anxiety, coronavirus, counseling, psychology, Uncategorized

Coronavirus: How It Is Testing Our Ability to Cope

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Have you noticed your stress levels have been on the rise as a result of COVID-19? If so, you are certainly in good company. Anxiety is a natural response to the unknown, nature’s way of trying to protect us by pushing us to resolve the uncertainty and figure out a solution to the problem.

In a situation, such as a national pandemic, stress is the normal human reaction. Fear and anxiety about this disease can cause strong emotions in adults and children alike. With news of rising death tolls, massive job layoffs, and orders from government officials to “shelter in place” we may be left feeling a bit shaken. It does not help to keep hearing that hospitals are running short on supplies nor getting contradicting information from different news outlets on this novel coronavirus. People can struggle to know WHAT to even believe is true.

People with pre-existing anxiety and related disorders are *especially* likely to a have a hard time during the coronavirus crisis.
We all react differently to stressful situations. Social distancing and self-quarantine can test the strongest amongst us. Dealing with at-risk family members, a roller-coaster economy, trying to juggle work, keeping your children occupied, and homeschooling all can all be overwhelming. Just simply adjusting to a new, unfamiliar situation can negatively impact you. Moreover, none of us know when this is going to end, which just adds to the psychological distress.
Stress, while not only an unpleasant emotional state, can also weaken your immune system. Reducing your stress is one of the best ways you can deal with this crisis. Hence it is more important than ever to boost your coping skills in order to improve both your physical and mental well-being.
5 Steps to Manage Stress

1)Get sleep and rest. Everything gets amplified when we are sleep deprived. Getting enough rest is more important than ever for both your physical and mental well-being. It is important to be well-rested to deal with the additional stressors impacting our day to day lives.
2)Exercise. Gyms may be closed, but it is still possible to take walks, play with your kids/pets, and workout at home. Endorphins can help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude.
3)Maintain a healthy diet. A bad diet can impact your emotional state. Be sure to help regulate your blood sugar throughout the day which will keep you much more even keeled. Eating well to help manage anxiety is commonly prescribed by doctors and mental health professionals alike. Lifestyle changes are simple but powerful tools in mitigating anxiety and depression, and are an essential component of an integrated approach to mental health.
4)Connect with others. Just because we are quarantining, it does not mean we cannot make a point to connect with others regularly. Isolation and lack of social connection can lead to anxiety and depression Zoom, Facetime, Skype, etc. are all virtual platforms to be utilized to check in with friends and family.
5)Let go of your need for control. As humans, we tend to want to control over our lives. Coronavirus guidelines are very much OUT of our CONTROL. Meditating, journaling, and starting a mindfulness practice are all ways to develop our ability to cope with this trying time. It is important we learn to manage and accept our lack of control at it relates to this pandemic. Tolerating uncertainty makes you less vulnerable to anxiety. Start easing back on certainty-seeking behaviors in your daily life.
Following these steps to manage your stress can add a sense of normalcy to your life. Maintaining a routine is pivotal. As humans, we thrive when we have structure.
In addition, anxiety tends to rise proportionally to how much one tries to get rid of it. I always loved how Carl Jung said, “What you resist, persists.” People try to distract themselves by eating, drinking, self-medicating, or binge watching tv more than usual. They may seek out reassurance on the internet or from loved ones. Other people obsessively check news streams, hoping to calm their fears and seek answers to their questions. While these behaviors can help in the short term, they can make anxiety worse in the long term.
Allow your anxious feelings, thought, and physical sensations to wash over you, accepting that anxiety is a part of the human experience. We are all in this together. Often health threats can trigger this existential fear we all have within us of our own mortality. Take a moment to step back and remind yourself that you are more resilient that you think.
If you are not able to manage your anxiety or depression on your own, please know help is available. If you find you are struggling to maintain close relationships, take care of yourself or others, or that your anxiety is interfering with your daily responsibilities, you might want to get professional help from your doctor or a mental health professional. If you are feeling helpless during this stressful time, it may be time to speak with someone. As a counselor, I am providing tele-health sessions, as are many other providers. It is important to take care of yourself and others around you during this unprecedented time.

