The winter doldrums have officially hit and many of us are going through that yearly period where our New Year’s Resolutions are falling by the wayside. It's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is the time of year when it’s most important to see the big picture. If you get caught up in the cold weather and feelings of failure because you once again failed to stick with your resolutions, you may be at risk of slipping into depression or starting to experience anxiety.
I find that focusing on living a life of intention at this time of year is helpful for many of my clients. What is a life of intention? It’s one based on your values. It involves making conscious decisions to live a meaningful life, rather than reacting to circumstances.
Here are five books about living intentionally that I recommend:
Five Wishes: How Answering One Simple Question Can Make Your Dreams Come True by Gay Hendricks
This short and inspiring read helps you drill down to the five things most important to you to help you focus on creating a meaningful life. If you want to know how to format an intention and begin living your life based on that intention, this book is for you.
The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul by Danielle LaPorte
This book is about a new approach to formatting intentions by focusing on how one wants to feel each day, rather than setting accomplishment goals. It breaks down how each choice leads to feeling a certain way. It illustrates how making continuous choices based on how you want to feel is much more important than checking goals off a list.
The Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions to Guide You to an Extraordinary Life by Debbie Ford
Debbie Ford is well-known for writing books that help others live lives of meaning. In fact, two of her books made this list. This particular book of hers is one of my favorites because it poses several questions you can ask yourself before making both large and small decisions. These questions help determine if the outcomes of the choices you have are aligning with your values, intentions and best interests.
The Best Year of Your Life: Dream It, Plan It, Live It by Debbie Ford
I love this book of Debbie Ford's for those struggling to keep their resolutions. It really helps you take your resolutions and break them down into a plan that can be accomplished over the course of the year, rather than just dropping them by the end of January. Ford's combination of setting intentions while also setting goals can be very helpful. She offers a concrete journey to follow while also honoring creativity.
This Year I Will…How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True by M.J. Ryan
This book takes a look at why it can be so hard to create and stick with the changes we want to make for ourselves. Ryan explains why it’s hard to change and offers ways to create new habits without being miserable in the process.
If the winter doldrums are hitting you hard, you’re not alone. Pick up one of these five books to get yourself back to a place where you can set meaningful goals and have a helpful path to achieve them.
Classic depression can be one of the most debilitating emotional conditions an individual can experience. Whether it is caused by an outside circumstance such as the death of a loved one, heredity, a chemical imbalance, or a combination of these, it can severely affect a person’s life. While high-functioning anxiety and depression may appear as overachievement, perfectionism and busy-ness, classic depression symptoms appear differently.
When most people think of depression, they think of the classic symptoms of depression:
One of the trickiest things about classic depression is it steals the ability to take care of one’s self. One may know exactly which coping skills will help them to feel better and still not use them because depression robs them of the motivation to care for themselves. This can lead to increased self-judgment, which leads to increased depression and a vicious cycle that becomes increasingly difficult to break.
Depending on the severity of depression one is experiencing, even reaching out to another or calling a therapist to make an appointment can feel like too much work or not worth it. However, untreated depression can easily lead to thoughts of self-harm and suicide.
Fortunately, depression IS treatable. The research has consistently shown that therapy and medication are effective in treating depression. In addition, the earlier treatment is started the more effective it can be.
If you are experiencing symptoms of classic depression, I encourage you to contact me to arrange for an initial consultation.
If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room for help.
Do you get anxious or depressed during the holidays? While many people enjoy the thought of shopping for the perfect gift, attending holiday parties, and spending quality time with family and friends, there are some who dread the holiday months. Something about the added pressure and the reduced daylight (and possibly the thought of spending another holiday alone) can really do a number on those who already fight anxiety and depression. If you find you would rather crawl under the covers and hide than attend one more holiday happy hour, you’re not alone. It’s vital that you take good care of yourself during this stressful season so you can get through to the new year. Here are 7 ideas:
1. Say No
There is no law saying you need to participate in every single holiday tradition or attend every holiday get-together. Pick and choose the things you find most enjoyable and say no to the rest. While some people may throw out the ‘Scrooge’ word, those who are close to you will understand.
2. Do Shopping Online
Even Christmas-lovers often find shopping to be a less than fun experience—especially if they are braving the malls during the month of December. While you probably can’t opt out of gift-giving completely, you can avoid the madhouses of stores and do most of your shopping from the comfort of your own home.
3. Take a Vacation
Do you have to stay in town for the holidays? Unless you have family get-togethers you need to attend, there is nothing to say you can’t take a fun road trip or go somewhere else not holiday-related during the month of December. Sometimes just the change of scenery can do wonders for your mood.
