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Marriage and Relationships – Do’s And Don’ts

The Need to Feel Loved

The desire for a soulmate and longing to be in a relationship are instinctive, hardwired needs that we all have. To be loved, desired and admired with all of our imperfections and flaws, sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? Most little girls dream of becoming princesses anxiously anticipating their prince charming to sweep them off their feet with gallant behavior, good manners and financial security.  Similarly, men typically desire an appealing, sexy yet smart, funny but not obnoxious, overall well-put together woman who will make for a loving partner.  And while each side of the relationship looks into these, and many other “must haves”, often people dismiss the fact that relationships can be quite difficult and at times, make us question our reasons for participating in them. Vowing to be with someone in “good and bad, health and sickness” is easier said than done – simply check the most recent divorce rates. Many couples hit a standstill when they face difficulties and indeed, there’s no faster way to test a relationship with its carefully imagined “picture perfect” ideal than the frustrations of day-to-day life. Couples these day prefer to live together rather than tying the knot, and the reasons are many.

The Do’s And Don’ts In Relationships 

Identifying and exploring the cause of a couple’s uneasiness often brings meaningful insight into the state of the relationship. A variety of situations can present themselves:

  • Lack of communicationIt sounds like cliche but it’s true. People have expectations, sometimes realistic, often times not. When there’s not a two-way line of communication problems will arise. You don’t want to burden your loved one with the issues you’re dealing with so you keep quiet? That’s great and that may seem kind to spare your loved one the anxiety you’re experiencing only he/she may interpret your well meaning intentions as a lack of attention, withdrawal from the family unit and having trust inadequacies.
  • Dating or marrying “an ideal” – This is a definite No – No. During my clinical practice, I have had the opportunity to work with couples who have pursued relationships with unrealistic expectations of their significant other. The problem with this approach is that people are not stagnant – we don’t see them as they are when we are in love. Additionally, people don’t remain the same, they change – sometimes rapidly, sometimes more slowly. In other words we all undergo a metamorphosis with time! The prince charming from our fairy tale may actually turn into an ugly frog with time.
  • Inability to accept criticismThere’s nothing worse than when one side is consistently critical of the other but is unable to accept even the slightest feedback. Both men and women can be guilty of this behavior. The results of such persistent criticism amounts to a life of hell for the other person. Manipulation in pursuit of one sided reward, verbal and emotional abuse stemming from such behavior is a relationship killer. So by all means Do Not Do This.
  • Finances  – Although money doesn’t buy you happiness, short finances are one of the primary reasons for quarrels and fights among couples. Relationships can encounter differing situations when it comes to their financial well-being – one of the individuals not providing or trying to provide enough for the family unit or overdoing it due to fear of being poor. And while the second option seems like the better of the two evils, working hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month may improve your finances, but could also wedge a space between you and your love one. “You said you were not going to work this weekend”, ” You always have to work”, “You never have time for me”  – sound familiar? Try making the time, communicate and share your dreams, goals and inspirations. Both individuals working towards a common goal can overcome the frustrations along the way.
  • Cheating – It falls into the “Don’t Do” category. Not just the physical but also the emotional damage caused by cheating can cause self-doubt, trust issues, co-dependency issues, and the list go on. Honesty and openness although difficult is way better compared to lies and deceit.
  • Faith/ Spirituality/ Religion –  When love and passion hit, everything else seems insignificant, only to appear later like an elephant in the room. The world has become a small village yet, couples often realize that their religious or spiritual  upbringing is in strong contrast to that of their significant other. Love can and does overcome many things in life, but sometimes differing core beliefs can seem to be an insurmountable obstacle. With a willing heart however; communication, love, patience and willingness to understand the “other’s” perspective, these challenges can be resolved.

For these and more helpful suggestions, please feel free to drop us a line, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, share our comment and comment. Freedom Counseling offers assistance for individuals and couples in need of counseling. If you feel now is the right time and you’re ready, feel free to schedule your next appointment.

The Pressure of Competing and Succeeding after College Graduation: 5 Helpful Tips!

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Getting to graduation … 

Graduating college – Not an easy task! If you recently graduated you know exactly what I’m talking about. Many grads have subjected themselves to year after year of constant, self-inflicted “punishment” to get there.  To get to graduation day often means working full-time or part-time while also attending college in the evening, studying for exams and various tests. Let’s also not forget about everyone’s favorite “group projects” on a topic that you couldn’t care less about while simultaneously attempting to complete an internship so you can satisfy your degree’s requirements. Now imagine doing that to yourself day after day, week after week, semester after semester and its easy to see that graduating is no small task! An achievement that should come with a sense of accomplishment and relief, but can also induce a loss of purpose and in some cases, depression. The objective has finally been met, your mind and body are absolutely exhausted, but in terms of a career, all you did was get yourself to the starting line!

