Blog : Therapy

11 Ways to Reduce Anxiety Without Medication

11 Ways to Reduce Anxiety Without Medication

At IDENTITY, we often see clients who have been on medication before. While there are times when medication may be necessary for psychological health, most people find that they experience side effects and desire to reach a point where they can thrive in life without using medication. It’s common for many of our clients to have the goal of getting off of their anxiety or depression medication. I am passionate about partnering with my clients to achieve this goal.

Below are 11 common ways to reduce anxiety without using medication.

  • Sweat

    • Exercise—it’s a natural mood booster
    • Go for a walk outside
    • Go swimming
    • Do yard work
  • Fuel your mind

    • Eat more leafy greens, whole grains, and antioxidant rich foods
    • Less caffeine
    • Less alcohol
    • Drink more water
  • Words of affirmation

    • Leave yourself little notes where you know you will see them
      • I can do this!
      • This too shall pass
      • It’s not a bad life, it’s just a bad day
  • Get creative

    • Listen to music
    • Journal your thoughts
    • Paint/draw/color
    • Join a pottery class
  • Vent it out

    • Talk to someone
      • Friend
      • Trusted colleague
      • Family member
      • Talk with a Therapist
  • Focus on breath and remain present

    • Take a few deep breaths when you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed
    • Calm yourself with positive words of affirmation
      • I can do this
      • I acknowledge my self-worth
      • I love myself
      • I am strong
      • I am brave
  • Create a peaceful environment 

    • Light your favorite candle
    • Diffuse essential oils—Lavender/Frankincense/Chamomile/Citrus
    • Take a bath
  • Furry friends

    • Pet animals—they are naturally calming
    • Volunteer at your local animal shelter
    • Take your own pet for a walk
    • Snuggle your pet
  • Sleep

    • Use your bed as a place of serenity—only use it for sleep related behaviors
    • Getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night
  • Reward yourself

    • For everything you accomplish/do that you don’t like, treat yourself
      • Go to the movies
      • Watch an episode of your favorite show on Netflix
      • Go out with a friend
      • Buy/make your favorite meal/dessert
  • Unplug

    • Reduce your internet/phone use
    • No Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat for a full day
      • If this isn’t “possible”, start with an hour and gradually increase your time away from electronics

 

I would love to partner with you on your journey towards reducing your anxiety. If you are interested in coming in to begin the process of therapy, or if you have any questions for me, feel free to contact me via the contact form below!

About the author: Nicole is a therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology in Ann Arbor, MI. Nicole specializes in working with people who experience anxiety and who feel stuck in life. Nicole is passionate about helping clients go from feeling stuck to feeling empowered, from feeling trapped to feeling free, and from feeling worried to feeling relieved.

Nicole is a Temporary Limited-License Psychologist (TLLP) practicing in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Nicole graduated with a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology degree from Madonna University.

 

 

 

 

I Want To Leave My Job, But I Feel Stuck

I Want To Leave My Job, But I Feel Stuck

Have you ever been in this place? Maybe you’ve had this job for a while. Maybe it worked for you before. However, maybe there has been something growing inside telling you that you have something more to offer.

While there is a part of you that knows it would be healthy to leave your job, maybe for some reason you feel paralyzed by the thought of leaving. This situation can contribute to anxiety, depression, mood issues, and even relationship issues.

Let’s dive into some common reasons why we tend to remain complacent with our jobs and continue floating through life when we know it isn’t the best for us.

Leaving my job means changing a part of my identity

Even if we know we’re in a job that is slowly eating away at us, it is still a part of our identity. We spend a ton of hours at work each week, and after a while it becomes a part of you.

Maybe you’ve spent the last several years developing relationships with other people at work. Finding a new job means making new relationships, establishing a new reputation, and changing a part of our identity. The process of searching for a new career or job is really about becoming more clear about our identity.

Career complacency and “comfort” trick us into staying

Let’s face it. You’ve been in this job for long enough that you can do most of it with one hand tied behind your back. You know exactly what to expect each day, and you know exactly how incredibly bored you will end up a lot of the time. Staying in a job that you despise because it feels like the most comfortable option may be the #1 thing that prevents you from growing.

Pressure from friends and family to stay

Maybe your Dad told you that this was a great job and that you shouldn’t leave or take it for granted. Maybe your friends have told you to stay because hey, it’s a job, and nobody likes their job. These words are often spoken by people who also don’t like their job and who may be trying to convince themselves of something rather than you. Friends and family are important, but recognize when they are truly helping you to grow and when they may be contributing to the thing that’s holding you back.

I’ve failed before or I lack confidence

Maybe you’d tried it before. You had a dream to start you own business, move out west and become a photographer, or maybe you weren’t able to get yourself through college or grad school. Previous failures often hold us back from taking the steps in life that will lead to personal growth. The funny thing about failing is that it is most often the source of success. As Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life… And that is why I succeed.

