The Epidemic of Covert Male Depression | Psychology Today Canada

Source: The Epidemic of Covert Male Depression | Psychology Today Canada

Show me a mad guy, and I’ll show you a sad guy…

For the most part, men have two speeds — neutral and pissed. Experience demonstrates that the state of rage that plagues the majority of the male population is driven less by genuine anger and more by what might be characterize as covert depression manifesting as anger.

Covert depression doesn’t look like the depression with which we are generally familiar, especially to the people around a man who is in the throes of this particular emotional upheaval. Instead, what the people around us tend to witness is subtle irritation, road rage, explosive arguments, passive-aggression, slovenliness, self-sabotage supported by a failure to follow through and/or a faint sense of insecurity that leads to all kinds of shortcomings in performance — at work, at home, within society at large or even in the bedroom.

“Why anger”, you ask? I like to call anger the First Feeling because it goes straight to the root of the aggression that drives our instinct for survival. Because men are not great at filtering and expressing emotions or feelings, we typically express, or more properly act out, our experience of emotion as anger. The whole male dynamic of emotional experience–feeling, reaction and anger–occurs at a very primal and instinctual level. Men are, in some ways, hardwired for rage – it keeps us sharp. Problem …there are no more saber-toothed tigers with which to contend; the mechanism is obsolete.

For men, the key to deflecting this circumstance is recognizing and acknowledging our emotions. We do this by dissecting rage. Here’s an example: when you get cut off on the highway, you become angry. The reason that you become angry is because someone, in your mind (read: feelings), has compromised your safety, or crossed your boundaries. On the other hand, when your boss chews you out you become angry because you may feel his accusations are unfounded, or you feel disrespected or unappreciated, or you’re anxious about losing your job.

In both situations detailed above you experience anger, but the motivation for that anger is different in each situation. Learning to look at the experience of anger and recognize the underlying feelings and emotions, then expressing those emotions and feelings in a productive manner, diffuses the anger.

As this diffusion begins to happen, the covert depression that ultimately drives our general sense of anger and annoyance starts to take shape as a lack of fulfillment, or disappointment over broken dreams, or anxiety about being able to provide for our family, or performance at work or being a good husband or partner.

It’s not really necessary to understand the why or the how of our human condition or our social circumstances. It’s more important, once we’ve recognized what that circumstance is, to ask the question, “What next?”. I was in an airport a few months ago and saw an advertisement for what I believe was an investment firm. It was a picture of Tiger Woods standing in the rough and tall grass up to his knees. Hand drawn into the picture was a vertical arrow with a break in the line; the small piece at the bottom had a label that said, “10% what you did” — at the top, the label said, “90% what you do”.

In the case of covert depression, emotional success does not rely on the why and how, but more upon what we do next. Tiger Woods lifting the ball out of the rough and onto the green is a metaphor for men lifting ourselves out of our covert depression by both finding and feeling our feelings.

Deconstructing our state of rage leads us to a place where we can drill down into that underlying covert depression that is driven by the subtle sense of “less than” that is visited upon us. This leads to a deconstruction of the depression, and that provides a context for working through the issues that are driving the depression in the first place.

© 2008 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved

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What Is a Schema in Psychology? Definition and Examples

I like this intro to Schemas/Lifetraps:

Rory

*****

https://www.thoughtco.com/schema-definition-4691768
Human Head with Computer Folders

A schema is a cognitive structure that serves as a framework for one’s knowledge about people, places, objects, and events. Schemas help people organize their knowledge of the world and understand new information. While these mental shortcuts are useful in helping us make sense of the large amount of information we encounter on a daily basis, they can also narrow our thinking and result in stereotypes.

Key Takeaways: Schema

  • A schema is a mental representation that enables us to organize our knowledge into categories.
  • Our schemas help us simplify our interactions with the world. They are mental shortcuts that can both help us and hurt us.
  • We use our schemas to learn and think more quickly. However, some of our schemas may also be stereotypes that cause us to misinterpret or incorrectly recall information.
  • There are many types of schemas, including object, person, social, event, role, and self schemas.
  • Schemas are modified as we gain more information. This process can occur through assimilation or accommodation.

Schema: Definition and Origins

The term schema was first introduced in 1923 by developmental psychologist Jean Piaget. Piaget proposed a stage theory of cognitive development that utilized schemas as one of its key components. Piaget defined schemas as basic units of knowledge that related to all aspects of the world. He suggested that different schemas are mentally applied in appropriate situations to help people both comprehend and interpret information. To Piaget, cognitive development hinges on an individual acquiring more schemas and increasing the nuance and complexity of existing schemas.

The concept of schema was later described by psychologist Frederic Bartlett in 1932. Bartlett conducted experiments that tested how schemas factored into people’s memory of events. He said that people organize concepts into mental constructs he dubbed schemas. He suggested that schemas help people process and remember information. So when an individual is confronted with information that fits their existing schema, they will interpret it based on that cognitive framework. However, information that doesn’t fit into an existing schema will be forgotten.

Examples of Schemas

For example, when a child is young, they may develop a schema for a dog. They know a dog walks on four legs, is hairy, and has a tail. When the child goes to the zoo for the first time and sees a tiger, they may initially think the tiger is a dog as well. From the child’s perspective, the tiger fits their schema for a dog.

The child’s parents may explain that this is a tiger, a wild animal. It is not a dog because it doesn’t bark, it doesn’t live in people’s houses, and it hunts for its food. After learning the differences between a tiger and a dog, the child will modify their existing dog schema and create a new tiger schema.

As the child grows older and learns more about animals, they will develop more animal schemas. At the same time, their existing schemas for animals like dogs, birds, and cats will be modified to accommodate any new information they learn about animals. This is a process that continues into adulthood for all kinds of knowledge.

Types of Schemas

There are many kinds of schemas that assist us in understanding the world around us, the people we interact with, and even ourselves. Types of schemas include:

    • Object schemas, which help us understand and interpret inanimate objects, including what different objects are and how they work. For example, we have a schema for what a door is and how to use it. Our door schema may also include subcategories like sliding doors, screen doors, and revolving doors.
    • Person schemas, which are created to help us understand specific people. For instance, one’s schema for their significant other will include the way the individual looks, the way they act, what they like and don’t like, and their personality traits.
    • Social schemas, which help us understand how to behave in different social situations. For example, if an individual plans to see a movie, their movie schema provides them with a general understanding of the type of social situation to expect when they go to the movie theater.
    • Event schemas, also called scripts, which encompass the sequence of actions and behaviors one expects during a given event. For example, when an individual goes to see a movie, they anticipate going to the theater, buying their ticket, selecting a seat, silencing their mobile phone, watching the movie, and then exiting the theater.
  • Self-schemas, which help us understand ourselves. They focus on what we know about who we are now, who we were in the past, and who we could be in the future.
  • Role schemas, which encompass our expectations of how a person in a specific social role will behave. For example, we expect a waiter to be warm and welcoming. While not all waiters will act that way, our schema sets our expectations of each waiter we interact with.

Modification of Schema

As our example of the child changing their dog schema after encountering a tiger illustrates, schemas can be modified. Piaget suggested that we grow intellectually by adjusting our schemas when new information comes from the world around us. Schemas can be adjusted through:

  • Assimilation, the process of applying the schemas we already possess to understand something new.
  • Accommodation, the process of changing an existing schema or creating a new one because new information doesn’t fit the schemas one already has.

Impact on Learning and Memory

Schemas help us interact with the world efficiently. They help us categorize incoming information so we can learn and think more quickly. As a result, if we encounter new information that fits an existing schema, we can efficiently understand and interpret it with minimal cognitive effort.

However, schemas can also impact what we pay attention to and how we interpret new information. New information that fits an existing schema is more likely to attract an individual’s attention. In fact, people will occasionally change or distort new information so it will more comfortably fit into their existing schemas.

In addition, our schemas impact what we remember. Scholars William F. Brewer and James C. Treyens demonstrated this in a 1981 study. They individually brought 30 participants into a room and told them that the space was the office of the principal investigator. They waited in the office and after 35 seconds were taken to a different room. There, they were instructed to list everything they remembered about the room they had just been waiting in. Participants’ recall of the room was much better for objects that fit into their schema of an office, but they were less successful at remembering objects that didn’t fit their schema. For example, most participants remembered that the office had a desk and a chair, but only eight recalled the skull or bulletin board in the room. In addition, nine participants claimed that they saw books in the office when in reality there weren’t any there.

How Our Schemas Get Us Into Trouble

The study by Brewer and Trevens demonstrates that we notice and remember things that fit into our schemas but overlook and forget things that don’t. In addition, when we recall a memory that activates a certain schema, we may adjust that memory to better fit that schema.

So while schemas can help us efficiently learn and understand new information, at times they may also derail that process. For instance, schemas can lead to prejudice. Some of our schemas will be stereotypes, generalized ideas about whole groups of people. Whenever we encounter an individual from a certain group that we have a stereotype about, we will expect their behavior to fit into our schema. This can cause us to misinterpret the actions and intentions of others.

For example, we may believe anyone who is elderly is mentally compromised. If we meet an older individual who is sharp and perceptive and engage in an intellectually stimulating conversation with them, that would challenge our stereotype. However, instead of changing our schema, we might simply believe the individual was having a good day. Or we might recall the one time during our conversation that the individual seemed to have trouble remembering a fact and forget about the rest of the discussion when they were able to recall information perfectly. Our dependence on our schemas to simplify our interactions with the world may cause us to maintain incorrect and damaging stereotypes.

EMDR Therapy: What You Need to Know

here is a great article to start with.It explains some of the basics.

Rory

******

https://www.healthline.com/health/emdr-therapy

What to know before you try EMDR therapy

EMDR therapy is considered to be safe, with many fewer side effects than those of prescription medications. That said, there are some side effects that you may experience.

EMDR therapy causes a heightened awareness of thinking which does not end immediately when a session does. This can cause light-headedness. It can also cause vivid, realistic dreams.

It often takes several sessions to treat PTSD with EMDR therapy. This means that it doesn’t work overnight.

The beginning of therapy may be exceptionally triggering to people starting to deal with traumatic events, specifically because of the heightened focus. While the therapy will likely be effective in the long run, it may be emotionally stressful to move through the course of treatment.

Talk to your therapist about this when you start treatment so you’ll know how to cope if you experience these symptoms.

The bottom line

EMDR therapy has proven to be effective in treating trauma and PTSD. It may also be able to help treat other mental conditions like anxiety, depression, and panic disorders.

Some people may prefer this treatment to prescription medications, which can have unexpected side effects. Others may find that EMDR therapy strengthens the effectiveness of their medications.

If you think EMDR therapy is right for you, make an appointment with a licensed therapist.

Resources: Addiction


Alcoholics Anonymous 

https://www.aa.org

Ottawa Area Meeting List

https://ottawaaa.org/meetings/

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcohol addiction.
Ottawa area (613) 267-6000

Al-Anon Family Groups

https://al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings/find-an-al-anon-meeting/

Al-Anon Ottawa
https://www.al-anon-ottawa.ca

​Al-Anon offers strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers.
(613) 860-3431
(819) 669-0543

Badge of Life Canada

https://badgeoflifecanada.org

Badge of Life Canada enables individuals to have a safe place to go for direct support through making positive connections with volunteer peers, trauma and PTSD survivors/or front line professionals.

