Our learned measures of progress stem from our earliest years. In school, we are taught to strive for the best grades. We measure these grades down to percentage points, and progress in class is directly related to your percentage point. We are told that an ‘A’ is the best grade; the closest to perfection. A perfectionist’s mindset exists within the frame. You always want to get 100%, and will do all of the studying and extra credit to get there. Maybe that process worked in school, where we are measured by points, but real life does not provide you with your percentage. We have to learn how to appreciate our work, instead of perfecting it.
Try writing down your list of accomplishments each week.
These should be small, ranging from ‘got out of bed’ to ‘made dinner twice this week’. The purpose of this list is to appreciate the little things that we do each day. All of these small accomplishments are just as important as the big ones, because they keep you going each day and allow you to accomplish your larger goals.
You are not the sum of your productivity. Being productive feels great, but it does not define who you are. Remind yourself of who you are without all of the accolades and accomplishments. Understanding who you are without your tangible accomplishments will give you clarity about your value.
Reframe your negative thoughts.
It can be uncomfortable for a perfectionist to feel like they have failed. Instead of making a mistake and internalizing it as a flaw in yourself, try putting the situation into perspective. Maybe you had a bad day at work and felt like you didn’t get anything done. That’s ok! Remind yourself that this is just one day of many. Your growth stems from being resilient after failure, not being perfect all of the time.
Part of appreciating your progress is taking pride in the work that you do; not just the end product. Each small task brings you closer to completing a big one. Take time to think about where you started and how far you’ve come.
Do you find yourself creating negative thought loops in your mind when you are at work? Do you feel like your work stresses bleed into your personal time? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Below is a list of five signs that you are being too hard on yourself at work.
You find yourself second-guessing all of your decisions
You say ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’ll never be able to understand this’
Your manager tells you that you are being too hard on yourself
You have trouble creating boundaries between work and your personal life
Your self-confidence lowers (both in and out of work)
It can take a while to change your self-perception at work from negative to positive. Start by identifying the negative thoughts you have about yourself related to work. Is there a common theme? Once you start to notice a theme or specific thoughts that come up, try to identify triggers. Are you doing a specific type of work when you feel this way? Are there certain circumstances in the workplace that feel uncomfortable? By understanding your triggers, you are collecting evidence about your thought process. Once you understand the origins of your thoughts and their triggers, you can change them!
Remind yourself that just because you don’t understand something now doesn’t mean you will never understand it. You can learn about the task or ask co-workers how they do it. Try not to speak in absolutes; using the words ‘never’ or ‘always’ limits your capabilities and potential. Lastly, think about the life you have outside of work. Your performance at work doesn’t have to be an indicator of your performance in life.
Practice these tools. Give yourself time to grow. If you do so, you will likely find that your performance and experience at work will improve.
Do you wake up feeling groggy and unprepared to start your day? This is a common experience, especially in the winter months when there is less sunlight. A morning routine is a good way to rev your engine and start your day on a positive note.
Make sure you set realistic goals for improving your mornings. For example, if you want to wake up earlier, try doing so incrementally; wake up 10 minutes earlier for a week, then push it up to 20 minutes the next week, and so on. Below are three suggestions for healthy morning habits, but your routine is personal to you. Choose activities that feel energizing for you!
1. Create a wake up playlist
Make a playlist to match the way you want to wake up; this can be gentle, fast-paced, happy, or anything in between. These songs will mark the start of your day and set the mood for your wake up.
2. Get your body moving
A morning workout is great, but can feel ambitious for some people. Moving your body can mean anything from intense cardio to easy stretching. The nature of the movement doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you start your day doing something positive for yourself.
3. Repeat a morning affirmation
Crease a phrase that you wake up and say every morning. This can be anything that will open you up to the day and motivate you to get started. Some examples include, ‘I am excited about this day!’, or ‘Today I will be kind to myself’.
No matter what you choose for your routine, the most important part is getting your feet on the ground and keeping that momentum throughout the day. Some mornings will be harder than others, but try to keep building your habits to the point where they feel automatic.
Perfect is a word that gets thrown around a lot. Especially for high achieving professionals, perfect is the ultimate and constant goal: the perfect client pitch, the perfectly planned event, the perfect employee or boss. For some people, their perfectionism is seen as a superpower. It acts as an internal motivation that they use to succeed personally and professionally. Perfect, however, can also be a thought trap that keeps us from connecting with others, living lives with rational expectations, and can be the source of anxiety and depression. Sometimes, it can even be a barrier that prevents us from trying something in the first place.
Perfect isn’t so perfect after all. As we move into 2023, with Covid-19 still on our heels and a potential recession on the horizon, the world is only becoming less straightforward and the definition of perfect less tangible. Striving for perfect only causes more anxiety, more depression, and more frustration. So how can we move forward? By changing our thinking about “perfect” and finding ways to let go of an impossible standard that many times is only being applied to us by ourselves. In order to break these thought patterns and combat perfectionism, one option is to implement a cognitive model known as “good enough.”
Originally coined by psychoanalyst Dr. Donald Winnicott while working with mothers in the UK on their parenting, “good enough” is a framework to approach everyday tasks. Winnicott observed that while some mothers strove to be the perfect parent, it was the “good enough” mothers, the ones who made small manageable mistakes, who raised better adjusted children. Children of “good enough” mothers were forced to accept disappointment, self soothe, and move on. This led to stronger mental resilience as adults.
So how does this concept applied to British mothers apply to our lives? My favorite corny joke highlights this perfectly:
“Q: What do you call the medical student who graduated at the bottom of their class?
While perfectionists focus on this person’s class ranking, “good enough” allows us to recognize that they’ve accomplished the real goal, graduating. Fully embracing “good enough” frees us from trying to be perfect beings in an imperfect world.
So the next time you are stuck on a task at work or home, ask yourself whether the task needs to be perfectly done, or just done. Does that email need to be rewritten five times, or does it just need to be sent? Does your child’s bed need hospital corners, or does it just need to be made?
As a therapist, I use the word ‘boundaries’ a lot. We set them, we hold them, we break them; this is the reality of having interpersonal relationships. Learning how to say ‘no’ is hard. Depending on your identity, you may have been taught to be service-oriented and agreeable. This means that saying ‘no’ is breaking the social code by which you live. Knowing your boundaries and being comfortable saying ‘no’ go hand-in-hand.
