AUTUMN ANXIETY CAN BE DECREASED WITH A FEW SIMPLE PRACTICES

Today may be the last 80+ degree days of the year in Chicago. While I loved stepping outside in summer clothes and feeling the warm sun I also felt a little twinge of dread. Autumn is not my favorite season. I have tried to shift my attitude about autumn. I’m aware that it’s a beautiful time of the year. I love the oranges and yellows of fall, and feel a sense of exhilaration from the crisp air. But, at the same time I feel a little anxious. I know that this beauty is short lived and as each day grows shorter I know that winter is not far behind.

People who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) know this anxious feeling well. SAD is well known and documented. Approximately 3 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with SAD. A few sufferers of SAD come to see me each year, as the depression that they feel can be quite debilitating. But this feeling of dread in the autumn feels like something different to me. I, for one, don’t suffer from SAD. I have a strong dislike of winter, but I don’t become truly depressed.

So, out of curiosity I googled “autumn worry” and was surprised to find several articles on the topic of “Autumn Anxiety”. I had not known that Autumn Anxiety had received enough attention to get its own designation but I’m not too surprised to see it. I think it’s a tough transition period for a lot of people.

I’m attaching an article on Autumn Anxiety that I found useful. It gives a brief description of the problem and where it comes from, which is a combination of shorter and darker days, along with busier schedules that are often filled with change.  More importantly, it provides some ideas on activities and practices you can engage in to reduce anxiety in autumn. These include calming activities such as deep breathing exercises, as well as health specific antidotes such as increasing vitamin D and magnesium, and paying attention to seasonal allergies. Take a look at the article for a more detailed description. https://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/autumn-anxiety-is-real-treatable/

If you find you’re having more serious symptoms of anxiety or depression than can be helped with these simple tips, please consider seeing a counselor or therapist. At Compatible Counseling Solutions, we’re always happy to help with an assessment to determine the best steps for you to take. https://compatiblecounseling.com

SOME THOUGHTS ON CREATING THE LIFE YOU WANT

Many of the people I counsel have the same concern: they’re dissatisfied with the life they’ve created and are unsure how to change it. Most tell me they would like to make a career change but don’t know how. Since we spend most of our waking hours involved with our jobs it only makes sense that if one is unhappy at work, one is probably unhappy in life.

I usually ask people with life dissatisfaction to complete an exercise in visioning. They are to fantasize the different parts of their life if they were exactly as they wanted them to be so they can know where to start. They are to do this without censoring themselves or considering obstacles. This turns out to be very challenging for people who’ve spent their lives trying to please others and do the “right” thing. The idea of setting aside their inner critic and other voices that tell them how to live is difficult. They want to be practical first, and hope that the dream life will come along without them having to upset anyone.

It’s especially hard when one’s career has been cultivated over many years, and when one is making a pretty decent salary and all their friends and family are proud of them. How does a person just up and decide they’re going to leave their stable banking job and become the dancer they always wanted to become? What would people think?

I often work with people for quite a while to help them silence the inner critic and take small, baby steps in the direction of their dreams. Since I’m not a career coach I don’t advise people on how to find a career to fit their skills and I don’t advise them how to get hired. I only help them listen to their inner voice and follow that voice toward their bliss.

With my own limitations in mind, this morning I spent some time perusing articles on “how to make a career change”. I was disappointed to find most of the articles offering more cautions than encouragement. Most talk about considering finances, ageism, how long you’ll be in school, and whether you’ll be supported in making a change. From my experience, most people are already thinking about those things and that’s what stops them from going further in making a change.

So, I kept looking. I finally found the attached little gem of an article. It offers practical advice on how to get started with a career change when you don’t know what to do. It suggests that one stop overanalyzing their life and instead get in conversation with others about careers. It suggests trying things out – take an interesting class, shadow a friend at their job, visit different offices. In doing so, one has a chance to step into their dreams and discover what really moves them. I recommend the article if you’re having trouble knowing where to start. It is attached here: https://www.careershifters.org/expert-advice/how-to-change-career-when-you-have-no-idea-what-youre-doing.

