Mindfulness

Mindfulness involves focusing your attention on specific experience of your existence. Some may draw their attention to observations of the outside or natural world such as sensory perceptions; details we usually ignore. Things like the texture or color of the ground or the sky, the types of patterns all around you, etc. You may also attend to your inner world, taking inventory of sensations in your body, mind, emotions, etc. This is similar to mediation and can go hand in hand with it. Meditating on these sensory perceptions of the inner or outer world can do wonders for alleviating stress, anxiety and fear.

Mindfulness can help take the venom out of fear. The more fear is focused upon, the more power it has over you. So mindfulness can help you loosen fear’s grip on you as there is no longer enough energy for fears and anxiety to take root with. Your energy is being dispersed as your mind is focusing on other things. Then you can focus on other more constructive or enjoyable activities.

More on Mindfullness: http://www.uv.es/carmenrg/material1/art%EDculos/Baer%202003.pdf

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Fears

Fear and anxiety go hand in hand. Often your anxiety is ignited by specific fears. Many of us know our fears. Some may not know them precisely, and this can produce an all around, formless anxiety. If you don’t know what your fears are, it may be a good idea to take the time to think about what they might be. If you can figure out what your fears are, you are one step closer to getting a handle on your anxiety. For those who know what your afraid of, you can treat the source of your anxiety. The following entrees will look at coping strategies specific to fears and anxiety.Practice being mindful. Practice coping skills for anxiety.

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Does therapy work?

I have seen the results of successful therapy in my office. I have seen people come in highly depressed and anxious. As they continue with therapy, their mood lightens, their face brightens. Hopelessness blossoms into hope. I have seen self disparaging comments turn into self accepting comments, self hatred into self esteem. Supportive Psychotherapy can work wonders: I have seen it with my own eyes. So, does therapy work? You bet it does.

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Stop Awfulizing

Maybe things have not turned out as planned in a situation. It might follow that you feel dissappopinted that things went exactly how you did not intend them to go. Following this, it may be completely normal to feel sad, angry etc. It’s easy to say to yourself “I feel so sad and it is awful”. Suffering can seem intolerable and we can say to ourselves, I can’t take it, this feeling shouldn’t be happening. This way of labeling a situation or your feelings as intolerably awful has been termed “awfulizing” in Cognitive Therapy. To awfulize is to focus so much on how terrible and intolerable something is that we lose wind of the reality. This is very similar to the more common term “catastrophizing”. Start by trying to accept your darker feelings as par for the course, tolerable, OK. Instead of “I feel so sad and it is awful”, try just “I feel sad” or just feel without adding all the additional internal commentary in your thoughts. A feeling can be just that: a feeling, nothing more.  

Do not engage in beating yourself up when you’re not chipper and cheerful. You don’t have to be. You can feel down sometimes. You can feel anxious at times. It is not awful, it is acceptable, it is “just life”. The mood will pass.</p>

Live with Hope!

Marc Alter, LCSW, Licensed Psychotherapist
19 West 34th Street, Penthouse Suite
646-543-6784
https://psychotherapistnyc.wordpress.com/

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Managing Your Feelings Using “I Feel” In Your Internal Dialogue

You are having strong feelings, let’s say you’re furious at someone who you think has done you wrong. Ideally, you’d use an “I feel” statement to to express how your feeling in a non-judgemental manner that is not insulting to the other party. Instead of cursing and screaming at the offending party (which may seem delightful at the moment), the less destructive yet more challenging option is to use “I feel” statement.

This could work for communicating with the person who you are angry at, but It also is a very effective way to make you feel better. If you trace and find the feeling you are feeling and “put a name to it”, you will likely feel less out of control.

Here is an experiment: Bring yourself to somewhere quiet. Close your eyes and start to gently go through your thoughts and feelings. Think “how did this person done that set me off?” What feeling is coming up to make me feel what I’m feeling? Not only happy or sad, mad, etc. Get a little more specific. Some examples: do you perhaps feel rejected, unworthy, blamed? Perhaps you feel guilty, selfish, alienaTed, misunderstood? There are many feelings that you could be feeling. Think of the person or situation that you’re dealing with at present as the stimulis that tapped into those feelings but not the cause. When you can know what these feelings are, you feel less out of control, your feelings become more manageable.

