What is Dependent Personality Disorder?

Dependent Personality Disorder is characterized by an ongoing, excessive desire to be taken care of, which results in clingy behavior, unreasonable submissiveness, and an intense fear of separation.

Additional Symptoms

In addition to the characteristics listed above, individuals diagnosed with Dependent Personality Disorder will also meet at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others
  • Avoids taking personal responsibility for things; wants others to assume responsibility for major areas of their life
  • Goes along with what others say because they fear that disagreeing might cause them to lose that person’s approval or support
  • Has difficulty doing things on their own due to lack of self-confidence
  • Craves an excessive level of nurturance and support from others, and will go to great lengths to obtain it, including volunteering for things that are unpleasant
  • When alone, they may feel helpless and anxious and may have exaggerated fears about not being taken care of by someone.
  • If a relationship ends, they will immediately and urgently seek a new relationship with someone else who they believe will provide the care and support they desperately want.
  • May have unrealistic fears of abandonment, being alone, or having no one to take care of them

The Need that Drives the Behaviors

Individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder believe that they are unable to take care of themselves or function well on their own. Therefore, they seek out relationships with people who will take charge and do things for them. Often, they behave as if they are helpless in order to elicit attention from someone who will do things for them; because of this, they are often viewed as “needy.” They might also behave submissively in order to attract a dominant partner or friend.

Legitimate Caregiving Needs Versus Personality Disorder

It’s important to understand that a personality disorder diagnosis does not apply to individuals who have legitimate physical or mental limitations or illnesses that create a realistic need for a caregiver. It is perfectly normal to need help from others when sick, recovering from surgery, recuperating from an accident, or dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, for example. This is also not an appropriate diagnosis for children or adolescents who are merely exhibiting age-appropriate needs for care. This diagnosis is only appropriate for individuals who have an unrealistic belief that they are unable to do things for themselves.

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Challenges in Daily Life

Decision-making is a major problem for individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder. They struggle to even make simple daily choices such as what to wear or what to eat. They much prefer for someone else to tell them what to do in every aspect of their existence. If they are forced to make a decision on their own, they will ask for advice (often from multiple people) and, if given different advice from different people, they will struggle a great deal to decide whose guidance to follow. Once they’ve made a choice, they will usually second-guess their decision and will seek repeated reassurances that they made the right choice.

They are extremely passive and allow others to dictate where they live, how they spend their time, who they can and can’t talk to, what kind of job to take, how they spend their money, and so on. Although they would sometimes rather do something else, they don’t argue, because it’s more important to them to keep the other person happy (and therefore, keep that relationship intact) than it is to get their own way. For example, an individual with this disorder might prefer to go out for pizza, but if the other person wants Chinese, they will give in and eat Chinese without an argument (even if they don’t like Chinese food), because they are extremely scared of upsetting and losing that person. For this reason, they rarely disagree with the people they depend on. They will even agree with things they believe are wrong. They also don’t let others know when they are angry, even if it is for a valid reason, because they don’t want to lose that person’s support.

Individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder lack self-confidence, and therefore, they don’t do very many things by themselves. They believe that they are incapable and that someone else would do a better job. They also worry that they will mess something up if they try. So, they appear helpless or clueless or fearful so that someone else will do it for them. They constantly want assistance from others and don’t feel comfortable doing things independently. They fear failure, but they fear success even more — because if they prove themselves to be competent, they might lose that person who assists them with everything.

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Relationship Challenges

Because they prefer to be submissive and passive, individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder often tether themselves to dominant individuals who prefer to call all the shots. This is not always a bad thing, because some dominant individuals genuinely just want to help and are comfortable with taking charge as needed. But sometimes, the submissiveness makes these individuals a target for abusive partners or friends who will mistreat them or take advantage of them– and they tolerate it because of their fear of abandonment.

They are willing to submit to what others want, even if it is unreasonable or unfair. These distorted, imbalanced relationships are toxic. Some individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder will make extraordinary self-sacrifices and tolerate verbal and emotional abuse, insults, gaslighting, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Some will even choose to stay with someone who physically or sexually abuses or exploits them because that seems more bearable than losing that person and their “support.”

