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 usually. 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

 

counseling, goals, happiness, psychology, Uncategorized

Why Fall is a Great Time for Self-Reflection

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“If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection.
It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone.
Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.”
– Mitchell Burgess –

Autumn in the Northeast is a special time of year. Fall is an opportune time for introspection and reflection about life. As the leaves begin to change color, the days get shorter, leaves fall away, and colder nights start to appear – these all are the signs of a new change in the circle of nature. Fall is a bittersweet season–the leaves are beautiful but they are in fact dying. This time of the year with its picturesque beauty always inspires me to reflect. Similarly, to nature that follows its seasonal patterns, we also face constant changes in our lives.

While fall may seem a season of decline as we head towards winter, it is actually a good time to sum up the results of the year, set new goals and begin something new. To find yourself is a lifelong process–do you ever find yourself wondering how you ended up where you are? Often we avoid asking ourself the hard questions because they can bring about uncomfortable feelings. If you are not careful, not mindfully aware of where you are going, you could end up somewhere far from where you want to be.

Fall is the end of many things but it can also signify new beginnings. Autumn can be a time to see the colors, notice the details, explore nature, and find beauty in the moment. All of these changes going on around us can signal a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.

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Self-reflection is defined as “meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives.”

Too often we don’t stop to pause and take a deep breath. We keep moving. We live on auto pilot. We push through. We don’t stop to reflect. We stay in jobs that are (literally) killing us, relationships that zap our energy, circumstances that leave us stressed, unhappy, frustrated and tired.

We keep running on the treadmill of life thinking we don’t have time to waste. So we keep moving in order to keep up. But too often, we just crash and burn. That’s because the only way to keep up with the pace of life is to STOP. To hop off the treadmill. To reflect on what’s working and what’s not.

Self-reflection is a four step process:

  • STOP: Take a step back from life or a particular situation.
  • LOOK: Identify and get perspective on what you notice and see.
  • LISTEN: Listen to your inner guide, the innate wisdom that bubbles up when you give it time and space to emerge.
  • ACT: Identify the steps you need to take moving forward to adjust, change or improve.

It’s about taking a step back and reflecting on your life, behavior and beliefs. Some questions to help facilitate the process:

1)Am I using my time wisely?

2)Am I waking up ready to take on the day?

3)Are my relationships healthy? Are the people I am allowing into my life the right people?

4)Am I where I want to be? If I am not, how do I get from where I am to where I want to be?

5)Am I taking care of myself physically?

6)Am I taking care of myself mentally?

7)Am I letting matters that are out of my control stress me out?

8)Am I achieving the goals I set out for myself?

9)Are there any beliefs that are limiting me?

10)Am I living my life according to my values?

If you find you are not happy with the answers to these questions of self-refletion, counseling can be a great avenue for helping you change the course of your life. If you are interested in scheduling a session with me and are a reader living 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

 

 

counseling, psychology, self-help, Uncategorized

Approval Seeking Behavior: Do You Need Approval?

It doesn’t take a genius – let alone a therapist – to conclude that the root cause of most approval-seeking behavior is a lack of self-esteem.

If you need other people to sign off on your choices, opinions, etc., you are on a road that leads to nowhere good. It is not healthy to live our lives for other people (as people-pleasers and codependents often do).

The issue that arises with needing approval is a blind submission to others—a form of servitude that can enslave you spiritually, mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and physically. It can lead to anxiety about whether or not someone will validate your self-worth by bestowing you with the gift of their approval. To live like this is to give control to others over your life. If you live and breath for others’ approval, this is demoralizing as you surely will not always be given said approval.

Approval seeking also leads down a slippery slope of doing something that is against your better judgment, but to gain said person’s approval. Instead of doing what you think is right you do what the other person wants you to do and feel bad about it in the process. This is not a healthy way to live. Now this does not mean that the opposite of approval seeking is being deliberately rude, difficult, or oppositional. These are polar opposites to avoid. Instead your choices should be driven by your values not your blind need for approval.

If someone doesn’t approve of you and your choices, that is THEIR problem. Not yours. Unless you are an approval seeker that is. I find as a counselor, if people don’t approve of who they are, they tend to seek out the approval of others.

Your life is YOUR life. It’s as simple as that.  At the end of the day you are the only person who needs to approve of your choices. This is what being a mature self-actualized person means. Your friends, family, coworkers have their own things to focus on and worry about. They have their OWN life to LIVE.  You need to focus on your own life while simultaneously allowing others to focus on theirs.

The truth is gaining someone’s approval is a false ego boost. It is getting someone to validate you because you are not capable of validating yourself. A healthy person becomes independent of the good AND bad opinions of others—they know all outside chatter is essentially noise. In becoming self-differentiated and emotionally mature, we live by our own values and principles.

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Listen, all of us care if people like us to some extent. Humans are social animals after all.  We all love validation and approval particularly if it is a person we truly respect. But if you are psychologically and emotionally healthy, you shouldn’t need it. But if you NEED people to like and approve of you, this is a different story. It is time to start reflecting on WHY.

