The recent celebrity suicides have hit me pretty hard especially as someone who has lost to suicide.
I connect to those left behind. When we have losses like this, for me, suicide loss acts as a cheese grater on my soul, slowly peeling back my own layers of grief. I imagine what those left behind face and are enduring, and, no matter how hard I try to forget, the losses always bring back memories, thoughts and feelings of those I've loved and lost to suicide.
In my time at Didi Hirsch's Suicide Prevention Hotline, I remember staff would talk about call volume spiking, and the need for more counselors to come in to support the many callers who connected to the recent celebrity suicides. These deaths, and the media coverage of the events, always reminds us of our own and others pain.
If you are someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression or has lost someone to suicide, this will be a difficult time. Please treat yourself well. Reach out to a friend, a loved one. Take that walk or extra time in the gym. Be gentle and kind to one another. It is a good time to invest in ourselves.
If you need additional supports, I've included the below from my depression and suicide webpage as a reminder of resources for you during this difficult time.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or planning to kill yourself, PLEASE take a moment, a breath and remember that if you can delay suicidal impulse, research shows the impulses WILL decrease. There are some incredible volunteers and paid staff that would love to talk with you about what you are struggling with. Please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255).
From my website:
Losing a loved one, family member, friend or even an acquaintance can be devastating. The feelings are complex, the thoughts overwhelming. Everything seems to trigger memories of the person gone, and all memories seem tainted by the nature of death.
The process of losing someone can make us feel alone. Grief, loss and bereavement are incredibly difficult things to experience, but there are many amazing people and organizations out there for support:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's I've Lost Someone
American Association of Suicidology's Suicide Loss Survivors
West Los Angeles-based Didi Hirsch's Survivors After Suicide are great places to start.
#suicide #prevention #call #celebrity #support #suicidal #ideation #intent #empathy #love #connection
I had the immense pleasure of catching Dr. Susan David on Mental Illness Happy Hour "Judging Our Feelings" this past week.
She has a wonderful conversation with Paul -- starting at 21 minutes -- about thoughts, feelings and ways of approaching a healthier, more consistent lifestyle. She touches on many vital concepts, which are emerging with greater and greater scientific support.
Two key concepts and reminders I took away from the podcast:
Have you listened to this podcast already? If so, what were some of your takeaways?
So many beautiful possibilities in this chat. I highly recommend it.
#thoughts #feelings #mentalhealth #support #love #compassion #beauty
For me, the end of the year is a time of reflection, appreciation and gratitude. It's when I carve out time to be proud of myself and my accomplishments of the year. It's when family rejoins, and tradition and ritual come to a focus. During this process of reflection, I find it natural to reflect on areas for growth, development and change.
However, over the years as I've progressed through my experience as a certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT therapist in West LA, I've noticed difficulty in executing some of the New Year's goals I set for myself. I know I am not alone in this. Much has been written about the importance of setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals. In thinking about my past goals and in remembering discussions with friends and family, identifying goals is rarely the main barrier.
Too often I think our year-end reflections get filtered through a negative filter. Instead of dwelling on my accomplishments and successes, I tend to set goals that tap into my perceived inadequacies and dissatisfactions over the past year. Sadly, the outcome of this type of filtration is that I leave myself with a sense that I am, and/or my life, just isn't good enough.
Goals of this nature can become a checklist of tasks I "need" to or "must" do, and become a basis for my own feelings of inadequacy, lack of confidence and esteem, and tend to gain momentum throughout the year. Conducted through this lens, in the generation of goals, I struggle to finalize a thorough list of SMART goals and commit to executing them.
If you are someone who is able to carve out SMART goals for yourself, hold yourself accountable throughout the year and move forward in creating your ideal self and environment without distress, BRAVO! Keep up the excellent work!
However, if you find yourself struggling to set SMART goals or executing change within your life, I have a proposal for you.
In a prior post, I recommended:
We all drift from our good-enough selves. Being adaptable, resilient and committing time to reconnecting with our passions, purpose and cultivating a process to do so is most important.
Similar to the above quote, it is important to remember that we all drift from our true intentions and goals -- each and every one of us. Therefore, it is not helpful to berate ourselves for this sort of drift.
It has been much more helpful to think about the times in my life when I have lived according to my desired goals -- going to the gym on a regular basis, cultivating meaningful relationships, treating loved ones in a loving, compassionate manner -- and reflecting on how I was feeling at those times, what I was thinking in those moments and factors that led to drifting away from those ideal behaviors.
Typically, I find that when I cultivate such compassion for myself, I'm in a much better position to share compassion and nurturance with the world and others.