​Bellwood Health Services

https://www.edgewoodhealthnetwork.com/locations/inpatient-centres/

Bellwood Health Services is a Canadian addiction treatment centre located in Toronto.  Bellwood offers treatment for individuals and families experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, sex, gambling and eating disorders.
Toronto, ON

Tel: 1-866-349-3869

​Canadian Addiction Counsellors Certification Federation 

https://caccf.ca

The Canadian Addiction Counsellors Federation was formed in 1985 and strives to offer the most effective and credible certifications to all specific counsellors in Canada.
1-866-624-1911

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health 

https://www.camh.ca

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as the world’s leading research centre in the area of addiction and mental health.
1-800-463-6273

Ottawa Area Crisis Line 

https://www.dcottawa.on.ca/24-7-crisis-line/

The Crisis Line is available anywhere in the City of Ottawa, Renfrew County, Storemont, Dundas & Glengary Counties, Akwesasne & Prescott and Russell Counties.  If you are outside the area, similar services may be available in the community were you live.
Within Ottawa call: 

Distress (613) 238-3311  

Crisis (613) 722-6914 

Outside Ottawa 1-866-996-0991

Gamblers Anonymous Canada

https://www.gamblingtherapy.org/en/canada-gamblers-anonymous

Gamblers Anonymous Eastern Ontario and Ottawa

http://www.gamblersanonymousottawa.org

​Gamblers Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from a gambling problem.
Ottawa Help Line (613) 567-3271

Homewood Health Centre  

https://homewoodhealth.com/health-centre

Homewood Health Centre is Canada’s medical leader in addiction and mental health treatment, providing highly specialized psychiatric and addiction services.
Guelph, ON
(519) 824-1010

Narcotics Anonymous World Services

Narcotics Anonymous Ottawa Area 

http://ottawana.org

Ottawa Meetings

http://ottawana.org/meet.html

Narcotics Anonymous is a nonprofit international community-based organization for recovering addicts.
​1-888-811-3887

Newgate 180  

https://newgate180.com

Newgate 180 has been Ontario’s premier non-profit drug and alcohol rehab treatment centre for more than 40 years.  Located in Merrickville, Negate 180 is situated approximately 75 Kms south of Ottawa.

The Royal Ottawa Hospital Mental Health Care Centre 

https://www.theroyal.ca/media-releases/rapid-access-alcohol-withdrawal

(Rapid Access to Alcohol Withdrawal)
The Clinic provides fast medically supported withdrawal for people who have been referred by The Ottawa Hospital Emergency Department. family counselling addiction counselling

How to do the Faster EFT Tap — The Basic Recipe

Sep 27, 2017 · 5 min read

The Faster EFT Tapping Basic Recipe is easy, quick, efficient, effective and a fun healing tool.

It is used to change the references held in the subconscious that result in problems in all areas of life.

It is this procedure that is used for every round of tapping.

This Faster EFT Tapping Basic Recipe method can be used to solve any issue — financial, personal, professional, emotional, psychological, physiological, health related.

This Faster EFT Tapping Basic Recipe has provided relief to thousands of people around the world with impressive results.

We encourage you to try and test this out for yourself.

But first, you will need to know the basics of Faster EFT Tapping, so let’s start!

With just SIX easy steps to learn, it is the Fastest EFT tapping technique out there.

The Faster EFT Tapping Basic Recipe has only FIVE steps, that takes only 30 seconds to do.

Anyone of any age can learn this simple technique and use it whenever they want, wherever they are with lasting results.

It may seem a little strange at first, but after a couple of round of using the Faster EFT Tapping Basic Recipe, you’ll feel more comfortable.

Just like with anything new you learn, it takes practice and persistence.

This will be a tool that can be used throughout your life, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower.

It’ll always be on hand for you to use, no matter the circumstances.

Why Faster EFT Works

In order for a problem to exist, there must be proof (the memory or record of an experience) and feelings.

Feelings are what make a problem a problem.

It is how you feel about something that determines whether it’s a problem or not.

If you feel good, that means you like something.

Conversely, if you feel bad, it means you don’t like something.

It’s that simple.

It is the feelings that make the problem real.

For example, Tom feels angry when he hears loud music in a parked car.

Another person, Tina, may enjoy the music.

She hears the same loud music, but she feels good.

In each of those cases, the subconscious is referencing a record that connects loud music in parked cars with either a negative meaning or a positive meaning; and then the brain signals the organs to produce the matching chemicals for those emotions.

How Faster EFT Tapping Basic Recipe works

FasterEFT is an energy based system as well, founded on Neurology and Biology.

Emotions affect both our physical and mental wellbeing.

So it follows that once your turbulent emotions are healed and cleaned up, you’ll have overall wellbeing.

The foundation belief in Faster EFT is that there is no disruption of energy, unlike traditional EFT.

In fact everything in your life and body is functioning as it should.

According to the way the brain has developed in order to survive in the environment, depending on your life’s experiences.

In Faster EFT, the tapping is used to disrupt the signal between the brain and the major organs of the body that trigger the fight or flight response while changing neural pathways in the neocortex of the brain.

The Faster EFT Tapping Basic Recipe doesn’t just deal with energy disruptions, which only fixes the outer issue of the problem.

It deals with the root cause of the problems, eliminating them completely.

Faster EFT recognizes that experiences are recorded in the subconscious for future reference.

This is how we learn to walk, drive, take a shower, eat, wash the dishes, type etc. without needing to consciously concentrate on every movement and decision.

Regular EFT specifically believes that negative emotions have nothing to do with memories, and are caused only by a disruption in the body’s energy system.

The Faster EFT Tapping Basic Recipe interrupts that signal between the brain and the organs by focusing on the meridian points connected to those organs.

This rewrites the reference or memory associated with that trigger.

For example, if Tom feels angered by the loud music and wanted to change that automatic response, he could use the Faster EFT Tapping Basic Recipe to disrupt the production of the chemicals that cause the feeling of anger when he hears the loud music.

And change the meaning of the loud music in his subconscious from “rude” or “disruptive” (or whatever they learned it means) to fun and enjoyment.

This will then result in an automatic feeling of enjoyment and fun when Tom hears that loud music in the future.

The Faster EFT Tapping Points

The following illustration is pretty straightforward and we’ll give a brief explanation with it as well.

For now, just identify each of these Faster EFT Tapping points on your body and follow along!

Step #1: Aim

Notice how you know you have the problem.

You don’t need to know what the emotions or feelings are, just notice how you know they’re there.

What do you feel?

Where in your body do you feel it?

What do you see or hear?

How do you know it’s a problem?

Step #2: Tap

Use two fingers to tap the following points, while focusing on the feeling of your fingers on your skin:

  • between your eyebrows
  • beside your eye
  • under your eye
  • just below your collarbone

While you are tapping, say “Let it go”. You can also add “It’s safe to let it go”.

Note: It doesn’t matter which side you tap — you can do either side, or both if you like.

Step #3: Peace

Grab your wrist, take a deep breath, blow it out, and say “peace” — and go to a peaceful memory for a moment.

Step #4: Check

Go back to your problem and take notice of how it’s changed.

Do you feel different?

Is the intensity of the feeling different?

Does the memory look or sound different?

Just notice.

Step #5: Repeat

Repeat steps two to four until the feeling or memory has “flipped” — in other words, the negative memory has been replaced by a positive memory.

Read: Why do We “ Reimprint or Flip” Memories in Faster EFT?

Watch the Faster EFT Tapping Basic Recipe

The Key to Success in using Faster EFT Tapping Basic Recipe:

Persistence is essential.

Don’t stop until it’s changed — even if it doesn’t feel like it’s going to change — it will, as long as you keep going until it does.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Share this article on:

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Robert Smith

Written by

Creator of FasterEFT and CEO of Skills to Change Institute

Residential school survivor uses poetry, psychotherapy to heal – Saskatoon – CBC News

A poet and residential school survivor is releasing her latest collections of poems, and she says they have been instrumental in healing from the scars of residential schools.

Source: Residential school survivor uses poetry, psychotherapy to heal – Saskatoon – CBC News

Louise Bernice Halfe was was born in Two Hills, Alta., and completed programs at the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan. She attended the Blue Quills Residential School, near St. Paul, Alta., for six years.

While the recently finished Truth and Reconciliation Commission was intended to help survivors heal, Bernice Halfe said the process opened old wounds. This collection of poetry, Burning in this Midnight Dream, helped heal those wounds.

Traditional ceremonies, psychology needed to help others

“It’s been extremely challenging and frightening as well,” she said of the process of walking backward, and retracing her past through the poetry. “What scared me was the feeling of being exposed and vlunerable.”

She said she needed to press ahead as a process of “accepting responsibility of my own actions and behaviours,” but the poetry is “also for the people who don’t have the vocabulary to articulate the shame and the pain and the anger that goes within their own stories.”

Bernice Halfe has training in drug and alcohol counseling, and in social work. She also emphasized the importance of psychotherapy and talking as tools for healing.

‘How do you recover as quickly as the people in the Canadian public want us to recover? I don’t know; I hope it’s possible. It’s very very hard.’– Louise Bernice Halfe

When asked how she wants to contribute to conversations on the legacy around residential schools, she described a photograph that showed her parents’ wedding and all of her relatives connected to her parents.

“There’s been a generational impact on whole communities. How do you recover as quickly as the people in the Canadian public want us to recover? I don’t know. I hope it’s possible. It’s very, very hard,” she said.

Bernice Halfe said she wants to see more aboriginal therapists and psychologists. “Not the kind that just prescribe pills,” she said.

Part of that responsibility is shared by the government, which she said has been insufficient in providing deep healing for aboriginal communities to recover from the legacy of residential schools.

“I would like to see more people trained in psychotherapy, along with their [traditional] ceremonial practices,” she said. “We needing funding for education in our communities. We also need mental health services closer to the communities.

“I’m talking about talk therapy. I’m talking about psychologists,” she emphasized.

Louise Bernice Halfe launches her latest collection of poems on Thursday at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon at 7 p.m. CST.

Why Isn’t Psychotherapy Covered By Health Care? | Chris Curry

In terms of health care, we have it pretty good. If you are unfortunately diagnosed with cancer, most, if not all of your treatment will be paid for. If you break your leg, you can go to the ER and get a cast and leave without a bill. If you require surgery, the government will pay for that too. But what if your issue isn’t physical? What if what’s holding you back in life is a mental concern? Well, then you’re kind of out of luck.

Source: Why Isn’t Psychotherapy Covered By Health Care? | Chris Curry

 

There are indeed mental health services that are covered by provincial programs such as OHIP here in Ontario. We are all allowed free access to psychiatrists, which sounds great on the surface. But the real story is that most psychiatrists are incredibly overworked and many have waiting lists over a year long. For anyone who has ever experienced a mental health crisis, you know that waiting a year just isn’t an option.

And if you are mentally well enough to wait for that year (or more) there is only so much a psychiatrist can do for you with their limited time and vast client lists. Sure, they can prescribe and monitor your medication. But they typically don’t have time to sit down with you week after week and get to the real reasons why you are facing either depression, anxiety, addiction or any other mental health issue.