Marc Alter, LCSW, Licensed Psychotherapist
19 West 34th Street, Penthouse Suite
646-543-6784
https://psychotherapistnyc.wordpress.com/

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Coping Skills: Steer Your Boat Into Calmer Waters

I hear many ask, what to do for stress? Is relieving stress possible? Many need help with depress and anxiety.For those with allot of stress and too much anxiety, coping skills are important tools in your feeling better arsenal. If you suffer from depression, bad mood, sadness, etc. it can be so very difficult to function. You have to get out of the funk. Just engaging in coping skills or coping strategies can get you back on your feet. They can work in the short term. For example grabbing one of these feel good activities can break your depressed mood for the day. Even shorter term for those who are very frequently depressed or anxious, it can be used as often as needed; maybe even every hour. An example of a coping skills that may be used for frequent distress for someone who has severe depression or panic attacks is “thought stopping”. In the longer term, you can use coping skills on a regular basis to keep the blues away. For instance, you may find writing in a journal to be very uplifting and therapeutic. So, write in it every day, or a few times a day on regular. Practicing coping strategies regularly can keep your depressive or anxiety symptoms at bay. 

 

Marc Alter, LCSW, Licensed Psychotherapist
19 West 34th Street, Penthouse Suite
646-543-6784
https://psychotherapistnyc.wordpress.com/

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Thought Stopping

What if you could change mood, as simply as changing clothes. Perhaps you could stop anxiety before it comes knocking at your door. Thought stopping is a way to stop distressing feelings from overwhelming you quickly and easily. If you can stop the thought, you can stop the bothersome emotions that go along with it. A simple example: you may catch yourself in the face of a potentially nerve racking situation saying to yourself “I am going to panic now, I am freaking out”, etc. Here are a few steps with which you can prevent these thoughts from coming to life and ruining your mood.

Here is an excerpt from WebMD article defining Thought Stopping:

List stressful thoughts you’re currently having. Take your most upsetting thoughts and list them in order of most stressful to least stressful.

Sit or lie down in a private place (so you can say “Stop!” out loud and not feel self-conscious). Close your eyes. Imagine a situation in which you might have this stressful thought. Then allow yourself to focus on the thought.
Stop the thought. Startling yourself is a good way to interrupt the thought. Try one of these two techniques:

Set a timer, watch, or other alarm for 3 minutes. Then focus on your unwanted thought. When the timer or alarm goes off, shout “Stop!” If you want, stand up when you say “Stop.” Some people snap their fingers or clap their hands. These actions and saying “Stop” are cues to stop thinking. Empty your mind, and try to keep it empty for about 30 seconds. If the upsetting thought comes back during that time, shout “Stop!” again.

Instead of using a timer, you can tape-record yourself shouting “Stop!” at intervals of 3 minutes, 2 minutes, and 1 minute. Do the thought-stopping exercise. Focus on the thought, and then stop thinking about the unwanted thought-or anything else-when you hear your recorded voice say “Stop.” Hearing your own voice telling you to stop helps strengthen your commitment to getting rid of the unwanted thought.
Practice steps 1 through 3 until the thought goes away on command. Then try the process again. This time, interrupt the thought by saying the word “Stop!” in a normal voice. After your normal voice is able to stop the thought, try whispering “Stop.” Over time, you can just imagine hearing “Stop” inside your mind. At this point, you can stop the thought whenever and wherever it occurs.

Live with Hope!

