Improving Relationships

Gain more perspective and recognition of personal choice

enhance relationships Improving RelationshipsBeginning in infancy you are internalizing a template for how to solve problems. You develop a script for how to play, how to protest, how to argue, how to get needs met, and the expectations and roles that you are likely to bring to your relationships. By the time you reach adulthood, you carry with you a relatively fixed set of beliefs and expectations, and you have accumulated a rolodex of memories of family and social interactions that heavily influence how you perceive yourself, your relationships, and the world as a whole.

Families inevitably identify each of its members as representing a specific set of personality traits that get reinforced through selective attention to behaviors that reflect these traits. If family roles are highly fixed, then you will be limited in your ability to think and act differently outside of your role. Roles and labels can be highly problematic if there is little awareness of how they impact your experience of yourself and others in relationships. Quite often, the role you have learned and the script you are taught to follow are outdated and no longer conducive to establishing rewarding relationships in adulthood.

Families also determine your sense of personal and interpersonal boundaries. A poor sense of boundaries can lead to great difficulty in identifying one’s own needs, strengths and weaknesses, and the frequent projection of your own insecurities onto others, which creates the illusion of ridding yourself of the discomfort that these insecurities generate.

Taking the next step on improving relationships

Therapy helps to burst the bubble that has previously confined you to acting out your family script in adult relationships. Conflict in relationships is often more easily managed when people think and act with less certainty about others’ intentions. My goal is to provide an opportunity to gain more perspective and recognition of personal choice in coping with the challenges of relationships with boyfriends/girlfriends, family and friends. When there is increased flexibility in how you interpret and respond to others’ actions, you are more open to being curious about the people you care about, and can feel more in the moment with others even when your internal voice, or self-talk, tries to take you out of the moment.


Decrease Anxiety with a New Set of Tools


decrease social anxiety 150x150 Decrease Anxiety with a New Set of Tools If you experience significant anxiety in social settings, or generalized anxiety that seems to occur most of the day, it is likely that you are avoiding certain situations that make you feel vulnerable, embarrassed, inferior, how knowing how to act, or hypersensitive to what you believe others have that you lack. Solid opportunities for meeting new people, networking, and enjoying a sense of connection to others are often missed as a result of social anxiety.

Some people feel unprepared to handle the unexpected, or face the judgment that they perceive is coming from others. Others are not even conscious of their problem with social anxiety due to the reliance upon alcohol consumption to numb the anxiety.

Social anxiety often creates a great deal of second guessing after an interaction, or wondering if people noticed certain things that someone tends to be very self-conscious about. Social anxiety can manifest in the form of panic attacks in social situations, but panic attacks tend to occur more commonly in places such as formal business meetings, on public transportation, and as part of a sudden awakening in the middle of the night.

If you frequently think about being placed in an awkward or overly exposed situation, there are techniques that can help. Improvement can also be achieved through an examination of distortions in thinking that create an exaggerated experience of faults and limitations when in the presence of friends, colleagues, or strangers. Social anxiety is often very treatable through therapy and people frequently report a greater sense of confidence and preparedness, as well as freedom not to have to hide parts of the self that have previously generated shame and self-doubt.

I help clients to feel equipped to go into ambiguous social or work situations with the tools needed to avoid feeling anxiety, and if anxiety symptoms should arise, to feel prepared to cope in the moment. I also tend to have good outcomes with people suffering from panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, agoraphobia, and depression that sometimes accompanies an anxious reaction.

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What is Depression and How to Overcome It?


overcome depression and loss 150x150 What is Depression and How to Overcome It?Throughout each of our lives we inevitably endure the experience of depression and loss. Whether it is the sudden loss of a relationship, a family member, or a job, it can be difficult to rebound from unwanted changes in life. Depression has so many manifestations, but is most often associated with the following symptoms: sadness, poor mood, crying, decreased motivation and loss of interest in activities and self-care, isolating oneself from others, suicidal thoughts, poor appetite or overeating, and insomnia or hypersomnia. Depressed individuals are often viewed as withdrawn, lethargic, and isolated, but a less talked about manifestation of depression is how it can bring out dependent and clingy behavior in some people. Dependency needs can dominate in interactions with friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, family, colleagues and bosses.