Enforcing your boundaries is a good way to avoid resentment. If we are always saying ‘yes’ to things that can stretch us thin, resentment builds towards the people who are asking us. In the short term it might feel easier to just agree and sacrifice your time for others, but as this continues frustration boils below the surface. This is an uncomfortable feeling that is easily avoided by making a choice that is healthy for you (which sometimes means saying ‘no’).
If the idea of saying ‘no’ feels overwhelming to you, there are ways of saying it in a gentler tone. If you can’t do something because you are already overwhelmed and don’t want to add more to your plate, it is ok to say that! You are in charge of your own schedule. Being truthful about the reasoning behind your choice takes the weight off of having to make up an excuse.
Start small. If you are a people-pleaser, putting your needs above others’ can feel insurmountable. The more you practice, the easier it gets. Start by declining a casual social invite that you aren’t interested in. As you do this and realize the benefits of choosing yourself, saying ‘no’ will become easier.
Saying ‘no’ points to your autonomy. You, as a person in this world, have a right to create a boundary and hold it. It should be mentioned that saying ‘no’ will not always go well, especially when you are expected to do as you are told. This can be intimidating, but enforcing your boundaries can be empowering. The consequences of confrontation have to be weighed against your recognition of your own power. Saying ‘no’ is an indicator to yourself and others that you are the driver of your life, and the maker of your decisions.
The Holidays can be a time of high-highs and low-lows. Our collective anxiety increases with the expectations that come with this time of year. Family gatherings, holiday parties, and the uncertainty of the next year can create a mix of excitement and anxiety. Uncertainty and expectation are a breeding ground for increased anxiety.
The management of these feelings is the key to improving your Holiday experience. It is important for you to remember that these feelings are normal! Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Instead of being frustrated about these feelings, try to develop mechanisms to move through them. Below are a few tools to get your through Holiday Anxiety:
Take a moment to yourself
Being surrounded by people can be exhausting. If you are spending the Holidays with family, friends, or others, give yourself small breaks from socializing. When you start to feel irritability arise, leave the room and spend a few minutes alone. This will help you keep your social battery charged.
Identify your outlets
If you start to feel anxious around this time of year, try to identify an outlet for these emotions. This can be anything ranging from venting to a close friend or taking long walks with music; whatever helps you feel calmer. Think of these outlets as a way to release some of the pressure from the expectations of this time of year.
Be kind to yourself
Anxiety has a way of feeding on itself. When it starts to feel overwhelming, remind yourself that you are strong; you have gotten through this emotion before and you will do it again. Rather than blame yourself for feeling this way, be a comfort to yourself. If you start to feel lost in an anxiety spiral, stay grounded by speaking in a gentle, soft voice to yourself.
Emotions run high during the Holidays, so make sure you are caring for yourself in the process!
A positive relationship between a client and therapist is based on trust and open communication. When you feel comfortable and connected to your therapist, the therapy itself improves. You will likely allow yourself to be more vulnerable because you know the person on the other end is trustworthy and cares for you. Every therapeutic relationship is different. One friend might have a ‘tough love’ relationship with their therapist, while another has a light-hearted or humorous one. Neither of these is right or wrong; a good relationship with a therapist is dependent on you and your needs.
Therapy does not always feel good. Some sessions can be challenging and painful. Working with a therapist who you trust and do not feel judged by is essential in these moments. If you trust your therapist is helping to guide you to something positive, these painful sessions can feel like part of a larger (and important!) process.
Try to find someone whose focus aligns with your goals.
For example, if a therapist has a lot of experience working with Depression, they might be helpful for someone who is dealing with low-mood. This is not to say that your therapist has to specialize in your issue, but that can be a helpful starting point in the search.
Ask for a consultation or screening call.
Some therapists offer phone consultations to help both the client and therapist decide if they are a good match. Try to identify goals and expectations before your first meeting so that you decide if the therapist will be helpful with those.
Listen to your gut.
If after a few sessions you start to feel like you aren’t connecting with your therapist, it is ok to tell them. This is a conversation that can either lead to an improved relationship or a referral to another therapist who might better suit your needs. Don’t be afraid to tell your therapist about these hesitations; the more open you can be, the more effective the work will be.
Making the decision to go to therapy is brave. Finding the right therapist can be hard, but it is worth the effort. Remember that this is a process that takes time, but it is time well spent in the service of taking care of yourself.
We are taught that setting goals helps us progress in life, but are rarely told how to set them. Goals are nuanced, and our circumstances impact the types of goals that we can create. Two people may have the same goal of ‘being a CEO’, but depending on their identity, and taking intersectionality into account, one person may be far more likely to achieve the goal. This doesn’t mean that the person less likely shouldn’t try, but it does mean that their path to progress will look different. If you feel like your path to progress is covered in obstacles, it’s time to start thinking about how to set your goals for success.
First, think about your long-term goal. Write it out, envision it, try to think about what your life would be like if you achieved it. Think of the ways your life would be different if you completed this goal.
Next, ask yourself why you want to reach this goal. On the same piece of paper, under the goal, write out your motivators for doing it. Is it to create a better life for your family? To be more confident in yourself? There are endless reasons for us to want to achieve, but our intrinsic motivation is essential to starting. These motivators will help you keep moving towards these goals, even when you feel worn out.
After you understand your motivators, think about the path to achievement. Set a realistic timeline for yourself. Will it take two weeks? Two years? Give yourself a range of time. When we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and do not reach them, it can negatively impact our self-esteem and resilience.
Once the timeline is made, write out all of the little achievements and steps it will take to get there. Make these small steps as simple as possible. Soon after, you will begin achieving them, and this achievement will motivate you to continue towards your larger goal.
Writing all of this down in one place is a good way to organize yourself. When you feel unmotivated or exhausted, revisit the reasons you are doing this work, and start going after your shorter-term goals. There is power in momentum, and the more you feel like you’ve achieved, the more you will want to continue achieving.