If you are interested in working on your goals in 2018 and think a therapist might be helpful in keeping you on track, please contact my West Los Angeles psychotherapy practice today for a consultation.
#goals #newyear #change #psychology #inspire #reflection
I love thinking the majority of my thoughts are worthless without action. That I am an observer of, not subjected to, the electrical storm within my mind. A growing gale nurtured through my focus and attention.
I love thinking I can choose to engage and ignore my thoughts -- to give life to my deepest passion and exile my darkest anxiety. These are things I focus on within my West Los Angeles psychotherapy practice.
"...5% of our thoughts are actually meaningful and relevant..."
What an empowering reminder.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the Forbes article "A Better Way to Deal With The Negative Thoughts In My Head."
Shannon Kolakowski, PsyD notes:
“Defusion is the process of noticing your negative or anxious thoughts, such as ‘I'm going to be alone forever,’ and then responding to it with openness and curiosity as a distant observer,” says Kolakowski. “Rather than accept your thought as the ultimate truth, you recognize that thoughts will come and go, but you don't have to believe them or act on them. You become an observer, saying to yourself ‘I'm having the thought that I'm going to be alone forever,’ and then try to explore that thought with curiosity."
“Creating a new relationship with your thoughts is freeing,” says Kolakowski. “You may not be able to control what thoughts pop up, but you can control how you respond to them. And you can control what action you take."
Ajahn Amaro notes:
“We tend to think that our thoughts are oppressive,” says Amaro, “and that therefore we should make them go away…Oftentimes meditation instruction is about stopping your thinking, as if thoughts are a kind of brain disease, an infection, an intruder. But the very act of pushing them away, and adopting the sense that they’re intrinsically intrusive, actually makes them more powerful. Rather than relating to them in that way, there’s another attitude we can have toward them—not taking them personally.”
He adds that the vast majority of our thoughts are, at best, random, and at worst, destructive. “One of the first things I emphasize when teaching,” he says, “is that 5% of our thoughts are actually meaningful and relevant, and 95% are replaying movies, music, and recollecting. It’s mostly just debris. I often encourage people to look at it like listening to neighbor’s radio–you understand the content, you can hear the words; you might sometimes get excited about an ad, or a talk show. But you don’t really care on a personal level. You relate to your neighbor’s radio in a non-personal way—we can have the same relationship to activity of the mind. It doesn’t have to make a big story around the thoughts. It’s an attitudinal shift.”
#thoughts #thinking #shift #mindfulness #meditation #anxiety #givelife
I've spent a large part of my life living within core beliefs of not good enough, inadequacy and incompetence.
Out of an almost obsessional pursuit to disprove these internal fallacies, I have been driven to do more, hold myself to "higher" standards and take full responsibility for many neutral-negative encounters I have. As I reflect on a lifetime spent in this default mode, I recognize it's had a significant impact on my contentment, confidence and self-compassion.
In my personal life, I've had moments of desperately seeking validation from the external world, which rarely comes. It's taken a long time to build reserves from within, find peace with uncertainty and be confident within my voice.
I know these thoughts and beliefs have distanced me from others -- "less people around me, the less 'burdens' to take on" -- and framed many encounters as a way to get my needs met rather than just sharing space and connection.
I LOVE this piece. It's short but addresses these traits in direct way and acknowledges the impact of highly competent traits in the workforce and in our personal relationships.
“If someone (in the workforce) is doing more than his fair share, compensate him for it. If not, he may ultimately leave and seek recognition elsewhere. Similarly, in our personal relationships, we should recognize that just because our high-ability partners can do something for us, doesn’t mean that we should let them. And if they do help us, we should recognize it and thank them for it. Otherwise, they too may end up feeling burdened by us, and less satisfied—and that should be the last thing we want to do to a good employee or a good partner.”
#competence #work #relationships #burden #incompetence #inadequacy #therapy #therapist #beliefs #ocpd #perfectionism
Emotions are part of our daily lives. The breadth of feelings within the human condition are what makes life interesting, exciting and dynamic. Our experiences influence our moods, and our thinking plays a big part in how we feel.
Unfortunately, life is not always positive. For many of us, it is only a matter of time before we are confronted with relational, social, career-related and familial changes. These adaptations are normal, but create certain emotional states. Depending on our prior experiences and beliefs about ourselves, the world and others, our biased reactions may become distressing. This stress becomes problematic when it does not improve, increases in consistency, and impacts our social, occupational and other important areas of our lives.
