Got stress? You’re not alone. I’m teaching another stress management workshop this weekend. What amazes me is how much of a problem stress has become in our society. I’m also continually fascinated by its ability to alerts us to deeper, often neglected issues.
Stress, in general, is a response to something going on whether internal, external, positive or negative. Our bodies react by tensing our muscles, increasing heart rate, slowing digestion, and lowering our immune system, all in an effort to “fight or flight” from the potential enemy. When we get this reaction, it’s a good indication that there are issues we need to address and pay attention to.
Stress could alert us to the fact that we need to slow down and practice more mindfulness. It could signal a lack of faith in our abilities, or a problem we need to address with our kids.
Most of us would rather deal with stress by booking a spa service, or ingest a substance to make us forget. But the truth is that it won’t go ignored. If we don’t confront them, the things we’re running away from will eventually hunt us down with even bigger, louder, more problematic situations and even illnesses that will require immediate attention.
I have had the terrible opportunity of experiencing a black child’s first exposure to racism. I was in session with an African-American mom while her 4-year-old son played quietly on the rug. She told me she had recently enrolled her child in an all-white preschool and that the teachers reported her son had been taunted for the color of his skin.
Hearing this, the little boy came over to me and held out his arm. “May I please borrow your special soap to get rid of this brown?” he asked politely, tears on his beautiful little face.
I worked with an economics professor, also black. He told me that while walking the halls of his university in tailored suits he was sometimes mistaken for janitorial staff. “I’ve even tried an ascot, for pity’s sake,” he said.
I dreamed of giving him my bone marrow. I offered him poetry, homemade cupcakes, passionate sex and a basket of Honey Peanut Balance bars, his favorite. I even proposed to repaint and decorate his waiting room — at my expense.
I was in love.
His name was David. David was my therapist.
I started treatment with him after my mother’s death from a six-month bout with cancer. Her death left me broken open, bereft. My three-year-old marriage hadn’t quite found its footing and I felt alone in my grief. So I began therapy with David expecting a psychic sanctuary.
In my outpatient practice, I often do marital therapy. Couples come in to work on improving, or perhaps saving their relationship. By the time they take this step, they have often experienced years of conflict or distance. Sometimes they are close to calling it quits and calling the divorce attorney.
My first task in marital therapy is an assessment of the situation. What are the issues? What are the patterns of communication? What are the trigger points of conflict? What are each participant’s personalities and motivations?
After this initial assessment, I will sometimes surprise the couple by telling them that they remind me a lot of my dog. This statement is met with some very strange looks, but at least I know that I have their attention. I go on to explain.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and other mental illness is highly stigmatized, overlooked and looked down upon by society. BPD is characterized by poorly regulated emotional responses to events or feelings, possible urges to self-harm or commit suicide, and unstable relationships with others.
Here are 7 popular myths about borderline personality disorder:
1. Only women or mostly women have BPD.
This myth is a particularly harmful because it can work toward preventing an accurate diagnosis of BPD in men, as well as stigmatizing women and mental illnesses. While BPD is more common in women it is also fairly common in men.
Today, you’ll find myriad advice about improving your emotional health and relationships. This is a good thing. But, unfortunately, not all of it is accurate. And some of it can even be damaging.
We asked psychotherapists to share the self-help myths they’ve seen suggested over and over — and to set the record straight. Below, you’ll find a list of five myths and facts.
Many of my clients discuss a feeling of loneliness within their marriages. Often their spouses look at them with confusion or contempt. They ask how it’s possible to feel alone when they are in the same house or even the same room much of the time. Mr. and Mrs. Just Not Feeling It may also be helpful in explaining how you feel.
When you feel lonely within your marriage, you don’t feel like you’re part of anything bigger than yourself. You feel alone, and there is no “we,” only you and your spouse, completely separate entities. You may or may not seem to be a happy couple to others, and you may or may not be able to keep a united front for the kids. Either way, when it is just you and your spouse talking to each other, you don’t feel close, connected, secure or safe.
I overheard my husband describing my health to someone on the phone the other day.
“She’s definitely better,” he said. “She’s trying a lot of new things. It’s hard to say what’s helping the most.”
“Well, she’ll always have it. I mean, it will never go away completely. But she’s able to manage her symptoms as of late. She’s able to get out of bed in the morning and go to work.”
Wow, I thought to myself, he gets it. He truly gets it.
Bright light therapy has long been an effective treatment for people suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Now new research shows that this alternative treatment may offer significant relief for physical pain as well — specifically back pain.
In a new study, published in the journal Pain Medicine, the back pain of 125 participants was significantly reduced after only three sessions of bright light therapy with 5000 lux. (Office lighting is about 500 lux, and direct sunlight is about 30,000 to 100,000 lux.) The participants’ depression, mainly due to the pain, was also significantly lowered.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly referred to as ADHD or ADD, is more than a disorder of childhood. Over the years, doctors have grown to appreciate the fact that many adults suffer from the associated attention and hyperactivity symptoms.
These can range from a mild nuisance to profound disruption in daily life. In fact, in some studies, it’s been reported that approximately half of children with ADHD will show signs of attention and impulse related problems later in life. This roughly translates to approximately eight million U. S. adults.
It’s important to keep in mind that ADHD does not always look the same over time.
Clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, Ph.D, has known individuals who’ve spent more time researching their dinner reservations than their next therapist. However, going to therapy is a vulnerable process. It requires honesty and hard work. It requires revealing your struggles.
As Howes said, “You wouldn’t want to blindly trust just anyone, would you?” This is why interviewing a therapist is vital.
Also vital is spending some time researching your concerns and treatment options, said clinical psychologist Marla Deibler, PsyD. This can help you pick a practitioner who meets your needs.
At the heart of it, I think all problems stem from a fear of not being “good enough.”
I’ve noticed this when ambling to construct my next workshop. Am I working on giving or am I in the mindset of owing people for taking it?
I’ve noticed it when I’m overworking or overextending myself.
It’s evident in all of us when we overdo things-we exercise too much, we laugh a little too hard, we overcommit on activities-and when we’re not being our true selves.
It takes courage to be who we are. It takes inner strength to face the fact that despite all of it, we might still be disliked and rejected. The hardest part is choosing to be ourselves anyway.
Here’s what I’ve realized over time and what I continue to learn. Chasing after other people’s wishes and happiness is like chasing the end of the rainbow-it’ll leave me exhausted and it’s impossible to do. But finding my own self-worth, realizing that regardless of my mistakes, flaws and screw ups, I am and have always been, good enough.