General

Identifying How You’d Like to Spend Your Days

I recently penned a piece about the importance of being selective. Because the reality is that we can’t do everything. Our time is limited. And trying to do everything only stops us from focusing on what matters most (to us). It overshadows it. One day might run into the next, and before we know it, a week has flown by. And yet we feel empty and unfulfilled. We feel aimless.

This might be because we’re unclear about what is actually significant to us. We might not know our priorities. Maybe we’ve been so busy focusing on the minutiae -- checking off random tasks and chores -- that we’ve neglected the bigger picture. Maybe we’ve been so busy following other people’s definitions of success and productivity and meaning that we’ve neglected to consider what feels true and right for us.

These questions can help you name what’s important to you and discover how you’d like to spend your days.
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General

How Quitting Facebook Helped My Mental Health

About a year ago, I quit Facebook. It had become a place for me to experience disappointment and agitation. Distant relatives whom I hadn't seen in years were messaging me for favors. The presidential election was gearing up and people were getting very vocal about politics. And some of my best friends were dropping out of the site or not sharing anything anymore.

I decided it was time to close my account and do something more positive with my time. It was hard to break the habit, but there was much to be gained.
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Books

Living a Life by Design Instead of by Default

Some days, or maybe most days, you might feel like a passenger in the backseat of your own car. You are being driven to destinations you don’t want to go by a driver you didn’t pick. You feel stretched too thin. You are exhausted. You feel overwhelmed. You are attending events you’d rather not attend. Your to-do list is filled with tasks you don’t want to do. And the things you do want to do? Somehow those aren’t on the list.

This might mean that you're living life by default, not by design.

Thankfully, this is something you can change. In his eye-opening book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, author Greg McKeown shares valuable tips on how we can start living (and working) by design. Essentialism is pursuing less and better (versus trying to get everything done). It is constantly asking the question: “Am I investing in the right activities?” And by "right," he means whatever is essential to you. It is being deliberate and thoughtful about our days.
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Family

What to Do with a Cruel Inner Critic

Our inner critic might be loud and clear: I’m such an idiot! It’s always my fault. I can’t do anything right. What is wrong with me? I don’t deserve this happiness. I don’t deserve this success.

Or our inner critic might be more subtle -- and even unknown to us. Yet it still exerts its power, dictating the actions we take.

Each of us has an inner critic. Some inner critics are crueler than others. As we grow up, our self-worth and self-esteem derive their roots from our environment and surroundings. Our caregivers and anyone close to us has a big effect on both.
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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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Anger

How to Manage Overwhelming Feelings

How many times a day do you mutter the “F" word? During stressful situations, maybe during your commute, or following a heated argument with a loved one, the four-letter word slips out. It strikes an emotional nerve, paralyzing you and antagonizing family and friends.

Feel. What “F” word did you think I was referencing?

Are you a feeler? Do pangs of guilt and bursts of excitement define your day? I know your pain. As a self-admitted sensitive soul, my feelings rise and ebb like a cresting wave.
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General

9 Ways to Bring More Joy to Your Days

Sometimes, we make the mistake of thinking that joy only resides in the big things. Birthdays. Baby showers. Weddings. Holidays. Vacations. Even weekends. But we can cultivate joy every day. We don’t have to wait for momentous once-a-year or once-a-week occasions. Below, two therapists share their strategies -- some of which might be very familiar and others which just might surprise you.

Get enough sleep

You might not equate sleep with joy. But when you don’t get enough sleep, your ability to manage emotions diminishes, said
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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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Children and Teens

5 Ways to Help Young Kids Communicate Their Emotions

One of the most valuable lessons you can teach your child is to identify and manage their emotions. Doing so shows them that experiencing a range of emotions is normal. Kids who learn healthy ways to express and cope with their emotions show less behavioral problems. They feel more competent and capable.

“Being able to talk about emotions sets the foundation for healthy problem solving and conflict resolution,” said Sarah Leitschuh, LMFT, a psychotherapist who specializes in helping families develop healthy ways to communicate about and cope with emotions. These skills also help kids to maintain healthy relationships right now and as they get older, she said.

Sometimes, however, parents teach or model the opposite to their kids: They inadvertently create a space where a child feels uncomfortable expressing their emotions, Leitschuh said.
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Depression

What Depression Is & What It Isn’t

Depression is one of the most recognized psychological disorders. It’s certainly common. A 2014 survey found that 6.6 percent of American adults or 15.7 million suffered from a major depressive episode within the past 12 months, said Sandra Hamilton, Ph.D, a psychologist who specializes in treating depression, anxiety and relationship issues. With something so prevalent, many of us may assume we know what it is.

But assumptions can quickly turn to misconceptions. Misconceptions about what depression looks and feels like. Misconceptions about whether people really want to get better. Misconceptions about the seriousness of depression. Which is important because depression is serious. It affects a person’s entire being. It affects their entire life.
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Anxiety and Panic

How to Find Power in Silence

"Silence is a source of great strength." -- Lao Tzu (6th century BCE)
How is silence a source of strength? I adore the works of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching, but sometimes I don’t know what he means. Does he just mean the kind of silence in meditation?

Here’s more:
When life is simple,
Pretenses fall away;
Our essential natures shine through.

By not wanting there is calm,
And the world will straighten itself out.
When there is silence
One finds the anchor of the universe within oneself.
This kind of silence appears to be the inner peace of living in the moment and appreciating the invaluable ordinary things around us every day. Quieting all those thoughts that color our perception day in and day out, we live in the moment and tap into a bounty of joy and gratitude for the simplest things.
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Anxiety and Panic

Should You Have Kids If You’re Depressed?

“Were you frightened to have children with your history of suicidal depression?” a young woman asked me the other day. “Did you have to stop medication while you were pregnant?”

In the last 10 years writing about mental health issues, these two questions keep surfacing, especially among young women who dream of pushing a baby stroller to the park and disciplining a toddler and yet are daunted by a history of serious depression. Every time I answer them, I do so with a different perspective and new research.

Yes, I was terrified to have children.
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