For more help in defining your dreams and creating transformative life change, I welcome you to come see me for an assessment. For more information about counseling for life transitions click here: https://compatiblecounseling.com/individual-counseling/

EMDR: WHAT IS IT AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

When people first come to see me they are always curious about the light bar that sits in the corner of my office (see image). “What is that thing?”, they ask. I explain that the light bar is a tool I use to provide EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Most of them have never heard of EMDR. Those that have are usually excited about it because they’ve either had a positive experience with it or know someone who has.

For those of you who don’t know, EMDR is an evidence based practice that helps people reprocess memories that keep them from living life the way they want to. It’s most commonly known as a treatment to address past trauma, especially Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But it’s much more versatile than that. I use EMDR to help people who want to change behaviors or beliefs about themselves that they’ve been unable to change with traditional counseling or by themselves.

A good example is a person who feels inadequate and wrong whenever someone points out a mistake they’ve made. Such a person might be quite successful, having pushed the inadequate feelings down and overcompensated for them through perfectionism. Most people that fit that scenario know their reactions and beliefs are irrational, but that knowledge does not alleviate the core feelings of worthlessness. That’s because those core beliefs were formulated through some experience from long ago when they felt shamed. The memory of the shaming experience has been improperly stored in the brain and has impacted every subsequent experience of criticism in such a way that they feel worthless, incompetent, or damaged despite all evidence to the contrary. In EMDR we say that the past remains present. By using EMDR we put the past back in the past where it belongs.

EMDR works in much the same way as dreaming does. When we go to sleep at night and dream our eyes shift back and forth, bilaterally stimulating the left and right hemispheres of the brain. In doing so, we are able to process unconscious material that has emerged during the day. In EMDR we use eye movements, sounds or tapping to also bilaterally stimulate the brain to reprocess the memories that have created the patterns that keep us stuck.

In my practice, I usually use the light bar to help people with their eye movements. The green lights that are shown in the center of the bar will move from side to side, and as they do I instruct clients to notice all the aspects of their memory and just follow the lights. As we engage in sets of eye movements using the bar, the memory slowly shifts until it is no longer disturbing. Then we use eye movements to pair a more functional belief, such as “I’m good enough as I am” with the original, disturbing memory. This way, they can go out into the world and when they have an experience of being criticized, for example, they will resonate the feeling of being good enough instead of being a failure.

I find EMDR to be an amazing methodology that I use with many people who come to see me. If you are feeling stuck in a pattern that you feel helpless to change EMDR might be right for you. For more information:https://compatiblecounseling.com/emdr-eye-movement-desensitization-reprocessing/

BEGINNING LIFE IN THE EMPTY NEST IS A MAJOR LIFE TRANSITION

I never thought of August as a transitional month. In September it’s obvious. The days get colder and shorter, we start seeing color changes in the trees, and the kids go back to school. But there’s a strange melancholy to August. Even though it’s still summer we know that fall is just around the corner and there’s a sense of grieving. Parents that are launching a child to college feel that grieving most acutely. For them, August is an all-out transitional month. And the fact that many of us are still enjoying summer makes the pain of the transition even harder.

Many parents know the transition from full-time parenting is going to be hard. Others, like me, are taken by surprise. When my last child left home I was excited. Finally, I was going to have time to myself. But when I returned home after leaving him at college I was surprised by how lonely the house felt. I too, began the grieving process that goes along with the empty nest. This August I have a few clients that are getting a child ready for college, and they too are struggling. It seems like a good time to talk about what to do when one preparing for a major change such as this.

The first thing one can do is simply to notice and accept the way you’re feeling with love and self-compassion. It’s helpful to know that the feelings of depression, loss of purpose, guilt and anxiety are normal and go with the territory. For most people, they will pass with time.