If you are struggling to cope during this time and would like to schedule a counseling session with me (***tele-health sessions ARE being covered by insurance**):

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

 

anxiety, counseling, denial, emotionalimmaturity, happiness, humility, psychology, self-help

Letting Everyone Around You Grow Up

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I am a big fan of family systems therapy—specifically Murray Bowen. One of the pivotal concepts he posits is differentiation of self. Level of differentiation of self can affect longevity, marital stability, reproduction, health, educational accomplishments, and occupational successes. This impact of differentiation on overall life functioning explains the marked variation that typically exists in the lives of the members of a multigenerational family (Bowen).

Bowen also explores how the most trying part of becoming emotionally healthy is not over functioning in our relationships.

What do I mean by “over functioning?” By over functioning I mean doing your part and the other person’s “part” in maintaining a relationship.

I think the best thing you can do for yourself and other people is allow them to grow up.

What does it mean to let everyone around you grow up? It means to allow people to be who they are without you swooping in. From a Bowen family perspective, a true “grown up” is a self-differentiated individual–a person who has allowed themselves to grow up and allowed the people in their life around them to grow up (or not grow up).

The truth is some people are not personality wise able to grow up–but most people can, and most people will.

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Here are the steps to allowing everybody around you to grow up:

1)Stay connected to others but do not do MORE than your part. This is about knowing where you end and where others begin. 
We learn this growing up in our family of origin—if we didn’t learn that well, we can always go back and learn it. Counseling is a great avenue in processing through this emotional minefield. It is not easy for people who grew up in dysfunctional families. The message of self-differentiation is I care about you but no I cannot do that–the message being I cannot do more than I can or want to.  This is important for accomplishing self-differentiation.

2)Stop over functioning. If we attract underfunctioners–alcoholics, narcissists, takers, the self-absorbed, the immature, the needy, the demanding–we will be in a relationship system that pushes us to over function. We will find ourselves doing 150% or more of the work in the relationship. This allows these personality types to have a buffer to life’s realities. The truth is we give to others when we have that to give. But the truth is those of us who are overfunctioners, codependents, etc. tend to allow people to take from us when we DO NOT have it to give or do not WANT to give it.

Trying to be perfect is a form of over functioning. Perfectionism is a form of over functioning.

3)Stop figuring people out. The process of figuring people out is a form of over functioning. Now, I as a counselor, am in the business of “figuring people out.” But we should not do this in our personal relationships.  We figure people out because they do not want to do the work of figuring themselves out. Sometimes we figure them out to be more self-differentiated but often we are figuring others out to further the over functioning in our relationships. It is unhealthy. Figuring people out in our lives is a form of enmeshment. 

4)Stop over empathizing. Having and practicing empathy is not good for those who are not self-differentiated and well-defined (which is probably MOST of us). It is important to become more well-defined before we practice MORE empathy (hence why therapists are pushed to work through their own “stuff” to be effective in their practice). Focus on your thinking process, more than your feeling process to ensure you are not over functioning. Too often other people want us to over empathize and over sympathize to enable us to become enmeshed with them (remember, this is not a conscious process but subconscious). Do not over feel when it is the service of enabling or over functioning—a common issue with codependents. Start thinking more than feeling more.

5)Stop the enabling. Enabling is doing for others what they should do for themselves. It is taking the consequences or life lessons for others when they should be experiencing them themselves. Often, we over empathize and enable (especially with our children). In doing this, we are telling and sending them the message they can’t do life on their own–they are not strong enough, smart enough, capable enough leading to learned helplessness. Everybody has the same tasks in life as I do—we have to deal with unfairness, struggles, adversity, work, relationships, families, this is something we all have to deal with. NOBODY GETS TO OPT OUT and say nope, I can’t do it, so you need to do it! Our enabling helps and hurts at the same time. We often learn to enable at a very young age and from our family of origin. We need to root out this imprinting.

6)Focus on your own maturation process–your own self differentiation process. Look away from others and focus on yourself—certainly not in a selfish way but in a knowing yourself and becoming aware of yourself. We far too often become experts on OTHER people and NOT ourselves. Begin to become an expert on yourself!

Learn the lessons of self-differentiation. Learn more about that and how it works. When we are immature, we tend to focus on our fears and neediness AND others’ problems, issues, and immaturities. We need to get focused on OUR fears, our immaturity, and not get all focused on THE OTHER. We will be much more effective as people and be able to help in much more mature way.