I can’t tell you how many therapy clients that I’ve worked with who attribute their current happiness to that time when they bottomed out. Sometimes you have to know where the bottom is in order to ascend into the person you know you can be.

I’m not sure exactly what job I want next

Whenever I have counseling clients who have no idea what to do next in life, I ask them to respond to the following 4 questions:

  1. What are you GOOD at?

  2. What do you absolutely LOVE to do?

  3. What are the VALUES that you want to live your life according to?

  4. How can you use what you love to HELP others or society at large?

I work with people to help breakdown the expectations that may have been placed in them from other sources (parents, teachers, religious leaders, friends), and focus in on what they truly value. What are the values that you truly want to live by? We will work together to identify how a career might fit into your values system and growth process.

Are you interested in Career Counseling?

Do you want to make a significant change in your life?

Talking with a licensed counselor, psychologist, or therapist at our counseling practice in Ann Arbor can be a great way to kick start the kind of change that you’re looking for. We’d love to work with you on a plan that will allow you to grow.

Contact us to schedule an intake!

 

 

 

10 Ways Therapy Can Be Helpful

10 Ways Therapy Can Be Helpful

What is the role of a therapist?

The primary role of the therapist is to help set the table for change to happen within the client. In this way, the therapist isn’t the person making change happen, but rather a strategic empathic ally who is helping clients change themselves from the inside out. For genuine change to occur, it must come from within the clients themselves. Developing a relationship with a therapist is somewhat similar to developing a relationship with anyone, but with some extra boundaries and a specific focus. In therapy, the goal of both the therapist and the client is to promote and cultivate the growth of the client. A good therapist will help the client dive deep into the psyche in order to facilitate the growth of the client in many ways. You may have to descend far down before you are capable of a healthier life.

Here are 10 common ways that a therapist can be helpful to you on your journey toward self-actualization:

1. Therapy can hold you accountable

  • Behavioral, emotional, and relational accountability

While this is one of the less important roles of the therapist, it is true that the therapist does help the client maintain accountability in many ways. For one, making a weekly commitment to coming to therapy for several months can be the start of a healthy routine and can put you on a path toward growth and wellness. Therapists help clients become more accountable in a behavioral sense, cognitive sense, emotional sense, and relational sense.

2. Therapy allows you to be honest with yourself

  • Therapists facilitate an environment of openness, confidentiality, and non-judgment

Spending time intentionally exploring your thoughts with an impartial 3rd party can allow you to become more honest with yourself. Maybe you’ve lived years in denial of some deep part of yourself and you’re feeling like now is the time to explore it with someone who won’t judge you. Therapy happens in an isolated confidential space, so there is little reason to be dishonest during your session (even though lying in therapy happens very commonly, but this is for a future blog post).

3. Therapy can help reveal things that you know deep down yet aren’t aware of

  • Some information in the brain is not readily available

Humans have multiple levels of consciousness. Think about the following example: When you begin a new job, you probably follow a GPS or Google Maps while driving to your first day of work. You may do this for the first few days, but eventually you will just know when to make the turns, when you’re approaching the stop lights, and when you will cross the train tracks. Once this happens, you have moved the “drive to work” from your conscious to your unconscious level of awareness. You’re still driving to work, but after some time you don’t even have to think about it.

In a similar way, there are certain things that we know about ourselves that for some reason get stuffed down into our unconscious. This usually happens when we feel like revealing the information will be threatening to us. We may know about it on a certain level but for some real reason we are not ready to cope with it. Therapy helps to bring this unconscious information into the conscious in order to help clients face fears, cope with suffering, and heal from trauma.

4. Therapy can serve as a model for a healthy relationship

  • The relationship between therapist and client is a real relationship

The therapist/client relationship is a professional relationship, but a relationship nonetheless. Building a healthy working relationship with a therapist can help clients learn how they may be going about relationships in not-so-helpful ways. I usually tell my clients that what is happening in their relationships in the world will eventually start to happen in the therapy session. Similarly, the healthy relationship building within the therapy session will end up helping clients build healthier relationships outside of therapy.

5. Therapy can help you face difficult realities that have been repressed

  • Humans deny and repress items that feel threatening

When bad things happen in life, our bodies respond with an immune-system-like response to try to ensure that we never feel that way again. Sometimes this response works in our favor, but often times this can cause us to be closed, withdrawn, lonely, cynical people. By partnering with a therapist, clients can begin to identify what they may have been repressing for years. By revealing difficult realities out in the open with another person, the difficulty can begin to lose some of the power that it has held for so long.

6. Therapy can help build skills for facing life challenges

  • Practical skill building

Therapy can help equip clients with tools to face difficult situations in a different and more helpful way. Therapy can help with social skill building, relationship tendency recognition, management strategies to help with Anxiety or ADHD, coping skills, and more.