Everyone is prone to experiencing “the blues”, but there is a whole spectrum of depressive experiences that vary from person to person. Dysthymic Disorder, a chronic but less severe form of depression, involves symptoms such as loss of appetite, low energy, and low self-esteem. The individual with Dysthymic Disorder has not experienced a major depressive episode in his or her lifetime, but rather maintains a general sense of unhappiness without experiencing extended periods of relief from depression.

Some individuals endure severe, debilitating episodes of depression that significantly impact functioning at work or school, with family, or in social settings. The frequency of depressive episodes varies depending on the individual. Some people fluctuate between depression and manic symptoms, a condition known as Bipolar Disorder (aka, manic depression). Examples of manic symptoms are impulsive spending or sexual behavior, obsessive thinking, grandiosity and other forms of delusional thinking, pressured speech, and a decreased need for sleep.

The experience of depression can be intense if a person perceives others in his or her support network to be unsupportive or inaccessible. Although living in a city like New York can be exhilarating and full of exciting choices, it also makes life significantly more complex, as people are forced to juggle many things at once. A demanding job, obligations to loved ones, and minimal time for fun or relaxation can promote stress and exhaustion. Often times, people feel so busy and rushed that they do not take the time to work through the experience of loss or chronic sadness.

The city can also intensify a sense of loneliness or loss when an individual feels disconnected from the world while having to go about his or her daily routine surrounded by thousands of people on the street, in the subway, or at work. Depression causes an individual to pay a disproportionate amount of attention to cues in the world that support negative beliefs and justify behaviors that are not in one’s best interest. In some ways, depression has an addictive component to the extent that people are heavily invested in avoiding experiences that may challenge their negativistic views, and will seek out situations that are likely to affirm thoughts of the self as worthless, helpless, unlovable, or defective. These negative views about the self are highly treatable through psychotherapy. Depression is often associated with other related and treatable issues such as panic attacks, social anxiety, and medical problems.

My approach to treating symptoms of depression involves identifying distortions in the way people think about themselves, their relationships, and the future as a whole. Psychotherapy will alter this selective attention to negative aspects of the self, and will create new opportunities for understanding and lasting behavioral change. The negative view of and energy directed toward oneself that depression and loss generate is transformed in therapy into more productive thinking and action. Once progress is made, I provide coaching and guidance to help clients learn how to overcome depression naturally. My main goal is to teach a set of flexible coping skills that allow clients to gain a sense of knowing how to prevent depression from running their lives in the future, or at minimum, shortening the duration of depressive episodes. When depression is no longer shading the lenses through which the world is viewed, people tend to be more productive, make better decisions, have more energy, and greater joy can be gleaned from the simple pleasures that the world has to offer.

In my experiences working as a psychologist with clients grappling with depression, I have found the the key is to work simultaneously on improving vegetative symptoms (e.g., sleeping, eating, other self-care), helping to increase motivation/behavioral avoidance through various techniques, and engaging in cognitive restructuring through examining and altering irrational beliefs.


My Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Approach

Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Approach

Peace of Mind 150x150 My Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral ApproachI believe that what makes my approach to psychotherapy unique is the way I integrate cognitive behavioral therapeutic (CBT) techniques with mindfulness strategies, strength-promoting positive psychology, and psychodynamic principles. As a psychologist practicing in New York’s Chelsea/Flatiron district, I offer a well-rounded and collaborative therapeutic experience in which I teach concrete techniques to complement new insights into what maintains unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior.

My approach to psychotherapy represents “enhanced cognitive behavioral therapy” based on how we approach understanding and improving your treatment needs from multiple angles. My ultimate goal as a psychologist is for you to view therapy as a valuable experience that promoted lasting change and a greater sense of faith in your ability to cope with life’s challenges.

I strive to provide my clients with the following:

(1) An integrative cognitive-behavioral approach that equips clients with a’toolbox’ of coping strategies for improving with everything from mild personal or relationship distress to more severe and persistent forms of emotional suffering, such as depression, anxiety (generalized and social), severe stress, trauma, anger, panic attacks, family conflict, etc.

(2) An unique and interactive therapeutic experience within a nurturing yet challenging ‘holding’ environment in which we work toward specific treatment goals identified at the start of therapy.

