When COVID-19 became a threat in March of 2020, several measures were put in place to help curb the spread of the virus. In addition to mandatory mask-wearing and stay-at-home orders, many companies began implementing remote work policies which saw employees working from home instead of commuting to the office. Fast forward to the summer of 2021 and we’ve seen many strides in overcoming the pandemic. With many people now vaccinated and as quarantine restrictions become looser, companies around the world are requiring employees to return to the office as we try to usher in a post-COVID lifestyle.
Depending on your personal circumstances, you may be quite happy to return to the office, or you may be dreading it. Many people have come to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of working from home and the benefits it provides, such as reducing transportation and clothing expenses and the ability to take care of children and pets while working. Others miss their pre-COVID routines of commuting to an office because it allowed for better separation of personal and professional life. Others are simply more productive in an office setting or enjoy being able to interact with their coworkers. Regardless of your feelings towards returning to the office, it will certainly be a big transition for all of us after a year and a half of getting accustomed to remote work.
Evaluate Your Concerns
There are many understandable concerns that you may have about returning to the office. Maybe you’re concerned about the virus itself and whether a return to work may cause you to get sick. To help ease this anxiety, consider the methods you can use to keep safe. If you and your coworkers are vaccinated, there is a significantly smaller chance of contracting or spreading the virus. Regardless, it’s still a good idea to continue practicing social distancing, frequent sanitizing of your hands and wearing your mask. By using these safety measures, you can feel a bit more confident in your ability to stay healthy, which can help to ease your anxiety.
Maybe your concerns are about a lack of flexibility that may come with returning to the office. If you have come to enjoy working remotely and want to continue doing so, you may wish to consider all your options. Is there any room for negotiating with your employer? It may be possible to come to an agreement about a hybrid system where you come in office some days and work from home on other days. Otherwise, you may want to consider transitioning out of your current job by searching for one that allows for remote work. For many people, the pandemic was the catalyst they needed to make positive changes towards a more rewarding career.
Focus on the Positives
We all know the many benefits of positive thinking. Positive thinkers are better able to cope with challenging or distressing situations and tend to have better mental and physical health. By taking an optimistic view of a situation, it can become a lot more manageable, but by focusing on the negatives, the experience is likely to be a drag.
Even if you are reluctant to return to the office, see if you can find something to look forward to about heading back. One benefit of working in an office is the ability to better separate your personal and professional life. For many people who work from home, work never seems to stop because there is no real line of demarcation between the office and the home. Coming home to your comfort zone after a day of work is often a satisfying feeling because you’re able to leave work at the office, which is a lot more difficult when you work at home.
Another potential positive about returning to the office is an increase in productivity. For many workers, the home office is a place of many distractions such as family members, pets or the doorbell. A lot of people are able to perform more efficiently in an office setting, leading to a better quality of work and higher satisfaction on the job.
For many people, lockdown was a lonely time and a return to the office brings a welcome opportunity to interact and socialize with colleagues. Teamwork can be a lot easier and more fun when teammates are working together in person. Though Zoom is convenient, there’s nothing quite like collaborating and brainstorming in person.
Setting Boundaries at the Office
Working in an office makes it easier to leave work at work. You’re better able to set boundaries with your time and manage people’s expectations of you. Now is the time to evaluate the boundaries that you wish to set with your coworkers and superiors. Maybe you will not answer work-related calls or emails after 5:00 and on the weekends. This kind of boundary might have been more difficult to set when working from home, because there may be an expectation that you are always on the clock.
In a post-COVID world, we also need to consider setting boundaries with our physical space. Whether or not you are vaccinated, it’s still a good idea to continue practicing social distancing as much as possible. You may have to prepare yourself to set boundaries regarding handshakes, hugs and other physical contact, depending on your own comfort level. If these kinds of conversations are difficult for you, try practicing them ahead of time so you will know exactly what to say to coworkers if the need arises.
Make Self-Care a Priority
As with any major life transition, it’s important to practice self-care to ensure that your physical and emotional needs are being met. You may need to create a new self-care routine that is compatible with your life at the office. For example, you may wish to develop a new morning routine to ensure a peaceful and enjoyable start to your days. Ensure you are keeping a healthy sleep schedule by going to bed at an early enough time and at about the same time every night. Starting your day with sufficient rest, a healthy breakfast and even a spiritual practice can lead to a better day at the office.
