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, happiness, humility, prosocialbehavior, psychology, self-help

Low Frustration Tolerance: Why Our Ability to Withstand Frustration is Telling

Managing anxiety, cultivating patience, and developing the ability to tolerate frustration are pivotal to mental and emotional health.

Yet we see ourselves living in an increasingly impatient society with anxiety running rampant amongst people of all ages.

As a counselor, I frequently see a low frustration tolerance present in clients. People with a low frustration tolerance struggle to tolerate unpleasant feelings and stressful situations. Unfortunately, if you struggle with a low frustration tolerance it will lessen your ability to effectively manage your life and relationships.

Whether you suffer from an anxiety disorder, social phobia, or panic disorder, many times it is important to work on being mindful and slowing down. People with anxiety are especially apt to struggle with patience, uncertainty, tolerating discomfort, and negative emotions. Developing a high frustration tolerance means not going from 0-60 in a situation. It means learning it is best to respond, not react.  People with a low frustration tolerance struggle with managing the daily frustrations we all will inevitably experience in life.

Frustration tolerance is the ability to overcome obstacles and withstand stressful events. Thus a low frustration tolerance is often a result of when a person feels what they want to see happen is being delayed or thwarted. This can be an external circumstance (experiencing a rainstorm during your beach vacation) or another person (your boss who keeps passing you over for a promotion). The resulting feeling is dissatisfaction from unmet needs or unresolved conflicts.

Often our ability to tolerate frustration reflects our maturity. Personally, I expect to encounter some frustrations in day to day living (traffic, rude people, waiting on hold trying to get a customer service rep on the line, being told things I don’t want to hear, waiting for a table at a restaurant, etc.). I find many people struggle to accept these as just realities of modern life. None of us are immune to unpleasant experiences.

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In order to feel less aroused by stress, you must accept that problems are a part of life.  None of us are exempt from facing challenges and difficulties. Accepting this truth allows you to let go of the notion that something must be wrong if you’re feeling unhappy. Our feelings are fluid and fleeting. Just as we will feel positive emotions, negative emotions are inevitable. Sometimes the only way to get to the other side of negative feelings is to ride out the uncomfortable emotions.

Frustration tolerance is a cultivated skill. We often encourage our children to develop grit and patience. Most children start out with a low frustration tolerance.  During the developmental and learning  process, they acquire the ability to face situations where they don’t always get what they want, whether it’s wanting to play with another child who does not want to be their friend, wanting cookies at the grocery store but their mother says no, or whether their ice cream has fallen and their parent doesn’t want to buy them another.

However, as adults, many times we ourselves do not exhibit such patience and the ability to tolerate frustration. Some people struggle with accepting their desires will not always be met. They may be unable to take the wishes and desires of others into account. These people struggle to deal with uncontrollable setbacks.

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We see people with a low frustration tolerance react with anger, rage or excessive melancholy, in situations that most people can solve internally and move on from.

The ability to tolerate frustration is an important part of psychological well-being. If you find you are struggle with a low frustration tolerance, it may be beneficial to seek out counseling.

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If you are struggling with frustration 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

 

counseling, familysystems, psychology, relationshipadvice, self-help

Enforcing Boundaries, No Contact, and Dysfunctional Relationships: Actions Speak Louder than Words

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Boundaries are a very important part of good mental health and maintaining a strong self-esteem.

Often in counseling sessions, I find clients gripe that other people in their lives DO NOT take them seriously. Clients share how they feel disrespected or mistreated. That what they say AND feel does not seem to matter to the folks in their lives.

I often explore with clients if they voice how they feel to the important people in their lives. Often people hold expectations for their relationships and other people without ever voicing their thoughts and feelings. I gently remind clients that other people in our lives are not mind readers. We discuss how other people may in fact have NO IDEA what our thoughts, feelings, and expectations are if we do not have an explicable discussion with them. These clients have a certain set of challenges to face, which requries them to start speaking up in their lives, if they want to catalyze change in their relationships.

Then on the other side of the spectrum, some people will share that YES that have in fact shared MANY times with their spouse, family member, friend, etc. how they FEEL to no avail. These folks have a whole different set of challenges to face and work through in our counseling sessions.

