Take Control of Feeling Overwhelmed

By Kacie MItterando, LMSW

“I am feeling so overwhelmed today”

“Life is just becoming extremely overwhelming.”

These are few of the statements surrounding overwhelm that I’ve recently heard in several of my sessions. Interestingly enough, I’ve noticed the majority of these statements expressed by those who are experiencing “all-or-nothing” behavior that is causing mild to moderate stress and anxiety in their day to day.

What is overwhelm anyways?

Webster’s dictionary defines overwhelm as “defeat completely” and “give too much of a thing to someone else.” As a therapist, I have been discovering that there’s much more than a simple dictionary definition to this emotion of overwhelm and where it initially stems from. Research led me to an important topic that many of us struggle with from time to time… balance.

Answer emails, answer your friends’ phone call, maintain a relationship with your partner, take the dog for a walk, keep up with the dishes and don’t forget to try to make it to the gym for your cardiovascular health. How do we manage all of this plus more without completely falling over backwards? Defining what’s a priority, reducing multitasking and setting boundaries may help us lead a more balanced life, however, why is this more difficult when we also find ourselves experiencing an “all or nothing” mentality (1)?

Our adult selves are able to handle stressors, threats to our emotional wellbeing and emergencies by using tools we have, such as self-soothing and coping modalities. Conversely, often times and especially when we’re experiencing “all or nothing” mindset we find ourselves thrown into our child self. This is described in theory as transactional analysis. Transactional analysis is a concept based in the principle that we can switch between a parent, adult and childlike ego state and therefore, assess and react to situations based on whichever state we are in (2).

So how do we move away from an all-or-nothing approach and towards our adult-like states to help us efficiently practice balance and reduce overwhelm?

Observe the ego state you are in throughout a conversation with someone you are close to:

When a conversation goes poorly it is often attributed to the conversation being on a sensitive topic. This may be a conversation about politics, religion, or sex. Ask yourself what ego state you were in when a conversation goes wrong. Did my child-like self respond when someone was seeking a parent response? What did I say that could have triggered the child-like self in this person that matters to me (4)?

Identify all or nothing language:

Recognize times in which you are using words such as “always,” “never,” and “every-time.” Some examples of instances in which we all may fall victim to using all or nothing language is statements like “my anxiety ruins everything,” “I will never fight the right person,” or possible to your partner- “you always forget to take the garbage out.” Once recognizing, spend some time thinking of ways in which you can replace this all-or-nothing language with a more realistic approach.

Avoid black and white extremes:

Black and white thinking is not always bad. In fact, it may have helped you get through some tough and challenging moments in life. However, black and white to the extreme can be dangerous and impact overall mood and well being. Once recognizing this thinking, ask yourself another way to look at this situation? For illustration, if a family member did something hurtful and you find yourself thinking “they are a completely terrible person.” Try and reframe this situation by asking yourself “could there be a reason why they made this decision (3)?”

Prioritize:

Make a list of what is important to you right now as well as your goals for the upcoming month. Lean on this outline to remind you to place importance on what you would like to get done so balancing tasks becomes a habit. This list doesn’t have to be limited to accomplishments at work or organizational tasks at home but should address many different parts of your life. It is perfectly OK to include in your prioritization list satisfying your social needs or setting a self-care schedule.

If you find yourself struggling with all-or-nothing thinking and your ability to achieve balance is not working, therapists are here to help.

How To Achieve Balance. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-in-world/201004/how-achieve-balance

Description of Transactional Analysis and Games by Dr. Eric Berne MD. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ericberne.com/transactional-analysis/

5 Ways Black and White Thinking Poisons Your Perspective. (2018, September 11). Retrieved from https://www.talkspace.com/blog/2018/07/black-white-thinking-ways-poisons-your-perspective/

Morad, N. (2018, February 28). How to Use Psychology to Communicate Better and Avoid Conflict. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@NataliMorad/how-to-communicate-better-with-transactional-analysis-d0d32f9d50da

How Mindfulness Can Help Your Pregnancy

By Amanda Polster, LMSW

As wonderful as pregnancy is, it is still a major life change. The energy pregnancy requires can often be overlooked. Whether you are currently pregnant or supporting a pregnant loved one, mindfulness can help you cope with the stress and overwhelm during this stage in life.

