World of Psychology Dr. John Grohol's daily update on all things in psychology and mental health. Since 1999. 2016-05-01T10:45:25Z Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. <![CDATA[7 Creative Shortcuts and Solutions to Simplify Life with Young Kids]]> 2016-04-21T19:26:40Z 2016-05-01T10:45:25Z simplify life with kidsLife with kids can feel anything but simple. Things rarely go as planned. You’re exhausted and could sleep for days. You feel like a mess surrounded by a whole lot of mess. Expert advice only makes you feel less-than and like you’re doing everything wrong. Which, naturally, only makes you feel more overwhelmed.

That’s what happened to author Asha Dornfest. Dornfest felt like she was drowning. For help she consulted parenting and productivity books and sampled time management systems, among other things. She assumed that other “more qualified people” would have the answers she needed.

“But expert advice didn’t fix my new life,” she writes in her book Parent Hacks: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids. “If anything, it undermined what little confidence I had. I felt more overwhelmed (so much information!) and less equipped to handle it.”

Maybe you know exactly how Dornfest felt because you feel like that right now. The more you read, the worse you feel. But, as she reassures, “You’re the expert, even when it doesn’t feel like it.”

Years ago, what really helped Dornfest was finding a community of parents online. In 2005 she started her own blog called Parent Hacks with creative tips and idea, which she and other parents contributed. Today, Dornfest hosts a podcast called “Edit Your Life” on the site.

Parent Hacks, the book, includes ideas for everything from organizing your time and home to bathing and grooming your baby to navigating travel and outings. Each idea also is illustrated by Craighton Berman. What I love about the book is that it empowers parents to get creative. It reminds us that with a bit of imagination, we can create exactly what we need.

Here are seven of my favorite tips, which I think you’ll find helpful, too. And if you don’t, they’ll certainly inspire you to create your own hacks.

Sort your to-do list based on time.

That is, sort your list of tasks by the time it takes you to complete them. For instance, cleaning the high chair and composing your list might each take 5 minutes. Cleaning the bathroom might take 45 minutes. Sorting laundry might take 15 minutes.

Also, separate bigger projects into shorter tasks, so you can make progress. In less than 10 minutes you can empty all the wastebaskets in your house; sweep and tidy up the entryway; recycle mismatched plastic containers; organize a single file; or clean out your diaper bag.

When you find yourself with some time, you can swiftly review your list and pick a task to tackle and actually finish.

Create a toy library.

Designate different clear plastic bins for each category of toys, such as blocks, cars and dolls. “Check out” toys from the library, and put them into a small basket wherever you’re having playtime. When your child wants to play with a new toy, “check in” the old toy. 

Play more relaxing games when you need to rest.

When your toddler won’t sleep — but you really want to — combine games with downtime. For instance, create a pretend campout in your living room. Roll out sleeping bags. Turn off the lights. Crawl inside, and make believe that you’re sleeping in the woods.

Another idea is to create a laser show. Turn off the lights. Lie on the floor. Use a laser pointer to create shapes and other effects on the ceiling.

Involve toddlers in chores.

According to Dornfest, “giving toddlers real work demonstrates that everyone in the family can pitch in, and that they are capable little humans.” For instance, you can have your toddler throw dirty clothes in the hamper; put their toys and books away; water plants; and wipe surfaces with a damp cloth.

Use chips for screen time.

Create a kind of “electronics bank” using plastic poker chips and a timer. Figure out how much time each chip will represent. Then every day your child will receive or earn chips. For each chip they pay you, they get a certain amount of screen time. 

Make totes into kits.

Turn different tote bags into premade kits. You might create kits for objects you regularly misplace or objects you need to get out the door. For instance, create a swim tote, which includes sunscreen, sunglasses, flip-flops, towels and a swim diaper. Create a library tote for books to return. Create a return/exchange tote with both the item and receipt.

Use laundry baskets for everything.

For instance, during bath time, put your child in a laundry basket in the tub, along with their toys. Use a laundry basket as a recycling bin or for toy storage. Use a basket for support as your baby learns to walk. Use it as an indoor train or even a bassinet. Use a laundry basket in the car as an organizer.

Life with kids can get complicated. But you can use your creativity (and the creativity of others) to simplify your days — and have more fun!

Family at the park photo available from Shutterstock

Laura Yeager <![CDATA[The Luggage Set]]> 2016-04-21T19:16:40Z 2016-04-30T21:55:53Z the luggage setI needed luggage. Specifically, I needed matching luggage. At 53, I’d never owned a complete set of coordinated baggage. I figured it was time.

I was at the local thrift store one day, and I saw a beautiful, brand new, four-piece luggage set. The color of the suitcases was black and beige; I would later learn that the pattern was called “English Garden.” The manufacturer was American Tourister. “You can’t go wrong with that,” I thought. And to top it off, it was priced to sell — $100.00 for the whole set.

I immediately asked to see the bags. The cases were behind the counter where they kept the more valuable items. A clerk handed me the large suitcase which contained the three other bags. “Wow,” I thought. “The tags are still on it.” The luggage had come from Kohl’s Department Store and was priced at $249.99.

It was a no-brainer. This was my new luggage.

Since I’m a careful thrift shopper, I wanted to check to see if all the zippers worked properly. At the thrift store, even though an item was “new,” it could still have defects. So I placed the big bag on the showcase counter and opened it up. Zipper one seemed to work fine. I opened up bag two. That zipper also worked. Inside bag two, was a cute overnight tote. Its zipper worked. And inside the tote, was a small make-up bag. Zipper worked fine.

I loved the inside of the suitcases; they were lined with bright purple satin material. In a word, the bags were perfect.

But then, I noticed something. There were papers in the pocket of the biggest bag. Curious, I pulled the papers out and inspected them. The first paper was a medication list scrawled in the handwriting of an elderly person. And the person took a lot of drugs. The second bunch of papers was a notarized living will.

It dawned on me that the person who had started to pack this bag was a very careful individual. I read between the lines; he had included the medication list and the living will just in case he ran into medical problems on his upcoming trip.

