Anxiety Doesn't Mean You Are Weak

Generalized anxiety, panic, feeling a loss of control and the fear of the unknown can be terrifying experiences, especially if you’re facing it all on your own. Oftentimes anxiety is linked with the character trait of weakness, an inherent failure or flaw in one’s personality. With this notion, anxiety becomes something that needs to be hidden, suppressed, and dealt with behind closed doors.

Have you ever had any of these thoughts about your anxiety? 

“I need to fight through my anxiety.”

“No one can know I am suffering from this.”

“I’m their Dad, I need to protect my kids and they can’t know I go through this.”

“What would my friends think of me?”

If our boss had a panic attack at work they would probably be faced with eye rolls, a sense of distrust and quite possibly, shame. The notion that we need to be strong and un-phased by stress and anxiety has led to an underlining concept of anxiety as a flaw. However, there is dignity in accepting our anxiety and there is true strength in allowing ourselves to know our struggles and work through them constructively, rather than fight and battle them.

If we take a mental assessment of the people in our lives we may notice that some of the best friends, family members and co-workers we have also experience anxiety. Here’s why:

Vulnerability as strength

In recent studies done on anxiety, there has been a link discovered between anxiety and vulnerability. Vulnerability, being capable of exposure to emotional wounds can sound terrible. Mainly because when we think of being vulnerable we think of some terrifying emotions such as shame and fear. Despite this, when we become vulnerable, that is when we allow ourselves to become open to growth, change, love, and ultimately, positive change.

Planning

An anxious person, fearful of the failure that might come, can often be a planner and a very good one. For example, if you’re fearful that a birthday party or an outdoor event might be ruined by rain you may be likely to develop a Plan B that will come to the rescue if this were to fall true.  Therefore, if the negative were to happen, you have much less stress to deal with at the time of the event (1).

Friendships

While those who suffer from anxiety may think they come across terribly, studies show that friends of those who suffer from anxiety are much more positive about their experience in the relationship (2).

Empathy

You’re less likely to hurt someone else’s feelings when you’re hyper-aware of what someone else’s opinion or judgment may be on you. While taking the judgment or criticism from someone personally is not the goal, people who experience anxiety are mindful of the feelings and emotions of those around them and therefore, more likely to be mindful of their impact on one another.

Allow me to give you the permission to accept that it is OK you are suffering from anxiety, you are not alone, you are not a failure, and it is all right to ask for help.

 

1.     6 Hidden Benefits of Anxiety. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201701/6-hidden-benefits-anxiety

2.     The 8 Most Unexpected Advantages of Anxiety. (2016, October 16). Retrieved from https://www.spring.org.uk/2014/12/the-8-most-unexpected-advantages-of-anxiety.php

 

 

 

Denial of Toxic Love

By Brittany Dursi, LMSW

Denial. Denial. Denial.  What is it?  Could it be our mind claiming something to be untrue, even if the facts say otherwise? Maybe it’s a shield of defense when reality is too much to bear. Or possibly, it’s the fear of surrendering to the truth.  Whichever the case, denial is no stranger to us.  We all have used it in our own unique way: to cope, to avoid, to protect etc.   In love, denial is a common mechanism adopted to protect the relationship in times of distress.  For the time being it encases the relationship in a thin lining, a band aid for when we aren’t ready to clean the wound.

Often times, the foundation of consistency in a destructive relationship is the damaging and deliberate use of manipulation and abuse.  This creates a mask for the partner being victimized, losing parts of their identity.  They may constantly feel guilty when they actually did nothing wrong.  Depending on the relationship, some may report feeling as though they were never good enough for their partner: fighting for acceptance, fighting to prove they deserve them.  Some may feel a heightened sense of emotion, or absence of, due to their lack of control in the relationship and a decrease in self- worth.  Often times the relationship is priority over work, personal interests and family or friends.  So how could anyone stay in this?

Here’s the thing.  When we are faced with isolated and constant real or perceived threat, our body instinctively responds. Stress hormones are released, shutting off the part of our brain used to solve problems (prefrontal cortex) and we enter a stage of fight, flight or freeze. This is great if we are being chased by a lion, the problem is when our stress hormones are activated for too long.  Our brains naturally will put a threatening situation to the forefront and shut down everything that is not necessary for that threat.  If we are constantly feeling threatened by our partner, we are consistently in a state of fight, flight or freeze, making it impossible to function appropriately. 

