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What Can I Do to Reduce My Anxiety?
Many of my clients often ask, "What can I do to reduce my anxiety?" While my response often varies depending on an individual's specific situation, there are three core recommendations I often suggest that can help almost anyone.
1) Identify the Source of Your Stress - understanding who and/or what is causing your stress is the first step to reducing your anxiety. If you are able to identify what is causing your worry/anxiety, the next step is to ask yourself, "Is there anything I can do to change it?" Answering such a question can give you an opportunity to evaluate your situation and clarify any choices, if any, you may have.
2) Learn How To Manage - If you can reduce your anxiety, knowing how you can change it and taking action is important. Whether you are in the process of changing it or even if you are unable to make any changes, learning how to manage the anxiety is vital to maintaining your ability to continue functioning. Engaging in activities you find relaxing or finding an outlet for your worry may help release the negative emotions/symptoms associated with your situation. For some, going to the gym, knitting, watching a comedy, meditation, or simply a nice hot shower are a few of the activities they engage in so as to distract their mind and focus their thoughts on something enjoyable.
3). Try, Try and Try Again - learning what coping strategies are best for you is a trial and error process. What works best for one person, may not work well for you. I often encourage individuals to try various techniques until they find something that helps them relax. Of course, it is critical to first rule out any medical explanations for symptoms you may be experiencing like headaches, digestion issues, heart palpitations, etc. Also, if you are finding it difficult to reduce your anxiety on your own, it is important to understand the role therapy can play in helping you. In some cases, therapy can simply help individuals understand why they are stressed, while for others it is a form of guidance that helps clarify what options are available.
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How Do I Improve My Low Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem is defined by the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology as "one's attitude towards oneself or one's opinion or evaluation of oneself, which may be positive, neutral, or negative." Low self-esteem, in particular, is characterized by self-doubt, relationship insecurities, lack of confidence, sensitivity to criticism, and difficulty making decisions.
Individuals with low self-esteem tend to have a negative attitude, anxiety, unhealthy relationships, and/or have a tendency to self-sabotage good things in their life. Friendships, family interactions and one's career can all be affected by low self-esteem especially if he/she believes, "I'm not good enough," "I’ll never amount to anything," “I suck at everything,” "I'm not worthy."
Such beliefs can cloud a person's judgment and affect the way he/she perceives situations around them. For example, being passed up for a promotion may be interpreted as not "being good enough" when in fact the individual may have not taken the steps necessary to show interest or initiative. Having low self-esteem is not the end all be all as there are ways to overcome this type of thinking. Below are a few suggestions on how you can begin improving your feelings of low self-esteem:
Acknowledge Your Positive Qualities - we all have positive attributes but recognizing them and owning them can be hard to do, especially if we have a tendency to focus on our negative traits. In order to counteract negative thinking, you may find making a list of your talents, skills and feel-good experiences to be helpful. Listing any compliments you have received regarding your personality, work, etc., can be beneficial as well. Composing such a list and referring to it when you feel you are doubting yourself can help to challenge these negative beliefs.
Surround Yourself With Positive People - being around people who are positive and supportive can help you build your confidence, improve your personal and professional relationships and reduce feelings associated with self-doubt. By interacting with positive, supportive family, friends and colleagues, you are more than likely to be challenged to think differently and engage in activities you may have otherwise avoided. Being around supportive people can also help to provide you with motivation to achieve successes you initially thought to be impossible.
Consider Therapy - in some cases, engaging is the above tasks is not enough to overcome low self-esteem, especially if the belief is deeply ingrained because of past traumatic experiences. Getting help from a mental health professional can help you understand the root of the problem, how certain factors in your life may be contributing to your low self-esteem and explore ways you can overcome your negative thoughts.
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How Can I Help Someone Who Is Depressed?
Seeing a loved one suffer with depression is not an easy sight and at times can cause YOU to feel hopeless. For some individuals, depression can be debilitating and painful, making even the thought of getting help seem impossible. Trying to help someone who is depressed can be exhausting and met with many barriers. Arming yourself with knowledge, however, may help make the process easier. Below are a few suggestions of things to consider if you are trying to help someone you know.
Learn about Depression - there are many misconceptions about depression. Believing a person is lazy, weak and/or not interested in getting better are a few perceptions that individuals may have. Depression, is in fact, a common disorder that can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. Generally speaking, interventions like medications, psychotherapy, and social support are needed in order to help alleviate symptoms.
Avoid Judgment - aside from understanding what depression is, it is also important to avoid judging your loved one. Being judgmental may cause your loved one to disregard what you are saying, especially if he/she is in denial of their symptoms. Being supportive by educating them about symptoms, options and resources can help provide the support they need and hopefully allow them to get some help.
