by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 29, 2020 therapy in wexford, wexford counseling0 comments
Michelle Parmelee, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is nationally certified, working with clients of all life-stages and cultures in our Wexford Counseling office. From working with children exhibiting behavioral issues in the home or school to working with adults with substance abuse issues in outpatient settings, Michelle offers a wide range of experience. She now hopes to use a Solution-Focused approach to therapy with her clients, addressing problems within a variety of areas, such as Adjustment Disorders that come about from specific stressful situations, to Mood Disorders, Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, Substance Abuse, and Relationships.
Michelle offers an individualized, goal-oriented, and strength-based approach with the understanding that each individual or couple has a unique history that has shaped them into who they are in the present. By creating and pursuing SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goals, Michelle promotes a step-by-step method of helping clients reach a desired outcome in the future!
In addition to her Solution-Focused approach, Michelle also has an interest in psychology and behavior, utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques as a way to guide clients or couples in recognizing the ways in which their thought patterns and behaviors can affect the way that they feel in response to their personal difficulties. By challenging negative thoughts or feelings and modeling new behaviors or ways of thinking instead, Michelle can assist her clients in meeting their objectives and relieving some of life’s daily struggles.
As a certified wellness coach, Michelle utilizes the areas of Wellness using an 8-dimensional tool and assists her clients in identifying how physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial, and environmental factors have been impacted as a result of each client’s presenting concerns and underlying issues. Using a wellness planning tool (WPT) or recognizing changes that need altering in these areas can create a more balanced life for those who are facing personal challenges.
Michelle was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. She continued her education at California University of Pennsylvania, earning her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. While completing her program, she was able to gain experience in a college setting to further develop her skills in helping clients through the difficult transitional stages in life, such as “leaving the nest” and laying the groundwork for internships or entering into a post-graduate career.
Outside of work, Michelle enjoys traveling, playing games, spending time with family and being outside – especially with her dog playing at the park! Michelle has interests in physical fitness and art, which she believes can be useful tools in helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
The name of the game is “change” and the health and well-being of Michelle’s clients are her number one priority! She is eager to play a role in the growth of all clientele at the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh.
To book an immediate appointment with Michelle, please call our Wexford Counseling Center at 412-314-1909 for an appointment, located at 9404 McKnight Rd Suite 302 Pittsburgh PA 15237 in Arcadia Plaza.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 15, 2020 hypersomnia, insomnia, sleep disorder, sleep hygiene0 comments
Sleep hygiene is a science formulated to help people overcome disrupted rest by removing any barriers that a person might be unknowingly creating that prevent against deep and complete rest. According to the American Sleep foundation, 47% of Americans report poor quality sleep has affected their daily performance in the last month. As mental health counselors know, there is a significant relationship between sleep and well being. Finding solutions for better rest are vital when your health is on the line, research suggests that sleeplessness can accelerate cancer, erode cognitive performance, and it also impacts mental well being in a variety of ways. Did you know that not getting enough rest can activate many mood disorders including bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression? In fact, sleep disruptions are a very common complaint among those who are seeking treatment for mental health disorders. Of course, most people have experienced a sleepless night as a result of a situational challenge or period of stress. There is a lot to lose when it comes to sleep but more than ever so many are so sleep deprived. By now you are likely wondering what you can do to enhance your sleep. This is where sleep hygiene comes into practice. There are some evidence-based ways to help you achieve a more restful state. Simultaneously, there are certain sleep disorders such as parasomnia, insomnia, and hypersomnia which should be ruled out with a medical or mental health counselor.
Know your sleep type! There are two primary types of sleepers, night owls and roosters, night owls are biologically programmed to sleep and wake a little later. Roosters crow at the sun, roosters, will do best to find a job routine that can be done early in the morning. Same goes for night owls, their peak performance will be later in the day. For both of these types of people, constructing a life that honors biology will do a lot for wellness and emotional wellbeing. For example, a rooster shouldn’t take the night shift if they want to feel their best.