More on my philosophy…

Psychotherapy is an active process for both client and therapist. The most important predictor of success in psychotherapy is the establishment of a solid working relationship that offers you the freedom and safety to talk about your experiences and beliefs that may have been previously avoided, unresolved, or considered uncomfortable as a topic to discuss with friends, boyfriends/girlfriends or family. As a psychologist, I am dedicated to creating an empathic, safe, and highly confidential “holding environment” that offers you an opportunity to work on reducing emotional distress and make better personal choices. I am highly dedicated to providing you with a comfortable, supportive, and collaborative therapeutic environment.

I am trained in cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis, but my interventions tend to be more influenced by the former. The fields of humanistic and positive psychology have also greatly impacted my approach as a therapist. As a result, when I am asked what my theoretical orientation is, I identify myself as “eclectic”. The truth is that no one orientation is “the best”. The benefit of my diversified training is that I am able to cater my interventions to meet your unique and specified needs.

I place emphasis on the importance of our beliefs and expectations in determining how we act and why you choose certain paths in life. Even from your first days of life, you are developing a template for how to think and feel about yourself, your relationships, and the world in general. It is essential to recognize the impact of dreams, wishes, daydreams, and other psychological forces that remain just outside of your conscious awareness.

It is also crucial to understand that the process of altering feelings and thoughts is influenced by factors that do not involve logic or reason. Most people spend a disproportionate amount of time rationalizing and reasoning with the intention of making changes. Decreasing emotional distress is also about altering the meaning you attribute to representations and memories of people, events, and symbols that are significant to you. When you alter the internal image, it can lead to a change in how you view the outer world. Therefore, all of the world can be viewed as a mirror of your internal life. We see in others what we deem important or struggle with in ourselves.

As a psychologist, I focus on personality qualities, internalized images, habits, and beliefs that promote resilience. I pay very close attention to utilizing personal strengths to compensate for vulnerabilities, and I help clients to position themselves in a way that maximizes opportunities for growth and self-actualization.

New Year's Resolutions

You Want Your New Year’s Resolutions to Stick? Read on.

New Year’s Resolutions

Are you ready to maximize your chances of fulfilling your New Year’s Resolutions? Allow me to offer you a few strategies that I have gathered over the years while working as a psychologist supporting New Yorkers in their efforts to achieve their treatment goals, New Year’s Resolutions, and whatever else they set an intention to strive for.

New Year’s Resolutions are a fantastic way to kick off the year with an added boost of energy, optimism, and a powerful sense of commitment to positive change. We generally don’t have a hard time identifying what we would like to see differently in the coming year. Many of us make bold declarations to our loved ones at a New Year’s Eve gathering. The next day we hit the ground running with our efforts to lose weight, go to the gym, quit smoking, find a better job, be more consistent with a hobby, etc. At some point in the next month or two, we find ourselves no longer holding on to our commitment, and all too soon the thought of our resolutions makes us feel a strange mix of frustration, regret and relief that our promises to ourselves are no longer valid.

Here are 10 tips for creating and maintaining momentum with your New Year’s resolutions. The tenth tip in this blog presents a HUGE caveat to consider when beginning important goals on January 1st.

1. No matter how big or small your resolution is, you will increase the probability of long-term success if you include other people in your plans, which adds an invaluable element of accountability to your journey. Try choosing one friend or family member to check in with on a mutually agreed upon day once a week. Decide together whether check-ins will be in person, over skype, email, text, or whatever works. Report on your progress and be sure to discuss potential obstacles to completing your resolutions as they arise.

2. Find one or two people with the same resolution and have a one year competition/support circle to see who can maintain their commitment. It’s amazing how many success stories I’ve heard from people who lost 30 pounds by entering an office pool to see who could lose the most weight in a given amount of time.

3. This is a perfect time to maintain a daily journal in which you document progress on your goals, reflect on what is and isn’t working for you, and simply free associate on paper. As a psychologist, I have witnessed the power of journaling for helping people overcome difficult periods in their lives. Daily journaling has the useful effect of reminding you of your commitment to your goals, and it offers a level of self-reflection and perspective that you might not get otherwise.

4. The most important strategy of all, in my opinion, is to design your resolution so that it represents a gradual lifestyle shift, as opposed to a sudden, dramatic change. The lack of a general lifestyle shift is the reason why dieting almost never works long term. Please note that the lifestyle approach may not apply to goals that involve ending alcohol or substance use. Severe addictions may benefit from sudden cessation, but professional intervention is required.