Take Suicidal Talk Seriously - if your loved one has thoughts of hurting himself/herself it is important to contact his/her doctor right away or contact 911 if warranted. If they have not mentioned suicidal thoughts, be sure ask him/her directly so as to rule out the possibility. While some individuals may see this topic at taboo, it is crucial to know if these thoughts are floating around your loved one's head so that you can ensure treatment with the proper healthcare professional is obtained immediately.
Research Resources - knowing what types of assistance are available can help convince your loved one to reach out for help. Resources like local support groups, reading materials, online websites, etc., can help alleviate the feeling of isolation your loved one may be experiencing. Have this information handy when talking with him/her so that it will be immediately available when he/she needs it. Also consider including contact information for the National Suicide Hotline. This can be especially beneficial if your loved one is too ashamed to tell you the truth about his/her thoughts.
Aside from those listed above and those in the comments, what else should be included in this brief list of suggestions? Please share your thoughts below.
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How Can I Get My Loved One Help?
There may come a moment in your life, when you realize a loved one is in need of medical and/or a psychological attention due to physical, behavioral or mental changes they are exhibiting. Determining how and when to get them assistance can be difficult, anxiety-provoking, and filled with many unknowns. Below, are a few recommendations to consider if you are trying to get your loved one the medical/psychological attention you believe they need.
Talk with your loved one
Try to discuss your concerns with the person you are worried about. You may want to relay specific changes you have noticed and why you are concerned. If possible, try to refrain from making accusations, prematurely diagnosing, or becoming negative. The goal for this type of conversation is to relay what you have noticed, why are your worried and to express your feelings. Attaching feelings to your concerns may help your loved one feel reassured about your purpose. In other words, you don't want to give the impression that you are trying to control his/her life.
Should your loved one acknowledge a problem, consider arranging an immediate appointment with his/her primary physician or any other health care professional who believe is relevant to the problem identified. Your focus should be to serve as a support system to your loved one and help facilitate appointments and communication between any and all parties involved.
In the event your loved one denies having any problems and you are certain something is wrong, then consider some of the recommendations below. Keep in mind that factors like the relationship you have with your loved one, living far away, etc., may render some of these recommendations difficult to implement. Generally speaking, however, these are methods that have worked for some families.
Talk with friends, neighbors and/or other relatives
If you are unable to talk with your loved one directly, you may wish to discuss your concern with individuals who interact with your loved one on a frequent basis. This can be another relative, a close friend or even a neighbor. While you may not want to divulge anything about your loved one's well-being to people you don't know well, it could help give you better insight into what's going on with them.
Reach out to your loved one's Health Care Provider
Relaying your concern to your loved one's physician/mental health provider may be beneficial - provided you have his/her contact information. Be aware, however, that due to confidentiality regulations many health care professionals will not divulge any information regarding his/her patient's care. If a direct conversation with your loved one's provider is not possible, consider writing a letter explaining your reason for such contact, what you are noticing about your loved one and why you are concerned. At the very least, you will be notifying the provider and hopefully contributing to a more thorough evaluation the next time your loved one visits.
Plan an Unannounced Visit
An unexpected visit can be a great way of obtaining a glimpse of what is going on with your loved one, especially if you don't visit often. Visiting someone's home can often give you insight in to their priorities and functional capabilities. In other words, you want to assess things like the cleanliness of the home, their personal hygiene, their food supply and compare it to when your loved one was fine. Any changes could be further confirmation that something is wrong.
Reach out for Community Support
Depending on the specifics of your situation, you may find yourself needing additional "outside" support, especially if your loved one is refusing assistance but clearly needs some type of "intervention." If so, you may want to try reaching out to the department of social services or local mental health providers to inquire what, if anything, can be done to help your loved one. Certain cities and states have programs in place to help someone who may be at risk.
In the event you learn that there are no services to assist or that your "hands are tied", and it is causing you anxiety, my suggestion is to consider seeking therapy for yourself. Doing so can help alleviate the symptoms you are experiencing and may help prevent them from getting worse.
Do you have any other suggestions on getting a loved one help? Please share them below.
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When Should I Consider Therapy?
For some individuals, seeing a therapist is a necessary component to their ability to function. For others, therapy is viewed as a temporary solution to get over a "bump in the road." Regardless of how you view therapy, it is important to be aware of some of the common issues individuals may experience which could indicate the need for therapy. Below are a few of those issues:
1) Trouble Sleeping – any significant changes like difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much is usually a sign that something is wrong. Barring any underlying medical conditions, it is important to understand how problems related to work, home, health, or even within a relationship usually have a way of "creeping up" on an individual once they are settling in to relax. This can especially be true if an individual is trying to postpone dealing with a particular issue or is unsure how to cope.