Here’s the thing. You can’t control what other people are thinking. But guess what? It doesn’t matter. Because you CAN control what YOU are thinking. This is where your power lies.

When we constantly and endlessly aim to please other people, we’re seeking approval of self from outside sources. And whenever we reach for something in the external world to give us what we NEED to be giving ourselves, we set ourselves up for disappointment and hurt. We set ourselves up to live a life we don’t necessarily want, but will fit with what other people expect of us. This is an inauthentic way of being.

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If you are doing the best you can with what you have, worrying if people like you or not is a waste of your most precious resource: your energy. If you are struggling with needing other people’s approval, counseling may be a good avenue to pursue. A good clinician can help you be okay without needing other people’s approval.

Ask yourself, “Do I value this person’s opinion?” and “Do they have my best interest at heart?” If the answer to both of those questions isn’t a definitive yes, then don’t worry so much about what they say or do.

At the end of the day, if someone doesn’t understand you or believe in you, it’s their choice—but if you keep waiting for their approval, it’s your choice. Don’t chain yourself, including your self-worth, to someone who does not value you.  You have to be able to accept the fact that some people might never understand you, respect you, or like you—and that’s OK.

If you find you are struggling with approval seeking behavior 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

counseling, goals, happiness, psychology, Uncategorized

Everything Can Change, If YOU Can Change

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Change.

Many people HATE change. They fight it like hell. Resist it at ALL costs.

We all know people who will do ANYTHING to preserve the status quo.

But you can’t avoid change. The problem with hating change is life is FILLED with it.

Everyone, from every walk of life, must deal with change.

Change is always happening, but the way people react to change can be very different. Some people respond with fear, others respond with denial, others RELISH change.

What about you? How do you handle change?

Are you someone who puts off changes that you know need to be made?

Do you resist change to your own detriment?

Are you a person who creates opportunities for change because you view change as growth?

As humans, we are designed as a species that can adapt to all sorts of environments. If we weren’t CAPABLE of coping with change in all likelihood, we would be extinct.

For some people, they are not against change. But they may resist BEING changed.  It is the source of the change that matters to them.  Some people do not like change that is imposed on them—by say a boss, spouse, or some other external source.

Some people don’t mind change...depending how big the change is.  Perhaps they can change a small aspect of their life but anything they deem to big and threatening is out of the question.

The truth is we all HAVE different thresholds when it comes to our ability to adapt to change. What I can handle you may not be able to handle or vice versa. Being averse to change or embracing it is a very subjective experience.

It all comes down to how comfortable you are with uncertainty.. Ask yourself–would you rather be WRONG or UNCERTAIN?

Some people say better the devil they know because the risk of uncertainty is too UNCOMFORTABLE for them to handle. Even when on an intellectual level a person knows uncertainty also comes with the chance of things being BETTER.

Below is a quiz I came across, that takes only a couple minutes, to get a sense of how much change you feel comfortable with:

https://www.leadershipiq.com/blogs/leadershipiq/122984769-quiz-how-do-you-personally-feel-about-change

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If you find you want to change or need to change but have not been able to bring yourself to do so, you may benefit from working with a professional counselor.

Counseling can help you step out of your comfort zone to a more fulfilling, happier life. As you change your behavior, you identity starts to shift.  Our identity is NOT fixed, we are all capable of changing for the better.

The question is are you READY for a change?

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

counseling, goals, happiness, humility, psychology, Uncategorized

Is Comparison TRULY the Thief of Joy?

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Is comparison truly the thief of joy?

The tendency to compare ourselves to others is as human as any other emotion. All of us are guilty of this behavior from time to time.

Comparison is a thief of joy because it fosters competition more than affiliation. It is hard to develop close relationships or feel a sense of community with people when you view everyone as “the competition.” Sad to say when we engage in the game of social comparison, we are stuck dealing with comparison’s partner in crime: envy. And its ugly stepsister– jealousy. Neither of which lays the foundation for healthy relationships with one’s self or others.

When we compare, we compete. (And I am not talking about HEALTHY competition). Instead of celebrating other people’s strengths and gifts, we seek to tear them down because we begin to view them as a threat. Comparison leads to competition which requires someone be the winner and someone else the loser. 

In turn, we view others as competitors instead of companions. Instead of fostering a sense of community, we foster a zero sum game. This is not a game that is going to end well for our relationships.

Ask yourself–when is the LAST time you compared yourself to another? A family member? A friend? A coworker? Or think of the last time you checked your Instagram or Facebook feed. Which updates made you feel jealous or made you feel as if your life paled in comparison? Which posts make you feel smug or better than that person who posted it? Feeling superior OR inferior to another are two sides of the same coin.

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In comparing yourself to others to evaluate your own sense of self-worth, you will ALWAYS be losing. This leads to a “better than versus worse than” mentality and feelings of superiority or inferiority— neither of which helps us to build healthy relationships with others or feel happy with our self.