Anxiety is a common and natural feeling. It can arise when we are uncomfortable, unprepared, or worried. Anxiety manifests in the body through a series of symptoms including elevated heart rate, strained breathing, trouble concentrating, and more. Take a moment to reflect on your physical symptoms when you feel stressed. Some people develop subconscious self-soothing methods like pulling your hair, biting your nails, and bouncing your legs. Listen to your body; if you notice yourself doing some of these actions, it can be a sign that you are feeling anxious.
There are countless ways to manage anxiety; some healthy, some harmful. If you have found a way that works for you, use it! We each have a toolkit to manage our feelings. Take a moment to think about which tools you have, and which you may need to add. If you need some help finding one, below is a list of healthy ways to move through feelings of anxiety:
1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
If you have 10 minutes to yourself and access to a comfortable spot, then you have all that you need to try this exercise. It is a combination of breathing and muscle relaxation. Click here to find out more.
2. Move Your Body
Movement helps us release some of the stress that builds in our bodies when we feel anxious. This does not require a full workout. Try running in place for 30 seconds or dancing in your room. When you move in this way, it releases endorphins that promote feelings of wellbeing.
3. Put Your Phone Away
Try to stay in the moment. Distracting yourself from the anxiety does not allow room for you to move through it and process the event that triggered the feeling. It can be challenging to let yourself feel uncomfortable, but it is empowering to be able to self-soothe without distraction.
Though we all experience anxiety, it is important to note that some people experience it more acutely and sometimes without a trigger; this could be Generalized Anxiety disorder. If you feel that your anxiety impacts your day-to-day life, go to refreshtherapynyc.com to book an appointment with one of our clinicians today.
When we read self-help books, inspirational social media posts, or read about self-care activities, one phrase is always present: ‘work-life balance’. We are told how important it is for our mental health. We are told that without it we will develop anxiety or fall behind on taking care of ourselves. Sometimes it feels like a heavy burden to have to find the perfect ‘work-life balance’. There is pressure to do it all, and do it well.
‘Work-life balance’ does not mean the same thing for any two people. We can’t even hold ourselves to the same exact balance everyday because different parts of our lives need more attention at different times.
One way to keep up with your ‘balance’ is to create boundaries at work. No matter where you work or how you work, boundaries can help improve your experience in and out of the workplace. These boundaries can come in various forms; conversations with your manager, physical space, separation rituals, and many more. Below is a list of how-to’s for boundary-setting at work:
Identify what you need from yourself to have a manageable workload.
Identify what you need from your boss to have a manageable workload.
Ask yourself: what is the role of work in your life? In your identity?
Find a song or video to play when you are done with work. Play this song at the end of every work day. This will create a connection between the song and work ending.
Create open lines of communication with your colleagues. This will help you express your needs if you are feeling overwhelmed.
Boundaries take work because they require reinforcement. Build the habit, continue to stick by your boundaries, and you will see an improvement in your ‘work-life balance’.
Today’s America looks very different from America pre-pandemic. It’s important to acknowledge the difficulties in balancing and living as there are times where the two struggle to co-exist.
While battling inflation, possible layoffs, health scares, and the upcoming holiday season, the looming stress can feel like a burden. So here are some tips to preserve your peace amidst the stress of today’s America.
Take a mental health day:
There are times when our work schedules become overwhelming and we need a day to recuperate. You can choose how to spend your day; whether it’s sleeping, completing your favorite hobby, taking a walk in the park, watching your favorite show, or doing absolutely nothing because you deserve it.
When things feel off-balance, it can feel good to clean your space. Our space can reflect the chaos in our minds. This can be physical space such as an apartment or office, or mental space. To support clearing your mental space, try meditating using an app called HeadSpace or Youtube meditations. You can also use yoga, mindfulness, or free writing.
Yes, you read right. Sometimes it feels easier to say yes than to muster the courage of ‘no’. When you recognize the value of your time, it becomes easier to make that decision. If you are feeling tired and at your wits end, boundaries may be the key to moving forward.
If this is something that feels hard, make a list as to why.
Is it hard because you don’t want to disappoint others? Yourself?
What about the time it takes from your already full day?
If you didn’t complete the task, what would happen? To you? To them?
As we move through the world, we develop coping mechanisms for everyday situations. We create narrative and behaviors to deal with our circumstances. Some coping mechanisms are positive and healthy. The coping mechanisms that we should work on are the negative ones that lead to harming ourselves or others.
What are your positive coping mechanisms? What are your harmful ones?
Habits are formed through repetition in response to our experiences. Our coping mechanisms inform the habits we develop. If we respond to rejection by trying to hurt others, that response is reinforced through repetition and can become a habit if the loop is not interrupted. Though this is a negative example, there are ways to shift these responses into positive habits.
Below is a list of potentially harmful habits, but rest assured that these are not forever, they can be changed if you do the work to change them. Attached to these habits are tips to reframe or change them into healthier habits.
1. Negative self-talk
The way we speak to ourselves is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. If your inner monologue is critical, hurtful, or angry, work on reframing these thoughts. As a first step, try recognizing the negative thoughts and asking yourself, ‘how does this serve me?’
2. Overbooking yourself
The world is filled with opportunities; whether they be social, work, or with family, it can be easy to overextend yourself. Make a schedule at the start of each week, allowing time for relaxation. This schedule can keep you in a healthy routine that does not allow you to overbook.
3. Blaming yourself for the past
It is hard to let go of the past. If you find yourself feeling guilty or stuck about past situations, look into Radical Acceptance as a way to move forward.
4. Judging your emotions
Let yourself feel the way you feel! You can’t change your personal reactions, but you can control how you react towards others.
5. Ignoring your achievements
At the end of each day, make a list of 3 things you are proud of each day. Soon, you will come to appreciate the small achievements, as well as the big ones.
This work does not happen overnight. Keep working at these small changes until they become habits.
All-or-nothing thinking places our behaviors and thoughts into two categories: good or bad. It only assigns value in these two extremes; there is no gray area. An example of this type of thinking is saying, “I failed that test so I will never be successful”. One bad moment turned into something larger with consequences for the rest of your life. In reality, you failed one test and with some more studying or extra credit, the class will be passed. However, it can be hard to see the uncertainties or ‘gray areas’ in times of stress. Sometimes our minds prefer a set outcome, even if it is a negative one. It is important to try to stop all-or-nothing thinking because it is limiting. It gives only two outcomes, when in reality, many more exist.
