Hand hygiene. Person in the bathroom is cleaning and washing hands with soap

Anxiety, Stress, Social Distancing, & Healthy Control

By Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk MSPC, NCC

Anxiety, frustration, change, and uncertainty are a realistic and at times, a stressful part of life that humans grapple with. Currently, society as a whole is in a pandemic with many feeling highly anxious, fearful, and uncertain of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the long-term impact on society, the economy, loved ones, and the outcomes of overall health and wellness. It’s natural to have fear and anxiety of the unknown; to feel your healthy controls are being taxed and possibly becoming depleted.

During this time of uncertainty in the weeks to follow, there are ways to feel reasonably prepared while decreasing stress, anxiety, and worry.

Consider the following:

Grappling with Anxiety & Stress

For those experiencing anxiety, that have anxiety disorders, and/or a predisposition to stress, the fear and worry about the health and wellness of you and your loved ones, the economy, finances, having essential medications and supplies over the next few weeks or longer can feel overwhelming for some. Others are frustrated with feeling society is over preparing. Most are hoping for a level of preparedness and a positive outcome without mass hysteria.

During times of chaos and confusion, many seek out information from the news, social media, and other sources. It’s important to stay informed, it’s also vital to find good information based on statistics, data, and facts. Choosing how much to engage in information and when to disengage (put your phone down) assists with lowering feelings of uncertainty, of being out of control, and catastrophizing what is happening in the world around you. It’s normal to feel a sense of uneasiness, vulnerability, anger, confusion, and cognitive dissonance about the future.

It can be stressful for families and for parents to know how to talk with children about what’s happening. Being open, honest, and factual is important on an age appropriate level.  In addition, it’s important to balance your own fears during conversations and to do your best to monitor your own anxiety, anger, and stress to keep from instilling an unnecessary foundation of anxiety in children to potentially grapple with. It’s an opportunity to open a dialogue for critical thinking about individual feelings, values, the meaning of exploring those feelings moving forward, and how a person can learn and grow from what is happening.

It’s natural to feel the physiological and psychological impact of anxiety, it’s a protective mechanism; the fight or flight response in humans and animals. However, it’s what you do with the anxiety and stress you’re experiencing. Check in with yourself on how intense your feelings are, how long symptoms are lasting, and how your daily life is impacted. Implementing realistic expectations, allowing for flexibility, tapping into positive coping, tolerating frustration, and adapting for what is within your healthy controls day to day can help with lowering symptoms and the long-term impact. It’s beneficial to spend time in the present moments, practice gratitude, and enjoy yourself as much as realistically possible.

Social Distancing

Social distancing puts individuals at risk for social isolation; especially when depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues are present.  It’s important to have awareness of the differences between social distancing and social isolation by checking in with yourself on how you’re feeling day to day. Consider what activities you’re engaging in or not doing at all. This is a good opportunity to carve out time to rebuild a relationship with yourself, reflect on what’s important, watch the sunrise or sunset, and connect with family and friends via phone, social media, or through email. Getting back to basics can feel healing and reaffirming; especially when focusing on significant and already established relationships. Make family time fun by keeping it simple. Hopefully, this is a time for children, adolescents, and adults to take a break from the high stress and pressures of a few daily responsibilities and obligations.

With that being said, if you’re in a stressful situation at home whether it’s due to a strained relationship with your partner or feeling overwhelmed by stress and responsibilities, take time away to rebalance. Consider listening to music, going for a walk or run, spend time with your furry friends, laugh and enjoy yourself, and do your best to focus on who and what you do have in the present moment, which includes your relationship with yourself. Check out online options in your community for working out, yoga, supports, and keeping up with physical and mental health. Focus on your strengths, tap into your supports, and treat yourself with compassion.

Healthy Controls

It’s beneficial to be present and work within what is in your healthy controls. Healthy control is different than attempting to control uncontrollable factors and attempting to control those around you in unhealthy and damaging ways. Healthy control is an internal sense of strength, presence, and balance. It’s trusting yourself and valuing where you are, what you’re feeling, and what is best in moving forward. Therefore, it’s making decisions that work well for you and your loved ones in ethical and healthy manners. Putting life in perspective, having a level of preparedness, and moving forward from there realistically.

Allowing some time to decompress and enjoying time with those in your shared environment as much as possible is within the realm of healthy control.  Check in with yourself and your loved ones; if your mental health or your loved one’s mental health is suffering and/or you or a loved one is struggling, feeling overwhelmed, and need to talk, reach out for support. Therapy where you’re meeting face-to-face online through a HIPAA secure site from the comfort of your own home is a safe, healthy, confidential, and convenient way to work with a therapist and to begin the healing process.

In conclusion, find ways you can feel content, ways you can help yourself feel balanced, and reasonably safe without adding undue stress, anxiety, and social isolation. Do your best to plan in realistic areas and to take one day at a time when planning isn’t possible. Consider where your information is from, look for statistics and data to assist with keeping anxiety and the stress of the unknown as low as possible.  There are many opportunities for self-reflection, growth, connecting with loved ones, and to engage in healthy and beneficial ways. Seek out the support of an online therapist if you’re feeling overwhelmed; even in the midst of a pandemic you can get the help you need. It’s important to treat yourself well, with compassion, and to check in on how you’re feeling.

Keep first responders, medical professionals, and individuals at increased risk for direct exposure in your thoughts, and individuals with higher risk for complications too. It’s important to come together as a community in safe and healthy ways to increase feelings of belonging and to decrease anxiety, stress, fear, and social isolation.

Stay safe, healthy, and well!

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

***

MandiTurk[1]Mandi Dalicandro-Turk writes about a variety of topics related to mental health, behavioral health, relationships, stress, anxiety, aging, grieving, self-care, therapy, and improving one’s overall quality of life.

You Will Be Visited By Three Spirits

An Existential Yuletide Greeting
by Don Laird, NCC, LPC, DCC

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Illustration by Harry Furniss

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they the shadows of things that May be, only?”

