How to Cope with the Stress of Making College Decisions

Spring can be a tense time for many high school seniors. Those who plan on going to college are finally hearing back from the schools to which they applied. (All while you wrap up finals, projects, and AP tests.)

While rejection is never easy, it becomes even more stressful when it can put the next four years of your life up in the air. You may worry that you’ll only be successful at your dream school, but it’s important to keep an open mind about every application you sent in. After all, you saw something of value when you applied, so try to keep that in focus as you hear back.

Here are some tips on how to cope with the stress of making that final college decision.

Avoid Black-and-White Thinking 

Black-and-white thinking is another way to say “thinking in absolutes”. For example, thinking, “If I don’t get into College A, then I’ll never go on to get my masters.” Or, “If I go to College B, I’ll always end up with low-paying jobs.”

Remember that right now, you’re every college’s primary target in advertising. Colleges flex high job placement rates, high average grades, and other appealing feats to convince students that going to their school is what made them successful students.

However, the truth is that success can come from anywhere. It’s about the work you put in, not where you put in that work. Consider the success stories of college drop-outs like Bill Gates, or, on a smaller scale, Claire Coder.

Consider the Best and Worst-Case Scenarios

Avoiding talking about the results we’re dreading only gives them more power over us. It makes space for anxiety to build and narrows your vision for the future.

Instead, rationally discuss the best and worst-case scenarios with a parent, friend, or counselor.

Best-case scenario? You get into your dream school and study the major you set your focus on years ago. Worst-case scenario? You attend a different school and discover a new field that interests you like nothing has before.

To ease your mind, know that around 80% of students change their major at least once over the course of college. One 2020 study even found that 61% of degree holders would change their majors if they could do it all again. (Though 82% still believe that going was a smart financial investment.)

What may be life-or-death to you now could be regrettable by the time you’re 25—there’s no way to know! Let this take some of the pressure off making the “right” decision now. Life comes with changes, and there’s not always a clear right or wrong answer.

Get to Know Who You Are Without College Attached

Remember, you’re so much more than a degree holder. No matter where you go, it can never take away from the strengths you already have. Maybe you’re a phenomenal guitarist, a caring friend, a competitive gamer, or an excellent party planner.

Take time to love and nourish these parts of yourself as your senior year comes to a close. Not everyone even goes to college, but does that make them any less of a person? Of course not!

Lean Into Your Senior Year

While you may be preoccupied with college decisions in your off-time, try to stay present when those once-in-a-lifetime senior year events happen. Get excited about spirit week, have fun planning for prom, attend those last few sporting events, and do the little traditions that your school has.

Paint the rock out front, get breakfast with friends on senior skip day, or have a hand in the class prank. Try not to take things too seriously right now.

If you’re struggling to separate your identity from your college decision, try talking it out with a counselor. Together, we can work on grounding techniques that will set you up for success no matter where you end up.

You’ve got this.

Socializing and Dating in a Maskless World: How to Approach It

Did you know that people with small social networks tend to have smaller amygdalas than those with large networks? The amygdala is the part of our brain in charge of emotional processing, and having a smaller one can cause you to turn down a paranoid, negative road.

Many of us became grumps during the pandemic.

People didn’t follow enough rules, people didn’t loosen up enough when the rules were off, people didn’t care about other people, they only cared about themselves…

The frustrated list of spiraling thoughts goes on. We’ve all been there.

When we limit ourselves to only a few people, our ability to sympathize and socialize shrinks. If you’re feeling a bit rusty in conversations these days, you’re not alone, and you’re not to blame. It’s simply psychology that you need time to adjust.

Accept That We’re All a Little Socially Anxious Right Now

Two weeks of change is something we can bounce back from. Years of change, however, cements in our bodies as learned behaviors. Plus, many people experienced trauma associated with coronavirus, whether through losing a loved one, a physical ability, their sense of community, or their steady income.

Everyone was told that wearing masks and social distancing was the safest thing we could do. Reverting back to what we did before may be fine, but what if we grew accustomed to wearing masks and enjoying a little more personal space?

Standing close to strangers on a crowded sidewalk again triggers that alarm in our 2020 brain, saying, “Back up! This is dangerous!” Even if it’s not dangerous anymore, the act alone is something we associate with danger. It still feels dangerous, even when it’s not.

Pushing ourselves into circumstances that feel dangerous triggers feelings of anxiety. To ease the discomfort, remind yourself that everyone’s nervous in some way. You’re allowed to have awkwardly timed comments on a date, because odds are your date will, too.

