Bullied at Work—Here’s What You Can Do!


Bullied at Work—Here’s What You Can Do!

Feeling close to others is a basic psychological need, as is feeling appreciated or at least respected by others. When you’re not feeling close to others or appreciated or respected, then, it can really hurt. Being excluded or treated with hostility, in fact, activates the same regions in the brain as physical pain. It’s no wonder, then, that those who feel bullied can really suffer.

In adulthood, bullying occurs most frequently in work settings. This is in large part, no doubt, because work is where most adults spend the majority of their waking hours. In this article, we look at the nature of workplace bullying, its causes and consequences, and what you can do if you are being bullied at work.

Bullied at Work

Normal Conflict or Deliberate Harassment?


Many personalities come together at work—and with them, different interests, opinions, and approaches. Add to this all the to-dos, time pressures, and high demands and you can begin to see why heated discussions would arise from time to time or that people would occasionally hurt each other, even if inadvertently. And, not everyone will get along to the same degree. This is all normal and doesn’t have to get in the way of good working relationships.

What is not normal and not expected, however, is harassment, discrimination, or exclusion in a work setting, especially over a period of time. If colleagues spread rumors about you, avoid you, withhold important information from you, or constantly criticize or even insult you, these are bullying behaviors.



The Making of a Bully: The Whos and Whys


There can be any number of reasons someone would bully someone else: envy, frustration, fear, competition, not liking the other person, etc. Very often, though, those who bully are (unconsciously) trying to make themselves feel better or more powerful by devaluing others. If someone else comes along who condones or even participates in the behavior, the person who is bullying is encouraged that much more. Sometimes such behavior is an attempt to “get rid” of a person the bully perceives to be in direct competition with them or who they otherwise feel threatened by. Others resort to bullying because they have simply not learned how to deal with conflict constructively. The risk of bullying is higher in companies with poor communication and with chaotic structures.

As far as who typically exhibits bullying behaviors, some might be surprised that it’s more common to be bullied by a supervisor than a co-worker, though co-worker bullying happens, too. Regardless of whether supervisor or co-worker, people who deliberately bully or ostracize others are insecure at their core, otherwise they would not have to resort to such means. In addition, one who bullies usually lacks empathy and social skills.



Consequences of Being Bullied


Pretty much anyone who is regularly excluded, treated unfairly, or is the target of hostility will be negatively impacted. It’s common in this situation to feel heightened stress or increased self-doubt, anxiety, irritability, and even symptoms of depression. Those who feel they have to constantly watch their backs at work are usually less able to concentrate on their tasks and may make more mistakes. If work performance then suffers, this can lead to getting bullied even more, tipping off a vicious cycle.

Over a period of time, the psychological effects of bullying can move into the physical such as with abdominal pain, headaches, or back pain. When on the receiving end of bullying behaviors at work, many people (understandably) call in sick much more frequently or even quit.



What to Do?


If you are being bullied, you may feel the urge to withdraw, avoid co-workers, or call in sick. While these responses can provide some short-term relief, in the long term, though, they can end up reinforcing difficult feelings and thoughts because the problem has not been solved, only pushed away. Because being on the receiving end of bullying can have serious consequences, the situation should be addressed, and as early as possible.

It will likely take a good bit of courage, but even so, speak up as soon as you can when unfairly treated or excluded. Make it clear to the other person(s) that these behaviors are not okay and that you would like them to stop. It can help to prepare this conversation in advance. Ask yourself what your goal is for the conversation and what you want to address exactly. How might you communicate your message as clearly as possible? The MindDoc app has a course on dealing with conflicts that can help.

If speaking directly to the one bullying still doesn’t bring about a change in how they behave, seek the support of others. Perhaps you have co-workers or other higher ups you can go to to talk about what’s happening. A counseling center or support group could also be helpful. If your mental or physical health is being impacted by bullying, it’s likely a good idea to seek help from a mental health professional (or primary care physician). You definitely don’t have to cope with this situation alone!

And one more thing: Try to take good care of yourself outside of work. Do activities that you enjoy. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. This will not solve the problem, but it will strengthen your well-being and self-esteem.


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Myths and Facts: What makes a relationship healthy?


Myths and Facts: What makes a relationship healthy?

