- Reflect on what is stressing you out most at work: When getting caught up in your work load, it can be hard to recognize what the actual stressors are. Review the stressors with your superiors to create a plan to make them more manageable.
- Stick to what is in your job description: It is easy to take on extra work when trying to establish yourself in your career. However, there is room to say no in order to maintain your sanity. By reviewing your workload, cut out any extra tasks that you are not responsible for.
- Boundaries: In today's world it is easy to bring work home with us. We all have access to our emails, calls and texts 24/7. By consciously creating boundaries between work and home will reduce burn out by giving you a breather. By not being connected at all times, it will create space to decompress.
By: Katrin Steinert
Most of us spend more than half of our lives working. There is a lot of pressure to find the right career path, to become successful and create our perfect working environment. With all these pressures can create a pressure cooker of balancing the perfect job with the perfect after work life. Here are three tips on how to reduce burn out when you are feeling overwhelmed at work.
A common question that I get asked is “how do I stop my negative thoughts? I can’t control it.” My answer: your negative thoughts are a reflex. You may not be able to control it, but you do have control over the thoughts that follow. Its like when you go to the doctor and they check your reflexes by whacking your knee with that tool that resembles a mini rubber tomahawk. The muscle contracts and the leg kicks involuntarily. However, you can voluntarily pull your leg back after. The involuntary movement is the equivalent of your negative thought and the voluntarily movement is your positive reframe.
Positive Reframes Don’t Work for Me!
When I teach people how to use positive reframes, I get met with some resistance. A typical response I hear is “that does not work for me. I have tried it.” Well, how long did you try it? Did you do it a few times and then give up? Because that does not work. It is a daily practice. Every time you feed your negative thoughts by choosing not to combat them with positive reframes, you strengthen your negative self-talk. If you have been doing this your entire life, then of course trying positive reframes for a day is not going to alleviate the problem. In addition, not believing your positive reframes is another form of feeding your negative thoughts. “This is stupid. This wont work for me. Life is crappy. I will never amount to anything. I am crappy.” You need to actively combat those negative thoughts with positive self-talk whenever you are aware it is happening.
That Sounds Exhausting!
It is exhausting. It’s a lot of work. It’s an active and ongoing practice until you notice a reduction in you negative self-talk. If you let your negative self-talk go unchecked, it will grow and fester inside you. The symptoms you will experience as a result will wreak havoc on your mind and body. It will take more from you than the effort it takes to develop a self-compassionate narrative. Self-compassion and positive self-talk do not have a be hokey or noticeably contrived. As a matter of fact, it should be believable and realistic.
Make your Positive Self-Talk Realistic!
Your positive self-talk should be realistic and believable, especially to you! For example, it should not be, “I am the greatest person alive.” It should be more like, “I am imperfect, but I am worthy of love and belonging.” You can thank Brené Brown for that self-compassionate quote. Using positive self-talk does not mean ignoring your failures, shortcomings, and faults. It means accepting them and not beating your self up about it. For example, “I am an ugly failure, I will never get anything right, and no one will ever love me,” is the type of negative self-talk that you replace with “I am imperfect, but I am worthy of love and belonging.”
If you are the type of person who beats yourself up daily, then you will have to work extra hard to be self-compassionate in a realistic way. You will have to make it a daily practice!
Breathing. We do it all day, every day, and have done so since we first entered this world. Take a deep breath—pause—and exhale. As you drew your breath in, you supplied much needed oxygen to your body and organs, and as you pushed it out, you removed waste products and toxins from within. In fact, around 70% of our toxins are released from our body through our breath. Yet breathing is something that we hardly ever think twice about.
The connection between breath and our mind runs even deeper. Have you ever noticed that when you are anxious or upset, your breath becomes short and quick? By taking a deep breath, you actually cause your heart rate to slow down, creating feelings of calmness and relaxation.
Paying attention to your breathing can help you tap into your emotions and gain an understanding about your triggers. Pay particular attention to signs of “bad” breathing such as:
When you feel yourself doing any of these things, pause, slow down, and take a few deep breaths. Pay attention to how you feel and remember it the next time you notice yourself exhibiting patterns of “bad” breathing.
Practicing deep breathing can have several beneficial effects including:
“The most powerful therapeutic process I know is to contribute to rich story development.”
The narrative that you have about our life has a direct impact on how you feel and how you behave. For example, if you walk around telling yourself that your life is pointless, then you may feel unmotivated, discouraged, or depressed. If you believe drugs and alcohol are performance enhancers, you are more likely to abuse those substances. Addicts have some of the most creative narratives that maintain their addictive behaviors.