I am calling the would-be traveler a he, but the traveler could have been a woman. I just had the hunch that the suitcases had belonged to a man. Maybe it was something about the handwriting. In fact, I’d given him a name. At first, I called him John Doe. Then, I named him Mr. X. Finally, I arrived on Peter Smith. Don’t ask me why.

Since I’d found personal items in the internal pocket of one of the suitcases, I decided to search all the bags to see if Peter Smith had packed anything else. There were two more things.

In the outer pocket of the largest bag, Peter had carefully folded a blue, plastic raincoat and placed it into a Ziploc bag. Peter had planned for every contingency. The final thing I found was in the pocket of the tote bag. In this, he’d placed a tiny, needlepoint cross.

Yes, he’d thought of everything.

I kept reading between the lines. But for some reason, I imagined, he’d never taken the trip he’d been planning. I deduced this because the tags were still on the luggage. Certainly, such a fastidious man would have removed the tags before he took his journey.

And then, it dawned on me. Peter Smith had died before he could take the trip of a lifetime. His devastated family had decided to donate the beautiful luggage to the thrift store. And they hadn’t known of its highly personal contents.

Now, I definitely knew that I was going to purchase the suitcases. They came with a story, a history, a legacy. At that point, I understood it was my obligation to use Peter’s luggage in good health and make the journey for him, to take a trip he never got to take.

Peter Smith had waited too long. I postulated that he had been careful all his life, too careful. I surmised that Peter didn’t like to take risks. He’d wanted to take a trip abroad for decades, but he’d never gotten up the nerve. Finally, in his elderly years, he’d said yes to the risk. He’d decided to go “come hell or high water.”

But he was too late.

Good mental health means taking risks before it’s too late.

We can all learn a lesson from Peter Smith.

Take those risks. Have a baby. Marry the person you love. Go back to college. Begin a new career.

Take a trip.

Life is short.

Take a chance while you can.

Suitcase photo available from Shutterstock

Maria Bogdanos <![CDATA[5 Signs of Covert Narcissism]]> 2016-04-21T19:09:39Z 2016-04-30T15:45:26Z signs of covert narcissismWe all have come in contact with the flamboyant narcissist. Their self-absorption can’t be mistaken. But there is also the covert narcissist, who is not so easy to decipher. They are equally as self-absorbed as the outward version and equally as destructive in relationships.

Narcissistic personality disorder is created in one of two ways in childhood. Either the child is given too much attention or not enough. This leaves a large void as they enter adulthood. Their never-satisfied “taker” stance becomes the perfect magnet for the unknowing “giver” personality. Narcissists will attempt to find someone who will give them the attention they either had or lacked as children, putting others at an emotional deficit.

Narcissists will exhibit these five signs:

1. False Humility

This is actually a form of pride but will be shown in a self-deprecating way. Narcissists will play the victim and put themselves down so that they bait you into complimenting them. They will say they are doing things because they want to, but they are approval-seeking. They are concerned about themselves and are not truly humble.

Their goal is to let you know they are important and seek high status positions. Yet they disguise themselves in humility — which isn’t anything like an inner humble character of one who puts others before themselves. Their goal is to make sure they are stroked for their efforts.

2. Lack of Empathy

Narcissists will ignore any valid concerns you may have. They will choose to follow their agenda in every circumstance because they have are selfish. They don’t want to learn compassion and want to stay isolated and withdrawn. They will ignore you when you aren’t feeling well but want to be doted on when they are not well. There is no meeting halfway since they only want to be served, not to serve.

3. Immature Responses

Narcissists are highly sensitive and take offense at simple criticisms. They magnify a perceived or real offense more than it deserves. They are not able to dialogue but deflect blame onto others for their reactions.

They attempt to cover their anger by pretending things don’t bother them, yet their nonverbal body language shows anger even though they don’t admit it. They can become passive-aggressive in their responses and not follow through with actions.

4. Simplification of Others’ Needs

Narcissists will minimize the needs of the people around them. They will not explore the details of a particular situation because they don’t deem it worthy of their time. They will label people and deflect blame onto them instead of taking responsibility for their own actions. They reduce complex issues to simple ones in order to brush them aside as stupid or useless. They don’t want to be bothered with facts or logic, only their own limited scope of what is important so as not to invest their time or energy in anything contrary to their personal agenda.

5. Unable to Listen

Narcissists tend to “shoot from the hip” with quick advice and not ask questions during conversations, but instead shut down dialogue so they do the minimum amount. They do not want to expend any energy toward relationships. They don’t care about what you have to say because they want to follow what is best for them regardless of what you are sharing. In the end, they don’t care enough to listen to you.

Obviously, not all quiet or shy people are covert narcissists. But keep these signs in mind. Covert narcissists are not as benign as they seem and can cause you much distress.

Woman with crossed arms photo available from Shutterstock

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[Psychology Around the Net: April 30, 2016]]> 2016-04-28T15:23:30Z 2016-04-30T10:30:08Z lipstick

What. A. Stressful. Week.

At the beginning of April, I took on a work project with an end-of-the-month deadline and, although a couple of weeks into the month I realized it was going to take plenty of frozen dinners and a few extra weekends, I decided to plunge on rather than talk about re-negotiating the deadline.

Generally, deadlines don’t freak me out. I am one of those people who works well (probably best) under pressure. However, this particular project is important to me for a variety of reasons and so, yeah — this time, the deadline is freaking me out.

According to Lifehacker’s How Can I Make My Deadlines Less Stressful?, it can be helpful to redefine deadlines as time allocations. So, that’s what I did. I looked at what I have left to do, how much time I have to do it, and determined how much time I can dedicate to each task to not only make sure it’s properly completed, but also meets the deadline.

I’m not saying my schedule is foolproof, but I definitely feel like I took back control…for now.

So, as you read on about a makeup tutorial shines light on depression, how one intensive care nurse views death and anxiety, and the new happiness center at Harvard…know that I’m somewhere out here, click-clacking away to meet my deadline!

Vlogger Shines a Light on Depression with an Unexpected Makeup Tutorial: Video blogger Amy Geliebter has released a makeup tutorial with in-your-face (pun…intended, I guess) statements about what it’s like living with, managing, and sometimes outright battling depression. Definitely worth a watch.