My next question for these clients, who share they have voiced their feelings many times to no avail, in their respective relationships: Did you follow your words up with actions?

Many times, the answer is an astounding, NO. Yet as we all know, actions speak louder than words.

This is where as a counselor, I bring up the topic of personal accountability. The truth is if someone is all talk and no action, is it really the OTHER person’s fault if they do not take said person seriously? We all know people who are all bark and no bite as opposed to people who say how the feel and follow it through with actions that match their words.

This is where the topic of boundaries comes into play. Boundaries are important and in counseling I get to see firsthand how comfortable one is with enforcing theirs.

Boundaries are basically your limits and act as your “invisible fence” alerting you to the fact that you’re uncomfortable or even in danger whether that danger is emotional or physical in nature. They also communicate to others not only how they can treat you and what to expect from you, but also what they’re likely to get away with or not get away with.

Boundaries are not complicated—the tough part is ENFORCING one’s boundaries, something I see many clients struggle with. If someone does not respect your boundaries, they do not respect you. If someone loves you, it will MATTER to them how you feel. Anyone who truly cares about you will express regard when you bring up concerns about your relationship with them–whether that relationship is familial, romantic, or a friendship. Yet this is not the case in dysfunctional, unhealthy relationships.

It often comes down to empathy. If you have any sort of relationship with someone who LACKS EMPATHY, it will be very damaging to you and your well-being.

This is where the idea of no contact comes up. If someone has tried time and time again to fix relationship problems with no success, they are left with two choices: accept the bad behavior as is or leave the relationship. If you ask someone in your life to stop a behavior that is harming you and they don’t, there will not be any other choice to make but to limit or eliminate contact. Unless you are willing to continue to be mistreated. The choice is yours. Following up one’s words with actions is how boundaries are enforced.

Going no contact with someone in your life is a last resort when a person is not respecting you, your boundaries, or your relationship. Many therapists are hesitant with discussing cut offs because of how it impacts the individual–it is certainly NOT ideal especially with family relationships.

One caveat to note is the difference between no contact and the silent treatment. The difference is the silent treatment is used to punish, invoke, fear, guilt, remorse. The silent treatment is about power and control.  This is NOT what no contact is. The silent treatment is abusive in nature. On the other hand, no contact is done to protect yourself. No contact is about moving on from a relationship that is not healthy. The silent treatment is temporary and done with the hope of a certain outcome. No contact is a way of exercising your own autonomy and enforcing your boundaries. You have no hope of ANY outcome other than removing yourself from being mistreated and disrespected. You recognize that you have the right to cease communication with someone who mistreats you and lacks empathy for you.

People make their choices and it gets them to a certain point in their life and in their relationships. YOU are NOT responsible for the actions and choices of other people. But you are responsible for protecting your own well-being from people who mistreat you. This is why following your words up with actions is a must.

I believe everyone’s feelings are important. We all deserve to be treated with basic human decency.  A person with good self-worth does not continue on in relationships where respect is not being served. For instance, when someone is disrespectful to me for no reason, I like to ask myself some questions. Who is this person? Are they even important in the scheme of my life? Will calmly telling this person that I’m hurt or offended be met with further aggression? And how much energy do I have in this moment to engage with this person? Is the juice worth the squeeze????

This is why enforcing boundaries is the cornerstone to maintaing healthy relationships in one’s life. If you find you have tried time and time again to get your needs met in a relationship and are wondering when no contact is appropriate, I feel there are three overarching factors to consider it:

1)Does this person show remorse when you tell them they hurt you? If someone has no remorse, if someone doesn’t care, then I think that is a real problem. I do think a basic standard for one’s life is to keep people in your life who have some regard for you at a very basic human level. If someone tells you with their words and actions, they do not care about you, why would you stay in contact with them if you have any sense of self-respect?

2)Has this person in your life outright told you they do not respect you?They shame you, criticize you, minimize you, make you feel degraded. Are you okay with this type of treatment?

3)Does this person refuse to let you live life on your terms and respect your boundaries? In life, we don not have to agree with how other people in our lives choose to live. But if we want to be in their lives, we must learn to be respectful and tolerant of our differences.