Marc Alter, LCSW, Licensed Psychotherapist
19 West 34th Street, Penthouse Suite
646-543-6784
https://psychotherapistnyc.wordpress.com/

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What you think is how you feel

You’ve heard the cliches about positive thinking. “Think positive thoughts” they say, and things won’t seem so bad. It may be hard to believe but according to Cognitive therapy, there is much truth to this. You’re moods are directly linked to your thoughts. Think “I’m sad, I’m miserable” and miserable you shall be. If you can think “things aren’t so bad” or “I feel ok” or “I’m not angry”, “I feel relaxed”, etc. you may be surprised how much less anxious or depressed you feel. Positive affirmations such as “things will probably be allright, I am a pretty valuable person, etc. can make you feel like things will be right or make you feel valuable.

Live with Hope!

Marc Alter, LCSW, Licensed Psychotherapist
19 West 34th Street, Penthouse Suite
646-543-6784
https://psychotherapistnyc.wordpress.com/

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Cognitive Behavioral techniques/ Cognitive Exercises

Cognitive Behavioral techniques can be very helpful in treating anxiety and depression without medication (or in conjunction to meds). Cognitive exercises can help you get past episodes of panic, fear, depressed mood, obsessive thoughts, etc. These are practical, simple exercises that can be done in the space of 5 – 10 minutes and can get you back on track. Cognitive interventions explore the causal relationship between your thoughts and your emotions that follow. If you can shape your perception of your situation so that it does not feel awful or terrible and is instead tolerable, ok, part of life, etc. you then start to feel normal, relaxed. With Cognitive exercises you can come back to yourself and feel ok. In this next series, I’m going to share with you a few of these Cognitive exercises and help you feel more life yourself.

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Positive Thinking leads to positive emotions: Cognitive Therapy.

Positive thinking leads to positive emotions. So says Cognitive Therapy. In this series of posts, I want to share with you a few exercises that will help you reform your thinking from negative to positive. Here are a few methods to enhancing your ability to use positive thinking to feel better.

Cognitive Therapy says that your thoughts tie directly to how you feel emotionally. Therefore if you think about things in a positive, life affirming framework, you will feel good. Emotionally, you can feel happy or at least in a better mood. If you can not think of things as “awful” you’ll not feel awful. If you can see things as tolerable and not a “life sucks” attitude. You find that you start to feel that life feels like a good thing again. In the coming posts, I will be sharing some Cognitive Methods that can help you convert your negative thoughts to thoughts that are positive or at least “tolerable”. Your emotions then follow suit.

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Listening

Are you the primary sounding board for the people in your life. Perhaps you feel you are listening often and you are providing frequent emotional support. Being a good friend or family member is a give and take type of situation and that has a beauty all it’s own. It is healthy to have relationships in which you get and give feedback and exchange ideas. It is often important to be a listener. At times though, it may feel as though others aren’t really hearing YOUR struggle and are not being empathic. These friends and/or loved ones may think they are being supportive through their suggestions, but suggestions and advice often leave you cold.

Your friends/ loved ones earnestly believe that they are very supportive and caring for you but sometimes to you, it feels judgemental, critical, unsympathetic. Family and friends aren’t always good listeners, it’s true. You can either help them be better listeners by letting them know that you need to be heard now. If they are open to feedback, then their inability to listen can be improved with your requests. If you don’t receive quality “listening” support in your relationships no matter how hard you try, therapy is a good place to find excellent empathic support and validation.

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Why do people engage in compulsive behavior?

In my previous post, I talked about Anthony Weiners sex addiction and we looked at this through the lens of Compulsive Behavior. Whether it be sexually compulsive behavior/ sex addiction or other compulsive behaviors such as shopping, cleaning, eating, drugs/alcohol, twittering, facebook addicition, etc. It starts out as self-soothing. When we are anxious or stressed out in our day to day lives, we desperately look for something to make us feel better. Often it is something that can telaport us away from the stress and allow us not to think about what’s bothering us. It’s a means of “licking your wounds”. It is ok, even healthy to escape every now and again. Take a time out (to use the popular child rearing term). By all means, take time away from your stress; a minivacation from the trouble. Take the time to regroup. Read a book, meditate, sing a song, listen to music, practice yoga, or yes; go on Twitter/facebook, etc. Be sure to pay at least a little attention though. Just enough attention to observe whether these coping techniques are becoming compulsive. A Coping mechanism can become a compulsion. If you find yourself needing to leave constantly to engage in this activity to the point where you can’t stop thinking about it, it might be time to try and see if you can switch things up. If the coping strategy becomes no longer about soothing yourself from a stressor and becomes purely about the ritual of the activity, then try and take a step back. If you find that you cannot stop engaging in the activity after having tried to do so, then it is time to seek help. You can do this by searching google for a self-help or 12-step group, addiction group and insert name of the compulsive behavior in your search. You can also contact me and I can help you address the problem.

