aging, counseling, psychology, self-help

Do You Feel “Old?”

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There is a lot of things that suck about getting older.

There is a reason they say getting old is not for the faint of heart.

Fine lines, high blood pressure, slower metabolisms, gray hairs, never-ending bills. Just to name a few.

Psychologically speaking, aging can be daunting, to say the least.

Then there is the narcissistic injury that comes with aging. NONE of us get to escape it. As we pass our prime, it is with a growing awareness that younger people coming after us haven’t yet reached their peak. You look at younger people and see the torch has been passed to a new generation. The generational guard has changed. It is THEIR turn. Yours has come and passed to a larger extent. The next generation is still building and designing their lives: education, marriage, kids, houses, careers, ambitions. Whereas you life in comparison feels relatively set.

It can be a bummer to say the least.

Perhaps “excitement” feels like an emotion of yesteryear.

And then of course is the startlingly realization there are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it once we reach a certain age.  Everyone is winging it, some just do it with more aplomb.

Yet there is also something extremely liberating about getting older: a shift in perspective, one that comes hard-won.

At some point you start to say to yourself: “I’m too old for this.”

This has become my M.O. for how I view certain things in life. I have been practicing it frequently and often, amazed at how I can ignore nuisances that once would have gotten to me or upset me. How much easier it gets with each passing year to be comfortable in your own skin.

Getting older helps you gain such awareness of yourself and all the trivial things you have wasted your time on over the years.

All the silly things that you spent your time and energy on. Oy. Wasted moments, days, months…(hopefully not years).

What have I come to realize I am too old for?

Judgments. My own (self-directed ones mostly). You know that voice in your head. The one saying you aren’t smart enough, strong enough, wealthy enough, pretty enough, thin enough. I’m trying not to judge myself so harshly for being human. For some reason, this non-judgment comes so naturally in my role as a clinician, working with others, but is more of a challenge with myself. I feel we struggle for years to accept our imperfections. Yet the fact remains we are all flawed. I can list off my many flaws– I sleep with my makeup on. I eat sweets more often than I should. I skip the morning workout session to get the extra 20 minutes of sleep to power through a 14 hour work day. I skip exercise on the weekends to do a bottomless mimosa brunch. I cannot draw or do anything artistic to save my life. I can on and on.

Letting others make my decisions.  When we are children, we yield to our parents. Sadly many people never outgrow this inclination to yield their decision-making to others. Some live their whole lives yielding to the will of others. Sure, you may have family/spouse/friends whose insight you may seek, but you are no longer making decisions based on what others think you should do. You are making decisions based on what is right for you. It’s liberating. There is nothing sadder than someone who lives their whole life living for the approval of others (which may never even be granted).

Expectations–Unrealistic ones specifically (both for myself and others). Figuring out how to manage my expectations without sacrificing my sense of idealism has been a struggle. I see the struggle play out with clients in our sessions, many who find it challenging to manage expectations in their relationships. It is so hard for many of us to accept other people are not here to meet our expectations. You see our expectations are based on our experiences and we all travel different paths on journey through life. I am mindful that all people have their own hopes, dreams, identities, ways of operating, and plans for their lives. Letting go of expectations are a must if you want to have an inner sense of peace and healthy, enduring relationships.

In my work as a therapist, I’ve met with many clients who share with me their disappointment with their friends, family, and coworkers. Disappointment is a soul crushing emotion. Clients share it is hard for them to let go and forgive the mistakes of others. Others cannot forgive themselves. I can relate to the feeling-I have been there far too many times than I care to admit. A huge part of my own personal growth was freeing myself from external expectations–the ones held by others towards me and vice versa. I gently remind clients (and myself) we are ALL doing the best we can at our personal level of development. It is important to live with an internal locus of control.

I am too old to keep my mouth shut when I see injustice— Life is not fair. That is a given. But I cannot enable bad behavior–especially in the large issues facing our society (in politics we see bad behavior playing out on the daily). I no longer want to keep my mouth shut when I see an injustice. Or feel one. It’s not that I never spoke out, there were times when I did, but it was usually on behalf of someone else. I never tolerated people mistreating people I cared about. But I learned life is short and the older you get your time is PRECIOUS.  We need to serve goals and issues outside of our selves.  Injustice to others is injustice to all.