Ideally, a romantic relationship can provide closeness and comfort and help bolster mental health. In other words, when it comes to relationships, the ideal, of course, is a healthy one. But unhealthy patterns can creep into a dynamic and weigh on mental health instead, which is what is being referred to by such labels as “toxic” and “red flags” that have become so common. This article delves into what a healthy relationship looks like, debunking some common myths along the way.

Myths and Facts: What makes a relationship healthy?

Myth 1: True love always comes with some pain.


Think how many social media channels, movies, shows, books, and works of art have been devoted to the pain of love. It’s no wonder that many people equate love with pain and lots of drama. Does this mean that a relationship without any of this means that it’s not true love? Absolutely not! One of the main markers of a healthy relationship is that both people feel generally comfortable and secure. There is ample emotional security and trust. Some may think this sounds a bit boring—but a little boredom is certainly better for your mental health than constant drama, isn’t it?

Of course, arguments crop up from time to time, even in a healthy relationship. This is completely normal. Likewise, in a healthy relationship, both partners leave some room for the other so that neither feels like they’re always needing to please the other.

If one partner begins to notice, though, that they’re feeling angry, sad, disappointed, or fearful around the other person much or most of the time, this may be a potential warning sign that deserves attention.

Physical or psychological violence has absolutely no place in a relationship. Physical violence, of course, is easy to spot, but emotional violence can include being constantly belittled, threatened, or gaslighted. Don’t hesitate to seek help if you have experienced violence in your relationship or are worried about your physical or psychological safety.



Myth 2: A healthy relationship does not have conflict.


The word “conflict” comes from Latin and means “to strike” (fligere) and “together” (con), in other words to clash. In close relationships, occasional clashes are inevitable. After all, wherever two people meet, different interests, needs, ideas, and opinions come together and a conflict can arise. As such, conflicts are a completely normal part of life. Though this doesn’t make them easy, it can help to at least know they’re normal. And, not to be too Pollyanna, but they also provide valuable opportunities. (We know, but bear with us!)

When two people have a conflict and are able to work it out, they often come out feeling even closer. Conflict, then, can lead to joint decisions and add depth to a relationship. And yet, pretty much no one thinks they’re fun. The alternative, though, which is avoiding conflict, can come at a high price. If you constantly suppress expressing what you’d like and need and, instead, adapt to everything your partner wants and needs, you’re signaling to yourself (and them) that you’re less important than your partner. This can affect both your sense of satisfaction and your self-esteem.

So, not only is it completely normal to have conflicts in a relationship, but it’s helpful to recognize and deal with them in a constructive way. It’s not so much about the frequency of conflicts but the way conflicts are handled that speaks to whether a relationship is healthy.

When conflicts do arise, it can be helpful to address them and the other person from a rational place of calm. Easier said than done, for sure. If you’re looking for some strategies to try out that might help make conflicts more constructive, check out the course about this in the MindDoc app.



Myth 3: A happy relationship remains happy.


Imagine you buy a plant that you love but then forget to water it regularly. At first it may not be apparent, but at some point the plant will begin to wither and the leaves will fall off. Before you know it, the plant can no longer be saved.

Like a plant, a relationship is alive and needs sunlight, water, and pruning to stay strong and healthy. But what does this mean exactly? Well, one important way to care for a relationship is to consciously take time every now and then for each other. This will give you the opportunity to really communicate your feelings and needs and let them do the same. And when they speak, actively listen. When conflicts arise, you’ll want to recognize what’s at issue and deal with it constructively without letting it linger. This means finding compromises, showing compassion, and supporting each other. Another way to care for a relationship is to regularly plan activities together and look for ways to establish positive rituals and routines.

This may sound like a lot of effort but these are some of what helps a relationship blossom.



Myth 4: In a healthy relationship, you’ll still feel like you’re madly in love with the other person, even years in.


Heart palpitations, butterflies in the stomach, loss of appetite, sleepless nights, thoughts that constantly revolve around the other person . . . Falling in love can be wonderful but is stressful on the body. When you’re in love, your brain kicks up its hormone production. Higher levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine—often referred to as the “happiness hormone”—occur as do the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which put the body on alert. When the person you love is not around, serotonin levels typically drop, which can lead to withdrawal-like symptoms. Some scientists compare your body’s biochemical reaction to being in love to an addiction or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Imagine what would happen if this state lasted not just a few months, but years or even decades. Your body would be completely exhausted! Nature takes care of this and typically slows down the highest phase of infatuation after about six months to a year, which allows the nervous system to calm down. Then other hormones, such as oxytocin, kick up to strengthen the feeling of attachment. This stage of love is less loud and intense, more quiet and relaxed and, as such, is quite nice. Some people worry that the loss of intensity means the loss of love, but there is really nothing to worry about. In fact, it’s quite normal to no longer feel butterflies around your partner after a while.



