specific actions to change our behavior and attain our goals. We must be diligent in this stage to avoid falling back into previous poor behaviors and patterns of behavior. We have changed our behavior for less than 6 months.
Maintenance: We are continuing our changed behavior and are managing temptations to fall back into our previous behavioral patterns. We are gaining confidence that we will continue our current changes. We have changed our behavior for over 6 months.
These stages are fluid and at any time during the process we can fall back to previous stages or relapse. Many of us jump to the action stage when we are really in one of the previous stages, which may be why we have difficulty attaining our goals. Motivation is a key component to progress with change. A strong support system is also very useful while on the journey of change as emotional well being is important to goal attainment. If we have a strong support system we are more likely to continue when we are feeling stressed or tempted to return to previous behaviors.
Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to be therapy or treatment, it is for informational purposes only.
There has been quite a bit of press over the past few years regarding binge drinking. In the United States, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as consuming so much alcohol in a two hour period that your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is at .08. For men, this is approximately 5 drinks and for women, about 4 drinks during a two hour time period.
When we hear the term binge drinking many of us think of college students as the primary population of those who consume alcohol in this fashion. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 37.9 percent of college students ages 18–22 reported binge drinking in the past month compared with 32.6 percent of other persons of the same age.
Here are some interesting facts about binge drinking from the CDC Website:
1. Binge drinking is most common among young adults aged 18–34 and least common in the 65+ age group.
2. One in six adults binge drinks approximately 4x's per month, consuming about 8 drinks per binge.
3. Adults 26 and older are involved in 70% of binge drinking episodes.
4. 90% of the alcohol consumed by underage drinkers involves binge drinking.
5. More than half of the alcohol consumed in the United States involves binge drinking.
6. Binge drinking is more common among those whose household income is $75,000 or higher.
7. Most people (90%) who binge drink are not alcohol dependent or alcoholics.
Is binge drinking a rite of passage when in college or has it become an epidemic? It appears that binge drinking is not just for college students. Some college students are known to binge drink, but they are not alone. Based on the information from the CDC, binge drinking spans across all age groups, including underage drinkers as well as the elderly populations.
It is fascinating that there is a household income associated with binge drinking, when it does span across all socioeconomic classifications. Is it an epidemic in college or is it that over time, college drinking has received more media attention when compared to other populations? Are there more consequences associated with college binge drinking such as injuries, assault and death? Alcohol use and abuse spans across all socioeconomic classifications and age groups and it looks like binge drinking is following suit.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only.
Loss can be a divorce, a relationship ending, death of a loved one, including pets, a separation from a loved one and loss of functioning whether physical, mental or emotional. Coping with loss can be a difficult, draining and an overwhelming experience filled with grief.
The stages of grief by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross can and should be applied to all losses, not just death. The stages of grief are a fluid process and not always completed in order. Kubler-Ross' 5 Stages of Grief are below:
5 Stages of Grief:
1. Denial: You have difficulty believing the event has happened or is happening. You may feel numb and in complete and utter shock regarding the loss. This is a defense mechanism as you may be so overwhelmed you can not process everything right away. Denial is part of the healing process.
2. Anger: You are getting in touch with your anger about the loss in your life. You may be angry with yourself or blame others for what has happened. It is easier for you to be angry with doctors, family members, etc, than to process and feel the emotional pain. This is part of healing, in this stage, you may start to feel the pain of the loss and go back and forth between, anger and pain and disbelief of the situation.
3. Bargaining: You may bargain with God, you may ask your soon to be ex "Can we remain friends?" You may say things to loved ones such as " if we had only gone to the doctor sooner." Bargaining does not change the outcome and you may still be feeling quite a bit of deep emotional pain, anger and at times disbelief. Generally you will start feeling more emotional pain and less disbelief.
4. Depression: You are deep in emotional pain. You are very aware of the event and the emotional pain that coexists. Any reminder of the situation reopens the emotional wound. At times you can feel anger and despair. This is part of the healing process. Feel what you are feeling, and lean on your emotional support system.
5. Acceptance: You are accepting the event, you may have a feeling of calmness and understanding.
Loss is very personal and everyone experiences it differently. There is not a right way or a wrong way to process loss and feel grief. You must feel whatever you are feeling. Your support system can not take your pain away, but they can comfort you while you are experiencing the loss. Your loved ones can help support you through the grief process, but ultimately you need to grieve in order to heal.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only.