7. Therapy can help you understand your thought processes better

  • Humans develop predictable thought loops

When something happens, our body responds to the event in one of two ways. One possibility is that we may have an automatic bodily response. This sometimes happens when our bodies hear something familiar that draws out previous fears or anxieties (maybe we start sweating, our heart starts beating faster, or our blood pressure rises). Another way our body responds is by thinking about the event. We start to think about it in a basic sense and gradually begin to escalate our level of concern. Whichever happens first (the bodily response or the thought processes), they begin to play into each other and the result can be catastrophic anxiety or depression.

Therapy can help to recognize how our body responds to stimuli and why we respond that way. By identifying various cognitive distortions that we may employ, the therapist and client can work together to construct healthier ways of thinking.

8. Therapy can help you build healthy habits

  • Therapy itself is often the first step in healthy habit building

In addition to addressing meaning, relationships, identity, and thinking, therapy can help to recognize harmful habits and can help clients to build new healthier ones. Establishing a healthy routine is one of the most beneficial things we can do to change our lives. However, many often aren’t able to take the first step. They may find themselves in such a dark place that they don’t know where to turn. Therapy begins by turning within and returning to breath. From here we can work together on a plan to live more intentionally and take steps towards a healthier life.

9. Therapy can help you explore meaning and passion in the context of your life

  • Many of my clients find themselves stuck

Imagine this scene: You have a job that pays the bills (sometimes barely), but it is not a job that you’re passionate about. By the time you get home from work and take care of things around your place, it is already late and time to wind down. You watch some Netflix for a couple hours, pass out, only to wake up and do it all over again. Many of us find ourselves in this place where we are too comfortable to make a change, yet are slowing deteriorating inside. Depression only piles onto this pattern. If you find yourself in this place, therapy can be a great place to discover or rediscover meaning and passion in life. The therapist can help the client to break the cycle of dissatisfaction and numbness.

10. Therapy can help you learn to love yourself

  • We cannot fully love others if we don’t love ourselves

Practicing self-love may not be in your mind on a day to day basis. However, if we want to genuinely love another, we must first love and accept ourselves so that the love we send comes from a place where love already resides. There may be countless reasons to not love ourselves, but therapy can help us view ourselves through a healthier lens. Self-love is a prerequisite to providing genuine love to another.

Are you interested in engaging in the process of therapy?

Contact us today to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation!

 

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC in Ann Arbor Michigan. Tim is passionate about working with clients to help them overcome their anxiety and depression so they can live a more meaningful and fulfilling life. In addition to running his private practice, Tim is an Adjunct Faculty member at Jackson College and a Clinical Psychology PhD student at Fielding Graduate University. 

 

 

3 common questions from parents of adolescents

3 common questions from parents of adolescents

Are you a parent of an adolescent who is wondering what types of changes are happening during this season of life? Below are some common questions that parents of adolescents have when they come in for therapy.

First, what is Adolescence?

Adolescence is the awkward time in a young person’s life that begins with puberty and ends when they become independent. Adolescents have a maturing physical body supported by a not-yet-mature brain. On top of it, adolescents experience social changes at school and changes within their family system. Knowing this, it makes sense why adolescents feel so weird! As a counselor (at my counseling private practice in Ann Arbor MI), I love helping adolescents navigate the complexities of this awkward season of life. If you’re looking for a counselor for your adolescent, feel free to reach out to my practice (IdentityAnnArbor.com).

If you’re a parent of an adolescent, you may have some of these common questions…

1. Why does my child seem different?

  • Because your adolescent desires to be accepted socially
    • Your child may have been a very nice kid growing up. You may have taught them well. However, during adolescence, your child’s primary concern will likely shift to social acceptance. Because of this, your adolescent will do anything necessary to make sure that they thrive socially. Or, at the very least, they will do whatever possible to make sure they aren’t getting made fun of. Sometimes this results in an apparent shift in personality. Fear not; the good news is that personality is relatively enduring throughout life, so that kind child is still in there somewhere. However, at this time in their life, they may present differently, and it’s important to remember that there is a reason for this and that it’s often socially motivated.
  • Because your adolescent may be uncomfortable in their body
    • Your adolescent’s body is changing like never before. Their body is beginning to transform from a child to an adult. The tough part of this is that their brain doesn’t mature as quickly and rapidly as the rest of their body. Some parts of their brain do, such as the Limbic System. This is the emotional center of their brain. However, their Cerebral Cortex and Frontal Lobes (the center for logical thinking and reason) won’t be fully mature until into their 20’s. Where does this leave your adolescent? Feeling uncomfortable and confused!
  • There could be something deeper going on
    • It’s impossible to cover all of the reasons why your adolescent may seem completely different. For this reason, if you feel concerned, I recommend reaching out to a trusting counselor or psychologist. Having your adolescent see a licensed counselor may help identify what might be going on beneath the surface. Another option is to have a psychological assessment completed, which will help you understand which area of functioning your adolescent struggles with and potentially why. Here is a link to the Psychological Assessments page at Identity Counseling Psychology in Ann Arbor MI.