Myth 5: My partner should anticipate my wishes and needs and make me happy.


A partner who anticipates my every wish and always knows what I need—anyone who goes into a relationship with this expectation can only be disappointed! After all, every adult is primarily responsible for their own well-being. No one else can or should take on this task. The key to a happy relationship, therefore, does not lie in clairvoyance but in communication. If you want something (different) in your relationship, don’t wait for the other person to realize it. Speak up! This will give your partner the chance to better understand what you want and need. You’ll also want to spend some regular time reflecting on your own feelings and needs as well. The MindDoc app can help since one of its main focuses is allowing, and perhaps helping guide, reflection.



Myth 6: The more time we spend together, the better.


More time together = more love and satisfaction, right? The equation is not quite that simple. Just as there are healthy long-distance relationships, there are also unhealthy ones where the couples spend a lot of time together. Of course, sharing experiences can help strengthen bonds, particularly at the beginning of a relationship. But this is true over the long term as well. The key is quality of time rather than quantity. Giving each other undivided time and attention to listen and enjoy what you’re doing together can turn time together into real quality time.

How much closeness and distance someone needs in a partnership is also very individual. Experiencing things separately and investing time in one’s own interests, hobbies, and friendships—as well as spending time as a couple—can keep a relationship fresh and lively. What’s important is that the ratio of closeness and distance is right for both partners. If one person is always unavailable while the other is constantly wishing for more time and attention together, this is a pretty unhealthy dynamic. Keeping communication lines open, practicing active listening, and working together to find a long-term solution are all ingredients for a healthy relationship.


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Introversion, shyness, social anxiety disorder—what are the differences?


Introversion, shyness, social anxiety disorder—what are the differences?

“Everything okay with you? You’re so quiet!” “Why didn’t you go to the party?” “Why don’t you come out of your shell?”

Do these phrases sound familiar to you? If so, you may be an introverted person or shy—or both. But what is the difference between introversion and shyness? And is there a connection between one or both and social anxiety disorder? We’ll find out in this article.

Introversion, shyness, social anxiety disorder—what are the differences?

The Party Dilemma


Imagine you’re invited to a party. It’s going to be a big event with dancing and lots of people you don’t know. What feelings and thoughts does this bring up for you?

While some eagerly look forward to a party like this, a good number also have mixed or even queasy feelings at such a prospect. And for different reasons.

“It’ll be exhausting to have to be around so many people—the loud music, the small talk. I’ll go, but won’t stay long and I’ll just take it easy the day after and not do anything at all.”

These are common types of thoughts for an introverted person.

Someone who’s shy, on the other hand, is likely to feel anxious and have thoughts before the party like, “I wonder who’ll be there? I hope I don’t end up standing around alone. So embarrassing!”

For the person dealing with social anxiety disorder, thoughts around the party also trigger fear in a more intense way than for the shy person. Something like, “I’m sure I’m going to make a total fool of myself and everyone will stare. Ugh, unbearable, I’d better cancel.”

Of course, these are generalizations that may or may not apply to any one person or the reality of any one situation. It’s entirely possible, for example, for an introvert to be the one to cancel on the party plans, while the person with a social anxiety disorder to go despite their fears (and any other number of combinations). But this gives a general idea of the feelings and thoughts that are central to the introvert, the shy person, and the one with social anxiety disorder.



Introversion: When Strength Is Found in Calmness


Introversion and extraversion were introduced into psychology as personality traits around a hundred years ago by Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. The terms “introvert” and “extravert” come from the Latin with “intro” meaning inside, “extra” meaning outside, and “vertere” meaning to turn. Each represents the two ends of a scale, though, rather than distinct traits. So, in reality, only a very few are either extremely introverted or extremely extraverted with most falling somewhere between. Additionally, there are ambiverts or those who exhibit traits of both introversion and extraversion.

Introverts focus their attention and energy more on their inner rather than outer life. They recharge their batteries when alone and can quickly feel drained amid the hubbub of larger groups. Though extraverts may find this confusing, introverts often do still want social contact, but they just prefer quiet gatherings in small groups or pairs. To the outside world, introverts often appear calm, thoughtful, reserved, though sometimes cold.