Risks of Harm From Spanking Confirmed by Analysis of 5 Decades of Research: This month’s Journal of Family Psychology features the meta-analysis of five decades worth of research on spanking and how, the more children are spanked, “the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.”

Talking Death and Existential Anxiety with an ICU Nurse: “It’s weird because on the one hand, you become inured to it, death is just another pain in the ass thing you deal with at work. You bury it in your brain — but then it pops up at random in your daily life. I’ll drop my cell phone and be like, ‘Oh ****, I have multiple sclerosis, or ALS.'”

Psychologists Reveal One Of The Best Ways To Boost Your Mood: Feeling blue? Forget about trying to lift your spirits with retail therapy, comfort foods, or an outing with friends. Actually, forget about doing anything for yourself, at all.

Hospitals Test Putting Psychiatrists on Medical Wards: Traditionally, hospitals rely on consulting psychiatrists’ when patients experience a crisis and the situation becomes unmanageable; however, some leading hospitals now are bringing in psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to medical units earlier on, as studies suggest this can help both improve care and reduce the time the patient’s need to remain in the hospital.

Harvard University Is Launching a New Center to Study the Connection Between Happiness and Health: To the tune of $21 million, the new center (officially called the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness) and its researchers are going to “see if the old adage that happiness makes you healthier is true.”

Sloane Fabricius, LMFT <![CDATA[Awareness: A Hardwired Gift and the Science Behind It]]> 2016-04-19T17:27:19Z 2016-04-29T21:55:05Z our hardwired giftAwareness is a hardwired gift. It may cause us to frown when we see another frown, find food when our stomach growls, smile at a baby, or hold the door open for another. You may or may not remember telling yourself to do these things. You just did it, because on some level you were aware, which led to your response.

Intentionally practicing mindfulness allows us to tune into varying depths of our awareness, beyond those that are on automatic pilot. This deeper level of awareness gives us the flexibility and buoyancy to self-correct, helping us to better serve and navigate ourselves and our community.

Just as a plant is hardwired to grow, given proper sun and light, so are we wired to grow and thrive. Did you or your caregivers select the day of your first real steps? They were surely the sun and light that fed your efforts. But when your developing brain and body were ready, you did the work — aware only of your efforts, not yourself.

Along with this beautiful innate drive of ours to thrive, according to David Korten, we are hardwired to care and connect. We have an instinctual desire to protect our brood, and this includes ourselves. Brain studies show positive emotions such as compassion, and the act of helping another, triggers the brain’s pleasure center and benefits our health by boosting our immune system, reducing our heart rate, and preparing us to approach and soothe.

Our brain and body already have this magnificent and efficient hardwired dialogue, according to Nick Oza. This dialogue enables them to regulate our internal homoeostasis,” (keeping us alive), or bliss (feeling alive!).

“What fires together wires together,” is a concept first described by neuroscientist Donald Hubb (1949). It describes what researchers now call neuroplasticity, the process in which your brain’s neural synapses and pathways are changed as a result of environmental, behavioral and neural influences. In Richard Davidson’s June 2010 webinar, he explores studies on the long-term effects of mindfulness on the brains of long-term practitioners (10,000 hours or more), indicating positive structural and functional changes.

While practitioners meditated on compassion, MRIs showed synchronicity in their brain rhythms and activation of the insula, the area of the brain that monitors how our body is doing. This activity results in optimal dialogue between our mind and body. Intentionally practicing mindfulness, according to Daniel Siegel (2007), rewires, or strengthens, our positive neural circuitry pathways, and optimizes the brain’s dialogue between our thinking and feeling systems. It creates that approach and soothe state toward ourselves and others, even in times of stress, and helps us to find that “sweet spot” of well-being.

Pairing our innate drive to thrive with the subtle, but powerful gift of awareness, gives us an assertive, yet calm sense within ourselves and among our community because it feels familiar and authentic.

When something good happens, stop, notice it, inhale it, feel it and be fueled!


Siegel, Daniel, MD., (2007). The Mindful Brain. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Mom and baby photo available from Shutterstock

Sarah Newman, MA <![CDATA[Love Thy Boundaries]]> 2016-04-26T17:45:21Z 2016-04-29T15:45:02Z

love thy boundaries“Love thy Neighbor; yet don’t pull down your hedge.” — Benjamin Franklin

Boundaries. You know you’re supposed to have them. Maybe your boundaries are abstract, and you just go with the flow. Maybe you think it’s only people who are “too nice” or forgiving that have their boundaries violated. But at some point everyone has their physical, emotional, and spiritual limits pressed.

Perhaps a friend going through a breakup leaned on you too much to meet their emotional needs. Maybe someone violated your spatial boundaries by standing too close or being touchy-feely. At some point, you’ve probably accommodated people who have fundamentally different core values at the expense of your own emotional well-being.

Everyone is susceptible to a boundary violation, whether it’s once a week or once in a blue moon. In fact, it’s just the price of being social creatures.

If you’re a friendly person or meet a lot of new people on a regular basis, you may find this happens a lot. That is definitely the case in my life. In the words of Neville Longbottom, “Why’s it always me?”

The good news is that you don’t have to know exactly where your boundaries are. You just have to pay close attention to your feelings. Your instincts are on your side.

Did you ever have a sneaking suspicion when you met a person that something was off? You were uncomfortable and suddenly hesitant? Well, your gut is a powerful thing. As psychologist Dana Gionta, Ph.D., told Margarita Tartakovsky in this article: “When someone acts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s a cue to us they may be violating or crossing a boundary.”

Gionta pinpoints discomfort and resentment as two key emotions that well up when our boundaries are violated. Sometimes it’s best to just accept that the boundary violation occurred even if you can’t immediately specify what went wrong. We tend to pressure people into explaining themselves when they follow their gut, as if it’s a wishy-washy thing to do. But something isn’t automatically unfounded just because it’s ineffable.

For example, I recently interviewed a new dog walker to care for my elderly canine when I’m away during the day. From the moment he sat down, I had an uneasy feeling. I’m a chronic self-doubter, so I pushed my initial feelings down. “So he’s shabbily dressed and his hair looks dirty,” I thought. “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

We spoke for about 30 minutes, which included a tour of my home, and at the end of it my stomach was in a knot. My neck was sweaty. “I can’t be nervous,” I told myself. “I like talking to people. Besides, I’m not the one being interviewed.”