Scrooge. A word that can immediately conjure images of a bitter and heartless man concerned more with greed than humanity; a cultural archetype of someone wanting nothing further to do with his species and one who has no use for words like “compassion” or “care.” Yet, on closer examination, Scrooge’s story reveals some remarkable insights for our modern times. There are facets to his narrative that are ostensibly universal. Yes, a harsh commentary on the mores of his time, but Scrooge is more relevant today than ever.

On its surface, Dickens’ Victorian yarn can be simply read as “Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.” However, there is much at stake for our cultural and individual well being in this seasonal tale. In fact, I assert to you that Charles Dickens’ seminal 1843 work A Christmas Carol remains one of the finest examples of existential psychotherapy ever written (albeit in fictional form). The tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge opens a time and space for self-reflection for those who want to examine life in a meaningful and in-depth fashion. This is not about instant transformation for the client, positive psychology to sooth the therapist’s fears, or worse, wishful thinking from both parties. It is an existential crisis that is illuminated by one of the key tenets of psychotherapy – fear of death.

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Illustration by Harry Furniss

We all know the story, so it is here that I wish to briefly highlight the other side of Scrooge. No one arrives at a certain point in their development without a back story, and Scrooge’s history is one filled with disappointment and neglect. He is an ignored and isolated child, abandoned even at Christmas by his family and friends. Scrooge knows pain all too well at an early age. The world around him and its inhabitants are not to be trusted. People, above all, should be shunned. They are to be feared as they need and require emotional attachment and engagement. These qualities are easily dismissed by a young man whose growing trust in currency and greed will engulf his life for years.

In the beginning of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge exemplifies one of the central canons of existential depression and anxiety, that one has always been this way, and one always will be. There is a loss of agency and caustic determinism quickly fills in this void. When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come points at the tombstone, Scrooge understands for the first time that life can be written differently: what seems to be etched in stone isn’t. The specter’s message is powerful; an opportunity for Scrooge to see what life on earth would be like after his death. Scrooge observes his own forgotten corpse as his peers minimize his demise. He watches in horror as strangers quickly sell his belongings, while mocking his death with no regard or mercy. In death, he can no longer be an agent of change. He is a spectator to a cruel and vicious world he created.  Yet all Three Spirits show him that he was and is agent of change as long as he is alive. It is through an encounter with one’s mortality that a fuller life may occur – to know death is to know life. Scrooge accepts the significance of death, so that he may live his final months and years embraced in the richness of his relationships with others.

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Illustration by Harry Furniss

Death anxiety is real; despite those in modern psychology who often relegate the subject of death to the closet of “let’s not go there unless we have to” (even by some seasoned practitioners who should know better). In short, beware the therapist who professes that the exploration of death anxiety is not particularly helpful in therapy. Yes, therapists can spend far too much time focusing on one area while neglecting another. It happens. Not every therapist is well-rounded enough to create a new therapy for each of her or his clients. However, that shouldn’t allow for a wave of “positivity” to sweep us away from Otto Rank’s maxim, “Some refuse the loan of life to avoid the debt of death.” Exploration of death and dying serves as a profound catalyst toward some remarkable life changes. It is the confluence of both past, present and future; an investigation of life by way of an awareness and acknowledgement of our finite time here on Earth. In this way, we are all a reflection of Dicken’s vision.

Thus, A Christmas Carol calls us to embrace some definitive questions, “How would the world be different if I were to die today?” and “Do I ever have a true sense of how many lives I’ve touched?” Scrooge’s story may, in fact, provide the answers. Our relationships with others are so intrinsic that our absence creates an entirely different existence – a ghostly existential vacuum, if you will.

In the Victorian era, people saw ghosts and had premonitions. It was a system of supernatural beliefs that was not uncommon. Freud came along and said that this was the result of repressed memories. The dead were reduced to misleading or damaged recollections that resulted in certain beliefs and behaviors. Ghosts haunted the mind, not the house. Yet, there is something within Scrooge’s narrative that calls to us, pushes us beyond cause and effect, beyond determinism, and reminds us that we can be responsible and compassionate with our life choices and that no person is indeed an island.

Be well, and remember to keep the spirit of this season in your heart today and throughout the year.

In good health,
Don

Photos courtesy http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/furniss/xmas.html#cc

Feet in Christmas socks near fireplace

Navigating the Holidays

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk

During the holiday season, images of a crisp snow covered lane, with the view into the frosted window of a warm and cozy home, the scene of a blazing fire, a long decorative table filled with scrumptious holiday delights, and loved one’s surrounding the table brings feelings of dissonance for many. The holidays absolutely have the potential to bring feelings of intimate experiences filled with belonging, exhilaration, sharing, and gathering with loved ones. For many, however, there are increases in stress, anxiety, depression, feelings of loneliness, difficulties with grieving and loss, conflict, and contemplation.

There is meaning to the ornaments being unboxed, the candles lit, and the years, many times, decades of tradition. There are customs leading up to the season, feelings of anticipation, significance to the day(s) of celebration, and the letdown after everything is put away.

Mental Health Issues Exasperated
During the holidays, mental health, behavioral health, medical issues, and autoimmune issues that individuals grapple with each day have the potential to become exasperated and contribute to increased symptoms, stress, and feelings of exhaustion. For many, it’s extremely difficult to navigate through increases in symptoms and difficulties with coping. Many times, individuals’ cope with negative coping mechanisms (i.e., alcohol, unhealthy eating habits, lowered self-care, and/or misuse of medications).

Consider individuals grappling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), “Twelve month prevalence of GAD is .9% among adolescents and 2.9% among adults in the general community of the United States” (American Psychiatric Association, p. 223, 2013). Individuals have the potential to experience symptom increases (i.e., difficulty concentrating, irritability, difficulties controlling worry, levels of fatigue, muscle tension, and issues with sleep), which complicates discomfort and difficulty in managing symptoms (American Psychiatric Association, p. 222, 2013).