Thinking something is the end of the world. Emotional scenes are tiring and pointless. Nothing is the end of the world. You have been through enough downs to know there eventually is an up. Reacting no longer seems necessary. If you get treated like shit, it would be wise to exit stage left.

Spending unnecessary time with people I don’t care for — I struggle to be around people who mean, petty, and close-minded. I think we all can relate to being in situations where people are squabbling over something asinine and thought what am I doing here? Life is too short to spend unnecessary time with people who are not in aligned with your values.  The friends you keep in your life have your back… you weed out the others. It saves a lot of emotional angst. Ones of the perks of getting older is your circle gets smaller, but with quality people.

I am too old to try to change people.  People’s youthful quirks can harden into adult pathologies. What is cute and harmless at 25 is pathological by 40. Be wary of people who are committed to the same misery instead of trying to change things for the better. By now I’ve learned, the very hard way, that what you see in someone at the beginning is what you get in perpetuum. I have come to realize people find comfort in the predictability, even the ritualization, of the same problems with the same people over and over again. Instead of going through the struggle of changing dynamics for the better, people rather stay stuck in the familiar misery they know.

Marriages, friendships, family relationships….people do-si-do, round and round until the music stops. People will go through the same toxic, unhealthy patterns just because it is familiar.

Toxic people? Sour, spoiled people? We should simply walk away. We get to not just be too old for but too wise for such nonsense.  At my age and in my field, I can spot trouble coming a mile away  (believe me, this is a big improvement). I spare myself a great deal of suffering, and as we all know, there is plenty of that to be had without looking for more.

To think I am special. Growing up, the “special” movement was full swing. Trophies for everyone! The fact remains more about you is universal than not universal. I feel a small percentage of us is unique but for the most part we are part of the cohort. A bit disappointing and also a relief.  We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. But the fact is, most of us are pretty average at most things we do.

For firsts. When we are young, we have plenty of firsts.  So many great new experiences! First day of school. First day of summer vacation. First date. First kiss. First real relationship. First terrible breakup. First real job. First… you get the point. When we’re young, life is full of firsts. I am too old for many firsts. But I look forward to not firsts, but different times. It may not be a first time but it will be a different time.

As you can see with time you evolve, just as the world does.  One upside to getting older? Research shows the older we get, the happier we are. Studies show as we get, our overall mental health, including mood,  sense of well-being and ability to handle stress, just keeps improving right up until the very end of life.

Something to look forward to.

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

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

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counseling, dating, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, self-help

6 Signs He Is Just Not That Into You

“He’s just not THAT into you.”

I remember the Sex and the City episode which played up this very popular early 2000’s catch phrase. I know you hate this phrase. I hate it even more. I think we hate it because we recognize that it IS indeed true– even when we are living in a fantasy world about it. Denial in dating is a common phenomenon.

I hate to say it. I apologize for saying it. But if a man is not calling you, it’s not because he has bad cell service or he is really tied up at work. He is not calling (or texting) because he doesn’t like you or doesn’t like you enough to make the effort.

Below are some telling signs he is just NOT that into you:

1)You always have to reach out to him FIRST. When a man is crazy for you, he is reaching out. Often. And with passion. If you’re always the one texting, calling, or messaging him first, and he never initiates a conversation – sorry but that’s a huge sign that he’s not that into you.

2)You have not met his friends. Or family. If a man is actually into you, you’re going to meet his friends and family. He is going to want you to be a part of ALL of his world (or at least give you the choice to be).

3) He Actively Flirts With Other Women.  This one is self-explanatory. Huge deal-breaker.It is disrespectful and gross. I expect a 16-year-old boy to do this–not a 36-year-old MAN.

4)He’s Never Trying to Impress You. Men who are smitten? They try to impress you at ALL costs. If no effort is being made to wow you, this speaks volumes about the level of interest.

5)The man treats you like an option NOT a priority. If he is repeatedly blowing off plans and you see him posting on Insta later that night with his pals? BYE Felicia. You should be his number priority. Of course for a man hanging out with his friends is important but breaking plans with you for them over AND over again? Nope!

6)He does not take you on REAL dates. A bottle of wine at his apartment and House of Cards binge? That is fun from time to time. But if you are looking for something more, guard your heart if he only wants to Netflix & Chill. Nothing wrong with but then you are probably looking at just a hookup with no strings attached.

