It’s horrible, unthinkable, and now fear and paranoia has taken a firm grasp on our society. Senseless violence against coworkers who are befriended for a time, a facade if you will, only to be eventually and brutally gunned down in the name of radical Islam (ISIS)? “San Bernardino Strong,” not one citizen of this wonderful community wanted to be put on the global map this way. However, they will be forever remembered for this tragedy, and I believe this will only serve to embolden more terrorists like these two radicals to commit more violent killings.
Gun sales were already at record levels with the recent mass killings in France. Now, we have been hit on our turf, it is real! Handguns and rifle sales are surging with gun ranges reporting all time highs in activity. We want protection, to be ready and safe. Meanwhile the President argues that disarming the citizenry is the best way to proceed. Interestingly, a recent Pew research study revealed that 57% of Americans believe that owning a gun helps protect people from crime. That it is up 48% from last year!
Our country is changing as is our mindset. The psychological impact that kicks in is that of “self-preservation.” On one level, this is our capacity or desire to anticipate dangerous situations and to respond to the cues that anxiety provokes in each of us. Also, this approach to self-care means that we become more self assertive in protecting ourselves and those whom we care about. This may well be one of the primary motivational reason people are buying their very first guns.
Where do we go from here? the Muslim community leadership admits that they are conflicted about having to come out and apologize for every incident that takes place with one of their own. Their people are afraid to come out in public because of the perceived and very real scrutiny. I do recognize their feelings and this is a polarizing point of growing contentiousness. There is increasing talk of possible internment camps to monitor all of the muslims, like there were with the Japanese Americans during World War II here in the United States. I’m a student of World War II and have read and known survivors who have personally sat me down and explained the horrors and atrocities of the holocaust. These discussions bring personal feelings of disgust and provoke deep swells of troubling uncertainty. The muslim community must police themselves, if not, this will quickly become something none of us wants or can stomach… EVERY LIFE MATTERS!!!
This time of year brings with it cheer and anxiety especially when it comes to those end of year performance evaluations. Yes, the dreaded sit down with your boss to discuss, explain, and defend why you should get that (fill in the blank %) increase for all the blood, sweat, and tears that were expended during 2015.
It’s always about the numbers, isn’t it? Well it is especially true if you’re in sales and trying to reach the all to often unobtainable quota. I remember the stress I felt even in the good years when I exceeded my quotas. The mental anguish that led up to the meeting was horrible. The idle chatter was excruciating, then came the evaluation, section by agonizing section with numbers attached to each one rating my performance from positive attitude to quota attainment to conference call participation to timely submission of paperwork etc. I’m sure that your review was similar.
There were horror stories of some going on for three hours, others being let go during their review. Still, there were those reviews that caused arguments to surface, yet, none achieved the intended purpose to challenge and motivate the employee. Why is that? Interestingly, it has taken companies decades to realize (with the help of the psychologists) that these reviews have a negative impact on their employees mental wellbeing.
Two corporate giants have already taken a different approach to how they will evaluate their talent which will dramatically reduce the negative mental impact while fostering personal growth in a low stress environment. Conversations need to take place all year long. For that matter, coaching moments needs to happen too. You cannot expect to show up at years end and expect a motivational conversation to unfold. Again, If these discussions are taking place throughout the year, communication increases, plans are adjusted, anxiety is reduced, teamwork is nurtured, and goals are realized. The article provides some valuable insight on what performance reviews actually do to employees receiving them…
Want to know if their review will be excellent, average, or poor then click HERE
Interesting title, isn’t it? Did you realize that 4 in 10 people (40%), in our population will experience some sort of loneliness at different times in our lives? It hurts, it feels empty and cold. However there is an important distinction between feeling lonely and being alone. Understand that there are people who feel alone and really are alone. On the other hand, there are those people who actually choose to be alone, but, are not really alone.
Of course, we have all either been left alone, experienced the feelings of being alone, or possibly both simultaneously during some point in our lives, right? I think back to when I had to relocate to a new state and when I had to start different jobs throughout my career. I did not know anyone which really caused a lot of anxiety and those ugly feelings of loneliness took a toll on me. Naturally, these experiences can produce solitude and loneliness. So, if we are not careful, these feelings can have a negative impact on our physical health, as well.
