Rachel Thomasian was recently featured in an article on the HuffPost, which discusses how to address going to therapy with your parents. The article breaks down different ways to talk about going to therapy and how to help parent's with this process.
When I start working with new clients they often struggle to identify language that properly captures their emotions. Most of us are able to determine if we feel negative or positive/pleasant or unpleasant/good or bad, but the specific feeling gets lost. The Feeling Wheel can be an amazing tool to help individuals increase emotional literacy, emotional awareness and resilience.
Putting language to our experiences can be a powerful way to harness our resources and strengths. Once we are able to access that we feel angry (or more specifically disrespected etc.); we are more able to identify the unmet need. Identifying the need can then allow us to understand what we can do for ourselves, or ask of our loved ones and community. If I know I am feeling scared or anxious, I may then recognize that my need for safety or security isn’t present. If I am feeling lonely or rejected, I may have a desire for connection or to be understood that is absent. Through the process of more accurately identifying, articulating and expressing our feelings we can then take better care of ourselves.
I recommend folks start by trying to access the core emotion found in the inner circle and work outward to find the more specific descriptor. Then pause, do a quick body scan, and ask a few questions. What does it feel like in your body when you are ____ (feeling word)? What thoughts accompany this feeling? What was the first sign this feeling was coming forward? Does this point to an unmet need or potential boundary violation? And finally, can you find a way to tolerate the discomfort of this feeling or do you need to find a coping skill to manage it and move through it? Is there something you can do (or not do) that will allow you to get some space if this feeling is negative or distressing?
Deepening your understanding of your inner emotional world can allow for emotional freedom. Give this process a try
The Feeling Wheel was developed by Gloria Wilcox
Image sourced: https://imgur.com/gallery/q6hcgs
As we navigate the effects of a global pandemic, I have been recommending my clients connect with a gratitude practice to maintain emotional well-being. Gratitude has an incredible way of grounding us; reminding us of our deeper values and essential needs. It helps us connect with our optimism and see the best in our community and in ourselves.
It’s natural to take pause in crisis to reflect on our blessings, but a word of caution about gratitude. Gratitude is not guilt. Pausing to take stock of what you appreciate should not become an opportunity to experience guilt or shame about how you have no reason to struggle. Thoughts like, “I shouldn’t complain”, “I don’t deserve to worry”, “I know this is stupid...but”. This form of comparison thinking can be detrimental to your mental health. In what ways are these thoughts mobilizing you to help yourself or others? How are they allowing you to be kinder to yourself or your larger community? My guess is they aren’t. Can you instead hold the understanding that you may have benefits in this moment; but you also have challenges?
This isn’t an excuse to turn away from the reality of hardship in others lives or deny your privilege; this is a way of holding space for the complexity of this experience. Others can be challenged with more hardship than you, but your sets of challenges are still important to recognize. Honoring your personal struggles, giving permission for sadness and grief to appear, will move you through this moment more gracefully than denying yourself the opportunity to feel. This is hard. This is scary. And yes- others may have it worse. But your experience of struggle needs space so that you can return to days where you feel hopeful and regain the ability give support to someone is need.
by Rachel Thomasian
The past few weeks have been difficult and trying for all of us. While we're all working to manage our physical health, I'm here to offer some tips to help manage mental health. We're all living under circumstances prime for increased anxiety and depression.
Remember this is temporary
Like everything else, this moment is temporary. Come back to this mantra when you feel overwhelmed by the largeness of this moment. It doesn't help that we can't quite see an end in sight yet, what we do know is that there will be an end.
Limit access to news
Watching news is not conducive for mental health in normal circumstances, and this situation only makes it worse. Getting stuck in the news cycle can make it hard to escape any anxiety you're feeling about the situation. Limit your news intake to about 30 minutes per day and stick to print media over TV or social media.
Take it one day at a time
When I think about having to stay home and away from my loved ones for another month or more, feelings of hopelessness quickly arise in me. It's just too much to make sense of. But I know that I can get through this day, and I'll worry about tomorrow when the sun rises on it. Take this one day at a time and you've got a better chance at decreasing anxiety and depression.