Start with a Small Friend Group, Then Slowly Open Up to Friends-of-Friends

Some people may prefer to face their fears head-on, and though they feel anxious, they still accept the invite to visit a crowded amusement park. Exposure therapy is their preferred route.

However, not everyone likes to cannonball into cold swimming pools. Others prefer to dip a toe in, then their leg, then their torso, then their head. Some people would rather wade in the shallow end until they get up the nerve to swim again.

If you’re nervous to get out there again, consider taking it slow. Meet a friend for coffee instead of attending your first 10+ person party in two years. Plan a four-person board game night instead of an entire family reunion. Science tells us that habitual, small steps help manage the anxiety that comes with re-entry.

When it comes to dating, don’t be afraid to pull a vibe check with a FaceTime call instead of a more intimate dinner. Dating multiple people until you find “the one” is normal, so if you fear physically meeting multiple people right now, take advantage of in-between options like video calls to see if moving forward is even worth it.

Allow Yourself to Crave Social Time and Be Afraid of It At the Same Time

Many of us crave the good times we used to have meeting enchanting strangers at parties, long-lost family members at weddings, and friends of friends at brunch. However, our conversations with them now may be tainted with hesitation. And that’s okay.

No matter what, social muscles are resilient things. Depending on how social we were before the pandemic, many of us have changed brain chemistry simply due to social isolation and feelings of loneliness.

Turn having fear back to having fun. Working with a therapist like myself to explore coping skills and dispel irrational anxieties is a great way to transition back into normal life.

Schedule your first appointment with us today.

4 Tips to Manage Stress in an Uncertain World

Many people avoid stress proactively by living in a predictable routine. They wake up, go to work, see some friends, and wind down for the day. Living this way gives us a sense of control over our own lives and minimizes the amount of anxiety we risk.

If anything is going to force millions of people to change their routines, it’s a global pandemic.

COVID-19 took many things from us—the people we love, the jobs we rely on, the activities that energize us, and more. You may feel vulnerable and stressed now more than ever before. You may even hesitate to integrate old habits back into your life out of fear of losing them again.

Fret not—while we can’t stop unexpected events from happening, we can manage the stress they bring to our lives. Here are four ways to manage stress in an ever-uncertain world.

1. Limit How Often You Consume the News 

You can convince yourself that keeping up with the news makes you “well-informed”, but the truth is that it also makes you pretty depressed. While we live in a globalized world, most of our day-to-day life is affected by the things directly around us.

Your day is more likely to be thrown off by your child getting sick and needing someone to stay home with them than it is by the opinion of a politician on the other side of the world.

Yes, it’s absolutely important to stay connected with the rest of humanity. However, knowing every little detail about major events that happen every single day is information overload. Clear your head by clearing your feed and setting personal boundaries on how often you take in the news.

2. Focus on What You Can Control

Sometimes, our brains imagine the worst-case scenario before we get the chance to catch ourselves. That’s okay! The important thing is not to ruminate on it.

Instead, focus on what you can control. Ritualize the minor parts of your everyday life. Plan your outfit before going to bed, engage in weekly meal-planning, come up with an exercise routine, and get into a TV show that gives you something to look forward to.

Self-care doesn’t have to be as luxurious as Instagram sometimes makes it look. It can be as simple as prioritizing a diet that fuels you, planning activities that relax you, and cutting back on obligations that prevent you from getting enough sleep or time with those you love.

3. Be Patient with Yourself

Studies show that not everyone sees uncertainty the same way. Some people become inspired by the “challenge”, while others are fearful of the unknown.

If you’re in the latter half, you may struggle with negative thoughts, excessive anxiety, and irritable moods. These are totally normal responses to living through chaos, so there’s no reason to blame yourself.

Instead, try reflecting on the worst days in your life before this. The times you blanked on stage, tripped in the hallway, or ran out of gas on the highway. Remind yourself, “I got through hard times before, I can get through hard times again.”

4. Ask For Help (Even Before You Need It)

Let’s be honest: some of us are isolators. Things go wrong and without a second thought, we stop checking our emails, cancel all upcoming events, and curl up into bed for a couple of weeks.

While some people see asking for help as a sign of weakness, it’s actually a sign of love, humility, and strength. It shows your loved ones that you trust and respect them enough to influence your life for the better.