Under pressure …

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Any fans of Freddy Mercury? His song comes to mind with its catchy tune. Why these feelings of pressure? You graduated after all! You wore the cap and gown and received a ton of congratulations by your professors who just made your life a living hell for the last couple of years. You did it! 

You finally got that precious degree and made your parents proud!

You should feel accomplished and content with yourself after all those years of hard work, right? Perhaps not…Recent grads report that the initial sense of euphoria tends to quickly fade and a new and troubling reality settles in.

The responsibilities that comes after graduation …

“What now?” is the million dollar question that many start asking themselves. If you were a driven individual during your years of hard work perhaps you scored a decent job proposal. However, many young individuals are unable to land that “dream job” they fantasized about in college. In fact, graduation was 2 months ago and they’re still looking for a job while competing with all of the other college grads fighting for the same opportunities! 

Those student loans are not going anywhere either. Recent grads are reminded of this “new” responsibility fairly quickly, typically via mail. The payment plans kick in around the 6 month post-graduation mark. So before the first payment hits your bank account (and please make sure you don’t default on your loans!), a college grad has about 2 quarters to hopefully find a good job opportunity in their studied major. 

The freedom of choosing your life …

The post-graduation period is the beginning of an era in self-exploration not only in one’s career development but also in their personal and intimate life. The following techniques can keep your journey moving forward on the road of success:

  1. Decide what it is you want to become – This is a tough one, probably the most difficult step in the process after graduation. You may not be able to specify it exactly, but if you have at least an idea you’re already on the right path. Recent graduates find themselves disillusioned with the real world, there’s a real and inevitable clash between the college life vs the 9-5 work life! As long as you have some sort of a vision, you will be able to design a game plan. There are hundreds, if not thousands of life and career coaches who can assist you in identifying your passion and vision for yourself.
  2. Clearly define your goals – I have spoken on this topic in the past and firmly believe that without specific and measurable goals, the desired outcome will be unreachable. How can you pursue something if you don’t have a map? Create the map first, then follow the required steps in order to get to the end destination. And if your goals change, that’s just fine and dandy, but at least you have already achieved one, two, or three steps which allowed you to get to the point of deciding to shift your end goal! Aim for progress!
  3. Be ready to relocate – If you are at a stage in your life where you are not settled yet and are able to move to another part of the country (a stage many new grads finds themselves in) – then do so! Highly specialized jobs are generally located in highly specialized areas, that’s a no brainer! So if you are determined to rise above your competition you have to follow the jobs and make the necessary adjustments. Many people do not like change, they fear the unknown and are not willing to loose their social networks. While there’s nothing wrong with that per se, you might be out of luck in the area where you live in. There are many young individuals out there who are willing to take the chance and get their feet wet in a new city creating new friends, meeting new co-workers and making new memories. Choose, but choose wisely! Whatever you decide to do, make sure to consider the pros and cons of each situation. Sometimes a new job offering $20, 000 or even $30, 0000 more in San Francisco may equate to the same salary in Florida after considering the cost of living in each area! Put that into perspective!
  4. Be flexible –  when searching for jobs try to forget the expectation others have for you. If you decided that you actually don’t like to work what you studied for – that’s OK. In fact, many do! If your family is disappointed  by your decision, so be it. It may not be ideal – after all, now you have to repay those student loans you borrowed, but what’s the point to pursue a miserable job, one that you’d only despise? Use the skills you have acquired during college to specifically describe how you could be of value to your prospective employers. Show purpose and determination – some (many) jobs are won by character and confidence!
  5. Create a healthy lifestyle – yeah, yeah, I know you’ve probably heard that a million times but it’s true. Exercise, sleep and diet are important tools for your success. As a matter of fact, this trio is key in your career and personal development. Lack of sleep, eating fast food and idle work/ life regime will stifle your ambition and drag your energy level to a new low. Time and time again research has shown how this trifecta has the immense power to impact individual’s physical and mental capabilities. Therefore, take care of your mind and body!

If you’re interested and would like to learn more on this or similar topics, make sure to follow us!

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Anxiety: Impairment, symptoms and coping solutions

How bad is it to have anxiety?

Anxiety is a persistent and cruel disorder that affects more people that one might suspect.  It is indeed a widespread issue in our society. If not treated timely, and may I add –  properly, it can severely inhabit an individual’s day-to-day functioning by impacting his/ hers personal and/or professional life. The stats regarding anxiety are nothing less than jaw dropping. Data from the National Comorbidity Study Replication (NCS-R) survey performed by the Harvard Medical School in 2007 found that “an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives”. In reference to impairment, 22.8% among the adults who suffer from an anxiety disorder had a severe impairment and 33.7% had moderate impairment (Harvard Medical School, 2007). Consider that for a moment – more than 50 % of the individuals who took part of the study reported considerable impairments in their work/life functioning due to an anxiety disorder!