This type of thinking is called a Cognitive Distortion and is addressed directly in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). To challenge these thoughts, you first have to recognize that they exist. Look for words like ‘always’, ‘can’t’, or ‘never’ in your thoughts. These words can be a sign that all-or-nothing thinking is happening. Are there specific situations where these thoughts occur more? Try to look for triggers of all-or-nothing thinking.
After you have identified patterns of all-or-nothing thinking, try breaking the binary by adding the word ‘and’or ‘but’ to your thoughts. Rarely are situations completely black-and-white, so explore the other possibilities. To continue with the previous example, you could say ‘I failed this test but this does not define who I am as a student’. You are not the result of one action, so try not to speak as if you are.
Another way to combat all-or-nothing thinking is to use real-life evidence. Has this ever happened before? What was the outcome? Challenge yourself to think of three other outcomes of this situation. This can open up the thought from having only two possibilities to recognizing that there are more.
Most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself. All-or-nothing thinking can lead to negative self-talk. We all make mistakes, we all have an off day. One moment is not indicative of who you are. Give yourself the chance to move forward by recognizing all of the possibilities that come with each situation.
It is easy to feel lonely in our fast-paced, technology-centered world. These feelings of loneliness can bring about anxiety, social isolation, and depression. Building your community is the antidote to loneliness. Connecting with the people around you is healthy and necessary for a balanced life. When you build relationships that allow you to share and connect, the seeds of your network are planted. Your network includes people you feel connected to, as well as people you interact with often. Building your network requires effort, but the payoff is well worth it. As your network grows, so do your options; you will have more people to turn to if you need support, social interaction, and much more. Our communities are found through our personal networks.
Community is a broad term to describe those who surround you. Some communities are based on similar interests, while others are created by shared experiences. In either case, your community is meant to be a safe place for you to share. Identifying the communities you are a part of is the first step to pushing off loneliness. Do you feel connected to your coworkers? Are you part of any clubs? What connects you with your friends? The answers to these questions can help you to recognize how your larger network breaks down into smaller communities. Connection to others requires vulnerability on our part. Small-talk is great at the start of relationships, but depth comes from the willingness of each party to share. Not all sharing has to be emotional or physical; some connections come from the sharing of resources and knowledge.
Refresh Psychotherapy offers multiple therapeutic groups throughout the year. Joining a therapeutic group can be a good way to begin connecting with others who share similar experiences to you. Some groups are tools-based, while others are focused on healing. These groups can be yet another community for you to join and connect with. Visit https://refreshtherapynyc.com/therapy-groups/ for more information about our group offerings.
The phrase ‘work-life balance’ is used over and over again in mental health blogs, motivational social media posts, and conversations with coworkers. It is an elusive concept, to be able to strike a balance between your personal and professional lives. Now more than ever the line between those two areas of our lives are blurred. Maybe you work from home and leaving work means moving from a couch to a bed. Maybe self-promotion is part of your job and you have to post on your social media to find work. In either case, parts of life that used to be categorized as ‘personal’ (home and social media) are now involved with work.
It is important to note that this ‘balance’ looks different for everyone. Deriving purpose and joy from work is great; but so is finding passion outside of your job. Not everyone needs to have a 50/50 split between work and home. Try not to judge yourself if you need one more than the other. Neither option is good or bad, just different. Also, the balance can change for you over time.
You deserve to structure your life the way you want. The goal of finding this balance is about taking care of your needs, not breaking your life down into a formula. Think about your priorities. Do they lend themselves to a life that feels balanced for you? If the answer to this question is ‘no’, consider why that is. Is it a result of the expectations of others impacting how you lead your life? It is harder to think about your own needs and their origins than it is to blindly do what you are told. Challenge yourself to find your own work-life balance, not the one that is expected of you.
Be kind to yourself while you are searching for what works best for you.
Before jumping into a quick answer, let’s discuss feelings in general:
It is important to remember that emotions and feelings are not bad. They often derive from met (or unmet) expectations based on set values or boundaries. These can be both expectations for yourself or for others.
Expressing feelings can:
Provide insight into your own emotions
Decrease anxiety that could stem from the issue
Provide insight into your likes and dislikes
Increase connection with others
For example, if you feel angry because your partner did not show up for dinner, try asking yourself: what about them not showing up made me angry? Where does this anger come from?
One common thought is: ‘but they SHOULD know”. We have to remember that our partners are not mind readers. Oftentimes people don’t know because you haven’t told them. What would it be like to tell someone how they made you feel instead of hiding?
Here is a tip: Instead of shutting down, say something like: when you didn’t show up for dinner, I felt _____ because ____.
Before expressing feelings to your partner, check-in with yourself. Try naming your feelings to yourself before expressing them to your partner. When we know our emotions, we can communicate them in a more effective way. Mutual understanding and positive communication deepens relationships.
Perfectionism is a greatly misunderstood phenomenon. Perfectionists are perceived as people who need things to be done to the highest standards. In some ways, this can seem like a good thing; people who focus on achieving often do so, no matter what the cost. Perfectionists often feel pressure to perform at the highest levels. This can result in fear of failure, overcompensation, and low self-esteem. Basing your worth as a person on your performance creates immense pressure to do everything ‘right’. There is little room for growth when your baseline is perfection. Our mistakes and missteps are just as much part of our growth as our achievements.
If you are someone who struggles with the pressure to be perfect, ask yourself: what does ‘perfect’ look like to you?
Each person will have a different answer to this question. That is because ‘perfect’ is a moving target. The closer to it we get, the more it changes and the less attainable it becomes; so we keep reaching. Take a second to think about who sets the norms for perfection. Does it come from you? Does it come from your culture or your family? Does it come from societal expectations? These standards for perfection do not exist in a vacuum, they are influenced by multiple factors in your life.
The knowledge that there is no ‘perfect’ can be freeing. The strive for perfection can get in the way of developing lasting self-confidence. Comments from others are fleeting, but truly believing in your abilities is an important step on the road to confidence. You have nothing to prove to others, just yourself. Give yourself the grace to make mistakes and grow from them.