Secondly, this is a good time to take stock of relationships with everyone in the family. These relationships are changing and it’s important to notice where they stand now, and what changes are needed. Married couples notice that their relationship has changed over the years. It’s common for couples to drift apart emotionally during the childrearing years and it’s often not until children leave home that they realize how far apart they’ve drifted. This is an opportunity to get to know each other again. Spend time together and remember the things you love about each other. Talk about the changes you’ve gone through over the years and where you are now.

Your relationship with your launching child is obviously also changing. Consider establishing a set time to catch up with him or her. Before the advent of cell phones parents always did this, because it was the only way to be sure to connect. Now parents can contact their children daily or even hourly to check on them. Such frequent contacts are borne more out of anxiety than a mutual desire to talk. Plan your connection times with your child. Figure out how much frequency is good for both of you so you feel reassured but your child also has space to feel his or her independence.

If you have other children at home, you may want to reevaluate those relationships also. Many parents feel compelled to tighten their grip on children more in order to feel needed. Avoid this temptation. Understand how much support and supervision is needed for younger children and keep the balance aligned so that they can grow in independence also.

Remember, this is also a time when you can reconsider your own needs. If you’ve been at home, maybe it’s time to consider jobs or career prospects that you have set aside. If you’ve been working and juggling roles you may find there’s more time to pursue a hobby or take a class. Treat yourself. Your child isn’t gone forever, and now you have more time for you.

Keep in mind, also, that the empty nest doesn’t always stay empty for long. Nowadays, it’s very common for adult children to return home. Census data from 2008 show that as many as 34% of all 18-34-year old’s live at home with parents. So, enjoy yourself during this time. You never know how long it’s going to last.

Finally, keep paying attention to how you feel. Some people struggle with Empty Nest Syndrome more than others, and some fall into a deeper depression that they need help with. If you would like help during this time or have other emotional concerns that you’re struggling with, consider seeing a professional. At Compatible Counseling Solutions we would be happy to help. For more information:Click Here

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER – IT’S NOT JUST FOR WINTERTIME

We’re more than halfway through summer now, and a lot of therapists I know find that they have fewer clients this time of year. That’s to be expected, right? Summer is the season of long sunny days, of fun and relaxation. Historically, I don’t have that same pattern of summer slowing. A lot of people come through that really struggle in the summer with a variety of concerns.

So, I got curious and decided to see what’s being said about summer-specific mental health problems. As it turns out, my experience isn’t all that unusual. The attached article discusses how summer can be especially challenging for many, and can precipitate depression and or anxiety. The article names five specific factors the author sees as related to summertime mental health problems: schedule changes, vacations, psychosocial issues, daylight patterns, and social events. It’s easy to see how the loss of work structure in the summer could cause some to feel untethered. Some of these other factors involve the high cost of having fun, grieving from losses that have taken place, and excess drinking.

I would like to add a couple other factors that I see. One is the pressure to smile and feel good , which is hard on those who are already depressed. For a person who is already in the midst of a depressive episode when summer starts, it can be especially daunting to see people enjoying themselves and not be able to do the same. Other factors I have seen are the need to wear less clothing when one doesn’t feel good about their body, or increased feelings of isolation when one’s family or support system goes away for extended time, or when one notices others having fun but they don’t have strong networks or time off.

If you’re feeling especially down in this summer, remember you’re not alone. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious you can always make an appointment to see a counselor or therapist. At Compatible Counseling Solutions we’re here and would be happy to help.

http://mentalhealth.fitness/5-triggers-seasonal-affective-disorder-summer/

TACKLING CHRONIC WORRY WITH COGNITIVE THERAPY AND INTUITIVE LISTENING

For most of my life I’ve been a chronic worrier and perfectionist. I come by it honestly. My mother is the champion of worrying and she taught me well. I learned from a lifetime of being told to BE CAREFUL! that to make a mistake would be a catastrophe, so I over-think every move before I make it. A lot of us are like this, but know how dysfunctional it is and how much it limits our capacity to experience joy and richness in our lives.

