Turning Worry Into Wellness
July 24, 2017 "I've Got It All Together"
We all want to present to the world our “best self”. This can be wanting to appear intelligent, beautiful, funny, spontaneous, organized and most importantly….Having It All Together. We each have our individual ways of putting our “masks” on every day. This can look like makeup, a power suit, a statement necklace, or Spanx. For me it’s my high heels. I feel my most confident, professional self in a good pair of heels. When I’m hanging around my friends in my jeans, t-shirt and Converse I have my “mask” off. But when you see me at a networking event or a continuing education class or at work, you can bet I will have my I’ve Got It All Together Heels. So, what is your mask? Is it working for you? Do you fear that if you took your “mask” off people would not respect you? Or love you? Or look up to you? Do you forget to take your “mask” off to your friends and family?
Our mask can be useful to us, but it can hinder us from being vulnerable and real with the people that matter to us most. How often do you answer a question from a friend when they ask “How are you?” with a quick “Fine, How are you?” What would it be like to be honest with a friend and say “I know I’m going to be fine, but today I’m really down about a presentation I feel I flubbed at work.” Does the idea of that statement bring a flutter of fear to your chest? Are the excuses already coming to your mind about why you couldn’t possibly say that response?
I challenge you to take your mask off one small statement at a time. Feel the rush of fear and step through it. See if the world falls apart or if your friend stops loving you. I’ll go first. As a therapist, I often try to hold myself to a higher standard. I mean…I know better right???? So here is my big leap of taking my mask off.
My day overall went pretty well, but when I was setting up my LinkedIn page my inner dialogue took a turn for the worse. You know how LinkedIn always wants to connect you with new people? Well today it asked me Do you know… and it was my Ex! Are you kidding me? How does LinkedIn know about my personal life from 15 years ago? We don’t have any mutual connections! Has LinkedIn been following me around all these years? See, this is why I don’t want to be on social media!
After the rush of indignant anger, then came the smack of fear to my throat. What if I do connect? What will the Ex think about my life? What judgements will be made? What if the Ex thinks I’m a stalker or worse refuses to connect. This seems too risky!
Then came the overwhelming blanket of shame. I am a happily married woman and I am getting tweaked by my Ex??? I shouldn’t have these feelings! I must be a horrible person!
So, I quickly logged off LinkedIn to stop the roller coaster of emotions. When shame hits me it usually comes with the desire to hide under my desk and I really didn’t have time for that today.
I can’t believe I just told you that! UGHHHH. Exhale. I said it. Is the world still ok? Do you still respect me? Maybe I need to get my heels back on!
Elizabeth Dossman, Licensed Professional Counselor
August 28, 2017 "Hurricane Harvey"
Currently Houston is still under attack from Hurricane Harvey and it is expected to dump more rain on the already flooded area. Many south-eastern towns where it made landfall are beginning the long process of trying to determine the damages and see if they can return to their homes. My heart goes out to all those that are struggling through this natural disaster. Like many of you, over the weekend I could not stop watching the news, checking the weather channel, reading twitter and reaching out to friends and family in Houston. The desire to watch can be a way of getting helpful information, finding out how to volunteer or it could be our brains way of trying to anticipate the future damage. After 9-11, research found that many adults were watching approximately 7 hours of television coverage which led to heightened levels of anxiety and stress. Children can be very susceptible to this as well.
If you are experiencing anxiety and stress while watching the news coverage you might benefit from reducing the amount of time that you are in front of the television. Another tip would be to stop watching coverage about 30 minutes to an hour before your bedtime. Reading updates as opposed to watching videos/television can also help reduce the anxiety that you are feeling.
Besides my focus on the news, I am also feeling helpless. My donation doesn’t seem “enough” and while I completed the training to be a shelter volunteer they haven’t reached out to me yet. I tried to donate a dog crate to Austin Pets Alive and they were already full of crates. On one hand I am so proud of the Austinites that are jumping at the opportunity to help our fellow Texans, but on the other hand I just feel “stuck.” I feel guilty that I could come to work today and “move on with my life” while so many are still in the depths of despair.