Every couple will have some conflict at one point or another in their relationship. When these conflicts arise, whether small or large, a great deal can be told about the future of your relationship by how these issues are handled. How you interact with your partner during conflict and how these conflicts are managed and resolved, can help you answer this question "Will this relationship work?"
John Gottman, Ph.D., a psychologist and researcher reported that an unhappy marriage can increase your chances of becoming sick by 35% and you may die four years earlier than if you were in a happy relationship. Gottman describes four behavioral patterns during conflict that are consistent with unhappy relationships. These behavioral patterns are called "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" and they are as follows:
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:
1. Criticism: It is absolutely healthy to disagree, but attacking your partner is not beneficial. Character attacks are not useful in conflict resolution. Here is an example of a complaint versus a criticism: "I am upset that you did not bring milk home tonight" and "You forgot the milk again, I can't depend on you for anything, you are just not responsible." (this is used by women more frequently)
2. Contempt: This is one step from criticism. It is always disrespectful and includes such things as, insults, sneering, eye rolling and name calling. These behaviors do not rebuild the relationship they continually damage it and the relationship will continue to decline. When disagreeing try to remain respectful and focus on the specific issue at hand.
3. Defensiveness: This is a defense mechanism which may be a natural response, but does not facilitate reconciliation or resolution. You need to take responsibility for your actions and try not to make excuses. Many couples find themselves one upping each other with complaints. This is not a useful technique in problem solving and will take you off course from the specific issue you are trying to resolve.
4. Stonewalling: This is when you disengage from communication. Sometimes this can be healthy but if utilized frequently it can be ineffectual and the relationship will deteriorate. (this is used by men more frequently)
Most couples will use some of these behaviors occasionally. When they become frequent and the essence of conflict resolution you need to implement new coping strategies. The key to resolving conflict is communicating as effectively as possible. It is okay to feel angry as long as the anger is managed and communicated appropriately. Be aware of the Four Horsemen in your next disagreement and try to implement positive communication.
Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to be therapy or treatment, it is for informational purposes only.
We do not always eat because we are hungry or to feed our body. Many of us eat because we are bored, sad, worried, lonely or stressed. It is not only negative emotions that cause us to emotionally eat. How many times have we celebrated with a special dinner and given children treats or ice cream in celebration? Eating to feed your emotional needs is not a healthy behavior and can lead to weight gain and sabotage when trying to lose weight.
Insight is very important in the fight against emotional eating. The first step to stopping this behavior is finding your triggers. Once you find the triggers to your emotional eating, you can find a replacement behavior. Some replacement behaviors are: walking, writing, drawing, playing an instrument, exercise, meditate or anything that you enjoy doing other than eating. It is also equally important to start feeling and processing your emotions. The suppression or avoidance of feelings is what is leading you to emotional eating.
1. Food Diary: Start a food diary and write down the time of day and everything you eat throughout the day. Look for patterns in your eating, do you usually eat around 10 am because you are bored, or have a gap in your work schedule? Look at the times of day and what is going on at that time to see if there is a pattern of behavior and what the emotion is that you are feeling that is driving you to eat.
2. Manage your Stress: Managing your stress can make a big difference in stopping emotional eating. Start an exercise program, deep breathe, try Yoga and/or meditation.
3. Suppressing Emotions: After having a bad day, fight the urge to go home and over eat, try calling a friend or family member to discuss the day and the feelings that you are experiencing. Trying to numb or suppress the feelings and feel better through food is not a healthy choice.
4. Reality Check: Ask yourself "Am I hungry?" before you eat. If the answer is yes, make a healthy food choice. If the answer is no, think about why you want to eat and what is triggering this desire for food.
5. Healthy Snacks: Instead of reaching for that bowl of ice cream, reach for fruit. You will still have the sweet taste and it is much healthier for you. Cut up some fruit and veggies so they are easily accessible and ready to eat when you want a snack. This way you can just grab some carrot sticks when you want a snack and do not have to start cutting and chopping. The idea is to find alternatives that are satisfying to you.
Using food occasionally to feel better when you are down or as a way to celebrate is okay. When food becomes the main self soothing tool, the behavior is problematic. Stopping emotional eating is not something simple or easy to accomplish. It takes time, commitment and perseverance. If you are finding that it is becoming very difficult for you to stop this behavior, and you are feeling overly emotional seek support from a professional who can assist you with your goals.
Disclaimer: this blog is meant for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a replacement for therapy or treatment.