What is the story that you tell yourself about your own life? The challenge is to create a narrative that inspires you and is realistic and rational. My suggestion is to write down your story, to be the author of your own life. Here are some questions that you can start asking yourself to help you get started:
Writing your own story probably sounds like a lot of work. You may notice some resistance or you may think it’s a good idea, but you procrastinate actually doing it. As someone who has written his own story hundreds of times in his life, I can tell you that each time you do it, you learn something new about yourself. It’s an amazing experience. It will directly impact how you view your place in the world. If you notice a strong negative theme in your story, a good step is to get support from others or from a therapist. They can help you put a positive spin on a thin narrative that may be oppressively be keeping you down.
In therapy sessions, I have often heard many teenagers say something along these lines—“My parents don’t get it. They told me to just suck it up and get over it”. While the intentions may be good and these parents believe that they are helping these teens deal with the realities of life, these teens end up not feeling truly heard. Validating your child’s feeling can oftentimes be an extremely powerful and positive experience for both you and your child.
For example, if your child comes to you and tells you he/she got into an argument with their friend at school, you may want to say something like “Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll blow over by tomorrow”, but first, take a pause and reflect on what your child just told you and how they are feeling. Changing the language to something more like “Oh my goodness, I understand how awful this must be for you, would you like to talk more about it?” will let your child know that you are actually listening to what they are saying and that you understand just how painful this is for them and are interested in talking to them more about the subject if they need. This language allows you to come from a “judgment free” space, and will open up an avenue for better communication. When your child feels that you do not understand their feelings, it becomes less likely that they will open up and delve into deeper conversation.
Next time your child comes to you and shares something personal, give this a try—you will probably be amazed at what conversations could open up for the two of you and the trust that is built in the process.
By: Katrin Steinert
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.
“You may have used an addictive behavior to deal with irrational thoughts and excessive emotions. We call this the “using strategy” for coping with discomfort. Somehow, we adopted the unrealistic belief that life should be free from discomfort and pain, and that we shouldn’t have to tolerate it. This unhelpful belief leads to further distress, which drives the urge to engage in addictive behavior to escape the discomfort.”
― Rosemary Hardin, SMART Recovery Handbook
If you have attended a 12-step meeting, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, then you may have heard someone say, “If you are not working the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, then you are a dry drunk.” What they mean by this is that being sober is not enough, you need to work a program. In my humble opinion, the 12-steps are one form for inward-reflection and self-improvement, but they are not the only way. Individuals who are non-spiritual often get stuck on the 12-steps. Fortunately. there are alternatives forms of inward-reflection and self-improvement. One of those ways is through the SMART Recovery program.
What is SMART Recovery
Smart Recovery is a free, non-spiritual, cognitive-behavioral approach to recovery. It utilizes clinical psychology techniques and tools. Although it focuses on addiction recovery, many of these tools can be used by non-addicts as well. Exercises such as “Challenging My Unhelpful Idea,” “Helping or Hurting,” “Values and Goals Clarification,” and “Identifying Underlying Irrational Rules,” are exercises that many people can benefit from. It can help you build a road map of how your thoughts impact your emotions and behaviors. A link the to the SMART Recovery Toolbox is included at the bottom of the article.
How to use SMART Recovery
SMART Recovery meetings are not as widely available as 12-step meetings. You can find a 12-step meeting any day of the week at various times throughout the day in most major cities. SMART Recovery meetings are scarcer and may not be available to you. My suggestion is to use the SMART Recovery toolbox (link at the bottom), start working your own program by filling out the worksheets in the “Additional Homework” section, and attend 12-step meetings to build a sober community. When you work your own program, you don’t have anyone to hold you accountable, so meeting attendance is also important. You need to be around other people in recovery so they can help you identify the irrational thoughts that maintain your addiction.
You don’t have to work the twelve steps, but you should be working some type of program. Meeting with a therapist for individual counseling another way to work a program. If someone at a AA meeting calls you a “dry drunk” because you are not working the 12-steps, just let it slide. If you are doing some form of intensive inward reflection and self-improvement work, then you are working a program and you are not a “dry drunk.”
SMART Recovery Toolbox Link:
SMART Recovery Meeting Directory:
There are different types of addicts: (1) Those who are going through a difficult phase in their life who abuse substances as a coping mechanism to numb their pain; and (2) Those who experience chronic emptiness who are always looking for something to fill that emptiness. The primary difference between these two groups of individuals is that the former is going through a phase and the latter has a chronic condition, typically a genetic predisposition (i.e., a chemical imbalance in their brain; a dopamine deficit).
What is Dopamine?
Dopamine is one of the brain’s neurotransmitters. It enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action and move towards them. It also helps with attention, learning, and emotional responses. Individuals who are genetically predisposed to addiction have less D2 dopamine receptors in their brain, which results in a dopamine deficit. Less dopamine means less reward, which means less motivation to accomplish daily goals and tasks.