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Does Anthony Weiner Have a Sex Addiction? Do you?

A few questions should be addressed in order to assess whether one has a sex addiction. These questions are similar in the assessment of any addiction. Is the behavior compulsive? A compulsive behavior is a behavior that could otherwise be benign or normal but then taken to an unhealthy extreme. The next part of an addicition is that this compulsive behavior interferes with the healthy operations of one’s day to day life. This could be your professional life, your relationships, etc. So does Anthony Weiner have a sex addiction? You bet he does! His sexting/ cyber sexing may effectively end his political career. If it doesn’t end his career, it is fair to say it has severely disrupted and compromised it. Also, it is apparent that depite the negative consequences that he has repeatedly endured, he seems powerless to stop. If you have a sexual compulsion and you A. are powerless to stop engaging in it and B. it is significantly interupting your life, is a destructive force in your life and/or the lives of your loved ones/friends, then it is likely you have a sex addicition that you should seek help for.

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Let’s talk a bit about addiction

Let’s talk a bit about addictions. So many have one, wether it be a light addictive or habitual behavior or a severe “everyday” addiction. Whether it be alcohol, narcotic drugs, sex, tv, Facebook, internet pornography, etc. My simple definition of “addiction” is a behavior that one indulges in that becomes a habit and is unhealthy. It may not be unhealthy at first, but the compulsive aspect of it as well as the extremely over-done nature of the behavior are the components that make the behavior a problematic addiction. We are talking about what started as a coping mechanism originally used to self soothe has become compulsive to the point at which it cannot be stopped.

 

 

If the unhealthy behavior is hurting you; if it is disrupting your life and/or the lives of the one’s you care about; you could benefit from getting help. “Cold Turkey” or stopping the offending addiction yourself by forcing yourself to stop is an option if you are able to do it, but why go it alone? If you don’t nowhere to start on the road to rehabilitation, a therapist can be there to support and advise you at the beginning and throughout your process. You may be able to kick your addiction primarily with the help of a therapist or by attending a 12 step or other support group that caters to your addiction. Contact me if your unsure if you have an addiction or would like to know where to start.

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The squeaky wheel gets…attention?

How many times has this happened to you? You want to ask for something from a friend, a family member, an employer, etc. You wait patiently but it never seems to come to fruition. Perhaps you consider yourself a well-mannered polite person who doesn’t want to put pressure on the other person or entity. You have to speak up, otherwise, it’s easy to become invisible! How do you speak up without coming across as demanding?

We can use the example of a romantic relationship. It is crucial that you communicate your needs. If for example, you find that your mate hasn’t been paying enough attention to you, you can choose to be quiet about this and suffer in silence. You’re motivation in not communicating about this might be “I don’t want to bother him or her”, “maybe I’m over-reacting”, I don’t want to seem insecure” etc. These messages you think to yourself only serve to further the status quo and things stay the same. You let the dysfunctional dog lie. If you can communicate your feelings, you may be pleasantly surprised to see that positive change can happen with communication.

Speak up! Your personal needs mean something, so make them known! If you are passive and don’t speak your needs, you will not only not have your need met, you’ll wind up resenting the person as well as yourself. So, speak up. There is a good chance the other person didn’t realize how important is to you. It will be helpful to ask in a respectful, courteous manner as this will help avoid hurt feelings on the other side. Speaking up most often will make your relationship better.

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Anxiety: not always a bad thing

Anxiety seems unavoidable sometimes throughout life. It always seems to find us no matter how well adjusted we feel. Stress ultimately finds it’s way into our lives given our intense life situations such as deadlines, annoyances, difficult people, even personal mistakes you’ll inevitably make.

