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.
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.
“When life throws you lemons make lemonade” but how do we do that? A lot of our instincts when something does not go correctly is to react impulsively with strong emotions. Some situations require us to react emotionally and some require more of our rational brain. In order to help calm our emotional reactions we can employ a skill called IMPROVE.
Imagery: Transports your mind to a space that makes you feel calm and serene. Visualize imagery that helps soothe your sense and relaxes your muscle’s. Some examples could be your favorite childhood space, beach or even your own room.
Meaning: Find meaning in a distressing situation can help shift the perspective. By tapping into your values, it will help see the silver lining in a situation that may otherwise feel meaningless.
Prayer: Prayer does not have to have a religious connotation. The meaning of prayer is connecting with something that is greater than yourself. By focusing on a mantra, image or song can create a sense of peace in the moment.
Relaxation: Focusing on relaxing the tension in muscles can reduce the pressure build of distress. By reducing the tension in your muscles will help elevate emotional pain.
One thing at a time: Being mindful is focusing on one task or thought at a time. This can be a powerful tool to slow down the thoughts and worries that are popping up. By letting go of the future worry will allow space to focus on the moment.
Vacation: Vacation does not mean take an actual trip. A vacation is a brief respite from the monotony of daily life. An example of a vacation can be taking a different walking route, meeting friends or exploring a new part the city you live in.
Encouragement: Words are very powerful and that includes the words we tell ourselves. By practicing positive self-talk and self-encouragement can help give us the boost we need to take a distressing moment.
Color is not just for kids anymore. There has been an explosion of coloring books in the last few years. There are funny coloring books, intricate coloring books and even inappropriate coloring books. What is the reason? Coloring is proving to help when we feel highly anxious.
There are many benefits to coloring including feeling calmer, mentally clear and some even say happier. By engaging in coloring, it helps focus the brain similarly to mediation. People who have depression have found that by partaking in craft hobbies and art it has significantly decreased their depression. There are numerous studies that show by coloring it decreases symptoms in anxiety, depression and even PTSD.
Another benefit of coloring is if it is done before bedtime, it will help you sleep. By focusing on the coloring, it eases the mind of thoughts of the day and helps anxious sleepers fall asleep.
Coloring can also be a social activity by inviting others to come over and have coloring parties. Just like everything, there are phone apps for coloring if you need to color on the go. Some of the more popular ones include Color Mandala and Stress Relief Coloring for Adults.
Many people are familiar with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” It’s a quote that inspires people to enjoy the present moment and avoid the pitfalls of becoming overly focused on the future. A predominant approach in mental and physical health is mindfulness and meditation, a focus on the here and now. If you spend too much time worrying about the future and not enjoying the present, then you should focus on the journey, not the destination. However, if you feel stuck in the present, then maybe some focus on a destination can bring you some relief.
An Argument to be made for the Destination
Destination focus can be a positive coping mechanism when used it the right way. The following are some examples of healthy destination focus:
When Destination Becomes an Unhealthy Focus
The destination becomes an unhealthy focus when you make your happiness contingent on future success. For example, “I will be happy when…” (a) I get a promotion (b) I graduate school (c) I find a partner (d) I lose 10 lbs. If you make your current happiness contingent on future success, then you will miss the opportunity to enjoy the present. The future is an illusion because it has not happened yet. If you are going to focus on the future, it should be about enriching the present. Looking forward to a vacation you have planned is a way of enjoying the present moment because you can derive pleasure from thinking about it in the present.
It is the Journey, but the Destination has its place in the present
Life is the journey, but there are times when the journey is a struggle and reminding ourselves that pleasure, relaxation, and relief is around the corner can help alleviate suffering in the present.
Why You Should Avoid Them
How They are Damaging Your Relationships
What are Negative Interpretations?
A negative interpretation is when you or someone else (particularly your partner) consistently believes the motives of the other are more negative than they actually are. For example, if your partner forgets to take out the trash and you interpret this behavior as intentionally malicious or selfish on their part. Or if you are late to meet up with someone (maybe traffic was bad or maybe you struggle with compulsively making sure all the doors are locked before you leave) and they interpret your lateness as an intentional choice on your part to disrespect them and they time they have put into scheduling a meetup with you.
Give People You Love the Benefit of the Doubt
Often, there is a rational explanation for why the people you love do the things they do that frustrate you, and usually these reasons are not intentionally malicious or negative. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt goes both ways and there are ample opportunities throughout every interaction to see the perspective of your loved one.
For example, let’s say you are late to meet up with your loved one because your anxiety causes you to compulsively make sure everything in your home was secure before you left. You arrive late and your loved one is frustrated and angry with you. Your loved one makes a negative interpretation of your behavior and says, “you are inconsiderate, selfish, and lazy.”
You notice this triggers an emotional response inside of you that in turn gives rise to your own negative interpretation of your loved one’s verbal criticism. Your think to yourself, “my loved one is an aggressive jerk and is incapable of understanding the struggles of others” (negative interpretation). You now have a choice: (1) to match your loved one’s negative interpretation with your own negative interpretation (an eye for an eye) or (2) think about a rational explanation for why your loved one is behaving in that way, read in-between the lines of what they are communicating, and validate how they are feeling. Maybe your loved one has past issues with people letting them down and not following through with what they said they would do. Maybe your tardiness has triggered that issue for them. Maybe they need you to understand that about them.