Extraverted people, on the other hand, generally have an outward-facing attitude. They find interaction with others stimulating and energizing and actively seek out others’ company. To the outside world, extraverts often come across as warm, cheerful, adventurous, confident, though sometimes dominant.

It’s neither inherently “good” nor “bad” to be an introvert or an extravert—rather, each type has both strengths and challenges. And wouldn’t it be less than ideal to have a world filled only with introverts or a world filled only with extraverts? The world, in fact, needs both. As the saying goes, “It takes all types.” Nevertheless, far more struggle with their introverted personality and wish they were more extraverted than the other way around. This is largely because extraverted behavior tends to be rewarded and held up in Western societies. Can you imagine hearing, “Is everything okay? You’re so loud and full of energy?” Hardly ever happens, right?

People cannot choose whether they’re introverted or extraverted. This personality trait is largely determined from a person’s biological makeup and early childhood experiences. By the time someone reaches adulthood, such personality traits are relatively stable─if they change, they tend to do so slightly and slowly. So, when it comes to your personality, it’s all about being aware of yours, finding out what makes you feel good, and appreciating yourself for who you are. Sharpening your focus on your own strengths can help with this. Many introverts, for example, are keen observers and attentive listeners and can deeply immerse themselves in their tasks.



Shyness: When New People and Situations Trigger Reservations


Shyness describes the tendency to initially react with anxiety and reticence in unfamiliar social situations. It can take those who are shy longer to warm up to others. They typically hang back a bit in new situations and might not engage much with others at first, usually because they have a fear of being judged negatively or rejected. And this is the crux of the difference between introversion and shyness. While introverts recharge their batteries by being alone and often prefer it, many who are shy wish they could talk to others more easily but don’t dare. In other words, the cause of the social reticence in shy people is fear, whereas the cause of the reticence in introverts is a desire for alone time.

Shyness, an innate temperamental trait, usually crops up at an early age—when young children hide behind their parents’ backs when meeting strangers. The system in the brain that reacts with inhibitions to new situations is particularly pronounced in many shy people from birth. Shameful experiences and social rejection can increase shyness later in life, while positive experiences and feelings of social acceptance can weaken it.

Like introversion, shyness is therefore a personality trait that is partly innate and partly learned. It is not a disease. Though many who’re shy wish they weren’t, to be shy is usually not an insurmountable obstacle and tends to cause only minor suffering. This is because once shy people have built up confidence in new situations or with new people, their reticence and nervousness usually diminish.



Social Anxiety Disorder: When the Fear of Being Judged Dominates Life


For those affected by social anxiety disorder, the fear of embarrassment or humiliation tends to be constant. Unlike for those who are shy and eventually warm up after some time when in a new situation or with new people, those dealing with social anxiety disorder tend to remain tense throughout an entire social situation. They may experience physical reactions of anxiety or embarrassment by blushing, trembling, or sweating. For some, these reactions can be quite prominent, which then increases the fear of being judged by others. Being around others, in fact, can be so uncomfortable that the sufferer often opts for avoidance rather than enduring the discomfort.

Though shyness is not social anxiety disorder, there is a connection between the two. Because those who are shy tend to avoid interactions with adults and peers starting at an early age, they end up having fewer positive experiences in social situations than those less shy. This may help a social anxiety disorder develop, though there are always a number of factors involved beyond simply shyness.

For those with social anxiety disorder, it can feel like they’re the only one experiencing the uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Yet, this is among the most common mental disorders, with around one in ten people affected at some point in their lives. Find out more about how the disorder manifests itself, how it develops, and how it is treated here.


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Looping Thoughts: Questions and Answers on the Subject of Rumination


Looping Thoughts: Questions and Answers on the Subject of Rumination

Every person has thousands of thoughts running through their head every day. For some, this means getting tangled up in looping and repeating thoughts. In this article, we answer the most important questions about rumination.

Looping Thoughts

What’s the difference between “normal” thinking and rumination?


When a problem arises, naturally you think about it as you try to work out a solution. You’ve made a pretty big mistake at work, for example, so you think through what happened and what you could do differently going forward. Once you’ve figured this out, you move on. This is all “normal” and helpful.