“Let us reflect on what is truly of value in life, what gives meaning to our lives, and set our priorities on the basis of that.”-Dalai Lama
What comes first when you are writing your to-do list? We all have different priorities based on our life circumstances. Prioritizing is an essential part of maintaining a full life. Expecting yourself to give everything the same amount of effort and focus is unsustainable. Choosing what you give attention to is challenging; especially when you care deeply about multiple parts of your life. When you are able to identify your priorities, you can give them each the attention they deserve. It does not necessarily mean that one facet of your life is the most important, but rather, it is the one that needs the most attention at this moment.
Focus looks different for each person. For some, it is one sustained period of work. For others, it is short bursts of attention with breaks in between. Next time you are working, note your style of focus. No one way is better than another; each of us has our own capacity for focus. Once you know your most effective way to focus, use that as a framework for working through your priorities.
If the first step is to rank priorities, the next step is to learn to focus on them. Knowing why you are choosing to focus on a certain topic can help motivate you to do so. Why focus on this over the other things on your priority list? Take some time to consider your ‘why’ before you start to work on an activity.
Before you embark on an activity that requires you to focus, try to ground yourself in the moment. One activity that can help with this is called the ‘Body Scan’. For a quick version of this exercise, focus on each individual part of your body from your toes up to your head. For example: breathe in, notice how your toes feel on the ground, breathe out. Continue this up your legs, arms, and onto your face. This helps you ground your body in the moment.
It takes work to create a product, whether that be tangible or something else related to your industry. That being said, not all work is productive. This distinction is important because we are often praised for working longer hours by employers, which helps create the misconception that more work equals more productivity. We all work differently. Some people need time to ease into their best work; others are able to complete tasks quickly. In the end, either style can create good work. The amount of hours we put into a certain task does not necessarily determine its quality. This is one-size-fits-all thinking has to be reframed for us to understand the value of our time.
Your time is valuable. That may seem obvious, but we can forget it in between the stress of trying to be productive and getting ahead at work. Recognizing the value of your time can put the work you do into perspective. Including non-work activities into your daily work day is good for your mental health. It can be empowering to give yourself a break from your tasks at work, and in the end, it can boost productivity in all areas of life.
Productivity can be boosted by ‘non-work’ activities that are not always seen as productive. The ‘Shower Thought’ is a widely known example of this. People believe that their best ideas come in times of relaxation; this can be in the shower, on a walk, or listening to music. Relaxation is not the opposite of productivity. In fact, moderate relaxation can promote productivity when paired with times of focus.
This is a reminder that your time is your own. Value it, treat it with respect, and productivity will follow.
In the constantly changing landscape of our lives, it can feel counterintuitive to quiet your brain. More thoughts equal more progress, right? But this isn’t necessarily true. Burnout extends beyond the workplace. You don’t have to work a 9-5 job to feel overwhelmed and overextended. In a society that over-values productivity and under-values personal growth, it is easy to forget about the importance of taking a break.
Here are some ways to help give your mind the break it deserves:
Breathe. There is power behind a deep breath. This gives you the opportunity to pause, calm, and reset.
Free write. Release all of your thoughts onto a page without judgment. Set a timer for 5 minutes and try to write without overthinking or focusing on the quality.
Try a Guided Imagery activity. Go to this link for more information from VeryWell Mind.
Stretch or do a short exercise. Moving our bodies can take us out of our minds and refocus our attention on the body.
These breaks don’t have to be long to be effective. Actively working on improving your mental health is not always about making big changes, but rather, many small ones. Try to take 5-10 minutes each day to do one of these stress relieving activities.
At Refresh, we work with high-achieving individuals who are committed to doing the work of therapy. Part of this ‘work’ is building confidence in yourself. High achievement does not equate to confidence, as many would assume. High achievers often feel immense pressure to continue to perform well; whether it be in their personal lives or their professional lives. Affirmations can be used to improve self-esteem and promote positive self-talk. When we strengthen those skills, it is easier to acknowledge our progress and motivate us for the future.
Our words have power, whether they are said to others or ourselves. We spend the whole day thinking (and sometimes speaking) to ourselves. Think about how you would feel if the words you said to yourself were positive. Would you have more confidence? How would it impact your self-esteem?
Below are a few affirmations that can be utilized by those who feel overwhelmed by the pressure to perform. Repeat them to yourself as needed. This can be done by writing them in a daily journal, saying them in the mirror, or any other way that feels useful to you.
I am proud of who I have become
I deserve to take time for myself
I am worthy of self-care and care from others
I am allowed to make mistakes and learn from them
The journey towards personal growth is not always linear
Therapy can be rejuvenating. Therapy can be cathartic. Therapy can also be exhausting. Each session is different; some will require focus, honesty, and raw emotions, while others can be filled with humor or casual discussions. Not all sessions will produce an emotional breakthrough. The work can be a slow process, and some sessions are about creating a strong relationship between therapist and client.
The sessions that tend to be exhausting are the ones where we have to recount painful memories or process difficult emotions. Though it might just be talking, it can take a lot of energy to bring up and feel intense emotion. We often equate physical energy expenditure with pride while we avoid emotional energy expenditure at all costs. As a society, we are much more comfortable sweating after a run than crying after a therapy session. That being said, both are the result of hard work.
Whatever the trigger for exhaustion may be, it is important to keep a clear line of communication with your therapist. If you are feeling overwhelmed or flooded with emotion, share that information with your therapist. Together you can decide if you are ready to continue talking about the subject or need a break from it. Remember that you are working in collaboration with your therapist. You can speak up and say that a topic is causing you emotional exhaustion. In the end, this will benefit your work because it will give your therapist more insight into your emotional state. One of the goals of therapy is to increase wellbeing, and being upfront with your therapist is a good way to do so.
Another way to combat therapy exhaustion is to reassess your goals for therapy. New goals can be set at any time. It can be useful to assess the progress you have made towards your goals.Setting goals can give you something to work towards each week in therapy. When you see progress towards these goals, it can stave off feelings of self-doubt and exhaustion. This is a conversation that is useful to have with your therapist to make sure you are on the same page.