Major Depressive Disorder affects over 16 million people in the United States. Typical reactions include issues with sleep, appetite, weight changes, loss of energy, interest in daily activities and pleasure, decreased focus or concentration, thoughts of suicide and more. If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of depression, self-help techniques may not be enough. It can be difficult to find appropriate social supports and tools to reframe many of our negative thoughts.
If you find yourself struggling with your symptoms, I recommend finding a certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist in your area.
According to the Beck Institute, “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a time-sensitive, structured, present-oriented psychotherapy directed toward solving current problems and teaching clients skills to modify dysfunctional thinking and behavior.” For mild and moderate depression, CBT has been shown to be as effective as psychotropic medication.
Depressed mood is part of our lives, but suffering doesn’t have to be.
Here are 3 ways you can try to improve your mood:
1. Increase your awareness of your thoughts, feelings, behaviors and situations when negativity seems strongest.
I know it’s overly simplistic, but just because you think something doesn’t make it true.
In our culture, we confuse thoughts and feelings, and are likely to believe our thoughts are biologically ingrained and incapable of change. CBT labels these reflexive thoughts as “automatic thoughts.”
To combat the distress created by automatic thoughts, beginning a process of observing our thinking and feelings in a non-judgmental manner and paying attention to situations when we are more sensitive to negative emotions is imperative. This practice deepens our awareness of our thoughts, connects them with specific situations, triggers and themes, and can improve our confidence in managing our own internal pain.
2. Deepen your commitment to yourself and people who make you feel good.
When it comes to depression, the best cures are action and increasing social supports.
But this is the insidious nature of depression. When we do not have the energy, interest, sleep or concentration to engage and connect with activities or supportive loved ones, we don’t do it. If we continue not to do something, we feel worse and become more likely to avoid the task. This sort of self-defeating emotional reasoning — “I feel, therefore I am/think…” — can be a significant impediment in moving forward in our lives.
Empowering ourselves by committing to a goal of activity and supportive connection is a disciplined way of exercising self-care and self-compassion. Both of these concepts are vital in combating depressive episodes.
3. Practice daily self-care and self-compassion.
I know it sounds simplistic and contrived, but you have to regularly take care of your physical and mental health. But don’t worry, it’s a lot easier than you think.
Self-care might include exercise, spending time with supportive others, in nature and by yourself, psychotherapy, nutrition, personal training, massage, intentional nothingness (e.g. being intentional in doing nothing), coping cards, reading and many more activities.
Self-compassion might include treating yourself with love and kindness, decreasing self-blame and self-loathing, increasing emotional tools and coping mechanisms, and more.
Rather than thinking of your depressed mood as being representative of you, try thinking of it as a cue or reminder that it’s time for some self-care and self-compassion.
And with that, I’m off to spend some time with my family outdoors. Here’s hoping you find something to rejuvenate, recharge and refresh yourself today.
Nick Holt, LCSW is a certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT therapist in West Los Angeles, California. As an BBB Accredited Business, he runs an intentionally small, part-time private practice for clients looking for targeted mental health treatment and support on weekends and evenings. His specialties include treatment for depression, anxiety, trauma, grief and loss for survivors of suicide, and support for suicidal ideation.
Raising a small child brings all sorts of challenges. Lately, I've found myself waking up early and preparing lunches. During these pre-dawn hours, I've fallen in love with a number of podcasts and listen to them regularly.
As a certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT therapist in West Los Angeles, I was highly impressed by Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller's first episode of Invisibilia, "The Secret History of Thoughts". It was a compelling exploration of our thoughts and an interesting analysis of mental health's view of thoughts.
The contrast of psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness and meditation was useful and relevant not only for people experiencing symptoms like depression or anxiety, but also a good reminder for me as a therapist.
Check it out and let me know what you think.
From the article:
"An addiction, goes the emerging understanding, begins with a flash of pleasure overlaid with an itch for danger: It’s fun to gamble or to drink, and it also puts you at risk (for losing your rent money, for acting like an idiot). Addictions bring pleasure, though they also build up a tolerance over time, as the addict requires more and more of the behavior (or substance) to get the same hedonic hit."
"Compulsions, by contrast, are about avoiding unpleasant outcomes. They are born out of anxiety and remain strangers to joy. They are repetitive behaviors we engage in over and over to alleviate the angst brought on by the possibility of negative consequences. If I don’t check my phone constantly, I’ll miss an urgent demand from my boss or will feel like I don’t know what is going on. If I do not religiously organize my closets, my home will be engulfed in chaos. If I don’t shop, it will be proof that I can’t afford nice things and am headed for homelessness. “A compulsive behavior is one that’s done with the intent of decreasing an overwhelming sense of anxiety,” said Jeff Szymanski, executive director of the International Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Foundation. The roots of compulsion lie in the brain circuit that detects threats, which is abnormally active in people with OCD and other compulsions."