But let’s say you made that mistake at work a week ago, a month ago, or even years ago and you find your thoughts returning to it again and again. For the fifth, tenth, or thousandth time, your thoughts turn to what happened along with things like, “Ugh, this is so typical of me!” “Why does this always happen to me?” “I wonder if everyone at work associates me with that mistake.” “I bet that’s why I didn’t get that promotion.” “Why didn’t I notice the problem earlier?” And so the thoughts go, like a merry-go-round, circling again and again without arriving at a constructive resolution and leaving you in a bad mood or feeling exhausted. This is rumination.



What are typical topics of ruminating thoughts?


Rumination often revolves around the causes and consequences of negative feelings and distress. The looping thoughts might come in the form of large life questions such as “Why am I still single?” or “Will I ever find a job with the grades I earned?” or “Why does no one ever understand me?”—in other words, thoughts related to worries or distress about the way things are or will be.

Social situations can also set the carousel of thoughts in motion: “Jane didn’t say hello to me this morning. She probably doesn’t like me anymore. Maybe I said something wrong the other day.” Permanent and pervasive thoughts such as “Nothing ever works out for me” or “I’m a real master at putting my foot in my mouth” are also pretty common of rumination.

Thoughts that revolve around the past are another subset of ruminating thoughts. Usually, it’s events that have already happened and can’t be changed but which a person, nevertheless, can’t let go of.

Whether revolving around the way it is, will be, or was, what all ruminating thoughts have in common is that they repeat without bringing new insights or solutions.



Why does anyone ruminate at all?


If rumination has so many disadvantages, why do so many people do it? There are several explanations for this. For one, rumination gives the false sense of control in the appearance of actually working through a problem—this can initially lead to feelings of relief. Except that because no true action or solution comes out of rumination, this relief is only temporary.

Rumination can also be, somewhat ironically, a way to avoid the most painful feelings associated with a thought or event because it masks as action. Except, again, there is no true action, only the sense that one is working cognitively toward action—focusing on thoughts in this way can mean sidestepping deeper feelings.

Then there are a good number of people who don’t recognize their rumination when it’s happening. This is also quite common and understandable, and once the carousel of thought gets going, it can be really hard to get off.

Finally, rumination can be part of a mental illness, which we’ll come back to later.



What are the consequences of these thought loops?


Rumination can be draining and cause a bad mood. But that’s not all. Intense rumination can also trigger a stress reaction in the body, which can bring tense muscles, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, headaches, loss of appetite, or even a weakened immune system, when prolonged. Because rumination often involves negative judgments about oneself or others, self-esteem can also suffer. Additionally, feelings of helplessness can arise in the face of never coming to a solution or constructive action.



How is rumination related to depression?


Rumination itself is not an illness. However, people who ruminate a lot have an increased risk of mental illness—especially depression. Ruminating can affect mood and energy levels and lead many to withdraw. All this can spark even more rumination, more sadness, and even lower energy levels, kicking off a vicious cycle as well as a depressive episode.

Rumination not only plays a role in the development of depression, it can also occur as a symptom of depression. During a depressive episode, one’s view of themself, others, and the world is usually quite negative, which can more quickly spark the negative looping thoughts of rumination and serve to perpetuate the depression.

This does not mean, however, that every person who gets tangled in looping thoughts will develop depression. The onset of depression occurs when a number of factors come together—rumination is only one such factor.



How can rumination be stopped?


Finally to the good news: Rumination is nothing more than a thinking habit. And though habits can be very persistent, it is possible to break them. But how?

The very first and most important step is to catch yourself ruminating. Only with recognition can you bring change. So begin to notice your thoughts. When and where do you usually ruminate and what topics do you tend to ruminate about? At first, you may only notice ruminating thoughts after the fact, or once a thought has repeated a bunch of times. All completely normal. But with a little patience, you’ll begin to notice the looping thoughts earlier and earlier.

Once you notice you’ve been in your head for a while, consciously pause and check: “Is there an answer to the questions I’m asking myself?” “Am I moving toward a solution right now?”

If the answer is no, choose a thought-stopping technique, such as an action you take to interrupt the ruminating thought. You can come up with anything here but one suggestion is to clap your hands and shout “Stop!”

Then once you’ve interrupted the thought, choose an activity that redirects your attention elsewhere. This will help stop you from going right back to ruminating once the shock of the interruption has passed. Again, the activity you choose could be anything that directs your attention elsewhere, but some suggestions could be making yourself a cup of tea, talking to someone, or solving a puzzle.