Individuals with this personality disorder have an intense fear of being alone. They often ask to go along on outings for things they have zero interest in, just to avoid being alone. They want to spend all of their time with their partner or special friend. To other people, this can feel smothering and clingy, and they may eventually end the relationship because it is just “too much.” They grow tired of the individual with DPD wanting to be with them nonstop and that they text or call relentlessly when they’re apart. If the relationship ends, it feels life-shattering to someone with this personality disorder, and they will immediately begin to frantically seek a new person to replace the one they lost. Individuals with this disorder feel that they cannot function without being in a close relationship. Because of this, they often jump quickly from one toxic relationship to another.

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Self-Esteem Issues

Individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder struggle with feelings of inferiority. Their self-esteem is poor and they are very hard on themselves, often calling themselves names like “stupid.” They are often very pessimistic and critical of themselves, so when others say negative things about them, they believe them and consider it proof of their worthlessness. They often believe they deserve any mistreatment they receive. They struggle with self-doubt and often have no faith in themselves or their abilities. As a result, they seek relationships with people who will protect, dominate, and direct their lives for them.

Their lack of self-confidence can cause issues for them in their careers. They generally avoid applying for leadership positions because they doubt their abilities and fear the responsibilities involved, especially if the role requires making decisions.

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Related Disorders

Individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder often struggle with depression, anxiety, substance use problems, and adjustment disorders. They may also have additional personality disorders — borderline, avoidant, and histrionic personality disorders are especially common in individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder.

Is this the Same as Codependency?

Codependency and Dependent Personality Disorder are similar but are not the same thing. Codependency is a behavior that occurs in a relationship, making it very one-sided, intense, and unhealthy. Someone who is codependent goes to unreasonable lengths to please their partner, often by sacrificing their own needs, and greatly desires to be needed in return. In fact, they only feel happy when they feel needed. Individuals with Dependent Personality Disorder do not have that same desire to be needed — instead, they are needy and desire to be taken care of at all times by someone else.

What Causes Dependent Personality Disorder?

People who have been in abusive relationships or experienced childhood trauma are more likely than others to develop Dependent Personality Disorder. Having a history of verbal abuse, neglect, or a life-threatening illness during childhood also increase the likelihood of developing this disorder.

Treatment

Help is available for individuals struggling with Dependent Personality Disorder. The best treatment is psychotherapy with a mental health therapist. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven to be helpful by addressing problematic thought patterns and helping increase self-confidence. Some treatment agencies also provide Healthy Relationships groups to provide education and support which are also very effective.

Diagnostic criteria for Dependent Personality Disorder is taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association. For more information on personality disorders, please visit: What is a Personality Disorder? – Navigating Life (juliebailey.net) and Get Help With Personality Disorders (psychiatry.org)

What is Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) is characterized by three primary elements: social inhibition and awkwardness, feelings of inadequacy, and a great fear that others have a negative view of them.

Symptoms

In addition to the traits above, individuals with this disorder will also identify with at least four of the following:

  • avoids occupational activities that require dealing with people (because they greatly fear criticism, rejection, or simply that others won’t like them)
  • resists getting involved with people unless they are certain they will be liked and accepted
  • hesitant to open up to others for fear of being ridiculed or shamed
  • constantly worries about rejection, criticism, and what others think of them
  • feels uncomfortable in new social situations due to feelings of inadequacy
  • has a negative self-image and worries that they are inferior to others, unattractive, or unappealing
  • reluctant to try new activities due to fear of being embarrassed or humiliated
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The Internal Conflict That Fuels This Disorder

There are times when we all worry, to an extent, about what others will think of us. This is normal. Unfortunately, individuals with Avoidant Personality Disorder worry about this constantly. They live with a gigantic, nagging fear of being disliked, rejected, embarrassed, or criticized. This fear permeates every area of life that involves interacting with other people in any way — at school, at work, in friendships and dating relationships, and even within their own family units.

Individuals with AVPD do not have a positive self-image. Instead, there is an ongoing fear that others are always better than them — they compare themselves to others and always worry that they are somehow inferior. They feel completely incompetent and awkward when it comes to handling social situations.

