|Deborah Brautman, M.S., LMFT||
|Deborah Brautman, M.S., LMFT||
By Deborah Brautman, LMFT
Moods come and go like tidal waves.
Some days we wake up and just know its going to be a good day. The proverbial sun is shining. But… how about when a negative spell hits— you feel a bit edgy and start dwelling on negative thoughts. When that happens, it is hard to concentrate and move through your day. We all slip into those mental states at times.
Here are four ways to activate a more pleasant state of mind— one where you will feel more at ease.
1. Label Your Emotions
Current research strongly suggests that labeling your feelings helps to deactivate parts of the brain that are responsible for increased anxiety. When we dig deeper into our emotions, we are less likely to ruminatie on negative thoughts. Start by identifying the more basic feelings such as happy, sad, mad, or scared. But then go a little deeper. For example, sometimes, someone— a coworker, friend, or family member-- says something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Next, you become aware of feeling hurt. As you continue to go deeper, you might discover that you also FEEL judged and a bit shamed. Allowing yourself to stay present with these feelings will directly affect your self -talk in a positive manner. Another plus is that you will be less likely to react in a way that you might later regret. You are taking care of your emotions, which will help your mood to shift in a better direction. You will feel less ramped up and more regulated. Acknowledging a range of feelings is a simple practice that will make you feel better.
2. Adjust your ANTS ( Automatic Negative Thoughts)
Your thoughts and feelings might present themselves in “What if…, all /none thinking.” Additionally, you might be worrying about things that may or may not occur in future. Notice how many of these automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) also relate to future thinking. Having a lot of automatic negative thoughts creates a sense of hopelessness, playing havoc with your mood. When we are upset, meaning our nervous system is ramped up, we tend to think in all or none terms. We view average things as catastrophes and go into "What if" thinking. Additionally, we are more likely to magnify the negative and discount the positive. Once we have identified that we are on that runaway train of “what if “thinking and "emotional reasoning", we can begin to shift our thinking to something more balanced.
Here are some examples of some common ANTS
l. I'm never going to finish this project
2. My supervisor is going to find a ton of mistakes and fire me.
3. I feel like a failure.
4. My colleagues are disappointed in me.
Notice how these thoughts magnify the negative and try to predict a future catastrophe.
Once we have taken the time to identify that we are stuck on the runaway train of "what if" thinking and emotional reasoning, we can begin to shift our thoughts to a more balanced perspective.
Here are some examples of more balanced, less critical thinking.
1. I have been at this job for nearly a year, and my employer has never threatened to fire me.
2. There is no shame in requesting more time to complete my project.
3. I’ve put unrealistic pressure on myself. Most people would have a difficult time finishing this project so quickly.
4. Today is just one of those days where I feel overwhelmed.
When you slow down and identify your automatic thoughts and concomitant feelings, your mood will improve.
3 . Scan Your Body
We generally feel these feelings in key places in our bodies; however, we may not be aware of what is happening in our bodies. Notice where you are feeling the tension. For example, some people feel their jaws tightening ,while others feel their stomachs clenching. Where are you feeling your tension? Focus on your breathing. Is it shallow and tight? Try breathing into your belly for a count of four and then holding for four. When you breathe in, imagine that your belly is a balloon and that you are trying to fill it. Now hold for four counts. Finally, exhale through your lips very slowly, for five counts, as though you are blowing out a candle. By taking the time to do a body scan and slow your breathing down, you are telling your nervous system to slow down. Quieting your nervous system, through your breathing ,actually slows down the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. When your nervous system stops pouring out so much cortisol, you to will feel more relaxed.
4. Give yourself the same kindness as you would a friend.
Kristin Neff, the pioneer of self -compassion, describes how to shift from self- criticism to self- compassion. One of the ways to do this is talk to yourself in the same way that you would talk to a good friend. You would offer your friend encouragement and validation. The key is to practice doing the same thing for yourself.
For example, if your friend shared that he/she was feeling overwhelmed with work, you would not say, “hey get over it!” or “ what is your problem?” You would not tell your friend that he/she should start looking for a new job.
In actuality you would try to soothe your friend with acceptance an encouragement.