Have you ever had a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day? Like Alexander in the children's book? Many people experience illness, grief and loss, I am NOT minimizing these issues, these people had a very very bad day. This is for those of us, who have bad days, when it really was not the worst day. When we arrived at the gas station only to realize we left our wallet at home. Then we walked into the office and realized our keys were in another bag and had to wait an hour for security to come and let us in the office. This then made us late for our meeting, because the flash drive with the presentation was locked in the office. The presentation was not the best, because we did not review it and make final changes, because we were sitting in the hallway waiting for the key. It is not even noon yet... and at lunch you burn the roof of your mouth on pizza. It is definitely one of those days. You can see how a day starting off this way could leave you in a stressed and frustrated space.
It is the little things that can make or break a day for most people. One extra small thing going wrong could be the difference between an ordinary day or a bad day. Why do we let this happen? Many times it is because we fall victim to the villain of Stress and his sidekick Frustration. It is usually when we start feeling frustrated that we realize, "I am stressed" and somewhere along the way, today took a turn to the dark side.
It helps if we are aware of what is going on, when it is going on. Early intervention is important and can make the difference between a good day and a bad day. The earlier we realize that we are stressed we can make a conscious effort to change our outlook on the rest of the day and implement stress reduction strategies. Be an active participant in your day, try not to let your day happen to you.
5 steps to turning around your day (if you want too):
1. Embrace your bad day: It is okay to feel your emotions, all of them, both negative and positive. It is okay to be upset, stressed and down, even if you do not know why you are feeling that way. It is also okay to stay in a down or bad mood for the day as long as you are not taking things out on others, as this behavior will hurt your relationships.
2. Me Time: Go for a walk or take a time out. Go somewhere you can relax and think. Listening to music can be soothing and can lift your mood. Try some relaxation breathing, yoga or meditation if you enjoy these things. Do something you enjoy while you are reflecting on your day.
3. Exercise: This can help increase your mood and pull you out of the doldrums. Do something you enjoy such as going to the gym, running or biking. Sometimes it helps to exercise with a friend or workout buddy.
4. Phone a friend: Call a loved one or someone in your support system. Processing your day can do wonders in turning it around. Discussing your day with someone also helps with gaining perspective on the events of the day.
5. Let the Love In: Make a mental list of all of the wonderful things in your life, everything that makes you happy and smile. Thinking about all of the goodness in your life as well as everything you are grateful for, can help you feel better. Try to focus on the positive things in your life. Hugging loved ones, children and pets (trees are optional) can help.
Many times it is the rushing around that has us forgetting important things and making errors that we usually would not make. We can still turn the day/evening around if that is what we choose to do. However, it is okay to be in a bad mood for a few hours or a day. Your self talk should say something like "tomorrow will be a better day." It also helps to realize that if burning the roof of your mouth was the worst part of your day, then you had a pretty good day!
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for therapy or treatment. Please consult with your physician before starting an exercise program.
Guilt is our emotional enforcer of what is right and wrong. We all feel guilty about something we have said or done. It usually involves a mistake or error we made. We may have hurt a friend's feelings over a comment or action. Healthy guilt is a way for us to reevaluate our behaviors and apologize as well as deciding to make a behavioral change for the better.
Appropriate guilt keeps us from making the same mistake twice. If you are feeling guilty for drinking excessively and your friends and family have expressed concern about your drinking, then this is healthy guilt. Your mind is trying to tell you that you are doing something that is not congruent with your body and an analysis of the behavior as well as insight may be useful for change. Healthy guilt helps us to examine our decisions and actions and make better and more appropriate choices.
Unhealthy guilt is something we feel that is based on irrational or faulty logic. An example is when we feel guilty about setting healthy boundaries in our life or leaving an unhealthy relationship. Decisions based on unhealthy guilt can lead to poor decision making, poor problem solving and indecisiveness. Unhealthy guilt can impede our decision making and we may find ourselves making frequent decisions based on guilt. At times unhealthy guilt can be a part of feeling inadequate about a situation/self or feeling down. If your guilt does not involve correcting something that you have done, then it is probably unhealthy guilt.
The first thing we must do to manage feeling guilty is to recognize whether this is healthy guilt or unhealthy guilt. Unhealthy guilt clouds our judgment and healthy guilt assists us in making better choices. If you are feeling appropriate guilt, an apology may be the next step along with evaluating the situation and deciding how to do things differently in the future. Inappropriate guilt is not reality, just because you feel this, does not make the situation true. Accept you made an error, make amends and let it go. Harboring the guilt and negative self talk will not change the situation or improve your life. Accept responsibility, apologize and work toward moving forward.