Their negative beliefs about themselves, combined with their fear of what others think of them, creates a tremendous amount of anxiety (and sometimes panic) when they interact with other people. They react strongly to the slightest hint of mockery or negativity, and often feel that whatever they do or say will be perceived as “wrong” by everyone else. They struggle with feeling like they don’t fit in. Individuals with this disorder may abruptly exit a social gathering because it becomes overwhelming for them, and others may not understand what happened or why they left.

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Relationship Challenges

Individuals with Avoidant Personality Disorder want to have relationships. They want to have friends, intimate relationships, and good connections with their family, colleagues, and neighbors. However, this personality disorder causes this to be very challenging. They struggle with creating new relationships as well as with maintaining existing ones.

Due to a tremendous fear of rejection, folks with this disorder are extremely uncomfortable when meeting new people, starting a new job, or going on a first date. They will often appear shy or timid in these situations because they tend to separate themselves from others a bit until they have studied the people and begin to feel safe. This makes it difficult to create new friendships or to initiate dating relationships. The idea of approaching someone and asking them for a date or even to hang out as friends is absolutely terrifying! But yet, they want these relationships very much.

Existing relationships are a challenge as well because of the ongoing fear of upsetting, irritating, or annoying the other person. Individuals with AVPD always worry about what others are thinking, and they tend to read into comments, body language, and situations, questioning what the other person “really meant by that.” This can become overwhelming at family gatherings, parties, and other group settings because the individual with this disorder is trying to decipher cues and comments from many sources simultaneously.

When they find someone they feel safe with, they may become very attached and cling to them a bit too tightly. Individuals with Avoidant Personality Disorder need a lot of reassurance, and if they don’t receive it, they will either: 1) make desperate attempts to please the person (by repeatedly apologizing, buying them gifts, etc.), or 2) they will panic and put distance between them (they may ignore them, block them, or ghost them) in an attempt to escape the relationship before the other person can hurt them. Many individuals with Avoidant Personality Disorder are also diagnosed with Dependent Personality Disorder, which means that they often become codependent. This can lead to very toxic relationships and can cause the individual to be an easy target for abusers. Others feel smothered by the codependency and end the relationship, which leaves the individual with AVPD viewing this as proof or confirmation of their fear that they are inferior.

Because individuals with this disorder struggle with relationships, they often do not have a large social support network. This can be a problem during trying times when they need a lot of support. They may express that they feel lonely and wish they had more friends.

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Occupational Challenges

Going to a job interview makes individuals with Avoidant Personality Disorder exceedingly nervous. They worry about making a negative impression, not being good enough, or being rejected. If hired, meeting new co-workers is also stressful for the very same reasons.

Dealing with customers can be challenging as well. For example, they may takes things personally if a customer is upset about a company policy or has a complaint about a product. While no one enjoys handling angry customers, it is especially challenging for folks with AVPD.

They may also have difficulty handling feedback from their boss or co-workers about their performance — instructions may feel like harsh criticism or even a personal attack. Dealing with the constant worry about what others think can become overwhelming throughout the workday, and they may feel exhausted when their shift is over.

They may call in sick or abruptly quit a job due to feeling that someone dislikes them. This is something that they often regret later, but in that moment, feeling rejected or judged may cause them to panic and want to escape the situation. Others may view them as overly sensitive, but it would be helpful for us all to understand that situations like this are intensely distressful for someone with this disorder.

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Related Diagnoses

Avoidant Personality Disorder occurs equally in males and females. Individuals with this disorder are also frequently diagnosed with anxiety disorders (especially social anxiety), agoraphobia, depression, bipolar disorder, and dependent personality disorder (also called “codependency”).

Cause

Both genetics and environmental factors can play a part in the development of AVPD. Research points to the possibility that there is an increased risk for this disorder among children who have a parent or caregiver who rejects them or does not provide adequate encouragement and affection.

Treatment

The best treatment for Avoidant Personality Disorder is psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a form of individual counseling that helps by addressing problematic thought patterns called “cognitive distortions,” which impact how the person feels and acts. When the individual is able to replace these problematic ways of thinking with healthier thought processes, they will experience a reduction in negative feelings and behaviors. Therapy can also help the individual develop improved social skills and coping skills. Sometimes individuals in therapy are able to overcome their fear of social situations or at least make them much more manageable. This often leads to the much-desired end result of being able to develop and maintain healthy relationships. Prognosis is good, so don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional to begin your healing journey.