Some of the tools that I am using are to recognize and name my feelings. Then give them the space that they need. For instance, “sadness” is an appropriate and necessary feeling that I am letting hang out for a while. “Guilt” unfortunately is based on a negative belief system so I “reality check it” by asking myself a few questions. Have I done anything “wrong”? Nope. Is it helping me be the kind, compassionate woman I want to be? Nope. So Guilt gets to move along. “Compassion” and “Caring” and “Empathy” all get to stay. Hopefully I will be able to help with the efforts soon because I know it’s a long journey and I can be ready for when I’m “called.”
September 27, 2017
Do I have a Drinking Problem?
Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease. In the beginning, it looks like fun with friends, a glass of wine after a long day. Where can it lead to? It is different for everyone. As a therapist, when determining if someone is struggling with substance abuse or alcoholism we don’t ask if they are drinking out of a paper bag or an expensive bottle of wine. We don’t require you to smoke a certain amount of methamphetamine's or take a certain amount of pills to say you might have a problem.
For my Aunt, her alcoholism took her to the “bitter end of death.” My Aunt was very clear that she was an alcoholic and that the disease and her circumstances would just get worse. It was evident to all how this would end for her. As the years passed by her health got worse. She struggled with neuropathy (numbness in her in feet and hands) which caused her to drop glasses and fall often. Her eyesight started to fail so she couldn’t text or use her phone easily. Luckily, she had given up most of her driving due to a broken car that she could never quite get around to getting fixed, so she wasn’t in danger of killing others. She couldn’t keep food down or get any nutrients due to her main food staple being Dominoes’ Pizza. In between the first and second family intervention I asked her how she saw herself in the next 5 years and she calmly stated “dead.” Your story or your friends story or your loved one’s story doesn’t have end like my Aunts.
If you think you might have a problem or an unhealthy relationship with a substance, reach out for help. You don’t have to drink or use a “certain amount” to be an alcoholic or addict. As a therapist, when starting to work with someone who is curious about their alcohol or substance use we mainly we ask:
•Have you ever felt you should cut down on your use? •Do people bother you about your use? •Do you ever feel guilty or bad about your use? •Have you ever had to use the substance first thing in the morning to reduce symptoms of detoxification?
You don’t have to be ready to stop your use. Most therapists will take you where you are and won’t pressure you. If you think a loved one might have a problem and need to talk about it, reach out and get help. You don’t have to be alone.
Everyday there is another heartbreaking story in the news about sexual harassment. Reading the #MeToo stories felt liberating and validating, but then an overwhelming sadness took over with the realization that this is our reality as woman. I’ve been talking to many clients and friends that have struggled to view past experiences in the new lense of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Many events that we had written off as normal such as “don’t go to happy hour with that coworker…he gets handsy” or “that guy in accounting is creepy he always leers at me and stares at my breasts.” When we would tell other women we would get support that they were experiencing the same thing, then we would shrug our shoulders and accept our reality.
When I was younger, and men would make a sexual comment or tell a lewd joke I was embarrassed and didn’t know how to respond. Of course, I would hate to “hurt his feelings” and let him know that his comments weren’t appreciated. So how did I handle it? I often giggled and put my head down hoping it would stop. I had no voice.
When I had a little more experience in the work world I tried to use my voice. I had a general manager that would always try to hug and kiss me on the cheek and call me Liz. Finally, I was fed up I went to my direct report to share with him how uncomfortable I felt. His response “He’s our boss he can do whatever and call you whatever he wants too.” Wow! I was so hurt by his response. I never reported any other incident in my career. I believed it was useless. I did everything I could to avoid the general manager for the next year while I worked with him.
Since sexual harassment is not expected to go away anytime soon, how should we handle it? Often bringing it to the individuals attention quickly can be helpful. I had a coworker that spoke with his hands and would put his hand on my arm, knee, shoulder in what I perceived as a harmless way but it still made me uncomfortable. I explained to him very soon into our working together that I did not like to be touched in anyway in an office environment. He was very embarrassed and defensive, but I held my ground and he never did it again. This is similar to how Claire Foy responded to Adam Sandler putting his hand on her knee. She quickly grabbed/patted his hand and removed it from her knee. If we are aware of a certain coworker that often makes inappropriate comments we can role play with friends and the next time he says something we can quickly state “please don’t speak with me about that” or “I don’t appreciate that comment.” Ashley Judd shared that puts her hand up in a “stop sign” sort of way and says “that is inappropriate and unwelcomed.”