Aside from interruption and redirecting attention, another way to deal with rumination could be to schedule a set “rumination time” into your day. Find a place that’s as uncomfortable as possible such as on the hard floor or in a chair you wouldn’t usually sit in. The idea is that you don’t want to associate this place with relaxation and comfort. Then set a timer for 10 to 15 minutes and allow yourself to ruminate. Once time is up, immediately move on to another activity that engages your brain and stops the ruminating. This technique allows some controlled space for ruminating and deters getting overwhelmed by it.

By the way, you can learn more about these and other strategies in the MindDoc app. The course “Stop Looping Thoughts” provides detailed, step-by-step guidance on how to get rid of this distressing thinking habit.



When is professional support recommended?


Most people fall into ruminating from time to time. However, if it turns from an occasional annoyance into a state of being that regularly impacts your quality of life, it’s probably time to seek help. This can be a gradual shift so read through the points in the list to help you determine if you might benefit from the support of a mental health professional:


  • You ruminate regularly and/or more frequently than before.
  • Your rumination is weighing you down.
  • Your rumination limits you in your everyday life (for example, you’re finding it difficult to concentrate because of it).
  • You often feel down and/or lack energy.
  • Your sleep is repeatedly disturbed by rumination.
  • You have already tried several strategies to stop your rumination, but are not having success.

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Common Concerns to Starting Therapy, Debunked


Common Concerns to Starting Therapy, Debunked

Psychotherapy—yes, no, maybe . . .? People hesitate to start therapy for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is insecurity and fear. This article takes a look at some of the common thoughts people have that delay or push off therapy indefinitely.

Common Concerns to Starting Therapy, Debunked

1. “Am I actually feeling bad enough?”


Everyone feels sad at one time or another. Doesn’t everyone have some kind of anxiety? Other people often have much bigger problems than mine and they seem to deal with them fine—I should be able to, too. If I were to go to therapy, I might be taking away an opportunity from someone else who needs it worse than I do.

These are common thoughts for those hesitating to start psychotherapy, and especially among those who’ve been told from a young age to “buck up” or whose feelings or thoughts have been routinely dismissed by others. Such thoughts are not helpful because therapy has been shown to be quite effective for anyone struggling emotionally. Though everyone goes through a hard time or has periods of difficult emotions from time to time, it’s a good idea to seek professional support when quality of life is significantly impacted. And comparing oneself to how others handle difficulty is neither advisable nor helpful. Genetics, personality, and life experiences all come into play with how someone reacts to stress. So what may be okay for you may not be so for someone else and vice versa. And just because someone appears to be handling a difficulty with ease doesn’t necessarily mean they really are. So instead of asking, “Is this normal?” or “How am I doing compared to others?” ask yourself, “Am I struggling?” or “Is my quality of life being affected?”

If you’re concerned that you may not even really need therapy, the MindDoc app can be a good first step. Answering daily questions and logging mood and life circumstances can help track what’s going on with you. And when you do this consistently, the app will provide you with a recommendation about seeking treatment from a mental health practitioner. Any time, though, that you’re struggling with your mental health, you have the right to seek help! And the sooner, the better. When a mental illness is recognized and treated early, the prognosis tends to be better. If you’re worried about taking a valuable therapy slot away from someone else, that’s really not a decision you have to, nor even should, make. Rather, the therapist can decide who they will and will not have the time and resources to treat based on their own criteria.


2. “I don’t know if I can afford therapy.”


Whether psychotherapy is covered by your insurance or is an out-of-pocket cost is largely determined by your personal circumstances. If you are concerned about how you’ll cover the costs of therapy, keep in mind that many practitioners offer a sliding scale or will work with you to help make therapy affordable to you.

Other options may include therapy through community mental health centers, free support groups, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefit through your employer, or government-funded mental health programs or subsidies.

You also might want to take a closer look at your financial situation to see if you could make some adjustments in order to make paying for therapy an option. Perhaps there are areas where you could cut out other expenses to make room in your budget for the costs of therapy.

If you’re in a situation where therapy truly is unaffordable, self-help resources such as through the MindDoc app may provide some support.


3. “How can I fit therapy into my schedule?”


