Life Balance Counseling Blog

Scaling back in a High Pressure Society

Are you taking on too many roles and feeling overwhelmed and stressed? Is it time to examine whether you need to scale back some of your roles to find some balance and happiness in your life? We all have various roles that we carry out on a daily basis. Some of us are part time or full time workers, husbands/wives, mothers/fathers, students, caregivers, coaches, and so forth.

Our high pressure society has trained us to think that we need to keep busy, that we aren't doing enough, and that we need to be doing more with our lives. In a sense it almost sets our thoughts  up to believe that we "need" to do something more then what we are already doing to be happy. 

Do you feel like you are always looking for the next best thing to satisfy the instant gratification that we are drawn to and constantly seek? After you achieve the next best thing, can you even really appreciate it or are you too burned out? Do you feel like you are on the never ending hamster wheel and you are not sure of when to get off? Do you know when doing too much  is negatively impacting your ability to function and relationships?  

Let's take some time to self-reflect. Grab a piece of paper and pen, phone, tablet or laptop. I want you to stop and think for a minute about how many roles you have in your life. How do you feel about the various roles you carry out on a daily basis? Do these specific roles instill happiness in your life? Are they essential for your growth? Do any of these roles have a negative impact on your ability to function? Do any of these roles have a negative impact on your relationships? 

If you answered yes to any of the negative impact questions; how can you make a change to that role? Can you eliminate that specific role from your life? For example, maybe you thought it was a good idea to take on a second job for extra income but the job becomes so overwhelming that you can't sleep anymore from all of the extra hours you are putting in, you don't have any time to spend with your friends and family and your grades are going down at school. It may be helpful to consider "scaling back" on the second job. You may choose to work less hours if that is an option or eliminate the job all together. Once you have scaled back or eliminated the role you may start to see improvements in the negative impacts you once were experiencing. If you can't eliminate that role right now, is there somewhere else you can scale back in your life?

It's important to be able to be mindful and recognize when it's time to scale back because you are doing too much. When we spread ourselves too thin we may experience fatigue, sadness, depression, irritability, anxiety, insomnia and our overall health suffers. Sometimes our jobs or relationships suffer because there just isn't enough time to do everything. We need to nurture ourselves and get in tune with our needs. As much as we all want to be the "all-star" and "do it all," sometimes you just can't and that is okay. Maybe you are reading through this blog thinking that you have found your balance and that is wonderful but it is easy to take on too much and feel overwhelmed again. Be mindful when you are happy and unhappy and find a balance that works best for you. 

I challenge you to think about your roles, happiness, and unhappiness and identify ways to make your changes in your life to find balance and genuine happiness. At Life Balance Counseling, we have counselors that help clients find balance in their life. If you are feeling stuck and unsure of what to do, feel free to reach out and learn more about our services, counselors and treatment options. 

Making it through the storm; taming unbearable and suffocating amounts of stress

We’ve all been there before: riding the typical ups and downs of life, already struggling to through various stressors and obligations and trying to balance it all, when all of a sudden and seemingly out of nowhere, Bam! We’re blindsided by an overwhelmingly enormous and crushing amount of stress. It happens more often than one might think, and as daunting and defeating as this sudden influx of stress may seem, there are methods to taming the chaos and coping with this seemingly insurmountable stress until things level themselves out again. You do not need to suffer in silence and wait for the crushing mass of stress to work itself out; there are ways to proactively tame this metaphorical beast.

Right off the bat, the first thing I tell my clients is to take care of your basic needs. Basic needs are things we need to take care of on a daily basis to ensure we are able to function. Things like making sure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep, you are eating regularly as well as eating whole, nutritious foods (to boost brain and immuno function), making sure you are staying hydrated and drinking enough water, making sure you are maintaining good hygiene, and taking care of whatever else you may deem a basic need. These may seem a bit intuitive, but they go a long way during times of chaos and exponential stress.

