anxiety, counseling, goals, humility, psychology, regrets, relationshipadvice, self-help

Who is Your Ideal Self? 2019 is the Year to Be Happy and At Peace with Yourself

Hello, 2019!

We are officially in the kickoff of the New Year. It is the year before we head into the Roaring 20’s and you can bet next year will be a doozy, old sport.

New Year’s Day can feel surreal. Many of us are probably in the midst of setting our 2019 resolutions. (Or recovering from the night before–a time well spent with family and friends celebrating the end of 2018).

Goals are important. Setting goals give you a long-term vision and short-term motivation. Goals are what move us forward in life.

Personally, I am a big believer in writing down your goals. Research has shown that people who write their goals and dreams down on a regular basis achieve those desires at a significant higher level than those who did not.

I spent some time dedicated solely to jotting lists broken down into categories of different goals: Financial, Career, Health, Emotional Life, New Experiences, Intellectual Life, Relationships, Volunteer, To Do Around House, Family, Life Vision, etc. (Not going to lie, I LOVE making a good list).

Everyone would have different categories based on their life circumstances and values.

a2

It can be an emotional day come January 1st.

Mixed emotions may come about. We may feel overwhelmed about what are realistic, worthy goals to set for yourself.

While hope and motivation may be at the forefront of your mind, for others, there can be something so unsettling about the start of another new year.

Perhaps you are asking yourself, how did a whole year fly by just like that? That in and of itself can feel unreal. Time seems to be moving more quickly with each passing year. It can seem like we were JUST starting 2018 not too long ago. It is a bit wild how the years seem to fly by, blurring together.

For others, they can be facing feelings of melancholy about another year coming to pass. Another year where they did not achieve any of the goals they set out to accomplish. Or a realization that their life has long become stagnant. They cannot remember the last year where they did something new or different. They may feel unmotivated and uninspired realizing they have spent not just the last year but the last SEVERAL years procrastinating their goals. Many goals may have been lost along their journey through life.

The hard pill to swallow is a New Year can bring about the hard realization you may be stuck in a rut. Your life has become stagnant and you didn’t even realize it was happening.

As a therapist, the last couple weeks of the year, I find clients will often share renewed goals for the new year. But more commonly they will share with me the disappointments of the previous year.

Many of us view the beginning of a new year as the best time to make behavioral changes and overcome unhealthy habits. I know I buy into this time of year being an opportune time to catalyze change in my personal life.

Each new year is a blank slate.

Emotionally, a new year can be trying. It can feel upsetting IF we are not any closer to our goals or becoming the ideal person we hold in our mind (we all have this so-called ideal self–possibly a thinner, richer, smarter, more successful, more athletic, more charming, healthier, more ambitious version of ourself). If you feel this way, instead of building yourself up, you may spend New Year’s day beating yourself up over the failures of 2018.

The fact is we can never get rid of ALL the negative aspects of ourselves because those are very real parts of us. We all have parts of ourselves we struggle to accept.

We all have dreams we are chasing whether we share them with others or not.

The end of the year can turn into a tailspin.

Perhaps the last few months you have shelved even TRYING to become the ideal person you hold in your mind.

Perhaps you have even forgotten what your ideal self even looks like.

Yet goals that connect with our “ideal self” are most effective. The New Year presents an opportune time to connect with that ideal self.  When we RESOLVE to change, we feel better—more in control, more hopeful, more confident.

According to Carl Rogers, one of my favorite theorists, we ALL are constantly working towards self-actualization. According to Rogers, self-actualization occurs when we achieve our goals, wishes, desires.

According to Rogers (1959), we want to feel, experience and behave in ways which are consistent with our self-image and which reflect what we would like to be like, our ideal-self.  The closer our self-image and ideal-self are to each other, the more consistent or congruent we are and the higher our sense of self-worth.

But sometimes we lose ourselves on our journey to self-actualization.

This is why counseling can be a great first step to helping you get back in touch with the person you aspire to be. It can help you close the gap between your ideal self and your actual self. It can help get you back in touch with the REAL YOU, not the you who has been operating on auto pilot. A person is said to be in a state of incongruence if some of the totality of their experience is unacceptable to them and is denied or distorted in the self-image (Rogers).

a1111

Steps to Achieving your Ideal Self

1)Reflect on your current self vs. your ideal self. What don’t you like about your current behavior? What accomplishments are you proud of? What are parts of your current self you would never want to change? What are parts of yourself that you have never seemed to be ABLE to change?

You are the life you lead–so choose your path mindfully.

How do you handle adversity? How you handle conflict? Can you keep your cool under pressure? How do you talk to yourself when you mess up?

What standards would you like to uphold going forward? What kind of person would you ideally like to be? Most importantly: WHY is it important to make these changes? Having a strong why is a MUST for lasting change.

2)Reflect on COMPETING GOALS. The fact is many of us have competing goals vying for our attention and time. We need to not be so hard on ourselves when we have to shift focuses. Life is truly a balancing act. It can be hard to strike a balance between being a good parent with a demanding career. Being social while being on a strict diet. Traveling the world while saving money. Managing our various goals can be TOUGH. You need to have flexibility in your expectations depending on what is taking precedence at any given time. Let go of absolutes in your thinking patterns–ALWAYS, MUST, SHOULD, NEVER.