By the time he left and I closed the door behind him, I was exhausted. I wanted to pour myself a glass of wine (hey, it was 7:00 pm), but I knew right away that was the wrong reaction to have. I felt certain at that moment, I wouldn’t be utilizing the dog walker’s services. I couldn’t explain to myself why, but the decision felt right. My husband asked me how it went and I said, “I have to keep looking.”

Days later I felt I untangled at least some of what made me so hesitant about that particular dog walker.

  • I was jumping through hoops to make the conversation go smoothly, and he kept interrupting with non sequiturs.
  • He was more interested in how to work the entertainment center than how to give my dog medication.
  • He was pushy, telling me how to conduct a tour of my own home.
  • He wanted to change my dog’s walking schedule, which would inevitably change the schedule for both my husband and me. He was insistent and selfish about it.
  • While appearances aren’t everything, he should have cleaned himself up a little bit before the interview.

While I gleaned that much, I was content not to push for more answers. I put faith in my gut.

Even though I wasn’t thrilled about having to continue the search for a dog walker, I was very happy with my decision. I felt as though I had honored my boundaries. The amount of trust I put into my instincts paid off and made me feel more confident about my perception — beating back that chronic self-doubt.

Setting healthy boundaries is a part of self-care. It honors your feelings, builds confidence, and allows you to channel energy to the things and people you care about the most. Next time you feel discomfort or resentment peak, honor your instincts. With practice, boundaries begin to feel like best friends.

Confident woman photo available from Shutterstock

Brandi-Ann Uyemura, M.A. <![CDATA[Best of Our Blogs: April 29, 2016]]> 2016-04-28T19:25:26Z 2016-04-29T10:30:47Z Man Looks At The Phone. WaitingYou’re awaiting a diagnosis, or maybe a correct one. The fear of knowing is almost equally as excruciating as knowing. You feel like the rest of your life is dependent on this one moment. It all feels so final. You’re on the precipice of change and you don’t know if you’re ready or capable of dealing with whatever it is.

It’s one of the hardest things to go through. People often think getting a diagnosis is difficult. And it is. But it’s also the waiting, not knowing, and sense of helplessness that can feel intolerable. Once a diagnosis is made, you can take action. But what do you do while you’re waiting?

To end the week, our top posts will provide positive distractions on everything from addictions to teaching you how to cope with anxiety, and incorporating a childhood activity that could alleviate some of the pressure you’re experiencing currently. The key to coping with the unknown is to focus your energy on controlling what you can, and you can do this by being fully present in the moment right now.

Do drug addicts scare you?
(Addiction Matters) – What do you really think of people battling addictions? This post and the discussion following will surprise you.

Mental Health: 5 Things Alcohol Addiction Makes You Blind To
(Caregivers, Family & Friends) – Alcohol addiction may not be what you think it is. This could be the thing that wakes you up to its detrimental affects on you and your family.

The Art of Letting Go: The Shame You Carry
(The Mixing Bowl) – You carry a shameful secret. But the one doorway to freedom lies in your ability to expose it to the light. If you’re ready to finally release it, read this.

3 Triggers for Anxious Behavior (And How to Beat Them)
(Knotted) – You desire connection and intimacy. But you inevitably sabotage every relationship. According to this, you could be one of the 20% who is anxious attached.

I Officially Resign from Adulthood
(Mindfulness & Psychotherapy) – If life has gotten too serious recently, you may need to revert to this childhood activity. Incorporate this into your life and you’ll simultaneously invite more resilience and happiness.

Matthew Loeb <![CDATA[The Daily Grind]]> 2016-04-18T17:08:03Z 2016-04-28T21:55:45Z the daily grindRise and grind. 5:58 a.m. You jolt up; the blaring alarm clock interrupts the morning stillness. Rousing yourself from your morning stupor, the ritual begins: a glance outside, dry toast with jelly, and a quick part of your thinning hair. Lingering in front of the mirror, your sunken eyes and ashen face stare back. Middle age looms; those carefree university days are receding like your hairline.

Before turning down Reminiscence Road, you remember that you have a 6:45 a.m. bus to catch. Boarding the bus, you nod at the driver and exchange glances with your dreary-eyed workaholics; most are staring into space or mumbling into their phones.

The work commute takes 22 minutes. You have every bus stop memorized. Suddenly, the charmless 1970s fortress appears. Grimacing at the stained linoleum, fluorescent lights, and peeling wallpaper, you mumble a hello to the hyper-caffeinated secretary (is her name Sue Ann or Ann Sue?). Racing downstairs, you hustle past the burping printer en route to the Bullpen. 7:14 a.m. Whew! You rejoice; boss’s lights are turned off.

The day unfolds like any other day. The project lead discusses monthly and quarterly goals. Roy approaches you about a missing red pen. The secretary prattles on about her cat. You respond to email, loiter in the breakroom, and ask the boss about his upcoming junket to Mexico. “Same place, same time. See you tomorrow,” you crack to the Bullpen.

Life as routine is comforting, reliable, and utterly uninspiring. On the 5:12 p.m. bus to your apartment, you daydream of college road trips and overseas adventures. More than anything, you want to feel alive. “Next stop, Grand Avenue,” the driver booms. His voice jars you from your reverie.

We crave stability and spontaneity. You have a high-paying job, an apartment in a trendy neighborhood, and close-knit friendships. To family and friends, you are winning in the game of life. But something is missing. That electricity — that sense of exhilaration.

Welcome to your 30s. You are an accomplished professional striving for more thrilling or more meaningful or more empowering.

The predictable is scary; the unknown is scarier. Before making a hasty, life-altering decision, write down your personal and professional goals. Start out with big-picture ideas: status, salary, fulfillment, lifestyle. Each choice has tradeoffs. For some, financial stability outweighs personal fulfillment. For others, community recognition means more than a swanky apartment. When answering these questions, talk with a trusted confidante.

Step two: graduate from the general to the specific. I sketch out a six-month, a year, and a five-year plan. You want to return to your native state and establish a business? Great. How are you going to accomplish this? Detail realistic steps to achieve your goals. When returning to your home state, six-month objectives include solidifying housing, applying for an MBA program, and reaching out to family friends.