Help someone in need
Studies show that we feel better when we're able to help others. Whether you donate money to a local food bank or help an elderly neighbor purchase groceries, find some way you can be helpful in your community. Being able to help someone else, no matter how small the gesture, helps us feel a little more in control of this world where we may feel so little of it right now, and just makes us feel good all around.
Feel your feelings
You might feel pressure to try to stay happy right now, but that's hard to do when you have so many other big feelings competing for your attention. It's okay to feel any of our feelings and ignoring them actually make them worse. It's okay to feel angry, sad and fearful. Make some time to feel and journal about them and they won't feel as powerful.
Maintain your physical health
Our physical and mental health go hand in hand. Staying indoors and eating pantry staples is not really best practice for either. Make some time to move around, go for a walk and make nutritious food choices as much as possible.
Keep in touch with family and friends
This level of isolation is difficult even for introverts. Use technology to your advantage as much as possible. Phone or video chat with family and friends to help you maintain some level of connectedness when we're all forced to distance.
Check in with a therapist
Now, more than ever, our mental health is going to be effected by the climate around us. Every aspect of life is counter-indicated for a healthy state of mind. Most therapists are offering telehealth sessions over phone or secure video conference tools to offer help. They can help manage your feelings of depression or anxiety with tried and true techniques. At Playa Vista Counseling, our therapists have recently completed courses to stay compliant on HIPAA regulations of telehealth as well as trainings to help clients through a pandemic. We're happy to offer a complimentary consultation to discuss how we can help.
Most couples walk into therapy hoping to minimize or eliminate conflict. They don’t know why they are getting into fights about seemingly worthless topics, or why these fights can become so explosive. So what causes our perpetual patterns of conflict with our partners? Why do you we keep getting in the same fight about trivial things? And how come the small daily bickering can bring up big emotions?
One of the key concepts I explain is that conflict is like an iceberg. There is a small portion of the conflict that is visible; above the water, the part that pertains to what we are fighting about in that moment. Beneath this there is a much bigger force influencing the conflict that remains unseen and unaddressed. Things like our unmet or unexpressed needs in the relationship, our family history and personal triggers, or building resentment towards our partner all compose this larger piece. In other words, couples aren’t just fighting about the dirty dishes. Couples are in conflict as a way to get the underwater problems addressed, or their desired needs met.
When we make the mistake of just focusing on the surface conflict, we miss the potential to create a greater understanding and emotional connection with our partners. In order to shift this I encourage clients to begin to check in with their emotional states, locate their most valued needs in their relationship, and notice the moments of conflict when they might be longing to express something deeper.
As we step into the New Year we start thinking about big plans and resolutions, but how often do we actually employ change in the long term? And how helpful is the idea of a “resolution” in order to spark growth?
By: Katrin Steinert
It is human nature to want to avoid painful emotional situations and turn towards comfort. Avoiding pain can become automatic and in emotional situations it can be easy to seek comfort in maladaptive behaviors. Accepting painful psychological moments can become mentally taxing and become a big commitment. Turning the mind is a conscious decision to accept the reality of the situation and cope accordingly so it does not turn into denial. Turning the mind requires the act of choice, it is like hitting a fork in the road. The decision to accept is one that takes an inner commitment. The commitment does not mean acceptance has to happen first; it just means the road towards acceptance is the choice that has been made. To the turn the mind means the commitment must be made over and over again. The commitment must be conscious and consistent in order for the wave of pain to dissipate. Some examples of when to use turn the mind is when you are between a rock and a hard place. To choose the more effective choice can be very difficult when the maladaptive choice is the more comfortable choice. The maladaptive choice could be impulsive, not aligned with overall goals or can cause more suffering in the long run. The choice to reduce suffering can be a difficult one, which is why the commitment to acceptance is crucial.
Most of the festivities we enjoy during the holidays surround family, friends and above all else-food. Spending time cooking and sharing traditions with loved ones is a beautiful way to connect, but can be stressful to those who struggle with their relationships to food and body image. Challenging family dynamics, travel stressors and the pressure to eat big meals are just a few factors that make this time period particularly triggering.