7)Stop the one-sided relationships. If we have a relationship that is a combo of giver and taker, with us being the giver, this can become toxic and abusive. One sided relationships are the result of our low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, family of origin issues, fear of rejection, worthlessness, shame and reveal we are looking for love and acceptance from others –specifically others who are immature–no matter what the emotional cost to us. This is when it becomes a problem for us. WE CHOOSE RELATIONSHIPS THAT FIT OUR LEVEL OF SELF-DIFFERENTIATION OR OUR LOW SELF OR FEAR OF ABANDONMENT. Heal your self-esteem and you will heal your relationship choices and how you play your role in relationships.

8)Stop our illusions, naivety, fantasy thinking and feeling. We believe we can change others: FANTASY/NAIVETY. We believe we can make our parents be who we want them to be or fantasize if they will behave as we always wanted–an illusion. We put conditions on the relationship–if I only work harder, than THIS GOOD will come of it. If I do more, love more, become more–whatever the more “is,” I will change my spouse, my parent, my child, etc. No! Those are illusions. We need to root out the nativity in us. Learning about your own naivety is a good way to grow up. We continue to believe we have self-worth when everything points to us not having self-worth–this is denial. Our unresolved family of origin issues make us naive and immature because that is the family system, we grew up in. It is still inside of us regardless of our chronological age. To allow others to grow up, we FIRST must deal with our illusions and fantasy thinking.

9)Step down so other people can step up. Use the under functioning leverage for others to step up. Intentionally try to under function. This places the pressure, pinging, and systemic pressure on the other to step up. Or not. THEY MAY NOT. But the pressure is on THEM to GROW UP. If they don’t choose to, it is time for you to start dealing with your illusions and beliefs about the other. The best way to find out if they can change is you step down so they can step upIf they are not going to STEP UP that tells you something very important which you may not want to hear or know. But is important to our emotional health.

10)Get out of others way. If you’re a caretaker, fixer, overfunctioner, you’re getting in the way of others’ lives. The universe is trying to speak to them to grow up and be more mature and stop under functioning. We get in their way by stepping up too much.

11)Stop defending yourself with others. Defending yourself is a way that you enable other people not to look at themselves. Whenever you defend yourself, others don’t have to look at themselves because you are filling up all the noise with your defensiveness. Your defensiveness only furthers their denial and keeps the focus on you not them. Defending yourself will not bring about change in others but only will reinforce you on low self-image. REMEMBER DEFENDING YOURSELF EQUATES WITH ENMESHMENT. Do anything but defend yourself with those who do not want to grow up. Behave with boundaries, maturity, and calmly. More talking, more defensiveness, more explaining will only stress you out more and not accomplish your goal with the immature around you who do not want to grow up. If you stop the defending, they must deal with you and the situation more.

12)Exit triangles. Triangles are formed to keep the immature around us from growing up. If you told the other, time and time again, something you want them to know or understand and then you go to a third party and go communicate these things—now we have a triangle. Triangles are fundamentally unhealthy in relationships especially in families.

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Remember a person can have all the trappings of adult life–marriage, mortgage, career, kids. This does mean they are an emotional grown up.

Letting someone grow up is the BEST gift you can give someone. Letting yourself grow up in the best give you can give yourself.

These are just a few steps in the process of differentiation but there are probably many more. If you find you are struggling with any of the components of being an emotional grown up, counseling can be a great way to explore the differentiation of self-process.

If you find you are struggling with a self-differentiation in YOUR LIFE and would like 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

 

 

anxiety, counseling, happiness, psychology, self-help

Why It is Time to Stop Ignoring Your Mental Health

As a mental health counselor, I am a bit biased when it comes to touting the importance of mental health. Yet there still seems to be an ongoing stigma that permeates our society regarding mental health issues and a sense of shame that persists for people who struggle with their mental health. What alarms me is that the stigma can keep people from seeking treatment. If you’re afraid of how your family, friends, or colleagues might react to a psychiatric diagnosis, you’re far less motivated to actually seek out help to get the diagnosis (and the accompanying treatment) in the first place.