The attached article asserts that analytical thinking is the primary tool of chronic worriers. It describes that worriers and perfectionists have a lack of confidence in their decision making, and use systematic processing and analysis to check and double check themselves. I’ve seen this process acted out repeatedly in many of the clients that come to me for help. They want to make changes in their lives but are frozen by fear that others will not approve and keep looking for that perfect moment or that sign of approval that’s missing.

The article poses that by using cognitive-behavioral therapy one can learn another way to manage thoughts without over-analyzing. I agree that cognitive-behavioral strategies are extremely useful. But the article starts out also talking about gut instincts, stating that chronic worriers are people who don’t listen to their gut. I had hoped that the article would say more about intuitive thinking and the value of trusting your gut instincts. Unfortunately, howeverit never got back to talking about intuition after that first statement.

Cognitive Therapy is an excellent option for the worrier. I recommend, however, balancing cognitive work with work on learning to sense and trust intuition. Listening to intuition means listening to the heart and following your internal “knowing”. This is a skill we are all born with but squash out of ourselves as we learn that over-analysis is more highly regarded. If you want to rid yourself of that pesky voice that keeps you from trying out new ways of being I recommend finding a therapist that will help you to trust your intuition as well as challenge your negative thought patterns.

http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/08/31/chronic-worriers-tend-to-rely-on-analysis-not-gut-feelings/59057.html

CELEBRATING THE QUIET GIFTS OF INTROVERSION

The article that is cited and linked below was originally posted several years ago. I got a lot of positive feedback from the post I wrote to accompany the article, and in re-reading the article see that it’s still very relevant and full of good information and help for the introvert who’s having trouble accepting themselves in a world that values extraversion.

In my own practice, I see a lot of introverts. Most have trouble getting ahead in the workplace, and believe there’s something wrong with them when they’re looked over for promotions and disregarded in meetings. It’s true that extroverts often have an easier time getting ahead. They tend to be more assertive with their ideas and find it easy to build a coalition around what they want.  While introverts are in the background thinking through the pros and cons to their ideas and trying to figure out what factors need to be overcome to make them work, the extroverts are out there promoting the first idea that has come to their mind, whether thought through or not.

The article below reminds us of the quiet strength of the introvert, their natural tendency toward independence, their creativity and their innate leadership potential.  It also gives examples of great practices that remind introverts of their strengths and get them in touch with their most authentic selves.

Our fast-paced world that values assertiveness and crowd pleasing behaviors sometimes sees introverts as too private but really, their thoughtful pensiveness can be amongst their greatest strengths.  If you struggle with being introverted in an extraverted world, please read the article below.

http://psychcentral.com/lib/2012/introverts-and-the-quest-for-quiet/

THE SIMPLICITY AND BENEFITS OF A MEDITATION PRACTICE

Last week I wrote about the importance of incorporating relaxation into your daily routine. I mentioned meditation as one practice that can bring relaxation and renewal into ones’ life, and I thought I’d spend a bit more time on meditation in this post.

Meditation is very helpful to my clients that struggle with a variety of concerns ranging from anxiety, to basic life dissatisfaction, to struggles with relationships. I see meditation as both a life practice, and as a tool to increase therapy’s effectiveness by improving one’s awareness. For example, meditation is useful when one is trying to identify a feeling and locate it in their body, or when one is trying to keep themselves from pushing feelings down and away. It allows people to give their feelings compassionate attention so they can feel better. It also helps them become aware of how they’re feeling throughout the day outside of meditation time.

The biggest obstacle to meditation I’ve seen is a common belief that meditation requires special skills. People are always telling me they’ve tried meditation but can’t do it right. They, like so many others, have a misconception that meditation is only successful when one can silence their mind and rest in emptiness. I envy people who can do that, but if that were the only way to be successful at meditation I would have quit a long time ago. My mind is very active and I find it very difficult to tame. I know, however, that the practice of meditation builds my awareness, and that’s a process. My mind wanders a great deal but I know that the more I practice, the more present I am to my life.

