People often confuse guilt with shame. They are complex states, and as a therapist who works with both men and women, shame seems particularly hard for men feel vulnerable enough to identify. And women cover shame in some interesting ways as well. So what are the differences between the two? Guilt is an experience that we have related to something we may have done. “I feel really lousy about my behavior last night, and I’d like to make it better with us.” When we experience guilt, we come to terms with a behavior or problem and work to correct it. Some people don’t actually experience guilt for many reasons, but we can save that for another post.
Shame is complicated and the road to recovery is not so easy. Shame also goes hand in hand with secrecy and sometimes even isolation and despair. People can feel very alone with their shame. Shame reactions, when unmanageable, can even drive some to suicide. Many deal with shame by punishing themselves. Often an individual may have identified with the voices of important others in their development—a parent who projects, or individuals who have been bullied, scapegoated or shamed by others. Some people are sensitive and will “carry” the shame of the family. Therapists see this often.
You’ve lost your flame, your essence, and not much excites you anymore. Forget soul-stirring passions, it’s a good day if you care about matching socks! You sleep, but rarely feel rested upon awakening. The usual things that once left you feeling refueled no longer make a dent in your recovery or outlook. Burnout, whether personal or professional, often comes from choosing a high pressure career that is emotionally draining, or having too much on your plate. In addition to career demands, you may be juggling the needs of others—children or aging parents. In my private practice, my therapy and coaching clients describe feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm by the seemingly ordinary tasks of daily living. I have many clients complaining of long hours and added responsibility which they attribute to cutbacks and corporate greed. My clients describe feeling undervalued and disrespected in the workplace. Many are very experienced and are tasked with the responsibility of training colleagues who are inexperienced or younger and therefore hired because they can be paid less. Many have jobs that carry a great deal of responsibility with little reward which can feel hard on the soul.
How do you know you have burnout? There are many physical and emotional symptoms of burnout. They may include loss of joy, fatigue and exhaustion and behavior or cognitive problems such as agitation, forgetfulness and apathy. Stress manifests in many ways and a good physician can help you determine if stress is showing up in your body. Something is off and you may not even know what’s wrong especially for those who are over achievers. Getting support for professional or personal burnout will help you in your recovery. While the thought of visiting a psychotherapist fills many with terror, it may be helpful to see a professional just to talk, vent or express the emotions that you cannot do with a spouse, family member, friend or colleague. Asking for help is not a weakness, it’s very proactive and smart.
“Plays well with others” but also takes fierce care of herself! As a Manhattanite, a stroll down Fifth Avenue this time of year reveals that holiday mania is indeed upon us. It’s the season for parties, events, presents, travel and family—also exhaustion! That bone-deep fatigue that sets intermittently and certainly after the holiday season because you have more things to do and less time for self-care and reflection.
Feelings of overwhelm and overcommitment, the season seems to deliver more frenzy, panic, anxiety, sadness and other emotions and behaviors than peace and joy. As a Manhattan-based Psychotherapist and Coach, I work with busy New Yorkers, especially highly perfectionistic, busy women, who have seemingly boundless reservoirs of energy—that is until they crash! What follows are some tips to help you flow through the season of light without burning yourself out.
Learning to have healthier boundaries is a great place to start! You instinctively move away from someone when they move too close to you. That’s a healthy and adaptive response, and so is setting boundaries with others. You may have learned to acquiesce to the needs of others for many reasons—that’s an old story for you, and now, like many narratives, a part of your “self” that you’d like to rescue. Here are some easy tips…
Learn to say NO without feeling guilty - Guilt is an important response to many things, and helps you develop properly. It’s also not always warranted, overused, reflexive and habitual. It’s not easy but you can learn to say NO. It gets easier with practice but you’ll feel proud of yourself, you may also learn that others will still love you (even if they have a less than ideal response to the new you who says NO). The biggest win is that you’ll free yourself up for things that really
Something just doesn’t feel right and while you may think you’re managing all the aspects of your hectic life pretty well, that “off” feeling may be anxiety that's pulling you out of your game. You could benefit from finding a therapist to help you sort things out but you’re too busy to make it to the gym or show up for family and friends as it is. You are a high-achieving, busy New Yorker, you are also struggling to balance personal and professional demands. You can’t do everything, and at times, it feels like you may be sinking instead of flourishing. Many high-functioning New Yorkers also battle chronic, stress-induced anxiety and tension that can lead to physical symptoms and depression.
You may overeat and abuse substances so now that we’ve identified those behaviors, this is a good time to consider whether anxiety and stress are driving some of these bad habits and patterns. Do you feel unwell because of anxiety and is it time to seek treatment for your stress and anxiety? How would your life improve if you found effective help for your symptoms of stress and anxiety?