Mindfulness is a healthy and accessible way to increase compassion and reduce distress during pregnancy. Although it can be scary to look inward for relief, mindfulness offers many tools to cope with anxiety, and can even support in gaining a closer bond with your baby. Research shows that mindfulness improves decision making and self regulation while conversely reducing stress levels and symptoms of depression. The foundational definition of mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 2005). Many hundreds of studies prove that people who incorporate mindfulness into their daily routine have greater emotional balance in life (Neff, 2011).

 

Mindfulness in Daily Life

Bringing conscious awareness to your pregnancy each day can help sharpen your skills of building your mindfulness muscle. The benefits of mindfulness support all emotional distress through encouraging and welcoming all experiences that occur as normal human encounters (i.e. anger, excitement, frustration, hope, worry, etc). Practicing mindfulness techniques can be a preventative tool during pregnancy, and support in more stressful circumstances, like going to the doctors for test results on the health of your baby (Neff, 2011).

 

Affirmations are Key

Being validated during pregnancy (and at any stage of life) is a normal human desire and impacts our connection with others. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs portrays the way esteem and love/belonging are essential components of human motivation in the pursuit towards self actualization and gratification (Neff, 2011). Although receiving affirmations from others is important, it is not always as accessible as we would like. Self-affirmations and self-validation become all the more important during times when we are challenged with stressful life decisions and transitions, like pregnancy. Since mindfulness is one of the core components of self-compassion, “when we improve our mindfulness skills, we automatically increase our ability to be self compassionate” (Neff, 2011).

 

Mindful Body Sensation Exercises

Acknowledging our bodies as resilient is an empowering mindfulness practice. Our bodies are the foundation of mindfulness training. We live in our bodies, “so to appreciate the fullness of life we need to experience the body fully” (Germer, 2009). Practicing mindful body movements and awareness not only supports general physical and mental health, but can also support the overall health of your child; research has indicated that mindfulness may prevent premature birth and can provide healthy development during each trimester of pregnancy (Newman, 2016).

 

Because mindfulness has become mainstream, there are many free resources online to access mindful body practices. The link below offers a variety of different guided body movement and awareness practices, ranging from body scans to affectionate breathing meditations.

 

https://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/mindfulness/programs/mbsr/pages/audio.aspx

 

If you are interested in seeking additional guidance during your pregnancy, we would love to support you during this special and intimate experience. Our practice offers therapy sessions grounded in evidence based research models such as mindfulness based stress reduction, yoga, and greater mind-body exercises. If you are interested in learning more about our services, please visit our website at www.ruschellekhanna.com or contact us at 347.994.9301.

 

References

 

Germer, Christopher K. The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions. The Guilford Press. 2009.

 

Kabat-Zinn, John. Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Mediation in Everyday Life. Hatchette Books. 2005.

 

Keng SL, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review. 31(6): 1041–1056. 

 

Neff, Kristin. Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. Kristin Neff. 2011.

 

Newman, Kira M. Four Reasons to Practice Mindfulness During Pregnancy. Mind & Body. 2016.

 

Why Entrepreneur Dads Need Mental Health Support

Becoming a father can be an overwhelming experience. Being an entrepreneur AND father can feel unmanageable.

In a world where we are improving to take note of women’s metal health, dads are getting left behind. For many men new parenthood can be an overwhelming trigger leading to depression. There is a gap in mental healthcare for dads for a number of reasons. Did you know that dads go through a tremendous amount of biological changes to prepare for fatherhood?

According to Mentalhealth.org:

  • Approximately 68% of women and 57% of men with mental health problems are parents.

  • The most common mental health problems experienced during pregnancy and after birth are anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  • A 2013-2014 study found that 38% of first-time fathers are concerned about their mental health.

  • Around 10% of all new fathers worldwide experience postnatal depression.

According to an article in Scientific American, …”A 2014 behavioral study of expectant fathers showed that midpregnancy ultrasound imaging was a “magic moment” in the dads' emerging connection with their baby. Yet the emotional bond was different than it is in expectant moms. Instead of thinking about cuddling or feeding the baby, dads-to-be focused on the future: they imagined saving money for a college fund or walking down the aisle at their daughter's wedding. “

Now imagine the toll this takes on fathers in the midst of a start-up. Building a business is like birthing a baby on it’s own. Because of the pressure and isolation that comes with being your own boss, entrepreneurs have higher rates of depression than the general population. Add becoming a dad to that and the need for support increases dramatically.