With all you have on your plate, you may be wondering how you’d be able to fit therapy into your schedule? Psychotherapy is an investment in time but how much exactly? Typically, a therapist will suggest a weekly session that lasts 50 minutes. Or, for psychoanalysis, this may be two or three 50-minute sessions per week. Once you factor in travel time, any “homework” your practitioner asks you to do (such as, say, journaling or certain exercises, etc.), and/or reflections on what’s happened in your sessions, psychotherapy can take a few hours of your time per week. While this can be challenging if your schedule is tight, prioritizing treatment for your own mental health is usually a pretty wise investment. Consider, too, that untreated mental illness can end up taking up even more time than therapy would. Hours spent worrying, ruminating, and stressing about something, for example, can use up mental space and impact quality of life.


4. “Others might judge me if they find out I’m going to therapy.”


Just as anyone can become physically ill, anyone is at risk for developing a mental illness. About one in two people, in fact, will be affected by a mental illness at some point in their lives, and this estimate may actually be much lower than the reality since many mental illnesses go untreated and unreported.

Even with so many impacted by mental illness, stigmas around mental health do still exist, at least in a number of places or among certain populations. But remember that seeking professional support when you’re experiencing mental health issues shows that you’re taking good care of yourself and is, as such, a sign of strength. Talking openly about your experiences with others can also help encourage others to seek their own treatment when they need it.

Your well-being is, of course, always the top priority. You alone decide who you want to tell about your therapy, and when and in how much detail. You don’t owe this information to anyone.

To help you think about whether to talk about your decision to start therapy and with who, see this article in MindDoc’s magazine.


5. “I’m nervous to talk to someone I don’t know about what’s bothering me.”


Talking to a complete stranger about your most intimate feelings and thoughts? Totally understandable if this idea makes you nervous, especially if you’ve always just tried figuring out your mental health on your own. Opening up and sharing with someone can seem like an impossible hurdle.

Know that it is completely normal and okay to be nervous both when you start therapy and perhaps even throughout it. And if you can’t find any words at first or don’t want to broach certain topics right away, that’s okay, too. There is no right or wrong. Psychotherapists know how challenging the first sessions can be for patients. A good therapist will help you get started and meet you where you are. You alone set the pace and are allowed to take the time you need to gain trust and courage.


6. “What if I end up feeling worse than I do now?”


For many people, therapy is associated not only with hope for improvement but also with fear of getting worse. Talking about stressful issues in therapy often also brings up feelings of anxiety, sadness, shame, or anger, which can feel pretty threatening.

There may actually be a short-term increase in uncomfortable feelings and discomfort during therapy. This is usually the case, in fact, especially at the beginning when you’re dealing more intensely with topics you may have deliberately avoided ‘til now.

Conflicts with your family, partner, or friends can also arise as you learn to better stand up for yourself and relationships are forced to adapt. In the short term, this may make you feel worse. In the long term, however, you can gain new skills through the processes initiated in therapy, which can help you feel better and improve your quality of life. And even if the road to this goal is rocky for a time, you don’t have to walk it alone. Your therapist will make this journey with you and can help you deal with feeling temporarily worse.


7. “The therapist will think I’m crazy.”


Often thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that people experience in the context of mental illness are associated with shame and fear of being negatively judged. Many worry that what they’re experiencing will somehow make them “weird.” And the fear of being judged or even rejected is sometimes present in therapy as well.
But regardless of what you experience, you’re not weird, you’re human. Psychotherapists know about the wide range of human experience and behavior. And, there’s a very high likelihood that they’ve heard similar stories to yours from their other patients.

Therapists are not here to judge or condemn you; they’re here to understand you and work with you to get better. For therapy to be successful, there must be a trusting relationship between therapist and patient. As such, your therapist has been trained to be a non-judgmental guide in helping you find your way.

If you do feel uncomfortable during therapy sessions—perhaps you sense that you’re not understood or are being judged, speak up—even if it’s difficult. A good therapist will be open to criticism and if after speaking to them the situation doesn’t change, this is likely a sign that you should switch practitioners.


8. “In therapy I have to do things I don’t want to do.”


Psychotherapy is likely to involve experiencing some unpleasant feelings at times. In learning to deal with difficult feelings, such as fear or shame, you may first have to experience them before being able to move on. However, you will only do so when you feel ready. In therapy, nothing happens by force. Suggestions from your therapist are always offers, not orders. Also, you will not be thrown into the deep end: Challenging treatment techniques (such as confronting anxiety-provoking objects or situations) will only be applied after you’ve been fully informed about what’s happening and have agreed to go forward. In therapy, you always have the right to ask questions and speak up if something is going too fast for you or if you don’t want to do something.