If you are adding a behavior, find ways to read and talk about the activity. If you are learning guitar, read a guitar magazine, visit the guitar store and chat with inspiring musicians. A serious approach to making a permanent lifestyle change can be reinforced by taking away your thoughts of an ultimate goal to be reached. Rather, you celebrate daily successes, process and accept failures as inevitable, and adopt a view your journey a series of checkpoints with no definitive finish line.

After conducting thousands of hours of psychotherapy with clients looking to make huge changes in their lives, I have come to recognize the presence of a counter-force that builds in us when we make a dramatic shift away from what we are accustomed to. It takes on the form of covert resistance. This saboteur within us waits patiently for the opportunity to return us to our original comfort zone prior to making the change. Think of a gradual lifestyle shift as slowly and steadily bringing our internal saboteur on board, without much space for this part of us to try to mess with our progress. The key is to make gradual changes in small increments and live the change we wish to make on a more holistic level.

5. Successful New Year’s resolutions require predictability. For example, if you wish to exercise or start painting regularly, come up one or two non-negotiable days per week to engage in the activity. Instead of just showing up at the gym and doing an unstructured workout, begin with a trainer, but avoid total dependency on the trainer. Wean yourself off of the crutch. Crutches are helpful to get us going, but they must be let go so we learn to succeed even when all of the motivation has to come from us alone. Classes at the gym can be great for satisfying the predictability requirement. If you are learning a language, sign up for classes that force you to have a structure for learning.

shutterstock 165367577 300x246 You Want Your New Years Resolutions to Stick? Read on.

6. Strive for reducing internal negotiation related to your commitments. The saboteur within absolutely loves when we bargain with ourselves, viewing it as a chance to grab our attention and to try to reverse progress and uproot our newly flourishing commitments. This is a bit dramatic, but a colleague of mine who had a major health scare and needed to take his fitness goals more seriously told me that when he woke up in the morning and didn’t feel like exercising, he asked himself, “Live or die?” Of course, this particular motivational strategy may not apply to your goal to paint more frequently or to maintain your garden, but you get the idea. Minimize any opportunity to sabotage your plan on a given day with a little foresight. Once doubt or indifference sets in, contact a supportive person who already knows what to tell you (because you’ve prepared him or her before) to push past the negative chatter. As soon as you develop a habit of viewing your resolution as optional, please consider revising how you will achieve your goal. Don’t be afraid to temporarily borrow the willpower of your loved ones to maintain accountability.

7. It is perfectly fine to revise your resolutions if you have been committed for a period of time and you and your support network agree that your goals have been too hard to meet. Recommitting to your goals with a more doable plan that takes you at least one small step (building up to medium) outside of your comfort zone is noble.

8. Support your efforts to maintain momentum with your New Year’s resolution by creating a daily morning ritual of envisioning yourself completing the behavior you have committed to for that day. Stay focused by minimizing your daydreams and fantasies related to the ultimate result you wish to achieve. For some people, getting lost too frequently in daydreams of events that are too far off into the future can promote unrealistic expectations, a discomforting sense of lacking in the present, and avoidance.

9. Know that lasting change is achieved by making barely noticeable, incremental steps toward your goal. Change is more circular than linear. You might regress a bit after weeks of considerable progress. If you are realistic from the start about how slow the progress will be, then the anticlimactic moments are interpreted less dramatically and with more perspective of the bigger picture. Expectations of fast change may lead to disappointment and a more moments of personal rebellion against your goals.

10. The unavoidable truth is that the chances for success with your goals are increased if you don’t have to rely on January 1st as the start of important changes. I completely understand why people wait for the beginning of a new year to begin with a major change because it is a very clearly demarcated reset in counting time, nature’s cycle renews, and we grew up with this mentality hearing about other people and their resolutions. However, January 1st is an artificial and culturally determined construction that, in my opinion, runs counter to the goal of self-imposed lifestyle change. If you want to create enduring change, it needs to be when you determine it should start, not when something else dictates that you must begin. It reminds me of situations when someone is strong-armed by a loved one into therapy against their wishes. It rarely leads to an appreciable change in behavior. Real change only begins when you make the decision to commit based on an agreement within yourself for reasons that you determine to be valid.

