Anxiety and Panic

Calling All Perfectionists

In my obsession with perfection, I forgot a valuable life lesson: pretty good can be perfection too.

Adventurous and fun-loving and driven and studious, I have sought it all. The dreamy vacation, the fulfilling career, the steamy romance. But the mind has always craved more.

Growing up, I would spend hours poring over an essay. I rehearsed clever rejoinders before dates. I would analyze events from 2002. I am laughing and cringing at these memories.

I was comfortable in my skin as long as I met my own exacting standards.
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Creativity

The Joy of No Sex

Full disclosure: I work in advertising. It's an industry where husky-voiced, hair-flicking women smolder in ads selling cat food and sneakers, and where shirtless hunks flex fuzz-free pecs to sell salad dressing and synthetic butter.

The following viewpoint will therefore get me into trouble, which I’m familiar with.

Here are two commonsense truisms:

While great sex is joyful, lousy sex is not
Happiness is possible without a daily grind (I’m not talking coffee)

Yet for reasons such as the availability heuristic -- a cognitive shortcut that encourages us to think of commonplace examples in our everyday environment when making decisions -- we often overestimate the importance to our well-being of having regular sex. When we pause to think of the world around us, we more often remember non-nude pretzel-like scenarios in which we were happy.
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Ethics & Morality

4 Steps to Setting Healthy Personal Boundaries


Sometimes it just feels easier to please others than to stand up for what we really want. Why? Maybe we don’t like confrontation. Or maybe we just like making other people happy. That’s not a bad thing. It can feel great to give others what they want, but it’s important to recognize when they overstep the mark.

Personal boundaries are how we set our personal limits. They are how we separate ourselves as individuals from the influence and intentions of others. They are an essential tool for communicating our needs, our integrity and our self-worth, both to others and to ourselves.

Without them, negative emotions such as resentment, guilt, frustration or shame could take hold. Your relationships may become frayed, and your self-respect could suffer.
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General

Surprising Ways that Shame Can Serve Us


We often hear about the destructive aspects of shame -- how it’s toxic to our happiness and well-being. As a psychotherapist, I continually see how shame holds people back. But can there be a healthy and helpful aspect to shame?

Shame is that painful sense that tells us we’re flawed and defective. Bret Lyon and Sheila Rubin, who lead popular workshops for helping professionals, describe shame as "a primary emotion and a freeze state, which has a profound effect on personal development and relationship success."

Believing that there is something inherently wrong with us, we're robbed of the capacity to feel good about ourselves, accept ourselves, and affirm our basic goodness, which has a crippling effect on our lives. Such shame may be so painful that we dissociate from it -- no longer even noticing it.
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Anger

How to De-Escalate Fights with Family Members

Ever find yourself on the receiving end of verbal attack? Many people have loved ones who lash out in verbally abusive ways. Some of these people refuse to listen to reason when angry. They take no accountability for their role in creating strife. They might insist that you are the cause of their abusive behavior and they would stop hurting you if only you would change. But relationships are always about two people. Each person interacts and affects the other.

For example, Moira, a 45-year-old wife and mother of three, was abused as a child. Moira was easily triggered into jealous rages. These rages could be set off by the smallest thing: perhaps her husband glanced inadvertently at another woman, or complimented a coworker. Or perhaps her teenage daughter talked back to Moira or expressed affection for a teacher, igniting Moira’s jealousy.

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Disorders

Living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

“He is sooo OCD,” I overhear a 20-something snarkily remark to a friend.

The hair on my skin crawls. As someone with a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) -- one from a psychiatrist, not Urban Dictionary -- I bristle. Sure, the remark was insensitive, even callous, but here’s why I cringe: the seemingly innocuous remark perpetuates public misperceptions.

