by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 20, 2023 christmas stress, counseling near me, counseling pittsburgh, holiday stress, holidays, holidays stress reduction, pittsburgh, pittsburgh counseling and wellness, stress, stress and the holidays, thanksgiving, therapy pittsburgh0 comments
The holiday season is often portrayed as a time of joy, happiness, and togetherness. However, for many individuals, stress and the holidays go hand in hand. The societal expectation to embrace merriment can paradoxically result in heightened stress, anxiety, and loneliness. Despite the common portrayal of the holidays as universally cheerful, various factors contribute to a more nuanced experience. Nevertheless, there are proactive steps we can take to support ourselves and others during this complex time.
Perfection Expectation: Stress and the Holidays
One of the main reasons why the holidays can be challenging is the expectation of perfection. We’re bombarded with images of perfect families, perfect decorations, and perfect gifts. It’s easy to feel like we’re falling short, especially if we’re dealing with difficult family dynamics, financial problems, or simply don’t have the energy to create the perfect holiday experience. This pressure can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and a sense of inadequacy.
Socializing Struggles: Navigating Isolation During the Holidays
Another reason why holidays can be tough is the emphasis on socializing. For people who struggle with social anxiety or who don’t have a strong support system, the holiday season can feel incredibly isolating. We’re told that we should be spending time with loved ones, but what if we don’t have anyone to spend time with? This can be particularly challenging for people who coping with grief during the holidays, such as the death of a loved one or a breakup.
Financial Stress: The Weight of Holiday Expenses
The financial burden of the holidays can also be a significant source of stress. We’re told that we need to buy gifts for everyone on our list, and that these gifts should be thoughtful and meaningful. For people who are struggling financially, this can be an impossible task. It’s easy to feel like we’re letting people down if we can’t afford to buy them the gifts they want or need.
Supporting Each Other: Honest Conversations and Compassionate Actions
So, what can we do to support ourselves and others during this difficult time, easing the burden of stress and the holidays? One of the most important things we can do is to be honest about our feelings. It’s okay to admit that we’re struggling, and to ask for help if we need it. We can also reach out to others who may be struggling and offer our support. This could mean inviting someone over for a holiday meal, volunteering at a local shelter or food bank, or simply checking in on a friend who we know is having a tough time.
Embracing Imperfection: Redefining the Holiday Experience
It’s also important to remember that the holidays don’t have to be perfect. We can let go of the pressure to create the perfect holiday experience and instead focus on what’s truly important: spending time with the people we love. This might mean scaling back on gift-giving, simplifying our holiday traditions, or simply taking a break from the chaos and spending some quiet time alone.
Ultimately, the holidays aren’t always merry, and that’s okay. It’s important to acknowledge the challenges that come with this time of year and to offer support and compassion to ourselves and others. By focusing on what’s truly important and letting go of the pressure to be perfect, we can find moments of joy and connection even in the midst of difficulty.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 15, 2021 Adoption, Guardianship, Child Anxiety, children mental health, grief, healthy holiday, holidays, holidays stress reduction, trauma, trauma counseling, trauma informed care0 comments
When most people celebrate the holidays, they are surrounded by loved ones telling stories and laughing over mugs of hot cocoa as they exchange gifts. During this time of holiday cheer, many children who were adopted are faced with the realization that they will not see any of their biological family during the holidays. It is a stark reminder of the grief and loss they have experienced up to and including being removed from their biological family’s home. It is important for adoptive parents to prepare for and remain aware of what they can do to help their newly adopted children during the holidays. Here are some therapist recommendations to follow:
- Talk about the holiday. Help your child understand what holiday traditions and festivities your family participates in and allow them to ask questions. Do you celebrate over many days or just one day? Are there religious customs? Who will they meet and will there be gift exchanges? Avoiding surprises will help decrease anxiety.
- Incorporate traditions that the child celebrates into your holiday. Whether it is an annual watching of Frosty the Snowman or a snowball fight on Christmas Eve, bringing a cheerful memory to life may make a child feel more comfortable. You may even get a smile. Through conversation, you may discover that your child doesn’t celebrate the same holiday you do. Make it a point to learn about their customs and show interest in celebrating them.