Have a good routine- Routine is paramount to having improved quality and quantity of sleep. Find a regular hour in which you can rest. When you achieve a regular schedule, your body will be responding to multiple environmental cues that will help falling asleep and staying asleep easier. You should really be aiming for 7/8 hours per night so plan to go to bed that amount of time before your alarm clock will start buzzing.
Limit screen time at least an hour before bed. Our eyes are brimming with light receptors which are impacted by the screens we look at. When you are reading your email or social media account your brain is getting a large dose of light that signals to wake up! Limit exposure to at least an hour before bed to give your brain a chance to relax.
Spending time outdoors in the morning– The light from the sun helps us to become more alert in the morning giving our bodies higher energy. By maximizing exposure in the early hours we can find our way to relaxation in the evening. If a morning walk is not your thing, some people enjoy ‘sungazing.’
Work out in the am– Multiple studies have shown that working out in the am morning hours does help fitness friends to sleep better in the evening. Interestingly however, having an evening work out has not shown any effect on sleep.
Lengthen your exhale- When using your breath as a relaxation tool, you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system. It works like this, by lengthening your exhalation to be longer than your inhalation, for example inhale for a count of 6 and exhale for a count of 8, do this 10 times. This small but powerful technique is a potent relaxant as you are attempting to drift off to a deep slumber.
Limit Caffeine- Be mindful of what you are consuming, the half life of caffeine is quite long, if you are drinking caffeinated beverages after 1 or 2 pm, it will still be in your system at 8 or 9pm. Try to limit caffeine to one cup upon waking and the same goes with sugar.
Try Essential Oils- Many people find that a calming essential oil will help them achieve a more relaxed and restful state. Scents such as lavender and chamomile are widely used as a part of night time routines.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 8, 2020 black people and mental health, PTSD in the Black Community0 comments
PTSD in the Black Community
Recent events have some people scared. This makes sense. People are clamoring for change, and tensions are high. Not to mention, the nation is still in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that has left millions unemployed and our economy teetering on the edge of a cliff. All of these disasters and injustices have disproportionately affected minorities. Some people will be traumatized by the happenings of today. So in light of that fact, I decided to examine Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as it relates to the black community.
Let’s start by describing this mental health disorder. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD as defined by the American Psychological Association is a mental illness and specifically an anxiety disorder where an individual struggles with recovery from witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event. Unlike the commonly held belief, PTSD is not limited to wartime veterans, and it can manifest due to several different ordeals such as domestic abuse, sexual assault, or even natural disasters. The disorder can last several months to several years, when a person sees, hears, or remembers something that they relate to that event, they are ‘triggered,’ this can happen often and be debilitating for a person who holds or qualifies for the diagnosis of PTSD as triggers can come up often within everyday life leaving them struggling with a feeling that they are back in that traumatizing event. Remember, a trigger is a memories that evokes an extremely intense emotional and physical reaction.
Other symptoms of PTSD often include nightmares and unwanted memories, flashbacks, heightened reactions to otherwise non -threatening stimuli, avoidance of triggering situations, PTSD can even lead to anxiety, depression, and make a person more vulnerable to developing substance abuse. Treatment for PTSD is available in the form of different types of trauma-focused therapy models. Some of these models might include the use of medication to relieve symptoms of PTSD as they allow individuals to work toward a better quality of life.
So how does this relate to the black community? It’s easy to see that the black experience in the United States is rife with traumatic events. From the desperation that arises through the effects of poverty, to the overt systematic racism that permeates our justice system. Minorities are repeatedly traumatized by the witnessing of the murders of innocent men and women. Trauma is experienced when we read about the number of black men in the prison system (many for nonviolent offences). We become anxious every time we see a video of a woman threatening to call the police on citizens minding their own business. But the worst part about it, is that we have been exposed to it over, and over, and over again, allowing the traumatic cycle to continue.