Where your support network fails, a therapist can step in. Some thoughts just feel too personal to talk about with friends. Therapists can help you identify harmful thinking patterns and repetitive behaviors that limit your ability to bounce back from stress.

Looking to get started? Schedule your first appointment with me today.

Feeling Like Life Is Out of Your Control? How to Stay Calm During Uncertain Times

When we struggle with our mental health, our sense of identity and self-esteem comes into question. Losing control over our own emotions makes us feel weak, as if we did something wrong to lose it in the first place.

The truth about life is that we can’t control everything. However, going through hard times doesn’t immediately change the person we are. We still have control over the way we treat ourselves.

Here are some tips to help you remain calm, even when life feels out of control.

Everything that was true about you before is still true now.

Maybe you used to feel on top of the world, super productive, and able to support anyone who needed your help. Now, you feel on the verge of tears out of exhaustion after a single lunch outing with your friends.

Just because you’re drained and not able to tap into the high-energy, supportive friend you know yourself to be doesn’t mean that you’re not still that friend. You are still that friend, just a tired version of them. You didn’t change, your circumstances did, and you’re learning to navigate them.

Feel like you can’t trust yourself? Lean on someone else for now.

Feeling like you’re making the wrong moves at every turn can be isolating. You miss a deadline at work, so you work late. Working late made you miss date night, so you buy your partner a small gift on the way home. You left the small gift on the top of your car in the parking lot, and now you come home empty-handed.

Pause and acknowledge how much effort you’re putting in vs. how re-energized you feel after putting in the effort. If you’re scrambling to keep it all together, it’s probably because it’s too much for one person to do right now.

Get comfortable learning how to ask for help. Asking for help can look like…

  • Communicating with your manager or coworker that you don’t have time to fulfill a task and require support. (It does not look like admitting you “failed” or stubbornly working away until you’re burnt out.)
  • Coming up with creative solutions to build intimacy with your partner in a way that works for your mental health right now. (You don’t have the energy to get nice and dolled up for a date, but you’d love to cozy up on the couch and read side-by-side.)
  • Acknowledging that you have a limit, and being honest when you’ve hit it. (If you feel frazzled and stuck in a cycle of “Once [this thing] happens, I’ll be okay,” it’s time to try therapy. There, you can develop coping skills that help you in the present, instead of blindly believing it’ll all work out in the future.)

Tell yourself your story from an alternate angle.

When multiple bad things happen to us in a row, it’s easy to sum it up as, “Everyone’s just out to get me this week,” or “My depression wins again.”

You always have the power to change your story. A depressive episode can make you feel stuck at the mercy of your condition, or it can direct your attention to something that’s been bothering you for some time.

Instead of seeing it as a setback, view it as an opportunity to pause and re-discover yourself. When you start seeing off-days as opportunities to refresh yourself instead of inconvenient road-blockers, you put yourself first and your contributions to society second.

At the end of the day, you’re a person who needs support. If you feel too out of control to give it to yourself, work with a counselor trained to help you. Accept that maybe right now, you’re a little broken. Believe that recovery is possible and invest in the tools that are designed to heal you.

Brush off the excuses that something won’t work, and try it anyway.

Coping with Anxiety While Waiting for College Application Results

As your high school career comes to an end, it seems like the only questions your family asks these days are about college. Why can’t the questions go back to being about sports? Or your favorite TV show?

Escape the looming anxiety about college applications by shifting your thinking before those letters come in. Let’s talk about how to cope with anxiety before hearing your college application results.

You’re Not Crazy, and You’re Not the Only One Panicking

The adults in your life may act like getting into college is all about grades, hard work, and “earning” it. However, for some people, getting into college is more determined by factors like affordability, accessibility, and equal opportunity. If a well-funded public high school can afford to offer several AP and honors courses, their students will be more prepared for college-level content and classroom structures.

Under-funded public high schools are less likely to offer courses like this, putting their students at a disadvantage when they apply. Some universities attempt to compensate for this by using a holistic approach when reviewing applicants. However, this can leave the handful of students who do attend feeling like fish out of water, putting them at risk of dropping out from the academic pressure and culture shift.

We’re also facing a public health crisis around anxiety in high-achieving school districts because of the competitive nature of it all. That, plus the cultural expectation that you need a degree to secure a living wage and reasonable benefits, is enough to make someone feel desperate to succeed.