- Allow them to grieve. Despite your best efforts, your child may still pull away. This is not intended to be a reflection of their feelings toward you or their new family, but instead a way of coping through this difficult time. Make one-on-one time with your child to talk through what they may be feeling. Be prepared if they shut down the conversation or not know exactly what they need. Give enough space for “downtime” and do not force them to participate in any activities.
- Don’t chase the “perfect” holiday. This not only creates unnecessary stress for you, but also for your child. Be flexible, be realistic, and have a sense of humor when things don’t go as planned! This can also include unexpected responses from extended family who do not understand the child’s behavior.
- Stay Trauma-Informed. Educate yourself on trauma and the impact it has on the dynamics of a family. Trauma can often look like anger, hyperactivity, and defiance. Without an understanding of the effects of trauma, it is likely you will misinterpret your child’s behavior resulting in feelings of anger and resentment. There are many resources online to assist in Trauma-Informed Care such as attachmenttraumanetwork.org or childwelfare.gov.
In summary, there isn’t one right way to raise a child. Remember to give yourself grace and practice self-care! Your child will teach you more about yourself than you may have ever realized previously. With patience, knowledge, and empathy, you can create an open environment that allows an adoptive child to feel comfortable expressing their fears, triggers, and even their feelings about their biological family.
Written by: Teresa Gouch, a licensed professional counselor at the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh. Teresa specializes in trauma counseling and foster care/adoption counseling.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 24, 2021 anticipatory grief, anxiety, boundaries, cell phone anxiety, coping skills, depression, digital detox, family estrangement, family loss, holiday traditions, holidays, holidays stress reduction, personal growth, rituals for self care, self care, Unhealthy relationships, validation, yoga0 comments
Holidays are steeped in traditions that are centered around the family and there is a hallmark sentiment that everyone is rejoicing in love with their near and dear during this most festive time of the year. The truth looks a bit different though. Family conflict, tension and even estrangement are more common than you may think. One study found more than 40% of participants had experienced family estrangement at some point.
But knowing you are not alone doesn’t make things happier or easier. The holidays are still hard and may bring up feelings of sadness, loneliness, jealousy, anger, shame or worthlessness.
To help combat these feelings, here are therapist-verified tips to help beat the holiday blues:
- Validate Your Feelings. If you fight the thoughts and feelings or judge yourself for having them, then you increase your emotional upset. Acknowledge that you feel sad and allow yourself to feel that sadness. This builds resiliency that you can be present with the uncomfortable feeling of sadness. It also increases self-trust that you can name and acknowledge the feelings you are having—this is especially helpful if your feelings were dismissed or not seen as a child. For example, “I’m feeling really sad and lonely that I am not on good terms with my family. This feeling is valid. I don’t have to pretend it’s not there. I can feel this sadness and use my coping skills to get through it.”
- Pick a Coping Skill or Self Care Tool That is Most Useful for You. There are myriad coping strategies to deal with feelings of sadness, disappointment and loneliness. Pick a tool that best supports you and be sure to practice it throughout the holidays. Tools include journaling, focusing on what is right in your life and practicing gratitude for that, meditation, yoga, running, watching a funny show or movie, noticing your negative thoughts and reframing them. There is no one right tool so just pick one and try it out.
- Set Boundaries for Topics of Conversation. To maintain your peace of mind during the holidays, set boundaries with your family on what you are and are not comfortable discussing. If your older brother always comments on your weight, simply tell him, “I am not interested in discussing my weight. I’d rather hear about my nephew’s soccer game.” If your grandmother always nags you about being single and childless, share that this isn’t something that you are open to discussing with her but you’d love to share about your lovely foster cat. Setting and keeping your boundaries will help you to feel empowered over your situation instead of feeling like you have no say in the conversations happening around the dinner table.
- Temporarily Delete Social Media from Your Phone. For many people social media can be triggering. This is especially true during the holidays when your feed is filled with photos of other people connecting with their family around the dinner table or unwrapping presents in matching pajamas. This may make a person who is excluded from such family gatherings melancholy or jealous they aren’t having the same experience. Allow yourself to take a break from this type of content so you’re not adding on to your emotional burden. It can be as easy as deleting the app from your phone and reinstalling after the New Year.
- Make a Plan for How You’ll Tackle the Day. Schedule a FaceTime check in with a friend. Enjoy a free yoga session on YouTube. Whatever you decide, make a plan ahead of time and stick with it. Literally put each activity in your calendar. This will keep you accountable and prevent you from having nothing to do and slipping into worsening feelings of loneliness or engaging in poor habits.