The next thing I tell my client is to know your limits, and start saying “no” when necessary. Chances are you are feeling overwhelmed and overextended, so it may be time to simplify your schedule and priorities a bit. Whether it be in your personal or professional life, it may be imperative to temporarily winnow down responsibilities and tasks that aren’t a priority during times of crushing stress. This will not only make your workload seem more manageable, but it will also restore some semblance of control in your life.

On a daily basis, there are thousands of thoughts that filter through our minds: thoughts about what is going on in our surroundings, thoughts about what we’re doing, thoughts about how we’re doing it, thoughts about ourselves, thoughts that we think others are having about us, etc. These thoughts, or internal dialogue, may affect our ability to deal with the obstacles in front of us. During times of increased stress, we may even begin to be cruel to ourselves and think certain things like “what is wrong with me?” “I’m being ridiculous,” “I’m an idiot,” and so on. In addition to exacerbating feelings of distress during an already difficult time, chronically negative and self-deprecating thoughts may become downright destructive and defeating. As a result, I tell my clients to be gentle with themselves and the internal dialogue they choose to use. Being mindful of what you are saying to yourself and how you are saying it sets the tone for how well you will be able to focus on working through problems and finding solutions. When we start focusing on the thoughts we have about ourselves instead of the tasks at hand, we become distracted and as a result may bully ourselves to the point of shutting down. The goal is to change thoughts that are stuck in a negative loop to thoughts that are more objective and constructive. Doing this helps to diffuse emotionally charged thoughts about yourself and your capacities, and once you aren’t bullying yourself into submission, you clear a path to work on the obstacles in front of you.

Along with being mindful of internal dialogue, I tell my clients to make themselves a priority. Chances are with consuming thoughts of doubt and agony, you are struggling to think about or do anything else. As a result, it may be necessary to engage in some sort of positive distraction. Doing something that you typically love to do but haven’t allowed yourself to do in a while (most likely because you’ve been too busy trying to deal with all of your stress) can not only give you some much needed reprieve from everything that is going on, but it may also clear your head enough to give you some added perspective on things. Making plans with a friend, phoning a family member or friend, trying a fun, new activity, or rekindling an old hobby you used to enjoy are all great ideas for a temporary distraction.

Above all else, listen to your body. Do not ignore red flags, intuition, or what your conscience tells you. If you feel you have done everything in your power to work through this difficult time and still feel like you are struggling to stay afloat, it may be time to reach out for additional assistance from a professional counselor. As scary as this step may be, it could be the difference between succumbing to the stress or taking charge and working through it.

If you feel you have done everything in your power to deal with your stress but feel you may need some additional help, feel free to reach out and make an appointment for a session. 

Written by: Lana Rukavina, LPC

Taking the Plunge: Embarking on a Journey of Self-Discovery

Typically, clients to see me in hopes of learning how to manage anxiety and/or depression. They often come in search of learning some new coping tools or strategies to help remedy whatever symptoms they may be experiencing that cause them distress. While tools can be a helpful temporary fix, they might not always be the solution to issues that are more deeply rooted and stubborn.

In my work I have found that when clients allow themselves to becomes vulnerable and really take an unfiltered look at themselves in the metaphorical mirror, that's when changes truly begin and the magic happens. While symptoms of anxiety and depression may occasionally arise as a result of increased stress and/or situational factors, often times nagging and persistent symptoms may be a result of more deeply rooted insecurities or conflicts we may not have dealt with or may not even be fully aware of.

As a result, I have found that clients who are patient and courageous enough to take the time to go on a journey of self-discovery not only work through their anxious and depressive symptoms, but they also come out of the counseling experience with a more self-aware and enlightened view of themselves and who they are personally, professionally, romantically, etc. Giving yourself permission to work on what may seem like a Pandora’s box of worries and insecurities may actually lead to a series of transformations and growth which may benefit you in a multitude of aspects in life.

I work diligently in tandem with clients to create an open and trusting environment where my clients feel comfortable enough to process and reflect on the most intimate aspects of their thoughts, emotions, and lives. During sessions, no topics are off limits and exploration is highly encouraged; this includes the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. Clients sometimes even divulge information they may have never spoken to anyone about previously. This takes a lot of trust, vulnerability, and courage, but discussing experiences, emotions, thoughts, and worries with an objective third party observer may lead to transformative growth that may surprise you.