Great work and an informational piece. Read more here.
This post originally appeared on PickTheBrain.com.
‘I feel the most fulfilled and perform best when I am helping others in a direct capacity, and am learning in a collaborative work environment.’
I recently told a friend this. Being able to put such thoughts into concise expression hasn’t always been easy for me. In fact, in my past, I’ve actually had different ideals, which I’ve gravitated toward. These ideals had little to do with my aforementioned paraphrase.
I’ve done considerable research on my interests and passions as well as possible career options, which take advantage of the intersection of these areas. I’ve read numerous books on these subjects, seen documentaries and lectures on the topics, and sought out a variety of mentors and a number of individuals in my own career search and selection. I’ve even done career assessment through surveys. I recently took one of these types of career assessments.
The Strong Interest Inventory is based on Holland Codes, and is a common career assessment tool. I’ve utilized this testing in the past but for some reason my latest assessment provided a new perspective for me, and what I learned was quite revealing. Not only was the view interesting and relevant to me, but I believe my insights were not unique. This explains my reasons for writing about this subject. I believe my thoughts are relevant to many of you as well.
[**] While on a trip to my hometown of Santa Cruz, California, I took time to meet up with David Thiermann to chat about my current career direction. (I am refocusing from entertainment marketing to mental health.) In the past, I have worked in a few environments where I perceived people caring more about the work getting done than the conditions under which it was completed. However, in addition to noticing this, I began to feel a deep disconnect between my own interests and my work. In bringing this up to David, we began to do some refinement when it came to my own personal ethos.
To give a bit more of a background on the Strong Interest Inventory, I believe it would be helpful to better explain the Holland Codes. According to Wikipedia, the Holland Codes are as follows:
[**] Of course these self-rating and selecting types of surveys can vary by moment. At the exact moment I took this test with David, he found me to be feeling most capable and motivated toward the Social, Enterprising and Artistic categories. The most interesting part about this experience was David’s comment about our society and how it tends to treat Social categories. David mentioned that in his experience, he’s noticed that society tends to encourage people within the Social category to move toward Enterprising paths.
BAM! His statement hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only did I feel this exact stigmatization toward my Social skills and Social career options growing up, but I perpetuated them by believing that I could excise them by working in “Social” settings, parameters and frameworks within the field of marketing. Upon further reflection, leadership and management were, and are, of incredible interest to me. As I see it now, my main issue within my experience in entertainment marketing was that in order to achieve leadership roles, I needed two specific things which I did not have at the time: patience and active mentors.
I believe my issues surrounding “patience” are based on the fact that I didn’t enjoy my work. It gave me little in return for a lot of hours of hard work, commuting and stress. It paid the bills and developed my skill set, but the work was incredibly dull for me. What I wasn’t thinking about at the time was that I valued helping others not the work itself; and, in order to make my way up the corporate ladder, I would need to prove myself in an career path which provided little return back to me. What a revelation! I only wish I could have made this distinction a bit sooner in my life.
This is not to suggest that by working in more Social environments I will not run into political situations, frustrations, people who are burned out and miserable, and need to exercise patience on a regular basis. However, when I was able to put my career into a Social framework, for me, the pieces began to better fit together and my current direction made much more sense. My purpose is helping others, not about persuading, selling and dominating. I enjoy collaborative environments. Though I appreciate competitive environments, when it comes at the expense of other individuals it becomes intolerable for me. Now that I have had this realization, what is left for me to do? Simple. Now I need to take the next step. I need to figure out a way to tap into more S.E.A. tasks and farm out as many of the C.I.R. tasks as possible. This may seem like a simple concept but in better understanding it, it is truly making a monumental difference.
[**] This post is meant to serve as a reminder to you that no matter much effort and energy you put into your life, you are only going to be able to achieve a level in life that you permit yourself to through such vessels as reflection, dedication, motivation, honesty, openness and risk. Even when you believe your current path to be absolute in its representation of your own life, life can still surprise you. I know it recently did for me. I encourage you to reflect on your own paths and see how you can better tune in to your life whether it is through a career coach, therapist, and friend or loved one. As in the wise words of my dear friend David: “When people stop going through transitions, they stop growing.”
Read more at http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/being-stuck/#ywUkWAHmdOyXdb5z.99
Mental Health and Therapy Writer. As featured on Huffington Post, Vox Media and elsewhere.