These are just a few broad factors to pay mind to when considering going no contact. Remember, no contact and the topic of boundaries are very complex and nuanced. As a counselor, I beieve if things are so bad that you need to go no contact, you have probably been feeling hurt and mistreated for a long time. This is not something that happens over night. Getting into counseling during a time like this is pivotal.

No contact is a protective measure but not a decision to be made lightly. Personally, I also believe you should keep an open mind to having people come back into your life. I believe people CAN change.  However, it depends on if authentic change has occurred. But if you see someone has grown, become wiser, is humble, is remorseful, and is mature, then you might want to stick your toe in the water and see how it might go with restoring the relationship. But if you are not seeing that type of evidence, I would be very cautious about letting someone back into your life who has mistreated you. Maybe you then want to put your energy into the people in your life who respect you and treat you well.

If you are struggling with an important relationship in you 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

 

counseling, goals, psychology, self-help

A Different Version of You Exists in the Minds of EVERYONE You’ve Ever Known

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I have always found it fascinating the way people describe themselves. People’s self-views naturally tend to unfold in conversation. As a counselor, I get a unique opportunity to hear people be very forthright with their self-views, insecurities, and perspectives on self and others.

Personally, I find human psychology and people’s vastly different perspectives FASCINATING. Anyone who knows me knows I ask a fair amount of questions. I ALWAYS want to know more. I love hearing other people’s thoughts and perspectives, as I am curious to how other people think and view the world (explains why I went into counseling!)

Oftentimes, I find it interesting how differently two people can view the same person. It makes sense though because people meet us at different points along our life journeys. We all also bring our own unique lenses to our perspectives and opinions.
As humans, we exist on a continuum. We are certainly not the same person we were today as we were ten years ago, or for many of us, even a week ago, depending on what stage of life you are in.

It is not possible for us to grow in our relationships, careers, our mental and and emotional health, without evolving, whether we want to or not. We are ALWAYS changing–whether that change is progress or regression is a different story.

The fact is people may have one experience with us many years ago, and in their mind, we are the same person we were then, when that is not the reality for us or people that know us today.

The gist of this blog post is that the person you think of as “yourself” ONLY exists FOR YOU.  The fact is every person in your life, every person you ever meet has a different version of “you” in their heads.

We are not the same person to our parents, our siblings, our friends as we are to our coworkers, our neighbors, etc.

Thus, is everybody knowing a different version of you, does anybody really know you at all?

Often, I remind clients I work with that at the end of the day we only have so much control about how we are perceived. We all view life and other people from our unique vantage point. While I think it is important to acknowledge how differently we are perceived by others based on how rare or frequent their interactions with us, it is also important to remember people see us as it convenient for them for whatever narrative is running in their mind. We are often far off in our perceptions of self and others because of our own biases and NEED to view life in a certain way. 

I truly believe that the version of ourselves that exists in our minds is most important. We must live with ourselves day in and day out. We lack any control over how other people choose to view us, so it is a complete waste of time to concern ourselves with other people’s biased perceptions. That being said I find it helpful to also be mindful that our view of another may not be entirely accurate but tainted by our own biases.

The point is there is going to be choices and decisions we make that we will deem the right choice and acceptable, whereas others will deem unacceptable and inexcusable. I often help clients accept this truth especially teens and young adults who are struggling with their parents’ disapproval.

Part of human nature is trying to simplify complex, nuanced aspects of life, no matter how complicated the issue. Yet life is complicated and messy.

So, think about who you want to be. To yourself but also to others. What impact do you want to have? Our actions have ripple effect on everyone around us. Even the type of day we are having can have an impact on how someone else views us because that just happens to be the mood, we are in.

In counseling, many people want psychological advice. Many times, complaints are focused on relationship partners, family members, and coworkers, but hidden underneath it all is the question, “WHY DO I PUT UP WITH THIS?” But the deeper question is, “What kind of person am I to be in this situation?”

I always tell clients the key to be any meaningful change is answering the salient question of what kind of person do you want to be. There is ALWAYS a choice. The answer you give entirely depends on you.