It is often talked about how anxiety can be treated or prevented.  I pose the question: do you want to do away with all of your anxiety or does some of it serve an important purpose? Anxiety can be very helpful. It can be motivating and it can help you become more productive (as long as it doesn’t get out of control and then it can become crippling. at which point you should take time away from your stressors, relax, practice coping skills).

In a relationship, anxiety can tell you when things aren’t quite right and need a change. If you are frequently feeling anxiety in a relationship with another person – friend, romantic, professional, etc., this anxiety may be a signal that you need to address your discomfort with the other. You should talk about it with the other person and let them know how his actions are making you feel. In this way, anxiety can help change a relationship for the better if both individuals embrace open communication.

If anxiety is somewhat uncomfortable but manageable, I would encourage you to try and tolerate and accept your anxiety, using it to “pressure” you to get the job done! It’s there pushing you, propelling you forward. If you have failed at something, anxiety can serve to guide you to do a better job next time. All in all, reframe your thinking of anxiety from obstacle to motivator!

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The second Fallout of the Boston Marathon Explosions: Post Traumatic Stress

The terrible tragedy that befell the spectators of the Boston Marathon recently cannot be easily shrugged off. For those who were there, many will likely develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. Witnesses and direct victims alike may find themselves experiencing flashbacks in which they are emotionally teleported back to the tragedy. For those who underwent moments of panic and intense fear, these feelings can return when least expected, when one is experiencing  Post Traumatic Stress.

People with Post Traumatic Stress or the full blown disorder of PTSD,  experience feelings related to fight-or-flight reaction which in turn, was brought about by a life threatening trauma suffered at a previous time. Fight-or-flight is a powerful and important basic instinct that we come equipped with. It is a basic instinct that has been essential to our survival since the dawn of humankind. Fight-or-flight is triggered when we are thrust into a situation where our life is in danger. One’s instinct is to escape or attack. Ordinarily in nature, this would save you by getting you far away from danger (flight) or aid you in an unavoidable fight (i.e. killing a dangerous animal). When one undergoes a terrifying tragedy in which one’s life and sense of safety is threatened, this fight-or-flight reaction can stick with us for many months or even years after the offending trauma. At the slightest reminder of the trauma, even a scent or a sound, a person is emotionally transported back into the original traumatic situation and may become fearful, angry/agressive, sad, depressed, etc.

For those who have developed Post Traumatic Stress, symptoms may seem to come out of nowhere and may be mystifying for those not expecting it. If you have experienced a life threatening trauma or witnessed terror related to witnessing a tragedy, you may find yourself experiencing sudden spikes in poor mood, intense fear/panic or perhaps you are snapping at people,  becoming enraged with little or no disturbance. If this is happening, first see if you can get to know your triggers so that you can be prepared and mindful of what is happening. This mindfulness of what you’re experiencing can diminish the duration and even the intensity of the episode. If you think you or someone you care about might have PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress, therapy can be very helpful. With treatment, there is definitely hope that one will get better.

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Supportive Psychotherapy

The style of therapy I provide is considered Supportive Psychotherapy. This therapy includes Psychodynamic as well as Cognitive Behavioral elements (the 2 aren’t mutually exclusive).  Supportive Psychotherapy includes a combination of emotional support with some (light) interpretation of one’s difficulties. It does not rely to heavily on analysis, although there is some analysis of the meaning of one’s struggles and shedding light on maladaptive patterns and how they relate to early traumas. It all happens in a warm “holding” environment. Cognitive Behavioral work aids in assisting one form healthier coping mechanisms and is great for alleviating one’s anxiety before it get’s out of control. Feel free to email me for more information about Supportive Psychotherapy or to arrange for a consultation.

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Fight….against ineffective fighting

Many of us are in relationship. Sometimes fights to occur, inevitably. Try as we may, fights cannot ever seem to be completely avoided. During and after a fight it is likely that each individual can feel badly about themselves as well as their partner. Feelings of worthlessness/low self esteem, sadness and alienation, isolation are typical when you and your partner are arguing and are angry or even furious at each other.