As a member of the black community, I want to emphasize that this trauma is real, and that it’s impact has lasting consequences. If this resonates with you, you’re not alone, and this does not mean you’re weak. This is the result of our community collectively experiencing PTSD. As mentioned earlier, there are resources to help individuals make sense of it all. I want to encourage you to take the steps necessary to take care of yourself, even as we all work to make these sources of trauma a thing of the past. Reach out to your local therapist at Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, as well as to your support groups. Be aware of your triggers and learn positive ways to cope with them. Remember, your voice is your ally, do not stop talking about this!Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 3, 2020 black therapist pittsburgh, microagressions, racism in america, systemic racism, therapy for racism pittsburgh0 comments
Dealing with Microaggressions as a Black Man
George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Sandra Bland…these are just a few of the names that come to mind as I write this. These are the names of victims of police brutality and racial injustice. These were unwilling martyrs who fell prey to overt, unabashed, and unadulterated racism. This is a problem, but there is another issue that plagues people of color every day. An unseen layer of racial inequality that exists under our noses: microaggressions.
What is a microaggression, you ask? A microaggression is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other non-dominant group that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.” So when a stranger tells me that they don’t see color, or when someone raves that I am “surprisingly articulate” for a black man, they are using microaggressions, perhaps unknowingly. However minorities also use microaggressions. Phrases like “you sound white,” or being called an ‘oreo’ by peers (black on the outside, white on the inside) have been some of the microaggressions I have experienced from fellow people of color.
I can only speak from my personal experience, and I do not represent all people of color. However I know that when I encounter microaggressions, whether intentional or not, I find myself in a bind. Do I call it out, and risk being “that guy,” or do I brush it off, because at least it’s not as bad as what the victims above suffered? The events of the past week have shown me that silence in the face of microaggressions, only leads to further silence from possible allies when overt racism and racially motivated aggression takes place.
So what is the role of the black man or the person of color when facing microaggressions?
- Call it out for what it is. People may balk at this and respond with phrases such as “I’m not racist,” or “I have black friends,” but the truth remains, microaggressions are a result of racist history, and they are subtle ways of perpetuating negative stereotypes about black people and other minorities.
- Educate those within your circle. It surprises me that in the age of the internet, some people still are not aware of what may constitute a microaggression.
- Better yet, encourage those who are not sure to educate themselves. There are plenty of (free) resources out there for our friends and neighbors to learn and become better allies.
- Take care of yourself. One thing that has been made clear with all of the demonstrations lately, is that collectively, black people are tired. It is mentally and emotionally exhausting to navigate microaggressions, and process the overt racism that takes place in our country every day.
- Talk to someone. We cannot keep this stress bottled up. It helps to speak with a therapist or a trusted friend in order to process what we go through when we encounter microaggressions.
On a final note for everyone reading this, whether you experience microaggressions or not, do not stop talking about this. Talk to family, friends, neighbors, clergy, therapists. Talk, take action, and please take care of yourselves.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 27, 2020 anger management counseling, greensburg counseling0 comments
Managing Displaced Anger During Difficult Times
It has been said that anger is a secondary emotion, triggered by preceding fear, rejection, hurt feelings, humiliation, and sadness. With the current pandemic, restrictions on our daily activities, the uncertainties of our futures and our medical and financial wellbeing, it is no wonder people have been on edge. This disruption has been significant and abrupt. Suddenly, we no longer have the same level of stability in our lives and the need for structure, safety, and predictability has been jeopardized. Everyone has experienced some form of loss, and many are grieving.
Lately, while watching morning news, we hear the retellings of incidents involving explosive anger where someone has violated another physically or verbally. Often, we are seeing these acts in public arenas, on display for anyone to witness, which is telling that we are not coping well as a society. So, what is happening? Has the world gone crazy? Are these the preludes to a hostile, post-apocalyptic dystopia? Likely, no. It’s more probable that people are misplacing or “displacing” their frustrations. Displaced anger or aggression occurs when one is unable to express anger towards the source of provocation so instead, the individual acts out towards others. Often, we are not able to direct our anger toward the actual cause of our fears and frustrations. For example, it would be of no use to air our grievances to the virus itself and we are also unlikely to get our desired response from people who have direct influence over our day to day struggles. So, then many of us are left fearful, anxious, grieving, and frustrated with no say or control over what happens next.