What’s At Stake For Entrepreneur Dads?

1. Bonding Matters for Dads Too

Entrepreneur dads need to set aside time in their schedule to devote to parenting. This means time with out electronics. Even if it’s 30 minutes a day, being unplugged matters.

2. Self Care Is Not Just For Moms

Dads need self care too. This means help scheduling in time for things like the gym, socialization, medical and mental health appointments.

3. Emotions Aren’t Just For Moms Either

Dads experience the same emotions of fear, overwhelm and isolation as new moms. It is important to remember to validate dads and give them time to process how they are feeling about this incredible life change.

It can be helpful to utilize things like in-person or online therapy with someone who understands the challenges of starting a business and being a parent. Sites MyWellbeing.com can match you with the perfect mental health professional in your price range.

Additionally, daily inspirational support resources like Headspace can help keep dads grounded and relieve stress.

4. Parents Need Support Systems

Mommy groups abound, but it might be a bit more challenging finding a group of supportive fathers to spend time with. As a father it may take some searching to feel supported. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. One place to start is on the web. Sites like Wilderdad.com has a list of places to find support.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the stress of new parenthood, connect with us today.

*********************************************************************************************************

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

1-800-273-8255

4 Tips To Begin Prioritizing Your Mental Health

By Kacie Mitterando, LMSW

From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep we are faced with a multitude of choices. In fact, some research has even shown that each and every one of us makes roughly 35,000 decisions a day. When broken down that equals 2,000 decisions an hour and even further… one decision every two seconds (1). Hopefully, on the majority of these days the choices are decently simple, which is why we don’t notice we are making them. What will I wear to work today? What will I eat for lunch? Do I want to workout in the morning or at night? Other times these choices can be much more difficult, these are the choices we seem plagued with and find ourselves thinking about often. Do I want to stay in this relationship? Is it time for me to move on from my place of employment? Do I continue to rent or do I purchase a home?

Research shows that decision-making, will power and self-control are all similar concepts in the sense that they can be fatigued. Essentially, this means that we each have a limit to the amount of decisions we are successfully able to make in a day. For some this may be 35,001 and for others this may be 34,000. Picture your decisions as a glass full of water and each time you take a sip, you begin to deplete your cup. Once all of the water is drained, there isn’t anywhere else to tap into, unless of course your cup is refilled. This may help explain why you feel extra exhausted after coming home from a long day at work in back-to-back meetings and also explains why many successful entrepreneurs, such as Mark Zuckerberg, wear the same outfit every day- to save his decision making ability for tougher and more important tasks (2).

This brings me to a tough decision that many of us face each day, the decision to heal from our emotional struggles when we sense our defense mechanisms, particularly denial kicking in during emotional pain.

Denial is normal.

Defense mechanisms are there to protect us and when you think about it intensely, they illustrate the true beauty and intelligence of the mind as it goes to such lengths to keep us emotionally safe. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are using them.

 

Switching from denial to emotional healing:

1.      Acting as though a painful situation did not exist and discounting your feelings:

Sometimes it can be easier to deny a heartbreak or stressful situation at work than to face the challenge head on. However, honoring your pain and facing the facts of hurt are a pivotal piece in eliminating any unhappiness you may be experiencing.

2.      Allow this to teach you:

If denial is taking over during a stressful or emotionally painful situation, we take away from the powerful lessons that we may learn from it. While getting through the messy part of facing our fears or hurt can be excruciatingly difficult, asking yourself what this situation can teach you can allow you to grow in ways that may have not been possible.

3.      Punishing yourself and shoving the feelings deeper:

Remember that it is OK to take a break when things become difficult. While it is important to always do your best, it is equally important to remember that your best changes from day to day. Punishing yourself will only dig a deeper hole of emotional pain.

4.      Reach out to support systems:

Remind yourself of the people in your life that are positive supports and you can count on. Make a list of these people with their phone numbers if needed. The key to this is keeping track of those in your life who are positive. A piece of emotional healing may be facing those in your life who are not having a positive impact. In denial, we may continue a friendship or romantic relationship, or even pretend that all is well. However, to emotionally heal we must make the shift to healthy relationships.