Additionally, individuals contending with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) grapple with an array of symptoms (i.e., fear of negative evaluation, being humiliated, and/or rejected), many times, avoiding social situations (American Psychiatric Association, p. 202, 2013). During the holidays, it’s difficult to avoid all social situations and associated symptom increases.

Furthermore, consider the significant impact and issues with functioning associated with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), “Twelve month prevalence of major depressive disorder is approximately 7%, with marked differences by age group” (American Psychiatric Association, p. 165, 2013). Symptom increases (i.e., feelings of sadness, hopelessness, minimal interest and pleasure, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, diminished concentration, and issues with sleep) complicate already difficult daily functioning and increase the probability of grappling with each facet of holiday obligation and interactions.

Conceptualize the experience of comorbidity of GAD, SAD, and/or MDD with or without substance use (and/or any mental health diagnosis) and its associated symptoms, with the presence of holiday stress, pressures, and the impact physiologically and psychologically. It’s best to seek out therapy prior to the holidays to develop positive coping strategies, realistic expectations, awareness to pressures, work through increases in symptoms, and to decrease the probability of underlying issues being triggered.

Engaging and Balancing Conflict — Differing Views vs. Differing Values
Some families benefit from closeness and healthy working dynamics. However, even when this is present in the environment, there is potential for conflict and tension during high pressure and high stress times; including desirable ones during the holidays.

Inevitably, there will be internal triggers experienced when engaging with others, which has potential to feel agonizing. In this environment, develop awareness to balance what degree of engagement feels healthier. At times, lighter conversations will assist in minimizing triggers. In the event, stress and discomfort become too overwhelming to engage, take a few moments to walk outside for some air. Take a few deep breaths and allow the increases in oxygen to balance parasympathetic response, and increase oxygen to the brain to assist with feelings of relaxation, (Wolford, p. 2, 2015). Furthermore, spend time with younger family members; if this is enjoyable. Children and adolescents have potential to bring a different perspective and magic to the holiday, which increases fun and increases relaxation.

Additionally, avoid family conflict. There are two primary areas of focus. First, refrain from engagement, debate, and argument regarding issues of contention between family members and/or friends in general, and where estrangement is present. At times, there may be pressure to choose sides. There is psychological benefit in refraining from choosing sides, treating each person with respect, and engaging with each person individually, if necessary. Reflect prior to being in the shared environment on personal values and feelings regarding the dynamics surrounding conflict. The cognitive process of reflection has potential to increase levels of confidence to support disengagement in the conflict, while dually engaging with others in regards to the positive aspects of relationships and holiday gatherings. This will lower stress, and minimize increases in mental health symptoms.

Lastly, it’s reasonable to have different views; it’s a driving factor of being human. Many times, human’s enjoy debating these views. There is a level of cognitive stimulation, fun, and strategy involved. With this being said, individuals must consider individual motivations, and how each message is given and received. There are distinct differences in the motivations of debating in positive banter with loved one’s out of pleasure, mutual understanding, and respect, even with the presence of opposing views and/or a heated discussion. Equally, it’s beneficial to refrain from debating in negative, critical manners with a family member and/or friend of differing values where high tensions are present. During holiday gatherings, consider each individual relationship, underlying motivations, and feelings. When tensions are high and values are vastly opposing, different views have opportunity to be debated at another time. In this situation, it’s best to refrain during holiday gatherings. However, in a cohesive and healthy environment, enjoy the banter. Individuals possess varying levels of impulse control. Develop awareness of strengths in impulse control, areas of grappling, and the resulting behaviors of each; then, gauge the best course of action accordingly. In each interaction, engage with respect and graciousness.

Loneliness, Isolation, Grief, and Change
At times, there are shifts in family, friends, supports, and a sense of community. Death, illness, and/or divorce are difficult to navigate through in daily life, and exhausting during the holidays. New traditions that have yet to be created and resistance to shifts in traditions that are no longer possible are common. For divorced partners with children, there are the adjustments for each in regards to splitting time. In the most amicable situations where partners remain respectful and possibly friendly, difficulties, stress, grief, and negative feelings have potential to arise during the holidays. Negotiating for wellness of each individual involved is imperative to maintaining balance and decreasing the probability of future issues.

The loss and associated grieving of a deceased loved one is an excruciating and extensive process. Many times, significant changes to meaningful traditions are a painful reality. Developing awareness that grief will resurface intermittently, many times over, and during meaningful interactions is imperative. Finding ways to honor the deceased loved one will assist with holding on to the meaning of significant traditions, and decrease feelings of isolation and loneliness; including traditions that will inevitably change over time. Grieving is an individual process, the time frame varies from person to person, and is based on the significance of the relationship. It is vital to develop self-compassion and to seek out supports.

Preventative measures
Start with being honest about limits physically, mentally, and emotionally. When there are children in the home, balance spending time with children, and with family and friends. Schedule visits on days close to the holiday celebration instead of over committing in one day. This will increase enjoyment of holiday events and decrease feelings of obligation, and potentially, resentment. Additionally, the gatherings may become a tradition and special day to look forward to for each individual involved.

Reflect honestly
Many times, thoughts, feelings, and ruminations in regards to family dynamics, divorce, death, estranged relationships, and the focus of seemingly endless obligations increase stress, anxiety, and/ or depressive symptoms. It becomes overwhelming for individuals and difficult to balance. Most times, it is beneficial to ask for help, which has the potential to reduce stress and increases the capacities to function well throughout the holidays.

Having awareness that there will be stress assists in setting realistic expectations. Many times, a few simple changes will allow flexibility, while dually honoring traditions (i.e., cooking the meal in advance, offering for each person to choose a dish to bring, setting boundaries to time spent at each gathering, and/or planning finances and budgets a year or more prior). At times, the more an individual attempts to take on without assistance or planning, the more emotional and psychological difficulties are experienced, creating an exasperation of mental health, behavior health, and/or medical issues.