Here at Flourish Psychology, we understand that work contributes to your overall happiness and sense of purpose in life. Counseling with a therapist can help you to identify and work towards a more satisfying and fulfilling career, while reducing work-related stress or anxiety. To schedule your first session, contact us today.
While many people are looking forward to a summer of outings, gatherings and socializing, others may be experiencing some social anxiety at the thought of heading back out into the world. Due to COVID-19, most of us were indoors for the greater part of 2020 and 2021. But as vaccination rates continue to increase, governments are relaxing restrictions and businesses are beginning to reopen to the public. Though we are still being cautious, many people are now able to visit restaurants, bars, gyms and sports venues after more than a year of lockdowns.
While some are excited at the prospect of life going “back to normal” and being able to visit friends, attend events and socialize, others may feel reluctant about heading back out into the world after so much time at home. This reluctance may be because of concerns about the pandemic itself, or you may have gotten so accustomed to life at home that going out now feels strange.
For others, the prospect of being invited to gatherings and events brings on a feeling of anxiety due to the social expectations. If these feelings of fear and anxiety start to affect your ability to function in your daily life, you may be dealing with social anxiety disorder.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) is a common mental health condition that affects more than 15 million Americans. Though many people develop it in adolescence, it can easily continue to affect you in adulthood if not properly addressed.
Social anxiety disorder is an intense and often debilitating fear of being judged or rejected in a social setting or a performance-based scenario. People dealing with social phobia may feel anxious about being seen in public or having to socialize with others. Common thoughts include a fear of being perceived as awkward, boring or stupid to peers or even strangers. As a result of these fears, you may avoid social settings such as dates, parties or dinners with friends or colleagues. For some people, social anxiety extends into work-related settings and can affect your ability to perform in job interviews, performance evaluations, presentations or meetings. For others, social anxiety can affect their ability to go to the gym or go for a run outside, for fear of being watched or judged by others.
When symptoms persist for at least six months and affect your daily life and activities, it may be time to speak to a mental health professional to address the symptoms.
Is social anxiety the same as shyness?
Most people will experience shyness at some point in their lives and it’s easy to conflate this with social anxiety because they can be quite similar. Shyness is very common in childhood and adolescence as we develop social skills and become more comfortable with our bodies and ourselves. By adulthood, most people would have outgrown this shyness or developed coping strategies to enable them to push through the shyness and form meaningful relationships with the people around them.
Social anxiety is characterized by intense and extreme symptoms that can impair your ability to function in your daily life. People with social anxiety often go as far as avoiding social situations altogether, causing them to miss out on important opportunities for personal or professional growth. Those with social anxiety disorder may lose sleep due to their intense feelings about an upcoming social situation and often experience physical symptoms such as a racing heart, shortness of breath or sweating.
If you are isolating yourself on a consistent basis due to fear or anxiety, or if the anxiety is preventing you from living the life you want, you may be dealing with a disorder, as opposed to just shyness.
What are the signs/symptoms of social anxiety disorder?
Social anxiety disorder often manifests in both physical and psychological symptoms. When placed in a social setting, you may begin blushing, sweating or may experience an increased heart rate. Other common physical symptoms include clammy palms, nausea and an inability to project your voice.
Your mind may begin racing, or it may go completely blank. Social anxiety can also result in feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness or insecurity. You may be overly critical of the things you say and do and how these things will be perceived by others. When your fears and feelings of anxiety cause you to avoid social activities on a regular basis, this is one of the clearest signs of social anxiety disorder.
During a screening for social phobia, your clinician may ask questions such as:
- Do you have an extreme fear of looking silly or awkward to others?
- Do you avoid activities where you might be the center of attention?
- Is it difficult for you to relax in social settings?
- Do you avoid situations that require you to be sociable?
Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder
The good news is that treatment for social anxiety disorder is available and effective. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular treatment options due to its short treatment time and effectiveness. CBT teaches you to challenge the racing thoughts that cause you to become anxious in social settings. For example, you can learn to realize that at the gym, people are too focused on their own workout and body to be judging you. As you learn to reframe your thinking, you can slowly become more comfortable in these settings.
Exposure therapy is another effective treatment option for social anxiety. This is when you gradually work yourself up to the situations you fear the most by starting out with less challenging situations. For example, you can start by eating alone in public to teach yourself that nobody is watching or judging you as you eat. As you become more comfortable, you can work your way up to being able to go out with a friend to eat and then a small group.
Based on your unique challenges, a mental health professional will be able to work with you to find the best treatment plan. The clinicians at Flourish Psychology are trained to help treat a variety of mental health challenges, including social anxiety disorder. Schedule your first session with a therapist who can help you to live your best social life.
If you’ve been thinking about starting therapy, you may have come across the terms “CBT” and “DBT” in your research. Though they may sound similar, there are many important differences between these two kinds of psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are two of the most common treatment modalities used by clinicians to treat mental illnesses, improve your thoughts and behaviors and equip you with the skills needed to handle the various challenges in your life.
Because these two forms of therapy work in very different ways, it’s important to understand the key differences between them so that you can choose the one that’s right for you. Here at Flourish Psychology, we want to get you matched with the clinician who best meets your needs. After a free consultation, you’ll begin seeing your therapist, who will determine the best type of therapy based on your unique needs.
Let’s explore some of the differences between these two kinds of talk therapy.
What is CBT?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of talk therapy that’s considered to be a fast and reliable way of addressing negative thought patterns caused by cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are habitual ways of thinking that are inaccurate and usually negative. It’s an exaggerated thought pattern that is not based in fact, causing you to view things a lot more negatively than they really are. For example, you may believe that an unanswered text message means that your friend is upset with you when in reality, they misplaced their phone. CBT teaches you the skills needed to slow down, identify cognitive distortions and challenge them. This can lead to a more positive outlook on life.
CBT teaches you how your thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all linked to each other. By changing your thoughts, CBT also allows you to change your behavior and develop more positive habits and ways of living. CBT is a structured, short-term and goal-oriented form of therapy, used to address a specific challenge or issue in your life.
What is DBT?
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy was developed as a form of talk therapy to help people cope with extreme, overwhelming or unstable emotions. With this form of therapy, the emphasis is on emotional regulation. DBT is actually a modified form of CBT that is more focused on coping with stress, anger and difficult relationships with other people. DBT was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), but is now commonly used to treat other mental health conditions or to help people who have difficulty in regulating their emotions. DBT is excellent for curbing self-destructive behavior and is particularly effective in treating substance abuse disorders.
Differences Between CBT and DBT
- They’re Used to Treat Different Concerns
A key difference between CBT and DBT is that they’re used to treat different mental health concerns. DBT was developed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), but has proven to be effective in treating patients who have difficulty managing their emotions, such as persons with anger management concerns. On the other hand, CBT is more focused on challenging negative thought patterns and cognitive distortions. CBT helps you to change unwanted behaviors by first managing your thoughts. CBT is usually used to treat a specific concern in a relatively short period of time
2. They Equip You with Different Skills
Both CBT and DBT equip you with important skills that stick with you long after you’ve completed your treatment. With CBT, it’s all about teaching you how to identify and challenge cognitive distortions and reframe your thoughts. One of the most common cognitive distortions is “all or nothing thinking” or “black and white thinking.” This is when your brain sees things in two extremes and fails to acknowledge all the possibilities in between. With all-or-nothing-thinking, things are either perfect or a complete failure. CBT teaches you to recognize that things are never black and white.
DBT skills focus on distress tolerance and teaching you to regulate your emotions during difficult times. When you are able to recognize your emotional triggers, you can prepare yourself to react more rationally in times of distress.