While it’s easy to focus our attention on our lack of control, doing so will only increase these feelings of frustration and helplessness. Despite current limitations, there is still much we have influence on in our lives today. We can choose what type of activities we engage in throughout the day, our diet, exercise, and our sleep hygiene regimen. We have influence over our thoughts and mindset, whether we focus on the negative or we see the positive in situations. We can control what we are watching on television and social media or listening to on the radio or podcasts, all of which impact our outlook and perspective. Those choices effect how we feel and in turn how we cope with our stress.
Even the most Zen of us will displace our anger onto innocent bystanders from time to time. After all, we are human. In these moments, when you feel yourself becoming easily agitated or triggered, take a second, breathe, and identify the real cause of your anger by asking yourself, “What’s really bothering me? Does this make sense?” and even, “Does my emotional reaction match the situation?” Note that if it is something you cannot change, there are still things about the situation or in your life that you do have influence over. Exercise positive self-care practices such as physical activity, being outdoors, reading, listening to music, eating a healthy diet, guided meditations, deep breathing and other stress reducing techniques. These can be thought of as preventative activities to increase your threshold for stress and strengthen emotional resiliency. Be mindful of when you have reached your limit and need to seek additional help or support. Lastly, always remember to T.H.I.N.K. before you speak. Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Choose to be kind.
Andrea Kellman, MS, LPC who provides therapy, marriage, and family counseling services in our Greensburg counseling center.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 21, 2020 self care month, sex therapist, sexual wellness, Uncategorized0 comments
May is Self Care Month! In honor of that, let’s explore a form of self care that might not be the first thing you think of when you think about wellness. When the oxygen masks drop on the plane you always put on your own before helping someone else. This is self-care. The actions you take to keep all dimensions of your own health (physical, emotional, social, spiritual, mental) as strong as possible so that you can continue performing at your peak, whether at home, at work, or in your personal life. The phrase ‘self-care’ has made its rounds in mainstream media and for many people may include a spa day, sleeping in, or saying ‘no’ to certain obligations. However, one activity, self-pleasure or masturbation, has not gotten the credit it deserves as the ultimate form of self-care. Sex therapist Lauren Aikin-Smith from Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh shares her expertise in masturbation as a form of self care.
To start, anyone can masturbate. It isn’t restricted by wealth, gender identity, body shape/size, ability, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. It’s easily adjustable based on your other life factors. For example, you can get it done in a few minutes while the kids are napping or leisurely take up an afternoon if you have the time. It can be done alone or with a partner(s). It’s cost effective and fits every budget. It can fit everyone’s personal style and isn’t limited to just involving the genitals, but may include a bubble bath, rubbing lotion on your body, or even involve other erogenous zones like the ears, scalp, and nipples.
Self-pleasure simultaneously has positive effects on the physical, mental, and emotional dimensions of health. The sensations, relaxation, deep breathing, and mindfulness that accompany masturbation promote the release of endorphins and oxytocin, even without achieving orgasm. Orgasm is accompanied by a surge of dopamine, activating the brain’s reward pathways. The endorphins and flow of blood throughout the body help release pent up energy, and promote stress and pain relief throughout the body by relieving stress, tension, headaches, and period cramps. Finally, there is a release of serotonin which is responsible for good mood and relaxation and can help promote sleep, another essential aspect of self-care.
Self-pleasure connects the mind and body, and can help you better understand what arouses and turns you on. It can help you recognize how your body responds to touch, sounds, and smells. Over time, you’re able to get a better sense of the sensations and movements that are pleasurable for you, which in turn also promotes body positivity.