Psychotherapists specialize in that kind of ‘getting to the root of the problem’ type of therapy. And each year, countless lives are changed by the hundreds of excellent psychotherapists we have in this country. But for every life that is changed by psychotherapy, their lives are also changed by way of having to spend their hard-earned money and by prioritizing their mental health, sometimes at the expense of other important bills.

Whenever I am discussing treatment with a new client, their first question is inevitably ‘is this covered by the government?’

My answer has to unfortunately be ‘no, it’s not. But someday, I sure hope it will be.’

There are of course some private benefit packages that do cover psychotherapy but most of us are not lucky enough to have such in depth personal coverage from our employers. And that leaves many paying out of pocket for what can be a fairly costly expenditure.

If therapy was free for everyone in Canada, we would see an incredible reduction in the amount of sick days due to depression and anxiety. Productivity would go through the roof and our emergency rooms would be able to focus more of physical injuries instead of having to attend to mental health crises as well.

We are a progressive country and we lead in many areas. Unfortunately we are falling flat when it comes to mental health treatment. We’ve decided that only the rich and prosperous can have access to therapy.

And that just doesn’t sound very progressive to me.

26 Pieces of Advice That Have Actually Helped People With Mental Illness

With that expert’s list of ways to manage anxiety, the latest trendy mental health app and that “magical cure for depression” your aunt heard about on TV, it seems like everyone’s full of mental health advice these days.

Source: 26 Pieces of Advice That Have Actually Helped People With Mental Illness

 With that expert’s list of ways to manage anxiety, the latest trendy mental health app and that “magical cure for depression” your aunt heard about on TV, it seems like everyone’s full of mental health advice these days.

So, we asked our mental health community to share pieces of advice they’ve actually found helpful. These little nuggets of wisdom aren’t FDA-approved, but when used correctly side effects may include: self-care, acceptance and a little more patience with yourself.

Here’s some advice that’s actually helped people with mental illness:

1. “On a particularly difficult day, I was trying to fight through an anxiety attack and finish all the child-related tasks I needed to complete. My husband kept offering help, and I kept refusing. He pulled me aside in the laundry room as I was frantically folding another load and said, “Just let me help you.” It doesn’t immediately make the anxiety go away, but it’s helped me learn to let go.” — Maria Heldreth

2. “Don’t wait. See a doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be embarrassed. Chances are, someone knows exactly what you’re going through.” — Kristin Salber

3. “I have depression and anxiety (as well as other chronic medical conditions), and after the worst week I’ve had in a while, my doctor  said,“Find something you enjoy, and if you can’t find that, find the joy in something.” This really had an impact on me and still reminds me to look for a silver lining.” — Faith Merryn

Related: To the Husband With the Wife Who Has Depression

4. “I have generalized anxiety disorder, and I made friends with someone who’s extremely similar to me. She told me to always be myself and the people who truly care will stick around. It truly did help.” — Julia Ann Lange

5. “Words can hurt to say, but they need to come out. Write all those words down on paper.” — Melissa Cote

6. “A friend recently told me that no matter if I get a job one day or not,your life matters as long as you can make people smile. When I think of it that way, it’s easier to see my life as something of worth.” — Emma Wozny

7. “A great therapist I had told me to focus on ‘harm-reduction, not perfection.’ I felt like I was expected to magically ‘get better,’ and she helped me learn that starting with baby steps was totally OK.” — Jen Decker

8. “Someone said, ‘I’ve been here, I know a way out, I’m here to show you too.’ And, ‘It gets better, it may not leave, but it gets better. And it has.” — Tom Everman

9. “I have anxiety and major depressive disorder. This is going to sound ridiculous, but my best friend once told me, “When you’re sad, watch ‘The Simpsons.’” It actually works when I’m panicking, too. It gets my mind off whatever I’m obsessing about, and I usually end up laughing.” — Dawn Czarnecki Seshadri

10. “It wasn’t long after my diagnosis that I was told pretty bluntly: ‘This illness is has no cure. You’re going to carry this illness for the rest of your life. So you can either wallow in the weight of that, or you can fight for your only life and make it a good story.’” — Lyss Trayers

11. “My depression and anxiety stem from a traumatic childhood. Just hearing ‘it wasn’t your fault‘ from my psychologist was incredibly helpful.” — Kathrine Elise

12. “Don’t always believe what your brain is telling you.” — Kerri Lewis Brock

Related: 36 Things People With Anxiety Want Their Friends to Know

13. “It’s OK to feel sad. You don’t need to pretend.” — Allyson White

14. “The best advice: Treat yourself as if you were a good friend.”— Julie Jeatran

15. “Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small,instead of dwelling on all the things we perceive as failures.” — Jennifer Northrup

16. “I have post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. When I was in intensive outpatient therapy, the counselor looked at us and said,‘It’s over. That moment is over. It isn’t going to happen again.’For some reason, that resonated with me.” — Nicole Hanes

17. “They told me this: ‘You are not broken; you are a whole person. You are just human. A human who is living, learning and growing. And learning, living and growing comes with bumps in the road. Remember that this is just a bump.‘” — Kallie Kieffer

18. “Your worst days will only be 24 hours.“ — Arielle Smith

19. “You wouldn’t skip a dialysis or chemotherapy appointment. Your therapy appointments are just as important. No excuses.” — Jennifer Davis

20. “‘I think you need to give therapy a try.‘ Thanks to that, I started therapy and I’m now on the path to recovery.”  — Julianne Leow

21. “Your struggles are your accomplishments in disguise.” — Katherine J Palmer

Related: 14 Things I Didn’t Expect to Learn at a Psychiatric Hospital

22. “Remember: Depression lies. Don’t believe it.” — Beth Brogan

23. “Always ask for help. There is never any shame in asking for help.” — Meghan Shultz

24. “Take life 5 minutes at a time.” — Stephanie Lynn

25. “You can’t give everyone else everything you have. You absolutely have to save a little of yourself for yourself.” — Shawn Henfling

26. I am a human being. Not a human doing. I just have to be.” — Michelle Balck

Answers have been edited and shortened.

By Sarah Schuster

More from The Mighty:

What the Starbucks Barista Didn’t Know When She Wrote ‘Smile’ on My Coffee

31 Secrets of People Who Live With Anxiety

I Have OCD. This Is What It’s Like to Be in My Mind for 3 Minutes.

“Clara’s Big Ride”: Watch Online Full Episodes

Watch Online on CTV | Watch Full Episodes.

About “Clara’s Big Ride”

Part catalyst for change and part epic road movie, CLARA’S BIG RIDE is an inspiring new film that tackles the profound conversation about mental health and the stigma that surrounds it.

Latest Videos


  • Clara’s Big Ride

    S0:E | 2015-01-28

    Chronicles an unprecedented 11,000 km bicycle journey across Canada by Olympic medallist and Bell Let’s Talk spokesperson Clara Hughes.


  • Let’s Talk: A Marilyn Denis Special

    S0:E | 2015-01-15

    Joined by Dr. Marla Shapiro & Clara Hughes, Marilyn Denis uncovers the stories of 5 remarkable Canadians who struggle with mental illness.


  • Words Of Hope

    S0:E | 2015-01-15

    Nolan is a student at the University of Waterloo who wrote a column about his struggles with his own mental illness.


  • Coping With Anxiety

    S0:E | 2015-01-15

    Richie from Montreal discusses overcoming anxiety and gets to meet and interview Clara Hughes for his university’s radio show.

VIEW MORE ►

Challenge 1: Deep Listening — Empathy in Action

Challenge 1: Deep Listening — Empathy in Action.

 This is a great resource to learn some communication skills.
Creative Commons copyright.
 
Enjoy,
Rory

Connect More Deeply by Listening More Attentively and Responsively


A chapter in The Seven Challenges Workbook
A Guide to Cooperative Communication Skills for Success at Home and at Work
by Dennis Rivers, MA — 2012 Edition

Printer-friendly PDF Version

SUMMARY (repeated from Introduction) Listen first and acknowledge what you hear, even if you don’t agree with it, before expressing your experience or point of view . In order to get more of your conversation partner’s attention in tense situations, pay attention first: listen and give a brief restatement of what you have heard (especially feelings) before you express your own needs or position. The kind of listening recommended here separates acknowledging from approving or agreeing . Acknowledging another person’s thoughts and feelings does not have to mean that youapprove of or agree with that person’s actions or way of experiencing, or that you will do whatever someone asks.

Challenge One -- Listening More Carefully and ResponsivelyBy listening and then repeating back in your own words the essence and feeling of what you have just heard, from the speaker’s point of view, you allow the speaker to feel the satisfaction of being understood, (a major human need). Listening responsively is always worthwhile as a way of letting people know that you care about them. Our conversation partners do not automatically know how well we have understood them, and they may not be very good at asking for confirmation. When a conversation is tense or difficult it is even more important to listen first and acknowledge what you hear . Otherwise, your chances of being heard by the other person may be very poor.

Listening to others helps others to listen. In learning to better coordinate our life activities with the life activities of others, we would do well to resist two very popular (but terrible) models of communication: arguing a case in court and debating.  In courts and debates, each side tries to make its own points and listens to the other side only to tear down the other side’s points. Since the debaters and attorneys rarely have to reach agreement or get anything done together, it doesn’t seem to matter how much ill will their conversational style generates. But most of us are in a very different situation . We probably spend most of our lives trying to arrange agreement and cooperative action, so we need to be concerned about engaging people, not defeating them. In business (and in family life, too) the person we defeat today will probably be the person whose cooperation we need tomorrow!

As Marshall Rosenberg reported in his book, Nonviolent Communication ,  “studies in labor-management negotiations demonstrate that the time required to reach conflict resolution is cut in half when each negotiator agrees, before responding, to repeat what the previous speaker had said.”  (my emphasis)

When people are upset about something and want to talk about it their capacity to listen is greatly diminished. Trying to get your point across to a person who is trying to express a strong feeling will usually cause the other person to try even harder to get that emotion recognized. On the other hand, once people feel that their messages and feelings have been heard, they start to relax and they have more attention available for listening. For example, in a hospital a nurse might say, after listening to a patient: “I hear that you are very uncomfortable right now, Susan, and you would really like to get out of that bed and move around. But your doctor says your bones won’t heal unless you stay put for another week.”  The patient in this example is much more likely to listen to the nurse than if the nurse simply said: “I’m really sorry, Susan, but you have to stay in bed. Your doctor says your bones won’t heal unless you stay put for another week.”   What is missing in this second version is any acknowledgment of the patient’s present experience.

The power of simple acknowledging. The practice of responsive listening described here separates acknowledging the thoughts and feelings that a person expresses from approving, agreeing, advising, or persuading. Acknowledging another person’s thoughts and feelings…

…still leaves you the option of agreeing or disagreeing with that person’s point of view, actions or way of experiencing.

…still leaves you with the option of saying yes or no to a request.

…still leaves you with the option of saying more about the matter being discussed.

One recurring problem in conflict situations is that many people don’tseparate acknowledging from agreeing. They are joined together in people’s minds, somewhat like a two-boxes-of-soap “package deal” in a supermarket. The effect of this is, let us say, that John feels that any acknowledgment of Fred’s experience implies agreement and approval, therefore John will not acknowledge any of Fred’s experience. Fred tries harder to be heard and John tries harder not to hear. Of course, this is a recipe for stalemate (if not disaster).

