Editor’s Note: This post was contributed by EWN psychotherapist Kate Maleski, LCSW-R
Picture this… A high school freshman trying out for the softball team. She is anxious, surrounded by new faces, new school and longing to be accepted. If only she could make the team maybe starting a new school wouldn’t be so scary. She would already be “a part” of something.
At the end of tryouts names are posted and this girl’s name was not on the list.
That girl was me.
Teens can often feel alone in a very BIG world which can be the cause of social anxiety. In grade school and high school I remember feeling like I was fighting to survive.
Hoping I don’t blush. Sweating, feeling nauseous, worried that I would have to carry on a conversation and no words would come out or even worse, the wrong words! Sometimes I thought: How am I ever going to live through this day, let alone the rest of the year!
EVERYONE HAS SOCIAL ANXIETY! OK not everyone, but a LOT of people have social anxiety! Different people just show it differently.
Here are some tips to help decrease your anxiety:
- Stop and ask yourself, What is the cause? Identify the source of your anxiety. Sometimes you tend to think everything causes you to become anxious but if you take time to think about the real cause you can break it down into more manageable steps.
- Take baby steps: If your goal is to be a part of a conversation that more than 4 people are in then first take a smaller step. Enter a conversation of 2 people and see how it feels.
- Practice positive self talk: If you are thinking negatively you are more likely to feel negative which decreases your self esteem. Give yourself a break. The negative messages you are sending to yourself are not helping you.
- Pick-up a wingman: Try to enter an anxiety provoking situation with someone else. Even if it is not your friend invite that person to come along. You may be surprised how much easier it is to walk into a room next to someone.
- Fake it: When you act confidently (even when you’re squirming inside) you can decrease your anxiety and you may find the situation not as bad as you imagined.
Think of anxiety as just a bad habit and like most bad habits you can change it!
Join our group for teenage girls, GIRLS IN CHARGE! starting February 19, 2014! Call or email me if you’re interested! I’d love to hear from you!
Photo courtesy of Troy Benson Photography
“Sit up straight!” “Do not hunch over!” “Shoulders back!”
No, this wasn’t bootcamp. It was my childhood.
My father was a posture Nazi. His constant vigilance at the dinner table was a literal pain in the neck. People would compliment my parents on my posture and inwardly I’d roll my eyes, “You have no idea.”
Now I’m grateful. My spine is grateful, My internal organs are grateful. And today I learned that my self-esteem can be grateful, too!
While I was walking on the treadmill doing my morning mile, I watched the first episode of Life Hacks, a collection of TED talks, on Netflix. A client, who knows my love for Netflix, suggested this series as an alternative to Sherlock episodes.
Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, shares how her research supports the idea that our body language can make a difference in whether we feel powerful or the opposite, small and unworthy. Stand up tall with your hands on your hips for two full minutes and, even though you may not be feeling it totally, it will be easier to act as if you own the room.
That’s great news! SO easy! But the most compelling part of Dr. Cuddy’s talk was when she talked about her story of recovery from traumatic brain injury in her teens to her current position as a Harvard professor. The story is more relatable than you’d think. It’s all about “Fake it ’til you make it.”
Fake it ’til you make it is a saying often heard in AA. Friends in recovery would say, “Act like you have sobriety even if you are dying for your next drink. Fake your way to sobriety, one day at a time. Then one day you wake up and the first thing you think about isn’t a drink which is nothing less than a miracle.” It applies to just about everything: Feeling down? Smile anyway. Smile long enough, the smile begins to stick more naturally; our mood lifts. Feeling nervous about speaking out in class or in front of co-workers? Do it anyway, as if you are the most brilliant one there. That is faking it ’til you make it.
Do this experiment: Stand like Wonder Woman, smile like Julia Roberts, speak like whoever floats your boat. See if, as Dr. Cuddy says, in time you have faked it ’til you ARE it!
Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Nicole Newcomb, MHC-P, Explore What’s Next psychotherapist.