2. Why can’t I connect with my adolescent?

  • Because you may represent control
    • You have worked for years to make sure that your adolescent remains safe. I often hear from parents that all they want to do is make sure they’re doing everything they can to help their child flourish. Because of this constant focus over several years, it can be extremely difficult for parents to accept that there may now be limits to how well they can protect their adolescent. Adolescents are engaging in a season of transformation. They are seeking independence, and though deep down they may love and appreciate you for what you’ve done, they may also perceive you as a barrier to their independence. It is important to allow the adolescent enough freedom to explore themselves while still doing what you can to keep them safe.
  • Because adolescents may not feel comfortable talking about difficult issues
    • Adolescents see everything. There may have been a time when your child didn’t pick up on certain things, but this stops with adolescence. As adolescents are challenged intellectually, socially, and morally, they begin to question things like they never have before. This questioning may lead to adolescents closing themselves off from their parents, because they haven’t quite figured out how to bring up certain topics. It is important to create an environment of openness to allow adolescents to feel comfortable bringing up hard issues. Having your adolescent see a trusted counselor or therapist can help them learn to feel more comfortable working through difficult issues.

 3. What is going to happen to my adolescent next?

  • They will develop their own beliefs
    • It can be difficult for parents if their children begin to form beliefs and values that are different than theirs. It’s common to have thoughts like, “Did I do it all wrong this whole time?” or, “Why does my child think like this?” The reality is that adolescents today are growing up in a completely different world in comparison to 20-30 years ago. The availability of social media has allowed people to create an avatar that likely does not represent the complexity of the person that they truly are. When your adolescent scrolls through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, they are seeing many beautiful pictures posted by their friends. Your adolescent may begin to feel like their life doesn’t measure up, not fully grasping that the images they are seeing are only the good ones and none of the bad ones. This can impact your adolescent’s self-esteem in negative ways. Your adolescent also has access to a world of information at their fingertips and is likely engaging with a more diverse population of kids than you did when you were their age. For all of these reasons, your adolescent may develop drastically different beliefs and even a different worldview than you.
  • They may try out many things
    • Learning through experimentation is how humans have gotten to this point. Your adolescent is no different. They can be told how harmful something is all day long, but it generally isn’t until they make a few mistakes that they actually understand what you mean. This puts parents in a precarious position. You may be thinking to yourself, I want to protect my adolescent, or, I don’t want them to get into a situation that they can’t get out of. The good news is that there are a lot of ways that you can help your adolescent stay safe. The hard news is that it’s generally not through the same methods you employed when they were a kid. When they were younger, you could just tell them not to do things. Once they hit adolescence, they may demand you to explain the logic behind your rules and restrictions. It is important to facilitate an environment of openness and non-judgment in order for them to feel safe enough to open up and share things with you even when they get bad. This is the type of environment that I strive to create in therapy when I work with adolescents (at my counseling practice in Ann Arbor MI).
  • They will likely be ok
    • It’s not a guarantee, but odds are your adolescent will grow through these struggles and come out a more independent mature person. They may walk with a limp, but they will likely still be walking. It can often help adolescents to have a trusting working relationship with a counselor or therapist while they journey through this awkward stage of life. 

 

If you have an adolescent that you think may benefit from therapy, or if you have any questions for me, feel free to contact me to set up a free 15-minute phone consultation! – Tim Wilkins

 

About the author: Tim Wilkins, MA, is the owner of Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC, a counseling private practice in Ann Arbor, MI, where he works with adolescents on their journey toward self-discovery and independence. Tim also works with adults and parents of adolescents who struggle with anxiety. In addition to managing his counseling private practice, Tim teaches psychology courses in the behavior sciences department at Jackson College and is currently pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology through Fielding Graduate University.

 

Why Do I Keep Making Bad Decisions?

Why Do I Keep Making Bad Decisions?

Decision Making and Cognitive Distortions

Often we know what the right decision is. We know that we need to eat well, sleep more, exercise regularly, work on our relationships, work on ourselves, but for some reason we sometimes just don’t do it.

This is a paradox. We often know the answer, and commonly continue to make the wrong choice. Why do we do it? One explanation is that we employ what are called Cognitive Distortions.

For one reason or another, our mind works out a way of being comfortable with making an unhealthy decision. At my Ann Arbor counseling practice, I work with clients to identify, understand, challenge, and restructure these common cognitive distortions:

Emotional Reasoning

We believe that our emotional reaction proves something is true

Our brain experiences a civil war. On the top of the brain we have our Human Brain, or Cerebral Cortex. This is what makes us distinctly human. It is driven by our Frontal Lobes and is responsible for complex thought, logic, reasoning, creativity, and much more.

In the center and at the core, we have our Animal Brain. This part of our brain is older and is responsible for our animalistic instincts, fight or flight, and our emotional center (Limbic System). We owe our survival to our Animal Brain, so we often trust it deeply. The human part of our brain and the animal part of our brain are in tension. They are battling for ownership of our decision making. Both are involved in all of our decisions, however the extent to which they are involved varies.