Bring your concerns to therapy.


Our hope is that this article has helped allay your hesitations and fears about starting therapy. But if you still have concerns about therapy, don’t let them stop you from getting the support that can help. Bring your concerns with you to your session. Together, you and your therapist will almost surely come up with a helpful way forward for you.


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Summer, Sun, and the Pressures to Be “Beautiful”


Summer, Sun, and the Pressures to Be “Beautiful”

Summer is here. The days are longer, the clothes scarcer, swimming and other outdoor activities more common—welcome, once again, to the pressures of the “body beautiful.” Nearly everywhere you turn are images of seemingly “flawless,” slim women and “perfect” muscular men. Influencers, ads, shows all seem to emphasize body shape and appearance again and again. Understandably, many people end up comparing themselves to these promoted ideals and feeling insecure, dissatisfied, and willing to put themselves through all kinds of machinations to get their own bodies looking more like these manufactured images. This article takes a look at how beauty ideals are created and what you can do to protect yourself from harmful influences.

Summer, Sun, and the Pressures to Be “Beautiful”

When Bodies Become a Trend

Ideals of beauty are cultural constructs and, as such, differ from place to place and have also changed throughout the long arm of history. In Baroque Europe (c. 1585 to 1730 CE), for example, corpulent bodies were considered especially attractive. Those who could afford them wore special hip and calf pads to give the illusion of the ideal. In ancient Japan (prior to 1870), blackened teeth were considered desirable. In twentieth century Senufo culture of West Africa, ideals of feminine beauty were small, oval faces and raised scarification patterns as reflected in the “beautiful lady” masks made for age-grade initiation societies. Masculine ideals were showcased in helmet masks with large and fierce features.

In other words, what is considered beautiful is relative to culture, place, and time. And those who reflect the image of beauty within the culture tend to enjoy benefits that “less beautiful” others do not. Not everyone in a society can be considered beautiful of course, and this scarcity helps create desire. Today, advertisers and other promoters exploit this desire to be desirable as a way of bringing in more dollars and views. Ads, vlogs, and shows help foster the notion that “if only” a person were more beautiful, they’d be happier. So, people invest time, money, and effort for slimmer waists, larger muscles, fuller hair, firm and smooth skin, etc., and the industries that promise to help someone get closer to these ideals are booming.


The Danger

That so many suffer emotionally in their pursuit of a perfect body is not talked about enough. Someone with a very light complexion and freckles will never have a deep, dark tan no matter how much money they pour into trying. Or, someone with a naturally large frame will never have a tiny frame no matter what and how little they eat. In other words, whatever the beauty ideals of the moment, they will always be unrealistic for many people. But if the ads, feeds, and shows are to be believed, beauty is the result of spending and effort. Following this logic then, if someone is disappointed in how they look, it’s because of some shortfall of their own—they lack self-discipline, are unable to make enough money, or whatever it is. The problem, though, is that such beliefs are poison for self-esteem and can set in motion a vicious cycle. The more someone tries comparing themselves to an unrealistic ideal, the worse they feel about themselves. The worse they feel, the more they invest in changing themselves and when they still don’t attain the idea, the more they believe the fault lies within themselves. In the extreme, such ways of thinking can lead to disordered eating, excessive exercise, and/or enormous expenditures of money and time.


How to Protect Yourself

Unless you’re, say, a model by trade, you’re probably better off not trying to look like one. The next time you find yourself thinking that your life would be much better if you weighed less, had more radiant skin, shinier hair, or bigger muscles, take a step back and think about what would really change if you could have these attributes. In your daily life. In your interactions with friends and family. At work. In your free time. And then ask yourself if it’s really worth the effort.

Taking a break from fashion magazines or similar types of input can also help you create some distance. Check who you follow on social media and note how you feel when you see their posts. If the answer is inadequate in some way, delete them from your feed.

Take a closer look around you as well. Do you find yourself comparing the way you look to those you encounter in your day-to-day? If so, which bodies do you tend to notice? Where can you find beauty in the imperfect? What can you appreciate about the people around you aside from their physical appearance? Maybe their warmth? Sense of humor? Kindness?

And then take a friendly look at yourself. Is there perhaps a characteristic about you that makes you special and individual? Looking for what you like rather than what you don’t helps deflate the inner critic.

Remind yourself regularly that each person—including you—is so much more than their outer appearance.


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