I can’t stop listening to: A Therapist Walks Into a Bar
Each week, Lily Sloane, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California comes up with a question about life, love, relationships, and our inner workings and goes to a local bar to talk to people about it. She reflects on the discussion and meaning of each topic. What I love most is that the podcast sheds a positive light on therapy and is very non-judgmental.
Although anxiety is a normal emotion, to most of us it is really unpleasant. No one enjoys feeling anxious but it serves a purpose. Anxiety is an emotion that propels us to plan, get things done, and worry about ourselves and those we care about so that we can avoid danger and harm. Anxiety in and of itself isn’t bad, it’s when we don’t have balance that it gets out of control and becomes a problem.
The #1 symptom of anxiety that I see is avoidance. When you find yourself trying to avoid dealing with a problem, thinking about a problem, avoiding places, people, or things that might cause anxiety, then anxiety starts to get in the way of dealing with your life. This is when anxiety tips the scale to becoming an “anxiety disorder,” and worry feels out of control.
I will say again and again…
ANXIETY CAN BE MANAGED!
Life can be better. You can feel more relaxed. Find a mental health professional and WORK on it! Changing is hard work but it is POSSIBLE!
Anxiety lives in your brain and in your body. The first step is to NOTICE where you feel anxiety in your body. Do you notice:
- Muscle tension – where? in what part of your body?
- Headaches- where is the pain located? is this headache different than other types of headaches?
- Stomach aches or other GI discomfort
- Heart racing
- Sweaty palms
Second, what do you notice in your thoughts? When you are anxious, what are you thinking? Are you:
- Catastrophizing – imagining the worst case scenario as the only option
- Ruminating – thinking of all the worst things over and over where it gets worse the more you think about it
- Projecting – imagine how you are feeling and then tell the other person they intended to make you feel that way
- Using unhelpful thinking – any worry that runs through your head that is out of your control and you can’t do anything about
- Intense irritation and annoyance
- Beating up on yourself
Keep track of these symptoms and discuss them with your therapist to start working on managing anxiety today!
We have been in the New Year for a few weeks. How is it going so far? People tend to love January because it feels like a fresh start. Everywhere you go you hear:
“New Year, New You!”
“What are your New Years Resolutions!?”
We all know that vague goals typically don’t work. “Lose weight” tends to be the a common one. I too am guilty of setting goals I don’t reach. That doesn’t feel great and might put some people off from setting personal goals altogether.
This year I am trying something different.
This year, I am only choosing a word.
The “word of the year” is a concept that helps you focus on achieving a goal in a simple way: by keeping it on your mind. One word that represents a personal goal or value can help guide every day and every interaction if you keep it in mind in everything you do. By writing that word down and remembering it, you can change the way you do everything to be more in line with that goal. Here are some examples:
My word this year is “relax.” I think of it several times every day, have it written down in important places I will see it, and have a picture as my phone background that helps me to remember that goal. I think of it when I go to make a decision or when I have down time. When I drive and remember to relax, it helps me to relax my body and drive safely. When I think of it at home, it might prompt me to exercise (since exercise releases endorphins that help you to feel relaxed), to stop and put my phone or computer away, to have a cup of tea, or maybe to clean up. When I am around other people and remember “relax,” I am kinder to others and less reactive to what might be said.
By just remembering one word I know I will end this year feeling more relaxed.
What is your word of the year??
One of the questions I hear a lot is, “how can I get them to change?” Whether the person is talking about a friend, a parent, a partner, or a co-worker, when we are unhappy with someone we usually want them to change.
Sometimes change is easy. You don’t like your clothes? Change into something more comfortable. Don’t like your cereal soggy? Eat it faster. We all encounter something we want to change that is distinctly more complicated than that. When the problem is within a relationship, our natural tendency is often to avoid it.
Dealing with conflict in a relationship can be nerve wracking. You may not be sure how the other person will respond. Will they be angry? Will they understand and change? If you never express yourself, you may not be respecting yourself. There is definitely a wrong way to effect change.
Here are some tips to being effective at changing others:
- Know exactly what you want to change, and stick to that topic.
- Have some evidence. You will need a couple examples that illustrate the problem.
- Know your role in the problem too.
- Attack the problem, not the person. Use “I” statements and say what you mean.
- If the person doesn’t change, change your thinking.
Here is how these steps might play out, say, if you want your friend to stop showing up late:
- Know exactly what you want to change, and stick to that one topic. Hey, I want to talk about when you were late.
- Have some evidence. You will need a couple examples that illustrate the problem. Yesterday when I invited you for game night we had to wait an hour for you to start the game.
- Know your role in the problem too. Maybe I didn’t really explain that I wanted to start at a specific time, and I’m sorry for that.
- Attack the problem, not the person. Use “I” statements and say what you mean. What can we do to work on this? Is there any way I can help so that we start on time next time?
- If the person doesn’t change, change your thinking. There is no benefit to being angry, it doesn’t help any of us. Maybe I will have to invite this person over earlier next time. We could start the game without him. We could adjust our schedules so it doesn’t matter if we start later. We could meet at my friend’s house instead.
Changing your thinking isn’t easy! Learning to challenge your own thoughts in order to feel happier is a skill you can learn to benefit yourself and those around you.