Hear are some tips to avoid colossal meltdown or over-extension of a fight.

“I feel” statements: One way of defusing a fight is to express your feelings using “I feel” statements. Telling your partner that he or she is a jerk and that “you piss me off” or some similar accusation, is not likely to connect. More likely this would inflame the situation and not help connect to one another. Even when you think you are expressing your feelings by saying” you make me feel…”, this is still not completely taking ownership of your feelings and accusing the other. Indeed, the “you make me feel” approach will make your partner feel blamed. If you say I feel sad when you criticize me” for example, you allow your partner to take in how your feeling without blaming or accusing (which would only fan the flames of fight). Try to understand each other. Try not to blame.

Empathize, empathize, empathize! It cannot be said enough. Try your best to understand and even appreciate the other’s point of view. Use active listening which is in large part, listening and repeating pack to your partner what they have said in your own words. This serves to show the other that you are listening and that you appreciate/understand what they are saying. It also helps you to confirm that you do in fact understand what your partner is saying. This helps put you both on the same page. It also makes your mate feel understood, appreciated, supported.

Things to avoid when in the midst of a fight that are inflammatory and hurtful and basically make it hard to stop fighting.  Name calling (You’re a [insert expletive here]), dehumanizing or humiliating comments (you’re pathetic, you’re stupid) , exaggerating (i.e. you’re the worst person I know), negative feelings that you are only feeling in the moment (I hate you, I hope you drop dead, etc.).

Lastly, if you dislike something about your mate, be sure to describe the behavior itself, separating it from the person. You may be annoyed by you’re partners bad habit, but remember that you still appreciate and care for him or her. So feel free to express your feeling that the behavior is intolerable, while not forgetting that you still care deeply for the person you’re with.

Nobody’s perfect, and this becomes all too clear throughout your relationship.  There may be times when all these good relational practices go out the window and you wind up fighting. Just try to keep  each other’s feelings in mind. Good communication and mutual support for one another will be your relationship’s most important and healing strength.

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Don’t believe what you’re saying (to yourself)

We are constantly sending negative messages to ourselves. Things like “you’ll never amount to anything, you’re not smart enough, you’re not skilled enough, don’t have what it takes”, and so on. What too frequently happens is we get into a self-fulfilling prophecy loop. We thread together a self perpetuating cycle by thinking a negative thought about ourselves, then constantly reminding ourselves that this negative trait is true.

Your inner dialogue is one of the most powerful influences on your self concept and your self esteem. Try something different from the usual negative self statements: try positive self-talk. Repeat positive, uplifting comments to yourself in your mind. You may find, that you will start believing it. When you believe positive things about yourself, the most amazing things can happen and you could become the person you always wanted to be.

 

 

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Secondary trauma in reaction to national or local tragedy

After tragic events, it is generally understood that people could likely feel traumatized.  People directly associated with a tragedy will feel a kind of traumatic stress. Moreover, people can also be impacted by terrible tragedy when exposed in a second hand fashion. For many of you, after learning of the horrific events of 911, you had to endure a month or more of additional news casts, documentaries, etc. rehashing the the terrible event and enabling you to re-experience it over and over. It is similar with the recent terrifying event  in Connecticut. Two weeks after the tragedy, you cannot find a news episode that does not mention the event in some form, serving as a grim reminder, not letting you move on in your normal process.

The grief that people associate with such tragedy is the the most quickly understood and accepted. The grief of the rest of those who have experienced it second-hand through their TV sets, blogs, radio, word of mouth is often less validated. There is a very real traumatic reaction that you experience when processing these tragedies by indirect means and we call this Secondary Trauma.

Be mindful that you have undergone a traumatic event. Realize that you must go through a grieving process, irregardless of it being on a smaller scale than those directly impacted. If you are having trouble moving forward after the recent tragedy, this is understandable. A horrible tragedy can be painful, scary and traumatic to those witnessing it through media. A few tips:

* Give yourself a break from reading about the tragedy or watching it on the news. Repeated viewing and hearing of the offending tragic news will only serve to exacerbate this already irritating stress.