Common misconceptions

Anxiety disorder is just feeling a little “nervous” or “stressed”, right? Actually, that is incorrect. In order to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, individuals must have a number of symptoms present. The duration and the severity of the symptoms are also important. Feeling a “little” nervous because you couldn’t come up with the “right” answer during that conference call this morning is one thing. Feeling excessively worried most of the time for at least 6 months, and not being able to fall or stay sleep is surely a cause for concern and will have clinicians inquiring if you’ve experiencing any other relevant symptoms.

The cause of anxiety disorders is still unknown although there’s quite a bit of data available showing a  biological and chemical link. The brain’s amygdala and hypothalamus are important components when processing data while under stress.  Similarly, your neurotransmitters do not stay idle either. Deficiency of the GABA and serotonin neurotransmitters is believed to make it impossible for the individuals to control the overwhelming feeling of worry (Nuss, 2015).

Recognize the symptoms

There are several anxiety disorders, the most common of which are:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (also called Social Phobia).

By the way, this list is by no means all-inclusive; it simply outlines the most common anxiety disorders recognized by the general population. Okay you may say, so what are the symptoms? The answer is… it depends.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5 ) aka “the Bible” of all mental health gurus, gives us a glimpse into some of the symptoms. I want to caution you however, do not diagnose yourself with these. If you have concerns or questions, the best approach is to get in touch with a specialist.

For instance, below are just a few of the criteria (not all!) of GAD

  • Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge.
  • Being easily fatigued.
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank.
  • Irritability.
  • Muscle tension
  • The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse,a medication) or another medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).

Coping skills and treatment

Depending of the severity of the symptoms, there could be several options available for those trying to cope with their anxiety disorders. Psychotherapy is a common treatment that people can turn to in conjunction with medication management (this is especially true for those suffering from more complex trauma such as PTSD). If you are being treated by more than one clinician, it is important to inform them so they can work together and brainstorm best possible solution/s for your plan of care. Medications are often helpful, but as a mental health professional I firmly believe that psychotherapy is also a powerful and effective treatment option to battle the negative effects that anxiety (or for that matter any other mental illness) can have on a persons life.

Are you feeling “blue” during the holidays?

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How the holiday season promotes commercialism and negatively impacts our mental health.

Is it really that bad you may ask? Well, Christmas and New Year’s are just around the corner folks! We have officially rolled into the final week before Christmas. And while many people joyfully anticipate the approach of holidays, the statistics show an entirely different reality for many families in the U.S.

Not so merry after all…

By the now you have probably grown tired of the endless Christmasy commercials consistently flashing from your TV screens presenting us with perfectly wonderful families, dinners, gifts and unexpected encounters. And if that wasn’t enough, we also have social media to top it off! Just in case our moods were not already sufficiently altered with negative feelings (for more info regarding social platforms please check out my recent blog post).  What you wont see in the commercials or posts is the fact that many, and I mean many people struggle psychologically during the holidays. For instance, strained family dynamics, the stress and anxiety of financial burdens including credit card debt, and the inability to meet the expectations of others all contribute to feelings of depression and negativity.

What can you do about it?

Set realistic expectations of yourself – This one is specifically for you perfectionists!  The world is not going to end if your house is not decorated as shown on Pinterest or Instagram. As long as you feel comfortable and at peace in the comfort of your home you should be able to enjoy the holidays. After all, it’s the people, not things that matter most, right?

Set realistic expectations for others – I know this is a tough one. What will people say if you don’t shower with them with expensive gifts? Well, do you want to go into debt over the anxiety of saying “No” to others? Feeling disliked and rejected is not pleasant, but the reality is that those who truly love you will love you no matter what. Set a firm budget, and only buy what you can afford. And if a family member is giving you a list of presents they want, you can give it back to them carefully revised to be within budget!

Don’t compare yourself to others – This applies to every aspect of life, not just the holidays. It is almost as an automatic thought process. It can be challenging to witness how others seem “to have it all” while you’re barely making ends meet. So I say it again, do not compare your life to others. Remind yourself that you’re at a different stage in your life; your path is your own, and your timing is different than theirs.

Take care of yourself – Bubble baths are a nice options but I have something different in mind. What does your soul need most? What brings you inner fulfillment and contentment? Reading, walk with your pups, chat with a long distance friend, see your grandchildren, whatever makes you happy, do more of it. This will not only alleviate your stress, but will also center you and remind you of the more important things in life.

Double down on your appointments with your therapist – if the holidays are negatively impacting your mood, and you sense that your depression is worsening, be sure to seek professional help. Remember, your mental health is important and is not “a phase that will pass”. Mental health is real and has a significant impact on individuals’ day-to-day life as well as their relationships, aspirations and general life goals.

How are the holidays affecting your mood? Feel free to share and comment!

And if you feel you may benefit from therapy, Freedom Counseling LLC would be happy to assist.

Merry Christmas!!

Find your joy during this holiday season!

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