Guilt is a normal feeling when we have done something wrong. Depression is associated with feeling guilty, however, everyone who feels guilty is not depressed. People who have depression tend to ruminate about things and find themselves with a list of items to feel guilty about, most of the time this is unhealthy guilt. The internal dialogue of someone with depressive symptoms exacerbates the guilt and depression. This is faulty thinking and furthers the depressive symptoms and negative self talk. If you suffer from depression, and you find yourself ruminating, filled with guilt and experiencing negative self talk, it may be time to seek professional support.
Disclaimer: This blog is meant for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for therapy or treatment.
How many nights have you spent tossing and turning while trying to fall asleep? Once you fall asleep, you wake up a couple hours later and the tossing and turning begins again. It becomes a terrible cycle of attempting to sleep while looking at the clock. Many of us will start calculating how many hours of sleep we will have if we can fall asleep in the next few minutes. Sometimes we are able to fall asleep rather quickly and other times, not so much.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep. There is acute and chronic insomnia. There are many reasons which can cause insomnia, some of which are stress, change in sleep pattern, change of shift at work, anxiety, caffeine, depression, medication, eating late, exercising late and the list goes on. Knowing the cause can help with treatment and a resolution.
There are also several risk factors associated with insomnia. Women experience insomnia more than men. This does not mean that men do not suffer from insomnia, it just means that their stats are lower. Another risk factor is age, if you are over 60 you are more likely to experience this issue, as insomnia increases with age as sleep patterns change with age. Another risk factor is work, if you have a varied schedule this changes your sleep schedule and you may find it difficult adjusting to the new sleep pattern. Jet lag is also a risk factor for insomnia, so if you travel for your job, be aware of this issue.
Here are some treatment suggestions for acute insomnia:
1. Decrease stress: Utilize stress reduction techniques.
2. Caffeine: Decrease or ban caffeine from your diet, this will help with sleep.
3. Utilize Sleep Hygiene: Go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday, including weekends. Utilize your bedroom for sleep and sex only. Have a set routine before bed and do that routine at the same time every night. You want your body to start associating that bedtime routine and bedroom with sleep.
4. Exercise: at least 3-4 hours before sleep.
5. Non-Preferred Activity: If you cannot sleep after 15 minutes, get up and do an activity you will not enjoy. An example would be cleaning the toilet and bathroom. If you hate cleaning the bathroom, this is the activity to do when you cannot sleep. If you do an activity you enjoy such as reading or watching TV you are stimulating your mind with joy. You want to sleep, not watch TV. Try a non preferred activity, you will be surprised how often this works for acute insomnia.
If you suffer from chronic insomnia, you may want to consult your healthcare provider who can assist with a sleep study and treatment plan.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a replacement for therapy or treatment.
There has been quite a bit of controversial press regarding internet addiction and video game addiction. More research is showing that people can become addicted to internet gaming. The new DSM-5 (diagnostic manual for psychiatrists) was unveiled this past May and it has Internet Gaming Disorder as a condition that requires more research, before it can be added as a disorder that can be diagnosed. Here is a link to Internet Gaming Disorder on the DSM-5 website. If more research is done, this condition may very well become a diagnosis in the next revision of the DSM.
Some professionals in the field feel that internet addiction or gaming addiction is a fad and not a real phenomenon. Having worked with adolescents and young adults, I have seen my share of internet use issues. Some were just issues and were easily remedied, others were fitting the addictive pattern of behavior. If this was a diagnosable condition, many professionals working with this population would be using it as a primary or secondary diagnosis.
Like any addiction, when the use of the internet starts to impede your life functioning, you have a problem. Some people report playing internet games as a stress reliever, a way to unwind at the end of a work/school day, or a way to escape from their life and the reality they face every day. Some people enjoy the fantasy world much more than reality. Some symptoms of internet addiction include; declining grades (students), increased use, social isolation and/or less social interaction, lying about use, feeling anxious when unable to use or are away from your computer as well as difficulty controlling anger and frustration.
There is usually an underlying issue as to why you are using the internet so frequently. Risk factors include; anxiety, depression, stress, unhappiness and lack of social support. If you have an addiction, you are more prone to developing other addictive behaviors. This does not mean that if you are addicted to one thing you will automatically become addicted to everything. Here are some things you can do if you or a loved one is spending too much time gaming:
1. Recognition: Recognizing this is a problem. If you do not realize that this is impeding your life functioning, you will not be able to move forward and will continue down the path of internet addiction.