3. They Have Different Treatment Times
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented form of talk therapy. Patients begin their CBT journey with a specific concern or goal in mind. CBT lasts a few weeks and is proven to be effective in this relatively short time period. DBT is a longer-term form of therapy that is more generalized in nature. DBT can continue for as long as the patient wishes to continue
4. They Take Different Approaches to Relationships
CBT is more focused on your relationship with yourself and the way your own thoughts impact your emotions and actions. With DBT, the focus is on how external triggers impact your emotions and behaviors. CBT is more of an “inside job” because it teaches you to pay attention to your thoughts, identify negative thought patterns and change them into more positive ways of thinking. DBT, on the other hand, helps you to respond more rationally to the challenges that arise in your daily life based on your environment or the relationships with the people around you.
CBT OR DBT – Which Is Right For You?
By understanding the differences between CBT and DBT, you’re better able to determine which type of therapy would be most beneficial for you. Here at Flourish Psychology, our clinicians are trained in both forms of therapy and stand ready to help you achieve your goals. When you schedule a free consult, you’ll share your main concerns challenges and goals so we can get you matched with a therapist who best meets your needs. After your initial sessions with your therapist, they’ll be able to determine which form of therapy is right for you. Some patients have even found it beneficial to learn skills from both treatment modalities to help address multiple challenges in their lives.
To learn more about CBT or DBT, or to schedule a free consult, contact us today.
In a recent episode of the popular podcast, This American Life, I heard a story that caused me to reflect on the effects of unresolved childhood trauma and how it manifests in adulthood.
The featured guest told the story of how she was separated from her parents at a very young age, as they immigrated to the United States from Guatemala, leaving her behind with her grandmother. This difficult decision was made by her mother, who did not want her young daughter to endure the uncertainty and hardship that came with such a big transition. Though she eventually joined her family in the United States a few years later when things were more stable, the psychological effects of the separation followed her for the rest of her life.
When she arrived in the United States, she began feeling pressured to be on her best behavior at all times, for fear that she would be sent back to Guatemala. Many years after her safe arrival, she still had the constant fear of deportation, even as a naturalized adult. Decades later, when she became a mother, she started having nightmares about her son being taken away from her. She began instilling fear into her son about their possible separation, going as far as to install tracking devices so that she could be aware of his location at all times. In this way, she was reliving her childhood trauma, as well as passing it along to her son.
How is it possible for an event from early childhood to affect an adult decades after the fact? Why doesn’t time heal the wounds of childhood trauma?
Unless childhood trauma is properly addressed, its effects will be evident even years after the traumatic incident. Sometimes, a traumatic event may be suppressed for a long time, only to resurface when something triggers it in adulthood. When this happens, it can be difficult to connect the dots between a childhood incident and a ‘grown-up’ problem.
There are many different types of experiences that happen during childhood that can be considered traumatic. There are more obvious instances of traumatic events such as experiencing a natural disaster, major accident, physical or sexual violence or being separated from loved ones. But there are also smaller, seemingly “normal” aspects of our childhood that can have a traumatic effect. Sometimes, traumatic events are the result of deliberate and abusive actions of the adults in our lives. Other times, the adult caretakers in our lives did not mean us any harm and genuinely believed they were making the best decisions for us. Unfortunately, even the best of intentions does not negate the lasting effects of childhood trauma. We all experienced traumatic events as children to some extent, based on our unique family dynamic or physical environment. It’s important to remember that events that may be considered ‘minor’ can have a lasting effect well into adulthood. Here are some unexpected sources of childhood trauma and how they may impact you as an adult.
Moving a lot as a kid
Moving is a major and transformative life event for everyone, but it has an especially significant impact on children. Many studies have researched the long-term effects of repeated moves once children have reached adulthood. The research shows that the more times people moved as children, the more likely they will be to report lower life satisfaction and psychological wellbeing as adults. Researchers also found that those who moved frequently as children had more difficulties finding and maintaining healthy and satisfying relationships in adulthood.
Moving creates a sense of displacement and a feeling of a lack of stability in a child’s life. Just when they have adjusted and adapted to their environment, they are forced to readjust, re-adapt and find a new sense of balance in their new home. With a new school comes the challenges of being “the new kid” such as being bullied, feeling left out and having difficulty making friends. When moves are quite frequent (as often happens with military families) children may feel discouraged from making friends at all, seeing it as a futile endeavor when they may soon be leaving again.