For example you might say:
-Hey I know that you don’t feel good today.
-Its okay if you are not in a smiley mood
- I felt that way yesterday
- Maybe you are working too hard.
The bottom line is that you will feel better—calmer— when you move from self-critical talk to self- acceptance and compassion.
We all know that the teen years can be a very challenging time, when parents and teens may feel anxiety and confusion as they navigate the “new territory” of adolescence. But these years are also an exciting time, when young people get to experience many significant rites of passage – like earning a driver’s license, and feeling the sense of pride that comes with a hard-earned paycheck.
For parents, this transition can be difficult and confusing. Some parents describe their teenagers as withdrawn or less involved in family time. They even experience feelings of loss and longing for the past, when they felt more in touch with their children.
In my practice, I encourage parents to remember three things:
Your teenager does want to stay connected to the family. In fact, they need you more than ever. However, they also need time alone and apart from the family to establish their own identity as an individual.
Figuring out the answer to the question, “Who am I?” is a full-time job for a teenager. According to developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, adolescence is the time we work the hardest to develop our identity. On top of all that, teenagers carry the responsibility of completing their educational requirements and setting goals for the future.
Social development is an important hallmark of the teen years. During this time, young people shift their focus to building and deepening their relationships with friends. It is easy to underestimate the emotional energy it takes for them to work on and maintain friendships.
Though this process can be stressful, it’s a wonderful part of being a teenager that often results in life-long friendships. When I work with teens and parents in my practice, I witness this whole process in action.
In my next blog post, “Spread Your Wings, Part II,” I’ll share three tips that can help teens communicate and deal with adults!
As a teenager, interacting with adults can sometimes be awkward. The generation gap can make it feel like you’re living in separate worlds – like you can’t really relate to each other. Your parents play a huge role in your life, but not in the same way they did just a few years ago.
Here are 3 tips to help you communicate and deal with your parents, teachers, relatives and strangers:
Don’t feel pressure to share everything. Many well-meaning adults will ask you about your dreams, goals, and plans for the future. It is their way of engaging you in conversation and showing that they care; but it can feel like a lot of pressure. Remember: You don’t have to share everything, and you don’t need to have all the answers. You can change the topic by talking about what you’re studying or doing right now. Or, ask them questions to shift the focus of the conversation.
Be open to what the adults in your life have to say. Ask them questions about what it was like when they were teens. Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, they probably know what you’re going through. By communicating with the adults in your life, you can gain a lot of helpful insight from someone who’s been there before. Of course, you can choose to take away what works for you, and leave what doesn’t.
When life is tough, turn to an adult you can trust. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your parents. If you feel more comfortable talking to a friend’s mom, a school counselor, or a relative, share your thoughts and feelings with them. They may be able to give you the guidance and support you need.
Being a teenager is stressful and fun at the same time. Many of the teens I talk to juggle multiple responsibilities, as a student, a child, a friend, or a teammate. This is a transformative time in life, when many people start asking themselves: “Who am I?” and “Who do I want to be?”
Here are 3 tips to help you on your journey:
Embrace your uncertainty. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do. In fact, most people don’t know when they graduate high school, or even college. Many older adults decide to switch careers or make huge life changes down the road. Keep in mind: You have time to figure it out. Don’t get bogged down in deciding your future now. Focus on your responsibilities and allow life to unfold as it happens.
Find your comfort zone. Think back to when you were 7. What did you want to be when you grew up? What did you like to do? What about when you were 10, or 13? Take some time to think about what makes you special. Your likes, dislikes, hobbies, and interests will change as you evolve as a person. Give yourself the opportunity to really know yourself by trying new hobbies and activities, and hone in on what makes you happy.
Focus on the present moment. If you get overwhelmed with thoughts about the future, grab a pen and paper and write down a few of your worrisome thoughts. Once you see them in writing, make a list of short-term solutions you can start working on now. Prioritize the ones that require immediate action. For example, if you have an application that is due soon, tackle that first. Take it one thing at a time.
You may feel like you are alone with an impossible task. Don’t forget: You can ask for help! It’s important to turn to a trusted adult or counselor when you need advice or even just someone to talk to. Most adults will be happy to offer their support.