3)What would you do–if money— was not a concern? For many people, money is a defining factor in their life. For others, it is a limiting factor. How differently would you live your life (if different at all) if money was not a factor? The answer can be telling.

4)What do you want people to say about you and your life at your funeral? Great parent? Good friend? Successful? Well-traveled? Kind soul? Did a lot of good for others? No answer is right. But how you answer this question reflects much on what you value in life.

5)Remember you ARE the life you lead. Ask yourself–what is your day-to-day life like now? Are you a dedicated parent? A career driven professional? Someone who makes time for loved ones? A fitness fanatic? Dedicated to healthy eating? Are you kind? Are you thoughtful? Are you having an impact in a positive way the lives of others? Are you well-read? Do you travel? Do you do the right thing? Do you sit by silently when you see someone being mistreated? Do you mistreat others? Do you mistreat yourself?

6)Remember you ARE how you spend your money. Ask yourself–do you value experiences over materialistic objects? Do you pour all your money into living the most extravagant lifestyle you can or do you live below your means saving for the future? Both are reflective of YOU AND YOUR VALUES. Do you spend more than you should? Do you save? OR do you feel well-balanced between the two?

7)Remember you ARE what you eat. Ask yourself—do you eat like you love yourself? Do you far too often indulge in processed food, sugar, and fried food? Are you committed to healthy eating? Are you committed to your health, period?

8)Revise your goals to better reflect your limitations and true capabilities. It is important to be honest with our positive and negative qualities. We ALL have limitations. Often our goals feel because we do not take said limitations into account. Be kind to yourself but be realistic. All unrealistic goals do is set you up for failure (and pain).

Most importantly: Our daily life IS who we are. How do you spend your days? If today, was your last day on Earth, could you say you are proud of the life you led? Are you happy with your day-to-day existence?

These questions may seem like a lot to think about and reflect on. The answers will be unique fo all of us and a reflection of our values. One caveat to keep it mind is we are ALL human. Do not expect to tackle EVERYTHING you set out to do all at once. We cannot expect to be our IDEAL self 100% of the time. Life happens (stress happens). None of us are always in a total state of congruence. If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider speaking with a therapist who can help you unload and process through some of those feelings.

Make 2019 the year you work hard, but work JUST AS HARD on self-compassion and being kind to yourself, as you stumble along the way to achieving your ideal self.

a20000

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

Advertisements
anxiety, counseling, psychology, self-help, Uncategorized

Anticipatory Anxiety: Why We Need to Get Comfortable with Discomfort

Anticipatory anxiety is the anxiety we experience in anticipation of exposure to our frightening triggers. Anticipatory anxiety is a more complex problem than other forms of anxiety because in our attempts to avoid what we fear, we only make our fear and anxiety THAT much stronger. The only way to overcome anticipatory anxiety is to face your fear.

Anticipatory anxiety is a negative projection about an unknown outcome.

Common ways we cope with anticipatory anxiety?
-Drinking alcohol

-Taking anti-anxiety drugs

-Avoiding the source of our fear

-Seeking reassurance from others

If you struggle with anticipatory anxiety, you likely suffer from high negative emotions. You likely have high trait neuroticism. If you’re highly neurotic, it’s possible that you feel trapped by the trait’s maladaptive thought patterns, or struggle with depression or anxiety, both of which are more likely to occur in highly neurotic individuals. (If you are interested in finding your level of neuroticism, I copied and pasted a link to the Big Five Factor test that assesses levels of neuroticism as one of the fundamental personality traits).

https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/IPIP-BFFM/

a32.png

If you struggle with anticipatory anxiety, you are likely NOT open to new experiences. Anything that is not routine and within your comfort zone is going to spike your baseline anxiety levels. People who struggle with anxiety tend to be high in neuroticism and low on openness to new experiences.

If you struggle with this type of anxiety, you hate dealing with uncertainty. The problem with this is life is chock full of uncertainties. The thing is some people are okay with having a lot of uncertainty in their lives, and other people cannot stand even a small amount of uncertainty.

Some people may be temperamentally more “high-strung” and biologically more vulnerable to anxiety. It is important you seek treatment as left untreated it tends to worsen with age. Learning coping skills to mitigate anxiety is transformational to those who suffer.

Some common traits of people who are intolerant of uncertainty:

  • Seeking excessive reassurance from others: You want others to agree with you or reassure you. This might be asking friends or family their opinion on a decision that you have to make or asking for excessive support
  • List-making: As a way of eliminating uncertainty, some people will make long and detailed “to do” lists, sometimes several lists every day
  • Double checking: For example, calling loved ones repeatedly to “make sure” that they are okay, or re-reading emails several times to check that they are perfect and that there are no spelling mistakes
  • Refusing to delegate tasks to others: Many people who are intolerant of uncertainty will not allow anyone either at work or at home to do certain tasks; this is because they cannot be “sure” that it will be done correctly unless they do it
  • Procrastination/avoidance: Because being uncertain can cause anxiety, some people simply procrastinate or avoid people, places or situations. If you do not do something, then you don’t have to feel uncertain about it
  • Distraction: Many people who are intolerant of uncertainty keep themselves “busy” most of the day, that way, they don’t have the time to think about all the uncertainty in life

A common way we see anticipatory anxiety play out is in a common fear many people have which is of flying.