So, here are a few steps to get you started if you’d like to try simple, mindfulness meditation

  1. Sit comfortably, with your back straight and your eyes closed or slightly open and looking down. If you can sit on the floor with a meditation cushion that’s great, but it’s ok to sit in a chair if you need the back support.
  2. Notice your breath entering and leaving through your nose. If you’re congested you can breathe through your mouth but breathing through the nose will feel less forced.
  3. Try to hold your focus on your breath. Your mind will likely wander, but when it does, just notice that and bring your attention back to your breath.
  4. If you notice discomfort, place your attention on the part of your body that is uncomfortable and keep breathing. If you feel emotions rising and falling, just notice them. Attend to any uncomfortable feeling until it passes if you can.
  5. Continue for at least 10-15 minutes and try to go longer with each session.
  6. Don’t give up if your mind wanders a lot. Even with a lot of wandering you’ll begin to notice your thoughts and feelings throughout the day more readily over time.

RELAX! HOW TO TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF IN A HIGH PRESSURED WORLD

Summer’s here, and the pressure is on to RELAX! You can see the irony in that sentence right away. Summer is a time when people expect to be able to kick back, take off their shoes, and just enjoy themselves. Yet how often do we actually do that? We might be lucky enough to get some time off to go out of town on a nice vacation. But even then, a lot of people report that they spend so much time planning and fretting over the vacation, that it almost doesn’t seem worth it once the actual vacation finally comes.

So how do we find the time to relax in this high-pressured world? The attached article contends that the most common excuse for not relaxing is “I don’t have the time”. That sounds exactly right to me. We’re so busy with our to do lists, trying to figure out how to cram all the things we need to do at home or with our families into the few hours we have each week when we’re not at work that we never actually take the time to relax.

I like this article because it gives you ideas on how to relax that almost anyone can find time for.  I especially love the idea that when you can’t take a “real” vacation you can take a mental and emotional vacation where you commit to getting away from negative thinking and stress for a few minutes each day just by taking a walk or a bath, for example. A simple meditation or listening to calming music can also refresh you and take you away from the stresses of everyday life.

Take a look at the article and see what works for you. Then make sure to find a few minutes every day to implement some of these tools. If you’re chronically stressed and/or running around all the time I think you’ll find it’ll make everything else start to feel a little easier to manage.

http://psychcentral.com/lib/2013/relaxation-make-time-and-take-time-for-self-care/

 

 

WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO SEEK HELP FROM A COUNSELOR?

The attached article provides a nice framework for those deciding whether to seek help or not.  There are very few articles out there about when it’s the right time to seek help, so it’s a nice addition. The decision to seek counseling or therapy is difficult because one is deciding whether to make themselves vulnerable to a stranger or not.  For this reason, as well as the high cost of therapy and anxiety about what is going to happen in counseling, a lot of people put it off and hope that their problems will resolve themselves.  And sometimes they do, but often they don’t.  Also, many people have had bad experiences with therapy in the past and don’t want to invest their time and money again on a on a risky venture. So, they wait until they’ve run out of options before making that leap of faith again.  I understand all these concerns very well. They’re why I started Compatible Counseling Solutions in the first place.  I hate to see people make themselves vulnerable to someone that’s not going to help them, and I’ve seen it happen time and again.

If you are at the point where you’re wondering if now is the time, I urge you to read the attached article and see if any of the scenarios that are described fit you.  If you’re not sure of exactly what you need I hope you’ll consider contacting me. I can help you sort through whether, and what kind of counseling will be most helpful to you and I can help you find an effective therapist that meets your needs and maintains a focus on your goals without keeping you in services indefinitely.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/201301/do-i-need-help