How this may affect you as an adult:
There is quite a bit of research on the long-term effects of moving around a lot as a child, with many studies concluding that it may lead to increased risk of depression, self-harm and substance abuse in adulthood. There is also the likelihood of challenges in maintaining relationships and jobs. Because you are so accustomed to being forced to leave, you may be inclined to quickly “cut off” romantic and platonic partners and may have challenges with keeping a job long term. Longevity and settling down may feel uncomfortable for you because of the lack of stability in your childhood.
Growing up in an Environment of Poverty or Scarcity
It comes as no surprise that children living in poorer households face unique and complex challenges not faced by children in more financially abundant homes. Trauma can be experienced by witnessing an actual or perceived threat to our safety or wellbeing and this is triggered in many ways while growing up in poverty. An inability to access food, clothing or shelter on a consistent basis threatens a child’s sense of safety and stability. Poverty can also bring on feelings of guilt, shame or fear as it relates to money and these feelings can follow you well into adulthood.
How this may affect you as an adult:
For many adults who were raised in an environment of poverty, the mindset of scarcity follows them for life. Even after attaining wealth or stability in adulthood, you may still operate from a place of lack. There may be the constant fear that you are going to “lose it all” and end up back in an impoverished situation. This can lead to hoarding of resources and an inability to enjoy the fruits of your labour. A lack of financial education in childhood may lead to poor financial planning or decision-making in adulthood, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Childhood Trauma from Emotionally Unavailable parents
Though a parent may be physically present and make provisions for a child’s physical needs, they may be emotionally absent or unavailable. Most often, they themselves had emotionally absent parents and simply never learned how to offer emotional support to anyone, including their own children. Other times, parents may have demanding jobs or other obligations that do not allow them to be emotionally present in the lives of their children.
Emotionally absent parents are reluctant to display intimacy and may have challenges showing physical or verbal affection to their children. Because of their own inability to handle their emotions, they are unable to guide their children in managing their emotional wellbeing. These parents will often encourage children to suppress emotions instead of addressing them in a healthy way.
How this may affect you as an adult:
Adult children of emotionally absent parents often grow up to repeat the patterns and behaviors of their parents. They may have difficulties in romantic relationships or friendships due to their inability to be vulnerable and affectionate. In turn, they may seek out partners who are emotionally unavailable, leaving them dissatisfied as they yearn for connection and intimacy. It may be difficult to cope with the emotionally demanding realities of adulthood, leading to a reliance on unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs or impulsive shopping.
Healing from Childhood Trauma Through Therapy
To some extent, we are all dealing with the aftermath of childhood trauma in one way or another. Though none of it is your fault, the responsibility of healing from your trauma rests only with you. By working with a therapist, you will have expert guidance and support as you process difficult moments from your past. Though this can be a daunting prospect, it is one of the most fulfilling things you can do for yourself. To take the first step, schedule a free consult to get matched with a therapist who meets your needs.
Though social media is a relatively new advancement in technology, it has very quickly become an unavoidable aspect of our everyday lives. For most teens and millennials, constant access to social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Twitter is facilitated through use of a smartphone that is always connected to the internet. For older populations, Facebook and YouTube are far more popular. For younger generations, exposure to screens starts in early infancy, with many parents using tablets and smartphones to keep young children entertained with games, videos and educational content. Regardless of your age group or lifestyle, chances are that you have some form of a relationship with social media, due to its accessibility, ease of use and various benefits.
Of course, there are many positive aspects to social media use. These revolutionary platforms allow us to have easy access to important information, which can be crucial during an ever-changing world. The latest information about the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines, elections and other crucial world events are available at the tap of a screen. With travel restrictions and lockdowns, social media allows us to keep in contact with loved ones we otherwise would not be able to reach.
Limited research on effects of social media use
Given the relative recency of these technologies, there is limited research on its effects on our mental health and wellbeing. The most accurate research studies take place over many years and measure long-term impact. With social media, there simply hasn’t enough time for such a comprehensive study. While we may not yet have information on the long-term effects of constant social media use, we do have quite a bit of research on the shorter-term impacts. This is crucial information that we can use to surmise what the impact will be if we continue using social media in a particular way over a longer period of time.