Good luck with your goals whether they start on January 1st or any other time you see fit to begin committing to changes you deem worthy of your best efforts. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Happy New Year!

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Kushnick. If you experience significant emotional distress related to your efforts to meet your life goals, consider seeking professional help.

Holiday Stress Management

The Art of Holiday Stress Management: Creative Strategies for the Holiday Season and Beyond

Holiday Stress

It is not uncommon for people to spend much of the year reflecting on the good and the bad of last year’s holiday experience and creating expectations for the next round of holidays. The holiday season is supposed to be a time of bonding with loved ones, observing meaningful rituals, and stuffing ourselves with yummy food made only once a year. Given how much time we spend anticipating and planning for the holidays, it is especially disturbing when our stress levels skyrocket in the days leading up to and during the holiday festivities. Even your best vow to not let holiday stress overwhelm you this year may require some additional options present in your stress management toolbox.

The art of managing holiday stress is really a blend of (1) controlling expectations of yourself and others, (2) maintaining awareness of your sensitive areas (aka pet peeves) and the unexpected stressors that influence your mood and behavior, and (3) remembering that you have options for responding and your choices have consequences. Depending on how you address each of these areas will determine whether you bring light or darkness to your holiday experience.

In this blog post, I have chosen to focus on increasing awareness of unexpected influences on stress to keep in mind, and I offer stress management strategies for helping you to navigate through each stressor. I have purposely left out the more common holiday stressors, such as the pressure to buy the right gifts for people or the stress of traveling to be with family. As you will see, the strategies I provide can be easily applied to more than just a few special days of the year, but to any effort to become more patient, less judgmental, and more fulfilled in life.

Here we go…

Holiday Stressor #1: There are going to be people at your holiday gathering who really annoy you. You anticipate that your holiday will be ruined by the outlandish behavior of a certain relative who has disrupted previous holiday gatherings with his or her unacceptable antics (and has been gossiped about since last year’s gathering).

Stress Management Strategy #1: Stop fortune-telling. This anticipatory anxiety is quite unhealthy. What a great time to practice giving people the benefit of the doubt. When you expect certain negative behaviors from others, you might subtly arrange the situation so that the undesired behavior is manifested. If your uncle does, in fact, get overly intoxicated at dinner, plan a family intervention for after the holidays. Why not create some open headspace by avoiding playing the videotape in your mind of how people will act at your holiday gathering? Be open to other possibilities.

One of the most important ideas to remember when you are chronically irritated by family members is that, if you search deep enough inside, you will find that you struggle with the very thing that you accuse family members of doing. This is about owning your struggle and avoiding judging others, especially when you grapple with the same problems that you can’t handle seeing in others. For example. if you tend to lose control and overeat when tempting goodies are put in front of you, avoid judging others for the same behavior. Try out this stress management strategy to feel a greater sense of lightness around people who tend to reflect back to you something you don’t want to face within.

Holiday Stressor #2: Life now feels like it’s moving a a blistering pace as the holidays approach. You feel like you can’t keep up.

Stress Management Strategy #2: No matter how many responsibilities require your attention before or during the holidays, make sure you step outside of the frazzling, frantic pace and slow it down from a sprint to a mozy. If you can’t briefly press pause on life’s pressures, you will miss out on appreciating the holiday pleasures. Shut off your phone, take a walk and tell yourself that 10 or 20 minutes of tuning the world out will be therapeutic for you. Listen to a song that you makes you feel nostalgic or reminds you of all things positive.

People often feel immense pressure to get things done before the holidays. Think of how liberating it will feel once you’ve tied up loose ends at work or handed in that last assignment. If you arrive at the holidays feeling unaccomplished, force yourself to list 10 accomplishments, big or small, over the past year.

Holiday Stressor #3: It seems like everyone is having a more festive holiday than you are.
shutterstock 971104341 150x150 The Art of Holiday Stress Management: Creative Strategies for the Holiday Season and Beyond
Stress Management Strategy #3: First and foremost, don’t believe everything you see on Facebook and other social media. People often post what they want you to think of them as opposed to what’s actually happening. They typically show their best angle and you will not be privy to their inner struggle.

Second, the holidays are but a few days of the year. If you feel disappointed with your holiday experience or if you were alone, take the initiative to plan a gathering with people who matter to you right after the holidays. This will give you something to look forward to. Third, you can use this as an opportunity to practice feeling thankful for other people’s good fortune, an exercise associated with a greater sense of well-being.

Holiday Stressor #4: You are worried that your family members will bring out the worst in you when they broach certain subjects.

Stress Management Strategy #4: Whether you admit it or not, there is a good chance that you will regress a bit during a family holiday celebration. I am referring to the inner child in you who has endured many family holidays in similar context with roughly the same people who know you to be the one who gets annoyed or blushes when that certain topic or memory is brought up.

As the child within you begs to make him or herself known, you could find yourself acting in ways that you reserve only for family. Be careful not to let your behavior be guided by events that happened in the past. Remember, in the here-and-now you have more options available to you as an adult than you did as a child. Choose to react in a way that won’t fan the flames of old conflicts. Try to surprise family members by taking the high road if you are provoked. You gain nothing healthy by one-upping family members with heavier insults than were thrown at you. If you are feeling bitter toward others, remind yourself that no other family has the quirks of your family, and try to find the humorous angle from which to view your family’s signature style of celebrating the holidays.

Holiday Stressor #5: It seems like everyone around you is rushing, not paying attention, or more agitated than usual leading up to the holidays.

Stress Management Strategy #5: You may be right, but you don’t know for certain. Don’t assume you know the reason for other people’s behavior. Ask before judging if it is someone you know. Also, your experience of others as impatient, mean, or absent-minded around the holidays may or may not be a projection. In other words, you could be failing to take inventory of how stressed and uneasy YOU are, and instead you are locating your inner experience in other people and accusing them of the exact behavior with which you struggle so that you don’t have to own it. Challenge yourself to take responsibility for your own feelings and be kind to others just in case they are struggling with the holiday blues.

Holiday Stressor #6: You NEED the holidays to save you and you have incredibly high standards for what constitutes a great holiday. You have a very specific vision for what should happen.

Stress Management Strategy #6: Expectations, expectations, expectations. Banking on the holidays to be everything you have wanted all year is downright dangerous and is likely to lead to anything from bitter disappointment to a depressive state that will take time to recover from.

If you relate to this stressor, then it’s imperative that you begin to practice lowering your expectations to a “reasonable” level. Instead of repeatedly daydreaming about a holiday dance rave around the dinner table, aim for a pleasant conversation about everyone’s favorite holiday songs. Instead of expecting to experience roaring belly laughs and the best food ever, come prepared with a few good jokes and try to appreciate the effort put in by the host.

Treat yourself to being pleasantly surprised by what you stumble upon, as opposed to telling yourself definitive self-statements of “I will only be happy if….”. Setting narrowly defined conditions for your happiness will only leave you disappointed.

Holiday Stressor #7: You are having trouble accepting that this year’s holiday festivities seem like they will be smaller and less appealing than last year’s shindig. You struggle to get excited about this year when you believe you will just be disappointed in the end.

Stress Management Strategy #7: I know I’ve promoted corralling expectations, but sometimes low expectations are used as a self-handicapping strategy to give the illusion of being prepared for an inevitable letdown. Be open to the possibility that this year’s plans could surprise you, but don’t allow yourself to decide exactly how it will go. Tell yourself that you will be able to find a way to enjoy the holiday even if the party lacks something you fondly remember from last year. Avoid a passive stance to contributing to the momentum of the party. Either take action and help to make it more special or just accept that this holiday is unique. Remind yourself of your successes since last year’s holiday gathering even if they feel small. It will help soften most holiday disappointments.

Holiday Stressor #8: You are just not feeling in the holiday spirit and you don’t want to have to fake it.

Stress Management Strategy #8: If you are feeling down and you wish you could be more positive about the holidays, consider that they come and go like a one-hit wonder. Since you do have to be in attendance, try to engage in one of the following behaviors to improve your mood during the experience.

First, if you are experiencing an unstable mood, it is not recommended that you drink excessively. If you must, a good buzz goes further than getting smashed. If you overdo it, you are just promoting the chances of feeling anxiety or “the blues” for one or several days after the actual holiday. You also lose the chance to build a powerful memory of a great holiday if you don’t remember half of it or if you end it in a sloppy manner. You might want to avoid embarrassing yourself and having to contact people to see if you’ve offended them.

Second, try not to overdose on sugar to keep your mood even. Perhaps you can pick at desserts rather than finish them. Third, if there are children present, commit to making the holiday a memorable experience for them. Don’t expose them to negativity. A child’s laughter is one of the most rewarding sights to witness.

Fourth, make it your business to say something positive or complimentary to as many people as you can. This type of investment in others goes a long way to improve your mood and can promote lasting gains in feeling better about life in general. This form of giving is a perfect way to combat depression. You might plan to do this ahead of time to lift your spirits in anticipation of the holiday. Fifth, you can promote group sharing of what you are thankful for.

This list is a rough guide for troubleshooting the holidays. If you experience significant emotional distress around the holidays, please consider getting professional help. It doesn’t have to feel that way in the future. Now go and make the best of your holiday experience. Good luck!

Here are a few other great articles with suggestions for handling holiday stress…

Stress, depression, and the holidays: Tips for coping

25 Ways to Fight Holiday Stress

Disclaimer: This blog entry is for entertainment purposes only. Reading this blog does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Kushnick. For more information about beginning psychotherapy with Dr. Kushnick, feel free to call or email with any questions.

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Unlock Creative Potential and Remove Writer’s Block

Bring out your Creative Side

typing 150x150 Unlock Creative Potential and Remove Writers BlockThere are talents within you that may or may not be realized. The expression of these talents represents a great way to relieve stress and avoid holding on to feelings of anger, sadness, loss, or anxiety. If you are in touch with your creative potential and have found a way to incorporate your talents into your work life, then you are likely to experience a wonderful sense of accomplishment, self-expression, and the release of tension. When personal creativity is less accessible, you may experience a sense of being overwhelmed, trapped, or emotionally distant or “going through the motions.”

The experience of depression can hinder a sense of personal access to your creative potential, but there ways to channel changes in your perspective associated with depression into creativity. In fact, some people report having access to a whole side of their creative mind when they are depressed that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I help people to take advantage of the altered lense through which they view the world when in a depressive state if they wish to explore their creative side or move past writer’s block.

Conditional expression of talents refers to the idea that you do not feel justified in being creative unless some condition is met, such as feeling it is unsafe unless you gain reassurance that you will not be judged for exposing your creative side, or believing that you have to complete an insurmountable number of tasks in order to justify allowing yourself time for creativity.

Whether your creative self is well integrated in your worklife, or it is reserved for playtime, having access to this part of you can enhance your sense of well-being, your relationships, and your tolerance for inevitable disruptions of life. Unlocking creative potential or moving past writer’s block also allows you to let go of ideas and feelings that could leave you feeling overburdened and unable to let go of troubling memories of the past.

Therapy can remove emotional blocks that prevent creative expression by teaching you how to reduce self-judgment and perfectionistic thinking, as well as to avoid investing too heavily in others’ opinions to determine the value of your talents and creations.

Depression and Being Right

Depression, Anger, Anxiety, and the Price You Pay for Being Right

Anger, Depression, Anxiety

floating image 1 150x98 Depression, Anger, Anxiety, and the Price You Pay for Being RightWhy is it that we invest so much time and effort watering the roots of the relationships that make us happy, yet when we are grappling with a sour mood or swimming in anxiety about an upcoming event, our ability to see the world from someone else’s eyes feels like an absolutely impossible task? Does this ever happen to you? The man or woman you love so much is sitting right in front of you, but all you can think about is how you won’t give in until they not only acknowledge how you feel, but tell you that you’re also RIGHT!. You’re even willing to ruin a date night, sabotage an opportunity for intimacy, or avoid talking to them for days until they submit.

We’ve all been there. We usually reserve this type of behavior for the ones we love the most or have known the longest. If we are feeling unheard or misunderstood, we may forget to listen. If we feel accused of wrongdoing, we may dodge responsibility at all cost and focus on convincing the accuser that they’re wrong. If a deep-seated insecurity fuels the need to be right, then the fight to prove rightness can potentially go on for days, weeks, months, and even years. The need to be right and the tendency to make others wrong tends to promote long-term resentment and animosity in relationships. This state of mind may suppress the immune system and invite illness into the body, and it is likely to limit our repertoire of problem-solving behaviors.

I find that an overinvestment in being right tends to promote more frequent states of dissatisfaction in relationships and with life in general. Depression may promote the need to be right (and vice versa). When we feel low, the act of making other people wrong can give a temporary lift to our sense of self-importance. The problem with this kind of lift is that it only lasts for a brief moment, and as soon as the high of asserting our rightness passes, we either sink back into a depressed state, or we feel even lower than we did before we made a heavy investment in making someone wrong. In more intense states of depression, we often lack motivation to perform the activities that we usually enjoy. Our energy is devoted to completing the most basic of tasks, as we do our best just to get through the day. In this state of decreased motivation, the mental energy available for entertaining the perspective of others is often quite limited.

The truth is that we are all forced to endure depression at some point, although its severity, duration and impact on our functioning varies from person to person. Depression typically involves periods of sad mood, decreased motivation, and a heightened tendency to avoid feelings and situations that normally brings us a sense of connection, purpose, and fulfillment.

When we are feeling significantly depressed, we may experience anger that is directed inward toward the self, or outward toward other people or the world as a whole. These angry feelings may take the form of an “addiction” to making other people wrong. In such a state of mind, our world becomes very small. We see with blinders on. There is only one way and it is our way. Hence, when anger takes over, our ability to see things from someone else’s point of view can become severely compromised, especially if our tendency is to cope with our anger by punishing others (and giving ourselves the illusion of ridding ourselves of negative feelings) by making them feel as we feel. An openness to entertaining multiple perspectives may also be limited if we typically handle our anger by withdrawing and avoiding conflict, which tends to minimize opportunities for rectifying disagreements.

Anxiety is similar to anger in its influence on perspective-taking abilities, as it can promote a narrowing the lense of our perspective at the expense of appreciating alternative vantage points. When we are anxious, our mental resources are channeled toward coping with the belief that we must prepare for a feared event. This preparation creates a self-preserving state of mind that narrows our perspective to a limited number of possible outcomes. We repeat to ourselves in one form or another the idea that “I will not be OK if this event happens.” When we are gripped by high anxiety, predicting a catastrophe requires a huge amount of mental energy, which deprives us of the energy required to appreciate someone else’s perspective.

Would you like to achieve lasting states of positive emotion? Would you like to feel more strongly connected to your loved ones, and to your world in general? If so, cultivate your ability to see someone else’s perspective, and recognize the impact that your words and actions have on the ones you love; this will tame your innate human need to be right. Your willingness to acknowledge the perspective of others, even if you disagree with their stance, is one of the most important mental muscles to build.

Here are a few brief suggestions for assessing and improving your ability to appreciate the perspective of others.

1) Conduct an honest assessment of how invested you are in making people wrong, especially the people closest to you. Ask a trusted friend or family member to give their opinion on this. Try to be open to their feedback, especially if you are both emotionally invested in the relationship. When it comes to how often we feel the need to be right, we are usually poor self-evaluators.

2) Practice the art of listening without interrupting. Avoid telling others how they should feel. Try to listen well enough to be able to convey to the speaker what you just heard them say, and then share what you learned from them.

3) Try to embrace the idea that there are “two rights” in every disagreement between two people.

4) Seek professional help if you determine that your need to make others wrong significantly interferes with your relationships, or if you can see that depression, anger, or anxiety present obstacles to appreciating others’ perspectives.

5) Practice doing gratitude exercises. This is one of the most powerful ways to cultivate the ability to appreciate others’ opinions and struggles. There are many self-help books available to assist you with this.

6) When you are sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop, or another setting conducive to “people-watching,” imagine what life might look like from the eyes of someone you are observing. Try to get in touch with what this person might be feeling, even if you are guessing . Do this exercise at least once a week.

7) If you recognize that you are particularly depressed or angry on a given day, take a pause in each interaction with the people you love and acknowledge to yourself (or to them) how your negative mood may be making you more argumentative or less understanding. Sometimes our loved ones deserve this “heads up.”

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you commit to improving your ability to adopt another person’s perspective and avoid the habit of making other people wrong, I am confident that you will like the way that it makes you feel. It might even bring you closer to the people you love.

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