- Schedule a Therapy Appointment. If you’re currently working with a therapist, be sure to schedule a session during this time. If you’re not in therapy yet, consider reaching out and getting additional professional support during the holidays.
- Be of Service to Others. You can always be a support to others who are less fortunate than you by reaching out and volunteering. Clean out your coat closet and take your old coats to a local shelter, choose a child’s name off of a local Giving Tree program and go shopping for the gift, foster a homeless cat or dog through a local rescue group. You could even host a holiday dinner for others who are also alone. Be of service to others while being in service to yourself.
Only you can decide what is the best direction for you to maintain peace, mental wellness, and happiness during the holidays and the rest of the year and it is your sole job to protect your peace and wellbeing.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 18, 2021 dietician, dietitian, dietitian nutritionist, dietitian nutritionist near me, healthy eating, healthy food, healthy holiday, holidays, holidays stress reduction0 comments
The holidays have arrived— the time of year when we get together with family and friends to celebrate! Since many holiday festivities center around food, this time of year can be challenging for those attempting to eat healthy. However, going into the holidays with a plan and knowing what choices to make will help alleviate this added stress. Read on for a registered dietitian’s healthy eating holiday tips to navigate the holidays this year.
- Start your day with a healthy breakfast. Many people want to “save room” for the big holiday meals they are about to enjoy— sacrificing nutrition throughout the day. It is important to remember to maintain adequate nutrition and hydration during the day to maintain blood sugar levels, and prevent overeating later in the day.
- Loop the buffet. If you are at a gathering with a self-serve option, scope out your options. If there are foods that you know you look forward to having during the holidays, make sure to go for those options first. You can construct your meal with the foods you absolutely want and not end up with extras you may feel obligated to pick. If there are many options that you look to enjoy, start with a small portion of each. Wait a few minutes after you are finished eating, and if there is something you want more of, honor that choice. After all, the holidays only come around once a year! Having smaller portions of multiple items can ensure that you are satisfied and not craving more, which can lead to overeating, feeling bloated, and sluggish.
- Bring a healthy dish. When attending a party or gathering at a friend or family member’s home, volunteer to bring a dish. This way you can prepare something you know is a healthy option. So if you get to the party and realize there are no healthy options to choose from, you know you have your accompaniment to enjoy. You can also pair it with the other foods you like to eat this time of year.
- Provide healthy options. If you are hosting this year, be sure to provide healthy options for you and your guests to enjoy. Adding fruits or vegetables to your appetizer menu with a dip or spread can encourage everyone to make a healthy choice. Also be sure to include water, in addition to other non-alcoholic options, to ensure you are staying hydrated. This can also help control hunger and prevent overeating.
- Incorporate activity. To help promote digestion, incorporate movement after you eat. This can look different for everyone. Maybe step outside for some fresh air with a friend and walk and talk for a few minutes. Consider walking the family dog. Or volunteer to help wash dishes. This way you are including some type of movement to promote digestion of the big meal you ate!
- Remember why you are there: to spend quality time with those you love. Try to make a point of focusing on the experience and enjoying the time you are spending with the people you care about most. When you make it less about food, you may be less likely to overindulge.
Healthy eating can be difficult over the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Written by: Registered Dietitian Kali Alrutz
Kali provides in-person therapy in our South Hills location. If you’re interested in working with Kali, you can reach us at 412-322-2129 or email us at email@example.com to get started. Or contact us here.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 22, 2020 albert ellis, holidays stress reduction, irrational beliefs, stress, stress management, Uncategorized0 comments
Cut Down on Stress by Cutting out These Two Words
Stop Stressing Yourself Out!
The Holidays are an easy opportunity to let stress bubble over and become full blown anxiety. Stressors are a fact of life, but a majority of the stress we experience is actually a result of the things we tell ourselves. Often, our anxiety is rooted in the unfortunate human tendency to take our hopes, goals and desires and morph them into what are called absolute demands. We take our wants and then mistakenly, and usually without realizing it, turn them into needs. Inevitably, we come up short and the result is a mix of shame, guilt, and anxiety. We fail to meet the rigid demands we place on ourselves, and then we beat ourselves up for not meeting these unrealistic and unachievable standards! The most common way we do this is by using the words “should” and “must.” Without realizing it, you are probably causing yourself a lot of unnecessary anxiety with these absolute should’s and must’s. If you want a stress-free holiday one simple and effective trick is to replace “should,” and “must” with flexible language.