4. Get Enough Rest
Day after day of after-work parties, wrapping presents, baking cookies…it can all get exhausting. During this time of year, it’s vital that you get enough rest—especially if you already have a tough time dealing with the season. Make a point to get sufficient sleep every night and don’t be afraid to leave a few parties early to do so.
5. Indulge in Favorites
While everyone else is watching their 20th Lifetime Christmas movie, you can be tuning into your favorite (non-holiday) movie or television series. Many people feel pressured to partake in everything the holiday has to offer including music, movies, TV, and events—and it can be overwhelming. Make sure you sprinkle in some regular favorites so you don’t lose track of what really makes you happy.
6. Hang Out with Those You Are Close To
It’s likely you have a couple close friends and family members who understand your aversion to the holidays. Why not spend more time with them rather than the scores of acquaintances who look at you funny when you tell them Christmas isn’t really your thing? When you spend time with those who love you, you’ll feel supported and cared for instead of judged.
7. Share Your Feelings
Are you afraid to tell anyone your true thoughts about the holidays? When you push down feelings, they don’t go away. They either get worse or they burst out when you least expect it (like when Aunt Frannie asks if you have a new boyfriend to bring to her Christmas Eve party this year). If you can’t share how you really feel with friends or family, you should consider talking to a counselor or a therapist who can help you work through it.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for all of us. It’s okay if the holidays aren’t your favorite season and it’s understandable they could add to your feelings of depression or anxiety. Try the above seven tips to take care of yourself this year and if you’d like to talk, please reach out so we can book a therapy session.
In 1849 Henry David Thoreau published Civil Disobedience in which he penned the famous line: The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Now, so many years later, many people wonder why they feel a sense of “quiet desperation.” They aren’t sure why, despite their lives filled with activity, they have a sense of melancholy. They don’t believe they could be experiencing anxiety or depression. After all, if they were anxious or depressed they wouldn’t be able to attend to all their commitments, show up for work, school, social activities, etc. Many have the idea that anxiety and depression means one can’t get out of bed, can’t get to work or school, and can’t have relationships with partners, family, or friends. The truth is people can be high-functioning AND anxious or depressed.
While many of the typical signs of depression and anxiety relate to impairment or reduction of functioning, some people with anxiety and depression are able to function and even over-function to avoid experiencing painful feelings. Individuals with high-functioning anxiety and depression are ones who often go above and beyond--they volunteer for every committee, they work extra hours to complete the project, they have trouble saying no, and they can be viewed as the one who can handle anything. Often, from the outside they appear to “have it all together.”
However, at the end of the day, no matter how much they have accomplished, how much they have filled every minute of the day, those with high-functioning anxiety and depression carry a sense of “quiet desperation.” They wonder what the point is as they drive between meetings. They lay down at night and wonder if they are the only ones who feel it’s all kind of pointless. They tell themselves “After I finish this next project, after I graduate, after I get the next promotion, I won’t feel this sense of foreboding each day when I get out of bed.” The reality is when the next goal is conquered, the depression or anxiety continues to stay with them. Often, this leads to questions of “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be satisfied? Why do others seem so impressed by my accomplishments, but I find little value in them?”
Of course, when most of the people around us are impressed by our accomplishments, it’s even more difficult to express those feelings of depression and anxiety. Continuously receiving positive feedback from others for having it all together makes it difficult to reach out and say, “I know it looks like I have it all together, but inside, I feel like a mess.” After all, who is going to believe that? The last time that truth was expressed it was met by the other person rattling off a laundry list of all the accomplishments you’ve had and why you shouldn’t feel that way. Anxiety and depression can be isolating. High-functioning anxiety and depression are especially lonely.
Do you think you may be experiencing high-functioning anxiety and/or depression? It’s crucial to recognize how you’re feeling and seek help. You may find that meeting with a therapist will help you take steps to a more fulfilling life. If you’re interested in talking more, please contact me to book a session.
Many people associate anxiety disorders with debilitating panic attacks, an inability to participate in social situations, and other symptoms such as tics or obsessive rituals. However, some people who struggle with anxiety don’t display the symptoms normally associated with anxiety, yet it continues to impact them on a daily basis. These individuals could easily be living with high-functioning anxiety. And though it may not keep them housebound or cause them to completely withdraw from life, it can still have a huge impact. Here are five signs you may have high-functioning anxiety:
1. You Lose a Lot of Sleep
Those with high-functioning anxiety often have a tough time shutting their brain off at night. They keep trying to solve the world’s problems or continue to plan for the following day long after they should be shutting down and relaxing. If you have frequent insomnia and struggle with fatigue during the day, it could be due to anxiety.
2. You’ve Been Called An Overachiever
Many people with high-functioning anxiety don’t realize they have a problem because they’ve been praised in the past for how much they accomplish. Perfectionism is a hallmark trait of those with anxiety and it can lead to some pretty impressive output. However, it can also mean crippling fear of failure or what others think—and is a sign of anxiety.