Pick the Best Fit For You, Not the “Best” School of the Year

It’s important to remember that colleges are businesses. They benefit from appearing on ranked click-bait lists, like “The Top 10 Most Fun Colleges in the U.S.” or “The Best Marketing Colleges to Apply For”. These lists have nothing to do with you and everything to do with that college wanting to get their name out.

Instead of considering what college is objectively the “best”, focus on what college would be best for you. If all your applications could be great fits, then one acceptance letter shouldn’t mean more than another. If you go to the “best” college that picks you simply because you think it’s the “best”, you may end up putting yourself at risk for more achievement pressure and burnout—two things that lead to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Reshape How You Think About Status

If you’re someone who gets anxious about parental approval, this statistic might help you breathe easier. One developmental psychologist found that most parents prefer to raise a caring child over a high-achieving child.

While larger colleges come with the added benefit of a broad alumni network, that doesn’t guarantee you more success than a smaller college would. (Especially if you’re worried about large classes deterring you from connecting with your professors.) You may find that building your own professional network outside of your school’s alumni proves to be more fulfilling.

You’re Done Testing, Applying, and Essay-Writing… Enjoy Your Senior Year!

Senior year can be bittersweet. You want to celebrate all the senior nights and drive around with your hometown besties until the last possible second. Don’t be afraid to dive into it all!

Your head may be spinning with thoughts of, “I didn’t do enough,” “I could’ve pulled that C up to a B,” or “Why couldn’t I come up with a better ending to my essay?” Hindsight bias can really drag down your senior year if you let it get to you.

Remember—you performed the best you could at the time with the tools and energy you had available. It’s easy to say you could’ve found a better path forward when you’re looking back at it from the other side.

If you want more support to get you through this stressful time, schedule an appointment with me today to develop more coping skills that work for you.

Coping with Uncertain Times: How to Handle COVID’s Changes

In a COVID-19 world, uncertainty dances around us every day. New variants are forming, new vaccines are coming out, and mask guidelines vary from city to city. It’s all pretty anxiety-inducing, but there are things you can do to cope.

Our brains are wired to see ambiguity as a threat. When we try to focus on something else, our brain redirects us back to resolving those feelings of uncertainty. However, this doesn’t mean that focusing on uncertainty is the best solution to resolving it.

Studies show that job uncertainty can have a more significant effect on your health than actually losing a job will. Similarly, in one study, participants who were told they had a 50% chance of feeling a shock felt more anxiety than those who knew for certain they were getting shocked.

Let this speak volumes to the importance of feeling safe and secure for the sake of your mental health.

“Knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” – John Allen Paulos

Resisting the idea that COVID-19 comes with an amount of uncertainty will only lead you toward delusions. It’s true, you’ve probably never faced something like this in your life. However, that doesn’t mean you’re excused from accepting it as real.

Instead of suppressing the emotions you feel about COVID, let yourself feel them. Accept them as the only truth you know these days. Resisting them will only let them fester and grow in intensity, potentially resulting in an underlying anxiety disorder or feelings of depression.

See life for what it is right now—challenging, frustrating, and for some, really boring. Don’t lie to yourself, it totally is. Accepting the current situation means allowing your emotions to flow and then exit, because they’re simply not helpful right now.

This doesn’t mean you should turn into a doormat for people to walk all over because nothing ever gets to you. Rather, it means lowering your expectations for what’s possible for the time being.

Right now, we have multiple COVID variants, several vaccines, and lots of time to wait for people to catch up on the research and eventually, slow the spread. It’s not ideal, but it’s realistic and the only option we have right now.

Comfort Yourself in Healthy Ways

While we wait for the rest of the world to catch up, let’s take care of ourselves in the meantime. Feelings of anxiety can pair with a desperation for dopamine, making unhealthy “rewards” like drinking, binge-eating, or doom-scrolling through social media especially tempting.

Fill your dopamine meter in healthy ways, like going for hikes with friends, flipping through old memory boxes, or watching a funny movie. It’s not indulgent to take care of yourself as long as you’re doing it in healthy ways.

Take Everything You Hear with a Grain of Salt

Rumors about COVID are constantly flying. Protect your sanity by assuming everything you hear from friends has an asterisk that means “may be true upon doing the research myself.” Allowing yourself to believe and get worked up by other people’s “facts” that are blown out of proportion for the storytelling of it all can leave you feeling frazzled.

Don’t go through the grieving process if you have no one to grieve, and don’t convince yourself you’re in danger when you know you took the steps toward being safe.