Of course, you also need them to understand that your anxiety contributed to why you were late, that you are not a selfish, inconsiderate, and lazy person. You can communicate that need to them once they calm down and feel validated that you understand them.
Be Mindful of When Negative Interpretations are Entering Your Thoughts
Negative interpretations are pervasive in our society. It’s easier to villainize others for their behavior than it is to understand why they do what they do. It takes extra work and thoughtfulness on your part to come up with rational explanations for why people do things. This is especially important with your significant other, but it extends to relationships with family and friends as well. The more effort you put into understanding why your loved one does what they do, the more empathy you can have for their process, and the more you show them that you understand and accept them for it, the closer your bond will be.
There are many hurdles and hardships that the LGBTQ community face. Internalized homophobia is defined as the involuntary belief by gay people that the misconceptions, myths, and stereotypes about being gay are true. Internalized homophobia can be subtle, for example a gay man may act very masculine to hide the fact that they are gay. Another way internalized homophobia may manifest in a LGBTQ person may be discomfort in socializing with others in the community for fear of being “outed.” The idea would be to pass as a straight person to avoid criticism or discomfort they feel for being a part of the community.
The anxiety and shame of not accepting who you are may cause some interpersonal issues. By internalizing the negative stereotypes in the context of intimate relationships one is likely to decrease the quality of satisfaction in relationships. To avoid negative feelings about self, one may avoid deep or intimate relationships. Internalized homophobia can be deep rooted and may take a long time to reverse. With the help of allies and support from all communities there is hope that one day internalized homophobia will a concept of the past.
By: Ranjita Rao
Adolescence is always a confusing time – add in the challenge of navigating new experiences, the modern pressures of social media, and heightened competition for colleges, and it’s no wonder so many teens feel nervous, overwhelmed and anxious. How do you help your teen when you see them struggling with anxiety?
Normalize and validate their anxiety. Anxiety is completely normal. Let your child know that everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their life. Also, let them know that their anxiety can be overcome, and that by learning coping skills, they can learn to manage their anxiety in the future as well.
Engage in Mindfulness. Did you know that studies have shown that mindfulness has similar effects on the brain as exercise? Educate your child about the benefits of mindfulness exercises and encourage them to try them out. With apps like Headspace and Insight Timer, it’s easier than ever to get started with mindfulness practice.
Avoid pressuring your teen. Your teen needs to be able to go at their own pace. Overcoming anxiety does not happen overnight. Avoid comments such as “just snap out of it already” and questions like “you’re still worried about that?” Instead, ask your teen how they’re feeling and provide encouraging responses that validate their experiences.
Know when to seek help from a mental health professional. If your child is in distress or if their anxiety is keeping them from doing day-to-day activities, it may be time to seek professional help. Professionals can help your teen talk through and process their anxious feelings. By providing coping skills and resources to manage anxiety more effectively, a professional can be a very beneficial for your anxious teen.
What is impulsiveness?
Impulsiveness is when you do something without any forethought, reflection, or consideration of the consequences. It can be unnecessarily risky and associated with undesirable, rather than desirable, outcomes. Examples of impulsive behavior are excessive spending, substance use, sex, fighting with others, and self-harm.
Emotional states are often the catalyst for impulsive behavior. For example, have you ever said something to someone that you regretted because you were in a bad mood? In that moment you were probably not considering how what you said may impact the other person or how it would impact you once you realized how it impacted the other person. If this is something you struggle with, the following are some steps you can learn to get your impulses under control.
Step 1: Understand how your impulsiveness functions
Everyone’s impulsive behavior is different, which is why it is important for you to understand how your impulsive behavior manifests. You need to uncover the early warning signs, identify the emotions that trigger your impulsive urges, and learn to identify the thoughts and feelings as they are happening in the moment.
Focus on the thoughts, emotions, urges, and physiological sensations you are experiencing in your body and explore that. Name it in your mind. For instance, “I am noticing a hot sensation across my body, here is the anger that makes me want to criticize my partner” or “I am noticing my heart racing, here is the anxiety that makes me want to drink alcohol.” Writing in a journal and talking it through with a therapist is a great way to gain awareness into this process. Its not easy at first and you may not notice your impulsiveness until after you are impulsive. It’s an ongoing practice.
Step 2: Interrupt the Impulse
Sometimes you can setup conditions that make acting on the impulse harder or you can condition yourself to follow certain steps before you allow your self to act. The following are some examples of impulse interruption:
Once you understand how your impulsiveness functions and you implement your impulse interrupters, its time to challenge your negative thoughts and take action. For example, let’s say you notice you are feeling anxious and have you the urge to drink alcohol to self-medicate your anxiety. You labeled the thoughts in your mind by saying, “I am noticing my heart racing, here is the anxiety that makes me want to drink alcohol.” You removed the alcohol from your place of residence, but now you are noticing that you are motivated to go out and buy more. You notice a negative inner dialogue about being a failure and how nothing matters so you should just drink.
It’s time to challenge those negative thoughts by saying, “I am not a failure. Things matter. This anxiety will pass. I am going to tolerate this feeling until it passes. Alcohol will make things worse in the long run, remember the negative consequences it has caused in the past. Temporary relief will be followed by an increase in future suffering.” After you challenge your negative thoughts, its time to take action. Go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Call a friend. Engage in physical exercise. Eat something healthy. Drink a relaxing tea. Take a hot shower or bath. Get creative.