Getting back to college after a nice long break should be easy! But the anticipation of juggling class work, exercise, family and a social life has the opposite effect and can be so overwhelming! If you are anything like me, when the start of the spring semester began approaching, I tried to prepare myself for the stress ahead. Here are a few tips and tricks to get off on the right foot for your upcoming mayhem.
1. Syllabus Buster.
When you get all of your syllabi it can be nerve-racking looking at the vast amount of work you have to get done in the next three to four months! My suggestion is taking each syllabi and writing down in a planner the dates that major assignments are due and then back tracking a week or two (however much time you feel you will need to complete the assignment) and write down “start working on ethics paper.” This will allow you to be able to look at the whole year in a less stressful mindset. You will be able to think about what you need to do without freaking out because it will be broken down into do-able bits.
2. It’s too much! I can’t do this!
Yes you can! When we feel something is too hard or seems like too much to accomplish, we tend to say “I just can’t do it.” Instead, break it down until you get to an “I can” statement: “I can start an outline for the paper today and tomorrow I can fill it in.” Using the syllabus buster tip (#1) with “I can” statements will make your workload more reasonable. You could also tell yourself, “I’ll just study for an hour,” instead of piling on the stress of thinking you have to pull an all-nighter.
3. Find a study buddy.
Just like exercise, it can be so much easier and much more fun if you have a like-minded friend who will go with you to the library, take breaks together and cheer each other on!
4. Me time.
What is the difference between breaks and being in the semester? It’s easy to find time for yourself on break. Sometimes there’s almost too much me time! But during the semester, with all that needs to be juggled, it is easy to forget about our self-care needs. Try taking five minutes every day to check in with yourself to see how you are doing. Five minutes will not break your free time budget. Set aside the work, listen to music, watch something funny on YouTube or catch up with your favorite episode of whatever on Netflix. Even closing your eyes for five minutes is better than plowing through when you’re tapped out.
5. Speaking of which… Sleep? There’s no time for that!
With the work stressors plus the immense desire (and pressure) to socialize and party, it is easy to skip out on sleep. You might be thinking “I can catch up on my sleep this weekend.” Don’t forget that a sleep routine, eating healthy and regular exercise are all stress reducers, mood lifters and concentration boosters. With this tip you might have more time for socialization if you can concentrate on your homework and not take as long doing it.
I would love to hear some feedback on our comment section on how these tips worked out for you!
Photos of courtesy stop|action|life
Owning your own business can mean working 24/7. I really felt it last week. Even though I thought I was doing a good job with self-care, last night was the first time I was really able to sleep deeply, well and for as long as I wanted. This morning I woke up so happy, loose and serene I almost talked myself out of it! Almost!
It started with, “Remember the back up of emails you need to get to, that conversation you have to have you’re not looking forward to, that report you have to write…” I could feel the good mood start to dissolve like sugar dropped in boiling water. Thank God I stopped myself.
Instead I stretched and told myself, “Today I am happy. I can get to that stuff and still be happy right now!” And I smiled.
As I sipped my morning coffee, basking in my sleep fulfilled afterglow, I read the front page article in the New York Times Sunday Review section: Goodnight, Sleep Clean and it sighted studies that explained exactly what I had just experienced. That’s pretty cool.
We’ve had a lot of articles here on the EWN blog about the importance of sleep such as “7 Tips to Improve Your Sleep!” and without a doubt we’ll probably have more in the future. Sleep is that important to our mental, emotional and physical health!
So go to bed, relax and remember that sleeping is not a waste of time. It is actually allowing a second shift of biochemical workers to get busy taking out the trash! Wishing you all a refreshing good night’s sleep!
Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Nicole Newcomb, MHC-P, Explore What’s Next psychotherapist.
Did you give up your favorite food for the New Year?
Weight loss experts say, “Don’t throw out that chocolate!” Eat in slow motion instead!
Slowing down our pace of eating, increasing the number of chews and noticing everything we can about our food is called eating mindfully. Believe it or not, it can help you with weight loss.
Studies have shown that the slower you eat, the less you eat and the more mindfully you eat the more satisfied you are. So you don’t give up your favorite food totally! Eat it mindfully and satisfy your sweet tooth with just a few bites! Imagine this….