2. Insight: Address underlying issues so that you will be less likely to relapse when you stop gaming.
3. Triggers: Figure out your triggers and if there is a pattern to your gaming. If so, develop a plan around those times/issues to help you continue with abstinence or decrease in gaming.
4. Stopping Use: Some people find it difficult to completely stop use right away. If abstinence is not working, use it in moderation. Set up a schedule of specific times you can game. Each week decrease the amount of time gaming as you increase coping strategies.
5. Increase coping strategies: Find other ways to alleviate stress, anxiety, depression etc. Start an exercise program, meditate or sign up for some type of lesson.
6. Support System: Increase your support system and reach out to those in your support system. Participating in a hobby is a good way to meet people and increase your support system. Volunteering is a way to give back and meet people you may not ordinarily meet.
If you find that stopping internet gaming is an overwhelming and daunting task, seek professional help. A psychologist or mental health professional can assist you with a treatment plan, provide support and address underlying mental health issues.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a replacement for treatment or therapy.
We connect with people daily, at the grocery store, work, grabbing a coffee in the morning or a sandwich at lunch. These interactions can lead to acquaintances, friendships or romantic interests. Relationships come in and out of our lives frequently. They have a beginning, middle and an end. The duration and end point are different for each one. Relationships can be long term or short in duration and may end over different reasons, growing apart, moving away, a disagreement or a myriad of other reasons.
Here are five characteristics which are needed for a happy and healthy relationship, whether with a friend, family member or partner.
1. Honest and vulnerable: Being truthful to yourself as well as others. Many of us rationalize reasons not to share different things about ourselves because we may feel vulnerable. Being honest, also means being vulnerable at times. Sometimes we work hard at NOT feeling vulnerable in a relationship, because vulnerability is scary. Being vulnerable in a relationship helps grow trust and intimacy. It all starts with honesty.
2. Mutual Respect: Supporting each other in a respectful manner. Making decisions with your partner about those things that affect your relationship is a sign of mutual respect. This is not to say that you will lose all decision making ability, you will still be able to buy a Cafe Mocha without consulting. Use your judgment and make important decisions together and/or those that will affect the relationship. This exhibits mutual respect and understanding.
3. Trust: Building trust in a relationship is very important. This is one of the key characteristic for a long term healthy relationship. Being faithful to your partner is not enough, both of you must feel emotionally/mentally/physically safe in the relationship. It will be difficult for the relationship to grow without feeling safe. Trust is important for intimacy to grow and to feel more connected to each other.
4. Forgiveness: "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." - Mahatma Ghandi. Forgiving someone who hurt you is a very difficult task. Letting go of the anger you feel when someone close to you hurts you and forgiving them, can seem impossible at times. Having compassion toward the person who hurt you helps in the forgiveness process. Try to remember that most people have feelings and the person who hurt you most likely feels terrible about what happened. Holding on to anger can lead to resentment and bitterness. These feelings are not good for you psychologically, emotionally or physically. They are also detrimental to the relationship you are in and other relationships in your life. This does not mean you need to forgive the person immediately, forgiveness is a process and individual to those who are experiencing deep wounding.
5. Communication: Healthy communication is very important in every relationship we have. Listening, sharing and responding to your friend/partner in a non judgmental way. Validating what your friend/partner is saying, even if you disagree, is very useful in healthy communication. Try not to fall into negative communication patterns such as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Communicate with respect, even when angry and upset with each other. Refrain from name calling and utilizing sarcasm when communicating.
Relationships ebb and flow, and require hard work through the difficult times. Those of us who have these characteristics in our relationships, should be experiencing happy and healthy relationships. Relationships are not easy but they are worth it when you find the right people to be your friends and the right person to be your partner.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a replacement for therapy or treatment.
Self doubt is defined as the lack of faith or confidence in oneself, as per thefreedictionary.com, it should say, crusher of dreams. Doubt can stop us from anything and everything we want to do or say. I am not suggesting we always leap before we look, however doubt can be paralyzing and can keep us from moving forward in our relationships, dreams, work and our lives.
Everyone experiences self doubt at one point or another in their lives. It could be around a new relationship, job, or decision making. Some people are riddled with self doubt and struggle their whole lives with this villain. Self doubt has the tendency to creep up in situations where we are out of our comfort zone, doing something for the first time, or making an important decision. Many of us fall into the clutches of self doubt and find ourselves crippled by fear and doubt.