Diagnostic criteria for Avoidant Personality Disorder is taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association. For more information on personality disorders, please visit: What is a Personality Disorder? – Navigating Life (juliebailey.net) and Get Help With Personality Disorders (psychiatry.org)

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

“Narcissist” became a popular word in recent years. But what does it really mean?

Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) have a grandiose self-image, an unquenchable need for admiration, and lack empathy. In addition to these basic characteristics, they will also identify with at least five of the following:

  • Believes they are superior to others and expects to be treated as such
  • Believes they are special and unique and that normal people aren’t capable of understanding them
  • Spends a great deal of time thinking about obtaining unlimited success, power, brilliance, or beauty
  • Expects an excessive and ongoing amount of admiration and praise
  • Feels entitled to special treatment and expects others to comply with their unreasonable expectations
  • Takes advantage of other people
  • Does not care about the feelings or needs of others
  • Views life as a competition and becomes envious and upset when someone else is honored; also believes that others are constantly envious of them
  • Arrogant attitude and behavior

Occasional selfishness or arrogance does not necessarily mean someone has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In order to be officially diagnosed, there must be an ongoing pattern of these attitudes and behaviors. They must begin by early adulthood and be noticeable in various settings such as work, dating relationships, school, or with family.

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Narcissistic Tendencies

Individuals with this disorder believe that they are more important than others, although they may or may not verbally acknowledge this. They may come across with false humility — attempting to appear humble while actually taking great pleasure in receiving praise or special treatment. Or they may come across as boastful and entitled. Regardless of how they outwardly express it, they inwardly believe that they are superior and deserve to be treated as such.

It is common for individuals with this disorder to overestimate their own abilities and to underestimate the abilities of everyone else. They tend to brag and tell inflated stories about their successes and are shocked and offended if others don’t lavish them with the admiration they feel they deserve. If someone else experiences success or victory, they will become jealous and angry.

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Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder often demand the “top” person — the most highly acclaimed doctor, the most prestigious attorney, or they may insist on speaking with the CEO regarding a trivial complaint. They prefer to affiliate with prestigious institutions and align themselves with renowned or impressive experts. They believe that only the best of the best is good enough for them.

Their arrogance is evident in the way that they demean and belittle others. They may loudly complain about a clumsy waiter’s “stupidity” or talk down to a receptionist who asks them to please hold. They can be condescending, patronizing, and judgmental. Even within their own families, they tend to view their relatives as beneath them, but never hesitate to let them know when there is something they need from them. They expect consistent love and support but unfortunately do not usually return it (unless it is for “show.”)

Another facet of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the tendency to be grandiose — in other words, to “go big.” Whatever they set out to do, they overdo it. For example, they plan parties and events that are way too large and tend to view everything as a competition.

Relationship Challenges

Relationships are a huge challenge for individuals with this disorder because others usually become exhausted with their constant need for attention and admiration. They expect their arrival to be greeted with great fanfare, they frequently fish for compliments, and they expect conversations and plans to always revolve around them. Others complain that they get tired of having to “stroke their ego.”

Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder typically put their own needs first. They do not stop to consider what someone else might feel or how they might be affected, nor do they care. They tend to use and exploit people in whatever way they find beneficial. They do not have reasonable expectations for other people, but instead feel entitled to their dedication and loyalty. They often complain about the ungratefulness of others.

They expect to be catered to and, if this doesn’t happen, they may be first puzzled and then furious. They may believe that rules shouldn’t apply to them or that they shouldn’t have to wait in line. They may believe they are above reproach and, if challenged, may respond with a comment like, “how DARE you question me?!” If pulled over by a police officer, they might ask, “Do you not know who I am?!”

Other than anger, individuals with NPD do not generally exhibit very many emotions.

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Occupational Challenges

As employees, individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder struggle to be able to accept coaching, feedback, or criticism from their employers. They find this to be humiliating and degrading, even if it was kindly worded, and often respond with anger or defiance. They often abruptly resign because they’re so uncomfortable not being the person in charge.

They much prefer to be their own boss. But if they supervise others, they may overwork their staff with no thought or concern about how their lives may be impacted. They have unrealistic expectations, both for production and for receiving the amount of praise they desire. As a result, they often have high staff turnover.

