Archive for March, 2013

Stress: Causes & Solutions

Posted on: March 28th, 2013 by admin No Comments

One method of dealing with stress is learning how to recognize and talk back to that internal critic you have in your head.  Write down all the self-critical thoughts going through your mind.  Write down why these thoughts are incorrect.  Then, practice talking back to them, explaining why they are wrong.  For example, if you are going to be late for a meeting, write down the negative thoughts you have about yourself.  The declarations of character flaws that being late represent:  laziness, thoughtlessness, and apathy.  Realize that just because you were late for a meeting, you are not a bad individual.  Being late and being bad are separate things that don’t necessarily correlate.

Perfectionism is another example of how people create stress out of thin air.  A lot of people are very hard on themselves, so how do you overcome perfectionism?  Accepting that you are not perfect or even above average can make your stress level much more manageable.  The way to defeat perfectionism is to accept that it is an illusion.  Realize that you are flawed.  Realize that everyone is flawed.  Perfectionism is often applied globally to a person’s entire existence.  You cannot possibly be above average, or even average at every facet of your life.  Being a perfect housekeeper probably won’t help you achieve fulfillment, so just get the dishes done and move on to resting and recharging after working all day.  What are you afraid will happen if you are not perfect?  Will my family abandon me if I’m not perfect?  Will my boss really fire me if I’m not perfect?  Dig into the fear reaction and figure out if the reasons you feel you need to be perfect have any rational basis.

The other way you can deal with perfectionism is to see things as a process—see the big picture.  Instead of trying to get each detail exactly right, see it as a process.  Don’t worry about making mistakes, that is how you learn.  Failure is the most powerful teacher in the world.  Most people are forgiving.  They understand and accept that all of us make mistakes.

Perfectionism paralyses you.  Many people claim to be writers, but never write a word because they believe that they must write the perfect novel.  They fear what critics will say about their book, or they fear that no publisher will buy it.  Those things are beyond your control.  Completing the novel will give you a great sense of accomplishment, whether anyone else likes it or not.  Most people are writers in their mind, but their idea of perfection keeps them from ever putting pen to paper and discovering what they are truly capable of.  Accept that the words won’t be perfect, but they will be yours and they will be real.

Some people are dealing with continual stress because they have something they need to say, but are afraid to say it.  They need to be authentic.  Why won’t they say it?  Again, the fear underlying the silence must be examined.  This will resolve the inaction or at least identify the cause.  Then, they must deal with how rational or irrational this fear is.  If it is a real fear, with real consequences, they must weigh the benefits of speaking versus the stress of silence.  Most often, being truthful and open far outweighs the benefit of silence.

Other ways to relieve stress include exercising or doing something you love.  Remember things that made you happy when you were younger and re-discover the joy of doing those things.  Pick one of the things you love to do and start doing that again.  Play cards, watch football, garden, cook, or watch a movie that made you laugh.

There may be something that you have to face head on.  Avoiding a problem is sometimes not an option, so eliminate the problem by attacking it.  Ask your friends and colleagues how they would deal with the problem.  Make a “to do list” of problems you have and figure out which ones need to be resolved and how you can go about solving them.  If it is not a solvable problem, then putting in down on paper and accepting its existence might also reduce your stress since you can mark it off your “to do list” as an unsolvable issue.

Avoiding anger.  Who are you angry with and what are you angry about?  Is it something within your control?  Sometimes you are taking things personally that are not personal.  Most of the time, people act in their own self-interest.  They don’t even give a thought to how their actions affect you.  You have misunderstood the meaning of their actions and internalized an imaginary enemy, when in fact, no such adversary exists.  Often when we feel really hopeless about things, what is really happening is we feel extremely angry.  By confronting the source of your anger, you will often discover that it was just a misunderstanding and you can let go of your resentment.  If there is a real issue, then talking to the person may also help both of you come to a better understanding of where the other one is coming from.  Mutual understanding is a powerful ally when looking for peace of mind.

Avoiding sadness.  Sadness can be a normal feeling.  This feeling can enhance your humanity.  Try not to avoid feeling sad about things that are normal to feel sad about.  Running away from your natural feelings will often create more stress.  Examples of things it is normal to feel sad about include the loss of a pet, being broken up with, being rejected for a job, or even little things that you might not expect.  Surprisingly, if you talk about your sadness and accept it, it will often resolve much more quickly.