3. You Have a Fear of Not Staying Busy
Most people with high-functioning anxiety can’t stand downtime. Whether its due to the fear of not getting enough done or the overwhelming worries that crop up when their minds and bodies aren’t busy, high-functioning anxiety sufferers often find ways to cram their days full of activity.
4. You Often Feel Sad for No Reason
Many people don’t realize that anxiety and depression are two sides to the same coin. The two conditions play into each other and those who have high-functioning anxiety are more prone to high-functioning depression as well. Not taking enough time for yourself, overscheduling, and fear of what others think can easily lead to feeling sad and unsure of your place in the world.
5. You’re Afraid You’re Not Enough
Individuals with high-functioning anxiety often over-commit and put others before themselves because they secretly think they’re not enough. They convince themselves that if they can just do more for other people, they will earn approval. Unfortunately, the only approval they really need comes from within—and those with anxiety have a difficult time of finding self-acceptance and love.
Do you have high-functioning anxiety or depression? Just because you can still tend to daily events and live a relatively full life, you might still benefit by talking with a therapist. If you’d like to book a session, please reach out.
I often receive calls from people seeking therapy who are unsure if they have anxiety or depression. What many of my clients find is they are experiencing both at the same time. In some ways, this combination can elicit the proverbial question: which comes first the chicken or the egg? Those who experience untreated anxiety may find over time they begin to experience depression due to the limitations their anxiety is imposing on their lives. Those who experience depression may find the inability to participate in life in the way that would like to be an anxiety-provoking situation.
There have been several studies that document the co-occurrence of anxiety and depression. While it is clear that these two diagnoses can occur together, the rate at which they do so can vary slightly depending on the study one reviews. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America about ½ of those experiencing depression are also experiencing anxiety. Another resource from Psychiatric Times reports anxiety and depression occur together up to 60% of the time. Clearly, there is a connection between anxiety and depression; but the reason why is yet unclear.
Some Signs You May Be Experiencing Anxiety and Depression:
The good news is the research shows both anxiety and depression are treatable with therapy. If you are questioning if you have anxiety or depression, please contact me and we can arrange a therapy session.
Growing up, most of us look forward to that fabulous day when we’ll be on our own. We think that becoming an adult means an endless party where we get to eat whenever we want, set our own bedtimes, and be free from the constraints that we believe are having a negative impact on our lives. However, when we reach the age where we leave for college or move out of our parent’s home, the reality is usually quite a bit different. The responsibility of taking care of ourselves paired with the often crippling fear of making the wrong decisions can lead many away from the happy life we imagined and into one marked by anxiety and depression.
However, this time still can be one of the most exciting and exhilarating periods of your life if you’re willing to embrace uncertainty, ask for help when you need it, and start making decisions you can feel good about. Here are 5 quotes I’ve found that have helped my clients be happier and more secure on their road to independence:
With courage, we can all better get to know ourselves and share our gifts with the world.
Risk vs. reward is always a theme in the lives of young adults who have recently struck out on their own. Once you realize the risk of NOT blooming is greater than the risks that come with taking action, you have taken a major step toward independence.
A good Dr. Seuss quote can help anyone deal with a little anxiety. I love this quote from Oh! The Places You’ll Go. I recommend every young adult add a copy of this book to their library.
I love Nora Ephron because she says stuff like this. One good way to combat anxiety is to stop worrying about what others will think and go make your own mark!
I love this quote for the freedom it inspires. It doesn’t matter if you make some wrong choices, go out there and explore!
As you begin your independent journey, keep these quotes handy to help guide you on your way. Live you dreams and remember that this life is yours and yours alone—you must do what speaks to your heart.
If you are struggling with indecision, fear of regret, feeling lost, or experiencing anxiety or depression, please contact me and we can arrange a therapy session.
Most people think that the decade of our 20s is the one most packed with excitement, discovery, and the enjoyment of a world packed with possibilities. Whether you are looking forward to your 20s or looking back on them, you probably see this as the one time in your life when you can truly be free. The reality for those in their 20s, however, can be much different. With possibilities come choices. And with choices come regret.
As you’ve left high school, entered your early twenties and made decisions along the way, each decision you have made has reduced the number of options available to you in the future. This can feel empowering or it can feel overwhelming and create unnecessary pressure and anxiety about what comes next. Many are worried they will make decisions they will later regret.
I took a very unscientific poll of the women I know who have moved past their twenties. I asked them to look back on that decade and share with me the things they would have done differently if they had a second chance. Overwhelmingly, the response was they would have gone after what they wanted—whether that was a different career, travel, singlehood, coupledom, etc. They wouldn’t have listened as much to what others had said about their choices and followed their own dreams. My findings were consistent with a wide variety of studies, two of which were featured in Huffington Post and Business Insider.