OCD, the medical diagnosis, is far more impactful than OCD, the movie diagnosis. Unlike Jack Nicholson’s endearingly misfit character in "As Good as it Gets," OCD signifies more than an uncompromising adherence to routine. The person with OCD faces education and workplace stigma from puzzled colleagues. At its worst, OCD can be incapacitating.
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General

5 Quick Ways to Recognize Your Self-Worth

Self-esteem is not a hot and sexy topic. Not even close. I know people don’t love to talk about their self-esteem in front of others, but I’m passionate about it.

Self-esteem is defined as confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. Have you ever noticed how prevalent low self-esteem is among the general population? I have. I have also grown to understand there is a lot we can do to change that. Once we become comfortable in our skin, our self-esteem can soar.

I used to have low self-esteem and all the accompanying characteristics. Then one day I began to ask myself why. Why do I feel this way? This one question inspired more than 10 years of studying low self-esteem and strategies to increase it. It consistently remained a focus for me for more than a decade.

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Aging

Going Back to School Later in Life

This past September my mother, at age 70-something, returned to graduate school after a 40-year career in interior design.

Going back to school brought great joy to her life. She loved learning and being part of a collegiate community with its accompanying youthful energy and enthusiasm. But she also experienced high anxiety about grades, keeping up with the workload, reading small print with her failing eyesight, and getting to class in bad weather.

When I went back to school at age 39, I also remember feeling both excitement and fear. My mind raced with questions: will I be able to study and do well while maintaining my family responsibilities? Will I be the oldest in my class? Will I still have the focus to study after all these years? Will the classes be interesting? Is it worth the money that school costs? Will it lead to a better life? I had many hopes and dreams but also the fear of failure, dread of embarrassment, and anxiety about all the unknowns.

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Children and Teens

What to Do When You Feel Unmotivated in Your Career (And 3 Ways to Do Your Best Work)

We’ve all faced days at the office where we’re just not feeling motivated. Off days happen to everyone and it’s tough -- if not unrealistic -- to constantly do your best work. There are bound to be times when you procrastinate too much, lack focus, or struggle to start important projects.

You may react by getting down on yourself, wondering where your determination has gone. It can be disappointing to feel like you’re not living up to your aspirations, especially when there’s important work to be done, which there almost always is. Speed, efficiency, and productivity are what drive results, and when our energy doesn’t match our ambition, it can be frustrating.
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Brain and Behavior

10 Flimsiest Excuses for Not Taking Action

When a decision needs to be made and work must be done, instead of springing into action and doing what’s necessary, too often the temptation is to offer an excuse. More often than not, the excuse is a lame one, such as the following:

I don’t know how.
Did it ever occur to you that you might have been given this task or project as a way to expand your skills, gain new insights, or expand your abilities? Don't push it aside because you are unfamiliar with it or lack experience in doing it. Doing so makes you look weak, ineffective and possibly lazy. Ask for help if you need it. That’s a more proactive approach when you need to take action.
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Aging

How Failure Breeds Success

Our weaknesses are the source of our strengths; our failures are the roots of our successes.

This is not another motivational cliché, this is a fact of history and science. Evolutionary theorists long ago concluded that the power of the human species lay in its weaknesses. Aware of their bodies' fragility compared to that of other animals, human beings had to compensate for their powerlessness in order to survive. Individuals were too weak to hunt by themselves, so they collaborated and hunted in groups. Collective activity emerged, communication evolved, tools were built, and the human species ruled all others.

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Anxiety and Panic

A Husband’s Guide to Understanding Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Approximately 20 percent of all postpartum women experience a perinatal mood disorder such as postpartum depression (PPD) or anxiety. These are medical conditions which can be successfully treated. Knowing the risk factors and understanding the signs and symptoms are important for a spouse in order to get his wife the appropriate care and help.

Any new mom can develop a perinatal mood disorder; however, there are some risk factors to be aware of:

Personal or family history of depression or anxiety
History of severe PMS or PMDD
Chronic pain or illness
Fertility treatments
Miscarriage
Traumatic or stressful pregnancy or birthing experience
Abrupt discontinuation of breastfeeding
Substance abuse

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