Individuals with this disorder are not always as successful vocationally as we might expect. This is because they are often unwilling to take risks or make necessary changes if they fear that defeat might be a possible outcome.

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Mental and Medical Health Challenges

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is significantly more prevalent in males than females. Many individuals with this disorder also struggle with depression, anorexia nervosa, and substance use disorders. Also, it is not uncommon for these individuals to simultaneously be diagnosed with histrionic, borderline, antisocial, or paranoid personality disorders.

Psychotherapy is the recommended treatment for individuals with NPD as well as for those who need help healing from relationships with them. Reach out to a trusted mental health professional to begin your healing journey today.

Diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder is taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association. For more information on personality disorders, please visit What is a Personality Disorder? – Navigating Life (juliebailey.net) and Get Help With Personality Disorders (psychiatry.org)

What is Histrionic Personality Disorder?

Dramatic. Extremely emotional. Attention-seeking. These are characteristic patterns for individuals with Histrionic Personality Disorder.

Symptoms of Histrionic Personality Disorder:

In addition to excessive emotionality and attention-seeking behavior, at least five of the following symptoms must also exist:

  • Prefers to always be the center of attention and is upset if they are not
  • Tries to draw attention by being sexually seductive or provocative, even when inappropriate to do so
  • Intense emotions that can change abruptly
  • Fixates on physical appearance
  • Has strong opinions and talks boldly about things they know very little about
  • Behaves in a dramatic, theatrical manner; expresses emotions in an exaggerated fashion
  • Easily influenced by other people or circumstances; very suggestible
  • Views relationships as much closer and more intimate than they actually are in reality

Need for Attention:

Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) affects the way a person thinks and perceives things and how they interact with others. The most prominent characteristic of this disorder is an unquenchable need for attention. The intent of the dramatic and sometimes inappropriate behaviors is essentially to draw attention.

New people are often charmed or impressed by the seemingly vibrant personality of an individual with HPD. They may be the life of the party — engaging, entertaining, extroverted, and possibly a big flirt. They are often enthusiastic, helpful, and talkative… as long as they sense that they are the center of attention.

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When they are no longer in the spotlight, they will begin to do things to draw attention back to themselves. They may begin to dominate the conversation or do things that are seductive or sexually provocative. They may make up stories to try to impress or “top” someone else’s, or they may resort to a dramatic display of emotions. They might even fake illness or appear to be having some sort of medical emergency.

Fixation with Physical Appearance:

Some individuals with histrionic personality disorder are overly concerned with their physical appearance. They hope to be noticed by others for their good looks, great clothes, or awesome hair. They will often fish for compliments, post a lot of selfies on social media, and may become livid if someone takes a photo they feel is unflattering.

They may become obsessed with social media and a desire to attract followers. They may worry about how many people liked or responded to their post. Their social media accounts are filled with selfies, long rants, vague messages that imply they are not ok, or anything that might shock someone enough to get their attention.

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Emotional Displays and Drama:

Folks with HPD may express their opinions loudly and boldly, but often know very little about the topic on which they’re speaking. They tend to be quick to “jump on the bandwagon” because they are very easily influenced. But they also crave attention, so they may also be quick to take offense if someone disagrees with their stance on something — they may become emotionally distraught, especially if this results in obtaining sympathy from others they hope will “side” with them.

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Over-reactions and showy public displays of emotion are characteristic of this disorder. Often family and friends are embarrassed by the way that an individual with HPD behaves at a funeral, a wedding, or even in a fast food drive-thru. They may make a very big deal of sentimental occasions, and they tend to view their relationships as much more intimate than they are. As a result, they may wail loudly at the funeral or wedding of a casual acquaintance, which of course draws attention to them at an event where someone else should be in the spotlight.

Their emotions are extra-large and they are very demonstrative in the way they express them — regardless of whether they are laughing, crying, or cursing, it is often “over the top.” However, these extra-large emotions can also change so quickly that it seems to others that they have the ability to turn them on and off. This is often irritating to others, and they may begin to believe that the individual is faking their emotions in order to manipulate them. Relationships are often short-lived for individuals with HPD because other people grow weary of dealing with the drama. A common complaint is: “You always find a way to make everything about you!”