If we are being faced with infidelity, abuse (physical, mental, verbal, emotional) confusion, lack of self-worth, fear, anxiety etc. it is too much for our brain to sort through.  Manipulation commonly becomes the focal point in destructive relationships, resulting in the vulnerable partner feeling dependent on the toxic one.  The threat also becomes the safety blanket in these relationships.  While we may be living in a state of constant intimidation and emotional distress, the moment validation, intimacy and acceptance is received it stimulates our reward system and we feel safe again, creating a debilitating cycle.  For example, maybe our partner cheats, the facts have been proven, and we become emotionally distressed.  They lie about it but begin to show interest and connectedness to us, we might choose to believe it, because in those moments, they are accepting us.   Somewhere in us we know it is not true but we push it so far down because denial is sometimes perceived easier than facing the facts

Facts are Facts are Facts

If there is concrete factual information, it happened. 

If your significant other hits you because you came home an hour later than expected but then cooks you a three course meal, it does not change the fact they hit you. 

If your significant other calls you cruel names regularly but will also spend quality time with you and makes you feel special, it does not change the fact they verbally hurt you. 

If your significant other is not loyal but will not admit the truth, it does not change the fact they betrayed you. 

If they are hurting you in any way and try to validate their actions based on something you have done in the past it does not change the fact they hurt you and chose to be spiteful. 

You are not to blame for their actions. You cannot alter facts.

Taming Negative Self Talk

Categories: Anxiety Counseling

By Kacie Mitterando, LMSW

7am: *alarm goes off* “annoying… snooze.”

8am: “I’m going to start the water now so it’s warmed up by the time I’m done brushing my teeth.”

8:30am: “This outfit looks ridiculous, next outfit!”

8:32am: “This one too…”

8:45am: “Great, now I’m going to be late, all because I couldn’t find an outfit.”

9:30am: “Whatever, I’m just going to get a bagel with cream cheese… I’ll start eating healthy tomorrow.”

Each morning when we wake up we follow a routine we have set in our subconscious that we don’t necessarily think about. Most of us don’t have to remind ourselves to do the daily tasks like brush our teeth and get dressed. In the majority of cases, that’s because after spending day after day with this routine, it has now become a habit for us. A habit is a behavior that occurs automatically, because it is something that has been performed frequently in the past (2). If we pay close attention we may realize that the self-talk we’re carrying throughout our day has become habit as well, and something we don’t even always notice is there.

Sometimes our self-talk is reasonable, right? It can tell us good things, like how excited we are for the weekend coming up or remind us to make a to-do list for the work week ahead of us. However, this isn’t always the case, because our self-talk can also remind us of the negative without us being aware of it.

Negative self-talk is defined as the expression of our thoughts and feelings. These negative thoughts and feelings are counter-productive and often times have the effect of demotivating ourselves (1). When we’re self-bullying with this negative talk each day, not only is it a runaway train, but it also opens the door for depression and anxiety to set in. While it may not be easy, there are ways in which we can begin to quiet that bully inside of our heads!

Steps to challenging negative self-talk:

As in many other areas of life, the first step is awareness!

Become aware of the voice inside your head when it is talking to you and focus on what it is saying. If you’re a person who likes to make lists and write, jot some of the self-talk in your head down on a piece of paper or in a notebook. Keep a daily or weekly log of your self-talk! Try and take time out of each and every day to focus on the voice inside your head, the good and bad, and the impact that this voice is having on your feelings.

Visualize this voice

What does this voice in your head look like? Is it a clone of you? Does it look like someone you wish to be or someone you don’t like? Put a face to the negative self-talk and even bring it one step further by giving the voice a name! If we imagine this voice as another person, will we still let it beat us up in the way that it currently is?

Reality Test

Try and think reasonably about the things that the voice inside your head is telling you. Is there hard-core evidence against some of the anxious thoughts in your head, or are these thoughts just your personal interpretation of the situation at hand? What would your best friend/mom/family member tell you about this situation?

Talk Back

Don’t be afraid to talk back to this inner voice! You can tell the voice (that now has a name) it needs to leave, or that you don’t care or believe what it has to say. Give yourself the power back that the negative self-talk has taken away from you.

Interested in learning more?

If you’d like to work together to challenge this negative self-talk, call 347.994.9301

1. Nugent, Pam M.S., "NEGATIVE SELF-TALK," in PsychologyDictionary.org, April 7, 2013, https://psychologydictionary.org/negative-self-talk/

2. E. (n.d.). The Psychology of Habits: How to Form Habits (and Make Them Stick)., from http://routineexcellence.com/psychology-of-habits-form-habits-make-stick/#Understanding_the_Psychology_of_Habits_What_is_a_Habit

Is My Romantic Love toxic?