When your thoughts are flexible and rational, you experience positive and negative emotions in a healthy and balanced way. Rigid and inflexible thoughts set unachievable standards, and when these standards aren’t met the result is extreme and dysfunctional emotions. With plenty of things to do, places to be, and relationships to manage, the holidays are a prime time for high standards and rigid beliefs to run wild. How often do you tell yourself you, should, must, have to, or need, to do something? If you find yourself using these words a lot, it might be a sign that you are stressing yourself out! The good news is that you can stop most of your worryin
g by recognizing your irrational beliefs, when we notice that we are making statements that begin with ‘should and must’ we know that we are using irrational beliefs, instead we should alternate those statements by replacing them with flexible and rational thoughts.
Should’s and must’s fall into a category of common mental mistakes that we all make called absolute demands. They are rigid forms of thinking that result in unhealthy negative emotional states like shame, guilt, anxiety and depression. Without realizing it, we take our preferences, hopes, desires, and goals, and turn them into needs. The fact is your wants are not needs. We say things like, “I need the approval of other people.” “I should be more successful.” Or, “I must be perfect in everything I do.” The result of our illogical jump in thinking is that these thoughts are not rationally based. When our thinking is not based on reality, things can quickly get out of hand! If our need’s for approval, success, or perfection are not fulfilled we experience it as a total catastrophe. Our rigid musts lead to extreme, and unhealthy beliefs, overgeneralizations about ourselves, other people, or the world. Everyone will express these must’s and should’s in slightly different ways, but here are some basic examples of what this might look like:
The absolute demand, “I must/should do well,”
Leads to the extreme conclusion “or I am no good.”
The absolute demand, “You must/should treat me well,”
Leads to the extreme conclusion, “If you don’t, you are worthless.”
The absolute demand, “The world must give me what I want, when I want.”
Leads to the extreme conclusion, “If not, it a horrible place.”
If we didn’t create these absolute must’s for ourselves, we wouldn’t experience most of our unhealthy emotional reactions. Other examples of absolute demands are have to’s, ought to’s and need to’s, but the two main forms of absolute demands are our should’s, and must’s. The fact of the matter is that there is no logical reason for these must’s and should’s. They are actually illogical, and the result of rigid and illogical thinking is more rigid and illogical thinking, leaving us in an emotional mess. If you think about the words literally, and from a rational perspective, anything that should be already is. If something must be then literally it already is that way. When we use should and must we don’t always literally mean what we say. The issue is that our brain doesn’t know that, and it reacts to the logic we use, thinking those things like success and approval are needs. We believe what we tell ourselves. The desires for approval and for success are very good and healthy human desires, but they are wants, not needs. The real need’s humans have are food, water, and oxygen, almost everything else is a preference or desire. The result of turning these preferences into should’s and must’s in our self-talk is unhealthy negative emotion, and dysfunctional behavior.
Respond to Your Should’s & Musts
In order to replace your should’s and must’s with flexible beliefs the first thing you have to do is pay attention to your thoughts. Try to notice all the times when you use these should’s and must’s. After you catch yourself, there are two steps to responding to your should’s and must’s with flexible beliefs. The first step is to tell yourself what your want is, and the second step is to acknowledge that you do not have to get what you want. For example, If I thought to myself “I should have woken up earlier today.” The effect of this thought is that I feel ashamed and guilty. I may even make the extreme conclusion, “I’m lazy and no good for not waking up earlier, this just proves that I am a failure.” The result of my thinking is unnecessary shame and guilt. I can respond by telling myself what I would have preferred to happen, and then acknowledging that I am still okay even thought that didn’t happen. I might say to myself, “I would have liked to wake up earlier this morning, but just because I slept in, is no justification to say I am no good.” I could even add, “On top of that, just because someone sleeps in once, does not mean they are completely lazy or no good! That is a huge overgeneralization.” This is an example of using this flexible and preferential language to address my should, and to dispute my irrational thought. The result of my flexible thinking is that I feel much better and feel motivated to do better next time.
