Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

So, if my postings have been a bit sporadic the past few months, it’s with good reason. Much to our surprise, after 8 years of unsuccessfully trying to add child #4 to our family, I seem to be very much pregnant (due in March if you’re curious).

What’s the connection between that and a flutter of anxiety? Imagine my surprise when, instead of feeling overjoyed with the discovery, I instead promptly had a massive panic attack.

Dr. Heitler, my office-mate (and yes, my mother) has a very helpful technique for figuring out what was going on that triggered that anxiety — and where my husband and I needed a pow-wow to get on with being excited about this new development.

Dr. Heitler posted a blog this week at PsychologyToday with a very nice description of the process I found so very helpful. The one sentence summary — trace back to find the “butterfly” thought that in some sub-conscious way, triggered the anxiety.

Curious what my “butterfly” was?    Seeing our camping gear ready for a weekend’s adventure “butterflied” me to concerns that a new baby would mean we would no longer be able to do this kind of family adventure. The solution — lots of fun ideas for how to tote a baby along on family outdoor adventures — and plans for leaving baby-to-be with the Grandparents as well!

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It is easy to lose focus in therapy.   Therapy can become a meandering journey, a bit of a boat adrift in the sea of life struggles — tossed and turned with each new week.

Or therapy can set a clear destination – a goal, a distant shore towards which each session in it’s own way is heading you closer.

There are several ways I like to help my clients (and me!) make sure we all know where the boat is headed and that the course we are charting will take us towards that destination.

1.  Early in treatment articulate a clear goal.  Sometimes this will be a vision of what “better” might look like.  For other people a laundry list of concerns that will be resolved.  In other situations it may be relief from symptoms like depression, anxiety or marital tension.  Every so often is a new skill set– parenting skills, marriage skills, boss-management skills.

2.  I review this goal before each session to make sure that the course I am charting is heading us towards our destination.

3.  I often encourage clients to pursue treatment in blocks of about 5 sessions.  Move towards the goal for a handful (or handful plus) of sessions, then re-group.  Sometimes the re-group is a pause in treatment.  Sometimes it is just a few moments in a session to look at where we’ve been and where we are going.

I find being clear about the destination to be particularly important to keep right at the fore when working with people who come to therapy with a broad range of things that just aren’t working in their lives and/or longstanding history of depression, anxiety or other mental health challenges.  There can be so many directions to explore, so many different ports that one might go calling in.  However, by visiting them all, one risks losing momentum.  Better, I think to pick a destination, sail to it, savor it.

And then one can always pick a new port to go calling next!

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Sometimes it’s not a mole hill.  It’s a real genuine mountain that is up ahead.

Somehow when one is facing a mountain, it is easier to focus on things like how angry you are that your spouse isn’t doing their part, or how anxious you are about crossing the first little stream.

There is a better strategy.  Look at the whole mountain.  Put the full problem on the table.  Map it out.  In detail.  What is the complete story?  What are all the treacherous spots you are facing?  What are all the pieces that worry you?

And most important, who is on your team.  Because if your spouse is on your team, it is so critical to remember that even when the going gets tough, they are still doing their part to climb that darned hill.

And then, start climbing.  One foot at a time.  Slow and steady. Forward and upward!

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Today’s New York Times front page featured an article about how stressed out college students are.

You can read it here.

The article inspired me to write a post for our Power of Two Blog about how families can help build resilient kids.  Here’s where to find that.

At the same time, I also work with teens and college students who are struggling to hold it all together.  Here are two conversations we almost always have.

Conversation 1: What is the worst case scenario?  What are you most anxious about?  What would make you even more stressed about this?  And then, we tackle that problem first. There’s nothing like a solid plan to relieve stress.

Conversation 2: What are you doing to build healthy, happiness-inspiring activities into your life?  Do you exercise?  Do you chat with friends?  What hobbies do you enjoy?  And then, we work together to build a life that incorporates these routines into every day.

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