Learn from a psychologist about ways to manage stress & time pressure anxiety.
Learn an important therapy strategy to reduce anger, frustration and anxiety.
Learn about the symptoms of PTSD & psychologist informed treatment options.
Psychologist Dr. Barbera explains mindfulness and how to development mindfulness skills.
Psychologist Dr. Barbera explains how to know if you are depressed, what causes depression and what to do about it.
Do you have a suggestion for a future topic? Lets us know.
The stress of time pressure anxiety & how to ease this common feeling:
Feeling like there is never enough time? Finding yourself feeling increasingly stressed, anxious, and irritable? Don't like how this is impacts you or your loved ones?
People commonly experience stress associated with feeling perpetually busy and pressed for time. This often leaves people feeling stressed and irritable. We can then become excessively task-focused or overwhelmed and shut-down. To help with these concerns consider these 5 suggestions:
1) First, recognize how our culture’s focus on productivity and wealth accumulation contributes to time pressure stress. Our busy schedules contribute to this challenge. Many of us try to balance many roles and tasks and this can be very difficult. This Balancing act is common and you are not alone. Remember not to blame or criticize yourself or set unrealistic standards.
2) Take stock of what you have on your plate (daily, weekly, monthly). Review each task to determine what “must be done” and what you “ideally want done”. Prioritize the "must be done" tasks. Consider what tasks could be streamlined (e.g., making meals for the week ahead of time). And remember to delegate (e.g., getting your partner or children to help with certain tasks). Make a schedule to break down tasks.
3) Avoid multitasking where possible. Believe it or not, multitasking can contribute to mental clutter and time pressure. Instead of trying to achieve many tasks at the same time, focus on one task at a time. Notice how this feels compared to multitasking.
4) Take the above suggestion one step further. While you focus on one step at a time, also focus on doing the task mindfully, as if you have never done the task before. This mindful approach to task completion eases stress by shifting your focus. Instead of focusing on negative thoughts, your focus shifts onto your senses. This helps because your thoughts tend to be more negative when you feel stressed. Refocusing on your senses (what you can see, hear, feel, smell, taste), tends to have a relaxing effect for most.
Also, when you are completing tasks, notice if you are going into "task-master mode". This means doing without full conscious awareness or doing because you feel compelled to, not because you want to. If you are in this mode, ask the "task-master" part of yourself to “ease back” or give you space. Then, attend fully to the task you are doing to stay mindful while you efficiently complete the task.
5) While completing tasks, pay attention to your breathing. Many of us will go into "stress breathing". This occurs when we rush through tasks. Stress breathing will activate our fight or flight system and stress hormones. Instead, notice your breath and mindfulness slow your breathing.
Another way to lower your stress response while completing tasks is to put on music or sing while completing the task.
Aside from the above suggestions for time pressure stress, there are many other things that can help. For instance, be aware of your automatic thoughts while you are completing tasks. Use gratitude and acceptance strategies.
Also, working in therapy on your "task-master" part can really help. This involves healing what contributes to your tendency for “doing” because you feel compelled to do, instead of “doing” because it's truly important. Working on your "perfectionistic part" of yourself can also be very helpful in regaining a sense of ease and reducing stress and pressure.
Counselling & therapy can help with all these approaches if you find them challenging to do on your own.
Counselling & therapy can help you explore greater ways to reduce time pressure, even when faced with a busy and demanding schedule. Ask us how counselling with a therapist can help you today.
Life can be difficult and frustrating. Unfortunately people often respond to frustrating situations or unpleasant emotions with resistance. Resistance means attempting to fight or struggle against what we don’t like. Resistance can look different for different people. Inside though the struggle often sounds something like: “no”, “this sucks", "I hate this”, “I cant stand this”, “I have to make this stop”, “you’re kidding me”, “why”, “oh come on” , "*#!%*!" etc...
What does resistance sound like for you? It helps to know so you can spot it.
Why is spotting resistance inside yourself important?
Because resisting difficult situations or feelings is a strategy that does not help! This common way of responding actually amplifies your frustrated or angry feelings. In turn, this will lead to even more suffering.
🌪 Suffering is increased because resistive energy leads to an amplification of negative emotion. This wastes energy that could be better spent on other things. Would you say you have energy to waste?
Remember: Suffering = Pain X resistance
Resistance = amplification of emotion
If you recognize that resistive responding may be wasting precious energy and keeping you stuck, what can you do?
In our experience, awareness is a good start but awareness alone is usually not enough to actually change how we respond. Change requires actively practicing a new way of responding.
What is this different or new way of responding? Well, the most straight forward way is what DBT therapists call “Radical Acceptance”.
Acceptance does not mean you agree, approve or are giving in to it. Acceptance is simply an acknowledgment of reality as it is in this moment.
Acceptance involves making space for what is, instead of constricting around it.
Acceptance is “letting be what already is” and making an active decision in the moment to not put energy into fighting what you can’t change, but instead focus on reminding yourself (repeatedly if needed) to “accept” that.....