6)You feel it in your gut. Ultimately, your instincts are going to tell you the truth. Ladies, deep down we know when a man is NOT feeling us. You deserve more.

If you find you are repeatedly attracting the wrong man, it may be time to talk to someone. A professional can help you get to the bottom of why you are attracted to unavailable men.

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

counseling, psychology, retirement, self-help

Retirement: Are You Mentally Prepared?

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Retirement is a goal for many people.

Some people count the days, months, YEARS until they are going to retire.

Yet for others, they will proudly say they NEVER plan to retire because they love what they do for a living. You can count me among these folks. (Although I also recognize as you change and evolve through life, how you feel can AND does change!)

On the other hand there are people who CANNOT retire because of financial reasons.

Others are forced into retirement because of factors outside of their control–health problems, downsizing, etc.

As you can see, retirement is a VERY personal experience.

One of life’s biggest decisions is whether to retire and if so, WHEN.  Retirement is a huge milestone. There are many factors that must be considered before pulling the trigger.

Retirement should not create difficulty in life, but it often does. The sad fact is in America, the vast majority of people do not plan well enough for their retirement–financially or emotionally. Saving enough money to have a comfortable retirement is a difficult process for many.  Perhaps even more important is planning what you’re going to do with your days in retirement. Or deciding if you even want to retire. Ever.

Do you believe you will happier retired or working? Do you enjoy your career and derive a sense of purpose from it? I know for myself my career provides much meaning for me both professionally AND personally. I love my field so much that writing a blog on different counseling related topics has become a fun pastime for me. Counseling and psychology are PASSIONS of mine. Thus I cannot imagine a day where I am not in the field of counseling and mental health in SOME capacity. But I am someone who feels my profession is a calling. I believe many people do NOT feel this way about their career. (Most even).

Is your job stressful? Do you find it fulfilling?

Do you look forward to going to work? Or is it something you dread come Sunday night?

When you think about retiring, do you believe you will you be physically healthier?

Do you believe you will be mentally and emotionally healthier when you retire?

What benefits does your career provide? Are their social benefits–colleagues who are friends? Book clubs? Social gatherings you love? Practical benefits like health insurance?

Are you psychologically prepared to retire? To give up your professional identity?

Do you think you will you live longer if you retire? Or do you fear soon after retirement will come declining health and loss of purpose?

What will you do in retirement? A good way to feel this out is reflecting on your life currently. Are you involved in volunteer work, hobbies, or a particular passion? If not, it may be unrealistic to believe that you will suddenly be a totally different person the day after you retire.

There is no right or wrong decision here. Deciding whether to retire is a life changing decision. Don’t rush it. Discuss your answers to these questions with people you love. Or a mental health professional (such as myself).

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

counseling, psychology, self-help

Your Opinion is NOT a Fact

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Is anyone else thrown by how many people confuse  OPINIONS with facts?

Our opinions are NOT facts.

For some of us, this is just stating the obvious.

However, it has become alarming, how many people believe that their opinion is fact. We incorrectly believe that IF we believe something, it is correct.  I mean, if WE believe it, it must be true. It holds true for us and we are ALWAYS right. Right!?!

Not so fast there. Looky below.

o·pin·ion

/əˈpinyən/
noun
  1. a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

Key words there: NOT necessarily based on fact OR knowledge.  Yet in American culture, society as a large has this tendency to focus on ourselves. Yes. Ourselves. The “I KNOW best” mentality has been perfected by many who walk among us. Some people who even lead our nation (not mentioning any names, hint, hint) hold this close-minded perspective. Some people view their opinions and views as Gospel.

Even worse, people feel ENTITLED to offer up their opinion. Their UNSOLICITED opinions. To you. Me. Anyone who will listen.

And we know what they say about opinions….

Over time, this universal bad habit of speaking our opinions as facts has developed in our culture. I know I fall into this trap myself when I am passionate about the subject. I try to catch myself when I am doing it. And sadly in this political climate–actual facts are being refered to as opinions. It is a WILD time to be part of the political discourse.  People are no longer swayed by facts, JUST opinions.

In this day and age, people outright refuse to BELIEVE facts.

It is not just in the political landscape this is playing out. People state their “opinions” as truisms of how others should live their lives.

People use their opinions as weapons to HURT other people. To belittle them. To make them feel less than.  (they even defend themselves for doing such by saying it is just THEIR opinion so you have NO right to be offended as they are “entitled” to it–even if their opinion is an INHERENT insult on you).