Now, I want to point out that there is both a medical and psychological element attached to this discussion that I will touch upon. We do know that being alone, which we often refer to as solitude, can arouse one’s artistic talents and boost our concentration, yet, there is a frightening effect on your health. Mind, body, and our ageing process are all negatively affected when we socially isolate ourselves.
Scientists have identified that our loneliness is tied to our genetic makeup. More specifically, those who experienced what we call “chronic loneliness,” their genes expressed a distinct pattern that produced inflammation in their immune system. So, what does that really mean? Well, it means that lonely people have a higher probability of dying earlier because their immune system is not strong enough to fight off infectious diseases.
Psychologically, the impact is just as uncomfortable. Loneliness can lead to a mood disorder widely recognized as depression. It can wreck one’s self-esteem. Confidence becomes fleeting as the tentacles of loneliness squeeze any and all feelings that one might yet have regarding being worthy of the attention of others.
If you sit back and really think about it, we as a collective society are are a social bunch. We are wired to be that way since we were kicking to get out of the womb! We really do need to interact with each other to feel connected, be alive, and progress. Just as important, is cultivating an environment around yourself with those who you can mutually enjoy meaningful relationships with are, at least in my opinion, the best medicine. Enjoying a life that you can be content with, active in, and flourishing is in itself the treasure of being connected.
I’ve seen a tremendous number of clients who have come to me seeking understanding and healing either during or after serious life events. Sadly, some of these client’s relationships go painfully the way of divorce. However, most are at that point in their relationship where they realize that help is needed or there won’t be one.
So, what are “Life Events” and have you experienced them?” Well chances are, yes, you have! Here are the biggies: Chronic Illness (like Cancer), Unemployment (job hunting), Childbirth (who wanted the baby more), Living Apart (thinking about our men and women in the military being deployed), Trauma (could be death of loved one, serious accident, sexual assault etc), and Unfaithful partners. You’d be very surprised, but, this last one seems to be the motivating factor in bringing couples in for therapy. All the cards are laid on the table so to speak and everything can now be addressed openly and with honest candor.
These life events are terribly painful, deeply personal, they drain our mental capacities, and tax us physically. The truth is that none of us will be able to leave this life without experiencing most of these “Life Events.” Did you realize that there are also “turning points” with regard to these events, as well. Let me explain. A turning point is not just a temporary change in our pathway, no, it is a permanent shift that only becomes recognizable to us as our life moves forward.
The psychological impact can be profound or subtle depending on our understanding of the turning point. Some of us may well experience a turning point that brings to us a much needed opportunity, or possibly brings one to a close. Others life events may create an environmental transformation that is more permanent. Still, one may feel that their life event has caused their turning point to be so deeply personal that it has provoked a complete restructuring of their self-worth, belief system, and expectations for themselves and the world around them. However, let’s remember that for in many of us these life events cause a turning point in many individual’s lives, yet, for some it may be less severe and therefore the transition doe not transform them.
Life events can bring upon us stress, anxiety disorders, depression and physical illness. Importantly, all of the life events that we will experience do require some form of change or adaptation by us. It can be unpleasant or pleasant. However, these can be valuable life lessons, as well. Can we ask ourselves, “What can I learn from this, and what can I share with others about my personal experience that might help them?” If you are in pain, thinking that you are suffering from depression, anxiety or another psychiatric disorder, get help. You don’t have to do this alone…Be well.
Sometimes I feel like I cannot write a single sentence unless it’s grammatically perfect. The screen sometimes remains blank for quite a while for fear I’ll say something that might be misunderstood. Wait, is that a smudge on the screen, got it, that’s better. Hold on a minute this keyboard feels dirty…I just need to clean that up too, yeah that’s much better. Now where was I? Ah yes, I was putting my colored pencils in order from brightest to darkest colors, I think. Wait, I need to go wash my hands again.