Lastly, let’s address your current predicament. The job is monotonous but you are well-liked, well-compensated, and well on your way to a leadership position. Would a promotion or vacation rejuvenate you? If you are shaking your head, you need to ask tough, probing questions. Is a career change tenable? Would a three-month sabbatical provide clarity? Financially, can you balance your lifestyle needs and career aspirations?

Craving more and better is understandable. Adventures- – the wanderlust trips, the serendipitous dates, the unexpected family surprises — nourish my soul. Your chicken soup may be a lofty title, a corner office, or a sprawling home. Before parachuting into the great unknown, let’s figure out your more and better and, more important, how you are going to get there. Living? It is that surge of electricity coursing through your veins and sifting through the couch for that monthly electricity bill.

Alarm clock photo available from Shutterstock

Michael Hedrick <![CDATA[Three Tips to Muscle Through Social Anxiety]]> 2016-04-18T17:34:54Z 2016-04-28T15:45:03Z how to perform in society when you have anxietySomething strange happens when I have to talk to a new person or someone I don’t feel comfortable with. My heart rate increases, my hands shake a little and I can feel a tightening in my chest.

It happens to everyone to some extent when they socialize, especially in instances where you’re taking a risk (i.e., asking for a raise, asking someone for a date). But for me the anxiety happens every time, from speaking to gas station attendants to baristas to the pizza delivery man.

Every instance of social interaction creates small panic in me. I think it’s due to the paranoia I feel that people are out to get me. While it can easily be confused with an anxiety disorder, it’s roots are in feelings of persecution I inevitably feel when I’m forced to interact with people.

Truthfully, it would be a whole lot easier if I didn’t have to deal with people at all. That sounds defeatist, and I know I’d get lonely if I lived in a cabin in the middle of thick woods. But people give me the jitters. As you can imagine I’m not exactly friendly with a host of people. I have a few very close friends and family and, while that may seem pitiful, I like it that way.

If living with constant paranoia and delusions due to my schizophrenia has taught me anything, it’s taught me about social interaction. I’ve acted out and analyzed every possible scenario for how talking to someone may go, and I’ve practiced for years on unsuspecting people. I’ve learned to adapt. I’ve learned how to fake confidence to the point where I appear completely normal. If you met me, I act warm and comfortable with you no matter who you are, but inside I’m panicking.

I think a lot of people live with social anxiety, but there are several things you can do in the moment to help. First and foremost you have to learn to relax. If you’re tense, other people will see it and feel the same way. It’s amazing how easily social interaction can flow if you’re relaxed. Honestly, there’s no other way around it if you want to make a good impression.

Another important factor is to enter into social interactions without expectations. You can’t force a connection; good interactions unfold organically. Leave all your motives and your efforts at the door, and let the magic happen. People regard you much better if they know you aren’t trying to accomplish something or that you don’t have any expectations for how they or you should behave. This is especially true on dates and nights out when the motivation is often to find someone to take home for the night. I won’t get into specifics, but there’s a reason I stopped going to bars.

If nothing else, always smile and treat other people with respect even if they are someone you’ll likely never see again, like a busboy or a pizza delivery guy. The Golden rule really is the best method for dealing with other people.

Never forget that you’re not alone in feeling social anxiety; millions of people feel the same way. Suffice it to say I’ve been there and, aside from engineering the way I way I act, these three things are really the best and most effective ways of conducting social interaction.

Outdoor gathering photo available from Shutterstock

Lauren Suval <![CDATA[The Physical and Emotional Parallels of Hoarding]]> 2016-04-30T01:58:52Z 2016-04-28T10:45:59Z In the newly-released indie film “Hello, My Name Is Doris,” sweet and eccentric Doris (played by Sally Field) is an older woman who lives in her deceased mother’s immensely cluttered house. Needless to say, Doris grapples with hoarding issues, tightly clinging to all kinds of […]]]>

In the newly-released indie film “Hello, My Name Is Doris,” sweet and eccentric Doris (played by Sally Field) is an older woman who lives in her deceased mother’s immensely cluttered house. Needless to say, Doris grapples with hoarding issues, tightly clinging to all kinds of items from her past. Her home’s disarray is a barrier of sorts, physically creating entrapment to what was – and not what could be.

Doris blossoms through a new relationship with a younger man (played by Max Greenfield). Though the outcome of their relationship may not be the one she unequivocally pines for, their time together symbolizes hope for what is very well possible in her next life chapter. She’s merely grateful for the friendship they share — for its impact.

It’s not long after this realization that Doris finally summons the courage to embark on another venture: thoroughly cleaning out her house and letting go of everything that’s no longer needed.

I found this particular storyline to be rather pertinent. Can emotional progress — the conscious act of emotionally moving forward — eradicate compulsive hoarding habits?

A 2014 Psychology Today article discusses the origin of hoarding. Its roots can be found in anxiety. By choosing to deliberately and relentlessly hold on to possessions in a way that interferes with daily life, there’s some semblance of control and security. After all, doesn’t anxiety usually stem from the desire to acquire control and feel safe?

However, while hoarding attempts to thwart anxiety, it also encourages further unease. The more people accumulate, the more they may feel isolated from the outside world, family and friends.

“Throwing something away makes them feel unsafe,” Dr. Randy O. Frost, a professor of psychology, said in a 2003 New York Times article.

“For some, it has to do with identity. I’ve had people tell me, ‘If I throw too much away, there’ll be nothing left of me.’”

Perhaps these individuals place such emphasis on old belongings because they’re afraid to move on in their own life story. There may be a fear of detachment from how they’ve grown accustomed to identifying themselves.

In an Entertainment Weekly interview with Sally Field, the actress pinpoints her character’s internal struggle: “She’s emotionally sort of stunted in a way … So her emotions just lingered and stayed dormant somewhere inside her,” she said. “And when she decides to move on, you see her just take this burst, and move forth in all the awkward, painful newness that adolescence is.”

Field notes how Doris’s love interest represents a life transition, too. It propels her out of her fierce ties to the past, and (I think) inadvertently helps the anxiety that manifested physically in her overly-cluttered home.