When we experience a strong emotion it can transcend our logic. When we feel something strongly, it can keep us in our emotional center and prevent us from fully utilizing our Frontal Lobes. In therapy at my Ann Arbor counseling practice, I work with clients to become more aware of this and to challenge it.

Magnification and Minimization

We emphasize our failures and de-emphasize our successes

Sometimes we make a mountain out of a molehill. We can convince ourselves that something is a bigger deal than it really is. When we magnify the significance of a concern we can often prevent ourselves from making the healthy decision that we want to make. This commonly leads to anxiety.

Other times we can downplay the true significance of an emotion or concern. There could be a real tangible reason that is preventing you from making a healthy decision, and it is important to identify it. Minimizing is a step away from denial.

Splitting

We think of ourselves in terms of all-or-nothing

It is easier to think in terms of black or white. We either are a person who exercises regularly or we aren’t. We either are a great friend or we aren’t. We either eat well or we don’t. We are someone who processes our emotions or we are someone who hides from them. The list could go on.

The reality is that we can be, and often are, more than one thing at the same time – even if they are two characteristics that seem contradictory. When we go to funerals we often like to sum someone’s life up in a nice, clean, neat way. But the reality is that humans hold the capacity for the complexity of internal contradiction, and it is unrealistic to believe that we can be all “good” or all “bad.”

Thinking in terms of all-or-nothing is a common cognitive distortion that prevents us from making the choices we want to make.

Overgeneralization

We assume future outcomes based on a few experiences

Making sweeping generalizations is a human thing. Most of us do it in some way. We have a negative experience, and believe that all future experiences will yield a similar result. This type of thinking can prevent us from making decisions that we want to make.

In therapy we can learn to recognize when we overgeneralize, how it may be negatively impacting our functioning, and how we can go about challenging this habit.

Magical Thinking

We believe that if we’ve thought about doing something, we’ve already sort of done it

For example, say we have to grade papers this weekend. We continue bringing it up and mentioning it to our partner. I can’t do anything until I grade these papers, or, “When I grade these papers I’m going to attach rubrics with their score summarized,” or, “I’m so stressed because I have to grade these papers.”

A funny thing starts to happen when we continue to think about something we have to do. It can create the cognitive illusion that we have made some sort of actual progress. We believe that because we have continued to think about it, we are working on it. Magical Thinking is another way that we deceive ourselves with our thoughts.

Restructuring our Cognitive Distortions

The first step in addressing our cognitive distortions is to become aware of them. In therapy at my Ann Arbor counseling practice, I work with clients to identify how their thoughts may be actually preventing them from making the choices that they want to make.

Identify – Understand – Challenge – Reconstruct

Once we are aware of our cognitive distortions it is important to identify specifically how they are impacting our functioning and where they come from. Once we build a deeper understanding of the cognitive distortions, we must challenge them. We will work on a plan to restructure our cognitive distortions to attempt to modify how we think and feel about ourselves in several ways. This often feels like breaking a bad habit and requires practice + time.

If you or someone you know connects with the maladaptive thought processes outlined in this post, feel free to reach out to ask questions or schedule an appointment with me. I’d love to work with you on building a healthier and more fulfilling life!

 

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at his Ann Arbor counseling practice, Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim works with clients to help identify, understand, challenge, and restructure cognitive distortions. In addition to being a counselor in Ann Arbor, Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.

 

 

3 Steps to Finding Greater Meaning in Life

3 Steps to Finding Greater Meaning in Life

What is meaning?

What am I truly passionate about?

What continues to get me up every morning, when I could just continue sleeping?

According to Irvin D. Yalom, “The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” The struggle to discover meaning in the context of life is a human struggle.

I often have people come to therapy and say some version of the following; “When I was younger, I was told that things like art were important. I was told to express myself; that it was important and valued. I had things I was working toward. But as I age, I feel like the rug is slowly being pulled out from under me.”

Step 1: Orientation – Examine where you came from

When we grow up, we are told a lot of different things. We are given a set of boundaries. Begin by exploring the following questions:

  • What were you told to believe?
  • What were you told mattered the most?
  • What were you told was completely off limits?

We have an original Orientation. We are told to never, ever, touch the stove. The stove is hot and dangerous. If we touch the stove, our hand will get burnt. We are taught which things should be meaningful, which topics are important to care about, and especially which things we must avoid at all cost. Never touch the stove.

Step 2: Disorientation – Challenge what you have been told

As we continue to grow, the things that we have been told may

slowly start to breakdown. Our perceptions of these boundaries start to change as we engage with a harsh world. We begin to realize that the stove is not always hot. Sometimes the stove is cool, even cool enough to touch. When we come to this realization, we often begin to engage in a season of Disorientation.

The season of disorientation forces us to ask several hard questions:

  • Who am I, really?
  • What are my true values?
  • Has what happened to me shaped my identity?
  • What are my genuine passions?
  • Do my experiences make me who I am?

In the season of Disorientation, we learn more about ourselves. We think about the things that we have been told to think, do, and believe, and identify ways in which our original orientation may not sit well with us anymore. The stove isn’t always hot, and sometimes it needs to be cleaned.