There is no script for how to talk about sex with your partner. Communication about sex is not often taught, so it requires practice. The safer a relationship feels, the easier it can be to talk about sexual preferences. Exploration with your partner can be fun, but it requires trust. Below are a few tips to communicate your sexual interests with your partner:
Be honest with yourself about your needs. It is important that you accept your own preferences without self-judgment before you discuss them with your partner.
Approach the conversation with emotional honesty. For example, you could say, ‘this is something I would like to explore with you, but I am worried that you will think it is strange’. Being upfront about your feelings can reduce miscommunication once the conversation begins.
Focus on personal statements. Instead of bringing up things your partner doesn’t do to satisfy you, talk about the things they can do to enhance your sexual experience.
Ask your partner what they want! It takes courage to ask for what you want. If you are able to do it yourself, encourage your partner to do the same.
Try to have fun with the conversation. Explore the ways this could improve your sexual experiences and build off of one another’s interests. This is a collaborative effort where both partners want to enjoy themselves and have the other feel the same.
It is important to note that communication about sex can be even more complicated with LGBTQIA relationships. This stems from the lack of basic education surrounding non-heterosexual sex in schools. When kids learn about sex, they are taught about safety, sexual health, and the mechanics of normative, heterosexual sex. Being taught through the lens of heteronormative relationships can put LGBTQIA people at a disadvantage when developing understanding and communication skills about sex.
The more we speak about our sexual preferences, the more comfortable we become in them. As partners, we should all work on being accepting of various sexual preferences. Creating a comfortable sexual environment will increase intimacy with your partner and allow a freedom in expressing your sexual interests.
Overthinking. We all do it; some more frequently than others. We fixate on an awkward interaction or an upcoming event. It can be uncomfortable to feel the tornado of thoughts that swirl in your head when you are overthinking. This type of thinking can breed anxiety, which leads to further fixations. This is a cycle we can break by recognizing the signs of overthinking and actively managing them before they become overwhelming.
Here are a few of the telltale signs that you are overthinking:
Being unable to stop thinking about a certain event or subject
Developing irrational thoughts and fears surrounding the event or subject
Replaying moments and interactions in your head surrounding the event
Being stuck on thoughts about the things you cannot change or control about the subject
Thoughts about the subject are impacting sleep and daily functioning
A few tips to manage overthinking:
Ask yourself how this overthinking serves you. Is it changing the situation, or is it just upsetting you further?
Create a helpful phrase that you can repeat to reset yourself. An example of this could be, “I am here” or “keep calm”.
Do grounding exercises, like mental math, rubbing palms together, or putting hands under water.
Write out your to-do list. How does it feel to see it? Is it long? Does it feel overwhelming?
Between in-person and online tasks, we all have a lot going on. Our lives are expansive because of sheer access to information, connection, and communication. Maybe you have kids. Maybe you are caring for a loved one. Maybe you are trying to balance personal, social, and professional life. No matter what your circumstances, it is ok to feel overwhelmed. It is not uncommon for us to overextend ourselves for the purpose of pleasing others.
Saying ‘no’ can be challenging, but it is an important skill to develop. It takes confidence to know and assert your needs. The first step in developing this sense of confidence is to know your limits. It is not weak to say you are unable to do something. If we overextend ourselves for other people, what do we have left for ourselves?
It can take time to figure out your limits. Occasionally it takes pushing those limits to recognize that they exist. Practice saying, “I won’t be able to help with that because I have a lot on my plate right now”. Saying ‘no’ can be as simple as that sentence. There is no need to apologize for knowing yourself or provide further information.
Try to think of your life as a pie chart. How much space is work taking up? Social life? Alone time? Check in with yourself. Ask yourself what the ideal chart is and what you will need to do to achieve it. Block off time in your schedule to take a walk or do something that will de-stress you. These are essential activities that can be seen as ‘frivolous’ in our productivity-focused world. Though you’ve seen this written again and again in various mental health blogs, you cannot help others until you help yourself. Sometimes cliches exist for a reason. Honor your limits and watch yourself find a new sense of balance.
Each of us experiences mental health in a different way. For some, it is a constant struggle to balance. For others, it is an afterthought. It is hard to put ourselves in the shoes of those around us; even those we love. Mental Health Awareness month can be about so much more than recognizing the signs of illness or discussing stigmas. That work is important, but there is more. It can be a time to celebrate the hard work of taking care of your mental health, or supporting others in their efforts. To be aware of mental health is not just to be aware of its dangers and downsides. It is also to shed light on the powers of thinking differently, or to celebrate human strength and resilience.
The world around us is changing fast. Between a global pandemic, political dividedness, extreme weather, and all the rest, no one has been left unaffected by the last few years. The list of global traumas keeps building, and it would be easy for each of us to crumble under the weight of it all. Yet, here you are, reading a mental health blog. Or maybe you are searching for a therapist at Refresh. Maybe you are unsure of what you are looking for but found yourself here. No matter the reason, you’ve taken an active step in promoting mental health awareness, whether for yourself or others.
As therapists, we at Refresh have dedicated our time, education, and focus towards the study and practice of mental health. We recognize that asking for help is not easy, and feel privileged to do the work we do. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we want to spend the time celebrating and applauding those of you who reach out for help, information, and support. Whether it is signing up for a therapeutic group, one-on-one sessions, or coming to the website to seek information about mental health, you are making a difference.
Being honest about mental health issues can be challenging for anyone. Even with the people closest in our lives, being vulnerable takes courage. Though the cultural conversation surrounding mental health has opened many up to subject, these thoughts and feelings can be intensely personal and hard to communicate. Creating a vocabulary surrounding mental health is important for all of us. When we normalize talking about our emotions and mental health challenges, we invite others to do the same.
When a friend or family member comes to you with their personal mental health challenges, it can be hard to know the ‘right’ thing to say. The reality is that each person will respond differently to different support. This is why it is important to ask them how you can best be supportive. Some people won’t know the answer, but it can be empowering for the person to be asked what they need.
Mental health issues can feel overwhelming for those experiencing them. Try not to belittle the experience by minimizing or trying to ignore the issue. Work on using validating statements like, “that sounds really challenging” or “I hear you and am here for you”. If you don’t understand the issue at hand, educate yourself on the symptoms that the person is experiencing. This little bit of research can go a long way when supporting a friend in need.