People want both: to be understood and acknowledged on the one hand, and to be approved and agreed with, on the other. With practice, you can learn to respond first with a simple acknowledgment. As you do this, you may find that, figuratively speaking, you can give your conversation partners half of what they want, even if you can’t give them all of what they want. In many conflict situations that will be a giant step forward. Your conversation partners will also be more likely to acknowledge your position and experience, even if they don’t sympathize with you. This mutual acknowledgment can create an emotional atmosphere in which it is easier to work toward agreement or more gracefully accommodate disagreements. Here are three examples of acknowledgments that do not imply agreement:

  • Counselor to a drug abuse client:
    “I hear that you are feeling terrible right now and that you really want some drugs. And I want you to know that I’m still concerned this stuff you’re taking is going to kill you.”
  • Mother to seven-year-old: 
    “I know that you want some more cake and ice cream, Jimmy, because it tastes so good, but you’ve already had three pieces and I’m really worried that you’ll get an upset tummy. That’s why I don’t want you to have any more.”
  • Union representative to company owner’s representative: 
    “I understand from your presentation that you see XYZ Company as short of cash, threatened by foreign competition, and not in a position to agree to any wage increases. Now I would like us to explore contract arrangements that would allow my union members to get a wage increase and XYZ Company to advance its organizational goals.”   

In each case a person’s listening to and acknowledgment of his or her conversation partner’s experience or position increases the chance that the conversation partner will be willing to listen in turn. The examples given above are all a bit long and include a declaration of the listener’s position or decision. In many conversations you may simply want to reassure your conversation partner with a word or two that you have heard and understood whatever they are experiencing. For example, saying, “You sound really happy [or sad] about that,” etc.

As you listen to the important people in your life, give very brief summaries of the experiences they are talking about and name the want or feeling that appears to be at the heart of the experience. For example:

“So you were really happy about that…”

“So you drove all the way over there and they didn’t have the part they promised you on the phone. What a let-down…

“Sounds like you wanted a big change in that situation…”

“Wow. Your dog got run over. You must be feeling really terrible…”

The point here is to empathize, not to advise. If you added to that last statement, “That total SLOB!!! You should sue that person who ran over your dog. People need to pay for their mistakes, etc.”, you would be taking over the conversation and also leading the person away from her or his feelings and toward your own.

Other suggestions about listening more responsively:

As a general rule, do not just repeat another person’s exact words.Summarize their experience in your own words . But in cases where people actually scream or shout something, sometimes you may want to repeat a few of their exact words in a quiet tone of voice to let them know that you have heard it just as they said it.

If the emotion is unclear, make a tentative guess, as in “So it sounds like maybe you were a little unhappy about all that…”   The speaker will usually correct your guess if it needs correcting.

Listening is an art and there are very few fixed rules. Pay attention to whether the person speaking accepts your summary by saying things such as “yeah!”, “you got it,” “that’s right,” and similar responses.

If you can identify with what the other person is experiencing, then in your tone of voice (as you summarize what another person is going through), express a little of the feeling that your conversation partner is expressing. (Emotionally flat summaries feel strange and distant.)

Such compassionate listening is a powerful resource for navigating through life, and it also makes significant demands on us as listeners. We may need to learn how to hold our own ground while we restate someone else’s position. That takes practice. We also have to be able to listen to people’s criticisms or complaints without becoming disoriented or totally losing our sense of self worth. That requires cultivating a deeper sense of self worth, which is no small project. In spite of these difficulties, the results of compassion-ate, responsive listening have been so rewarding in my life that I have found it to be worth all the effort required.

Real life examples. Here are two brief, true stories about listening. The first is about listening going well and the second is about the heavy price people sometimes pay for not listening in an empathic way.


John Gottman describes his discovery that listening really works: “I remember the day I first discovered how Emotion Coaching [the author’s approach to empathic listening] might work with my own daughter, Moriah. She was two at the time and we were on a cross-country flight home after visiting with relatives. Bored, tired, and cranky, Moriah asked me for Zebra, her favorite stuffed animal and comfort object. Unfortunately, we had absentmindedly packed the well-worn critter in a suitcase that was checked at the baggage counter.

“I’m sorry, honey, but we can’t get Zebra right now. He’s in the big suitcase in another part of the airplane,” I explained.”I want Zebra,” she whined pitifully.

“I know, sweetheart. But Zebra isn’t here. He’s in the baggage compartment under-neath the plane and Daddy can’t get him until we get off the plane. I’m sorry.”

“I want Zebra! I want Zebra!” she moaned again. Then she started to cry, twisting in her safety seat and reaching futilely toward a bag on the floor where she’d seen me go for snacks.

“I know you want Zebra,” I said, feeling my blood pressure rise. “But he’s not in that bag. He’s not here and I can’t do anything about it. Look, why don’t we read about Ernie,” I said, fumbling for one of her favorite picture books.

“Not Ernie!” she wailed, angry now. “I want Zebra. I want him NOW!”

By now, I was getting “do something” looks from the passengers, from the airline attendants, from my wife, seated across the aisle. I looked at Moriah’s face, red with anger, and imagined how frustrated she must feel. After all, wasn’t I the guy who could whip up a peanut butter sandwich on demand? Make huge purple dinosaurs appear with the flip of a TV switch? Why was I withholding her favorite toy from her? Didn’t I understand how much she wanted it?

I felt bad. Then it dawned on me: I couldn’t get Zebra, but I could offer her the next best thing — a father’s comfort. “You wish you had Zebra now,” I said to her. “Yeah,” she said sadly.

“And you’re angry because we can’t get him for you.”

“Yeah.”

“You wish you could have Zebra right now,” I repeated, as she stared at me, looking rather curious, almost surprised. “Yeah,” she muttered. “I want him now.”

“You’re tired now, and smelling Zebra and cuddling with him would feel real good. I wish we had Zebra here so you could hold him. Even better, I wish we could get out of these seats and find a big, soft bed full of all your animals and pillows where we could just lie down.” “Yeah,” she agreed.

“We can’t get Zebra because he’s in another part of the airplane,” I said. “That makes you feel frustrated.” “Yeah,” she said with a sigh.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, watching the tension leave her face. She rested her head against the back of her safety seat. She continued to complain softly a few more times, but she was growing calmer. Within a few minutes, she was asleep.

Although Moriah was just two years old, she clearly knew what she wanted — her Zebra. Once she began to realize that getting it wasn’t possible, she wasn’t interested in my excuses, my arguments, or my diversions. My validation, however, was another matter. Finding out that I understood how she felt seemed to make her feel better. For me, it was a memorable testament to the power of empathy.”


Sam Keen describes a friend’s lament about the consequences of not listening deeply: “Long ago and far away, I expected love to be light and easy and without failure.

“Before we moved in together, we negotiated a prenuptial agreement. Neither of us had been married before, and we were both involved in our separate careers. So our agreement not to have children suited us both. Until… on the night she announced that her period was late and she was probably pregnant, we both treated the matter as an embarrassing accident with which we would have to deal. Why us? Why now? Without much discussion, we assumed we would do the rational thing — get an abortion. As the time approached, she began to play with hypothetical alternatives, to ask in a plaintive voice with half misty eyes: `Maybe we should keep the baby. Maybe we could get a live-in helper, and it wouldn’t interrupt our lives too much. Maybe I could even quit my job and be a full-time mother for a few years.`  ”

“Maybe . . .“ To each maybe I answered: “Be realistic. Neither of us is willing to make the sacrifices to raise a child.“ She allowed herself to be convinced, silenced the voice of her irrational hopes and dreams, and terminated the pregnancy.

“It has been many years now since our `decision,` and we are still together and busy with our careers and our relationship. Still no children, even though we have recently been trying to get pregnant. I can’t help noticing that she suffers from spells of regret and guilt, and a certain mood of sadness settles over her. At times I know she longs for her missing child and imagines what he or she would be doing now. I reassure her that we did the right thing. But when I see her lingering guilt and pain and her worry that she missed her one chance to become a mother, I feel that I failed an important test of love. Because my mind had been closed to anything that would interrupt my plans for the future, I had listened to her without deep empathy or compassion. I’m no longer sure we made the right decision. I am sure that in refusing to enter into her agony, to share the pain of her ambivalence, I betrayed her.”

“I have asked for and, I think, received forgiveness, but there remains a scar that was caused by my insensitivity and self-absorption.”

Workbook editor’s note: I have not included this real life excerpt to make a point for or against abortion. The lesson I draw from this story is thatwhatever decision this couple made, they would have been able to live with that decision better if the husband had listened in a way that acknowledged all his wife’s feelings rather than listening only to argue her out of her feelings. What lesson do you draw from this story? ]


First exercise for Challenge 1: Active Listening. Find a practice partner. Take turns telling events from your lives. As you listen to your practice partner, sum up your practice partner’s overall experience and feelings in brief responses during the telling:

Your notes on this exercise:











Second exercise for Challenge 1: Learning from the past with the tools of the present. Think of one or more conversations in your life that went badly. Imagine how the conversations might have gone better with more responsive listening. Write down your alternative version of the conversation.











Suggestions for reading on the topic of listening.

The Power of Listening – An Ancient Practice for Our Future: Leon Berg

Free Article:   Tell Me More an essay by Brenda Ueland, explores the transformative power of listening to friends and familiy members:

“I want to write about the great and powerful thing that listening is. And how we forget it. And how we don’t listen to our children, or those we love. And least of all — which is so important too — to those we do not love. But we should. Because listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. Think how the friends that really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius as though it did us good, like ultraviolet rays.”

Free Article:   Positive Deviant  is a magazine article about the transformative power of deep listening, as it occurred in a program to reduce child malnutrition in Vietnam.  It is one of the clearest examples I have ever read of what is now called “appreciative inquiry,” which advocates that helpers pay disciplined and systematic attention to the strengths, capacities and past successes of those people they wish to help.

Free Collection of Articles:   Compassionate Listening: An Exploratory Sourcebook About Conflict Transformation.

[from the editor] Forms of compassionate listening have been practiced among Quakers and Buddhists for centuries, and among psychotherapists for decades. The late Gene Knudsen Hoffman (1919 – 2010) was both a Quaker peace activist and a pastoral counselor, and in my view she achieved two great things over the course of her life. First, she took the practice of compassionate listening out of the quiet environs of the Quaker meeting house, out from behind the closed doors of therapy session, and on to the stage of the world’s greatest conflicts. Her many trips to Russia and the Middle East have made her a legend in the peacemaking community. Second, she popularized compassionate listening in a generous way that invites and encourages other people to take up this practice, develop it and apply it in new areas. This small book is an expression of that generosity. Available for free around the world as an e-book, it includes both her lesson plans for Compassionate Listening Workshops and reports from Leah Green and Cynthia Monroe, two of her co-pioneers and creative colleagues.


Books: The following books can be found around the world, new and used, via the links below provided by the Global Find-A-Book service of Human Development Books, the publsher of this Seven Challenges Workbook. Click on the book titles below to bring up a Global Find-A-Book page for each title.

Are You Really Listening?: Keys to Successful Communication 
By Paul J. Donoghue, PhD, and Mary E. Siegel, PhD.

Listening is an essential skill worth every effort to learn and to master. Listening takes us out of our tendency toward self-absorption and self-protection. It opens us to the world around us and to the persons who matter most to us. When we listen, we learn, we grow, and we are nourished.