Think about it. Would you be comfortable going to work and announcing you are struggling with depression? Or even coming clean to your close friends and family about emotional and psychological struggles–would you be able to share you have panic attacks with your loved ones? Or would you be embarrassed and try to hide this from those you love most? Admitting mental health struggles still seems uncomfortable and threatening for many in our culture. Enormous progress has been made but we still have a way to go.

It is something that frustrates me as I have witnessed firsthand how poor mental health can deteriorate the state of someone’s career, relationships, physical health, and life in general.

The fact remains that when someone comes down with a cold or stomach virus, the vast majority of us don’t hesitate to pop a pill or visit the doctor. But if we can’t seem to shake our endless worries or that nagging sense of worthlessness, we plug along as though nothing is wrong. We don’t care for our mental health with the same regard as our physical health (even though mental health can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, backaches, stomachaches, insomnia, etc). The relationship between mental health and physical health is now evident.

People with mental health problems, especially mild symptoms of anxiety or depression, often fly under the radar of their families, friends, doctors, coworkers — typically at great cost to individuals, families and society in general. Think about what a different world we would live in if people addressed their mental health issues before heading out into the world each and every day. Even if you’re able to work, fulfill family responsibilities and otherwise function in daily life, mental health problems can have serious consequences.

I truly believe mental health is just as important as physical health. Why? Because our mental health impacts every aspect of our life. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.

Our mental health has a direct IMPACT on how we think, feel, and act. This means it impacts how we feel, think and behave each and EVERY day. 

Mental health impacts EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR BEING. It  determines how you handle conflict, stress & adversity. Your mental health impacts how you relate to others & yourself. Your mental health is central in the way you go about making choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Your mental health is integral to living a healthy, well balanced life. Mental health struggles do NOT discriminate—people from ALL walks of life can struggle with their mental well-being.

Good mental health means you’re able to cope with daily stresses and accomplish personal goals. You are not fearful of new experiences or an uncertain future.

People who are mentally healthy have

  • A sense of contentment
  • A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun.
  • The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity.
  • A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships.
  • The flexibility to learn new skills and adapt to change.
  • A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
  • The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem (www.helpguide.org)

Ask yourself–do you feel that you are as mentally healthy as you could be? There is no shame in struggling.  Having good mental health doesn’t mean you never struggle emotionally or do not experience bad times.

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Help is out there. The health of your mind if just as important as the health of your body. Counseling is a high-value–but temporary–investment in yourself.

Counseling is a proven process that teaches you how your mind works. Behavioral and emotionally interventions can and do help people who are struggling. Counseling helps you navigate your feelings, communicate better, build better behaviors, develop better relationships, build on coping skills, and relate to your thoughts differently so you can live the life you want.

Wouldn’t you like to learn how to handle your emotions better, boost your mood, and build on your resilience? This is YOUR LIFE after all. If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health and still aren’t functioning optimally at home, work, or in your relationships, it may be time to seek professional help.

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

 

anxiety, counseling, goals, psychology, self-help

Signs It May Be Time to See a Therapist to Get Help for Your Anxiety

Do you ever wonder if your anxiety is normal OR if it is time to seek out help for your symptoms? Shining a light on mental health issues helps to reduce the stigma that keeps many people from seeking support.

Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health disorder in America. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year (adaa.org).

EVERYONE gets nervous from time to time. It is quite common for people to experience anxiety at different points in their lives.

For instance, anxiety is a very normal response to stressful life events like going on a job interview, getting married, having a baby, moving, changing jobs or having financial troubles. Anxiety is a natural reaction to a situation we perceive as stressful or dangerous.

But when does anxiety cross the line from normal anxiety into an anxiety disorder? When anxiety becomes larger than the events that triggered them and begin to interfere with your life, they could be signs of an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders can become debilitating, but they can be managed with proper help from a mental health professional.

Anxiety disorders are HIGHLY TREATABLE if you are willing to take the first step towards seeking help.