 

Are you struggling with emotional healing? We understand. Schedule a 15-minute phone consultation with us today.

 

1. How Many Decisions Do We Make Each Day? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stretching-theory/201809/how-many-decisions-do-we-make-each-day

 

2. Mesh, J. (n.d.). We Make 35K Decisions a Day-Here's How To Beat Decision Fatigue. Retrieved from https://advice.shinetext.com/articles/we-make-35k-decisions-a-day-heres-how-to-beat-decision-fatigue/

 

Setting Resolutions The Right Way (a book review of The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran)

This is the time of year where you see alot of posts about how New Year’s Resolutions are a waste of time. I am not one of those people. I always love the New Year and the chance it brings to review past goals and start fresh with new ones. In fact, I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient and to improve daily habits for success. Cultivating habits are at the heart of incredible achievements as well as productive self care and resilience. Brian Moran’s Twelve Week Year is a great resource for upleveling any part of your life you want to improve. In this blog I’m excited to share some great tips I learned from this easy to follow resource.

On the Inside cover of The Twelve Week Year the writer describes his book as a guide to creating results through focus, commitment, and accountability. Everything about this description echoes elements of the healing process whether it be from anxiety, depression, addictions or relationship challenges. In order to heal our lives and achieve goals, we have to be able to focus, keep commitments and become accountable to ourselves and those around us.

But how do we start?

Limit Goals to 12 Weeks

One of the first things that struck me about this book was the way Brian encourages us to stop setting New Years Resolutions is because 365 days is way too far out for most of us to plan AND keep momentum at the same time. This isn’t just for some of us. In fact, the vast majority of individuals (and organizations) need goals that are much more time limited. In this book, the author puts that sweet spot at 90 days. He’s not the only one. A similar, VERY popular plan is the 90 Day Year by Todd Herman. While I haven’t done the 90 Day Year program I am going to bet these two resources are super similar. And with good reason, 90 day goals just work better for many things both business and personal. This article from Fast Company breaks down why 90 days feels so much better than 365.

Add Structure to the 12 Weeks

The book not only offers a theoretical overview of why setting twelve week goals is better, but it goes into detail about little tricks and behavior changes to help you along the way. One is to plan out those 12 weeks into actionable, clear goals. Within those weeks we can break our time down even further by setting aside what he calls “blocks” for things like time away from work for recreation, time to focus on product development without distraction and specific time to clean up the mundane parts of our work. The book makes it super clear that time is most easily wasted when we aren’t consciously planning it. How well do you plan your work schedule? How much time do you spend on mindless activities like browsing social media or watching television?

Strive To Be Great In Every Moment

In therapy-speak, we just call this mindfulness. When we are deeply listening or paying attention fully to what is right in front of us, Moran states, we are practicing greatness. The book is full of inspiration around the practice of being present in everything you do. And yes, even if you are deeply dissatisfied at your job, there are ways to take back your experience and feel more in control of your day. One simple way to do this is to just decide that nothing is going to ruin your day and see how it goes from there.

Stop Viewing Accountability As a Weakness

This was probably my favorite aspect of the book. I often see people when they are struggling with very complex and painful experiences. I hear every level of excuse to avoid self care from “my problems aren’t big enough to talk about” to “so many other people have it worse” to “i should be able to do this on my own.” The book does a wonderful job of explaining and normalizing the fact that we all need help when it comes to accountability. Simply put, we do better when we feel supported by communities. Where can you find more support for your goals and dreams?

My review of this book…two thumbs up! It’s an easy read and something I will refer to over the year to support my goals.

Happy Holidays and Many Blessings in setting your first 12 Week Year Resolutions of 2019!

Taming Perfectionism With CBT

By Amanda Polster, LMSW

Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” (Brown, 2010)

Perfectionism. That strong and often annoying desire  to accomplish everything unwaveringly and flawlessly. Research shows that perfectionism often leads to symptoms of anxiety and depression, and has increased over time with the influence of social media and technology (Schrijvers, 2010).

Perfectionism is defined as “the compulsive need to achieve and accomplish one’s goals, with no allowance for falling short of one’s ideals” (Neff, 2011). Sounds familiar right? While it is important to set goals and create a level of motivation to reach accomplishment, perpetually attempting perfectionism can actually hinder our ability to achieve our desires due to the enormous level of stress and anxiety it can cause. Setting incredibly high expectations often leads to disappointment and failure if full accomplishment is not achieved. 