Filling the Black Hole
Chronic addicts typically describe feeling like they have a black hole inside them that they need to fill with drugs and alcohol. The black hole they describe is probably the dopamine deficit in their brain. Drugs and alcohol deliver dopamine to the brain with instant gratification. Many addicts with this dopamine deficit will describe the first time they used drugs or alcohol as the first time in their life that they felt like the black hole was gone. The thought that follows is usually something like, “Wow, this is how I am supposed to feel. If I can feel like this all day every day, then I will be okay.” The problem is that the dopamine deficit is only temporarily corrected. As the drugs and alcohol ware off, there is a greater dopamine deficit than before; a bigger black hole that grows with each use. Thus, the addict gets stuck in a vicious cycle and needs more drugs and alcohol to continually fill the growing black hole. This is an unsustainable cycle that eventually results in catastrophic consequences. The good news is that there is a better way.
A Better Way
The key to managing the black hole is first accepting that it is there. As an addict with less dopamine, you will have to work harder than the average person to feel normal on a daily basis. You start most days with less dopamine than others, but you can fill your dopamine gauge by engaging in healthy activities. Yes, you can get dopamine from healthy activities and accomplishments, such as by exercising, socializing with others, completing tasks at work, taking a hot shower, drinking a cup of tea. Think of each healthy task in your day as dopamine gain. Each task you accomplish fills your dopamine meter. Each time you fill your dopamine meter with healthy activities, the black hole shrinks, but this time the black hole does not come back bigger when the effect wares us, such as the case with drugs and alcohol.
You may have to drag yourself through these activities in the earlier part of your day, but you will slowly start to correct the deficit. It may feel like you are walking through quicksand. You may feel like you have no motivation or desire to accomplish the goals that you have set for the day. The key is to put one foot in front of the other and slowly get through each task until the dopamine meter fills and you start to feel “normal” (i.e., your brain is not working from a deficit) again. Remember that some days will be worse than others, but that you have tools to correct the deficit, even on the worst days. Accept the crappy feelings and find comfort in knowing that you will feel better later as long as you take care of yourself.
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.
Everyone experiences shame. The less we talk about it, the more it grows inside of us. Typically, we learn it from our parents, peers in school, and social norms. It impacts our self-worth and our ability to connect with others. Brené Brown studied shame, worthiness, and vulnerability for over a decade. I have compiled several quotes from Brené that I believe everyone should read. I encourage you to read through these quotes, read through my thoughts about these quotes, and think about how these quotes apply to your own life and your own experience of shame.
Brené Quote 1: “We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous.”
Shame is effective for behavior modification because it stuns someone and forces to them reflect inward. People avoid feeling shame. Thus, if someone shames you for your behavior, there is a good chance that you may not repeat that behavior. The problem with using shame in this way is that it has catastrophic side effects, such as damaging one’s self-worth. Shame and guilt are different. Guilt is “I did something bad.” Shame is “I am bad.” People who experience high levels of shame are less likely to feel like they belong in society and more likely to socially isolate and experience depression. A better way to keep people “in line” is to help them understand the consequences of their behaviors and how that impacts themselves and others. Inspire them to be better rather than stunning them with a shame grenade.
Brené Quote 2: “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable… Shame unravels connection. Shame is the fear of disconnection… The less you talk about it, the more you have it”
We live in a society where people project the best version of themselves. We hide our faults out of fear of embarrassment. Unfortunately, the more we hide the parts of ourselves we don’t like or the parts we are ashamed of, the bigger our shame gets. You can bury it and pretend its not there, but it won’t go away. You cannot selectively numb parts of yourself. If you numb your shame, you will also numb part of your joy. The only way to reduce shame is through talking about it. You will feel more like your authentic self and have an easier time connecting with others.
Brené Quote 3: “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
Finding the right person to talk to about your shame is difficult. It is an act of vulnerability and courage. If you talk about your shame and you receive more shame as a response, it wont help. However, if you are received with empathy and understanding, then it will alleviate part of your suffering. A good place to get empathy and understanding is from a professional counselor who can help you work through it. In addition, remember that everyone has shame, so if you someone talks to you about their shame, meet them with empathy and understanding.
Brené Quote 4: “You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
This quote speaks to the most important part of self-acceptance. We all have faults and that does NOT mean that there is something wrong with us or that we are unworthy of love and acceptance. Life is a struggle and we are equipped to handle the struggle. Sometimes we fail at things, but that does not mean we are a failure. Sometimes we hurt our loved ones, but that does not mean we are bad people. We all belong in this society. None of us are perfect. The sooner your realize that, the sooner you can start being the person you were meant to be: your authentic self.
If you have not seen Brené Brown’s talk on “Listening to Shame,” I highly encourage you do so. Here is the link: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame
If you need some additional coaching on empathy, here is a cute cartoon that Brené Brown did on empathy: https://youtu.be/1Evwgu369Jw