By Brittany Dursi LMSW

If you look up the definition of love, you will come across keywords like: attachment, attraction, intense emotional connection and affection.   It’s debatable if love is an emotion, choice, drive or a combination of all three. Like the need for social connection, we desire to love and to be loved. 

Studies have shown when people report being in love and are shown photos of their partner, the reward center in their brain is stimulated.  This is the same neurological pathway that is activated in the brain of individuals who use opiates and amphetamines (1). Representing that we have a thirst to experience love.

Let’s remind ourselves: healthy love has secure attachment where each has their own friends and life apart from that with their partner. They are trusting when they are not together.  Healthy love has attraction that brings out the “best parts” and builds the confidence of each individual.  Healthy love has an intense emotional connection that is non-judgmental, allowing each partner to open up, be themselves and feel supported.  Healthy love uses affection to show how much their significant other means to them and to assure their love.

So when does healthy love turn toxic? Let’s look at some signs.

Do you feel guilty making your own plans? Are you anxious when you aren’t together?

Often times, when people are in a toxic relationship they will feel criminal if they make plans without their partner’s involvement.  They long approval from their significant other and will cancel plans or avoid things they truly like as a result of not wanting to “stir the pot.”    Other times, the may find themselves unable to relax if their partner is out without them or if they haven’t heard from them in a period of time.  They may create scenarios in their minds without proof.  This can culminate anxiety, leading to arguments, snooping through their partner’s phone or searching for confirmation to solidify their preconceived thoughts.

Do you feel like you aren’t “good” enough or attractive enough?

Sometimes the toxic partner may withhold compliments to their loved one or engage in acts of infidelity as a way to gain control.  Other times they may break up with their partner without any explanation and then take them back. They may say things like “you’re ugly, fat, you have no curves, you’re not muscular enough, I can get anyone and anyone else you get is a downgrade from me.”  This is an act of manipulation to break down the other individual’s perception of them self. The goal is to rewire their thoughts so that they do not feel worthy enough of their partners love.  This can result in the other person believing they can’t experience love from anyone else because they don’t have the qualities that are deserving of it.  If their partner is telling them this than it must be true, right? If they are cheating there are obviously better people out there, right? They can’t leave, they’ll never find someone else like them.  Why am I not good enough?

When it’s good it’s great and when it’s bad it’s the hallway to hell

Generally there is a common theme in toxic love.  That is, the good times are used as an excuse to overlook the toxicity of the relationship.  So “she broke my favorite pair of headphones that were $300” is overcompensated because “she took me away for my birthday weekend.”  It validates and strengthens the cycle.  The individual may say they are “the most comfortable and myself with them” yet remains unable to disclose parts of their life due to the fear of it being used against them.  They say they are not judged by their partner but they often will be put down for their opinions or choices, which is followed by a decrease in confidence and an increase in codependency.  As the frequency of the cycle increases, the severity does as well.  When the severity increases the harder it is to break the cycle and get out.

Do you feel like you’re working to get affection from your partner?

Frequently in toxic relationships, affection will lack.  If affection is being denied it can cause an increase in the other individual craving it and looking for ways to receive it.  This can create  feelings of being drained, empty, lonely and unworthy.  When affection is than received, feelings of security, reward and pleasure surface even though it is short lived.  This cycle keeps the individual invested as they are on the quest to feel wanted and have affection from their beloved.  The one withholding affection can experience validation, increase in their self- worth and entitlement for the time being, solidifying their actions.

 If any of these scenarios feel familiar, it's ok.  You can break patterns of toxic relationships.  The first step is taking an inventory of your relationship and understanding there is a problem. 

Need help sorting through all this? Connect with me today to begin getting the love you deserve.

To talk to a clinician, call 347.994.9301

  1. https://www.growingself.com/addicted-to-a-toxic-relationship/

Making Decisions With Ease

Categories: Anxiety, Depression, Chronic Illness

Only make decisions that support your self-image, self-esteem, and self-worth. - Oprah Winfrey

Not being able to decide is a very frustrating place to be.  Indecision shows up for a number of factors.  Sometimes we are paralyzed by fear. Other times we are looking at a decision that requires we compromise our values in some way.  And sometimes we are just faced with so many decisions that we become overwhelmed. Whatever the reason, indecision sucks.  Let's take a look at some thing that make for a really good decision.  