In line with feeling overwhelming, mental health issues can make small tasks seem disproportionately daunting. An easy way to support a friend is to offer to help them with the small tasks. Whether it be helping cook a meal or helping the person find a therapist, doing these small tasks can alleviate stress for your loved one.
If you are worried that the person might harm themselves or others, you can provide them with local mental health services like the ones below for New York City. In the event of an emergency, call 911.
Do you ever find yourself asking the question, “Should I continue doing therapy?” Sometimes we hit a point in therapy where it seems less fruitful than it once was; or worse, maybe we even start to feel distressed at the idea of preparing for our weekly sessions. I get it! I have been there, and trust me…it absolutely can be cyclical.
I have been in therapy for over four years. I have had sessions biweekly, once a week, and for a while even twice a week. I know from experience how taxing being in therapy can be on us. Nevertheless, in moments when I am frustrated by, or even tired of, therapy I think about what it means to not have this outlet. I think about what it would be like to lose connection with my therapist after dedicating and investing so much time into developing my rapport with him. It is not easy for me–as I imagine it is not easy for you–to just create new relationships. Relationships are hard work…like really hard work! Wouldn’t you agree? If you do agree, then maybe this is a good blog post for you.
What to do when I am tired of therapy!
If your mind, or support system, is telling you to just suck it up or find someone else, it may be right. It may also be wrong. I always think it is best to challenge ourselves before we make any decisions in our lives. Personally, I ask myself a simple, yet daring, question. Can I live with this decision? If you feel like you no longer need or want therapy and you can navigate life well, and without symptoms, by all means end therapy. However, if there is a part of you that is concerned about if you can manage your symptoms or stressors without therapy, ending may not be the answer. I argue that what you are experiencing is treatment fatigue. What is meant by treatment fatigue? Treatment fatigue is the process in which we become burnout, or depleted, by constant treatment. This is particularly impactful when we feel like our symptoms are worsening or never changing. In physical health you find this often in patients who are fighting long-term conditions cancer, failing kidneys, HIV, among others.
Think of it like this. Remembering to take a pill everyday can become overwhelming, right? Well so can talking about your stressors and symptoms. Telling your therapist every week about your work anxiety or your sadness around dating prospects or even toxic relationship with a roommate/friend can be tedious and frustrating. For me, it was the drama and monotonous of dating as a professional Millennial. Like many of you, I was tainted by the wilds of the New York City dating scene. Thinking about this for 45 minutes straight every week and then getting homework to work on over the week about it can be…well let’s just say intense to say the least.
If you are currently thinking, “Well Andre, what is the resolution to treatment fatigue?” Here are three resolutions that I have used throughout my tenure as a person receiving long-term treatment in therapy.
Take a break! Simple, yet effective. Talk to your therapist about taking a few weeks off, especially if you have not had a significant break and it has been over a year of treatment. This break should be exactly that, a break. This should not be a stepping stone for termination. I would recommend 2-4 weeks off. If you are taking longer than a week off you may lose your time slot with your therapist and reentering treatment is its own beast as I am sure you are aware from when you first started therapy. If you would like to terminate, then it is better to have that honest conversation with your provider.
Spice things up! It is my true belief that sometimes we all forget that therapy is a relationship. It is a very specific kind of relationship, but a relationship nonetheless and should be treated as such. I remember once when I was feeling treatment fatigue I asked my therapist if we could try a different approach. For the next two weeks, we ran therapy differently. This will look different among all the different types of therapy out there, but for me it was as simple as us having sessions in a new location. A change of scenery really helped me feel less repetitive. For a brief moment in life, I finally got relief from the feeling of “here we go again.”
Make sessions active! Ask your therapist to add some light movement to your sessions. It is even a great idea for you to come to sessions with some ideas. Many of you may have done some breathing exercises within your sessions. Those are great exercises to start with, but you can potentially add more. I have started some of my sessions with patients by standing and doing some breathing exercises. I have even added some light stretching for centering the self. One fun thing that I like to do, particularly after deep sessions is a shake. I stand with people and shake it out. All over, just be silly and loose with it, break up the tension we hold within our bodies.
These are just three tools you can use when you are starting to feel treatment fatigue. There are many others so please feel free to Google some and see what fits your style and needs if these are unhelpful. The greatest message to receive from this is locus of control. You are in control of your therapy sessions. You have the right to self-determination and if you are feeling fatigued or even bored with the work you are doing in therapy feel free expressing that by asking for a change in your treatment process. Termination is not always the answer, especially if you still believe there is work to be done.
We all have grown up hearing the saying, “Communication is key”. It couldn’t be more true, especially when we are talking about the communication between you and your partner(s) in the bedroom. This is a topic, in society, still viewed as taboo. Schools still struggle to navigate conversations around sexual education and forget about freely talking about your likes and dislikes over some coffee.
We have been raised with very little free space to freely talk about intimacy, so it makes sense why it is such a difficult topic to feel comfortable discussing with your intimate partner(s). No one wants to tell someone they like or love that they are, “doing it wrong”. While this is empathetic, what then is the end result from holding back our true likes and dislikes when it comes to intimacy? What happens when we repress our needs and wants for someone else’s happiness or comfort? Clients tell me all the time, “I am nervous to rock the boat”. This is such a valid hesitation, however, the boat is already rocking if you aren’t being fulfilled. Picture this, you are in the middle of the Atlantic on this boat with said partner(s), and you need to work together to find your way to land for more food and water because you are running low. In order to do this, you need to communicate effectively to ensure everyone is getting what they need to be successful in the relationship. Long story short, the boat is rocking and will sink if you don’t start effectively communicating to get to those needed reservations, aka intimacy that is leaving you both feeling happy and fulfilled. When we partake in intimacy that is not leaving us fulfilled we can begin to make an association with intimacy as a place of stress, anxiousness and sometimes even frustration and resentment. Orgasms should never be associated with any of those.
So how do you talk to your partner(s) about your likes and dislikes if they aren’t being met?
TIMING – Make sure you pick an appropriate time to talk. Letting your partner know that you have something you would like to discuss and asking when would be a good time you can both/all sit down to discuss this.