Does this sound like you, or someone you know? Do you find yourself unable to let unwanted thoughts go? Maybe you perform some rituals like counting, checking, or washing your hands in an attempt to control your thoughts. It’s not helping though, is it? These rituals are compulsions and the unwanted thoughts that you cannot let go of are obsessions. These compulsions (rituals) can become so intrusive that your life begins to revolve around these rituals. This is what we call impairing your daily functioning.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I find, is often an under reported and underdiagnosed disorder. OCD typically develops in early adolescence and can be easily overlooked as quirky behavior. However, as children grow into their teens the obsessive thoughts and compulsions become more obvious to those most closest to them. I find that my clients have become expert at masking their symptoms to the outside world, but, it takes a terrible toll on their self-esteem, happiness, and as a result they really struggle to find meaning in their lives.
However, there is hope, there are tools, and there are medications that can all help you manage these symptoms of OCD. Remember, as with everything in life it will take consistent effort, patience in the process, a trusted therapist, a good psychiatrist, and family support. You must see the process through to the finish. There is guilt and shame to work through, as well. At times, you may battle the ugliness of depressive feelings, or debilitating symptoms of anxiety. Take heart, you will get through this with a good therapist, learned tools, family support, proper medication, and perseverance. I have witnessed this time and again with my clients! So, do your research and become educated. Please do not beat yourself up, but, do get help!
So much chaos in the world, yet, on the lighter side, do you realize that Thanksgiving is just a little bit over a week away. Then Hanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa are less than a month after that new shopping phenomenon call “Black Friday.” Yes, this truly is the season of giving thanks, spreading cheer, joining with friends and family in seasonal bliss.
However, this is also the time of year that my practice becomes very busy with overwhelmed and depressed clients. Why aren’t they out there enjoying the holiday season? Simply put, it’s the pressure, unrealistic expectations and seasonal blues that get in the way of the enjoyment.
Every year without fail, millions of us pull out the ornaments, prop up the trees, climb up the ladders to hang up the lights, roll out reindeers on the lawn (you know who you are). Let’s not forget the annual family letters that are written (still), cookies baked by the dozens and dozens, gingerbread houses artfully decorated with the kiddos. Then there are all the choirs, school, church and community festivities…oh my!
We are a busy society, did I forget to mention running around searching for this year’s must have gift! What about family visitors for the holidays, cleaning the house, buying all the food and having the carpets cleaned (and the dog needs to be groomed too). You see… seasonal blues!
If we don’t do it all we feel guilty. We look out the window at the neighbor’s house, their lights are up the minute the Thanksgiving turkey was finished. These feeling create anxiety which in turn fuel what we call Seasonal Affective Disorder which is appropriately referred to as SAD This is characterized by apathy and a general feeling of lethargy. Yes, then comes the insatiable cravings for sweets (more brownies and fudge please) any carbohydrates will do! Naturally, your sleep becomes more excessive, concentration falls off, as does being able to collect your thoughts and sustain meaningful conversation.
All these symptoms lead you eventually to feeling sad, low and depressed. I find that for many of my clients the real triggers seem to centered on their present financial circumstances, or memories of holidays past compared with their sadness of the present season.
As we get closer to New Years, I see new clients who really have unraveled as they struggle with unrealized goals and too many opportunities never taken advantage of, so, their depression spirals. The good news is that all is not lost. The sun is a great disinfectant, tools can be learned that will help you cope and work through the seasonal depression. Therapy is a wonderful way to talk through your concerns and really get to the heart of your problems. So, don’t let the pain take away your holiday cheer this year, get help, and enjoy you!
Have you seen those commercials where two women are sitting at a table in one of their backyards, or walking side by side in a public park? Well, the conversation plays out like this, one women says to her friend, “Tom and I just found out Jenny has been doing drugs,” then comes the awkward pause. Her friend finally says, ” oh it’s probably just a phase, she’ll grow out of it.” Pan the camera to Jenny’s mother, yep, she has a stunned look on her face. The other scenario in the park plays out in a similar manner. As I said, they are walking, but then one woman stops and says (with a painful look on her face) ” We discovered that Jimmy(her son) has been stealing Bob’s(her husband) pain medication.” Again, the awkward pause, then her friend leans in and hugs the woman (who is not sure what is happening). The commercial ends with her friend awkwardly continuing their stroll without saying a word.