Below are a few ways to encourage a peaceful relationship with food for the rest of the Holiday season.
Be aware of diet culture: Messages like “new year, new you”, “eat healthy during the holidays without sacrificing fitness goals“, and advice on how to” make up for”/ “reset” after eating throughout the holidays can have damaging effects on those who struggle with food. These messages often convince us that the way to achieve happiness and fulfillment is through changing and shrinking our bodies. I urge my clients to challenge these ideas and search for joy through self-acceptance and trust in your body.
Clear boundary setting: Put a stop to others comments about your food or body. Remarks like, “ do you really need more?” “Have you lost/gained weight?” “What about trying ___” or listening to loved ones discussing their diet plans can make your holiday food experience anxiety provoking. I suggest that clients come up with a simple script each time they encounter this issue. You can practice kindly explaining to others that diet and calories are not topics you want to discuss or try requesting to change the subject.
Create like-minded community: Perhaps you have a friend of safe person who is also working on making peace with food- can they attend holiday events with you? If not, are you in touch with a community of people who are on the same journey? I suggest starting by checking out accounts like @trustyourbodyproject, @chr1styharrison, and the @intuitive_rd to start this community online.
Change the focus of your health goals: You can still prioritize health and well being without traditional diet and fitness goals. For example, consider reframing your goals from weight loss or body changes to increasing strength and aiding in stress relief and sleep. The goal here is to step into food choices and exercise from a place of self-love instead of self-loathing for a more restorative and compassionate experience.
When I am working with clients, self-acceptance is one thing I always want to teach them. Regardless of the primary issue they walk into therapy with, I want them to learn to like themselves …because no matter where you go; there you are.
Self-acceptance is key to growth, fulfilling relationships, and self-esteem. It unlocks our ability to face our struggle head on and reach our individual goals. True self-acceptance is not about turning your back on the challenges you face but about compassionately turning toward the parts of yourself that you want to improve. This is very different than the “tough love” approach I hear so many clients refer to in therapy. The idea that if you beat yourself up about something enough you will find the motivation to change it will only lead to more negative self-perception and suffering.
Below find 4 practices to welcome more self-acceptance into your daily life.
In a commercial culture that is often trying to convince us that we need to be more or better than the current version of ourselves, it can be easy to forget what we actually want. I encourage all of my clients to notice the “shoulds” that implicitly put pressure on us. Messages such as “you should establish a career by 25”, “you should start a family by 30 (or at all)”, etc. Instead, focus on developing the path that feels authentic to you and aligns with your values.
Perfectionism is the secret killer to success. It stops us from being present in our own growth and convinces us that we aren’t good enough. Try to notice when you are engaging in comparison thinking and challenge it by honing in on the parts of yourself you are proud of. Move past the notion that you will be happy if you reach the ideal in all areas of life.
Mistakes are a beautiful opportunity for growth. Practice self-forgiveness and think of how your “failure” re-defines how you want to move forward.
Activity: Voice of Confidence Journaling
Draw a line down a sheet of paper creating two columns. In the left column, name your self-critical inner voice. This can be anything you want. I have clients call it “mean girl”, “negative Nancy”, “inner bully” or simply the “self critic”. In the right column, name your voice of inner confidence. For each message of negative self talk, provide an example of how the voice of inner confidence would challenge these messages.
By: Katrin Steinert
Holidays can become a stressful time when we include families, friends, traditions, traveling, and unspoken dynamics. Thanksgiving can be a time for gratitude and reflect on what positive intentions can be set for the rest of the year. Here are a few ways to explore gratitude and positive intentions during the Thanksgiving holiday:
Affirmations: Create a new affirmation that is spoken every day in order to create gratitude and appreciation for one-self.
Reflection: Mentally reflecting on what the past year has brought, the wish for what the new season will bring and ways to achieve the goals will help shed light on what you are grateful for.
Meditation: Meditation can help you focus the mind and be present. Being present helps you be one mindful which allow space to invite what you are most grateful for. It blocks out all the noise and focus the mind on what is important.