Tag Archives: active coping

Letting Go of Resentment

 

In previous blog posts, we talked about the role of forgiveness in alleviating resentment. The main take-away here is that forgiveness can help us to unload emotional weight we’ve been carrying around and achieve peace of mind. The tricky thing is that holding on to resentment and anger came happen so automatically that it can be extremely difficult to even know when we’re doing it. 

 
The first step in identifying resentment is understanding the two types. It is important to know which type you are experiencing because the way in which you cope with it will be different. 
  • Current resentment: this type of resentment is caused by something that is happening day-to-day in the present. These are things that feel unfair but are also difficult to change. We may think to ourselves “this keeps happening and I don’t like it”. An example would be being continually saddled with an unreasonable amount of responsibilities at work or at home.
  • Past resentment: this relates to old hurts or “unfinished business”. While we may have decided to “let it go” mentally, we are unable to do so emotionally. Past resentments are usually tied to attachment wounds, when we experienced a significant amount of betrayal or disappointment from the person we are angry with.

Tune into your anger and identify which type of resentment resonates most. It is important to keep in mind that one is not better or worse than the other. Regardless of what you are experiencing, it will affect you in relationships because resentment makes it hard to show kindness, generosity, appreciation, gratitude and warmth toward the other person. 

 How do we cope? 

While it is tempting to push negative feelings down, doing so will only cause them to keep building up. 

    • to cope with our anger, we have to make contact with anger. Acknowledge the emotion and ask yourself “what am I angry about?” 
    • for past resentments, it is important to revisit the past and process what happened. Experiencing the pain and anger instead of shutting down. This could be an opportunity to practice the skill of forgiveness in order to let go of the emotional burdens that have been weighing us down. 
    • for current resentments, identify what relationship feels out of balance. We can ask ourselves what we would like it to look like instead. What needs to happen day-to-day? What would be fair to both parties? While this may be more difficult to do in a work relationship where the power dynamics are different, there is usually some room to negotiate agreements.

Remember, resentment happens due to feeling like we can’t talk about your anger, which leaves us feeling “stuck”. Staying silent fuels resentment and breeds hostility. Eventually, that hostility will cause us to behave in less than ideal ways toward the person we are angry with. This person, not being able to read our mind, will likely be completely unaware of why we are irritated and why we are acting the way we are. The key point to remember is that people cannot understand your anger until they can connect it with something they can deal with. The way to help people connect is by talking about emotions, rather than pushing them down. Focus on “fairness” and be willing to negotiate and compromise. You may find that taking just this first step can be surprisingly cathartic in itself!– Carolyn Moriarty, LPC

Helping Kids with Back to School Anxiety

 

After last spring’s turbulent ending to the school year, and a similarly unpredictable summer, it is now time to gear up for the start of another academic year. In keeping with the theme of 2020, things are not going to be the same—for students, teacher or parents. Some kids are dubiously starting a new phase of “e-learning”, others are returning to the classroom and still others are doing a hybrid of both. Parents are caregivers must adjust their own schedules to accommodate these changes—all of which combine to add an extra layer to an already anxiety-provoking time of year. The first step is recognizing whether your child might be experiencing these worries. 

 
Common signs of school-related anxiety in children include: 
  • repeatedly asking for reassurance about the same questions, even if they have already been answered. For instance, “what if my friends decide they don’t like me?” or “what if the teacher is mean?” 
  • complaints of physical symptoms when no illness is present, such as stomachaches and headaches
  • changes in sleeping and eating habits 
  • avoidance or reluctance to engage in discussions related to school 

While anxiety and stress are inevitable, they don’t need to cause suffering. Read on to learn the ABCs of helping everyone in your household navigate this transition.

