The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) break down into 4 main categories: Re-Experiencing, Avoidance, Negative Thoughts and Feelings, and Arousal. I wrote bit about this before here. Let’s imagine for a bit that you got into a car accident on the way home today…read more
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown is another great reminder that our society today is too cluttered. To many things demand our attention from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. McKeown clearly summarizes the research and uses examples to demonstrate that we can all truly accomplish more by doing less. The lesson that stuck with me the most from this book is the graphic below:
We can progress a little in a lot of different areas of our lives, or we can progress a lot more, and achieve a lot more by focusing on the one area that is essential. Of course, this can bring up fears…read more
Communicating assertively is a skill that takes practice. When you are assertive you are not being passive, not being aggressive, but rather you are showing yourself and the other person the respect you deserve. Yes, aggression can get you the results you want right now, but it comes at the cost of your relationships later on. Yes, being passive is easier right now (you get to avoid conflict), but it comes at the cost of not resolving things. Being assertive is the healthy middle ground. The 5 Step Conflict Resolution model is one good way to start practicing being assertive.…read more
If you suffer from anxiety, you’ve probably had the experience where you noticed your heart beating faster. Your brain then automatically went “Uh oh! Why is my heart beating so fast!?” And because of the anxiety you carry, your brain probably answered that question with something catastrophic: “Because I’m having a heart attack,” or “I’m not safe here,” or “Something bad is about to happen!” Then of course, your heart really does start to beat faster, and now you’re breathing faster, and before you know it, you’re in panic. What is going on here? Your brain noticed a body function; jumped to conclusions about it being bad, and now you’re having a panic attack. This is why one of the primary treatment interventions for anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT aims to teach your brain not to jump to conclusions and catastrophize in order to stop the panic attack before it starts or to de-escalate it more quickly if it already has (of note, mindfulness and meditation are another great therapeutic route). It is so important to be aware of how our mind tends to automatically interpret things. There are 4 common emotions that tend to be misinterpreted the most often…read more
Before you get your knickers in a bunch, hear me out. I’m not talking about people with severe mental illness (SMI), complex trauma, or personality disorders. Of course there are always exceptions and it always depends on each client’s unique situation. However, the most common reasons people seek out therapy for: depression, anxiety, stress, life adjustment/transitions, does not require long term individual therapy.
Long term, supportive therapy is like going to the Spa.
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Burnett and Evans is my new favorite book. I have been recommending it to clients, friends, and family. I love it when a book written for the general public takes principals of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and shows you how to apply it to everyday situations. Designing Your Life was originally a class at Stanford University for college students trying to figure what to do after they graduate. The professors, Burnett and Evans, have taken that message and are sharing it with everyone through their book. This book is for anyone going through a life transition, anyone who is feeling stuck in their life, or anyone who often finds themselves asking “Is this it?” The book talks a lot about “Dysfunctional Beliefs” that keep us stuck and “Reframe” the healthy beliefs that help us move forward. This is the bread and butter of CBT. Identifying your dysfunctional beliefs, challenging them, and turning them into healthier alternative beliefs. Only here Burnett and Evans have done all the work for you…read more
When we talk about trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) we think of specific events: Combat, Rape, Assault, Fire, Car Accident, etc… However, there are 3 other types of events that occur daily, little by little, over a long period of time that are also traumatic and can lead to the development of PTSD in some people:
One night you make your partner’s favorite meal: steak. You go out of your way to get it just right and look forward with hope to see the smile on his face when he sees you remembered his favorite and nailed it. Dinner goes smoothly. He loved it and praised your excellent cooking skills. All is good. Two weeks later you decide to do the same thing. Surprise him with his favorite steak dinner. This time though, as soon as he realizes it he starts berating you for wasting money, steak is expensive! He blames you for all your financial troubles starting with buying steak! Then he berates your cooking: overdone, under seasoned, etc… You are no good, you’re stupid, you’re lucky he’s even with you! Uncertainty. You never know if what you do will please him or upset him. You and everyone else walk on eggshells around him. Life is an uncertain mess and because of that you are always on guard, always on alert, just waiting for something to go wrong. Another example: …read more
You’ve been there before: you have a long, stressful day at work, and you can’t wait until you get home to kick off your shoes and have a drink. It is a way to unwind from the cares of the day. There is nothing wrong with that, right? Or perhaps your family is very intense, you love them, but man the only way to survive a family dinner or backyard BBQ is with a cold one in your hands. After all, that is what keeps you from telling Aunt Sally what you really think or from getting into a political debate with Grandpa Joe. There is nothing inherently wrong with either of these scenarios. The problem begins when turning to alcohol to “unwind” or to “tolerate others” starts to become your go-to, your default mode of dealing with stress. This is the biggest pitfall of using alcohol to deal with stress:
It makes you LESS able to handle stress
Its cliche: “You have to love yourself before others can love you.” Motivational speakers, coaches, therapists all say some iteration of this phrase when teaching about self-esteem and self-worth. I recently had a client express their frustration with this cliche, “It’s simply not true!” he said, and then he proceeded to give examples of people struggling with self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness who are still loved by their friends, parents, spouse, kids, etc… I agreed with him and then challenged him to look at the cliche slightly different:…read more
Anger gets a bad rap. In our society we are often taught to “be polite,” just “nod and smile,” or better yet: “don’t be so sensitive” or “you’re overreacting.” The truth is, when we feel anger stirring up inside of us, it is telling us something important and we need to learn to listen to it. Anger is an emotion that motivates us to make changes. Anger warns us when we feel threatened, when things are unjust, when boundaries have been crossed, and more importantly, when our needs haven’t been met.
Anger Motivates Us
Why are we born with the ability to feel angry? Why? If it’s such a negative emotion, a bad thing, something we’re supposed to stuff away? It’s not! Anger is a natural, normal emotion. We are supposed to get angry …read more