Imagine how much easier life would be if we banished self doubt and replaced it with self confidence and we believed in ourselves all of the time. Instead of looking at things and saying "I am not good enough" or "I could never do that" try thinking "How can I improve or better the situation?" When we experience self doubt, we often forget that we can do most things, within reason. I am not suggesting we attempt to perform surgery when we do not have surgical or medical training. We need to be honest with ourselves and our skill sets. Just because we think something negative about ourselves, does not make it a fact.
We do not have to believe the voice of self doubt. We can instead choose to believe in ourselves. This is difficult to do when we are riddled with self doubt, but we can choose to work through it. We can choose to try, even if we fail, we still must try. When we fail, it is easy to believe the voice of self doubt, but that does not make it a reality. We need to brush ourselves off, grieve the loss and the failure and try again. Learn from the failure, and continue to pursue your dream, job, relationship or whatever the situation may be. Self doubt eats away at our happiness as well as our belief in us. If you constantly doubt, it is difficult to be happy.
Trusting and believing in ourselves in the face of self doubt, will help overcome it. If we trust ourselves it is much easier to make decisions, feel confident when starting something new and conquer self doubt or any negative self talk that creeps into our thought process. Sometimes self doubt can be good, it may help us take a step back and analyze things, after the analysis an action plan should be put into place and then act. If you find that after analysis you are listening to self doubt, reevaluate by starting with all of your accomplishments. Make a list of everything good about you and your skill set. Try to regain self confidence and trust in yourself.
People, who are self confident and believe in themselves, tend to be happier at work, in relationships and in life. The next time the crusher of dreams stops by, hear the doubt, feel it and remember all of your wonderful qualities and believe in yourself.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace therapy or treatment.
Motivation in its most basic form is our desire to do something, to do anything. There are many psychological theories regarding motivation and several others that can be applied to motivation. Many of us are motivated toward things we view as positive such as planning a vacation or a celebration. Whereas, other activities, such as cleaning the bathroom or walking the dog in a snow storm are less desirable activities and that may influence our motivation, or lack of motivation.
People are motivated in different ways; two common forces that influence motivation are intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is an internal desire to do something regardless of a reward or punishment. Extrinsic motivation is a desire to do something based on an external reward or punishment. For many years, researchers believed that intrinsic motivation is the better of the two motivational forces. However, there has been conflict within the research community for many years over the idea that these two areas encompass all of the forces of motivation as well as the idea that intrinsic motivation is head and shoulders above extrinsic motivation. Ultimately people are motivated in different ways and by different things. One is not necessarily better than the other and each of us can be motivated by either force depending on the situation. The important thing is that we are motivated.
According to Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, we are motivated to satisfy our needs. All of our behavior is motivated by needs that are not met. Once we satisfy one need, we find another need to focus on, depending on our priorities. Maslow developed a five stage hierarchy of needs. When a lower need is met, we are no longer motivated for that particular need and we become motivated for a higher level need. Higher needs only become important when the lower needs are met. If you are having trouble paying rent and you are worried about being evicted, it is unlikely you are concerned with personal growth as you have basic needs that are unmet.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:
1. Physiological Needs: These are basic needs and lowest on the hierarchy. These include food, water, shelter, sleep, air, etc. the things that are needed for basic survival.
2. Safety: Safety needs encompass feeling safe personally, financially as well as health and wellness. Having a sense of stability in your life.
3. Love - Belonging: An overall feeling of belonging. Having the following relationships: work, family, intimate and friendships. Having a strong support system which includes feeling and giving love to others. Loneliness and anxiety can be attributed to this level in the hierarchy as we may not feel as though we belong or are loved.
4. Esteem: This stage involves self confidence and feeling recognized by others. Feeling that you have value and you are contributing to society, work and family.
5. Self Actualization: This is when you have realized and reached your full potential. Our behavior in this stage is driven by desire for personal growth and self fulfillment. This is the highest need and the most difficult to achieve.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is driven by a deficit in one of the first four levels. The final need of self actualization is driven by desire to reach our potential. We must master the first four levels of the hierarchy before we can achieve self actualization.
Disclaimer: This blog is meant for informational purposes only and is not meant as therapy or a replacement for treatment.
Sleep deprivation is something we have all experienced. Whether it was staying up all night in school to study for an exam or just not being able to fall asleep. If you slept 6 hours or less you are considered sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation can be chronic or acute. If you are working two jobs and you are generally sleeping 6 hours or less, this is considered chronic sleep deprivation. If you occasionally find yourself sleeping 6 hours or less, it is considered acute sleep deprivation.