Balancing Obligations and Desirable Engagements
Balance obligations and spending time with loved ones; especially, loved ones with a significant role in life. Plan each day by writing each event, commitment, obligation, and list of items needing completed in a planner. While doing this, implement a block of free time to decompress, and to balance unexpected shifts and obligations along the way. Each will reduce stress and assist in balancing emotions, energy, and mental health. Consider taking vacation and/or personal days if they are available and will not contribute to more stress at another time of the year. Doing so will allow for balancing commitments, downtime, and increase the opportunity to decompress after the holiday.

Continue nutritional habits (refrain from inflammation supporting foods), regular exercise, activities, and incorporating healthy sleep cycles. For long trips, bring snacks and water. In addition, when offered to stay with family and/or friends, consider personal comfort. For example, if one partner feels uncomfortable due to personalities, temperament, family dynamics, and/or if children get tired and need rest, consider staying at a hotel for the night. Make it fun for the family and have awareness of individual feelings, thought processes, and how daily function is potentially impacted. When setting boundaries, be kind, gracious, and genuine. Avoid using children as an excuse – be accountable for individual feelings, emotions, comfort, values, setting boundaries, avoiding “ the shoulds,” and saying no when necessary.

When the Ornaments Are Boxed
After the ornaments are put away, and daily life moves forward, it’s important to consider what to do with unprocessed feelings and emotions, and the grief and loss of the passing season. Begin to navigate the cognitive steps towards healing by seeking out the support of family, friends, community, and a therapeutic relationship. Focusing on gratitude (what is present over what is void), resuming daily activities, and seeking out strong supports assists with this process greatly.

In conclusion, the holidays are layered with complex emotions and meaning; simultaneously filled with the potential to grapple with increased symptoms of mental health and medical issues, stress, loneliness, and the innate desire to connect, share, give, and experience intimate feelings of belonging. Consider the benefits to being mindful that each person’s life experiences, environment, genetic predisposition, personality, temperament, supports, family and friends, and dynamics are different. Ultimately, develop awareness and engage realistically regarding the pleasures and difficulties associated with the holidays – allow for positive interactions to happen organically towards a more genuine and enjoyable experience. 

References
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Benson, H. 1979. The Mind/Body Effect. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Benson, H., & Klipper, M. Z. (2000). The Relaxation Response. New York: William Morrow.
Wolford, K. (2015). Relaxation response: Herbert Benson. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health.

***

Mandi is a therapist with over 6 years experience working with adults, couples, older adults, adolescents, and first responders. Mandi works with an array of issues, and is passionate about supporting others. She feels strongly that human-beings benefit from the experiences of learning, growing, and developing throughout each stage of life.

Wooden welcome sign

Welcome Therapist Kema Mesko

Therapist Kema MeskoJoin us in welcoming the newest member of our eTalkTherapy family Kema Mesko, who brings with her a wealth of clinical experience and a refreshing take on the importance of meaning and mindfulness in the therapeutic relationship. Kema’s areas of focus include postpartum depression, infertility issues, relationship discord and other women’s issues. Get to know more about Kema in this Q&A: 

  1. What does therapy mean to you?

Therapy means a safe space to speak about whatever you want to talk about. No judgement, No “I told you so”, No agenda. Therapy is a working relationship between you and your therapist to help you through this complex thing called life. Sometimes it takes the perspective of someone that does not know you in your day to day life to broaden your perspective to a much greater worldview. Therapy helped to enhance my life for the better, and if I can help even one person do the same my job is worth it.  

  1. What makes therapy successful?

Therapy is successful when the therapist and the client are both invested in the work. One can not want progress more than the other. And when forward progress is not being made, an open and honest conversation must be able to take place as to what could be the reason that is. Unconditional positive regard and empathy on the part of the therapist, as well as a client that truly NOT only wants help but is ready to do the work.

  1. How has nursing help shape your role as a therapist?

While working as a nurse, I noticed we would do a fantastic job of taking care of our patient’s physical ailments but not so much their mental health concerns. It was very easy for me to see how interconnected the mental and physical health were connected, but in my role as a nurse I wasn’t trained to address the mental health side of things.

Now as a therapist I’m able to assist my clients with different tools but in the same manner I would as a nurse with years of experience working with patients. Nursing has helped me to understand that sometimes less explanation at a time is better. And demonstration of techniques such as deep breathing instead of just handing you a paper is much more effective. And having the background medical knowledge helps a lot to understand a lot of what the clients are going through without them having to spend time explaining it to me causing them more frustration. Nursing helped me to more aware of how I could be most useful to my clients, more than any textbook could’ve taught me.

  1. What is your life philosophy?

My life philosophy is very simple: 2 things, Progress not Perfection… and Perfectly Imperfectly

Nobody is perfect nor should we ever place the expectation on ourselves or anyone to be. We are all flawed. But we can ALWAYS but in the work to be better tomorrow than we are today and that’s all we can do.

  1. Describe yourself in three words?

Caring, Authentic, Calm

  1. If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be AND why?

Serena Williams, because I admire strong powerful woman that are the best at their craft.  She is an example of a woman that has dominated her field and is not afraid to also show her feminine side. Life is about balance. And I strive to be an example of a strong, powerful woman that is a role model to my daughter to be the best at whatever she chooses.  

  1. What was the funniest thing you have ever experienced? Or Share something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

Ahhh 😊 so something that people are usually surprised to learn is that I teach a mixed martial arts cardio kickboxing class called BodyCombat! I’ve been teaching it for over 10 years!! It’s my total alter ego personality when the music starts, and I put the microphone on. But it’s my best form of self-care and stress relief!!

  1. Complete this sentence “The quality I most value in a friend”

Loyalty.

  1. Complete this sentence “The quality I most value in myself”

Honesty.

If you are looking to make positive changes in your life, we can help! Please contact us today about how to register and schedule your live video-chat counseling session with Kema.

