How do you measure real growth? As a therapist, this is a question I ask each of my clients. Because when we don’t have an answer, we tend to borrow society’s narratives about success and maturity.
One of these narratives is the belief that accomplishing more makes you more of a grown up. When we choose to live by this tenet of hustle culture, we often feel like we’re failing when our to-do list is unending, or when a peer has a more impressive resume.
The truth is that productivity is often more about regulating stress than it is about…
Anxious people often come to therapy for answers. But as a therapist, I’m more interested in questions. Questions engage the front part of our brain, the part that solves problems and set goals. They direct us away from our fight-or-flight response, the anxious autopilot that chooses calmness at any cost.
If anxiety is running your life, it can be useful to have a set of questions that help tease out your best thinking about how to navigate the day. …
Distance is a predictable, automatic response to stress. Dial up the anxiety, and people begin to pull away from each other. It’s the reason you’ve struggled to keep up with friends in pandemic times. Why you might not have the energy to connect with your partner at the end of a long day.
But the emotional distance that waters down our relationships can be much subtler than a lack of communication. As a therapist, I observe how people use a kind of pretend connection to maintain their relationships in tough times. Pseudo-connection is contact that stabilizes a relationship without offering…
Are successful people less anxious? It all depends on how you define success.
It’s impossible to look at a person and tell how much chronic anxiety they carry. This is because humans are masters at using anything and everything to appear high-functioning. For many people, overachieving is the fastest way to manage anxiety. But it’s not the most effective.
We chase after approval, attention, and achievement because they provide a short-term boost to our mood and functioning. We convince ourselves that if we can just finish the next degree, earn the promotion, or impress our family, we’ll finally be able…
As we all relearn how to interact with other humans, many are finding other people’s emotions more contagious than ever. If you’re not paying attention, you might begin to feel over-responsible for their anxiety.
One of the first lessons I learned as a therapist was that the more quickly you try to calm someone down, the less effective you become at helping them. This is because quick reassurance or advice are often more about managing our own distress than they are about being a resource to someone.
So how do you stay in the room with an anxious person without…
Many people crave stronger, more authentic friendships as an adult. But the process of building these relationships can prove slow and frustrating when our free time is already scarce.
How do you skip the awkward chit chat phase and hit the fast forward button on a potential friendship? As a therapist, I’ve learned a few things about building quick rapport with someone.
We all know the safe topics to broach when you first meet someone. We stick to sports, the weather, and work because we worry that our specific interests, and our zeal for them, will scare people away. …
Pretty much everyone’s heard that famous Mr. Rogers quote: “Look for the helpers.” But when you’re a therapist, you quickly learn that the helpers are not always what they appear to be.
In our relationships, as I tell my therapy clients, there are two kinds of helping: anxious helping and thoughtful helping. Anxious helping is more about our own inability to tolerate stress than it is about serving or leading others. This is because being over-responsible for others, sometimes called over-functioning, is one of the quickest ways to calm yourself down.
Over-functioning can look like:
I’ve been thinking about how our position in relationships can affect our ability to think clearly.
A triangle is a three-person relationship system. At any given moment in a triangle, two people are on the inside, and one person is on the outside. When things are tense between two people, you want to be in the outside position, away from the drama. But when things are calm and content between two people, it’s hard to be on the outside looking in.
You might be in the outside position of a triangle if:
If you’ve been vaccinated for Covid-19, you may have noticed that your pandemic anxiety isn’t going anywhere. A crowded grocery store, or even a hug from another vaccinated friend, can feel like too much too fast.
Some of this anxiety may be about the disease itself, but often it has to do with new relationship challenges. As many people step back into their social life, they’ll inevitably encounter conflict with others: Maybe you have friends who are not ready to hang out in person yet. Your spouse isn’t thrilled that you’re spending less time with them. …
One thing I can say with confidence about remote work: It does absolutely nothing to ease impostor syndrome. Over the past year, even as the world turned upside down, many of my therapy clients have continued to battle work-related worries: They don’t deserve a recent promotion; they aren’t qualified to give that upcoming Zoom presentation; they find it hard to feel professional and accomplished when the sink is full of dishes and they haven’t worn real pants in weeks.