TALK ABOUT THE GOOD BEFORE THE BAD– Starting a conversation off with all your complaints or displeasures will surely leave your partner(s) guarded and shut down. You want to ensure your partner(s) is listening with open arms. Praise them on the things you do like, the things you are happy about. Letting them know you acknowledge the positives in your relationship and recognize their efforts.
BRING UP HOW YOU FEEL and WHY – Let them know how you feel. This is a straightforward approach, no beating around the bush. If you are feeling disconnected, tell them. If you are feeling lonely, tell them. If you are feeling rejected, tell them. If you are feeling frustrated, you know what to do, tell them. Once you have told them how you feel, provide insight on why. Giving context to your feelings is very important for your partner(s) to hear you. This means, give the contexts/ situations that have left you feeling this way.
TELLING THEM WHAT YOU NEED – So you have told them the problem, given them the context on why you feeling what you feel, now it is time to provide them what you need instead. No one is a mind reader (I wish we all were) so it is important for your partner(s) to know what is needed to feel happy. Rule of thumb, if it is in your mind and hasn’t been said, it needs to be advertised so no unrealistic expectations are placed on your partner(s) to know what you need without saying.
COLLABORATE – Collaborating with your partner(s) allows you to hear what they need as well and how to achieve both needs for each other. Sometimes a need may not be negotiable, but how you get there with your partner can be negotiated. Give a visual, a road map of how you and your partner(s) can possibly achieve this.
Intimacy is supposed to be a protective factor, not a place to stress or become anxious. Conflict is not the big bad evil experience that the media and society paints. Without conflict it is impossible to grow. It is how you partake in conflict that determines if it is positive or negative. I leave you with this, how will you approach your conflict to get the results you deserve?
Cleaning your personal space can often feel like a positive, proactive measure to clear your mind. Michelle Newman, the director of the Laboratory for Anxiety and Depression Research at Penn State University said, ‘if you can exert some control over your inbox or your office space, these are small things you can attend to and feel good about’. This type of behavior can improve self-esteem and feelings of accomplishment. It can be empowering to feel like you are accomplishing goals and taking items off of your to-do list.
The idea of organization looks different for everyone. Some people feel most comfortable in ‘organized chaos’ where their spaces appear messy, but they know where everything is. Some people require complete tidiness in order to feel comfortable in their space. It is important to first define what organization means to you, and how to maintain that organization in the future. Below are a few daily habits to practice to increase your organization.
Think about the objects you use most in your house Make sure you can see these objects or have a good understanding of where they are. Start to take stock of your daily activities and what you need to complete them.
Place tools for daily use near their spaces Example: put your books near your reading chair or your pens near your desk. This can help stave off any frustrations about losing objects and time spent looking for them.
Create physical boundaries for different spaces Designate which areas you will do daily activities, which include eating, sleeping, working, etc. If you are working at your desk, make sure to only do work related activities there. Since the Covid19 pandemic has pushed many people to work remotely, it is important to create spaces for work that you can clearly leave when you are not working.
Being organized doesn’t always mean buying the newest organizational tools or having your whole house color-coded. It is about knowing your space and having access to the spaces and objects you need most. These tools can help to de-stress your home environment, which will lead to less stress in daily life.
Hypnosis used in therapy can have wonderous effects in healing and achieving a sense of wholeness and feeling aligned within oneself. Hypnosis allows clients to enter a trance like state to conduct a deep dive into the unconscious to bring awareness to what needs to be healed, released, processed and validated. Ultimately hypnosis allows clients to deeply understand underlying thoughts and behaviors and emotions that need to be processed in order for them to remove blocks or feel a sense of wellness mentally, physically and emotionally.
A breakdown of what to expect in a hypnotherapy procedure begins with the hypnotist serving as a guide for clients to enter the hypnotic trancelike state through different induction methods. Induction methods may include guided meditations for calmness and relaxation or tapping the client while offering them relaxing or calming suggestions to focus on. Some people may respond well to these suggestions or guided relaxation scripts and some may not and that could be dependent upon fears, concerns or limited ideas about hypnosis from common misconceptions the person may have heard. Some common misconceptions may include the client’s belief that they will lose control of their behaviors and mind when under hypnosis, they could become brainwashed, they can get stuck in hypnosis, hypnosis can trigger harmful results from what is uncovered and so on. It can be very helpful for a client to ask a hypnotherapist and clarify what the procedure entails and what they can expect before trying it to ensure they are fully prepared for the experience.
Once the client has been successfully relaxed and induced into the hypnotic state, the hypnotist then uses visualization to guide the client to different levels or parts of their mind to explore repressed memories, their motivation, their truest desires, unprocessed memories, the source or root reason for a emotional wound, or a phobia or whatever could have triggered a disconnect they experience in their conscious reality. Whatever comes up can ignite a cathartic experience with the client just becoming aware and “knowing” what has triggered their disconnects in the first place, but the client can also discuss and process next steps to heal with the clinician after the session has ended, if needed. If a client isn’t exactly searching for any answers or information through hypnosis they may just be looking to strengthen self esteem, positive behaviors and habits or feeling a sense of calm and safety in their everyday reality, with the clinician offering them positive suggestions for the clients best interests.
Through my work in using hypnotherapy I have been able to help clients achieve various results. For some clients, it’s reconnecting with repressed or forgotten memories, hidden deep into their unconscious, it could be reconnecting with positive emotional experiences or pleasant memories. Some clients may utilize hypnosis to reconnect with negative experiences of the past, such as traumatic events to allow the client to process these experiences in a safe and controlled way to ultimately feel healed and able to live in the present without being impacted by past traumas or distress on a unconscious level, that can impact how they think, feel or behave.
If you have ever felt stuck with consciously exploring your past and what impacts your mental health wellness, exploring the unconscious through hypnosis could be a next helpful route to achieving your mental health goals. Those who are just curious and open-minded to experiencing the endless benefits of hypnosis are also invited to give it a try. Hypnosis can be a very therapeutic modality to use for achieving mental wellness and an overall sense of wholeness by using it to deepen your state of calm and relaxation to deal with life’s worries and everyday stressors.