Yet human nature being what it is includes having a fundamental need to evaluate ourselves, and the only way many of us seem to know to do that is in reference to something else.

We compare our accomplishments with everyone else’s.  We compare our looks, our body, our Instagram likes, our college acceptances, our careers. We compare our weight with everyone else’s. The size of our house. The number of stamps on our passports.

You name it- we compare it. Comparison drives the underlying feeling that we are never ENOUGH.

Soon we are stuck in the mental loop that there is always someone else doing it ALL better than we are.

Another issue with comparison is we usually zero in one aspect of a person’s life and envy it.  It is usually an area where we judge ourselves the most harshly that we compare to others. Yet rarely when we compare ourselves to others are we looking at the whole picture — the good, the bad, and the unfortunate.

We look at the one aspect of a person’s life we envy without taking into account all the other components of the person.  Everyone has a few less than ideal aspects to their life. No one’s life is completely free of sadness, pain, loss, shortcomings, insecurities, or disappointments.

In life, we all are forced to play the hand we are dealt.

The point is not to be better than anyone else. All ANY of us can do is play the cards we were dealt the best way we know how. To try to become a better version of yourself.

In this game of life you will never reach a point where you are better than others in EVERY way and why would you WANT to be.

By indulging in comparison, we demean ourselves and those we are comparing ourselves to.

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When I assume someone is better than me because they earn a higher salary than me, I am diminishing my value to the number of zeroes on my paycheck. If I assume I have more discipline than someone who weighs more than me, I am diminishing someone’s worth to a number on a scale instead of looking at them as a human being.

Comparison has a way of creating problems when there is none. It plants seed of jealousy and envy within us that spoils our ability to connect openly and authentically with others.

Jealousy has a way of focusing on one thing at the expense of others. Jealousy gives an incomplete view of another person.  For  instance, envy ignores the hours of work that generated the high-level salary — the sacrifice of time that could have been spent with friends or family. It tends to overlook the years of schooling, studying, discipline, student loan debt, and sacrifices that preceded the success. It discounts the cost of the benefit.

It’s pretty easy to envy one aspect of another person’s life — his/her looks, talent, wealth, significant other, personality, or intelligence. It’s much harder to look closely at a person’s life as a whole and then envy another person’s life — a complete compilation of experiences.

Whenever I experience pangs of envy and I have to weigh everything at once, I tend to be more satisfied with my lot. Because if I want anything someone else has (his/her salary, ACTUAL career, education, self-confidence, weight, etc) I have to take everything else that comes with it — be it the high levels of stress, ill spouse, imperfect teeth, chronic illness, difficult child, or an alcoholic parent. Everyone has aspects of their life that are UNenviable.

Sure some people’s lives have more blessings and some have more suffering and loss. But every life has its ups and downs. Everyone gets some — some good and some bad.

Mind you, everyone’s “some” will be different.

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So if you’re walking down the street and a super fit 20-year-old runs by, you might instantly assess that, by comparison, you’re out of shape. Then you may note that you’re at least two decades older than the jogger and juggling the care of three children under the age of 5 with a  full-time job. You recall that you don’t have the same metabolism or time for exercise. Or maybe you realize you don’t even LIKE to run.

Maybe you are just starting out in your career and feel jealous of someone who is 10 or 15 years further along in their career. You feel pangs of insecurity at their lucrative career. Yet you know this person is older and further along in establishing their life. Or maybe when you think about it, you don’t want an EXTREMELY stressful career with LONG hours that just happens to be lucrative, in turn. In playing the comparison game, we usually do not look at the big picture. It’s apples to oranges comparison.

Our comparison-targets also tend to be those within our social circle. We don’t usually fixate on how our lot in life corresponds to that of Mark Zuckerberg, or to that of the homeless man sprawled on the sidewalk, but rather to that of our friends, colleagues,  family members, and neighbors.

In other words, the more similar or close we are to another person in some way we think is important, the more we tend to compare ourselves to that person.

The truth is comparison is a waste of our time. First of all, success is a relative term. “Winning” and “success” has different meanings for different people. Some might be excelling at one thing but is struggling in other areas of their lives.  Second, we are all on our own timelines and started at VERY different places in life–different advantages and disadvantages. Third, social media is a highlight reel of people’s lives. Not many people are sharing/posting about their failures and daily challenges.

Comparison is a short-sighted approach to life. It brings on feelings of envy and jealousy–two wasted emotions.  If we realize that there is always going to be competition, there is always going to be someone we believe is better than us, then we can’t lose. If we start to be happy and satisfied with our own unique gifts, talents, and strengths, we lose the need to compare ourselves to others. Only when you apologetically own who you are—the good, the bad, and the ugly does comparison lose its grip on you.

If you find you are struggle with social comparison, counseling can be a good place to work through these feelings. Instead of trying to be better than others, focus your energy on being the very best version of 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

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