Step 3: Reorientation – Identify what truly matters to you & give it to others

Many people feel that the experiences themselves are what shape us. However, as we transcend the difficult season of Disorientation, we engage in a third stage, a season of Reorientation. In this season, we learn that our responses to our experiences shape the person that we become.

  • How can I help others with what I believe?
  • What do I want my work in the world to be?
  • Why do I continue to wake up in the morning?

As the universe expands, so does the human psyche. The process of evolving into newer and more expansive beliefs, missions, and states of consciousness can be uncomfortable, especially when those closest to you aren’t going through the same transformation.

In therapy, I work with people through the rhythmic life cycle of Orientation, Disorientation and Reorientation. When we realize that the stove is not always hot, we are bound to get hurt at some point. I work with people to help them discover their inner self. Our inner self is our true self, our source of strength, and unfortunately the part of our self that we are often least in tune with.

As a counselor, my role is to set the table for you to journey through the difficult struggle of inner-self-discovery. It is through difficult introspective inner-self-discovery that we come to understand what it means to be human, and what it means to be me.

If you are interested in engaging the therapeutic process of finding more meaning in life or if you have any questions, contact Tim.

IdentityAnnArbor.com

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim’s counseling focus areas are anxiety, motivation, and identity issues. Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.

 

 

 

3 Ways to Reduce Stress Using Mindfulness

It’s another day at work, and you get one of those emails.

You know… one of those emails.IMG_2340.JPG

Maybe the email is from a coworker or from one of your bosses. Either way, it’s the email that you get about once per day, and it makes your blood boil. The thing they’re emailing about is last on your list of things to do, but the email is still enough to keep you in a constant state of stress and anxiety.

The WEIRD (Western-Educated-Industrialized-Rich-Democratic) culture that we live in continues to demand more and more of us. Living in this fast paced world can be extremely damaging to our health, and can leave us feeling disconnected from the earth and from each other. Stress has been shown to lead to significant health and relationship issues.

What would it be like to live a life free of chronic stress, fatigue, and energy depletion? How could I live a life fully connected to earth and focused on the moment?

It may sound like something you can never attain. This may be true; however, there are a few simple habits that can be integrated into your daily life fairly easily which have been shown to have a dramatic impact on stress and anxiety.

The techniques that I am about to explain are rooted in a practice called Mindfulness. This term may seem like the new “hip” buzzword, but it is rooted in an ancient tradition of practicing intentional living. I’ll start by explaining what Mindfulness is NOT.

Mindfulness is not a method of escape. Unlike other meditative techniques which may attempt to clear your mind completely and escape life, Mindfulness is an active process of becoming more aware of yourself in the present moment. Mindfulness stresses (no pun intended) the importance of the moment.

Because all we have are moments to live. 

Since all we have are moments, Mindfulness allows us to more fully live them one by one. Here are a few helpful techniques to get you started (derived from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction training):

1.) 3 Minute Mindful Breathing 

Set your clock for 3 minutes. Sit in a chair with excellent posture. Close your eyes, and begin breathing in for 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 4 seconds, then slowly breathe out for 8 seconds.

In for 4, hold for 4, slowly breathe out for 8.

Continue this rhythm, and begin to notice your thoughts. You may have a thought that brings anxiety (maybe it’s the email you received earlier). In this case, instead of rejecting the thought, you are going to let it in. Let your mind experience the thought, and note the emotional experience that you encounter. It is important to not judge this. This is an intentional practice in non-judgment.

Let the thought in, notice how it makes you feel, and simply return to your breath.

Imagine this rhythm as if you’re driving down an empty highway early in the morning. Your thoughts are like the road signs that pass by. They come in, you experience their impact on your mind, and you return to the road. Continue for 3 minutes and when you’re done take note of your current state.

2.) Mindful Appreciation 

Wherever you find yourself, begin to think about 5 things that you are appreciative of. Try to focus on things that typically go unnoticed, such as the electricity powering the air conditioning in your office, or the infrastructure which provides water to your faucet. Spend a few minutes intentionally practicing gratitude for 5 things that you may take for granted most of the time.

3.) Mindful Body Scan

Lie on your back and close your eyes. Begin Mindful Breathing (see technique #1). Once you find a good rhythm of breath, begin to imagine a scanner moving up through your body. The scanner starts at tips of your toes, and is monitoring how each square inch of your body feels. Begin to move this virtual scanner up through your left foot, passing you ankle, your shin, your knee, until you hit your pelvic bone. Next, jump down to the tip of your right foot, and begin to move up toward where you left off before.

Continue this scanning method all the way through your body until you reach the top of your brain- all the while noting how each square inch of your body feels. Notice if any areas feel particularly good or bad. Once you reach the top of your head, imagine a hole in the top of your head releasing the energy that the scanner has put into your body. Take note of your current state, and compare it to how you felt prior to doing the body scan.