I always recommend seeking professional support when anxiety is hijacking your life. Licensed psychotherapists have specialized training to help you better manage anxiety and cope better in the many aspects of your life so that you can create a healthier work/life balance. If you find that you are feeling overwhelmed, numb, less resilient, or that you eat and drink your feelings, here is some practical help until you find a therapist to work with one on one.
Pause, Identify + Notice — This is hard for busy professionals to slow down, hit the pause button and observe their thoughts, feelings and emotions or “tune-in” to what’s happening in their body. Who wants to do that especially when you work so hard to avoid unpleasant feelings. The body speaks loud and clear when we
I am delighted to meet with my clients in my office, or via Skype, FaceTime or a HIPPA-compliant platform for video and/or telephone sessions. Sometimes this option is necessary when work/life demands are great, or you are ill, moving or out of town and cannot meet in-person. Skype therapy and coaching works great for busy couples who may have parenting conflicts. Coaching by Skype is ideal for busy professionals who are also unable to schedule regular ongoing appointments. For established psychotherapy clients who are high-functioning, Skype or virtual, tele-therapy can be a wonderful adjunct to in-office appointments. While I believe that face-to-face sessions are ideal and the only option for many, I understand that for high-functioning clients who lead full and busy lives, therapy or coaching by Skype may be a practical alternative to commuting or meeting in my psychotherapy office. With many clients, I am able to deliver the same types of modalities that I use in-person, such as: psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy or CBT, DBT skills, mindfulness, Focusing-Oriented Therapy, somatic therapies, relationship counseling, executive, stress and well-being coaching and even EMDR with high-functioning clients.
What is online tele-medicine?
For psychological consultations, therapy, mentoring and coaching, mental health professionals and their clients are able to conduct private sessions remotely without missing sessions. This ensures the continuity of our work together and facilitates progress and much needed emotional or goal-attainment support.
What do you need to work with a coach or therapist remotely? You will need
As an introvert, mostly what I've learned is that I am enough, just as I am. Yep, I'd rather be reading next to my sweetheart or hiking in nature than screaming small talk at an event. After reading Susan Cain's book Quiet some time ago, I've made peace with my previously-tortured, introverted "self" who frequently self-flagellated for feeling freakishly abnormal and ashamed that people, noise and extended social interactions left me seeking refuge in the nearest bathroom or quiet and solitude for days.
A few years ago, I was at a psychoanalytic event for eating disorders, chatting and doing my best at small-talking with other therapists. it was hot, bright and crowded! I found myself hugging the wall for comfort. I politely excused myself and rather frequently, to seek some space. At some point, a colleague looked at me, and rather intensely asked "do you have an eating disorder because you keep leaving? I do not, but I wanted to spill and say, "no, I'm actually an introvert and need to escape NOW because I’m feeling overwhelmed." Instead, I simply apologized and stated that I had some "phone calls to return." We are a society and culture that values extroversion—quiet people are often misunderstood, undervalued and asked to have qualities that they do not naturally possess. Faking being anything other than your true, authentic self comes at a price.
I've since developed a great deal of acceptance and self-compassion for the way my brain and nervous system is wired, and as a result, how I need to function in the world. I make efforts to create situations that support my needs whenever I can. It is sometimes a challenge for me to make plans for next month or even a week from now, because I'm not sure how I'll feel on that day. Will I be able to rally for an event or social gathering when I need those resources the most? I've learned to embrace my brain differences, and have acceptance for my own needs. This includes my need for personal space, my need to retreat or create boundaries, and especially my need for recovery after extended social contact--it's a brain thing.
As it turns out, we now know that introverts need time to recharge and recover sometimes by
Are your thoughts, both conscious and those just beneath the surface, keeping you from success and living the life you desire? Have you heard the saying, "thoughts are not facts? These thoughts that interfere with health and happiness sneak up on us fast, some louder than others, and many are like background noise wreaking havoc on your life. Many thoughts need to be challenged because they no longer serve you and actually keep you looping in misery or feeling "stuck." One successful and time-tested strategy for working with coaching or psychotherapy clients is helping them learn to notice the "automatic thoughts" that have a deleterious affect on relationships, mood, anxiety, behavior and general outlook contributing to negative quality of life and poor health.
Automatic thinking refers to the automatic thoughts people have in response to things happening around them. The goal is not to judge these thoughts that occur, but to develop awareness and then learn to challenge and replace them with more realistic thoughts thus breaking the cycle of negative impact. I've included a helpful CBT tool from Psychology Tools, a resource that I regularly use with coaching and therapy clients to interrupt negative thinking.
Prompts For Challenging Negative Thinking (Use the list of prompts below to help you assess the truthfulness of your negative thinking).