Chronic sleep deprivation can have long term effects, acute sleep deprivation has short term effects and with proper sleep these consequences disappear. Regardless of whether you have acute or chronic sleep deprivation there are consequences for not sleeping enough or sleeping well. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep to function properly. Each of us may have a different baseline for appropriate sleep. An adult generally needs 7-9 hours of sleep and children need more sleep based on their age.
Effects of lack of sleep:
1. Decreased cognitive skills: The list of cognitive issues with sleep deprivation is long, here are several: difficulty making decisions, decreased judgment, poor memory, word finding issues, difficulty with thinking and processing information as well as sustained attention and concentration.
2. Motor skills: You may find that you become less agile and that you are clumsy. You are more likely to knock things over, and your reaction time may be slowed.
3. Mood: You may find that you are grumpy, feel easily overwhelmed and may feel more stressed. You may feel irritable and find you may cry easily. You may also experience fatigue and find you are tired and no longer desire to participate in pleasurable activities.
4. Weight gain: Research states that lack of sleep increases a hunger hormone so you may find yourself hungry all day when you are sleep deprived.
5. Increased blood pressure: Sleep deprivation increases blood pressure and can increase your risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
6. Weakened immune system: Lack of sleep can decrease your immune system and you may find that you are more susceptible to colds and viruses.
Research suggests that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to dying younger, increased risk for major illnesses as well as safety issues such as car accidents and on the job injuries. If this is a chronic issue for you, please discuss this with your physician.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a replacement for treatment or therapy.
A boundary is the line in the sand that is drawn between what is and what is not acceptable behavior, toward oneself. We have physical, emotional and mental boundaries which we should be setting in all of our relationships. Boundaries help us feel safe, secure and comfortable and help us define how others treat us. The idea is to have firm but flexible boundaries, you do not want to be perceived as a controlling person and you may need to adapt some of your boundaries to different situations.
At times we may feel uncomfortable in relationships and in the moment we can not figure out why we are feeling this way. A question you should ask yourself, "Is there a boundary violation happening?" For example, someone is a close talker and moves into your personal space, you may feel some discomfort. It may take a few minutes or even days to figure out why you feel this way when this person comes over to your desk to speak with you. They are breaching your boundary of personal space. Another example is if you are interacting with a friend, family member or your partner and during the interaction, you start to feel resentment toward this person. You may feel they are taking advantage of you in some way, this may be a boundary breach. The next question to ask yourself is "Did I set this boundary?" It is your responsibility to take care of yourself, and set appropriate boundaries for you. If you did set the boundary and it is being violated, ask yourself "What should I do about this breach?"
Boundary setting can feel daunting at times, especially if you generally have loose boundaries. You may feel a little anxious setting limits and may be concerned about possible conflict, retribution in the workforce, being perceived as mean or feeling guilty. You may have many other feelings regarding boundary setting, they are real feelings but should not necessarily stop your boundary setting. Here are some tips for boundary setting.
5 tips for healthy boundary setting:
1. Be direct: State your boundary in a clear and concise manner, so people know exactly where you stand and what behavior is acceptable to you.
2. Saying no: Give yourself permission to say no. Saying no helps maintain boundaries and sets clear limits for what you are and are not willing to tolerate.
3. Practice self care: Self care is important in setting and maintaining boundaries as you need to start putting yourself first, at times. This will help you set limits as boundary setting is a part of self care.
4. Self awareness: Be tuned into your feelings in situations as they are the key to determining if boundaries need to be set. This will also help with recognizing boundary breaches or if someone is trying to push your boundaries.
5. Be assertive: Be assertive and polite when setting boundaries and when maintaining your boundaries during possible breaches. Assertive is not the same as aggressive and you should not become aggressive when setting or maintaining boundaries.
Many people feel that setting boundaries is selfish and that is not true. They help us define where each of us end and the other person begins. The limits we set help us to separate out who we are, our thoughts and feelings, from others in our lives. They improve our self concept and assist us in moving toward healthier relationships.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and not meant to be a replacement for therapy or treatment.
At times we may feel that we need to do things on our own without anyone else's help. Sometimes this can be cathartic other times it can leave you with a feeling of loneliness and a mild feeling of despair. It is very important for everyone to understand that we are not islands and it is healthy to reach out to our support system. We have support in friends, family and colleagues. It may be difficult at times to lean on this support due to issues that may have come up in your previous or current relationships. However, it is important to nurture and grow our support system.