* If you are feeling the effects of traumatic stress such as undue sadness, tearfulness, hopelessness/helplessness,frequent anger/rage, anxiety. Talk to a supportive friend, therapist

* Utilize coping skills. If you feel yourself getting emotionally upset practice coping strategies (i.e. take a walk/other exercise, read a book, deep breathing)

Here’s more on secondary trauma: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/secondary-trauma.html

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Be OK with YOU

The most crucial change you will achieve, among all the self improvements you make, is the achievement of being OK with yourself. There is no finer feeling than feeling that you are, well, pretty good. Go ahead, take an inventory of all the things that are “OK” about you. Maybe you’ve let the areas where you fall short dominate the way you view yourself. Try ignoring that part for a change and focus on all the things you’ve done and are currently doing right. Notice that you are OK, in some respects, you are even better than OK!

On a related note, you will be accepted by others, primarily while you’re OK with yourself. You who feel that others don’t accept you and don’t care for you, this message is especially for you. Accept yourself, love yourself. You can be loved by others insofar as you are loved and accepted by yourself. Walk around shrouded by a shadow of self doubt, you’ll in turn only be met with others’ shadows. Walk around with the light of self acceptance and you will be illuminated to others.

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How feelings are Connected to Addictive Behavior

Let’s talk a bit about addictions. Most people have at least one. Whether it be alcohol, narcotic drugs, sex, tv, comfacebook, etc. My simple definition of “addiction” is a behavior that one indulges in that becomes a habit and becomes unhealthy. It may not be unhealthy at first, but the compulsive aspect of it as well as the extremely over-done nature of the behavior are the components that make the behavior problematic. We are talking about what started as a coping mechanism originally used to self soothe that has become compulsive to the point at which it cannot be stopped.

This behavior is often (if not always) used to mask an uncomfortable emotion. Sometimes, we find an intense feeling intolerable, fearful, anxiety inducing. There’s a whole new set of emotions that come up when dealing with the initial unpleasant emotion. It’s enough to drive you mad! It’s enough to drive you to: (Fill in addictive drug or self-destructive behavior of choice here).

Be aware of the feeling that started this chain of events. Perhaps it is this feeling (I.e. anger, sadness, hunger, etc.) that often triggers your addictive behavior. If you recognize that this feeling triggers you, you can pre-emptively      alleviate  that feeling with coping skills before using an addictive behavior to self-sooth.

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Elusive Happiness

Happiness does not always have to elude us. It seems like a simple question. Can I, could I, will I be happy? With the right components in place, you can definitely rediscover happiness…or at least contentment (close first cousin of happiness). Contentment or being at peace with yourself can be reached as you find the ability of accepting yourself, your surrounding and your role in it. I would like to re-introduce you to a lively, productive person who has a positive outlook, self esteem and a great sense of humor. This dynamic and interesting person is of course you. You have allot to offer the world and the world doesn’t have to be such a scary, ominous place. Let’s search for this elusive happiness and when we find it, let’s hold on to it for a while.

When happiness trails off again and you know longer feel content ith yourself, talking to a trusted therapist or a friend whom your trust and can relate to you, can help you rediscover yourself, the parts of you that make you an exceptional, worth-while and likable person. Happiness has so much to do with how you regard yourself, your self esteem or self like-ability. So, find out from someone who knows and appreciates you, what are my good qualities, my accomplishments, my passions? If no-one is around, write about it yourself. Think on it a bit and you’ll remember why you are like-able and why you deserve to feel good. These are some routes to the path toward elusive happiness.