You’ve hired a top-notch life coach, maybe even the best executive or performance coach to whip you into shape, but now find that you are either stuck or that you made some temporary progress and are now reverting to your old ways. Coaching fails many hopeful clients and for some very important reasons.
You simply can’t move forward if you don’t get help clearing blocks and obstacles that are often unconscious, but sabotage your best efforts. Professional coaching can be very effective and successful, but sometimes you must dig a bit deeper to unearth unconscious beliefs about yourself and internal conflicts. Many well-meaning coaches lack the psychological training to be able to detect and support client needs when an executive's problem(s) stem from underlying emotional and psychological issues. For many, coaching can actually be detrimental when symptoms that are present are longstanding, stubborn, severe and ignored. An example of this would be attempting to coach individuals with severe personality disorders. Coaching methods utilized by trained professionals may utilize any number of high-level and cutting-edge modalities that have a proven track record of helping people overcome self-sabotage, problem, repetitive behaviors and psychological conflicts. Some examples include: EMDR therapy combined with coaching; CBT and DBT Skills blended into coaching sessions, psychodynamic (insight-oriented) coaching and depth psychology.
Many fear or do not trust therapy and prefer a coaching model that is “here and now” focused and results and solution-driven. What happens when executives stumble onto patterns and obstacles that come up for them again and again? Executives, creatives, officers and entrepreneurs hire coaches to help them remove obstacles and learn to find clarity in their lives so that they can see things about their thoughts, actions and behaviors that may be
We ALL need a little help sometimes, even when we have awareness of our challenges and difficulties. It's really hard for many to ask for help, so I thought I'd share some useful techniques that I use in my own private practice in NYC working with therapy and coaching clients. CBT techniques are very helpful tools to be used in therapy, coaching and useful when applied to everyday life situations. What follows are some of the most common problems that clients struggle with and CBT techniques that are helpful.
Journaling—This technique gathers information and data about habitual thoughts, emotions and moods. Included in journal entries can be: time of day, the source or trigger, the intensity of the feeling state and the response or action taken. You can add more helpful and adaptive coping responses that might be considered in the future.
Catastrophizing—This tendency is to go immediately to an irrational thought that something is far worse than it actually is. Catastrophizing generally takes two different forms: making a catastrophe out of a current situation or a future situation. Step one is to identify when your are doing this. Next, use your smartphone or journal to write the thoughts down throughout the day and add a corrective statement to counteract the negative belief.
Cognitive Distortions—Alone or with a therapist, you practice identifying harmful or negative thoughts that are automatic for you, then challenge these thoughts that lead to vulnerability or distress in your daily life.
Cognitive Restructuring—Once you identify the distortions or inaccurate views, you can begin to learn about how this distortion took root and why you came to believe it. When you discover a belief that is destructive or harmful, you can begin to challenge it. Instead of accepting a faulty belief that leads to negative thoughts about yourself and poor self-esteem, you could take this opportunity to think about something in a different way.
Write Down Self-Statements to Counteract Negative Beliefs—This is a challenge especially if your belief is strong or it has served you in some way. Confront these negative thoughts by introducing a positive more correct thought. Positive thoughts or self-statements help to interrupt old patterns and create new neural pathways.
Exposure and Response Prevention—If you suffer from OCD, you can expose yourself to whatever creates the compulsive behavior that follows. Avoid doing the behavior by writing about it instead in a journal or notepad.
Interoceptive Exposure—If you struggle with panic attacks or anxiety, this technique involves exposing yourself to bodily sensations that elicit responses that lead to distress and panic symptoms. As you experience unpleasant symptoms, unhelpful thoughts arise and you can learn to tolerate the experience, reduce avoidance and develop a different way to view these symptoms such discomfort, but not dangerous.
Play the Script Until the End—This technique involves imagining the worst case scenario, letting it play out in the mind. For those who struggle with fear and
Traumatic experiences change the brain and it does so in an effort to protect us from future negative experiences. However, trauma and its symptoms do not have to hold us in its grip forever. As you continue to think, talk, re-tell and act on your experience(s), you reinforce your attachment to what happened, which exacerbates your symptoms and you loop on the upsetting memory and trauma responses.
The body is designed to heal. We now know that the brain has an amazing capacity to heal by creating new neural pathways. This process is called neuroplasticity. When people are finally able to regain control over their thoughts, behaviors, responses and lives, the brain's limbic system, parasympathetic and vagus nerve system can normalize.
Unfortunately, most who have suffered trauma want to heal, and yet struggle with allowing and accepting feeling "well" and "whole." This seems counterintuitive, however the underlying instinct is to remain vigilant as if the nervous system signals that it is "unsafe” to heal and be well. If one relaxes into safety and wellness, then