2) Significant Changes in Your Normal Routine – changes associated with lose of appetite, mood, lack of interest in hobbies, etc., may also be a sign that therapy is warranted - especially if there is no medical explanation for the behavioral change. Regardless of how big or small the change is perceived, if significant enough, it can trigger an emotional and physiological response that the person may have little to no cotnrol over. Being able to identify changes in one's routine, can help an individual be proactive about getting the appropriate medical and/or mental health care needed.
3) Lack of a Support Network – the inability for an individual to speak with family or friends about what they are feeling is generally the result of either not having a supportive network or believing the network will be judgmental. Having someone to talk to regarding your innermost thoughts along with the ability to obtain constructive feedback, can be beneficial in many different ways. Therapy allows for such support, feedback and validation.
Knowing when you should seek therapy is definitely not as easy as it sounds. Being aware of some of the above changes, however, could allow for someone to reach out sooner as opposed to when they feel hopeless.
Do you have any other changes/symptoms you feel are important when trying to identify when someone should seek therapy? If so, please share them below.
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Throughout my work with clients and even just in my own social circle, a common question arises...."What does a healthy relationship consist of?" In a previous post, I discussed 2 key components to a healthy relationship and in this post, I will add two more. While there are many factors that contribute to a thriving relationship, the amount of compromise and love that is shared between a couple is vital.
Compromise - a relationship consists of two separate individuals who generally have different personalities, upbringings, values and thoughts. Problems can arise when the two individuals either do not know how to come to terms over something they disagree with or are unwilling to do so. This can lead to a stubbornness mentality or "tit for tat" relationship, where each person becomes more focused on winning their side of the argument which ultimately causes a relationship to deteriorate.
The act of comprising cannot be seen as "giving in" but rather as a willingness to meet your partner halfway and respect his/her individual opinions; much like you probably did when you first started dating. Compromising is a skill that requires listening and communication - something that can be hard to do when a couple is at odds with each other and emotions get in the way. This is where guidance from trusted sources like a religious/spiritual affiliate, a relationship counselor and/or seminars, workshops and books geared to relationships can help. Once you are educated, patience and practice is then needed to enhance this skill.
Love - according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, love is "a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person." At the core of any relationship, a certain level of affection, concern, care and regard for the person you are with is needed in order to overcome certain differences. Love is often the stepping stone that allows us to be more considerate and respectful of our significant other's views. While love will not resolve all issues within a relationship, it is a strong force that can pave the way for better communication and compromise.
What are some of the resources you used to enhance your love and ability to compromise with your partner? Please share your thoughts below.
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What is a Panic Attack?
During my recent research into Panic disorders, I came across an eye-opening statistic by the National Institute of Mental Health. It stated, “Panic disorder affects about 6 million American adults and is twice as common in women as men.” It further went on to explain how panic attacks, a precursor to panic disorders, can begin to appear in late adolescence and early adulthood. As a result, I composed this blog post to answer some basic questions related to panic attacks, especially when someone should consider getting medical or mental health treatment.
What is a Panic Attack?
According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) a panic attack is characterized by the abrupt presence of various symptoms which tend to build within a short time frame. A sense of imminent danger or impending doom, along with an urge to escape, can also be characteristic of a panic attack.
How Do I Know if I’m Having a Panic Attack?
Symptoms of a panic attack can cause somatic and/or cognitive reactions. Somatic reactions are generally physical symptoms that usually suggest a medical condition exists. Symptoms like palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain, dizziness, etc. are a few examples of the symptoms an individual can experience while having a panic attack.
Cognitive reactions affect the way a person thinks. For example, an individual experiencing a panic attack will often report feeling like they are losing control, a fear of dying or a belief that something disastrous will happen. These reactions are typical of a panic attack especially when they occur in the absence of real danger.
When Should I Seek Treatment?
For some individuals, they may only experience a panic attack once. If, however, you notice you are having recurrent episodes of a panic attack and/or feelings of anxiety, you should definitely begin by contacting your physician. A medical evaluation can inform you whether there is a medical explanation for the symptoms you are experiencing.
Should your physician report no medical explanation, consulting with a mental health provider should then be considered. A mental health provider like a psychologist, social worker, counselor, etc., can help you identify what may be triggering the attacks and/or whether you have some unresolved or repressed issues that need to be addressed.
Overall, if you have experienced a couple of panic attacks in a relatively short time period, you should consult with your primary care physician and/or mental health care professional. Doing so may help prevent the attacks from turning into a disorder, which can affect your social and/or physical ability to function.
Do you have any thoughts or questions about panic attacks? Please post them below.