Practice these 3 techniques once per day for a week, and observe whether you feel or think differently.

Are you interested in engaging in counseling to help you live more mindfully? Do you have questions? Contact Tim.

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim’s counseling focus areas are anxiety, motivation, and identity issues. Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.

 

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Ikigai

What do you want to do with your one precious life?

I came across this word while working at Toyota. The Japanese language comes from a rich tradition and has words that have a depth of meaning that we sometimes can’t capture with the English language. The word is Ikigai.

The direct translation of this word is:

A reason for being.

Ikigai. A combination of that which you are good at, that which you can be paid for, that which you love, and that which the world needs. Everyone, according to Japanese tradition, has an Ikigai.

As adults we often find ourselves in a position in life that we never expected to be in. When we’re younger we have huge plans. I recently had a 13-year-old counseling client tell me that he is going to make 60 million dollars by the time he reaches 20 years old!

Now it would have been easy for me to laugh and write him off. But I took a second to think back to when I was his age. When I was his age I was absolutely determined to be an NBA basketball player. I would get in before school every day and shoot 100 free throws before my first class. I would carry my basketball with me throughout the day, hoping to get a quick minute in between 3rd and 4th hour to shoot some hoops. You couldn’t convince me that I wasn’t going to make the NBA. I was determined.

Now if you ask some of my friends when I was that age, they may tell you that I was obsessed. And they’d be correct. But for me, making the NBA was about more than just the dollars and fame. It was also about having a platform to make a large impact on the world.

So when my client told me that he wanted to make 60 million dollars by the time he reached 20 years old, instead of laughing, I explored with him what was behind the money.

Because it’s never really about the money.

My client went on to tell me that he wants to reach the world through his music. He wants to help other kids who have struggled because he knows what it feels like to struggle, and music helped him get through it. My client wanted to have an impact on the world, doing something he loved, that he was gifted in, while also generating income.

So if you find yourself in a place in life where you’re unhappy, where you know you don’t want to be, where you are slowly dying, I have some good news for you.

Today you have an opportunity. You have the capacity to step back into your childhood self and ask a few questions;

What is it that I truly desire? What do I love, and how can I do more of it? How can I make an impact on the world while doing what I love?globe

When we’re doing what we love and others benefit at the same time, we all win. The best kinds of products and services are always mutually beneficial. They are beneficial to the consumer because they are getting a product or service that truly adds value to their life, and they are beneficial to the producer because they are tapping into their Ikigai.

So I want to challenge you today. What is it you love? What is it that you’re good at? Is this something that the world needs? I bet so! So why aren’t you making an income doing it?

Ikigai. Your reason for being.

I would love you help you on your journey toward discovering the reality of your Ikigai. Feel free to contact me!

IdentityAnnArbor.com

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim’s counseling focus areas are anxiety, motivation, and identity issues. Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.

 

7 Areas to Practice Self-Care

7 Areas to Practice Self-Care

Self-Care

Self-care is a critical component for living a healthy life full of joy and fulfillment. Unfortunately, we often feel like we are just too busy to be mindful of all parts of ourselves. Practicing self-care is practicing self-love. I’ve found that living intentionally in the following 7 areas will often lead us to living a life that we love and to loving the person that we are.

Physical Self-Care

How am I caring for my physical body?

We all know it. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly will make us feel better. But for some reason we still don’t do it. It’s as if the intellectual center of our brain (our cerebral cortex, orchestrated by our frontal lobes) is in a dramatic battle with our emotional center (our limbic system). Both of these parts of the brain think that they are helping us, but the tension that they create is often enough to keep us stagnant. Learning to manage this internal tension can help free us from the blocks within our own body.

It’s also important to keep in mind that physical self-care is not just about diet and exercise. It is also about being mindful of anything that interacts with or touches our body. Any toxin, any chemical, any person…

Emotional Self-Care

How am I allowing space to process my feelings?

Sometimes we just try to power through it. Often we think that putting something on a shelf for a while, so that we don’t have to deal with it now, will be helpful.

This is a trick.

Our mind will trick us into believing that it is healthier to avoid harsh realities in life. Interestingly, sometimes it seems to work! We can temporarily free ourselves from dealing with complex feelings by simply distracting ourselves (think Netflix, video games, or whatever we use to “check out”). However, a funny thing starts to happen- the feeling starts to come out in ways that we didn’t expect. Maybe you lash out at your partner, or you get overly angry during a meeting. It will eventually come out, it’s just a matter of how it comes out. Living more intentionally and finding someone like a therapist or counselor to work with regularly can help us to live more intentionally and learn to process our emotions in a healthy way.

Intellectual Self-Care

How am I continuing to challenge my mind intellectually and creatively?

Depending on your day job, many of us can walk through a lot of life mindlessly and uninspired. After doing the same thing for a long time, our tasks move from our conscious (where we have to think about it and process the pros and cons of decisions) to our unconscious (where it becomes a habitual mindless activity). Caring for our intellectual self keeps our mind fresh and our life inspired. What is something creative that you used to love to do but just don’t have time for anymore? Do it today! Process how you feel before and after doing it.