Masturbation is empowering. You will never be in control of all aspects of your life, and many times you may feel like you aren’t in control of much at all, but, you can at least be in control of your own pleasure. You don’t need to rely on someone else for pleasure, it can be all your own.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, masturbation is the ultimate form of self-care because through all the craziness of life, it allows for a few moments that are focused solely on nothing other than your own personal gratification. The only way any of us are going to make it through life is by making time for ourselves, for our self-care, and for personal pleasure.
To discuss any sexual or intimate health concerns with one of our licensed counselors or sex therapists, call us at 412-322-2129 for an appointment.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 11, 2020 doctors and suicide, health care coworkers and coronavirus, pandemic and self care for doctors0 comments
Health Care workers are among the most vulnerable populations right now with the Coronavirus impact. It is not what we initially think, but those who are battling the epidemic and caring for our sick are also some of the most vulnerable. Particularly those who are front line workers who are exposed to those who have or could have Covid-19 infections. With concerns about the well-being of the front line workers, this piece focuses on their emotional and mental health needs right now. Please keep in mind, even prior to Covid-19, there is a slightly higher than average suicide rate for medical professionals. What makes medical workers especially vulnerable is that they are less likely to seek mental health support, they are less likely to acknowledge their own emotional needs or self care needs such as sleep and nourishment, and they are often overworked. All of these things make them a population of special concern during Covid-19.
Coronavirus has impacted health care workers with the omnipresence of the needs of patients that may or may not be able to be helped. To be on the front lines dealing with gravely ill individuals and to not be able to offer them more than palliative care is stressful for medical professionals. Additionally, many hospital centers are not equipped with personal protection equipment which allows providers to feel safe in their delivery of care for others. This adds a layer of helplessness when personal exposure can result in disease and death of themselves and their family members. All of these factors together create the perfect storm for increased stress, fatigue, anxiety, burnout, depression and the onset of other mental health concerns.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as an emotional response to a sudden and unexpected event such as an accident or natural disaster. Commons symptoms are uncontrolled emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and nightmares. Corona Virus and its impact has been traumatic for most people and most especially our front line workers, there will be variability in those who recover from the traumatic nature of this event with resiliency, rebounding quickly to a full recovery, versus those who experience lingering symptoms for months or years to come.
One important thing that we can do for ourselves and others to enhance our mental and emotional health is to acknowledge how difficult this has been, mentally, emotionally, and physically. It is normal to be stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed during a pandemic crises. To be realistic, the health care workers should check in with supervisors and try to reduce their work load right now and minimize other stresses to prevent the overall impact from complicating in greater ways.
If any health care worker is noticing that they are feeling heightened fatigue, hypersomnia or insomnia, changes in weight or appetite, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, depression, or thoughts of self harm they should immediately talk with a mental health professional, employee assistance program, or call a crises hotline in the event of thoughts of self harm. In times of crises, absolute burn out can come on quickly and been all encompassing before one even realizes what they are experiencing. It is normal to have limitations and important to acknowledge ones own mental, emotional, and psychological needs.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 11, 2020 corona virus and shared custody, family counseling during corona virus0 comments
Tips for Co-Parenting during Quarantine Coronavirus
It is always important for parents to be on the same page when it comes to their children, perhaps it is even more important that parents take the time create an atmosphere of predictability and consistency in shared custody and co-parenting family dynamics. The family counseling community has seen many examples of damaging dynamics from families during quarantine COVID times. From parents who are unable to agree on whether their children will be able to see in person health care providers, to parents who attempt to withhold visitations under the guise of COVID, it is the children who stand in the middle to lose much needed contact with their loving parents and caregivers. Here are some child therapist and family counseling verified tips to help you and your child’s other parent get on the same page. Remember, it is pretty likely that you and your former partner share the goal of helping your children adapt during these difficult times.