When In Doubt, Seek It Out

Go out of your way to find the information you need from a trusted source, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or your state’s website outlining COVID-19 guidance.

If you have all the COVID information you need and just need helping to cope with the stress of it all, consider starting counseling. Together, we can build an arsenal of coping skills to get you through this difficult time.

Is It Normal to Feel Anxiety Around the Holidays? How to Cope

Just over 60% of Americans report feeling stressed around the holidays. That’s a pretty high number for a time of year that’s characterized by joy, giving, and love.

Plenty of people deal with excess anxiety around the holidays, and for good reason. We spend time with family that we have a lot of history with. (Sometimes more history than we’d prefer.) Memories can come flooding back, and for people who struggle with trauma, it can pose a serious threat to their mental well-being.

The holidays also bring a host of logistical planning that can crush any holiday spirit. Don’t let that hold you back from enjoying the holidays the way you want to.

Let’s talk about how to cope with rising anxiety around the holidays, from the planning to the partying stages.

Let Go of the Holiday “Shoulds”

We’re two winters into the pandemic, and there’s more pressure than ever to have a knock-out holiday experience. However, just because the year was tough for some of us doesn’t mean we should have to work overtime to make it enjoyable.

Instead, drop the “shoulds”. Sure, you should deep-clean the house. You should bake cookies to pass out. You should get a real tree this year.

If you feel especially burnt out this time of year, use the holidays as an opportunity to relax. Be realistic about what you can and cannot handle. If you can’t afford extravagant holiday decor, make paper snowflakes and hang them all around the house. If you don’t want the added stress of cooking something intricate, switch out a couple of plates for something pre-made and easily re-heatable.

The important thing is that you spend the holidays genuinely connecting with others and focusing on love. You may think that checking off the copy-paste list of holiday “shoulds” will make you feel accomplished, but they are more likely to add stress to your plate.

Invite All of Your Emotions to Holiday Dinner

Save a seat for more than just joy this holiday season. Don’t whitewash your feelings because you think it’s what the family wants—come as you are. Being able to hold multiple feelings at once builds your resilience and helps to form a strong sense of purpose.

So feel your feelings! It’s ok to be sad about a missing face at dinner but excited about the annual family poker tournament after. Resisting negative feelings because you find them inconvenient only encourages them to come back again and again.

Journal through your feelings, talk them out with a loved one, or feel them deeply through art.

Take Breaks When You Need One

Some people feel confined to their seats when celebrating the holidays with family. Remember, the point is for you to celebrate, too. In order to do that, you need to feel refreshed.

There’s nothing wrong with stepping out of the room to take a walk around the block or settle into a quiet corner to read alone for 20 minutes. We all need mental and social breaks, and it’s okay if you need more of them around the family.

See Your Family At Their Best

For only one day, try to accept your family for who they are. There may be unresolved feelings, unmet expectations, or awkward cold shoulders. Accept your family as they come this year, and put in a pin in the grievances until after the holidays. Recognize that tonight is probably not the most productive night to open Pandora’s box. In January, it could be!

Remember, you are not the only one feeling anxious this holiday season. Your family may be feeling the stress, too. Things may go wrong, but you have the power to react with understanding.

Looking for emotional support and guidance after the holidays? Start counseling with us today.

Me and Covid Anxiety

As a therapist, sometimes I feel I am holding space for our collective human history, our current crises, and the infinite possibilities ahead of us. It is an odd thing to say how grateful I am to be experiencing the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but I believe I am witnessing my generation’s shift in human evolution. There have been many prior transformations caused by plagues, wars, famines, industrial advancements and the like, but the speed at which we are now changing, evolving and growing is a hundred-fold faster due to our technological advancements and global connectedness.

A single thought can span the earth with a touch of a button. That one thought can be multiplied by a billion if it becomes “viral”.  We are slowly moving away from solely relying on our five senses into an energetic world that will require a deeper inner search for the meaning of our existence. We are birthing a new human into being and I feel I am one of the million or more midwives helping guide the process, as the world contracts in agony in order to expand with more spaciousness for everyone. Pandemics, world wars, human rights violations, terrorist attacks and other major chaotic events and catastrophes, shake us to the core. We are in the midst of experiencing such an event and how we proceed, what happens next and the world we create will depend on the choices we make now.