The above commercials, which are quite dated, serve to illustrate my topic. “Learn what to say to people who are depressed.” The above scenarios related to learning how to talk about drugs. I wish to address how we need to speak to coworkers, friends, and family members who are dealing with or we suspect are depressed. It seems that the stigma continues with regard to depression, however, as more celebrities come forward, the public appears to become more comfortable about discussing this topic and recognizing its effects.
Let me just say that depression is a battle. I treat a lot of depressed clients. I equate depression to a psychic blow that is so intense and emotionally paralyzing that you cannot fully understand unless you have been depressed. Sensitivity is critical, so, as my title illustrates let those you care about suffering with depression that you are there for them. Depression causes the sufferer to feel isolated, lonely, (and depending on their depth of depression) numb as they have lost interest in the world around them. Suicidal thoughts begin to be more common in their everyday thoughts. Remember, if you say it, be there for them. So, check in because it matters to them.
Do you get stuck sometimes? Not sure what or how to encourage someone who is depressed…click HERE
I was cruising thru Hulu a few nights ago and clicked on the CNN app, a video of a South Carolina high school incident grabbed my attention. I was drawn to it. To my shock and utter amazement, I witnessed a police officer forcefully attempt to remove a female student from her desk, but in the process violently turned the desk over on top of her. He then proceeded to pull her out and continued beating her. This was all taking place as her classmates were watching (I’m guessing stunned, yet, some with their iphones catching it for posterity). What I also found distressing was that the principle and the student’s teacher were watching from the sideline this incident taking place.
Compounding this horrendous and violent situation, the officer was white and the female student was black. The nature of how this started and escalated to this violent degree is really incomprehensible. However, CNN was helpful enough to replay it nine (9) times for me in a matter of two (2) minutes. I think the media is so savvy at fueling our emotions and raising our anxiety, I could feel my anxiety really increasing to a point that I had to click away.
My point is that for an officer of the law to act in a manner that is so violent, atrocious, and really inhumane with very little provocation is unnerving. As a clinician, I immediately recognized an underlying mental health illness at play (of course, after I had calmed down). As this story gained national attention, it was revealed that this particular officer had two (2) previous violent incidents similar to this one. He was summarily put on leave and days later he has now been fired from the police force. I hope he gets help.
Trauma is not just confined to our brave and courageous men and women of the military, it is anyone who has suffered sexual or physical abuse, been in a serious accident, or life threatening situation. It is estimated that eight (8) million americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Many law enforcement officers suffer in silence with PTSD, as they are the front lines of protecting and upholding the peace. They witness and experience horrible things in our society that impact them dramatically. This is not an excuse for bad behavior, however, it does warrant better understanding of what goes on..
Do you want to know more, read on HERE
Someone compared low self esteem to driving thru traffic with the emergency brake on. Are we guilty of this? The truth is we all, at various times, suffer with low self esteem. What causes it and more importantly how do we overcome it? To answer these questions we have to first look at the causes, or better yet, the triggers, that cause us to feel less about who we are and what we can do.
First, we really need to clear out the negativity that clutters our mind, a sort of rewiring if you will. Too often, we listen to that parasitic inner voice that points out all our imperfections and lists all the reasons why we are not good enough to do or achieve what we want in our lives. Once we have identified these self defeating thoughts, they must be replaced with thoughts that uplift and inspire us. These may be favorite quotes, inspirational songs, motivational goals that have been set (be creative). The idea is to replace the dread of self doubt with the light of hope and promise of something much better to strive for. In other words this is how we are able to change our complete mindset.
Remember to avoid the pitfalls and ugliness of unhelpful guilt, those fluctuating or persistent thoughts of failure, the anguish of trying to be a perfectionist, and playing this, ” I wish I had done this, or, if I had done that, my life would be better now, regret game over and over in your head. These self destructive habits will only paralyze you emotionally and you too will become the walking dead. So, don’t be an oxygen thief…
Do you you want to know more, then read HERE