Follow eTalkTherapy on Facebook and Twitter for updates and articles related to good mental health!

woman walking on a back road

This is where I draw the line

Someone asked me recently for a short list of things that would be helpful in leading a happier life. I explained that happiness, like all emotions, is fleeting. Yet, I started thinking more about her inquiry. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked for such advice.  As therapists, we are trained ad nauseam that giving direct guidance of any kind is frowned upon and unwise.  However, there is a time and a place for directive counsel and the positive effects it can have for a person who just wants her mind to be quiet for a bit.  Often, people are so busy trying to change others around them that they forget that a firm set of boundaries will help settle even the most tempest mind.

So here listed are ten boundaries, not in any particular order, that can act as reminders. Think of them this way; if happiness is indeed fleeting and not a fixed destination then how I am opening myself up to the possibility of happiness, satisfaction and a quieter mind? These are not intended to be a road map, but rather some markers along your path that may be useful.

  1. It is not my job to fix others.
  2. It is okay to say “no.”
  3. I am responsible for supporting others, not servicing.
  4. I can only make myself happy.
  5. I am not responsible for the happiness of others.
  6. Not everyone has to agree with or like me.
  7. I have a right to my own feelings, including anger. It’s how I express those feelings that counts.
  8. I can search for my meaning and purpose without permission from another.
  9. I do not have to put the emotional needs of others ahead of mine.
  10. I am responsible for my feelings and actions.

Living a life worth living shouldn’t include sacrificing your happiness for others. Learning to value and be responsible for yourself and your feelings is not selfishness, it is an act of selflessness that is affirming and empowering. The worth of your day should not be contingent on whether those around you are “happy.” Yes, we do influence others just as they influence us, but their feelings are their feelings, nothing more you can do here. Being supportive and caring is not the same as being in service to another.

We often cling to unhappy lives because change is too frightening, but setting boundaries isn’t as scary or as complicated as it may sound. In short, real change only occurs when you attempt something different. Practicing the above list is by no means a sure bet toward a healthier or happier life, but it is a step in that direction.

If you’d like to discuss boundaries and relationships further or any other mental health concerns, please feel free to contact me or you can schedule an appointment with me.

In good health,
Don

Friendship

Part 6: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC, NCC

 A Series of Articles: 6 of 6 – The ‘You’ Factor in Developing Quality Relationships

This series is focused on developing quality relationships. Article 6 of 6 focuses on you, your identity, and your role in developing quality relationships.

How well do you know yourself?

Knowing yourself, the deeper meaning of who you are, and how to apply each to building and nurturing the quality of life you desire is a long-term and at times, difficult process. It takes work, vulnerability, comfort with you as a whole, with each of your facets, and strength. Learning about yourself (i.e., what you enjoy, dislike, how you plan, your work ethic, preferences for physical and emotional intimacy, desires, fears, anxieties, coping style, what you grapple with, and how you engage in relationships) is a key factor in the process of honoring who you are as a human.  Each impact you as a human, and how you engage in relationships. In addition, knowing your identity on a fundamental level assists in navigating the smooth, bumpy, and at times, roaring waters of a relationship.

Developing a deep understanding and commitment to who you are (and aren’t) as a person increases life satisfaction.  In addition, having a stable identity increases the probability of partnering with a person that is more compatible with you.  It’s human nature to desire connection with your partner, independence, interdependence, enjoyment of time together, a level of contentment, safety, and to feel fundamentally on the same page. At times, this is difficult to navigate; especially when negotiating through life, family, morals and values, goals, growth, change, and difficult times.

Part of knowing who you are is developing a strong sense of the following:

Consider the significance of each for you as an individual, and how each positively and negatively impact your relationship.

  1. What do you enjoy, what are your daily habits, and how does each impact your quality of life?

Consider how this supports you, your goals, and what this means for you in a relationship.

  1. What are your educational and career goals? How does this impact you in a relationship long-term?

Consider your goals educationally and professionally.  Then consider how this works with a long-term relationship and decisions on family.

  1. How often do you prefer to have physical intimacy in a relationship? What are you open to sexually? What boundaries will you set?

In addition, consider:  Whether or not your partner has similar preferences, and how to navigate differences in healthy ways.

The above takes time, a healthy self-disclosure-trust ratio (at your personal comfort and pace), vulnerability, healthy boundaries, and openness, as well as, respect. Have fun with it, if and when you decide it’s right for you.

  1. What is your comfort with emotional intimacy?

Consider your comfort with sharing the depth of your emotions and receiving your partners, eye contact, verbal affirmations, and how you express, feel, and give love and support. In addition, explore the meaning of giving and receiving of each in your relationship.

  1. What do you desire for yourself and in a relationship? Is this realistic long-term?

Developing realistic expectations for yourself, for your partner, and the relationship as a whole takes work and exploration. In addition, consider your approach to growth and change throughout long-term relationships.

  1. Check in on mental health.

Consider what you grapple with, how this impacts the ways you engage that may support and/or hinder progress as an individual and in relationships.

Consider how each affects communication styles, mental health, and attachments.

When issues are spilling-over and decreasing your quality of life and/or lowering life satisfaction- be kind to yourself and seek out support.

  1. Honoring yourself and your identity.

Explore what supports and strengthens you and your wellness as a whole person.  Then consider how to implement self-support and honor into your relationship with yourself and with your partner.

  1. Create and implement healthy boundaries.

Whether you’re repressing aspects of who you are, if you’re still figuring out your identity, or if you’ve given yourself permission to explore and honor who you are, you’re still you. Honor who you are by creating healthy boundaries and do so with integrity, respect, by being ethical, and doing no harm to others. Be humble, build awareness of your strength, and implement balance.

At times, it’s difficult to know what healthy boundaries are. The support of a therapist will assist you in identifying and implementing healthy boundaries that honor you as a human.  

  1. Do a self inventory.

Check in with how you’re treating yourself.  Are you treating yourself with kindness and self-compassion, engaging in self-care, honoring your identity, and checking in with how you feel?

Give yourself permission to take inventory of your relationship, your feelings, and the significance of each in your life. 