When my clients come to me with worry about what they’re going to do with their lives and fear of regret, I find that one question is very helpful in clarifying their goals and dreams. It’s called the Death Bed Question, and though it may seem pretty grim, it really works. I have my clients ask themselves, “On my death bed, will I regret more having made decision A or decision B?” In most cases, decision A involves doing something while decision B involves not doing that same thing. Guess which one most people realize they will regret more?
This question has been very empowering for my therapy clients (and I admit I’ve used it myself from time to time). When asking yourself this question, visualize your future or journal as you contemplate the implications. Be open to all ideas that come to you and don’t let yourself be limited by thoughts of “But that won’t work” or “How will I accomplish that?”. When you begin asking yourself this question regularly and making note of your answers, you can begin looking for patterns that will helps you prioritize your goals. This will help you live with intention, which is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety.
When considering the many options that lay before you in your 20s, it is very helpful to look ahead to what decisions you wish you would have made when you are in your twilight years. Instead of focusing on regret, focus on possibility. As the poet Mary Oliver said in her poem The Summer Day: ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’
If you are struggling with indecision, fear of regret, feeling lost, or experiencing anxiety or depression, please contact me and we can arrange a therapy session.
So you’ve landed your first real job after college. Congratulations! This is a big step in anyone’s life and it can be an exciting and exhilarating time. However, it can also trigger some major anxiety, especially if you are already prone to worry and doubt. Fortunately, there are some ways you can prepare yourself mentally for your new position that will help you curb anxiety before it can even start. Here are five ways to beat that new job anxiety and shine in your brand new career!
Set an Intention
Who do you want to be in your new position? How do you want to show up? Knowing this before you even walk in the door is important. If you want to be confident yet coachable, you will know you need to walk in with good self-esteem and an openness to feedback. When you have a firm image in your mind of who you will be and how you want this to look to your co-workers and bosses, you’ll have a mind map to follow when worry and doubt rear their ugly heads.
Create an Affirmation
When you feel anxiety rising, it can be very helpful to have an affirmation you can fall back on. Make it short and simple so you can easily remember it. Something like “I am calm” or “I am capable” are great reminders to repeat over and over in your head when you start to feel panic.
Those prone to anxiety have a tendency to imagine worst-case scenarios and play them out repeatedly in their minds. Instead of imagining flubbing that big presentation or spilling coffee on your boss, visualize giving a great speech or impressing your co-workers with your contribution to a project.
Assume the Best
Why did the secretary not greet you when you walked in the front door? How come your cubicle space still has the last person’s junk in it? It’s easy to assume the worst when you walk into a new job. Automatically thinking that the secretary hates you on sight or that no one cared enough about you to provide you with a clean space sets you up for failure. Always assuming that those you work with have the best of intentions helps you keep a positive perspective.
Be Nice to Yourself
Starting a new job is going to have some pitfalls and you are going to make mistakes. Beating yourself up for every mis-step is bound to lead to anxiety and impact your job performance. Remember to take responsibility for your choices, acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake, then chalk it up to experience and move on with a positive attitude.
Your first big job is an important step on your road to success and helps create a framework for your life as an adult. If you are prone to anxiety, remember the five above tips to help curb thoughts before they can turn into troublesome feelings and actions. When you show up with confidence, assume the best, and give yourself a break when needed, you’ll set yourself up for early success.
If you question if you are experiencing anxiety or depression, please contact me and we can arrange for a therapy session.
Moms of girls can have it pretty rough. There’s the awkward tween years, the drama-filled teens, and the inevitable friction between what you want for your daughter and what they insist is good for them (even when you know it’s not). Most moms think that once their daughter is grown and out of the house, it all becomes easier. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Some moms find that interacting a daughter who has entered her 20s is more difficult than parenting one who is still growing up. Maybe you’ve noticed she seems unhappy but can’t quite figure out what’s going on with her. Perhaps she doesn’t seem like herself anymore. If she’s out on her own, you probably don’t see her as much as you used to and it can be difficult to know what’s going on in her life. If you suspect she’s not coping well with life, you probably don’t know how to help as you can’t just make doctor’s appointment for her like you did when she was younger.
Remember when you were in your 20s? It can be a tough time. With so many life transitions occurring in this decade, many young women experience anxiety and/or depression as a result. I’ve created this list as a guide to assist mothers in helping their 20-something daughters struggling through this time.
To help your daughter:
If you believe your daughter may be experiencing anxiety or depression, please feel free to have her contact me to arrange for a therapy session.
Jessica is a mental health therapist who specializes in helping women free themselves from anxiety, depression, and other stress-related conditions. She is honored to witness the experiences of her clients and work with them toward meaningful lives.