Doris concludes “that’s what she wants in her life — this young man,” Field notes. “But it really is about this bait, this something that pulls you out of where you are, and invites you to move on in your life. That’s the challenge for all of us human beings. How do you incorporate this new place into your being, and own it, move into it, and now see what’s left of you? That’s where Doris is when we meet her.”

“Hello, My Name is Doris” a uniquely insightful film, sparked curiosities regarding the physical and emotional parallels of hoarding, of holding onto the past. If one is able to emotionally let go and forge ahead, as Doris does, he or she would be able to physically let go as well.

Hoarding image available from Shutterstock

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[Know What to Expect When You Love Someone with Bipolar Disorder]]> 2016-04-28T03:54:14Z 2016-04-27T21:55:10Z Bipolar_Dictionary_BSP

It’s no one’s fault.

I was 18 years old, pregnant, scared, and lonely when I met my now-husband. We became best friends, and two years later he married another woman and had a baby. Fast forward six years: we were madly in love and engaged, then married.

One year after that, my husband came home after work, sat down at the kitchen table, and told me he wanted a divorce. I refused, and not very nicely. A few months after that, he was diagnosed with Bipolar 2, and our marriage was in for a hell of a ride.

What It’s Like Inside The Psychological Purgatory Of Depression

Ten years later, I published a book about our marriage, and have had a lot of sleepless nights and many lessons learned about loving someone with bipolar disorder. Here’s what you need to know:

1. When Your Partner Is Diagnosed, You Won’t Know What’s Coming

Even if you understand mental illness (I was already struggling with anxiety and depression when my husband was diagnosed), you don’t know what it’s going to look like in a particular person. There are general parameters of symptoms, but they can vary wildly from person to person.

2. They May Not Know They Are Ill

Part of having bipolar can be what is called “anosognosia,” a weird word for a simple idea: a mentally ill person who’s unable to perceive that he or she is ill. This means a huge part of bipolar is that, when your loved one most needs help, your partner will be least likely to look for it or accept it.

Some people with bipolar can be very proactive about their care, but this is usually after treatment has begun to help. Part of what makes bipolar so scary is that it takes an enormous amount of work to manage, and “an enormous amount of work” is almost impossible for someone very ill with bipolar. Therefore, recovery is a long, hard road, save for a lucky few who respond to medication immediately and beautifully.

3. They May Not Have the Same Ideas as You About How to Get Treatment

If I had my way, my husband would have been scarfing fish oil like it was beer, contacting his inner zen daily, eating a perfectly balanced diet, and taking regular strolls in nature to reconnect. Let’s just say these things didn’t happen.

4. You Will Struggle With Letting Go

Let go of the idea that you can heal your significant other or that your love can save them. Let go of the way things used to be before the disease take hold. Let go of waiting for the disease to let go. Let go of thinking if your partner would just “try harder,” then he or she wouldn’t act ill when having a bipolar episode.

5. You Will Feel Guilty

I still struggle to accept that it isn’t wrong for me to be happy or light if my husband is in bipolar depression. I struggle to know where letting go crossed with “I’ve done all I can,” because we do a lot — almost anything — for those we love the most.

6. The Medication Might Not Work

And if it does work, it might stop working. Many people with bipolar have to try more than one or two medications, or combinations of medications, before they find something that works for them. Staying on top of the medications could very well become partly your responsibility, too.

12 Things Only People With Anxiety Can Teach You About Life

7. Throw “Should” Out the Door and Accept What “Is”

You ‘shouldn’t’ have to be sad a lot, right? Well, nobody wants to feel sad. People with cancer, pain disorders, lost jobs, and broken hearts “shouldn’t” have to suffer either. But we all do.

When you love someone with bipolar, you have to stop listening to the “shoulds,” and think about what really IS and what works for you. If helping your partner manage his or her medications makes you feel better and keeps your loved one more balanced, great. If it makes you feel resentful and stressed out, and your partner feel hen-pecked, then don’t do it.

8. You Will Need to Re-Learn That Taking Care of Yourself Is Important

Even if you already knew this, it’s hard to remember when the person you love is struggling so much. You can’t be calm, loving, patient, or gentle with your partner or yourself if all your mental and emotional energy is going toward the other person.

You don’t want your relationship to start feeling like a caretaking role — and trust me, neither does your partner. So remember to include what nourishes you every day. I go on four-mile runs a few times a week, write, read novels, and talk to my girlfriends and my mom. I spend a lot of time being ridiculous and laughing.

9. Don’t Let Your Relationship Become All About the Illness

Take note if you’re paying more attention to the disease than the person. If your conversations all end up somehow coming back to bipolar or your idea of a date night is group therapy, you might want to reconnect as just people who love each other, and drink some wine and watch bad TV together.

10. It’s Not Your Partner’s Fault That He Or She Is Sick

It’s up to you to educate yourself about this disease. Get the support you need; it’s up to your partner to accept and take responsibility for treatment.

If your or your partner has bipolar, these are some great online resources for help:

  • Bipolar Burble: Natasha Tracy runs this site, which is the home of real-life experience, and suggestions for those with bipolar and those hoping to learn more about it.
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: Wonderful resources including support groups.
  • Stigma Fighters: A website run by Sarah Fader that has collections of essays by people with all kinds of mental illness.

This guest article originally appeared on 10 Brutal Truths About Being Married To Someone Who’s Bipolar.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[5 Traits Narcissists Seek in Victims]]> 2016-04-15T18:25:34Z 2016-04-27T15:45:21Z Narcissist_BSP_Canva

Are you the next target?

Emotional stalkers have a basic need to rid themselves of prevailing emptiness. They frequently achieve this by carefully choosing a victim who is then charmed, seduced and trapped. The victim’s energy feeds the stalker and provides what he lacks.

Being incapable of love, these narcissistic stalkers are ravaged by the furious envy they feel for those who truly enjoy life. We’re not talking of material assets, but of moral qualities: vitality, empathy, sensitivity, creativity, goals, and life projects. Besides, they’re not so easy to identify. They can easily switch their attitude from being charming and caring, to being ruthlessly critical and dismissive, feeding the victim’s confusion and self-doubt.