Why do we often feel cut off when speaking to the people closest to us? What is it that keeps so many of us from really listening? Practicing psychotherapists, Donoghue and Siegel answer these questions and more in this thoughtful, witty, and helpful look at the reasons why people don’t listen. Filled with vivid examples that clearly demonstrate easy-to-learn listening techniques, Are You Really Listening? is a guide to the secrets and joys of listening and being listened to. [From the publisher, Sorin Books] List price new, appx. $16.  ISBN: 1893732886.

The Zen of Listening:
Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction 

By Rebecca Z. Shafir.

What do family members, coworkers, and friends want most but seldom get? Your undivided attention. Poor listening can be a cause of divorce, depression, customer dissatisfaction, low grades, and other ills. This Zen-based, practical guide will help you build relationships, sharpen concentration, create loyal clients, strengthen negotiating skills, hear what others miss, and get them to hear.[From the publisher, Quest Books] List price new, appx. $16.  ISBN: 0835608263.

The Wisdom of Listening 
Edited by Mark Brady.

In this thoughtful anthology, eighteen contemporary spiritual teachers explore the transformative effects, and the difficulties, of skillful listening and suggest ways in which becoming a ‘listening warrior’ — someone who listens mindfully with focused attention — can improve relationships.  Free of religious dogma and self-help clichés, the essays are inspiring, intelligent and accessible. [from the back cover]  List price new, appx $17. ISBN: 0861713559.


Permission to make copies granted by author. May be included in course readers.

Adult Asperger’s: The Relief of A Diagnosis

Adult Asperger’s: The Relief of A Diagnosis | Psych Central.

Adult Asperger’s: The Relief of A Diagnosis

By MARIE HARTWELL-WALKER, ED.D.

 

The following are criteria for Aspergers that have been excerpted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV):

  1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
    • Marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction
    • Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
    • A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interest or achievements with other people, (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
    • lack of social or emotional reciprocity
  2. Restricted repetitive & stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities
  3. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  4. There is no clinically significant general delay in language
  5. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction) and curiosity about the environment inchildhood.

They are often physically awkward and socially tactless.

You’ve probably known quite a few. Maybe they are even in your family. There’s that brilliant professor you had in college who looked at his desk the entire time he was talking to you and whose office was so overflowing with stuff there was nowhere for a visitor to sit. How about your brother-in-law the mechanic, whose work is superb but who insists on describing in minute detail exactly what he did to fix your car — and doesn’t seem to notice all your hints that you’re trying to leave already! What about your uncle or cousin or the sister of your best friend who is so socially awkward that you squirm with discomfort whenever they show up at an event, wondering what they’ll do next to embarrass themselves?

They are often physically awkward and socially tactless. They seem to be perfectionists but often live in chaos. They know more about some obscure or highly technical subject than seems possible — and go on and on about it. They may seem to lack empathy, and are often accused of being stubborn, selfish, or even mean. They can also be extremely loyal, sometimes painfully honest, highly disciplined and productive in their chosen field, and expert at whatever they decide to be expert at. They are the Aspies, adults with Asperger’s Syndrome.

The number of adults with Aspergers is still difficult to determine. The syndrome wasn’t even officially acknowledged in the DSM until 1994, even though it was described by Hans Asperger in 1944. The result? Many older adults weren’t diagnosed — or helped — as children. Teachers found them exasperating because they were so disorganized and uneven in their academic performance despite often being clearly bright. Other kids considered them weird and either bullied them or ignored them. As adults, they are only now discovering that there is a reason they’ve had difficulties with relationships their entire lives.

For many, having a diagnosis is a relief.

“I never could figure out what other people want,” says Jerome, one of my Aspie clients. “People seem to have some kind of code for getting along that is a mystery to me.”

Jerome is a brilliant chemist. He has the respect of his colleagues but he knows that he’s not well-liked. The finely tuned intuition he uses to do research breaks down completely in relationships.

“I know I’m well-regarded in my work. As long as we’re talking about a research problem, everything is fine. But as soon as people start doing that small talk stuff, I’m lost. It’s good to have a name for it. At least I know there’s a reason.”

Jerome is now starting to put the same intelligence he uses in his lab to learning better social skills. For him, it’s an academic problem to solve. Like many other Aspies, he wants to get along and have friends. He’s highly motivated to learn the “rules” most people take for granted. He just never understood what those rules were. Having the diagnosis has given him new energy for the project.

The press coverage of the syndrome of the last several years has been very helpful as well.

“I was working on a highly technical engineering project with a new guy last week. In the middle the morning, he put down his pencil, looked at me and said, “You have Aspergers, don’t you.”

Ted was explaining a recent encounter to me. “I got real nervous, thinking he was going to leave.”

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Well. I know now that’s my problem so I just said he was right. And you know what he said? He said, ‘I thought so’ and told me I could relax because he works with another guy who has the same thing. We had a great morning solving the problem. That wouldn’t have happened even a few years ago. I would have upset him somehow without understanding why. He would have gone back to his company thinking I was some kind of jerk. Things are just better now that there’s some understanding out there.”

Having the diagnosis has also saved more than a few marriages. Now that the kids are grown, Judy was ready to separate from her husband of 27 years when she first came to therapy.

“If Al and Tipper Gore could do it after 40 years of marriage, I figured I could manage it too. I don’t know what their problems were but I was just exhausted. I felt like I’d been single-parentingour two kids forever. Actually, I felt like I had three kids. Most of my friends couldn’t figure out what I saw in a guy who could only talk about one thing and who would rudely disappear in the middle of a social evening. He never seemed to be able to understand any of our feelings. Our finances were always a mess because he would lose track of bills. Yes, he was really sweet to me in our private life and he’s always been great about doing things like building the kids a tree house — that was really, really cool. But it became harder and harder to see that as a fair exchange for all the times I had to smooth things over because of something he did or didn’t do that bothered someone.

Then my daughter emailed me an article about Aspergers. It changed everything. I realized he wasn’t deliberately making life so hard. He couldn’t help it. As soon as he took an Aspie quiz online, he saw it was true. He does love us. He didn’t want the family to fall apart. He went right out and found a therapist who works with adults with Aspergers. He’s far from perfect but he’s honestly trying. He’s even apologized to the kids for not being more involved while they were growing up. I can’t ask for more than that.”

A diagnosis is primarily used to drive treatment decisions and to make it easier for clinical people to communicate with each other. But in cases like these, it can also be an enormous comfort to the individual and their families. As long as someone with Aspergers feels like they are being blamed or criticized for something they don’t even understand, they can only be defensive or bewildered. When the people around them feel offended or disrespected, they can only get exasperated, argue, or write them off. But when the thing that makes a relationship difficult is named and understood, it becomes a problem that can be worked on together. That shift can change everything.

Ottawa withdrawal management centre

OWMC – CGSO – Ottawa withdrawal management centre – Centre de gestion du sevrage d’Ottawa.

Many services and a great starting point for addiction services in Ottawa.

AdmissionOWMC - CGSO - Ottawa withdrawal management centre - Centre de gestion du sevrage d'Ottawa

We do our best to ensure that our potential clients receive timely access to our services.Using a brief pre-admission screening questionnaire, a staff member will verify the recent drug use of a prospective client and whether or not withdrawal in our non-medical centre is best suited for the individual. Occasionally we will refer a potential client to a medical facility or hospital if there are significant issues which might affect the safety of clients and staff.

After completing the screening questionnaire over the phone or in person, if our services are thought to meet the needs of the client and there is a bed available, a staff member and the client will agree on a time for the admission to take place. At admission, the client will be asked a few more detailed questions face-to-face, and then be asked to rest in the observation area for further monitoring.
For further information or to refer, please call 613-241-1525.

 

Our Time Is Up: Ending the Therapeutic Relationship

Our Time Is Up: Ending the Therapeutic Relationship.

You entered therapy feeling broken, lonely, anxious, dissatisfied with your relationships and your career. Now you feel whole and healthy; your relationships have improved, and you’ve made some professional changes that have led to a more fulfilling career. You feel good about yourself. Life isn’t perfect, but you have come to accept these imperfections, and you feel equipped to handle life’s challenges when they come your way. Congratulations! The time, effort, and willingness to openly and honestly explore the most complex and painful areas of yourself and your life have paid off. Therapy worked. Now what? You have a standing weekly appointment with your therapist, and you have probably developed a strong therapeutic alliance with him or her. But lately you have noticed that you don’t feel a need to go to therapy and you struggle to find ways to fill the hour. These are some strong indicators that you are ready to leave therapy.

For most people, therapy is not forever. Very few people have reason to be in therapy for life. In fact, many of the people who make therapy a way of life are therapists. They have a personal and professional responsibility to maintain high levels of self-awareness. They must take precautions to ensure that their issues are not getting in the way of helping their clients, and that they are not letting their clients’ issues prevent them from living their own lives. Weekly therapy sessions can create the time, space, and support for therapists to do just that.

Certainly, there are some people who are not therapists who also come to view therapy as a way of life. These people are often deeply dedicated to self-growth, and therapy may provide the support they need as they pursue constantly evolving personal goals. However, the vast majority of people who come to therapy do so with the intent of getting help with something specific. Whether it is something as broad as wanting to feel better or something as narrow as making a decision about a career move, people usually bring a specific goal to therapy. For some, these goals can be achieved in a few short months, while for others, it can take years. But ultimately there is a resolution and they feel ready to end therapy. Thequestion then is how to do it.

One of the things people find most useful about therapy is that there is nothing you can’t talk about in a session—including your relationship with your therapist. In fact, a growing body of research indicates that much of the positive change produced by therapy comes as a result of the therapeutic relationship. For example, if your relationships improved while you were in therapy, it is likely, in part, because you learned new ways of being in relationships by actively participating in your therapeutic relationship. So take the well-honed skill set that you developed in therapy and open a discussion with your therapist about ending the therapeutic relationship.

This will likely come as no surprise to your therapist. He or she knows what you came in to work on and knows that you have achieved your goal. Plus, this is a natural part of the process—all therapists in training learn about how to help clients work through this final stage, called termination. This is a prime opportunity to review the goals that brought you to therapy and to reflect on the growth that allowed you to accomplish them. This part of therapy is kind of like a graduation ceremony—it is an opportunity to step back, look at how far you have come, and revel in your success. And, as with graduations, it is an opportunity to ponder and plan for what comes next. Part of termination involves reinforcing the coping skills that evolve during therapy and reminding clients to continue to draw upon them in the future. Another important part of this process is to identify indicators that may signal the need to return to therapy in the future.

Finally, working through the process of termination with your therapist will allow you the opportunity to process the ending of a powerful and unique relationship. While this is a deeply genuine relationship, it is also one that exists within strictly prescribed boundaries—within the therapist’s office during appointment times. Of course, there may have been phone calls and additional meetings scheduled during times of crisis, but there isn’t a healthy way to continue the relationship you have formed with your therapist outside of therapy. Feelings of grief, loss, and anxiety about ending the therapeutic relationship often come up, and termination is designed to address these feelings. Like all aspects of therapy, this can be a difficult process, but seeing it through can be invaluable in helping you continue to develop and implement the kind of sophisticated relational skills that enable you to have deeper, more meaningful, and authentic relationships.