Gone are the days when parents tell kids to keep their opinions to themselves. Even in polite company adults do not keep their opinions to themselves. Many people just let whatever they think rip.

Whenever someone tells me what they “think” or “believe” as a directive, I already know the type of individual I am dealing with.  A person who most likely does not follow the “let’s agree to disagree” mindset I try to embody for the most part. Instead these sorts of people try to convince you how wrong you are for your views. The sad truth is we are living in increasingly intolerant times.

Many people are confused about what tolerance is. The word tolerate means to allow or to permit, to recognize and respect others’ beliefs and practices without sharing them, to bear or put up with someone or something not necessarily liked.

The tolerant person occupies neutral ground, a place where each person is permitted to decide for himself. No judgments allowed. No “forcing” one’s personal views on another. No belittling or demeaning a person who does not hold your views. Being tolerant entails taking a neutral posture towards another’s convictions.

Tolerance, then, involves three components: (1) permitting or allowing (2) a conduct or point of view one disagrees with (3) while respecting the person in the process.

Sadly America is becoming an increasingly INtolerant society.

As a mental health clinician, I gently work to help clients who struggle in their interpersonal relationships with intolerance and the ability to tolerate differences. I point out to my clients that what they feel and think is not universal. It is not healthy to measure others against our own values and viewpoints because we all have different values–different does not mean better or worse JUST dissimilar. We cannot hold people to our own beliefs and opinions if we want to have healthy, enduring relationships. We have to be tolerant of differences and give people the freedom to be who they are, without our unrequested judgement.

On the other hand, I know I tend to be INtolerant of intolerant people. I just don’t like to spend my time with people who feel the need to judge and denigrate anyone who does not live according to THEIR standards and beliefs. I feel life is TOO short for that negativity.

If we want healthy relationships with others, we need to be tolerant of others and their dissenting opinions.

As a counselor, people often as me for my opinion or advice which I tell them is not my role.   The role of a therapist is to present clients with a better comprehension of what motivates or causes them to act or think in the way that they do.

Psychotherapy should be a tool that guides people in making their own decisions.

The reality is many of our opinions are often not based on data. Or research. Or any absolute truth. Do you ever question how you reached your conclusion? Our opinions are often based on our feelings and emotions–both which are notoriously irrational and unreliable.

As a therapist, I often hear people diagnosing other people with mental health issues–playing armchair psychologist and flippantly diagnosing friends, family members, and politicians–anyone they DISAGREE with. Frequently I hear about people giving their “opinions” of the mental health of other people as a way to pigeonhole and categorize them—with no background or training in psychology.

This is just another reflection of intolerance.

Why does it matter to understand the difference between fact and opinion? Because although everyone is entitled to an opinion, not all opinions are equally valuable. This is precisely why opinions by “experts” are more valued in court testimony and evaluative reporting because they are more likely to provide opinions based on facts. Based in knowledge.

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People often try to shut down another by saying, “That’s just YOUR opinion” as in to say what you are saying is a statement of opinion but in contrast what they are saying is a statement of FACT. A pernicious statement to make to say the least.

It is not always good to form an opinion on everything AND anything because in turn you feel internally compelled to share it with everyone and anyone.

For instance you may:

  • You spend time thinking imaginary arguments with others about how horrible they are.
  • You may actually engage in those arguments, in REAL life, wasting even more time.
  • You look for arguments and debates to get into.
  • You make other people feel bad. They either feel annoyed by you, angry with you, or offended about what you say.

Unless your goal is controversy and outrage, you should limit your opinions to topics that truly matter to you and topics you are INFORMED on. Opinions should be educated and based in evidence. Not just emotion BUT also logic and FACTS.

We need to stop having an opinion on everything. I don’t have opinions on MANY things–from stock portfolios to cooking to football to how to do anything crafty on Pinterest: I am opinionLESS (my lack of knowledge in football=pointed our frequently by my hubby). You need to be confident in what you know and be humble about what you DON’T know.

It seems as though intolerance of other people’s opinions infiltrates all different aspects of our lives. Here is to hoping we can someday grow more tolerant of our differences. In my “opinion” the growing intolerance in our nation is concerning. It is OKAY if someone disagrees with us for our opinion has the right to be expressed, but it has no rights to be imposed on others.