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, psychology, self-help

It’s NOT Me, It’s YOU: The M.O. of People Who Project

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Have you ever found yourself in a conflict with someone who puts their negative qualities on you? A person who describes you in the way that they themselves ARE? Have you ever asked someone to stop projecting their feelings onto you?

Or maybe you heard someone talk about someone they dislike; listing all the traits and qualities this person has that they cannot STAND. And you found yourself thinking hmmmm sounds a lot like you are describing YOURSELF. It is funny to me how often people cannot stand qualities in another person that they in fact possess.

Psychological projection is a common defense mechanism where people distort reality for their OWN benefit. Like a lot of aspects of human behavior, projection comes down to self-defense.

The truth is the problem is sometimes you, it is not ALWAYS someone else. For some of us this is just a given. We are all human, we are all flawed, we all make mistakes. I know sometimes I can be the issue or cause of a conflict I have with another. Yet some people can NEVER see themselves as the problem because this would be to threatening to their sense of self. A person who never developed a strong sense of self struggles with vulnerability which includes being able to admit to faults and mistakes.

I have found our coping strategies reflect our emotional maturity. Projection is an immature defense because it distorts or ignores reality in order for us to function and preserve our ego. It’s reactive, without forethought, and is defense children use.

Yet most of us would be hard pressed to think of people we know who don’t blame and project. Most “venting” includes a fair amount of blaming and projecting. We seem to be a society of complainers. There is nothing more American than complaining and blaming! Many people appear to do this habitually. Everyone does it from time to time. Rather than admit to a flaw, we find a way to address it in a situation where it is free from personal connotations.

Projection is part of our daily interactions. A common example is a person who gossips who accuses other people of gossiping. Or says things like well EVERYONE gossips. Instead of acknowledging their own character flaw, they transfer, or project, this behavior onto other people. The truth is everyone does not gossip.

The fact remains people tend to feel more comfortable seeing negative qualities in others rather than in themselves. Projection is a common defense mechanism used by people with personality disorders, addicts, and abusers. But all of us are guilty of it from time to time. Many of us get defensive when we are criticized. We all want to be self-aware, but some of us struggle to remain self-composed when we feel vulnerable. Projection is one way we may inadvertently react when we feel threatened by criticism.  Psychological projection is a defense mechanism people subconsciously employ in order to cope with difficult feelings or emotion.

For instance, you might tell yourself, “She doesn’t like me,” when actually you don’t like her. We might accuse someone of being angry and judgmental, being completely unaware that in fact we are. I have often found that in conflict, as in life generally, people so easily project their own shortfalls onto the other side. You effectively trick yourself into believing that these undesirable qualities actually belong elsewhere – anywhere but as a part of you.

Similar to projection is the defense mechanism of externalization, in which we blame others for our problems rather than taking responsibility for our part in causing them. It makes a person feel like they are a victim instead of looking at their role in creating the problem.

Take a moment and ask yourself: how does your world look to you? Is it hostile and anxiety producing? Filled with people who complicate your life and make it harder? Does it leave you with a sense that something’s missing? Or is it friendly and welcoming? Do you see the world as filled with opportunities for happiness and joy?

Your answers have nothing to do with the world.

Our worlds are a projection of our inner state. That’s right. As Wayne Dyer famously said, “The state of your life is nothing more than a reflection of your state of mind.” There is no objective reality which is why our perspectives and personalities are so vastly different. Take two people with two different histories and two different perspectives. They’ll see the exact same situation in two completely different ways.

If you find you are struggling with the state of your life or find yourself struggle with projection, counseling can be a great avenue to pursue. Understanding human conflict requires us to understand human psychology. And it is only when we understand the psychology that drives conflict that we can take intelligent steps to address it.

If you are unsure if this is an issue for you a good place to start is to examine the negative relationships in your life. Who don’t you get along with at work or in your family? Do you feel as though someone is out to get you? Try to determine where the animosity began. The truth is it is okay not to like everyone we meet. That isn’t realistic. It also isn’t realistic to expect to live a life free of conflict. Becoming more self-aware of how and when you are projecting can help you have less conflict in your life and better relationships. In some cases, you may find that speaking with a therapist will help you examine these relationships more honestly and openly than you are able to do by 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