Beware! 10 Signs Your Guy Is Emotionally Abusive

Emotional stalkers are capable of charming their friends and family with their wit, leaving their victims feeling even more bewildered with their apparently innocent but truly aggressive and humiliating jokes.

Emotional stalkers frequently look for these 5 traits in their victims, some of which might surprise you (but are NEVER the victim’s fault):​

1. Above Average Intelligence.

Emotional stalkers seek very intelligent, really bright, highly skilled, well-trained victims. They look for enthusiasm and passion about their career.

2. Good Work Ethic and Personal Accountability.

Stalkers look for their victims to be very responsible and hard workers, always complying with an excellent achievement of responsibilities assigned.

3. Extreme Perfectionists.

Victims tend to believe nothing they do is ever good enough, forever striving to receive acknowledgement, meanwhile doubting their true worth.

4. Dependable and Always Ready to Help Others.

Victims tend to keep a low profile and have no wish to overshadow friends or work colleagues.

5. Underlying Low Self-Esteem and Low Self-Confidence.

Victims of emotional stalkers crave acknowledgement from their partner, though forever doubting their worthiness of it. This is what makes them vulnerable.

20 EXTREMELY Brutal Signs You’re In Love With a Narcissist

Pathological narcissism is a personality disorder, which causes tremendous suffering and damage to those closely related with the disturbed individual. Again, if you ever become a victim of an emotional stalker, it is NEVER your fault and you are not to blame.

Stop cruelly criticizing and blaming yourself, and take a deep look at who it is you are in a relationship with. If the person you love fits the above described behavior and traits, you need to move on with your life sooner than later.

This guest article originally appeared on Emotional Stalking Is A Terrifying Reality When Loving A Narcissist.

Suzanne Kane <![CDATA[How to Curb a Smart Mouth]]> 2016-04-15T18:09:25Z 2016-04-27T10:45:58Z how to curb a smart mouthThe tendency to shoot from the lip has doomed many an endeavor or personal interaction. If you are prone to speak first and think later, you could be missing out on opportunities. These tips can help to curb your impulsive blurts and make your life happier as a result.

  • Imagine you’re stepping off a cliff.

    The next step you take could be momentous, or it could be disastrous. Before you open your mouth to say whatever pops into your head, think of the potential consequences or ramifications. This will give you a little time to edit your words before they’re spoken. Remember, you can’t take back what you said, so use your words wisely.

  • Employ the two-second rule.

    If imagining standing at a precipice doesn’t help, there’s always the tried-and-true two-second rule. Count to two slowly, breathing in to get sufficient oxygen to your brain. Believe it or not, this brief pause is often enough to allow you enough time to change what you’re about to say — for the better, that is.

  • Think of the effect your words will have on the recipient.

    The religious advice to do unto others as you would have done unto you applies to spoken words as well. Before you let your words escape, think of the way the recipient will receive them. Chances are that you don’t really want to create a painful experience or cause that person to instantly dislike or fear you. Since others can generally detect a blatant lie, do you want them to distrust you? How would you feel if those same words were directed at you? Perhaps this is enough to soften your word choice prior to speaking.

  • Ask a trusted friend for his or her opinion.

    You might not be the best judge of how you speak, so it might be advisable to ask a good friend to tell you the unvarnished truth. Be prepared for a few surprises, as your own perception of how you come off to others is likely a little different when someone who knows you well gives you the straight scoop. If you’re able to accept the critique, this may go a long way toward helping you curb your impetuosity.

  • Practice before you need to deliver.

    Suppose you’re about to address your employees, or counsel a family member on an important matter, or offer your advice to someone who requests it. If you know you have a tendency to be a little too blunt, practice what you intend to say before you actually say it. You don’t need to memorize a script, just get the right tone.

    Remember that intent has a great deal to do with what you actually say. If you want to be helpful, supportive and constructive, your words will tend to support that intent.

  • Write it down first.

    Imagine you need to have a conversation with your boss. You want to ask for a raise, but you’re worried that some of your less-than-stellar performance might work to your disadvantage. Or, perhaps you have come to the painful decision that you need to break up with your significant other. You don’t want to hurt him or her, but this is a necessary step you realize you need to take. Instead of letting fly with whatever impulsive remarks come to mind, a better strategy might be to write down key points you want to make. This will help you stick to the important parts and avoid getting into the weeds with negative ones.

  • Remember that a smart mouth lives forever on the Internet.

    In today’s tech-savvy society, much of human interaction occurs via texting, posts on social media and email. You’d be wise to remember that anything you say using these methods will never disappear. Calling someone a jerk or being hypercritical isn’t good for your image, no matter how good it feels to get something off your chest. Remember that what goes into cyberspace is going to stick. This should help you restrain yourself – and result in better messages.

  • Think who you most admire and try to emulate them.

    Take some time to think of all the people you know who’ve been instrumental in your life, or those you may not know but admire their leadership skills. What is it about them that strikes a chord with you? If you really want to improve your ability to speak persuasively, to inspire confidence, spark enthusiasm, to comfort or counsel, perhaps emulating the people you most admire is a good approach.

  • Consider professional speaker training.

    People who regularly speak in public don’t just have a natural ability to talk to strangers. Many find that taking a class in public speaking helps them organize their thoughts, work on their breathing and body language, and practice their delivery. Pay attention to the tone, as well as the words.

  • Keep a positive outlook.

    It’s not easy taking a hard look at yourself and finding the courage to make changes. A positive outlook will help. You don’t have to have all the answers right now. Just making the decision to change is a tremendous first step. Take comfort in incremental improvements with an eye toward the goal – being comfortable with what you say, wherever, whenever and whomever you say it to.

Speak no evil photo available from Shutterstock

Sloane Fabricius, LMFT <![CDATA[Healing with Nature]]> 2016-04-15T18:16:07Z 2016-04-26T21:55:56Z healing with natureIf you have ever tried tending a garden or plant, you probably have experienced both joy and frustration, as in life. Nature offers many examples of our human spirit, and how to navigate ourselves, relationships and change. Many great writers and philosophers have echoed nature’s wisdom and ability to heal. Tuning into nature allows us to cultivate the following:

  • Patience.
    We are so hard on ourselves about where and who we should be in life. We often forget that we have our own seasons of development and change throughout our life cycle. Do we expect newborns to dress or feed themselves? Of course not; we know they are not there yet in their growth and development. If a loved one became disabled due to disease or accident, we would appropriately adjust our expectations of their growth and development. Start with what you know and meet yourself where you are, just as nature does.