Relational Self-Care

How am I cultivating my closest relationships?

In life, we have 3 sets of friendships: Primary relationships, Secondary relationships, and Tertiary relationships. Primary relationships are those that are closest to us. These are the people who truly know us. If I asked one of these people about you, they would be able to tell me a bit about your insecurities, the things that you care most about, and some of the most impactful things that you have been through. Most of us only have a few primary relationships, and it is important to cultivate them. As we age, it becomes harder and harder to maintain relationships. But these are the people who we know are worth keeping in our lives. Relational self-care is an active process. If we aren’t intentional about cultivating these relationships, they will inevitably fade.

Social Self-Care

How am I spending time with community (outside of my immediate family/circle)?

But what about those Secondary and Tertiary relationships? Secondary relationships are the people in our lives who we spend time with regularly. They’re our friends, we go out on the weekends with them, we enjoy each spending time with them, but maybe they’re not quite as close as our Primary relationships. Tertiary relationships are those on the periphery. These are our Facebook friends that we don’t see often but still enjoy keeping in touch with.

Social self-care is all about the extent to which we feel connected and invested in a community (beyond our closest friends and family). When we feel connected and engaged, we feel like we have more meaning and purpose in life. This brings us to the next area of self-care…

Spiritual Self-Care

How am I managing the ongoing search for purpose and meaning?

I’m not talking about religion. Religion can be part of this, but that’s not my focus here. I’m referring to our internal sense of self and what we bring to the world. Do I feel like I am connected with the deepest parts of myself? Am I aware of how I’m living, feeling, and being in the present moment? What do I want to contribute to the world? Our Spiritual self is the part of ourself that asks the deepest questions. Maybe I’ve been hiding from who I truly am for too long…

Suffering Self-Care

What methods am I using to cope with suffering?

As we journey through life, we all suffer. Suffering is a part of living and an important part of growing. We all may suffer in different ways, and it is important to find healthy mechanisms for coping with suffering. Though suffering is often unavoidable, we can work to employ mindful coping methods that help us emerge from the suffering a more hopeful and aware human. We may walk through life with a limp, but we are still walking and we’re going to carry on.

IdentityAnnArbor.com

Are you interested in beginning therapy? Do you have questions? Contact Tim

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim’s counseling focus areas are anxiety, motivation, and identity issues. Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.

 

 

How to cope with anxiety

How to cope with anxiety

What is anxiety?

On some level, anxiety is a good thing. Anxiety has allowed humans to survive this long. Our body has a natural alarm system which lets us know if something is going wrong or if something doesn’t feel right. If there is a real threat present, anxiety enters in order to prepare your body for fight or flight. Think of how your body would respond if you were walking alone in the woods and encountered a grizzly bear…

In a certain sense, anxiety is a gift.

But sometimes, our body’s alarm system goes off at all the wrong times. Our body tells us, “You can’t sleep right now, you have to worry about what is going to happen tomorrow,” or, “Just think about how the world is going to come crashing down when people find out about who I really am,” or even, “How could you work right now when this is going on inside?”

Anxiety can overtake us.

It can prevent us from sleeping, from working, and can really start to take a toll on our relationships. Anxiety will try to convince us that we have serious health conditions, that we aren’t capable of handling this. Anxiety seems to flow through the fabric of our being.

Anxiety can be paralyzing.

It can prevent us from doing the simplest of tasks. Maybe you had one thing that you really wanted to get done today, but somehow before you knew it, it was 2AM and you felt like you hadn’t done anything.

Anxiety can trick us.

It can make us believe that all threats will happen, or it can make things seem threatening that truly pose no real threat. Anxiety tells us, “Don’t put yourself out there, it’s not worth it.” Anxiety tricks us into living a life filled with a false sense of protection.

How can therapy help me deal with anxiety?

We will begin by diving into the question of, “What is this anxiety doing FOR you?” Your body responds in certain ways for a reason. Maybe it’s our intuition that is telling us that something feels off. If so, there is a reason why our intuition is communicating with us. There is a reason why our body works the way that it works. It thinks that it is protecting us, but in reality it is sometimes hurting us.

tree_picThe process of discovering the various answers to this question will lead us on a deep exploration into the fabric of your soul. What makes you, you? What drives you? How have relationships in your life played into the person you are today, and how have they influenced how your body communicates to you?

The journey of therapy is a process of listening to yourself.

In therapy, we learn to listen to our body, to listen to what it is communicating, and to dive into why it is telling us what it is telling us. Your life is a narrative. The story has a plot, major themes, and major characters. Coming to understand all of these things is important in the journey of doing the “inner work.” Through self-discovery, we can begin to understand this anxiety from the perspective of your life. It has a role, but it does not have to be the star in the plot.

IdentityAnnArbor.com

img_2327About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim is passionate about working with people to help them better manage their anxiety. Tim is also an Adjunct Faculty member at Jackson College.