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The Art of Sublimation: Make Procrastination Work For You (part 2)

How can you use procrastination to get things done? Simple. When you’re “waisting time” or procrastinating with seemingly unimportant tasks, you can get in the driver’s seat. In other words, it doesn’t have to be a hap hazard situation. I noticed that in college, when I had a big paper due, I suddenly found myself doing housework (that up-till-this-point, I was avoiding. Suddenly, for some reason, these house chores didn’t seem like work, I wanted to do them. I was really engaged with what I was doing. Notice, this happens all the time in your life.  With a great, ominous task on your mind, you become engaged in other productive or creative projects less stressful then the major task.

When you experience strong emotion (like anxiety) you exert energy. When you find yourself engaging in these other tasks you are sublimating your nervous energy into something positive. Here’s how to take control of the process:

* Become aware when you are doing it. Be conscious that you are procrastinating, then you can take control and turn it into sublimating. Then, use this awareness to “bookmark” the major task and plan to get back to it when you are more ready.

* Using your realization that you’re procrastinating – You don’t immediately recall an important thing that you have to do but you find yourself working on a bunch of less important things. When you feel like you might be waisting time, take a look at everything on your list of things that needs to be done and re-discover what it is you are avoiding.

*Pick good, important tasks to funnel your energies into (clean your house, work on your masterpiece, exercise, etc.). If there is something that you can engage in that will be productive, creative or in general make your life better, work on that task, giving yourself permission to put off the daunting task to a later time.

* You have “bookmarked” the major task with the aim of returning to it later or tomorrow. Once you’re to that point of “later”, then think of another daunting task that you don’t want to do and work on previous daunting task instead. Your energy will go right into that task that you previously didn’t want to do.

More to come, please keep checking my blog for new posts!

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Hard Evidence for Psychotherapy Effectiveness

Psychotherapy has been proven to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and enhancing mood. This has generally been understood in the field of mental health, though now there’s empirical evidence supporting that talk therapy truly is effective: “After they completed psychotherapy, patients’ EEG results were similar to those of the low-anxiety group“, reports Robert Preidt in his articles. There are actually observable positive “neurological effects of psychotherapy”. ” Psychotherapy triggers changes in the brains of people with social anxiety disorder “. Talk therapy appears to be as important as medication for managing anxiety. Moreover ”A good relationship between a patient and therapist is likely to improve the patient’s recovery from depression ”. Good therapeutic rapport/relationship with your therapist throughout your course of therapy is now scientifically proven effective in reducing depression and evidence shows that psychotherapy helps those with anxiety disorder.

Read more in these articles presenting the results of these studies showing the hard evidence for the effectiveness of psychotherapy in helping people feel less depressed and less anxious:

‘Talk Therapy’ Can Alter Brain Activity, Research Shows

Good Bond Between Therapist, Depressed Patient Aids in Recovery

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The Art of Sublimation: Make Procrastination Work For You

Much of what we do day to day is a product of an obligation. These responsibilities are frequently linked to 1 or more different obligations which may or may not be related to the present task your working on (or plan to be working on). Sound confusing? I am talking about procrastination! This is what we put off the things we know we really should be doing, so we engage in a different, less strenuous activity. When we procrastinate, we are engaging in a coping mechanism called “displacement”.

Sublimation comes in when we use this displacement for creative means. Sublimation is when displacement “serves a higher cultural or socially useful purpose, as in the creation of art or inventions”, according to Wade and Tavris. Instead of fixing the kitchen sink, i may opt to paint my masterpiece, or start writing my novel. This action can be used the other way around if, say, what I really loathe is the idea of starting work on my novel or my art masterpiece. In this case I may find myself fixing my sink which has been waiting to be fixed for weeks.

Procrastination may come in the form of watching TV, exercising, playing video games, etc. These forms of relaxation are acceptable and may very well be effective in reducing your stress levels if you are having a really hard time and are feeling extremely stressed.  My question is, would it not be better to use this procrastination to get important things done? I would bet often when we get things done, we are actually avoiding some other task we would like to avoid (see: procrastination). This redirection of your energies is usually an unconscious process; we are not even aware that we’re avoiding a different task.  My suggestion is for you to learn to be aware of this process when it is happening and use it to GET THINGS DONE! More to come, check back soon on my Feeling Better Blog.

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