If you look back, you may see that at different points in your life, you relied on different people for different things. Depending on our age, needs, wants and desires, we have turned to different people in our support system to assist with different areas of our lives. As we grow and age, some of us feel that relying on others is a flaw or limitation, that is NOT true! Reaching out to others in our support system is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of strength. It is just as important to be a support to others, as it is to be supported. Having a good support system is a two way street, we need to support those in our lives just as those people support us.
Here are 5 advantages of having a strong support system:
1. Sense of belonging: A sense of belonging is important throughout our lives. It starts with our family of origin and our friend group as we grow from children to adolescents to adults. We need to thrive, not just survive. With a good support system in place, we can flourish and reach our potential in whatever area we are striving.
2. Reduce Stress: A strong support system aids in stress reduction. Venting and spending time with loved ones can help reduce our anxiety, and increase our mood. Call a friend or family member to go for a walk, hike or a yoga class when you need to reduce stress. Having a strong support system can assist us in decompressing after a stressful day.
3. Improve overall health and wellbeing: A good support system helps with our overall physical health throughout our lives and especially as we age. Feeling as though we are not alone helps with physical health as well as emotional wellbeing.
4. Emotional support: An emotional support system is very important as good emotional health and wellbeing can increase overall physical health. A strong support system is pertinent to good emotional health as it gives us a community of support during the trying times.
5. Improved self-esteem: When we have people we can rely on and who can rely on us for support, we feel better about ourselves. It is always good to feel as though we have some people rooting for us on the sidelines as well as rooting for those in our support system.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a new city or location where we do not know anyone. If this is the case, try volunteering, take a class, music lessons, join a group such as a running or a book club, the idea is to find other people with similar interests as our own. As adults, many of us find like-minded people at our place of work, other times that is not the case. Look for organizations or meet up groups in an interest area and try to slowly build a support system in your new area.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a replacement for treatment or therapy.
A learning disability is characterized by significant difficulty in reading, math, writing, speaking, listening or reasoning that is not associated with another disorder.
1. Fact: 1 in 5 Americans have a learning disability. Learning disabilities are more common than most people realize. (U.S. Department of Education 2010)
2. Fiction: If you have a learning disability you automatically have low intelligence. This is completely untrue. Many very intelligent people have learning disabilities. Having a learning disability does not make you less intelligent, it makes doing specific things more difficult for you.
3. Fact: ADHD can impede learning, but it is not considered a learning disability.
4. Fiction: You can grow out of a learning disability. Unfortunately, this is not true. If you truly have a learning disability you will have it your entire life. People with learning disabilities, learn coping strategies so that they can compensate during these difficult tasks.
5. Fact: 20% of learning disabled children do not complete high school. This is a very upsetting statistic.
6. Fiction: Only children have learning disabilities. Not true, it is not something that is cured or you grow out of, you have it for a lifetime.
7. Fact: A poor diet does not cause learning disabilities.
8. Fiction: Having a learning disability means you are lazy. Absolutely not true! People with learning disabilities find specific academic tasks challenging. It does NOT mean they are lazy.
9. Fact: If you have a learning disability, you can learn. You just learn and process information in a different way.
10. Fiction: If you put your child on medication, you will cure the learning disability. This is not true. Medication does not cure a learning disability, it can help greatly with other disorders.
If you think your child has a learning disability the first step is to contact your child's teacher and discuss your concerns. Your child's teacher can give you a better idea of where your child is performing, whether it is above, below or on grade level.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended for diagnosis or treatment.
I am a firm believer that everyone can change and grow. Although most of us find change daunting, it can lead to positive and fulfilling experiences. Personal growth helps us to continue moving forward as well as enhancing our lives. It is a lifelong process that can enrich us and help us reach our goals.
Personal growth is different for everyone as we all have different dreams, desires and wants in life. It can be in any area such as physical, emotional or relational to name a few. The process of growing can help empower us, find our voice and reach new insights into ourselves. It can challenge us to become better, stronger or more efficient at something.
Here are 5 tips to increase personal growth:
Progressing in these five areas will impact your life in a positive manner. This can lead to increased self-esteem, deepening of your relationships and propelling you toward your goals.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for therapy or treatment.
Dr. Deb is a successful Psychologist who practices in New York City. She is an Anxiety Specialist who works with adolescents and adults providing both individual and couples counseling.