It is a difficult decision to speak up to a harasser or to report them. If you are not ready, do not feel guilt or shame. Often our safety and financial security are at risk for speaking up. Talk to someone, a friend, relative or coworker. Keep a journal of all statements/dates/times etc so that if you become ready to speak out you have specific details.
Check out more of Ashley Judd's suggestion on Teen Vogue:
October 31, 2017
Your Comment is Unwelcome!
What is so important about volunteering? The obvious answer is to help others. The benefits to you are immeasurable! Alfred Adler (1870-1937) was one of the first psychiatrists that focused on the importance of volunteering and being a part of the community. Brene Brown, a social scientist, today is still speaking of the necessity of belonging and being engaged. When we are struggling with sadness or feeling isolated, volunteering helps us create connection. When we are feeling stuck in our head and that our problems are huge, volunteering helps us see the world in a bigger way. When our confidence is down, and we think we can’t do anything right, volunteering helps give us purpose.
When I decided to apply to be a Big Sister through Big Brothers and Big Sisters I was terrified! I had NO experience with children and was fearful that she wouldn’t like me. I was concerned that it would take too much time out of my schedule. I was scared that I would get bored with it. I could never have imagined that I would be sad 9 years later because I wouldn’t be able to have dinner with her!
I met my little when she was in the 4th grade. She was shy and didn’t talk much. We slowly got to know each other meeting every Tuesday for dinner. I didn’t know if she was having fun, but my Match Specialist said if she kept showing up then she must enjoy it! I had to take his word. Art became our way to connect. I would bring different projects that we would work on at restaurants. It was an opportunity for her to teach me skills. As the years went by I taught her how to play Gin Rummy and she taught me how to play Speed. I taught her about current events in the world, she taught me about current events at school.
When I looked at my calendar and felt stressed of all the “Have to dos” I would think about what I could be doing with those 2 hours a week. Then I would meet with her. I would be able to get out of my head. All my “to do” lists and stresses and work and financial fears just went away. Those 2 hours were about us and our relationship. She inspired me!
The perseverance she had with school and tutoring was amazing. The respect she had for herself in handling boyfriend situations blew me away! Her mother got her involved in volunteering and outdoor programs. I was often jealous of the adventures she was taking! When she told me about hunting for Easter eggs in the dark I immediately made plans to do that with my friends the next year! When I heard her family had a Christmas in July camping trip, I went home and begged for us to have one!
When she started high school, we met every other Thursday. The art projects and card games were long gone, replaced by talks of her friends and her future. I knew that her goal was to go to college and I wanted that for her, but I didn’t want her to leave me! In what seemed like a blink of an eye she graduated. I admit that I was a crying mess! In September she started her first year of college. Its been hard for me. I miss her. What started out as an idea to “give back” and “help others” turned into me getting a sister. She is part of my family. She was there when I got married. She was there when tough times hit. I depended on her to be there for dinner with her smile and laugh. This was always supposed to be about helping her, but it has helped me more than she can imagine!
Check out these resources for volunteer options:
November 30, 2017
Why should I volunteer?
December 29, 2017
New Years Resolutions
Its that time of year! Society encourages us to make New Years Resolutions. It is an opportunity to look at the past year and plan for 2018! Unfortunately, many of us set ourselves up to fail which can lead to self-loathing, pity and disappointment.
First step: Set a realistic goal.
I haven’t had a consistent exercise schedule in the past 2 years. It would be insane of me to say I will exercise 4 days a week. Instead a realistic goal for me might be twice a week. I could up the number of days as I start to have success. Maybe in March I have a goal of 3 times per week. We don’t have to make all our goals set to start Jan 1 and last all of 2018!
Second step: Get away from looking at is as pass/fail.
For example, my goal might be to exercise 2 days a week and say 3 compliments to my partner. (5 independent goals) The first week I might meet all of them which would be 100%. The second week I only exercise 1 day but I say 3 compliments which would be 80%. That keeps me on a forward track and prevents me from saying I failed and giving up.
Third step: Remember you don’t have to have a New Years Resolution!
Maybe you make a bucket list of places you want to visit or ideas for date nights. Maybe you decide on 2 values that are important to you and you run your choices through this value system before making decisions. For example, if my “value” is to spend more time with family, when a friend asks me to join a committee I say “no” because it doesn’t line up with my “value” of spending more time with family.
Or if you are secure in yourself, you can just keep getting up every day doing the best you can and that is enough!