Many studies focus on the psychological impact of increased exposure to these platforms and how this exposure contributes to depression, anxiety, self-harm and disordered eating.
FOMO and the comparison game
By nature, humans are wired to compare themselves to each other. Long before these technologies existed, we have been “keeping up with the Joneses” by comparing our careers, possessions, children and bank accounts to our peers, neighbors and colleagues. For decades, research has indicated that we make upward comparisons, i.e. we measure the mundane or unpleasant aspects of our lives to the grandiose and glamorous aspects of other people’s lives.
Social media ups the ante of the comparison game by giving us constant access to the highlight reels of others. A few decades ago, we may be notified of a colleague’s new car if we happened to notice it in their parking spot at work or a chance encounter at the grocery store. Now, you can see how #grateful your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend is for her new car before she even drives it off the lot. Seeing this while you’re dealing with a tough financial time can easily bring on feelings of inadequacy and comparison.
These feelings of comparison can lead to FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Have you ever watched an Instagram story of a group of friends at a restaurant or party while you’re at home in your PJs? It’s easy to feel like life is passing you by while scrolling through the seemingly exciting lives of others.
In some ways, comparison can be a healthy and useful tool for self-development. By seeking inspiration from the achievements of others, we can find motivation to make improvements to our own lives. By using your peers as a benchmark, you can also find reassurance in the fact that you are on the right track or may even be doing better than you expected. But the comparison game can quickly take a very dark turn, leaving you feeling inferior, anxious or depressed.
Social Media & The 24-hour news cycle
The 24-hour news cycle came about in the mid-1990s when television networks began doing fast-paced investigative journalism in an effort to compete with each other. There is a constant race for the juiciest scoop, the exclusive interview and to be the first to break the latest news. This was a revolutionary concept in comparison to printed newspapers, which were only able to provide delayed information once per day. In the age of social media, the news cycle is even more constant because it’s in your pocket.
Back in the nineties, it was easy to turn off your TV to head to work or otherwise go about your day. Today, it’s more of a challenge to avoid the news than it is to stay informed. Information overload can lead to stress, anxiety and a whole host of mental health issues.
Steps you can take to minimize effects
If you’ve noticed that your social media use leaves you feeling depressed or that every notification brings a feeling of dread or anxiety, it may be time to make some changes.
- Remind yourself that you don’t need to be constantly connected to stay informed. Do you really need to hear every breaking news update? Checking a summary of your favorite news sites once or twice per day is enough to keep you informed of important local and world events. There are many services that offer personalized, condensed news reports based on your interests and location. Consider turning off the CNN notifications in favour of one of these options.
- It’s also important to remember that people are only putting the very best version of themselves on social media. It’s unfair to compare yourself in a low moment to a retouched, made-up, and hyper-positive social media post. Remember that we all face setbacks and challenges, but these are rarely shared on Instagram.
- Social media can easily cause us to feel like the star of our very own reality show. This can create a feeling of obligation in relation to updating your followers about your daily life and major life developments. Remind yourself that there is no such obligation. Release the pressure that comes with taking the perfect shot, writing the wittiest caption and getting the most likes or comments. It’s okay to take a break from posting. If you’re feeling up for it, why not take a social media detox? Disconnecting from the constant rat race can bring you unexpected peace and clarity. If your livelihood depends on social media, consider scheduling posts ahead of time to keep your feed updated.
- Another simple, yet important step to take is to unfollow or unsubscribe from accounts that negatively affect your wellbeing. Does a certain news site use anxiety-inducing headlines as clickbait? Unfollow! How about an email marketing newsletter that always leads to you making a purchase you’ll later regret? Unsubscribe! And the girl with the seemingly perfect life with the self-righteous captions that cause you to feel inferior? It’s okay to mute her, too.
- If you’re having issues detaching from social media and are concerned about its impact on your mental health, you may wish to discuss these concerns with a therapist. The clinicians at Flourish Psychology understand that social media is interwoven into our lives and are trained to address the mental health issues that may arise from constant use of these platforms. Schedule a free consult to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs.