Self Care & Social Anxiety

Self Care & Social Anxiety

Self-care is a major buzzword these days in the wellness and mental health worlds. I'm not mad about it. It's important to "fill your cup" and "guard your energy" and "recharge" -- it really is. 

A recent article on medium.com had a really interesting take on this self-care movement.  When Self-Care Turns to Self-Sabotage made the argument that "just because something feels good, doesn't mean it's good for you." For example, if you're taking bubble baths to avoid paying your phone bill or canceling plans with friends and isolating yourself on a daily basis -- it may be time to reassess your approach. 

I think about this especially as it pertains to folks with social anxiety. It may feel better to stay home from the party to avoid feelings of discomfort but does that really serve you in the long run?  If your goal is to connect with others -- maybe not. So, where is the line between "this is truly too much" and "yes this will be hard, but I can do this"? The answer will be different for everyone but here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Do I want to do this? If no, why not? 

2. What positives might come from this? What negatives?

3. Am I willing to take a risk? Can I tolerate these feelings of discomfort today?

There will always be times when staying home is actually the right choice. We all need that time to ourselves, time to recharge. It's just equally as important that we not use "self-care" as a crutch -- when really what would be most beneficial is to face our fears/worries/bills/deadlines(etc) head on. 

How do you care for yourself?

 

Boring Self Care

Boring Self Care

Illustrations by Hannah Daisy: http://www.hannahdaisy.com/

I am loving this movement. By this point you've probably heard the term "self care" to describe the importance of looking after yourself. Often this is accompanied by elaborate descriptions of bubble baths, massages, and tropical vacations. But let's be real -- that isn't always possible. While those are all lovely things to do, self care doesn't need to be some grand gesture or over the top expensive endeavor. Enter: Boring Self Care. This is the notion that self care can be very, very simple -- even mundane. Sometimes taking care of yourself simply means you got out of bed today. You made time to study for an important exam. You went outside. You ate a healthy snack. These are the small victories that keep us moving, sustaining and nurturing us.

What small, radical way will you take care of yourself today?

Find more examples of boring self care here.

 

 

The Risks of Romanticizing

The Risks of Romanticizing

Lately I’ve noticed a trend. While we are moving away from stigmatizing mental illness (and this is great!) there seems to be a movement pushing too far in the other direction. In certain circles mental illness is being depicted as beautiful, glamorous, or romantic. As if being labeled as “depressed” or “anxious,” is something to aspire to. There are entire online communities dedicated to this depiction of mental illness – search tumblr for ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety’ and you’ll find pages upon pages of posts dedicated to these topics.

Quotes or phrases depicting depression, self-harm, suicide, laid over images that evoke a sort of glamour, turning otherwise very difficult experiences into romantic emotional states. I fully acknowledge that there’s comfort in knowing other people feel the way you do and this can be a space to find relief, comfort, and support. While it is great to be able to find community and support at your fingertips, if consumption of these images goes unchecked it can begin to reinforce itself. The message that ‘suffering is glamorous’ turns mental illness into something romantic when it most certainly is not. 

To add to this confusion is the way mental health diagnoses have become part of everyday language. Comments like “That was so OCD,” “I failed my exam, I’m so depressed,” “I couldn’t sleep last night, I’m such an insomniac” get thrown around with such frequency we are growing numb to the true realities mental illness. This mixture, simultaneously romanticizing and trivializing mental illness, personally leaves me reeling. It is creating a culture of young folks (especially) that are wholly confused. What is mental illness vs. just a bad feeling? When my friend says "they're so depressed" are they really? Would I be more interesting or legitimate if I had a diagnosis? Is it cool to be depressed?

As a Mental Health Therapist I consider diagnosis to be a piece of the puzzle, something to guide our work together, but I caution against over-identifying with a diagnosis or holding on too tightly. A diagnosis is a snapshot of a moment in time. It is part of your present experience, but it does not need to define you. And guess what! Even if you don't meet the criteria for a diagnosis your feelings, experience, and worldview still matter. Your suffering is still real and if you need support, seek it out. If you're confused or unsure whether what you are feeling might qualify as a mental illness reach out to a school counselor or therapist in your community and let them know what's on your mind. Regardless of the 'official' outcome, your feelings matter and there are folks who see you and want to help. 

As an aside, I was jazzed to see this pop up while I searched tumblr for things like "depression" and "suicide." It's great to see tumblr acknowledging the pain of its users and encouraging them to seek professional help outside of the online community. Way to go tumblr!

 

 

 

Quiet Complexities

Quiet Complexities

The differences between introversion, shyness, and social anxiety.

I’m thrilled with all the attention introverts are getting in popular culture at the moment. The message that “quiet is okay” is finally being heard and the needs of introverts are being celebrated, not shamed. While I wholeheartedly celebrate this paradigm shift I think it’s equally important to be mindful that not all quiet people are introverts who relish in that solitude. That while for some, quiet is a conscious choice and preference, for others it is a response motivated by fear, worry, or anxiety.

There are three terms -- introversion, shyness, and social anxiety --  that often get thrown around as if synonymous when they actually represent three distinct ways of being in the world. For introverts quiet is a rejuvenating, healthy, and natural preference. For people who identify as shy, their quiet tendencies are often motivated by the fear of negative judgment or social disapproval. It is safer to be quiet, to go unnoticed, than to risk the possibility of rejection or disapproval.  And for others still, the thought of being scrutinized by others or doing something embarrassing is so intense that it actively interferes with the daily tasks of living. 

People who are shy and people who experience social anxiety both fear social disapproval or judgment. However, someone who is socially anxious will experience that fear much more intensely than their shy counterpart. Where a shy person might worry about meeting someone new, someone with social anxiety might agonize over the prospect of a social engagement for weeks before the event, beat themselves up over it, lose sleep, and experience physical symptoms like sweating, shaking, or shortness of breath in the moment. Someone who identifies as shy may experience some version of this but it is generally thought to be with less intensity.

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There can be some overlap between the three. When working with folks who identify as 'quiet' it's important to assess what motivates or drives their quiet tendencies. Does it energize them or weigh them down? Do they genuinely seek out solitude or is it a result of avoidance and fear? Understanding this will help pave a path forward and serve as a guide for the wonderful work of therapy. 

If you are wondering whether you may fall into the category of 'socially anxious' this short assessment may help: The Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale and to learn more about Social Anxiety Disorder the Anxiety and Depression Association of America is an excellent resource. 

Teenager, Love Thyself

Teenager, Love Thyself

In case you didn’t already know, being a teenager is stressful. There was once a time when the threat of being bullied only occurred between the hours of 7:45am and 3:30pm when the last bell rang and it was time to go home. Kids and teens could leave and safely disengage from the stresses of being a young person out in the world. With social media our teens are not afforded that luxury. The switch never. turns. off. More than 1 in 3 young people have been threatened online and 25% of teens report they are regularly cyberbullied. Beyond the possibility (likelihood?) of being bullied online there is the constant pressure to stay connected, get good grades, make friends, take the perfect selfie, get the most likes, comments, friends, followers… and the list goes on and on. Let me say it again, being a teenager is stressful.

Helping teens understand and deal with stress is a big part of my job as a therapist. Unfortunately, I think at some point we all got it in our heads that to take care of ourselves (or to even understand what that means) is somehow ‘uncool’ or only for sensitive snowflakes. The cultural narrative is that it’s better to just keep going, keep pushing. Feelings are scary so try to avoid them. Keep it inside and move forward. It's been my experience both personally and professionally that that just doesn't work. Try as you might, you can't outrun stress -- it always catches up.

Helping teens understand how they feel and what they do (or can do) when stressed (or angry, sad, mad, worried) is at the heart of my work with young people. There aren’t many spaces in a young person’s life that encourage them to slow down, check in,  and reflect on what they're feeling. It's go go go 24/7. In counseling, I've found that just asking the question, "how do you handle stress/take care of yourself/relax?" breathes life into the possibility that this is something worth doing. Counseling can create a much needed space in the life of an over-scheduled, hyper-connected, and stressed out teenager -- allowing them to start building self-care strategies that can last a lifetime. It is truly an honor to work alongside teens as they discover what it means to care of themselves in healthy, lasting ways. 

Learning to love ourselves is hard, important work and the sooner we get started the better. How are you taking care of yourself today?  

Stages of Grief -- Fact or Fiction?

Most are probably familiar with the so-called 'Stages of Grief' that get thrown around in popular culture: 

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining 
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance 

These stages were developed by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969, when Kubler-Ross identified a gap in research and literature related to death and dying. What's important to note is that these stages were not created to explain the process of grief for those left behind when someone dies. Instead, these stages were meant to help conceptualize what a dying person might experience as their illness progresses and death draws near. Kubler-Ross never intended these stages to be applied to those left behind, nor did she intend for grief to be understood as a linear process that one must 'get through' to 'get over' the death of a loved one. 

Grief looks different for everyone. It is not something to 'conquer,' but it is something to explore, feel, and grapple with. 

However, it can help to have a general framework when processing grief. One model I find helpful when working with kids and teens is the 'TEAR model.' This model is based on the work of William Worden, who identified four tasks of grieving. The goal is not to accomplish and move on from loss but to explore it, process it, honor the deceased, and create a path forward that feels meaningful.

 

Grief is not a 'one-size fits all' experience and my work with clients dealing with loss reflects this. More important than any stage or task model are the unique experiences, feelings, and beliefs of the person sitting across from me. Loss can be an overwhelming experience but not one you need navigate alone.  

Quiet Reflections

Quiet Reflections

The quiet among us seem to be having a moment. Thanks to Susan Cain, author of "Quiet" and "Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts," introverts are getting some time in the spotlight (perhaps, much to their chagrin). The message is this: quiet is cool. Quiet is normal. Quiet is something to celebrate. In a culture that has for so long only validated the loudest among us -- this is a big deal. We are starting to recognize that, hey, maybe people have different needs, different social thresholds, and different ways of expressing themselves. And hey! maybe that's okay.

I will admit that I have a personal stake in this. I've always been quiet. I've always been exhausted by parties, large groups, and the constant pressure to be the most dynamic person in the room. Growing up I fought every last one of my quiet impulses in an attempt to, in hindsight, please others. I'd go to the party and the after-party and wonder why I couldn't quite keep up with everyone else. On every report card since pre-school the feedback was always "needs to participate more in class," as if this was the only way to measure my comprehension or engagement. The message was clear, if I wanted to count I needed to play by their rules. I needed to fight against myself even if it was unbearable to do so. And so I did, quietly internalizing the belief that there was something wrong with me from an early age. Quiet was not okay. 

That's why I am so grateful for Susan Cain and her Quiet Revolution. Her work is giving quiet people a platform, normalizing their experience, and educating others on the needs of introverts in an extroverted world. It's shaking up systems that cater to the loudest (schools, workplaces, everywhere on earth) and pushing them to acknowledge and appreciate quieter voices. It's helping individuals advocate for themselves. It's teaching kids that it's okay. It's teaching adults that it's okay.

If you're an introvert who values calm and quiet -- seek it out. If your needs aren't being met and it's impacting your functioning at school, work, or home, take a look at the systems in place and advocate for change when/where possible. Talking with a counselor can also help unpack some of what has been internalized and help you reclaim your quiet strength. 

Mostly, I just want everyone the world over to know: It's okay to leave that party early. It's okay to take care of yourself. You are okay. <3

 

I also want to note that introversion, shyness, and social anxiety are three concepts that get thrown around a lot and are often mistaken as synonymous. While there can be some overlap between the three, they are in fact different. I will discuss the important differences in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned! 

Welcome

Welcome to Kaitlyn Overman Counseling; I am so glad you're here. I am a mental health therapist in Seattle, WA. I specialize in working with teens and young adults exploring issues related to grief and loss, social anxiety & shyness, identity development, life transitions, anxiety, depression, trauma, and self-worth. 

My clinical approach is humanistic, person-centered and mindfulness based. I work to attend to the whole person: their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, body, social and environmental contexts. The relationship is paramount, as is the client’s experience in the present moment, and I work to create a space where collaboration, awareness and growth are possible.

I strongly believe in the importance of ‘experiencing’ in therapy, through creative expression and experimentation, and work to connect individuals to new ways of being, thinking, & feeling in the moment. I also operate from a multicultural and social justice framework, aiming to understand my clients’ worldview and connect them to their larger social context. 

I look forward to connecting with you! 

 

Regards,

Kaitlyn Overman, MAEd, LMHCA, NCC