The courts have not waived parents’ rights to visitations due to COVID. That means your normal custody arrangement remains in full effect during this period, even if you have concerns over how your child’s other parent is enacting social distancing or who they are coming into contact with while they are having their visits, you still have a legal obligation to uphold the legal arrangement. Of course, if you feel that their other parent or family members are behaving in a dangerous way you should speak to your legal counsel but in most every instance the courts have not interfered with custody arrangements over COVID family concerns.
What is really best for the kids. The impact of this virus is even more difficult for small children as they do not have the rationale to understand the purpose of limitations on their behavior. This makes it even more important that we follow up as caretakers with consistency in the rest of the routine. Routine has an effect of soothing fear and anxiety, seeing the same family members and important people in kids lives are a big part of what makes their life feel predictable and manageable.
Parents will need to communicate, with each other! There are a lot of instances of parents using others as a ‘go between.’ From asking young children to relay messages to asking receptionists, and therapists, teachers and doctors to tell their former partner what is happening with their child, this is not a good idea. First, it is outside of the role of any child or provider/professional person to manage the communication between you are your child’s other parent. If you feel unable to manage basic communication with your child’s other parent for any reason, you should enter co-parenting family counseling immediately.
Remember that there are things outside of your control. COVID is a massive reminder that there are so many things outside of our control, while we should always act in our own and our loved ones best interest, there are still so many variables that we can not influence. Your child’s other parent may be to some degree, one of those situations that makes your feel helpless. We know that in the face helplessness and uncertainty most people feel a large measure of anxiety. Acknowledge your anxiety and spending some time assessing whether it is rational or irrational. You will likely need to have a moderate degree of flexibility in allowing your children to have a slightly different experience in their other parents home versus your own. These personality differences may have led to the demise of your relationship with your former partner and they will likely make co-parenting with them tricky but not impossible. Try to start with the points where your agree, maybe as simple as ‘we both love the kids.’
With COVID, there are a few categories of people and they are reacting to Corona differently. Some of concerned for their health and the health of others and are closely monitoring the CDC guidelines for managing COVID. Others are concerned about their loss of freedom and autonomy. Others are concerned about the financial impact of COVID closures. All of these are perspectives that come from a place of caring about the well-being of our society and others albeit in different ways. If your child’s other parent has a perspective very different from your own, you should attempt to find some compassion for them and really hone in to be sure that any concerns you have for your children to assess that they are well founded concerns and rational. One of the most important things that you can do for your children right now is to care for your own stress and manage it effectively so that you can be the best version of yourself during the challenges that we are all facing.
Check out the link by World Health Organization for tips on parenting during quarantine!
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 10, 2020 family and marriage counseling, quarantine, relationship conflict, social distancing0 comments
How to reduce conflict and enhance your relationship during Quarantine COVID-19.
While many sources state that there are potential dangers to sharing home, life, and work space with your partner, and children, and dog, and anyone else that finds their way into your domestic life, we want to discuss that there are many ways to turn those potential pitfalls into opportunities for relationship moments. While it is true that mental health stressors are steeply on the increase, as well as dangerous statistics like sharp increases in mental health crises calls and domestic violence being reported. Alternately the experiences of some couples who are living, loving and working together can be positive, at least in the short term. Couples are grateful to spend more time together, to have shortened their work day by cutting off the commute, and are given the chance to understand the nuances of each others work and life in deeper and more meaningful ways. This article will highlight two ways that social distancing and working from home can add greater stress to your relationship. We will discuss each and the steps to manage them.
If your relationship was struggling before COVID, it will likely become much worse with the added stress of working from home and too much closeness for comfort. While there are a variety of conflicts that couples experience, an overwhelming number of them fall under the category of ‘conflict communication.’ Meaning that the two are not listening and responding to each others needs, thoughts, and attempts at connection in a way that supports the fabric of their love. Sometimes we are most bothered not by having too much time together but in noticing that the time together is punctuated by painful distance, quiet, and missed opportunities. If this sounds familiar to you, become intentional to not simply live in the same home but to put down your phones and turn off the TV, tune into your partner with the goal of understanding them. Ask them questions like what are they working on, what is important to them right now, what they are struggling with right now, dig in and ask follow up questions to each of their responses. Use our intimate conversation guide for couples if you are looking for more pointers on going deeper into dialogue.