My part in this pandemic, as a psychotherapist, is to hold the space for my clients as they suffer, anguish, despair and grow. I do not feel responsible for the masses, but I do have individuals, couples and families that connect with me each week, seeking support as they confront their personal emotional upheavals. I believe we are collectively suffering from losing what we defined to be normal and displaying any one of the stages in the grieving process from “denial” to “bargaining” and even making valiant attempts at “acceptance”.

Sometimes I practice mindfulness exercises with my clients to demonstrate how toxic narratives around covid-19 can cause intense anxiety while the truth of the present moment reality is entirely calm, peaceful, and completely safe. In general, we can all benefit from meditation practices especially now as we are constantly bombarded with news on how the rising number of infections and deaths are exhausting our already stressed medical system. We need to be mindful of how we create our own panic and dread when we allow our fears to take control of our thoughts and project us into future scenes which are not currently happening.

In this moment, we are asking ourselves some very difficult existential questions as we face our mortality and wonder whether the life we have is the one we want to continue living, once we are allowed to resume our routines and pursue our goals. Many of us are questioning our life choices. Is this person right for me? Who am I if I am not my job? Do I want to have baby on my own? Am I worthy of love? It is true that these questions are some of the typical reasons why clients usually come to therapy, but right now it feels like everything is accelerated and time is of the essence.

Sometimes I feel I am playing the role of protector and guide during this spiritual awakening. These meaning of life conversations are becoming more common place amongst my clients, and we have a chance to discuss all the “woo woo” stuff without judgment or ridicule. We talk about reincarnation, past lives, how to make the most of this one, faith and religion, and anything that feels a bit too out there to share with friends or family.

As for me and Covid-19, I am at peace. Sometimes I fluctuate with exhaustion or anxiety, and then return to gratitude and peace once more. It has been a very long and arduous journey to get where I am, and I know life will always find a way to remind me how much I still have to learn and how little I actually understand about anything. But one thing I know for sure is how I feel when I can help another human being in distress, without attachment, without needing praise or validation, just the opportunity to serve. And so I will be here, for as long as life and destiny allow, continuing to sit in loving presence with anyone who needs to feel heard and understood.

How to Cope with Anxiety Brought on by a COVID-19 Diagnosis

We’ve been hearing about COVID-19 for a year and a half now, and we’ve seen more than enough disaster shots from the news. Shots of frantic hospital workers, images of bed-ridden patients, graphs showing extreme job loss—the list goes on. Couple that with a year spent in isolation, and it’s no wonder your mind races to the worst-case scenario when you hear that you’ve tested positive.

We’re here to support you. Let’s talk about how to cope with anxiety brought on by a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Let It Out

You’re allowed to be afraid. Anytime we bury our feelings down deep, there’s a consequence. The ones you need to be most worried about are putting more stress on your immune system while you’re trying to heal. Being under a constant state of stress can do this.

So feel your feels—call a friend, a therapist, or grab a journal. Get out all the nerves you have, then slowly transition into moving on. You don’t want to outright reject emotional disturbance, but you also don’t want to skate right over it.

Focus on What’s True Now

Feeling regret for past decisions or anxiety for future disasters is normal, but it’s not helpful. If your spiraling thoughts can’t seem to stop, try writing down what’s true now. Now, you’re sick. You need water, rest, and support from people you love while you heal. Let that be your main focus.

Try What’s Worked Before

COVID-19 looks different for everybody. You could experience severe symptoms, no symptoms, or a mix of symptoms. However, having the same, go-to comfort technique is helpful to de-stress and distract in times like these.

Watch your favorite movies, read a book, take a soothing soak in the tub, and whatever else calms you on stressful days.

Limit Social Media Scrolling

With the current state of the world, it might not be the best idea to distract with social media. The goal here is to calmly heal, not remind ourselves what’s at stake. As long as you’re isolating yourself to heal, it’s best to leave the phone on the nightstand.

Try This Anti-Spiralling Activity

Grab a writing utensil and a piece of paper.

First, try to remember what happened that sparked your spiral.

Let’s say a friend asked about your activities leading up to your diagnosis, clearly implying that you would do something unsafe. What assumptions are you making about yourself after hearing this? Many people feel guilt after their diagnosis, like they could’ve done more to prevent it. As a result, you might conclude that you’re a harmful person.

Write down this conclusion.

Next, write down the “supporting evidence” that your mind is using to prove it.

Let’s say you write down, “My job requires me to work in person,” “I forgot my mask when I picked up food last week,” and “My friends told me so.”