Here is how it plays out.

If you are phobic of flying, booking a flight might bring upon some anxiety. The week before the trip, your anxiety will likely begin to escalate. By the night before you are scheduled to fly, you may be on the verge of having a panic attack. In anticipatory anxiety, you imagine the future. You experience an imaginary airplane, not a real one.  You imagine what might happen if you get on the plane. You are at home, imagining one or a variety of imaginary in-flight disasters.Or feeling anxious about being trapped in a rocket ship (your own “internal” claustrophobia). You see stress depends upon imagination. Note I am saying you “imagine” because your imagination is creating the worst case scenario. Anticipatory anxiety has you amping up your stress response and mentally psyching yourself out.

When the day comes and it is time to leave for the airport you may feel like you are on the verge of a panic attack. Your imagination runs wild. You will continue to feel your anxiety escalate as you drive to the airport, go through security, and sit waiting for your plane to board.

Yet when you actually board the plane and take it off, you actually feel okay during the flight. This is because anticipatory anxiety is different from phobic anxiety. Yet while flying you may feel okay, if you were to think about scheduling ANOTHER flight, your anticipatory anxiety would ramp up. The thing about anxiety is it is often quite  irrational in nature.

Anticipatory anxiety is the fear and dread you experience before the event or situation.

It’s what’s at play when you spend weeks dreading the results of a doctor’s appointment, yet the news is benign and manageable. Or when you have social anxiety–you may struggle with the decision to accept or decline attending a friend’s birthday, but eventually give in and go, and have a great time!  “Why did I do that to myself?” you wonder.

Most people experience anticipatory anxiety, every once and awhile. This experience is the body’s normal response to perceived future threats. In the days and hours leading up to an important event you may be anxious and nervous, which is the stress response in action. It is anticipating the need to protect the body from threat or danger. Although this system is critical to our survival when there is actual threat or danger, it’s a big problem when there isn’t.

People who struggle with anxiety tend to have faulty cognitions. This is why CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can be so helpful in the treatment of this disorder. It is understandable that during times of high stress and uncertainty emotions run high. However, people who are anxious perpetually suffer from high stress and out of control emotions. Anxiety suffers tend to see things in black or white terms, in other words, as right or wrong, moral or immoral. They are not able to see the nuances and complexities of situations.

Common areas of anticipatory anxiety include:

  • Applying for a new job
  • Speaking in public or other performances
  • Going on a date or to a party
  • Joining a club, team or sport
  • Starting a job
  • Preparing for an interview
  • Going on vacation
  • Tests, projects and oral reports
  • Life changes: getting married, having a baby, buying a house, relocating, retiring

Underlying this sense of anxiety is the feeling that you cannot handle whatever it is you fear. It is a lack of confidence in your ability to cope.

Yet every time you encounter something that forces you to “handle it,” your self-esteem is raised immensely. You learn to trust that you will survive, no matter what happens. And in this way your fears are diminished immeasurably. You realize you can handle WHATEVER life throws at you.

Being anxious leads to behavior that drives others away. When we struggle with anxiety we feel compelled to control other people and our environment. Anxiety leads us to manipulate others because we desperately need them to act in a way that feels safe to us or predictable. It is a self-defeating strategy as this type of attitude will act a repellant to healthy-functioning people.

Once you have this confidence, you are able to face challenges head on because you are not dependent on a particular outcome. You know no matter the outcome you can cope.

People who struggle with anxiety lack the confidence to cope with stress. Remember true security and confidence is knowing you can handle things. Underlying any anxiety disorder is a lack of trust in ourselves.

Think of it this way: IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD HANDLE ANYTHING LIFE THROWS AT YOU, WHAT WOULD YOU POSSIBLY HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT? The answer is: NOTHING!

Remember that the mind and body is designed to adapt. Too often people forget the inherent resilience of the human spirit. As long as you continue to face the things you fear, your anticipatory anxiety should subside. Short-term use of medications that calm anxiety may also be useful — talk to your doctor to find out what is best for you.

As long as you continue to grow and evolve, there will be new challenges and fears to face.

So the choice is yours. Grow, evolve, and face your fears OR choose to stay stagnant and in a bubble throughout your life. If you continue to do what you have always done, you will get the same results. If you want new results, you need to try a new approach.

Attempting to do anything new is uncomfortable and anxiety producing. This is a universal human experience. But anxiety is paradoxical–face the painful feelings now and feel incredible after or feel relief now and face the painful feelings later. We must push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Because in doing so we get to the other side: a place of genuine growth and a better version of yourself.

Remember coping with anxiety is a life long process. Be kind to yourself.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com