But, hey, what do I know?! These are just my “opinions.”

 

counseling, psychology, self-help

Managing Stress During the Holiday Season: It’s the Most Wonderful AND Stressful Time of the Year!

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Do you get stressed-out around the holidays? 

Thanksgiving is almost upon us which means the holiday season is about to be in full swing!

For many, this is their favorite time of year. Many look forward to the holidays and ending the year with a bang!

The holiday season can be full of joy and spending quality time with our loved ones…but it can also be stressful and full of angst. The holiday season is a time of year that often brings unwelcome visitors–anxiety, stress, and depression just to name a few–all of which can put a damper on one’s holiday spirit.

Stress is ever-present during the holiday season. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a multitude of demands — demands we place on our self AND demands placed on us by others.

We spend endless hours devoting much time to decorating, shopping, baking, gift wrapping, cleaning, and entertaining. Unrealistic expectations run rampant during the time of year. Just trying to stay within one’s budget can be stressful in and of itself.

It is the most wonderful and EXPENSIVE time of the year!

During this time of year, people often resort to bad habits—they may overindulged in sweet and sugar cravings, dip into the booze and pharmaceuticals, and live on cup after cup of caffeine filled drinks such as coffee and soda to power through their never-ending to-do list.

Emotions can be all over the place. You may feel annoyed by meddling relatives, experience bouts of loneliness,  miss loved ones who are no longer with you, or lose patience with your children over their endless requests and demands.

Stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your mental health. Being realistic, planning ahead, and seeking support can help ward off stress and depression.

Below are some strategies for managing the stress of the holidays:

1)Stay connected. As families change and grow, you may not all be able to be together on the holidays. People live on different coasts, other loved ones may spend time with their in-laws, and schedules may not allow everyone to be together in ONE place. Give people a call, send holiday cards, and do your best to stay connected even if you cannot physically be together. If you want to stay connected you need to do your part as well to stay in touch–even a simple “Missing you, thinking of you” text can go a long way to letting the people in your life know you care.

2)Don’t blow your budget–you can’t buy happiness for yourself OR anyone else. Design a budget and stick to it. How much you spend is NOT a reflection of how much you care. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to go big (big meaning expensive) on presents to make loved ones happy. It truly is the thought that counts.  The best presents to give are experiences–give loved ones Groupons such as to a paint class night or to try a cooking class.

3)Take care of YOU. Often during the holidays we are so focused on doing for others. It is also a trying time of year on us physically AND mentally— the days begin getting darker and colder (unless you live in a tropical climate-then LUCKY YOU), we eat more, drink more, sleep less, and are generally more busy. It is the recipe for the perfect storm on our emotional and mental well-being. Try not to abandon ALL your healthy habits. Try to get the proper amount of sleep, get some exercise in, and watch your diet during the work week. Don’t let the holidays be a free for all on your health. Come January 1st you WILL regret it.

4)Learn to say no. You do not have to attend every party you are invited to. You do not have to host your mother-in-law’s third cousins you never met before. You don’t have to drive to three different places on Christmas to not disappoint. Slow it down. Don’t allow the holiday season to run you ragged. Saying yes when you want to say no leaves you feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Nothing merry about that!

5)Lower your expectations. Cut yourself some slack. Cut others some slack as well. We are all doing the best we can. Things do not need to be perfect to be fun. Try for good enough and focus your attention on the real meaning of the holidays. Don’t let your annoying, crazy uncle get on your last nerve at the dinner table–this is why Jesus turned water into wine. Have a glass of red (heart health AND antioxidants), scoop on the salad, and try to have fun!

It is important to take control of the holidays before they take control of YOU.

Don’t let the holidays become something that spikes your stress levels to the max. Instead, take steps to prevent stress and depression that can arise during the holidays. Learn to recognize your triggers. Perhaps you worry about your family’s budget or demands placed on you. Stay mindful and take some time to RELAX. Keep in mind self-imposed demands tend to be especially tough, so try your best to mitigate the stress before it leads to a meltdown.

Even if you’re a easy going, laid back person, the holiday season can still be a trying time. Your stress level can go through the roof. Don’t be afraid to talk to a mental health professional if the holiday season has you feeling down or having a difficult time. A therapist can help you improve your coping skills so you can tap into the joy and peace that is all around you–and within you.

Happy Holidays!

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