1. Start With The End In Mind

Goal setting is useful in all aspects of our lives big and small.  Start asking yourself the questions that are going to clarify your goals.  For example, what is the overall feel you want to have in your home?  It will make picking paint colors easier if you want your home to feel calm versus cheerful.  And for the bigger stuff like "Where should I invest my money?" start thinking about what guides your investment decisions. Is it a particular amount of money?  Maybe you are more interested in only investing in companies that share your values.  

Big or small, it's important to start asking questions to clarify your goals. 

2. Set Fear Aside

From my experience, making decisions from fear has just not turned out that well for me.  This article from Bustle breaks down the term "decidaphobia" which was coined in 1973.  Fear can stop us from moving forward. In order to make good decisions we all have to develop habits that reduce our anxieties and allow us to feel safe in our lives.  Once fear has been removed, your real motives can goals can shine through and guide you to the perfect choice. 

3. Make Decisions With Your Wellbeing As A Focus

Are you someone that always makes decisions with others in mind?  Possibly you are the biggest people pleaser you know.  Well, coming to therapy...or reading this blog is a big reminder to stop that.  Yes it's good to be nice.  Yes it's good to keep people in mind.  But your decisions should always be guided from a place of self love first.  Remember, just like I tell my clinicians and my clients- You are the most important person in the room, wherever you go. 

Before we wrap up I just want to take a look at one more thing.  Maybe you are in a situation where you really want to make a relationship better or maybe you want to move forward with something but in reality you have dome everything you can.  In those moments it's important to remember that your deicison-making isn't flawed...rather, it's your ability to manage uncertainty that needs a closer look.  To manage uncertainty is to tame your fear.  And after all, the reality is, all of us are walking around just trying to figure things out the best way we can.  We cannot predict the future and we can only do what we believe is best with the most information we have.  Beyond that, our practice is to let go. 

How well do you manage uncertainty?

Tell me what you think in the comments below...

 

 

 

Three Tips To Finding Your Dream Job

Categories: Anxiety, Depression

 By Kacie Mitterando, LMSW

(opinion article)

How often have we heard the phrase, “Find something you love to do and you will never work a day in your life?” For many of us, it’s a phrase that has been drilled into us - being reiterated over and over again by parents, friends, and employers. This phrase has seemed to put us on this never ending path of searching for what we love. It has instilled in us that if we don’t find this, the alternative is to work a job that we hate every single day and well, who wants to do that? How do we search for our passion when student loans exist? We don’t have the capability of jumping from job to job or education to education because quite frankly, its unrealistic, impractical and well, takes up too much time! While this phrase may have been intended to give us motivation to pursue our dreams and never give up on our future, it is reasonably possible that it has become a phrase eliciting pressure and anxiety in many of us, especially those of us in our 20’s.

Finding your dream job can seem like an impossible task. After spending years in a classroom, hours studying and pulling all nighters, we want to feel that there is a reward at the end of the hard work put into our career path. So, how do we actually find our dream job? And how do we calm the anxiety that comes along with this journey?

Be Confident In Who You Are

You have just spent years working tirelessly towards your goals! And while “good things come to those who wait,” good things definitely come to those who work hard. Be confident in the work that you have done and know that if you continue to do the good you are doing, you will continue to be rewarded.

Embrace The Fear of Failure

Is it possible that failure can be a good thing and we should embrace this fear, rather than run from it? Maybe we have been taught wrong all of these years. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that failing is OK. Failing is often a great time to learn and grow from your experiences. If the fear of failing and not finding a job is creating stress and anxiety, practice embracing this concept.

Tap Into Your Values and Beliefs

Put extra focus and attention into what your belief system is. Do you believe that everything happens for a reason? If so, find faith in trusting the process and knowing that what is meant for you will eventually come. Do you believe in destiny? If you do, then you know that your purpose is consistently seeking to be fulfilled and discovered. Therefore, hold strong in obtaining this discovery. Do you believe that we have control over the events in our lives? If this is the case then continue your job search efforts and hard work! Overall, figure out what it is that you believe is meant for you, and push forward with this system.

If the fear and anxiety of finding employment upon graduating is dragging you down, hold strong in who you are, remember that failure is OK and tap into your belief systems. In the interim, don’t forget to de-stress by enjoying time with friends and family and embracing the simple parts of life that are meaningful to you.