  • Anticipate and acknowledge anxieties: instead of waiting for anxieties to bubble up the night before the first day of school, get ahead of the game by predicting potential challenges in advance. For instance, children who experience separation anxiety or have difficulty adjusting to changes in routine can be expected to find the transition to a new year more stressful. Avoiding discussion about these topics may feel like you are protecting your child from undue stress, but chances are that he or she is already thinking about them on some level. Facilitating a conversation will a neutral question such as “do you know who will be in your class this year?” will help children process and familiarize themselves to the anxieties of these uncertain situations.
  • Bprepared practiced. So far, 2020 has cautioned us against developing a false sense of security by telling ourselves that we are “prepared”. So, instead of issuing that challenge to the universe, focus instead on the more accurate actions of being “practiced”, “planned” or “purposeful”. The idea here is to do a “dry run” of the school day routine in advance, whether that means walking/driving to school, waking up early to log on to the computer or role-playing conversations. Ask your child what parts of the day he or she is most nervous about and go from there.  
  • Choose consistency. The transition from summer to a more structured schedule can cause anxiety in itself. You can help your child by shifting into the new schedule a week or so in advance of school to help them become acclimated to the change. This is also a good time to teach children how to develop their own routine by setting aside time each night for reading, journaling and getting prepared for the following day. 
While back to school anxieties are common, it should not consistently interfere with your child’s day to day life or cause excessive distress. If your child seems to be struggling despite your support, consider seeking out the help of a guidance counselors or making an appointment with a mental health professional to further ensure a successful start to the school year.
 

– Carolyn Moriarty, LPC

Mental Health Life Hacks (Part 3)

 

If you’ve been following along for the past few weeks, this blog has featured simple ways to get out of a funk and gain a fresh perspective on life. Read on for the third and final segment of this series.  

  • Live in the here and now 

Focusing on transgressions from the past or fears about the future is a surefire way to increase anxiety. The fact the you cannot change the past or predict the future can add to the overwhelming feeling of being powerless and “stuck.” This is why it is helpful to make contact with the present moment—where you are living now. You can practice this mindfulness by simply paying attention to your emotions and the sights, sounds, smells and sensations that are occurring in the current moment. Observe your thoughts; when you notice that they are beginning to turn to the past or present, bring your attention back to what is going on around you. 

  • Drink water 

This mental health hack is simple, but important. It is common to neglect basic self-care when feeling burnt-out, depressed or exhausted. Inadequate water intake can exacerbate these symptoms and cause increased feelings of being unwell. Engaging in tasks to increase mental health can seem daunting, but if nothing else, commit to drinking one glass of cold water to provide your system with an immediate boost. 

  • Get vitamin D 

Similar to food and water, your body needs vitamin D for energy. Increased amount of time indoors and inadequate diet can cause deficiencies in this nutrient. Common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are headache, fatigue, depression and sore joints and muscles. Add more to your diet by taking supplements; increasing time in the sun and eating foods such as salmon, tuna, mushroom and egg yolks. 

Everybody gets into a funk now and then. It is important not to criticize yourself for feeling down; sometimes it is just your body’s way of signaling that it needs something new. You can always start small by focusing on doing just one thing. Consistency is key—a new behavior will become easier the more often it is practiced. Try building these habits today and experience the significant benefits of these small changes. 

– Carolyn Moriarty, LPC

Mental Health Life Hacks (Part 2)

 

The last blog post introduced simple ways to improve mental well-being when you get stuck in an emotional rut. If you enjoyed those tips, read on for more mental health hacks on how to get “unstuck” and start moving forward again.

  • Determine what needs to change 

When life becomes monotonous, you may get the nagging feeling that something is “missing”. The hard part of course is figuring out what that something is. According to William Glasser’s “Choice Theory”, humans have five basic needs: survival, belonging, competence, freedom and fun. You can read the first tip on the previous blog post to learn more about the importance of “survival” (having what you need to feel physically safe and healthy). The rest of Glasser’s needs essentially state that people are happiest when they feel like they are living up to the optimal version of themselves. This boils down to the extent to which they are able to:  feel competent in their profession, build meaningful connections, have a sense of agency and learn new things that interest them. If you feel like something is “missing”, reflect upon what aspects of your personal development may benefit from additional attention. Start by taking small, achievable steps and build momentum from there. 

  • Make a physical change 

Making a tangible, concrete change can be a quick way to give yourself the feel of a “fresh start”.  Because interior space often reflects emotional state, a good place to start is rearranging the furniture in your bedroom. “Cleansing” your wardrobe and donating clothes that aren’t working for you is another way to boost peace of mind and optimism. If organizing sounds like too much energy, you can focus on self-care changes such as trying out a brand-new haircut, makeup or hairstyle. 