  1. Have fun in the process.

Engaging in fun is healthy for your brain, for you psychologically and physiologically, it lowers stress, and supports a sense of life balance.  You’ll feel refreshed and more ready to take on what’s important to you each day.

Learning and developing who you are (and aren’t) as a human supports you, your life goals, and allows for you to spend time with yourself in more enjoyable and authentic ways. You’ll feel more whole, more confident, more comfortable in your choices, and you’ll enjoy your relationships more.  With that being said, if you’re not there yet, give yourself permission to explore and uncover who you are in healthy ways- it will nurture and strengthen you as a whole human and each of your facets too 🙂

In conclusion, this series of articles was designed to give you insight into communication, respect, appreciation, attachment, relationships, and in giving yourself permission to develop and honor your identity moving forward. Relationships are work, including the one with yourself.  You’re worth the time, energy, and dedication it takes towards a healthier more satisfying life, identity, and in developing quality relationships.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

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MandiTurk[1]Mandi Dalicandro-Turk writes about a variety of topics related to mental health, behavioral health, relationships, stress, anxiety, aging, grieving, self-care, therapy, and improving one’s overall quality of life.

Teacher and pupils

Back to School: A Mental-Health Check List

It’s that time of the year again. When a simple three-word phrase evokes dread for most school-age kids and relief for most parents: “Back to School.” Yet, ask any parent, child or teacher, heading back to the classroom is not without its challenges. It can be an exceptionally difficult time of transition for children who suffer from a mental health or learning issue.

Anxietyespecially unrealistic self-expectations and generalized fear of the world at largeis growing among school-aged children and adolescents these days. Potential root causes for this are both broad and complex, and worthy of a separate, stand-alone article. So returning to school can be an enormously challenging task for any child. Let alone one who struggles with anxiety.

Let’s look at it through a practical lens. Children are away from home and routine, and the rules have changed. The school environment requires certain demands that a typical summer setting does not. Summer rarely needs a child to sit still, stay organized, remain focused and on task and adapt to an extremely structured schedule.

Here are five things you should keep in mind before the first homeroom bell rings:

  1. Anxious Parents, Anxious Kids.

Modeling confidence and calm behaviors are central to most parenting situations, particularly when preparing a child ready for school. By fostering structure and daily routine in family life (bedtime, homework, etc), parents will find this transition period to be much smoother. Giving your kids too many choices about routine can backfire and ultimately put them in the seat of control. Remember, you are the parent.

Anxiety issues and traits can run in families. Children with anxious parents run a greater risk of experiencing anxiety themselves. It is still debatable (just read all the conflicting studies when you are having trouble sleeping) as to whether it is genetics, environment, both or something else, but there is no smoking gun when it comes to the root sources for anxiety.  Yet, it is quite observable that children – and most adults – can be like energy sponges, absorbing energy and assimilating behaviors. Remember, a child is usually no calmer than his or her least-relaxed parent. Anxiety can impact someone’s ability to focus, stay on task and is generally categorized by a state of unrealistic and persistent worry.

Sometimes it can be difficult to vet between what is age-appropriate behaviors and anxiety, but if you have concerns you should first discuss these with your child’s teacher and then a mental health professional should the behaviors continue to escalate.

  1. Teachers Can Be Your Best Ally.

Teachers get to know how a child behaves without family being present. Thus, parents can gain information about learning difficulties and peer problems and friendships. Teachers are your closest allies when it comes to your child’s success in school, and you should talk to them regularly. You will learn more about how your child is navigating his or her world, both academically and socially, by talking with the teacher.

  1. Routines Are Crucial.

Above all, be positive and encouraging. Examples of some good routines might include creating an uncluttered work space in the home; organizing a backpack, reviewing assignments; and discussing homework. You can observe your child’s strengths and weaknesses this way while also establishing and fostering good study habits. Also, be sure that your child is staying hydrated with lots of water and has the recommended amount of sleep for his or her age group.

  1. Don’t Worry.

Kids grow, learn and develop at different rates. A delay in one area of development doesn’t necessarily mean your child has a disorder. There needs to be significant evidence and some testing to reach any firm conclusion. However, if you suspect there might be a problem with your child’s development, talk to her teacher and consult with a mental health professional.

  1. Leave Them Alone.

This may sound counterproductive or even counter intuitive, but a child needs downtime. A schedule that is bursting at the seams, with little or no room for relaxation is also ripe for an anxious or depressed child. Give them time. Life is short, sometimes hard. Don’t unpack your stuff on that person who happens to be your child. Give them breathing room, and let them find out that the world can be a secure and inviting place without regimented schedules.

If you would like to continue the conversation or discuss more techniques to overcoming anxiety, contact me to schedule an appointment or free phone consultation today.

In Good Health,
Don

Two women friends in an friendly embrace

Part 5: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC, NCC

 A Series of Articles: 5 of 6 – Attachment Style and Developing Quality Relationships

This series is focused on relationships. Article 5 of 6 focuses on attachment style. Secure attachment, anxious, and avoidant will be explored.  How does your attachment style increase satisfaction and/or increase frustration in your relationships? Your attachment style assists in determining how well you engage in and recover from disagreements, struggles, tolerating frustration, adapting to difficult and unfamiliar situations; including, how you feel during good times, positive times, and the important moments in your life that you desire to be present for.

As a therapist and relationship coach, I work with clients grappling with their attachment style and the contributing discomfort, anxiety, stress, isolation, and relationship issues. Your attachment style and your partner’s attachment style have the probability to motivate behaviors, impact interactions, and increase or decrease issues within your relationship.

Avoidant Attachment

Individuals with avoidant attachment have difficulty connecting emotionally.  For example, if you and/or your partner have an avoidant attachment style there is an increased probability of experiencing difficulty in trusting others; many times, this includes romantic partners.  During uncomfortable and difficult communication, you or your partner may cease communication, deflect from the issues being addressed, or retreat completely feeling confused and frustrated.

