Overcoming OCD: Steps to Stop Compulsions

Dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) often involves a relentless cycle of compulsions that can either pop up sporadically or dominate your entire day. These compulsions might manifest as physical actions like excessive handwashing, checking locks multiple times, or mentally through behaviors such as seeking reassurance or ruminating over fears. Handling these compulsions is exhausting and can feel like a battle you’re stuck in.

Step One: Uncover the Patterns of Your OCD

The journey to managing your OCD effectively begins with understanding the specific themes of your intrusive thoughts. A practical first step is keeping a detailed journal. By documenting your intrusive thoughts alongside the compulsions they trigger, you can start to see patterns. This recognition is vital—it’s like mapping out the battleground so you can strategize effectively.

Step Two: Confronting and Disarming Your Fears

Identifying your fears is crucial, but the real challenge lies in diminishing their power over you. The essence of breaking free from compulsions lies in changing how you respond to these fears. The goal is to reach a point where these fears no longer drive you to perform compulsions.

Case in Point: Facing Fear of Contamination

Take, for example, the fear that bringing home germs could make your family severely ill. This fear might lead you to avoid touching anything when out shopping and to wash your hands repeatedly until they feel “clean”. This behavior, though it feels protective, is driven by an overwhelming fear of illness.

To challenge this, it’s necessary to shift your perspective. Consider the reality that most illnesses are common and generally not severe. Even if it does become severe, chances are your family will likely be fine. By accepting this, the fear loses its grip, and the compulsion to wash your hands excessively or avoid public places can decrease. It’s about embracing a more balanced view—acknowledging that while illness isn’t desirable, it’s a manageable part of life.

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Broadening the Approach

This method of directly addressing and rationalizing fears can be applied across all types of OCD—be it fears about harm, sexuality, relationships, or contamination. By confronting the base fear, the compulsions lose their urgency, making it easier for your mind to move past them without looping back continuously.

Navigating Forward

Adopting a mindset that tolerates uncertainty and discomfort is key to overcoming OCD. This doesn’t happen overnight—it’s a process that involves gradual steps and often professional support. Remember, every step forward, no matter how small, is a move towards regaining control from OCD. Patience and persistence are your allies on this journey toward recovery.

Seeking Professional Guidance

While the strategies discussed here are a great start, personalized support from a mental health professional will make a significant difference in managing OCD. At our practice, we specialize in helping individuals navigate their OCD challenges with comprehensive and compassionate care. Don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule your appointment with us today. Together, we can work towards a life where OCD no longer defines your day-to-day experiences.



Navigating Relationship OCD (ROCD)

Navigating a relationship can be challenging enough, but when you add Relationship OCD (ROCD) into the mix, it can seem like an overwhelming wave of doubts and fears. ROCD manifests in a variety of ways, often placing immense stress on both partners. The two most prevalent types of ROCD include doubting your love for your partner and fearing their infidelity. Let’s dive deeper into these patterns and explore some approaches that might help alleviate the mental turmoil.


“Do I really love them? Is this relationship right for me?”

These questions can haunt someone with ROCD. Imagine this: your partner has planned a perfect picnic, the weather is gorgeous, and everything looks like a scene from a romantic movie. Despite recognizing the effort, your mind wanders. You notice every minor annoyance, from how loudly they chew to their choice of attire. You start comparing them unfavorably to others, questioning if enduring these perceived flaws is worth it. This constant scrutiny can make you feel distant and indecisive about the relationship.


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Yet, the thought of breaking up feels just as scary. You might feel an uncomfortable void at the idea of being without them, which seems contradictory given your earlier frustrations. This paradox is a hallmark of ROCD, where your mind loops through doubts about compatibility while fearing the loss of the relationship at the same time. If breaking up feels more daunting than relieving, it’s likely that ROCD is playing a large role.

“Are they cheating? Do they truly love me?”

The other common facet of ROCD revolves around trust. You might find yourself dissecting every word and action, looking for signs of infidelity or disinterest. An offhand joke or a day spent apart can spiral into a vortex of anxiety and insecurity. Often, this leads to compulsive behaviors like seeking reassurance or snooping through personal items, which only serves to fuel the anxiety further.


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Acknowledging ROCD: The First Step to Healing

Realizing that these overwhelming thoughts are driven by ROCD is crucial. They are not reflections of reality but distortions created by anxiety. Understanding this can empower you to begin effectively addressing these intrusive thoughts.


Changing Your Inner Dialogue

When dealing with ROCD, the typical response might be to seek reassurance or to combat intrusive thoughts with counterarguments that emphasize your partner’s positive traits. For example, if you catch yourself thinking, “Do I even want to be with them?” you might instinctively respond with, “I DO want to be with them. They are kind, funny, and I enjoy spending time with them.” This is a form of self-reassurance that, while comforting, can be counterproductive.

Instead, a more effective approach involves leaning into the uncertainty of your intrusive thoughts. Rather than trying to convince yourself of your feelings, consider responding with, “Maybe I don’t want to be with them.” Similarly, if you find yourself thinking, “That person is much more attractive than my partner,” resist the urge to immediately counter this thought with, “But my partner has a great personality.” Instead, acknowledge the thought: “Maybe that person is more attractive, or maybe my partner isn’t as attractive.” This strategy involves agreeing with the intrusive thoughts, which might seem counterintuitive, but it helps to lessen their emotional impact over time.

The same principle applies if you’re stressed about potential infidelity. Instead of reassuring yourself by checking their phone or recounting their affectionate actions, try to accept thoughts like, “Maybe they are cheating on me. And if they are, that’s okay. I’ll manage.” This approach doesn’t mean you believe these scenarios are true, but by accepting the possibility without judgment, you reduce the urge to engage in compulsive checking and reassure yourself, which ultimately diminishes the power and frequency of these intrusive thoughts.

Moving Forward

Leaning into your fears and accepting intrusive thoughts without immediate counterarguments allows you to deal with them more rationally. It reduces the urgency and anxiety surrounding these thoughts, making them less intrusive over time. ROCD can be a tough wave to ride, but with awareness and proactive coping strategies, navigating it can become more manageable. Remember, seeking professional help like therapy can also provide significant support in dealing with ROCD. Schedule an appointment today.


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 an anxiety 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 an anxiety 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. Anxiety 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 an anxiety 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 anxiety 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 anxiety 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.