© Copyright 2012 by Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC, therapist in Brooklyn, NY. All Rights Reserved.

What is Attachment and Why is it Important? | TVO Parents

What is Attachment and Why is it Important? | TVO Parents.

Young children need to have a secure relationship with at least one parent or caregiver in order to develop socially, emotionally, and cognitively. In a nutshell, that is the premise of attachment theory.

This should not be confused with attachment parenting. Attachment parenting is a philosophy born out of attachment theory but it is a parenting style, involving baby wearing and co-sleeping.

Instead, attachment theory focuses on child development and how good early experiences with caregivers help children learn, meet developmental milestones, and become secure, independent people. All parents need to do is give love, attention, and protection.

“We know from the newest science that in fact the early experiences that babies have and the quality of those experiences actually has the potential to change the architecture of the brain,” says Chaya Kulkarni, the director of Infant Mental Health Promotion at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. “This is groundbreaking for this field because it really means that those first two years in a child’s life can influence and impact their long-term development. It literally does influence who they become as an adult.”

What does a secure attachment relationship give to a child?

  • The ability to regulate their emotions, behaviour, and attention
  • A sense of self
  • Curiosity and exploration
  • Cognitive development and language development
  • Social skills
  • The ability to parent in the future

So what does a secure attachment relationship look like? According to child psychologist and attachment expert Sonya Vellett, from the Calgary Urban Project Society, a healthy attachment relationship involves:

  • The parent understanding and accurately interpreting what the child is trying to communicate through cues like crying, babbling, gesturing, or behaviour.
  • The parent providing what the child needs, whether that be safety, security, or supporting the child’s exploration.
  • The parent watching over the child, helping when necessary, and providing comfort and empathy when the child is upset.
  • The caregiver taking over when needed and setting appropriate limits.
  • The caregiver coming back later and fixing “ruptures” in the relationship. For instance, if you were rushed making dinner and didn’t allow your child to help, you should go back later on and acknowledge that maybe you didn’t handle the situation well and you will let them help next time.

A lot of what is listed above sounds pretty intuitive and many parents just do those things naturally. But sometimes it doesn’t come easily for parents. Some babies don’t give clear cues so parents don’t know what they want or misinterpret what they want.

“Temperament can play a role in this as well,” says Kulkarni. “If a parent and a child have different temperaments and can’t find a common or comfortable meeting place, that can play a role. And so in those situations, intuition doesn’t always work because you’re doing what you think is intuitively right and that baby is still crying.”

Things like mental illness, postpartum depression, and addiction can also interfere with the establishment of a good attachment relationship. For an example of how important the parent-baby bond is, and what happens when that connection is broken, watch the Still Face Experiment. This experiment, conducted by Dr. Edward Tronic ofHarvard University, is a dramatic example of how things like parental depression can impact a child’s well-being.

“[The purpose] of the Still Face Experiment is to give us information about what happens to children when they have a caregiver who is suffering from significant depression and is unavailable and unresponsive,” says Vellett. “And to see how quickly that is upsetting for the child, often to the point where the child starts to lose postural control and lose the ability to regulate their internal state. Kids will start hiccupping; spitting up… the impact on them is dramatic.”

Postpartum depression affects up to 20 percent of new moms, and severe depression can cause a rupture in the attachment relationship. But, a father or grandparent can fill in and have a nurturing and responsive relationship with the child.

And if a bond isn’t established at the beginning, it isn’t too late. “I know some parents worry if I don’t get it right in the first year or the first three years, it’s all over,” says Nancy Cohen, Director of Research at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre in Toronto. “In fact, that’s not the case. Children can benefit from their later experiences. But optimally it’s best for a child to have a good secure attachment relationship from the get-go.”

The following videos will give you more about attachment relationships and tips on bonding with baby

Read all of the tips from our partnership with Infant Mental Health Promotion at SickKids to educate parents about the importance of healthy brain development in the early years of a child’s life.

Free Online Yoga Videos – DoYogaWithMe.com

Free Online Yoga Videos – Classes and Poses | DoYogaWithMe.com.

 
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My Nervous Breakdown | All that I am, all that I ever was…

My Nervous Breakdown | All that I am, all that I ever was….

Written by Michelle H Lim, Swinburne University of Technology

My Nervous Breakdown

I’ve skirted, danced, bogled and boogeyed around it and kinda explained why it happened but never really gone into much “depth” as to – what happened, how it happened, how it felt – so I’m bored, have a few hours, am tired of talking to Meadhbh so am gonna blabber here for a while.

What is a “nervous breakdown”?
You could also call it an emotional breakdown or perhaps a mental breakdown, but in essence a “breakdown” has occurred when someone becomes unable to deal with normal day-to-day life.

It can be ignited following a particular trauma, a series of events, or can even happen randomly and out of the blue with no precipitating identifiable cause.

“Nervous breakdown” isn’t even a medical term: it’s a colloquial phrase designed to try and hide what is actually happening, which is the sudden acute attack of a mental illness, because a breakdown is far more easily accepted than bipolar, depression or anxiety; it is stigma at work!

Why I had a breakdown…
A breakdown generally occurs when your circuits become overloaded. Your brain, heart, soul, emotions – whatever – are under so much stress that they short circuit, and then shut off, and then you can’t find a nice clean unbroken fuse to mend them.

As mentioned previously, I was diagnosed with CLL and then dumped by my girlfriend by text message which set in motion a chain of events which caused me to lose my college course, my income, my best friend and all of this happening whilst I was suffering from glandular fever – a pretty serious physical illness which could have killed me – and all in the period of ten days.

I think any one or two of those things could have the power to trigger a breakdown, but to have so many stressful emotional events hitting you when you are already physically, mentally and emotionally devastated from glandular fever, the fact I had a breakdown doesn’t surprise me.

What happened?
The day I realised something was seriously wrong was the Tuesday I spent walking around the sleepy hamlet of Port Fairy talking to myself at an audibly obvious level for six continuous hours before sitting on a beach and burning myself with a flaming stick. Now I had wanted to phone someone at this point, I knew something was brewing and I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to stop myself…but no working public phone box anywhere close and…dammit…mobile phone battery was dead!

So I burnt myself twice, used the ocean to cool the burns, and then stood there for an hour or so staring at the black expanse of the horizon before retreating to where I was staying whilst I was in Port Fairy.

I spent the next day glued to the bed, unable to move, writing obscure journal entries which skipped, danced and evaded the actual events which had happened the night before. I thought that by not writing about them I would be able to forget them. I watched an entire season of 24 that day and wished to high fracking heaven my mobile phone charger had been packed because at this point I really desperately needed to speak to someone. Oh well.

On the Thursday I crawled to the Doctor, on the Friday I saw a psychologist, on the Saturday I sat on a beach again, on the Sunday I spent another 7 hours walking around talking to myself, on the Monday I returned to Melbourne.

How did it feel to have a breakdown? 
I literally felt nothing. I literally could do nothing. There was all this stuff I needed to do, all this stuff I wanted to do, but I just – couldn’t – I literally could not do any of it. My brain was not functioning on any level, all I could do for a few days was lie there watching other seasons of 24 (as this had helped the week before) trying not to harm myself.

Now that I had my charger back I couldn’t even bring myself to phone anyone because I didn’t have any words to say. I was doing that wee dial the number, delete the number, toss the phone across the room dance.

On the Wednesday I woke up having a panic attack, spent the day in a constant state of anxiety, panic, despair and fear. I wrote in my journal on and off, and for the first time ever mentioned my self harm in it’s pages (which you can read here). Then something happened that night which – well – let’s just say really really really really didn’t fracking help!!! I have never understood why that person thought it was a good idea, never will, but what they did that night was fucked up to the extreme!

On the Thursday I wanted to kill myself. I sat on the floor of my room staring at a knife and wondering what it would feel like. Tears were streaming down my face and I know I made two phone calls, but I can’t remember which order they came in. I either phoned a friend and then the suicide helpline, or I phoned the suicide helpline and then phoned a friend. Either way I spent the vast majority of that day in a constant state of fear of what I may do to myself.

After that week the specific days become blurry, everything is just a mess in my mind. I know I fought my self harm tendencies, I know Meadhbh came back, I know I did self harm, I know I was suicidal, I know I saw friends, I know I tried to rebuild my life, I know I saw doctors, I know I saw the occasional psychologist, I know I tried to do anything and everything that I could to fight what was happening to me and get my life back to something I was able to enjoy.

I wasn’t able to work. That’s a fact. Simple and pure. My health was fucked up to the point of unbearable, I couldn’t concentrate on a job advertisement let alone work an 8 hour shift, but I job hunted nonetheless.

As all this was happening I was having to sell all of my possessions in order to survive (rent, food, occasional social outings or cinema trips to make myself feel normal, which I would have to plan in advance in order to have the strength to do it without a panic attack) and try not to tell any of my friends what was really happening because, well, you have to pretend and not ever talk about your problems or negative incidents remember! Internalise, never externalise, because it was attempting to externalise that contributed to the problem in the first place!

My decision making capacity was shot to fuck, my conversational ability had gone; anxiety, depression, suicidal inclinations and self harm reigned supreme. The fact I had overcome all of this only a few months before contributed to the continuation of my depressive episode – all of those years of work for nothing!

My conversations with Meadhbh were driving my ever more insane, my ex was driving me nuts with her consistent emotional/psychological abuse, which Meadhbh was loving because it backed up everything she was telling me. Meadhbh would often say something which my ex would then reiterate word for word a few weeks later; “You have to help people,”, “You’re selfish,”, “You should kill yourself,”, “You never care about anyone!” oh how Meadhbh loved those moments!

Physically I was a wreck; fighting glandular fever was made almost impossible and my recovery time was lengthed by months. I had chronic pain in my back, splitting migraines, I wasn’t able to sleep and never felt hungry. I had to go to hospital several times for a recurring polynoidal sinus, though unrelated to the breakdown, has been recurring ever since due to the stress I have been under and have been waiting for an operation to have it removed. The meds I was on threw all sorts of side effects in my direction, which further messed with my body (and mind) and viruses seemed to claim their hold on my body on a regular basis.

I don’t think anyone can truly understand what having a breakdown feels like unless they have experienced one. Like depression “breakdown” is an overused word and does not in any way fully describe the pain and torment your mind is constantly under. You literally cannot function on a normal day-to-day level; your body is besieged with physical pain and your mind is engulfed with the sort of emotional pain I would never wish on anyone.

Overcoming a breakdown…
Like with all forms of mental illness there is only so much help you can garner from other people. You can see doctors and psychologists and MH professionals but you still have to do a hell of a lot of work yourself. I saw my GP regularly and fought for months for professional mental health care, which even after two suicide attempts only really came a few weeks ago.