You open the candy so slowly and notice the blue, shiny wrapper and the ridges of each wrinkle between your fingers. You notice the crinkling sound it makes as you start to peel back the corners. The aroma of sweet chocolate begins to fill your nostrils and your mouth starts to water ever so slightly. You begin thinking that tomorrow you start your crazy New Years Resolution diet so you better make this count! Refocusing you thoughts to the chocolate, you notice each corner of the creamy, smooth chocolate in your hand as it starts to melt. You become excited! As you bring it to your mouth, the aroma grows stronger and you begin anticipating its sweet taste. You put the chocolate in your mouth and smile as you begin to chew ever so slowly, noticing how your teeth sink into the smooth chunks of chocolate. You never want this sensation to leave your mouth so you sit with it until every last morsel has vanished. The reward is phenomenal and you think to yourself “this is the best piece of chocolate I have ever had.” At this point you do not want another because you are more than satisfied. And it’s a good thing because it was the last one!
So the next time you sit down to eat anything, especially something you think is sinful, like the fine chocolate your well-meaning boyfriend gave you for Christmas, try out these tips below and notice the difference it makes in your appetite and satisfaction.The slower you make this process and the more detailed in your awareness, the better the exercise!
How to Eat Mindfully:
1) Do not touch whatever it is you are about to eat! Just notice what it looks like and what it smells like from a far.
2) Pick up the item without bringing it to your mouth. Notice what it feels like in your hands or looks like on your fork. Describe it to yourself in great detail. All the way down to the sponginess of the bread and the sesame seeds on top. Notice the different shades of red on the tomato.
3) Now bring the item closer to your mouth and notice the smells. It may have more than one aroma so find every smell!
4) Now take a bite and begin chewing as slowly as you can. Pretend it is a contest of who can chew the longest! Now taste each flavor from the acidity in the tomato to the grease in the burger.
5) In the same bite, (yes I am asking you to still be chewing the same bite!) notice how it feels against your tongue and teeth.
6) Ask yourself what do you hear? You may hear the crunching of the lettuce. Don’t let this bite go until you know everything about it!
7) Repeat with every bite and every sip of your drink until you notice your stomach is full.
It is not always easy to find the time to sit down and eat mindfully. I know I find it hard sometimes. But when I do take the time, it is always worth it!
Photo courtesy of cupprof
Time for the top ten list! 2013 was a very good year for Explore What’s Next. Nicole Newcomb and Kate Maleski joined our team of wonderful therapists, we settled into our beautiful new office space and expanded our hours and types of service! It makes me just burst with pride at how EWN has grown!
Meanwhile, back at the blog, we have a sweet collection of articles about how to deal with anxiety, how to build better relationships and useful tips to get through those times of stress that can knock us down for the count. Here are ten of the most popular posts for 2013:
Looking forward to an Awesome New Year
filled with peace of mind,
strength of heart and resiliency of spirit!
Peace of mind and heart,
Prosperity throughout the year,
Happiness that multiplies,
Health for you and yours,
Fun around every corner,
Energy to chase your dreams,
Time to rest and savor,
Joy to fill your holidays!
May all your Christmas wishes come true!
Inspired by d.m. dellinger
“Humans, especially men, are notorious at forging ahead until the wheels well and truly fly off the trolley. Why is it that we only start looking after our heart after we’ve had a heart attack? The same can be said for our mental health. Look after it now, for a better future.” ~Matthew Johnstone
Describing what it’s like to be severely depressed to someone who’s never been there can be like describing the color blue to someone who was born without sight. Produced by the World Health Organization, written, illustrated and narrated by Matthew Johnstone, this video uses the metaphore of a Black Dog to help understand and validate what depression can feel like and what it takes to find hope again.
Thanks to my friend Mac MacDonald for sharing this with us! You’re the best, Mac!