Here are a few more examples of possible Holiday should’s and must’s:
Holiday Should’s and Must’s & Alternative “Preferential Thinking”
|Rigid Thoughts||Extreme Conclusion||Flexible Thoughts||Rational Conclusion|
|The Holidays are a time where everyone in the family should get along.||If not, it will completely ruin the celebration.||I would really like for everyone to get along, BUT there is a chance someone might not get along and it will be okay.||If there is a fight, it will be difficult, but it won’t completely ruin the celebration.|
|The Holidays are a time where everyone in the family should get along.||And, If not, it will completely ruin the celebration.||I would really like for everyone to get along, BUT there is a chance someone might not get along and it will be okay.||If there is a fight, it will be difficult, but it won’t completely ruin the celebration.|
|I must complete my holiday to-do list||And, If I don’t, I won’t be able to enjoy myself.||I want to complete my Holiday to-do list, But the world will not completely stop if I don’t.||If I don’t complete my holiday to-do list, I will be a bit disappointed, but I will still be able to enjoy my holiday|
|I must get the perfect gifts for everyone.||And, If I don’t my family will have a terrible Christmas and I couldn’t stand myself.||I want to get the best gifts I can for everyone, but It couldn’t possibly get a gift that is perfect in every way.||Even if I don’t get everyone the most perfect gift, I will be able to enjoy Christmas and I will be able to accept myself.|
|My significant other must appreciate the time and effort I put in to find their gift.||And if they don’t, it means they are a terrible partner.||I would very much like for my significant other to appreciate the time and effort I put in to find their gift, but I don’t have to.||If my significant other doesn’t appreciate the time and effort, I put in to find their gift, it doesn’t mean they are a terrible partner.|
|I should be more organized with Holiday planning.||And, If I am not organized, I am a failure.||I would like to be more organized with Holiday planning, but there is no universal law that says I must be more organized.||If I am not organized, it does not mean I am a failure, it just means that it is an area in my life that could be improved upon. It does not change my value as a person.|
|I must cook the perfect meal for my household or loved ones.||And, If I don’t, Christmas will be ruined.||I would like to cook the best meal I can, but there is no perfect meal. A good meal will be just as good!||Even if I don’t cook the perfect meal for Christmas, my family will still be able to enjoy the celebration, and I will still be able to be happy.|
We Stress Ourselves Out
We mostly upset ourselves by adopting dysfunctional and rigid standards and then when we don’t meet these standards, we beat ourselves up. We take our preferences, hopes, wants, and desires which are usually all good and healthy, and we turn them into absolute demands. For example, It is perfectly rational to want things to be easy, but when this desire for leisure becomes a need for everything to be easy, we can get overwhelmed when things are difficult. This type of rigid thinking creates extreme beliefs and dysfunctional emotional reactions. When we think irrationally, we upset ourselves. When it comes down to it, and we evaluate these demands on a rational level, they actually don’t hold much weight. This is a common mental mistake that we all make, but in order to stop our unhelpful thoughts, we have to pay attention to our self-talk, and adopt flexible language.
Unhealthy Self-Talk Makes You Stressed, Depressed & Anxious
Thinking is a habit, and learning new habits of thinking that are flexible and rational will result in decreased stress, and increased life satisfaction. This holiday season try to replace your demands with desires. Preferential language is flexible and accurate, and it helps us feel the way we want to feel, and really enjoy our experiences. Rational Thinking provides us with healthy and accurate interpretations of ourselves, the world, and others. Now that you know that your feelings are caused by your thoughts, you have to actually practice noticing and responding to these unhelpful thoughts. You have to start to stubbornly refuse to upset yourself! This is what is called thought disputation. If you want to be happy, healthy, and stress free, stop telling yourself things that aren’t true. Inflexible rules and demands result in unhealthy emotions, and create guilt, frustration, and unhealthy negative emotions. Pay attention to your thoughts, ask yourself “do I really “need” to do this?” “Is this thought really true?” “Is this thought Helpful?” If it is not, try to respond with a more flexible thought. By recognizing your inflexible, rigid thinking and replacing it with accurate rational thoughts you will create a climate of healthy self-talk. It’s especially easy to be hard on yourself around the holidays, but you deserve a break! One simple and effective trick you can do to lessen stress, and cultivate healthy self-talk is to replace your should’s and must’s with flexible, preferential language.
By John-Paul Dombrowski