So how can you help yourself fight an emotional breakdown? These are some of the things I tried:

  1. Be kind to yourself!
    You are going to have bad days and you are going to have good days. Don’t berate yourself for the bad days and think of yourself as a failure as this will only feed the breakdown demons.
  2. Find ways to reduce your stress level…
    – Eat healthily; brown rice, fruit, vegetables, natural foods…
    – Find ways for regular relaxation (I used to walk, play in parks in the night-time, sit under trees, watch movies, write [we’ll get to that in a minute])
    – Have baths!
    – Try to socialise with friends and do things you enjoy (trivia nights, movies, coffee and tea, pizza lunches)
    – Do regular relaxation exercises.
    – Keep a daily ‘things to do list’ to refer to.
  3. Be physical
    Regular exercise and activity helps relieve stress and tension and keeps your body fit and active, in can be hard to do this after having a breakdown or going through a depressive phase, but it is important. Walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, pilates…if you do something you enjoy it will make things easier.
  4. Research and learn about what is happening to you. 
    Understanding your problems/illness better may make it easier to cope.
  5. Find your own coping strategy
    Everyone is different, what works for one person will not work for another. So find your own ways to deal with what you are feeling and your own techniques to get you through your bad days.
    – Writing is something I did, the vast majority of my novel “The Ghosts that Haunt Us” was written during this period. However, in order for me to achieve the state of mind I needed to be in, in order to write, I had to self-harm (sometimes severely) in order to get there.
    – Other people find art, music, drawing or poetry effective.
    – To get through the bad periods I would play video games. I’m a Zelda aficionado so would replay my Gameboy Zelda games to occupy my mind.
    – Meditation and yoga can help.
    – Although I was unable to write a journal (still can’t to this day, won’t go into why), I did keep a mood diary to help identify and chart what I was feeling.
    There are lots of ways you can find to cope with what is happening. I would be interested in hearing your own coping strategies as they may help other people.

Relationships and Friendships following a breakdown…
One of the hardest things I had to deal with was being told repeatedly that who I thought were my friends were not really my friends (an example of being isolated by my abuser) and wouldn’t be there for me. Thus I was unable to talk to them about what I was going through as I was afraid of pushing them away – which was inevitably going to happen anyway – so had to fight my breakdown alone. They knew I had had a breakdown, and self harmed to some extent, but were not aware of the full extent of what I was dealing with.

After a breakdown your self confidence and self worth will be virtually non-existent, thus your ability to retain friendships and relationships will be put under further strain. As you are not thinking clearly your actions may cause harm to those people you care about, even if it is inadvertent, so you may need to apologise for anything which happened during the breakdown and work on rebuilding those friendships.

Although you will need to work out whether the problem was caused by you, or by them, if it was their problem they will need to find a way to deal with it as you should not have to accept responsibility.

I can’t sit here and talk about friendship really, I don’t have any, and as I am still fighting my breakdown cannot give profound advice on healing rifts and repairing damage.

I will say however that, like everyone, a show of kindness and love can help someone who has suffered from a breakdown. We all want to feel loved, we all need kindness, to help us get by.

Can you overcome a nervous breakdown? 
The breakdown I experienced earlier this year was singularly the most painful, distressing, chaotic and fear inducing period of my life. I literally just could think straight in any way, my brain shut down and wasn’t functioning on any level. It was a constant daily fight to get through each conversation, each hour, each day.

The road to recovery following a nervous breakdown is hard work, it could take anywhere from 6 months to 3 years to fully recover. It can be done however, it’s not going to be easy, pretending it isn’t there won’t help but just cause longer term problems, it’s going to be painful, destructive and the hardest fight of your life.

But it can be done, never lose hope of that.

15 Things I Learned from My Nervous Breakdown…

very good list of things to meditate on . . .

Rory

 

15 Things I Learned from My Nervous Breakdown… and How They Can Help You Live Your Best Life – Calgary’s Child Magazine.

 

15 Things I Learned from My Nervous Breakdown… and How They Can Help You Live Your Best Life

I suffered a nervous breakdown at age 36 – and it turned out to be a breakthrough. Here are 15 important things about life and happiness that I have learned, and that I hope you will take to heart in the coming year.

I want you to do me a favor. Look to the upcoming year and ask yourself – realistically – what lies in store in 2012? If you’re like most people, a huge portion of your life will be spent anxiously plugging away at a job you may or may not enjoy with coworkers you may or may not like. Okay, yes, you work hard to build a better life for your family. But here’s the question: Will you have time to enjoy them? Will you be too exhausted to throw the ball with your son? And how many nights will you get home too late to tuck him in this year?

This pattern of stress and striving has to stop. We already live in uncertain and depressing times, and our lifestyles are driving us not toward new heights, but over the brink. And if you’re not careful, you may suffer the same fate I did.

When I was 36 years old, I was successfully leading my family’s auto parts business, I was well respected in my community, I had a wonderful wife and son… and I also suffered a nervous breakdown. Yes, at that point in my life, I enjoyed what I did and was truly proud of my successes, but I was also pushing myself too hard and prioritizing the wrong things, and eventually, it all caught up with me.

For months leading up to my breakdown, I suffered from a paralyzing depression and anxiety, and found it difficult to complete tasks as simple as deciding whether to order coleslaw or potato salad with my lunch. But I still consider myself to be very fortunate.

As horrific as it was, my breakdown was actually also my breakthrough. It was an in-your-face wake-up call that forced me to realize that I was driving myself too hard, and for the wrong reasons. I finally had to say, “Enough is enough! I am done destroying myself and ruining my life!” Admitting to myself that my former way of life wasn’t working was the beginning of my road to recovery and true happiness.

For the past decade, I have taken a closer look at what really makes people happy and unhappy, and I have seen most of my goals and priorities shift. In the same way, it’s in your best interests to shift your habits and focus in 2012. Call it a New Year’s resolution to simply be happy.

I have come to realize that how happy and fulfilled you are is largely under your control, and that it has less to do with success and accomplishments than you might think. I believe that most people are experiencing many – if not all – of the stressors that led to my breakdown, so please don’t wait until you, too, reach a breaking point to make changes in your life. I’m totally convinced now that true happiness is a possibility for everyone, so I’m asking you to take the lessons I have learned to heart.

If you’re ready to change the way you approach life before you drive yourself over the edge, read on for 15 life lessons that I have learned:

1. You have to choose and prioritize happiness – it doesn’t just happen. If you subscribe to the belief that your happiness is wholly dependent on what happens to you, you’ll always be dissatisfied. The truth is, your fulfillment largely depends on the choices you make: how you see the world, what you allow to influence you, what you focus on, and how you react to circumstances, regardless of whether they’re good or bad. In other words, it’s not what happens to you; it’s how you look at what happens to you.

If you want to make a dent in your stress levels, you have to make choosing happiness a priority every day. With all of the responsibilities on our plates, nothing is likely to happen unless we specifically focus on it. So make happiness one of the two or three priorities you absolutely must accomplish each day. To remind yourself, put a note where you can see it – maybe on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror. And if that sounds selfish, it’s not. If you’re extremely stressed or become depressed because of the way you’re living your life, you’re hurting many more people than just yourself. And what’s more important than teaching your kids to be happy? Always remember that children learn by example. If they see you living a harried, stressed life, that’s the pattern their lives will follow as well…and their children’s after them, and so on.

2. Striving for work/life balance is worth its weight in gold. Times are tough, and some of us are finding it necessary to work long hours to keep our jobs and livelihoods. Others have fallen into the trap of the work-ego addiction: over time, you become hooked on the “high” you feel when you accomplish something, get a promotion, etc., and you begin to spend more and more time at the office. Whatever the reason, if extremely long hours are becoming a habit for you, break it. No matter how good your intentions are, overloading on work will cause your relationships, mindset, and even health to suffer.

Prior to my breakdown, it was normal for me to work seventy- or eighty-hour weeks. In my personal dictionary, “rest” and “relaxation” were synonymous with “irresponsibility” and “slacking.” Boy, was I wrong. Working as much as I did is more than the human body is designed to take continuously. If you drive yourself that hard, you’ll eventually begin to run on fumes before you shut down entirely. Being firm about creating and maintaining a healthy work/life balance is no more selfish than prioritizing happiness – in this case, it’s about simple self-preservation! And if you’re still skeptical, remember this: no one looks back on their lives at age eighty and says, “Gee, I wish I’d spent less time with my family and friends and more time at the office.”

3. We are our own worst critics. If you’re like most people, you probably tend to focus a lot of your mental energy on the things you mess up rather than on the things you do well—even though most of us do a hundred things right for every one thing we do wrong. And although you may not realize it, focusing on that one wrong thing is very dangerous, because our thoughts are incredibly powerful. Until you give yourself permission to break free of the cycle of self-blame and negativity that causes you to be stuck demanding perfection from yourself in every situation, you’ll never have a chance to be a truly relaxed, content, and happy person.

It’s not easy to rewire your habitual thought processes, but you need to build yourself up more and beat yourself up less. I used to expect nothing less than perfection out of myself, which was delusional! We’re all human, which means that we’re going to make mistakes from time to time. That doesn’t mean that we’re in any way unworthy or undeserving of love. In fact, learning to love myself was at the core of my own happiness journey. If you aren’t satisfied with who you are, you’ll always be looking outside yourself for validation…and you’ll never be truly content. And like me, you might also push yourself beyond healthy limits in order to get accolades from other people.

4. It’s never too late to start living in the present. How often do your thoughts “live” in the present? More to the point, how often are they instead fixated on your “disappointing” or “disturbing” past or spent worrying about your future? If you are like most people, your percentage of time not spent in the present is way, way too high, and thus you’re missing out on life itself. If you’re letting what’s already happened eat away at you or fretting about what might come to pass, you’re not enjoying the blessings all around you. You’re exacerbating your anxiety and unhappiness by choosing to dwell on things you can’t change or control.

I used to spend a majority of my time rehashing my past mistakes and worrying about what might happen in the future, neither of which did anything for my peace of mind or self-esteem. In fact, these unhealthy and self-critical thoughts were a major contributor to my breakdown. Now that I’m making a conscious effort to live in the present, I’m actually enjoying all of the great things in my life instead of letting them pass me by unnoticed. Plus, I’m actually a lot more productive now that all of that mental space that used to be occupied with worries has been freed up!

5. Focusing on what you’re good at is best for everyone.
 If you aren’t good at something – especially if it’s work-related – chances are you’ll feel compelled to spend a lot of time and effort getting your skills up to par. It’s natural to want to shore up your weaknesses, but the fact is, this strategy tends to cause you a lot of stress for (most likely) mediocre results. Instead of trying to be good at everything, stay in your strengths as much as possible. When you’re doing what you’re good at, you’ll be happier and higher performing.

As I’ve said, I used to be a total perfectionist. I felt like I was a failure if I didn’t excel in absolutely everything I tried. It probably won’t be a surprise to hear that all I accomplished was making myself miserable when I failed to live up to my impossibly high standards. If that sounds familiar, I’d suggest focusing more time on a hobby or personal interest to start, even if you do it for only twenty minutes every other day. And if you determine that your career doesn’t utilize your strengths, start looking at online job postings or for local classes in your field of interest. It’s never too early—or too late—to start doing the things that make you happy.

6. Exercise is worth its weight in therapy.
 Yes, you’ve heard it (a million times) before, but exercise is one small change that yields really big, life-changing benefits. For starters, it will begin to make you feel more relaxed, stronger, and more capable of handling life’s challenges—also, it will improve your sleep, and it’s a natural anti-depressant that will help your attitude and outlook. In fact, exercise actually opens you up to future change by invigorating your mind and body.