Perfectionism does have an upside. Even if we drive ourselves crazy in the process, perfectionism can be an incredible determinator to do our best. “Striving to achieve and setting high standards for [ourselves] can be a productive and healthy trait” (Neff, 2011). The problem is, this mentality can become dangerous when our entire self worth is valued by our ability to accomplish everything perfectly, with no mistakes or room for error. 

Try these tips below to help relieve some of the anxiety and fear of failure that we experience when we set extremely high expectations and judge our worth based on accomplishing these goals. 

 

Acknowledging We Did Not Create this Culture Ourselves

Society places extreme pressure on us to achieve. We live in a society where individual success functions on a “survival of the fittest” culture. Making mistakes is viewed as failing instead of as opportunities to learn and grow. As a society, the interest to achieve perfectionism can lead to the belief that “the better I do, the better I’m expected to do” by others (Benson, 18). When we acknowledge that we did not create this culture, we can relieve ourselves of the blame of attempting to live a completely idealistic lifestyle. Identifying this societal standard can also normalize the perfectionist mentality and reduce feelings of isolation and beliefs that I am the only one who experiences this pressure.

 

Identify our Contrasting Values

Perfectionism may sound wonderful on the surface, but often contrasts with our interest in growing, learning, and continuing to set new goals. If we achieve perfection in every aspect of our life, we likely will experience boredom and a level of dissatisfaction because our desire to compete  and find new things to learn will be compromised. Living a perfect life in all realms will result in a lack of space to grow or develop. This is an opportunity to acknowledge our imperfections as not faults but as part of our humanity. Identifying our contrasting values also allows us to acknowledge the cliche yet real experience that we often learn more from our mistakes than our successes.

 

Setting Boundaries

One of my favorite authors, Brene Brown, discusses the importance of setting boundaries to improve self compassion and acceptance and counter feelings of perfectionism. Setting boundaries can be challenging, especially if we enjoy presenting as sweeter and perfect on the outside. However, study shows that the more compassionate a person is, the more boundary-conscious they are; the heart of compassion is actually acceptance (Brown, 2010). If we accept ourselves for our imperfections and flaws, we are more likely to hold others accountable for hurting us and less likely to allow others to take advantage of our kindness and support.

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Imperfection

Worthiness does not have prerequisites; however we often assign prerequisites to our levels of worth in an effort to achieve perfection. Examples of these prerequisites might be…

 

            “I’ll be worthy if I get an A on this paper”

            “I’ll be worthy if he calls me back and asks me on another date”

            “I’ll be worthy if I lose 20 pounds”

            “I’ll be worthy if they offer me this job”

            “I’ll be worthy if I can hold my marriage together”

 

Often times, these prerequisites not only create additional feelings of anxiety to accomplish these expectations, but they also are expectations that may not completely be within our control. For example, if we take sole responsibility for repairing a relationship, we are holding our own blame as well as the blame of someone else - that must feel very heavy! Moreover, if we ground our worth in whether we get offered a job, this can result in displacing feelings of shame on ourselves where the decision is not a reflection of our capacities but a reflection of the decision of an agency.

 

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a powerful tool and model in reframing and countering prerequisites to our feelings of worthiness. When we challenge some of these expectations and their impact on our worth, we can relieve ourselves of the pressure to accomplish everything perfectly. CBT can also support in reframing destructive self-talk language of blame and shame around not accomplishing tasks at our highest capacity to develop healthy self-talk language around compassion, courage, and care. Cultivating self-compassion as part of CBT allows us to reframe our experiences from imperfections to opportunities, identifying that the more imperfections we have, the more opportunities we have to grow.

 

Benson, Etienne. The many faces of perfectionism. 2003. Vol 34, No. 10.

 

Brown, Brene. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Brene Brown. 2010.

 

Schrijvers, Didier L., Ellen R. A. De Brujin, Marianne Destoop, Wouter Hulstijn, Bernard G. C. Sabbe. The impact of perfectionism and anxiety traits on action monitoring in major depressive disorder. 2010. Vol 117, Issue 7. pp 869-880. Journal of Neural Transmission.

 

Neff, Kristin. Self Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. Kristin Neff. 2011.