While you can identify and recognize some of these issues on your own, many of these issues can be examined and confronted more easily with the help of a professional therapist.

Self Acceptance: Election 2012

Posted on: March 28th, 2013 by admin No Comments

With the 2012 presidential election looming like a vulture over an antelope carcass, we often feel the need to justify our position on this important choice to those around us, especially our mates.  We can often plead the fifth when others issue political proclamations, but when you start reviewing your ballot at the kitchen table and your husband walks in and says, “So, honey, who ya voting for?” It is difficult to say, “No comment.”  Then, he disagrees with you and begins to give reasoned arguments about why your decision is irrational.  You get defensive and say, “You are just like my father, who thinks, blah, blah, blah!”  You then look at your ballot with self-doubt.  You read a few more articles, but your opinion remains the same.  Should you change your position because your husband is better at this and knows more about it?  First, you need to get to a place where you can understand whether your position makes sense or is based on insecurities that go deeper, but really have nothing to do with a reasoned argument, then you can make a reasoned choice.  Self-acceptance serves as an excellent way to know what you want and why you want it, freeing you from doubt when crucial decisions present themselves.

What is self-acceptance?  Why is it important?  If we deny any part of who we are, not only are we rejecting ourselves, but we are also making it impossible to improve.  By improve, I mean have more successful relationships, and a more satisfying work life.  In order to really change, we need to objectively look at the problem without judging ourselves harshly and being self-critical.  We don’t have to like what we see, or want to repeat it, but in order to really change, we must be willing to examine it from all angles.  To that end, we must take a step back and observe, like a scientist observes an experiment. This means retaining a sense of self-love, despite whatever uncomfortable memories arise.  Imagine how difficult it would be to truly have self-esteem, if we couldn’t analyze and correct our mistakes.  We must also look at our parents’ mistakes and those who influenced us to avoid repeating them.  This might require that we think about some painful experience, in order to come to terms with it, and figure out how it holds us back in our life.

Consider Debbie, a woman who lost her father when she was seven years old.  Once grown up, Debbie often wondered why she was unable to stay in a relationship.  She rapidly lost interest in any man she dated.  She became indifferent, avoided talking, and eventually, the relationship would peter out.  When she lost her father, it was too painful to talk about or to mourn.  She was expected to just live with it.  She was told to forget about it.  By non-judgmentally focusing on her lack of feelings for the men she dated, and trying to be curious about it, she slowly came to realize that she was still, after all these years, trying to forget about her Dad’s death, and just live with it.  She had never mourned, and to this day, was still scared of being abandoned.  She now suffered from serious difficulties trusting men.  Instead, she left them by becoming indifferent before they could abandon her.

By realizing why she did not allow herself to be close, she could then start processing her father’s death, and feel compassion for herself.  Feeling compassion for yourself is one of the first steps to self-acceptance and self-love.  Realize that there have been good reasons that you have been acting or feeling a certain way, even if the reasons are rooted in your childhood.  Once you consider what you’ve been through, acting that way takes on a new hue and makes perfect sense in light of your failure to deal with something meaningful that happened in your childhood.  However, you would like to change that behavior.  That behavior doesn’t apply to your present life, although it sure did apply when you were younger.  For Debbie, she never talked about her father’s death, so she did not want to get hurt again by getting close to someone and have it not work out.  She felt she had to protect herself by shutting down, but that was not working.  She realized that she did not want to spend her life without a satisfying relationship!  By dealing with her past, her present and future self could evolve into someone who could have a satisfying, close relationship.

Self-protection begins to backfire at some point.  The root of our anxiety lies in not being able to express our true authentic self.  We try to cover up what we really think and feel.  This leads to stress and anxiety.  Once your anxiety becomes elevated, you cannot evolve out of unwanted feelings because you cannot accept having them to begin with.  This creates a cycle of anxiety.

As long as you hate or reject vital parts of who you are, you will be at war with yourself.  Your self-esteem will suffer.  You will struggle with personal decisions, like whether to stay in a relationship, and with more external decisions, like whether to vote for Obama or Romney.  Dealing with these issues can be painful, depressing, and stressful.  However, there are many excellent methods now for helping ease the path.  Talk therapy, EMDR, neurofeedback, and Somatic Experiencing can help.  Give me a call, so we can discuss what would work best for you.