  • Joy.
    Nature is a playground for our senses. When we approach it with all of our senses and with the wonder and awe of a child, our awareness widens and our joy deepens.
  • Resiliency and hope.
    Change is inevitable. Mother Nature reminds us of this when her forces destroy what she so tenderly brought to life. When given proper air, water and light, nature is hardwired to restore itself and adapt to changing conditions. We witness this when beautiful green slowly begins to emerge from the path of destruction. We too can feel hopeful and begin to restore ourselves with enough air, water, light and love.
  • Community.
    Spacing in a garden can be important. It avoids overcrowding so there is ample room to absorb nutrients and develop a strong root system. If we are in a state of growth, it’s important to create awareness of how this change is affecting you and your family. If not pruned, our growth may slowly and subtly constrict the air and light to our own good qualities, and of those nearest us. This may compromise our root system and make new growth difficult for both ourselves and others.
  • Attunement.
    Tending a garden requires observation of its growth or lack thereof, and then making adjustments in your care to help it flourish. We are often unsure if we made the right adjustment because our efforts may not be noticeable for some time. So it is best not to overcare, but rather offer the garden ample time to be nourished by the care you provide, and proper sun and water. Plants that are overwatered often don’t develop a strong root system because they do not have to dig deep to find the water.

    Observing our own thoughts, feelings and sensations can tell us what we need more or less of, including setting our own pace in times of transition and growth.

  • Spirituality.
    When we immerse ourselves in nature and its process, we often feel free of labels, roles or expectations. This helps us reconnect with our authentic selves and what we value in life, akin to the feeling of coming home. This state of openness and inspiration can cultivate a connection to something bigger than ourselves. Believing in something outside of ourselves can create meaning, peace and purpose, all of which can nourish us through stressful life events, long after we have left nature’s presence.

There are many facets of our fast-paced society that condition us to resist the natural flow of life and control what was never meant to be controlled. Take time to stop and notice nature’s growth and change happening before your eyes. Giving ourselves permission to be open to the awe of nature makes it easier to recognize and be patient with our own growth and change, which is also full of wisdom and healing.

Tuning into nature allows us to tune into ourselves, if we are willing to listen. I once had a wise supervisor say, “I would rather be green and growing than ripe and rotting.”

Gardening tools photo available from Shutterstock

Therese J. Borchard <![CDATA[Aromatherapy: Can Essential Oils Relieve Depression?]]> 2016-04-25T15:22:06Z 2016-04-26T15:25:02Z 203286_origFor nearly 6,000 years essential oils have been used for therapeutic purposes. A number of ancient civilizations including the Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used them for cosmetics and perfumes as well as for rituals and spiritual reasons. Oils are documented by the Greek physician and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides in the first century in his five-volume encyclopedia about herbal medicine, De Materia Medica.

Fast forward to the early 1900s, when French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse burned his hand and treated it with lavender oil. He then started to analyze the chemical properties of essential oils and how they could be used to treat various conditions. It is commonly understood that Gattefosse founded the science of aromatherapy in 1928. Shortly after, massage therapists, beauticians, nurses, physiotherapists, doctors, and other healthcare professionals started to use aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy uses the essential oils and other aromatic compounds of plants for the purposes of healing. The plant materials and oils can be massaged into the skin or inhaled. Each essential oil contains concentrated extracts taken from the roots, leaves, or blossoms of plants and therefore has its own mix of active ingredients, determining unique healing faculties.

Researchers aren’t completely sure how aromatherapy works. Some experts believe our sense of smell plays a role. Here’s what we do know about aromatherapy:

The “smell” receptors in your nose communicate with parts of your brain (the amygdala and hippocampus) that serve as storehouses for emotions and memories. When you breathe in essential oil molecules, some researchers believe they stimulate these parts of your brain and influence physical, emotional, and mental health. For example, scientists believe lavender stimulates the activity of brain cells in the amygdala similar to the way some sedative medications work. Other researchers think that molecules from essential oils may interact in the blood with hormones or enzymes.

One study found that citrus fragrance, through stimulation of the olfactory system, could reduce doses of antidepressants necessary for treatment of depression. The abstract explained: “The treatment with citrus fragrance normalized neuroendocrine hormone levels and immune function and was rather more effective than antidepressants.” Another study published in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine measured the responses of 17 cancer hospice patients to humidified essential lavender oil aromatherapy. Results reflected a positive change in blood pressure and pulse, pain, anxiety, depression, and sense of well-being.

I was hesitant to explore essential oils to treat depression because they are expensive (although considerably cheaper than a trip to a psychotherapist or psychiatrist) and because early in my recovery I went down a rabbit hole of new-age techniques to try to cure my depression that delivered me straight to the psych ward. But positive experiences with aromatherapy kept surfacing on my depression community,, such as:

“Lavender has helped me with chronic migraines for over 15 years.”

“I use my Eucalyptus spray all the time. I’m not joking, this stuff actually lifts my mood!”

“I’ve found that putting a drop or two of lavender essential oil on the inside of my shirt collar helps me with being more calm.”

“I used some essential oils for restless leg syndrome and it worked. I even was able to rid myself of the awful med I was [using]. I also use an oil for bladder infections and it works well.”

So I tried to open my mind a little — something I’ve been forced to do in the last year! For the last 10 nights I have rubbed lavender oil into my temples a half-hour or so before I go to bed. The result? I have slept very well. It made me think more about my sense of smell, and how it can work for me or against me in my quest for sanity.

I have an extra-sensitive sniffer (of course, because everything about me is highly sensitive). Whenever I am hit by a waft of pungent perfume — like when my daughter drags me into Bath and Bodyworks at the mall — my mood dips. I seriously respond with anxiety. But when I run a certain trail that is filled with wildflowers, among them lavender, my mood lifts. Coincidence?

Maybe this 6,000-year-old remedy is worth a try.

Join the “Essential Oils & Aromatherapy” group on, the new depression community.

Photograph by Dawn Marie/DME Photography.

Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.