What I love most about going on this journey of self-discovery with my clients is seeing light bulbs go off- where clients suddenly realize something about themselves that completely shifts their perspective and enlightens how they feel about themselves and their life experiences. Seeing growth firsthand and being trusted enough to go on these intimate journeys with clients speaks to what life is truly about: living, learning, and growing, and I love every minute of it!

Sometimes we just get stuck in life. We know we don't feel like our usual selves, and we may have a hard time placing what it is that we're exactly experiencing. If this is the case for you, or if you're just interested in learning about yourself and growing as an individual, feel free to reach out to me and make an appointment to start working on living a more introspective, meaningful, and balanced life.

Written by: Lana Rukavina, LPC

Training your brain to love your flaws: Using cognitive dissonance to your advantage

If you’ve ever taken a psychology class, the term “cognitive dissonance” might sound familiar. It is the discomfort an individual feels when they believe two concepts, values, or thoughts that directly contradict one another. This discomfort can also be felt if an individual does something that contradicts their own values. For example, if Suzy thinks she is a good person but she made fun of someone, then she might feel some sort of personal mental discomfort, because her action contradicted her belief about herself.

To cope with this sense of discomfort, many of us might try to rationalize our actions so as not to be out of line with how we think of ourselves. For example, Suzy might say that the person she was making fun of was being mean to her earlier, and therefore he “deserved it.” In thinking this way, Suzy might feel better about herself, despite having made fun of him.

It’s really a very interesting concept, if you think about it. Our brain tries to self-correct our own way of thinking so we can get back “in line” with our beliefs if we ever “fall out” of line.

Okay, psychology review/lesson over. Now, how can we use this to our advantage?

Whether you have low self-esteem in general or there’s just one, two, (or a handful) of things you don’t like about yourself, you might have the conscious or unconscious thought: “I really hate my ____.” Perhaps you even think this thought every time you see this feature on yourself, so the message is pretty engrained in your brain. The good news is, we have power to change our thoughts using thought stopping techniques, and thanks to cognitive dissonance, we have the power to change how we feel about things.

Here’s how: Let’s say Suzy has freckles and she hates them. Every day she looks in the mirror and thinks “I really hate my freckles.” One day Suzy wakes up an decides that she doesn’t want to hate her freckles anymore, so she employs some thought stopping techniques—anytime she has a negative thought about her freckles, she says “STOP” out loud, and instead, replaces that thought with a new one: “I really love my freckles.” She does this every day until she no longer has negative thoughts about her freckles, and when she sees them, she continues to think “I really love my freckles.” Eventually, the new thought is the one “burned” in her brain, and the old one is no more.

Right now you might be thinking, “okay, but where does cognitive dissonance come into play?” When Suzy first started the thought stopping and introducing the new thought, her brain had two conflicting messages: “I hate my freckles” and “I really love my freckles.” Because of cognitive dissonance, Suzy’s brain is really scrambling, because it can’t possibly believe the two contradictory thoughts at the same time. When Suzy continues to repeat the message “I really love my freckles” over and over again, her brain has to change its wiring to cope with the uncomfortable feelings it experiences by having the two contradictory thoughts. To put itself back “in line” with the new thoughts it is being bombarded with (“I really love my freckles”), Suzy’s brain starts to have more positive feelings about her freckles.

Perhaps the long explanation sounds confusing and makes the matter more complicated, but the basic message is this: If we introduce a new, positive message in our brain that contradicts an old, negative message we have, with enough repetition our brain will begin to believe the new message.

Be patient with yourself in trying this. Remember that repetition of the new and positive message is key. Eventually your brain will start to adjust to—and accept—the new message, while pushing the old one out. This is because the two conflicting messages can’t both be accepted by your brain at the same time, and your brain will be forced to start agreeing with the message you are repeating every day.

Happy brain rewiring!

 

By: Lauren Buetikofer, LPC