I’m convinced that exercise is the single most important thing you can do to improve your life right now. Looking back, I believe that my breakdown occurred when it did because I had broken my feet and couldn’t work out. Before that point, exercise was essentially acting as a medication that helped to counteract the effects of the stressful lifestyle I was living, and after I recovered, it has continued to boost my energy and outlook. If working out is already a part of your life, great! If it isn’t, commit to walking just twenty minutes every other day to start out. You don’t have to join a gym, sign up for exhausting classes, and completely reorder your life to reap the benefits of this investment!

7. You need to feed your mind healthy ‘food.’ When was the last time you watched the nightly news and turned off the TV feeling positive and uplifted? If anything, hearing the headlines is more likely to be depressing and discouraging. Although many of us don’t want to admit it, the things we hear, read, and experience influence our own attitudes and outlooks, so it’s important to consciously “feed” your mind positive materials.

It may sound hokey, but over the years I’ve become a big proponent of motivational books, audio recordings, and DVDs. Whether we’re at work, talking with friends, or at home watching TV or surfing the web, most of us encounter a lot more bad news and predictions than we do good. No wonder we become negative and cynical! It’s important to seek out positive things that will counteract these influences and dispel unnecessary stress. Learn new, constructive things and expose yourself to fresh ways of thinking so that you don’t get stuck in a self-destructive rut.

8. Surround yourself with positive people. If you stop for a drink at the water cooler and find your colleagues griping about how much work they have to do and how unreasonable your boss is, you probably don’t think much of it. In fact, depending on how your own day is going, you might even join in. And although you may not realize it, your attitude will start to deteriorate. The fact is, if you spend a significant amount of time around other people who are negative, your own outlook will begin to mirror theirs.

It’s much easier for others to drag you down than it is for you to build them up. In terms of your attitude and happiness levels, you will be the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so you need to be around other people who share your commitment to happiness if you want to avoid unnecessary stress. I’m not suggesting that you completely sever relationships that aren’t entirely uplifting, but gradually, you need to gravitate more toward positive people and distance yourself from those who tend to bring you down. This might mean calling a positive friend and asking to meet up for coffee or a beer, or walking away from the water cooler when your coworkers begin to gripe and complain.

9. Invest in your relationships – especially your marriage.
 When we’re driving ourselves to the brink, personal relationships are usually one of the first things to suffer. After all, the more time you spend at work, the less time and energy you have to invest in friends and family. You don’t consciously realize it at first, but this gradual deterioration can leave you feeling unappreciated, angry, alone, and anxious. Remember, though, that loving, supportive relationships will majorly enhance your happiness levels, and that friends and family care about you and accept you in a way that your employer never will.

It’s never a waste of time to reach out to the people who are meaningful to you and tell them how important they are to you, or to try to address any unresolved grievances and apologize for the things you may regret. And there’s one relationship you need to focus on in particular: the one with your spouse or significant other. Put more work into this relationship than you do into anything else: your house, your car, or your job, etc. Celebrate your spouse every day. Tell her (or him!) all the time how beautiful she is and how lucky you are to have her in your life. Trust me: this can make such a great difference in your emotional health, your stress levels, and your overall happiness! I truly believe that I would not be as happy as I am today without the love of my wife, and I also believe that my breakdown would have been much worse without her support.

10. Take control of what you can. If you’re reading this, chances are your life isn’t exactly stress-free. It’s practically impossible to live in the modern world without a million worries ranging from work deadlines to bills to clogged gutters. While you aren’t omnipotent, you probably can influence at least a few of the things that are causing your anxiety. Try to eliminate or minimize situations that are stressors instead of constantly dealing with their effects. Often, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference when it comes to relieving stress.

Start by identifying the two or three things that cause you the most stress on a consistent basis – maybe having a messy house is one. Often, you’ll find that there are concrete things you can do to lessen or even eliminate the pressure. For example, you might have a frank discussion with your spouse and kids regarding chores. Or, you might finally hire a cleaning person to help you once or twice a month if you can now afford it. Also, if you can’t eliminate or change a stressor, such as a job you hate but can’t afford to quit, challenge yourself to handle it differently. Specifically, decide beforehand how you will react in a more enlightened way when certain stressful situations occur – actually visualize yourself handling them with poise instead of becoming outwardly or inwardly worked up. Having a game plan in place before the “beast” rears its ugly head really can reduce your negative reactions to stressors—big time.

11. Being friendly is a good investment.
 In our culture, it’s become a badge of honor to stride around with an air of importance and a stony face. After all, if you’re too busy to say hello, you must be important. Yes, it’s easy to become absorbed by your responsibilities – but you’re not doing yourself any favors by shutting out the rest of the world. Even if you don’t have time to answer all of your emails, you can still smile at people in the hall and say a friendly hello to the cashier in the grocery store. Making positive connections will bring more happiness to you and to others.

Have you noticed that although our society is more and more “connected” by technology, we interact less and less with other people on a meaningful, face-to-face level than ever before? Our plugged-in lifestyles aren’t doing us as many favors as we thought they would. Even when we’re not at work, we’re likely to be glued to our smartphones or laptops, which amps up our stress. Make a conscious effort to unplug and make a friendly connection with another human – even a simple smile or hello is great. The fact is, everyone on Earth is carrying some sort of burden. You can’t make their pain, stress, or grief just magically disappear…but you can be what I call a “lamp-lighter” – someone who makes others feel just a little bit lighter and happier on their journey, even if only for five seconds. When you make friendliness a habit, you’ll attract kindness and smiles in return…and you’ll feel great about yourself for making a positive difference in the world!

12. Helping others is the soul food of life. One of the (many) negative side effects of our busy lives is that we tend to think mostly about ourselves: how much work we have left on that big presentation, how we’re going to find time to take the kids to sports practice and pick up groceries, and much, much more. No matter how busy you are now, consider helping others to be an integral part of the healthy work/life balance that will help you to avoid unhappiness. This will give you perspective, make you feel good, and will prevent you from staying in the negative me-focused cycle that was making you unhappy in the first place.

Since my breakdown, I’ve become very involved in philanthropy. I’ve found that it really is better to give than to receive, and that reaching out a helping hand to someone who isn’t as fortunate as you tends to quash selfish impulses and highlight your own blessings. Giving of yourself doesn’t have to involve money, either – remember that your time, talents, and compassion are just as valuable as cash, if not more so. Consider visiting a disabled veteran at the VA, or simply rolling your neighbor’s trashcan up the driveway! And if you have kids, you’ll be setting a wonderful example for them. I promise you, whether you’re giving time, energy, money, or encouragement, being generous will build up your self-esteem, broaden your perspective, keep you anchored in reality, and connect you to your blessings – all components of a happy life.

13. It’s important to connect with something bigger than yourself. Yes, spirituality (much like politics) is a touchy subject. But believing in something bigger than yourself is essential to developing the kind of perspective you need to be happy. Whether you consider your Higher Power to be God, Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, the Universe, or even just Nature or another entity, being willing and able to see and feel His (or Her, if you prefer!) presence in your life will enable you to move away from self-centeredness and focus your energy and concerns on the greater community. It’ll also provide solace and give meaning to unfortunate events and troubling life circumstances.

Personally, I’ve been connected to the Jewish faith for my entire life. But it was only after my breakdown that I really allowed my faith to grow. My personal belief that God exists and cares about me has changed the way I view the world—but you don’t need to espouse my beliefs, or even join an organized religion and attend services regularly. What I do hope you’ll do is make an effort to clarify your thoughts about faith and also make an effort to connect to your Higher Power, whether it’s through prayer, meditation, writing in a journal, doing random acts of kindness, or just spending time in nature. Eventually, I hope you’ll begin to see your Higher Power as a source of inspiration, renewal, strength, guidance, and aid – as I do.

14. A grateful heart is a happy heart. It’s very easy to take things for granted: the information your coworker emailed you, the fact that your car is running, and even the food you’re eating for dinner. The fact is, most of us have gotten into the habit of ignoring all of the good things in our lives. Instead, we focus our mental energy on being upset about what’s wrong and what we don’t have. Yes, cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” might be a clichéd concept, but the humility that comes from knowing you owe so much to so many others will, in turn, spur you to give back more often to those less fortunate than yourself. Plus, studies have actually shown that thankful individuals are 25 percent healthier than their counterparts, too!

To start tapping into the power of gratitude, just say “thanks” to the people who help you out during your day. And beyond that, try to notice all of the blessings in your life. If you live in America, you have access to great education, healthcare, and the freedom to worship and work as you choose. Those are huge things to be thankful for right out of the gate! We take these “basics” and much more for granted, and we often have others—whether it’s an ancestor of ours, a veteran, or a coworker—to thank for them. It’s extremely important to be aware of all of your blessings, and to honor and thank those whom you owe.

15. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. All of the things I have learned from my breakdown will help you to cut your stress levels, and they’ll also aid you in cultivating a more balanced, happier life. But it’s also important to realize that feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed are all very serious, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to easily “fix” these issues on your own.

If you feel that you’re in over your head, or if your best efforts aren’t working, please reach out and ask for help. I might never have recovered after my breakdown without the help of my friends, family, and medical professionals. This is all big stuff. You shouldn’t—in fact, you can’t—make big changes in your life alone. At the very least, you’ll need the support of those who love you.

Ultimately, I’ve learned that the quality of your life is largely up to you. If you’re anything like me – and if you’re honest with yourself – you’ll have to confess that a striving, stressful lifestyle is not making you happy. I’ll admit that many of the changes I’m asking you to make in order to avoid more unhappiness (and perhaps even a breakdown) go against what society says you should do if you want to be successful. But I have found out the hard way that a “successful” yet stressed out and unhappy life is certainly not, in reality, a truly successful life at all.

Todd Patkin is the Author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and – Finally – Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-9658261-9-8, $19.95). The book is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and at www.findinghappinessthebook.com.

Top 10 Mindfulness Posts of 2012

 

Top 10 Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Posts of 2012

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mindfulnessWhether this is your first time you’re coming here or you’ve been around for the almost four years I’ve been writingThe Mindfulness and Psychotherapycolumn, I want to share a personal moment of gratitude and say “Thank You” for being a part of this community. This was a big year for this column,  it will become 4 years old and is also the year that The Now Effect andMindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler hit bookshelves. Now it’s my turn to give you some gifts of my favorite Top 10 posts of the year. In these posts you’ll read about the power of mindfulness, the importance of self-compassion in healing, the upside to embracing dark emotions, how to be alone, why multitasking is ineffective, many short practices and much more.

May they bring you a sense of insight, ease, peace and freedom. Enjoy!

  1. Mindfulness is Not a Cure, It’s Better
  2. 7 Life Lessons for Dr. Seuss
  3. The Power of Self-Compassion
  4. Depression: Medicate, Meditate or Both?
  5. The Science Behind Why Everything You Do Matters
  6. The Upside to Embracing Dark Emotions
  7. Learn How to Be Alone through Mindfulness
  8. Neuroscience and Compassion Training Predict a Better World
  9. Media Multitasking Leads to Poorer Cognitive Performance: A Mindful Response
  10. A Simple Way to Trick Your Brain Toward Mindfulness

Top 50 health apps: Body&Soul

Top 50 health apps – body+soul.

These are pretty good start .  .  . good ratings.

for PMS, meditation, relaxation, exercise, and more.

Rory

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By Charmaine Yabsley & Maureen Shelley

Maintaining your health, fitness and happiness goals is only a click away…

We review 50 of the best health and fitness apps you need to download, for a healthier and happier you
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