  • Make a connection 

If you are feeling down on yourself, being social probably doesn’t feel like a top priority. While it is important to take some downtime by yourself, be mindful that it is not turning into a pattern of isolation. Being in quarantine may technically mean you are physically isolated, but that is all the more reason to reach out to a friend or loved one through video or phone. Keep the conversation light if you do not have the energy to talk about all your emotions. Sometimes, having a good laugh can give you exactly the boost you need.

Give these “hacks” a try and feel free to leave a comment and share your own go-to coping skills! Stay tuned for more posts on how to be your optimal self. 

– Carolyn Moriarty, LPC

Mental Health Hacks

 

The effects of physical, mental and emotional fatigue are real. This burnout can seriously impair your concentration, energy, confidence, decision-making—just about everything that makes you feel like “you”. This can be a slippery slope considering that the deeper you fall into the rut, the more difficult it feels to claw your way out.

The good news is that getting “unstuck” does not need to be a superhuman feat. Slowly building new habits can provide a fresh perspective and provide the momentum you need for tackling bigger tasks. Read the following mental heath hacks for guidance on how to re-boot your life.

  • Go back to basics 

Nobody can be productive if their basic needs are not being met. This includes things like sleep, nutrition, exercise and hygiene. Focus on small actions that can trigger bigger habits. For instance, drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning will prevent dehydration and make it more likely that will continue making healthier choices. Committing to walking for 10 minutes outside each morning can get you into the habit of physical activity, which can lead to more energy to increase the amount of time you spend exercising.

 

  • Acknowledge your thoughts

Worry is a huge energy drain. Much of the time, you are likely not even aware that you are engaging in ruminations because the thoughts often come automatically. These automatic thoughts are usually self-critical or future-oriented: “I’m so lazy”, “I’ll never accomplish my goal”. Many people mistakenly believe that the solution here is to “just be better” at not focusing on those negative thoughts. The thing is, criticizing yourself for being too self-critical only perpetuates the rumination cycle. Rather than resist the anxiety, intentionally confront and acknowledge the worry “it is possible that I could lose my job. Anything could happen. I can’t predict the future”. Acknowledging your thoughts will not change reality for the worse or better, but it will free up mental energy that you can now spend on something more productive.

 

  • Follow the five second rule

Procrastination can be the biggest threat to productiveness. Quickly checking your email before starting a project can lead into spending hours on social media. It has been said that you can talk yourself out of anything in five seconds. The next time you find yourself resisting going for a walk or doing laundry, give yourself to the count to five and then get moving without giving your actions a second thought. This can give you the “push” you need to start a task, which is usually the most difficult part.

Remember that everyone gets stuck in a rut every now and then. Don’t spend precious time and energy criticizing yourself for “failing” to live up to your standards, just focus on the small things you are able to control. Try these tips and look for mental health hacks coming soon!

– Carolyn Moriarty, LPC

‘This Shouldn’t Be Happening to Me!’ How to let go when things aren’t going right

 

Sometimes, life can feel unfair—not just mildly inconvenient but, like, really unfair. We have all been there. Maybe your offer for an apartment didn’t get accepted. Or you got rejected from the job you really wanted. Or months of diet and exercise are “undone” by an unexpected injury or week of stress-eating. If several of these events happen close together, the unfairness of it all can feel overwhelming. You tried so hard! You prepared for so long! You replay the situation over and over again and think to yourself “this shouldn’t be happening to me!” 

Even if you consider yourself an easy-going person who is an expert at “not sweating the small stuff,” it can be hard to shake the feelings of distress when something truly discouraging happens. But have you ever really thought about why “letting go” of these emotions is so difficult? If you’re like most people, your brain probably automatically reassures that it’s perfectly reasonable to get upset. Its helpful voice chimes in to say “you should be upset, anybody would be upset! Let me get rid of any lingering doubt by replaying the scene for you again. And again. And once more for good measure.” Sound familiar? 

Listen, it’s totally okay to acknowledge your emotions and feel angry, or sad, or irritated. However, ruminating as a way of dealing with situations doesn’t usually feel too great. Replaying a situation in your head is the brain’s “helpful” way of giving you the perception of control over a situation that is causing anxiety or uncertainty. But the more tightly you hold on to these feelings, the tighter their grip becomes on you. This can leave you feeling constantly overworked and overwhelmed by anxiety, despair, distress and frustration. Who’s really in control now? 