Sometimes we stress ourselves out for no good reason! The holidays are filled with such “voluntary stress” opportunities. I don’t know about you but often my stress has to do with I think I “ought” to be doing for the holidays because of the standards others (a grandmother, mother or aunt, even so-called friends) have set up. Some of my “ought to-s” include:
1. Bake a ton of Christmas cookies, package them beautifully and give them away to neighbors and friends.
2. Find, purchase and wrap (beautifully) the perfect gift for everyone on my list before December 24, even if they live half a world away!
3. Decorate the house with Christmas cheer in every room! Is one tree enough?
4. Clean and scrub the house from top to bottom so that guests will not judge.
5. Lose ten pounds.
Ha! If even one of those five things happens it will be a Christmas miracle! Do you feel the same? Do you have your own list of ‘Shouldas’ that’s making you grumpy?
This year I am more of the mindset to just be honest with myself and brutally prioritize. You can do this, too. Ask yourself if you could only do one thing on the list, what would it be? So I took a deep breath and decided to focus on #2, revising it to read: “Find a good-enough gift that will make your loved one smile.” It doesn’t have to be the Best gift or the Perfect gift. For me the rest of the list is not essential for a happy holiday. In fact trying to squeeze in the rest in the next few days may take away form the holiday spirit.
The real trick here is not to care so much about the stuff that doesn’t get done. That’s not easy is it? But the truth is even the most sparkling floor does not replace the warm welcome of an open loving heart. A good guest won’t notice the dust bunnies in the corner and won’t care if they do notice them. A good friend will be just as happy with a little box of cookies after the New Year as a huge one before January 1st. I know I would! Wouldn’t you?
Life lived well is messy. Revel in it!
Editor’s Note: Here is a great post from EWN Associate and psychotherapist Nicole Newcomb.
The holidays can be particularly hard when we are in the midst of grief and loss. We feel like a part of our holiday, as well as our soul is missing. Whether we’re going through the holiday season without a loved one for the first time, or this is the second or third, everything seems to remind us of the person we’ve lost and how much we loved them. If this is true for you, here are a few tips to help make the most of your holiday this year:
1. Set aside some time to cope. When we “stuff” our emotions and try to pretend they are not there, beware! They will resurface later at a less appropriate time, like in the middle of family dinner after a glass of wine or two! Pay special attention to how you are feeling throughout the day. Try setting aside a half hour in the morning of the holiday to give yourself permission to feel your emotions freely and take care of them. I suggest you write down how you are feeling or speak out loud to the person you miss (privately, so people don’t misunderstand and think you’ve lost your marbles! ). This is a healthy way to cope so that you don’t end up with too much “stuffing”.
2. Honor that person. Do not forget to show that person that you still care. Maybe you’d like to set a place at the table for the loved one, say a special prayer or express thought of gratitude about them. This suggestion only works if the rest of your family is on board. If you feel the family would not be responsive to this idea, honor the person in your own way, privately in your head. You could share their favorite piece of pie. Light a candle that is always present but only you know is the light of your loved one’s spirit and love. You could visit the gravesite and talk to them or go to a spot that held special meaning to you both. Leave a flower, a beautiful stone or note. This too will help you cope with your emotions.
3. Make a new tradition. Your holidays will never be exactly the same as they were when your loved one was present. I mean, who or what could fill that persons spot? Nothing can, and if you expect it to, you will set yourself up for disappointment. But don’t let that happen. Create a new tradition! If your tradition was to start the day by going out to breakfast, make holiday pancakes at home instead! Create a new and fun tradition to look forward to every year. One that will bring some new holiday cheer!
4. Focus on the present. Please do not forget about today! After you have given time and honored your loved one, coped with your emotions and created a new tradition, don’t forget to enjoy it! Just simply observe your surroundings by asking yourself what you see, hear, feel, taste and smell. Breathe deeply, slowly. This will quickly and painlessly bring you back to the present. All you have is this moment, so don’t forget to be in it!
Take what you like of these ideas and make them your own! Do you have an idea that’s not here that may help? Your thoughts and observations enrich our community! Please share them in the comments section!
And if you feel the need for extra support right now you may always contact us. There is no reason to feel alone.