Anxiety disorders can take many forms. Below are some signs you should consider seeking help for your anxiety:

1)If it keeps you from doing things you enjoy. When your world is becoming smaller because of your anxiety, this is certainly a sign you should seek help. Do you want to travel but suddenly feel the urge to cancel your plans because you are scared? Or do you feel too anxious to even book a trip in the first place because you are afraid to board a plane or be away from the comforts of home? Or you can only go to the same place for vacation because anywhere new and unfamiliar leads to high anxiety? Maybe you want to visit your sister but she lives two hours away and you are afraid to drive there. If your anxiety is inhibiting your life, it may be time to seek out professional help.

2)You are exhausted. Constantly feeling tired is a sign your mind (and your worries) are in overdrive. Worrying can lead to the point of exhaustion. Being easily fatigued can be a telling sign your anxiety is getting out of hand.

3)It is impacting your career. If you are so anxious, it is impeding your ability to function at work, it is time to seek out help. What are some signs your anxiety is severe?If you are finding that you are missing many days from work, frequently calling in late because your anxiety is impeding your ability to leave the house, or having trouble performing the normal day-to-day tasks of your job, it may be time to seek out some support.

4)You are isolating yourself from others. Are you feeling such anxiety that you are avoiding parties, going out, or interacting with family and friends? If your social anxieties are leading to isolation, this is a problem. If the presence of other people cause you to worry, you may feel the need to avoid putting yourself in situations where you have to interact with others you do not feel comfortable with. This is a sign your anxiety can be spiraling out of control.

5)Your fears keep you from performing essential tasks. Do you hate crowds? Get anxious waiting on lines? If your anxiety is keeping you from food shopping or going out in public, this is a sign your anxiety is disproportionate to the situation. If you can not perform day-to-day tasks because of strong, unrelenting feelings of anxiety, it can be a sign of anxiety disorder.

6)You are having panic attacks. The hallmark of a panic attack is extreme fear typically accompanied by rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, chest tightness, nausea and fear of dying or losing control. Panic attacks can be terrifying. Counseling can help you figure out the situations, thoughts, or feelings that cause your attacks (your triggers).

7)The anxiety is ongoing. If you have been experiencing ongoing anxiety, it can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Occasional anxiety is an expected part of life, ongoing anxiety is no,  unless it is circumstantial (you loss your job, getting a divorce, extenuating life circumstances that were unexpected, etc.).

8)You have physical symptoms–stomach aches, headaches, muscle tension, can’t sleep, dizziness, diarrhea, throwing up. Having physical symptoms on most days of the week is another frequent symptom of anxiety. There is no doubt that stress and anxiety can beat up your body. If your anxiety is causing you to become physically ill, you most certainly should seek out the care of a mental health professional.

9)Feeling irritable. Frequently, people with anxiety disorders experience excessive irritability.  Keep tabs on whether you’re blowing up at people or losing your cool. Do you let things that roll off other people’s back make you flip out? Are you unable to manage and control your emotions? It can be a sign you are emotionally dysregulated. Anger and irritability can be a sign of anxiety.

10)Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleep disturbances are strongly associated with anxiety disorders. Perhaps your mind starts racing as soon as your head hits the pillow. You’re thinking about your never-ending to-do list, that thing you should (or shouldn’t) have said at work, or how expensive your taxes are going to be this quarter. Then you catch a glimpse of the clock, and realize how late it already is which only further escalates your anxiety. Anxiety can lead to insomnia. If your anxiety is causing you to be restless and unable to get a good night’s sleep, you should speak to your doctor.

11)Your anxiety is impacting your relationships. Constant worry manifesting as any of the following: jealousy towards your spouse, your children becoming anxious themselves because you are rubbing off on them,  acting controlling towards others to mitigate your own anxious feelings,  avoiding friends and family at social events, and communication problems with others are ALL signs your anxiety has escalated to the point of a disorder. The good thing to know is that once treatment for anxiety is underway these relationship issues do improve as well.

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12)Using alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. Are you drinking more than usual? Popping pills to numb yourself out (especially if it not your prescription)? Many people who are suffering from severe anxiety will use drugs or alcohol to self-treat their anxiety symptoms.

If you are relating to many of the aforementioned signs, keep in mind, that anxiety is a very treatable disorder.

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If anxiety is interfering with your life, whatever they may mean to you, that is reason enough to speak with a mental health professional.

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If you anxiety is causing you suffering, you DESERVE to get help.

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

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.

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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).

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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.

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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