There are actions you can take to regain power and control over those overwhelming feelings. Here are a few general tips: 

    • Put distance between the situation and your anxious thoughts or feelings. Take a step back and acknowledge the circumstance from a neutral point of view by simply telling yourself “I’m getting myself worked up because I wish this wasn’t happening. This anxiety isn’t serving any purpose.” 
    • Accept what is happening instead of wishing for a different circumstance. Remember, avoiding feelings by thinking “this shouldn’t be happening to me” only feeds into your anxiety. By staying in the present moment, you gain power and control.
    • To better handle frustration and stress, change your perception. Think of difficulties as challenges or opportunities instead of threats. “This happened because I took a risk instead of staying in my comfort zone. The outcome wasn’t ideal but I might have felt even worse if I had never tried at all.” 
    • Change what you can in the moment. Don’t just hope that the situation ends and that your feelings eventually go away. When you decide not to ruminate, you free up mental energy that can be spent focusing on action steps. Try to identify one simple step you can take in the moment to improve your situation, whether it be applying for a new job or meal-prepping for the week ahead. 

If you still have difficulty avoiding the “emotional build-up” of stress and anxiety, you might consider seeking mental health counseling for assistance in problem-solving and letting go of past anger. Take comfort in knowing that with practice and little self-compassion, you can find relief from chronic voice that says “this shouldn’t be happening!” 

– Carolyn Moriarty, LPC

Depression and a Treatment That Works

By: Abigail Yeomans, LPC

Individuals struggling with depression commonly report an overwhelming sense of impairment when it comes to motivation and engaging in activities that once provided a sense of pleasure or joy. If you have ever thought to yourself, “I know what would help me feel better, but I just don’t feel like doing it” you are not alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, it is estimated that 16 million adults in the United States have had one or more major depressive episodes in the last year (http://www.nami.org/). This statistic includes individuals from various demographic backgrounds. In other words, depression is not exclusive.

The symptoms to look out for are: consistent fatigue, a significant increase or decrease in appetite, psychomotor agitation, depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness and emptiness, interrupted sleep, difficulty concentrating or indecisiveness, feeling extreme worthlessness or guilt, loss of interest or pleasure in most activities and thoughts of death or hurting yourself. If the answer was “yes” to five or more of the listed symptoms, and if you have been experiencing those symptoms for at least two weeks, seeking help from a professional counselor is the next step (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Ok. So, what could help me feel better? Believe it or not, depressive episodes and chronic depression are treatable, and there is substantial empirical evidence to support how we treat it at Chicago Counseling Center (Jacobson, N. S., Martell, C. R., & Dimidjian, S., 2001).

Using Behavior Activation (BA), we focus on the various events in an individual’s life and how he or she responds to those events. BA is based on the idea that life has provided little rewards too many stressors or problems. Understandably, this can lead to feelings of hopelessness and sadness which can then disrupt basic routines and result in doing less and less of what was once enjoyable and valuable such as spending time with friends and family, going to work or school, and health and wellness related activities.

What treatment looks like with BA:

  1. Discuss what areas of your life are most disrupted by your depression
  2. Collaboratively work to increase awareness of avoidance patterns and unhelpful behaviors that fuel feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  3. Assist in identifying values and creating short and long term treatment goals based on those values
  4. Help clients take small and manageable steps toward increasing involvement in once enjoyable activities and developing a sustainable routine using:
    • Activity monitoring logs
    • Behavior Activation hierarchy
    • Active coping and avoidance tracking
  5. Work together to address barriers that arise outside of sessions and continuously come back to active coping and resisting avoidance 

While it may feel hopeless and extremely difficult to do almost anything right now, coming back to what you value most in life can make all the difference. While implementing BA, it has been demonstrated time and time again that motivation grows when we come back to what is most valuable to us. Eventually isolating and avoiding becomes less comfortable than engaging in what was once difficult before coming to treatment.

 

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://www.nami.org/

Jacobson, N. S., Martell, C. R., & Dimidjian, S. (2001). Behavioral activation treatment for depression: Returning to contextual roots. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 8(3), 255-270.