In a newer dating situation, a person may cease contact without explanation.  At times, a person in a romantic relationship will feel ‘if only, s/he will let her/his guard down.  It took past relationships to build walls and working to allow one’s guard down is complex and extremely difficult for a person with an avoidant attachment.  At times, the individual is unaware that s/he isn’t connecting; many times, s/he feels the same void you’re feeling, yet, has extreme discomfort in engaging in any level of vulnerability, openness, or trust.  Other times, the person doesn’t connect emotionally and whether on the surface or on a deeper level doesn’t seem to have the desire to connect.

It’s important for a person with avoidant attachment to ask whether s/he feels an issue is present. Then ask if the desire to connect, trust, and to learn to feel safe in sharing exists. Through therapy, you and/or your partner will have the opportunity to develop awareness to the issues that supported the development of an avoidant attachment, how to cope with and lower frequency of runaway cognitions that may not be beneficial in present relationships, and learn new ways to engage towards developing a more secure and mutually connected relationship.

Anxious Attachment

Individuals with an anxious attachment feel more fear and anxiety in relationships.  For example, if there is a disagreement or difficult communication, an individual with an anxious attachment style may continue to discuss the issues, and attempt to increase verbal engagement and communication.  It may feel that you and/or your partner continue the conversation after everything feels discussed- many times over, s/he may still desire to talk further. At times, you or your partner’s motivation is an unconscious attempt to decrease anxiety and increase feelings of safety by engaging.  S/he is attempting to connect. However, this leads to increases in feelings of anxiety and fear, runaway cognitions, ruminations, and decreases feelings of safety for the individual with an anxious attachment, and adds much confusion and frustration for each partner.

At times, an individual with an anxious attachment and an individual with an avoidant attachment will partner in a relationship. There’s potential for increases in frustration, conflict, confusion, and misunderstanding for partners that are an anxious/avoidant combination; this is more so when communication isn’t strong, communication patterns mismatch, and/or are difficult for one or each partner to understand. However, you are able to learn ways to increase communication skills, lower pressure, minimize demands, and lower the potential for emotional lability. In this environment, communication, understanding, and empathy for each partner is vital.  Couples therapy gives opportunity to begin to build awareness to internal feelings and motivations, how you give and receive love, and ways to increase emotional stability and safety.

Secure Attachment

Individuals with a secure attachment feel more security, confidence, actively engaged, and experience stronger feelings of trust in relationships. You and your partner are able to work through difficult and stressful issues with a level of reciprocal communication and responsiveness.  You’ll feel comfort in being authentic and genuine, and in feeling a level of acceptance towards and from your partner.  You and your partner have an increased probability in giving and receiving mutually, support is more easily embraced, and issues with communication are negotiated more successfully. Secure attachment carries into relationships with family and friends, and allows for a minimal preoccupation with being abandoned or with having the desire to create distance.  You’ll have an increased opportunity to develop a mature and long-term relationship with intimacy and the benefits of developing a healthier and more satisfying relationship.  It’s beneficial to allow flexibility, respect, support, and healthy boundaries.  Inevitably, there will continue to be stressors, tolerating frustration, and areas to work towards embracing, accepting, and working on as partners; this is part of being human.  However, working with a therapist to process your issues and develop a secure attachment benefits your romantic relationships and increases the quality of each area of your daily life.

Relationships consist of a combination of attachment styles and behaviors; each combination has the probability to buffer from or exasperate relationship issues and complexity. At times, you may experience more than one attachment style depending on the person you’re with, the type of relationship, length, and seriousness; however, most times, you’ll engage in a dominant style. Environments, genetic predisposition, past relationships, life experiences, and how you feel about yourself support your attachment style.

Temperament and personality impact attachment, communication, perceptions, and how you engage during difficult and positive aspects of life. Developing an understanding and awareness of you as a person and reflecting on where your partner is coming from allows for smoother navigation throughout the relationship.  Additionally, the presence of a fundamental connection and desire from each partner to learn and grow as a couple increases success and long-term satisfaction.  It’s important to be aware if you’re feeling that you’re having a relationship for two or if you’re expectation is for your partner to take on most of the relationship’s work and engagement. With that being said, take time to explore and build awareness to how each person gives in similar and different ways; it’s beneficial to make room for each.

In conclusion, developing awareness and comfort with your issues internally and in relationships is beneficial in working towards developing a secure attachment and increasing the quality of your relationships. Working with a therapist in a strong and supportive therapeutic relationship will assist in setting goals and giving yourself permission to develop a secure and healthy attachment, to develop trust, and heal from past relationship issues. You’ll have the opportunity to develop awareness as to what secure attachment is and is not, setting realistic expectations, reflecting on what works and what doesn’t in your relationship, setting healthy boundaries, and enjoying a relationship where you feel intimacy, connection, and security in a quality relationship.

COMING SOON: article 6 of 6 in the series.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

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MandiTurk[1]Mandi Dalicandro-Turk writes about a variety of topics related to mental health, behavioral health, relationships, stress, anxiety, aging, grieving, self-care, therapy, and improving one’s overall quality of life.

Single woman sitting at a cafe table holding a mug

Table for one, the single girl strikes back!

Recently, during a not-short-enough visit with relatives back in the mid-west, I was reminded again (both subtly and palpably) that being single in your thirties is nothing short of scandalous. Yes, in 2019 an unmarried, happy, single gal in her thirties is still target practice for the misery, conjecture and theories of others. Yet, here’s the thing, I am single by choice. You know what else? I like my life.

Many complain about being single, obsessing over how much they dislike going through life alone. They grumble about how much it sucks to be by yourself and to not have a life to share. You know what really sucks? Having to hear about how much better your life would be if you just met the right person or having to listen to someone drone on about “soul mates” is sad at best and kind of creepy overall. Did I mention it’s 2019? This is still a thing?

Regarding this tired subject, I’ve been called uptight, snarky, unlovable, a bitch, and my personal favorite, a FemiNazi. Do better, people. Me? I’m doing fine. I have friends. I still date regularly – with occasional great sex. I work and belong to a local social-justice organization. My happiness tank is filled, and I’m surely not worried about <Gasp!> spinsterhood and neither should you.