Now, write down an alternative thought about yourself that’s more accurate based on the evidence at hand.

Using these examples, no one would reasonably conclude that you’re the kind of person who seeks to harm others. Instead, they might conclude that you’re human. You’re stuck working an in-person job that puts you more at risk. You’re (sometimes) forgetful. These facts are all less heavy to carry than believing that we’re hurtful people.

Is it important to acknowledge and accept the times we could have done better? Absolutely. But for the sake of healing (both physically and mentally) give yourself some credit. You did the best you could given the circumstances.

Finally, write down evidence that suggests the opposite conclusion.

What do you do that makes you a caring person? Do you socially distance in public? Do you hold your children when they cry? It’s important to remember that we’re well-rounded people with moments of strength and weakness. None of us are perfect, but we have to meet ourselves where we are for the sake of acceptance.

If you struggle getting carried away with anxious thoughts, consider reaching out to one of our counselors for more coping skills like this.

Recognizing Postpartum Anxiety: Common Symptoms and How to Seek Help

When your baby cries in public, do you immediately focus on the eyes around you? Do you think people judge you for being a “bad” mother? Do you feel more fear for your child than joy?

You may be experiencing postpartum anxiety, a close cousin of postpartum depression. Once family and friends start gushing over the new baby and how exciting of a time this is, it can quickly induce a sense of guilt for not being upbeat and grateful every moment of every day.

Know that you have nothing to feel guilty for, and most importantly, you are not alone.

How Common is Postpartum Anxiety?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, 10% of new mothers are affected by postpartum anxiety, and many more go undiagnosed. If left untreated, postpartum anxiety can turn into a lifelong battle with anxiety.

However, feeling some anxiety is understandable. An unfamiliar part of your identity is forming—you are a protector now. Of course, some anxiety is going to come with this new, very real responsibility, but when it gets in the way of your happiness and productivity, it could be time to dig deeper.

What Are The Potential Triggers?

25-35% of postpartum anxiety cases begin during pregnancy, but most occur anytime between birth and the child’s first birthday. For some, weaning off of breastfeeding can cause out-of-control anxiety. For others, the feelings of edginess after giving birth never seems to cease, and for good reason.

Pregnancy kick-starts a huge hormonal uptick in us. Within 24 hours of giving birth, those hormone levels drop back down to close to zero. For anyone, this would require some change to regain a sense of normalcy.

What Symptoms Should I Look For?

Mental Symptoms

In general, anxiety disorders are characterized by new feelings of excessive worry, spiraling thoughts, and overall dread. You may feel hyper-vigilant, always on edge, and ready for disaster to strike at any moment. If you lost a sense of normalcy that used to be characterized by routine, calmness, and balance, counseling can help you get back on your feet.

Physical Symptoms

Anxiety manifests itself in both mental and physical ways. Physically, it can show as hot flashes, unexplained dizziness, difficulty sleeping (whether having trouble falling or staying asleep), rapid heartbeat, or unexplained nausea. If you struggle with some or all of these symptoms, it may be time to seek professional help.

How Can I Get Help?

Once the baby arrives, everything changes—chaotic sleeping schedules, extra amounts of responsibility, new relationship expectations… The list of anxiety-inducing adjustments goes on.

So what can you do? Well, you can count on a combination of support from loved ones as well as therapy. Postpartum lifestyles can lead to feelings of loneliness. Hiding away from friends and family with nothing to listen to but your own intrusive thoughts will only lead to more anxiety.

Talk to someone to lighten the load. Understand that you are allowed to vent about your new lifestyle. After all, it is stressful!

Learn to ask for a break from baby duties—they say it takes a village to raise a child, and it is never too late to start building yours.

Work to change irrational thinking patterns. As a new mother, you are going to feel deep concern for your baby. However, anxiety can fill our minds with fears that are irrational and less-than-helpful to consider. Working with a therapist can help you break down thought patterns that lead to unproductive spirals—does green poop mean your baby is deathly ill, or is that just what baby poop looks like sometimes?

Try to fit relaxation techniques into your day, like meditation or mindfulness training. Exercise can help ease anxiety, too, and both will contribute toward a better night’s sleep.

Overall, remember that taking care of yourself is taking care of your baby. It is not selfish or weak to seek help—it is responsible and mature of you to do so. Once you are ready to take the next step at beating postpartum anxiety, reach out to one of our counselors.