A therapist explains why there’s more to growing up than completing your to-do list

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…

How to rely less on others to boost your mood and functioning

Humans are social creatures. Pay attention to any relationship, and you will see a small emotional economy of borrowing, lending, and trading. If you lend me some of your calmness when I’m distressed, then I’ll take over a task when it feels too overwhelming for you. …

A therapist explains how to feel less overwhelmed by your relationships

Anxiety distorts how we see the world and our relationships. Turn up the stress, and we become more allergic to each other. It’s harder to tolerate a partner’s quirks or a friend’s lengthy texts. Answering a simple email from a colleague feels like an impossible task.

This increased sensitivity is…

A therapist explains how to live a more thoughtful and less frantic life

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.

A therapist explains how to build more authentic relationships

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. …

A therapist explains how to wean yourself from needing praise

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…

A therapist explains how to stay calm without trying to control others

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…

A therapist’s advice for skipping the superficial stages of making friends

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? …

A therapist explains how solving other people’s problems can become an unhealthy form of stress relief

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…

The relationship pattern that’s causing you stress

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…

Kathleen Smith

Kathleen Smith is a therapist and author of the book Everything Isn’t Terrible: Conquer Your Insecurities, Interrupt Your Anxiety, and Finally Calm Down.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store