If you are single, stop worrying about why you’re single. Sit back and enjoy the ride on your terms. You’re going to be just fine.  Here are some reasons (not in any particular order) why I remain sans partner, some satirical but all based on personal choice.

  1. I can’t even commit to the question, “What’s for lunch?”

I don’t know if the salad bar or a Flintstones-sized slab of ribs is in my immediate future. How am I supposed to commit to a living, breathing person? How, I ask, how?

  1. I would rather stay home than go out.

Hang out at the bar or be tucked warmly in my bed? Hmm…Currently, my nights are well spent with Sabrina, Moira Rose and Jon Snow. I gather with them at the Church of Netflix. ‘Nuff said.

  1. Speaking of my bed, I value having it all to myself rather than sharing.

Sharing is caring? Not with my sheets and pillows. Why should I choose a side of the bed when I can have a free range mattress? Sex with the occasional “sleep over” is fine, but I’d rather use the extra space for books, laundry and unopened mail.

  1. Relationships require a whole lotta work.

I already have a job. Besides, I reviewed the application and I’m just not all that interested. I have no time for games, politics, patience, or getting to like you.

  1. I love my best friends, isn’t that enough?

I’ve already built a level of trust and security with a few good eggs. Why would I mess that up by introducing someone into my circle who will likely not match the needs filled by my girlfriends? Yes, there’s sex, but we’ve already covered that one.

  1. Spending the evening holding…

 …a non-judgmental jug of wine or a quart of Moose Tracks? That sounds like an outstanding level of both commitment and intimacy – delicious, unconditional and definitely no lulls in the conversation. Problem solved.

  1. I don’t want to meet your family or friends.

If I wanted a room full of people to judge and criticize me I’d go back home to visit my relatives (see the first paragraph of this post).

  1. And finally, I absolutely, positively do not want you to meet my family.

This is a rinse and repeat of my previous reason. The only thing more frightening to me than meeting your family is you meeting mine.

If you are in a committed, loving relationship, good for you and go for it. Beat the odds and remain together for 50 plus years. I really am a sentimentalist at heart, but that’s not for me. I’m good in my current space and time. Should you decide to remain single, stand by your decision, be ready for push back, and enjoy the extra room in your closet and bed.

Shine brightly,
Aurora


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of eTalkTherapy. Aurora Starr is a freelance writer, NOT a therapist, and her views, thoughts and opinions are her own. Aurora’s blog may not be suitable for all audiences.


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Aurora StarrAbout the author: Aurora Starr is a freelance writer and connoisseur of all things dipped in love and deep fried in soul. She lives in Northern California, but hails from the heartland of Ohio. Aurora writes on topics ranging from love to pop culture to psychology and sex, with the occasional soapbox diatribe.

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Part 2: Engaging Academically and Socially in College and Grad School

A Comprehensive 2 Part Guide: Eleven Areas to Consider to be Successful throughout College and Graduate School

Part 2: Focusing on the Social Engagement

Part two of this comprehensive guide focuses on the social engagement of academic relationships and the long-term growth experienced throughout.  Take a few moments to check out Part 1: Focusing on the Academics.

  1. Some professors will be more interesting than others. Each has a different personality, temperament, level of structure to the course, and teaching style. Whether s/he is funny, boring, or runs around wearing a cape, understand that they’re human and come with their own weird quirks too. With that being said, if you build a solid relationship with a professor, take them again, and if you don’t, consider that you’re only with this person for one semester and move forward from there.
  1. Ask questions! Use your voice – respectfully. At times, individuals will feel nervous talking with professors or had a difficult experience where it felt like the professor didn’t want bothered. Working through the nervousness and asking questions is extremely important. It will help with your academic success long-term! Many questions and the need for clarifications arise in the years of academia. Go directly to your professor. Most will take the time and want to help you. Plus, this assists with increasing your communication skills.
  1. Personal issues occur from time to time. Most are manageable. However there may be times where balancing personal issues and academics is difficult for students. At times, I will recommend finding ways to focus on academics during difficult times.  Yes, the last thing you want to do. Each semester, I talk with and support students contending with personal issues – many professors do. It’s important to balance your commitments with your goals. For example, the probability of success increases by carving out time in an environment where you feel productive. This may be on campus, in the library, at home, and/or a local coffee shop. Reflect on what works for you when you’re experiencing lower stress levels and do your best to apply this in short to moderate segments. Many times, you’ll feel your motivation return and continue making progress.
  1. Anxiety, whether General Anxiety, Social Anxiety, and/or test anxiety with the associated stress of each are experienced by students each semester. It feels extremely consuming and overwhelming for most. At times, even making small changes such as coming prepared to classes and turning in your work on time help minimize anxiety. In addition, practice deep breathing, and work towards building your confidence as a person and academically. It’s important to allow yourself to tolerate discomfort while learning ways to cope with and minimize anxiety, and to remind yourself that you’re in a safe environment. This is an extensive subject and if this is an area you’re struggling with, you’re welcome to contact eTalkTherapy – our therapists will be able to help you work through your anxiety and learn ways to be successful academically and feel confident in the process.
  1. Find a mentor. Most times, as you go through your academic career preparing for the professional world, you’ll meet professors along the way that you’ll remember and reflect on being genuine, approachable, and taking the extra time. At times, you’ll build a professional relationship; especially, if the degree you’re working towards is under the same department as the professor, you may find yourself in a number of her/his courses. They make great mentors. I would recommend asking in a mindful way and if they’re open to it and scheduling allows for it, then you’ll have a fantastic resource (appreciate it).
  1. Remember to have fun! This is an amazing opportunity to unfold more of your identity as a person, to build confidence, and move towards a genuine and authentic self. Enjoy your classes, meeting new people, developing relationships, and learning and growing as a human throughout the entire process.

Please take a few moments and check out Part 1: Focusing on the Academics

Learn, grow, and enjoy,
Mandi