“I accept that I’m tired right now”
“ I accept that this image is intrusive and painful”
“ I accept that this happened”
“I accept that it’s taking longer than I hoped”
“ I accept that I feel sad”
“ I accept that they don’t understand right now”
In other words, any time you notice starting to get more frustrated, consider that you might be resisting something. If you are resisting, remember that you are only making it feel worse and you are wasting energy. Instead, actively decide to tell yourself “I accept that”....... (you fill in the blanks) as many times as you need to until you notice the edge lifting. You may be surprised that it only takes a few repetitions.
Remember, this strategy is about taking the edge off and freeing up energy, it is not about making feelings go away entirely.
Negative feelings ‘going away’ is a process that happens over time. Usually for this to happen though you have to allow yourself to first be where you already are. We call this the “paradox of change”. Its a paradox because the more you try to ‘force’ feelings away, the more they will likely persist. In counselling or therapy, when we see people stuck in their recovery it is often for this reason.
Remember: When something happens you don’t have to like it, want it or approve of it. Let yourself “accept it”, meaning don’t waste your time or energy fighting what already is.
Instead of resisting what already is or how you feel:
*Allow it to be there
*Give it permission to be what it already is
*Let go of struggling with it
*Make peace with it
*Turn away from it
*Make room for it
*Let it be
*It is what it is
*Stop wasting energy on it
*Breathe into it
Acceptance doesn’t mean you approve or agree. Acceptance simply means you will not waste your energy struggling with what already is...
Acceptance doesn’t mean you are giving up or giving in. Acceptance is a refusal to waste more energy in the present moment.
To practice acceptance look for moments where you start to feel frustrated or irritated and say to yourself over and over: “I just need to accept that.....”
e.g., I just need to accept that I feel sad right now.
e.g., I just need to accept that I’m going to be late.
e.g., I just need to accept that it’s not going as planned.
e.g., I just need to accept that we do not agree.
This kind of acceptance strategy really can free up energy and reduce the intensity of feelings.
To help you cope with stress, it can also help to remind yourself how feelings & upsetting situations are similar to waves:
*They each come and go, rise and fall.
*They each vary in intensity.
*With both giant waves and upsetting feelings it is best not to fight or struggle!
*If a wave catches you, rather than fight against it, allow it to wash over you so you don’t exhaust your resources. Similarly, when you experience a strong emotion:
just notice it and ride it out knowing that it will pass!
Most important: Practice practice practice!
To see a video that explains how resistance functions like a "struggle switch" click here.
In counselling or therapy we often use acceptance-based approaches from ACT & DBT to help people change how they react when they start to get frustrated. Ask us how counselling with a therapist can help you.
"Mindfulness" is a recent buzz word, but what exactly is Mindfulness?
To help explain, Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Barbera likes to start with what mindfulness is not: mindfulness does not mean “quieting” the mind. Yes, it is true that the mind will likely grow quieter and calmer with mindfulness practice, but mindfulness does not necessarily mean a “quiet” mind- especially to start with.
Focused awareness where you notice with curiosity your experience (sensations, feelings, and thoughts) as it actually is in this very moment, and not what your verbal mind tells you it is. Being fused with our verbal mind is often what increases anxiety. Practicing mindfulness helps us separate from this or "unblend" from our thinking mind.
To help you engage in mindfulness, remember that Mindfulness has 3 very important parts:
Why is Mindfulness helpful?
Practicing mindfulness as described above helps us to move towards a healthier detachment to unhelpful thoughts, and distressing feelings and sensations. Things become easier to break down so they feel less overwhelming and anxiety-provoking.
When practicing mindfulness It becomes easier to willfully direct our choices and behaviors instead of behaving according to more unconscious defenses or emotional impulses. Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Barbera calls this "being more Self-led, instead of led by our emotions".
Mindfulness practice leads to changes within our brain in terms of activation within the amygdala or the emotional center of the brain. It helps us develop neurological connections to a more restful state that becomes easier to access with practice and this has a significant impact on lowering anxiety.
Ok I want the benefits of mindfulness, so how do I use or implement Mindfulness?
1) First, to develop mindfulness skills we have to set an intention and then practice doing things more mindfully every day. This means doing things while we purposefully pay close attention to our sensations and the experience of what we are doing now rather than focusing on the past or future. We also focus on noticing the experience as it is, rather than getting caught up in the judgements our mind makes about the experience (“good”, “bad”, “horrible” etc).
It helps to think about doing things as if you never did it before or as if its the last time you will ever do the activity and you want to savor every nuance.
What are some things you could start to do more mindfully? Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Barbera recommends identifying what tasks you will do this week in a more mindful way. Then, build them slowly over time to develop new habits.
2) It can also help to practice mindfulness exercises or guided meditation.
For a great explanation of how to more formally practice mindfulness watch this video: How to Meditate for Beginners.
Ok, now that you know what mindfulness is, some of its benefits and how it can be done, its time to try some actual guided meditations. Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Barbera suggests trying these short meditation exercises to get started:
In counselling your therapist can also guide you through a mindfulness practice that is specifically centered on your concerns or needs (e.g., worry, anger, perfectionism, self-confidence, self-compassion etc).
In counselling or therapy individuals are taught by their theraist how to development & maintain mindfulness skills. Ask us how counselling can help you.