Try to keep some degree of normal in your day. Get dressed and ready for your work day even if nobody outside of your home will see you. Be sure that you have created your own makeshift work space if you dont have a home office. With your routine and space in tact, try to take breaks and pauses just as you would in your work office. That is time that you might be able to connect with your partner. You can try to arrange walks in the neighborhood together, prepare lunch, dinner or breakfast together to form a further routine.
The second way that couples might experience greater stress during the pandemic is if there is an imbalance in the way that they share spaces and household tasks. In this scenario, feelings of hurt, disappointment, and frustration will emerge from misunderstandings. An example might be that while both partners are working the same number of hours but one partner is primarily responsible for managing household and child care tasks. A way to overcome the challenges of this scenario lie within the realization that expectation will change during the pandemic, there will likely be more household responsibility and there will need to be more time and support in managing this. There will also likely be a shift in the work life of any partner who is in the workforce. Work policies and expectations might become more lax, and at bare minimum working from home will shorten the work day commute, each partner should tune into the other and discuss what is needed and how they can both help the household adapt to the changes.
Anxiety is a problem that the majority of people deal with in one form or another. Yet anxiety is a broad category of disorders which range from generalized anxiety disorder, to social anxiety, to various forms of panic disorders, to mild stress. Keeping in mind, some forms of anxiety are normal, for instance, regular stress can sometimes be beneficial, as it keeps us aware of important things like deadlines and can even motivate us to work hard and excel. However, some forms of anxiety and anxiety disorders are defined as a problem when they begin to interfere with your ability to thrive, achieve your goals, go about daily life and feel well. Some symptoms of anxiety are muscle tension, sleeplessness, worry, agitation, and increased heart rate. Yet some people have a baseline of anxiety that is their normal and they have many coping strategies so that they learn to manage even high levels of anxiety while still managing to function well enough that few people even notice that they are struggling at all. We call this high-functioning anxiety.
Anxiety can be intense, but today I’d like us to learn this difference between stress and high-functioning anxiety. High functioning anxiety is when someone is able to maintain the appearance of calm connectedness by going about their life with the appearance of normalcy, but still the anxiety tends to leak out in subtle ways. Here are three ways to tell if you may have high-functioning anxiety:
- You have a hard time sleeping. When you’re able to internalize your anxiety and hold it together during the day, your anxiety may come out in the form of sleep disturbance. This can include tossing and turning, having trouble falling asleep, or waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble getting back to sleep.
- You focus on perfection. Self-improvement is great; however striving for perfection can be a result of anxiety. This can create issues when you focus on perfection at work, in personal relationships, or expectations of your physical appearance. Perfectionism is a tell tell sign of high functioning anxiety because an anxious person will tend to try to make things perfect as a tool to decrease their anxiety.
- You can’t relax. When there are too many issues on your mind, you may neglect self-care or not even know how to be calm. Nothing is wrong with staying productive, yet some people use endless projects as a diversion from their feeling of inner anxiety.
- Having difficulty letting go of control. There are several personality types and persons with symptomology whom struggle to let go of control, but this can also be a part of high functioning anxiety.
There are other signs of high functioning anxiety. If you find yourself experiencing this, take some time to engage in self-care or get a mental health assessment. Be intentional about relaxing and find ways to come to terms with not being perfect. Remember that the mind and body are connected, there are many physical and mindfulness exercises as well as breathing strategies that you could try to release some of the stress, and other things like working on your sleep hygiene. Ultimately, if you have any concerns about your level of anxiety you should seek out an assessment with a mental health professional who can help you to determine which parts of your anxiety are normal and which parts might be helped with counseling such as cognitive behavioral therapy.Learn More