Diagnosis and Treatment:

The best treatment for histrionic personality disorder is psychotherapy with a trained mental health specialist.

Diagnostic criteria for Histrionic Personality Disorder is taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association. For more information on personality disorders, please visit What is a Personality Disorder? – Navigating Life (juliebailey.net) and Get Help With Personality Disorders (psychiatry.org).

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

The primary characteristic of borderline personality disorder is instability. There is a tendency for unpredictable behavior and erratic changes of mood, which results in a pattern of rocky relationships, inconsistent self-image, and rollercoaster emotions.

Criteria for Diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder:

As described above, there must be an ongoing pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and mood, as well as impulsive behaviors. These must be present by early adulthood, as well as at least five of the following additional criteria:

  • Fear of abandonment, with frantic efforts to avoid it
  • A pattern of rocky relationships
  • Self-image that may change suddenly and dramatically
  • Impulsivity in at least two self-damaging ways
  • Recurrent self-mutilating behaviors, suicidal threats, or suicide attempts
  • Intense mood shifts; extreme emotional reactions
  • A feeling of emptiness that won’t go away
  • Anger issues
  • Paranoia or dissociative symptoms when extremely stressed

Relationship Challenges:

Individuals with borderline personality disorder struggle with relationships in all areas of life. They often have a history littered with multiple broken friendships, strained or estranged relationships with family members, and a string of dramatic break-ups with ex-romantic partners. They often struggle to get along with co-workers, employers, teachers, doctors, counselors, and neighbors. Individuals with BPD tend to pursue very intense relationships –they may shower the other person with compliments, attention, gifts, and promises, which at first may seem very exciting and charming to the other person.

But they may quickly become overly demanding, with expectations that the other person expends all their time and energy on them. It begins to feel clingy and the other person may feel smothered. The individual with BPD will idealize the other person and say things like “You’re the best friend (or boyfriend, counselor, etc….) that I’ve ever had! You’re the only person who has ever been this good to me!”

But it usually doesn’t take long for the other person to fall from their pedestal — at the slightest wrong move, the other person is suddenly and completely devalued. It can be due to something as simple as canceling plans (even for a valid reason), spending time with other people, or innocently forgetting a minor detail. Suddenly, an extreme emotional reaction occurs, often a fit of intense anger, and the other person is now accused of being intentionally hurtful, abusive, demeaning, neglectful, or deceptive. They will be accused of not caring enough, not being there enough, or not giving enough.

Following this major blow-up, the fear of abandonment kicks in, and the individual with borderline personality disorder may relentlessly pursue the other person, trying frantically to save the relationship, flipping back to idealizing and desperately proclaiming the other person to be their “everything.”

Individuals with BPD worry constantly about being rejected or left out. When faced with a situation where the other person may be away or unavailable for a while, there is often fear, panic, and inappropriate anger. If the other person is a few minutes late, this is perceived as abandonment and means the other person is “bad.” If the other person attempts to establish healthy boundaries, an individual with BPD may resort to self-harm in order to force the other person’s attention back upon them.

For the person attempting to have a relationship with someone with BPD, it may feel like: “I love you! I hate you! Come here, I need you. Get away from me!” This is confusing and frustrating for the other person who is constantly either deemed as “the best” or “the worst,” and, as a result, these intense relationships often come to a dramatic and ugly end. Sometimes individuals with BPD eventually choose to bond with a pet instead of attempting any more new relationships with other people.

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Identity Challenges:

Folks with borderline personality disorder tend to change their minds frequently and dramatically about who they are and what they want to do with their lives. They may suddenly change career goals, sexual orientation, or even their basic values. Opinions, plans, and hobbies may be suddenly traded for other things that are vastly different. Things they were once very passionate about may become things they hate. Many individuals with BPD struggle with low self-esteem.

Impulsivity:

Individuals with BPD behave in impulsive ways that cause damage to their own lives. For some, this could be going on impulsive spending sprees or gambling away money that is needed for bills. For others, it might mean impulsively getting involved in dangerous sexual situations. It could also be reckless driving, taking unnecessary risks in traffic, binge drinking, or using illegal drugs. This could also include self-sabotaging behaviors such as dropping out of school right before graduation or intentionally blowing an interview for a good job opportunity.

Self-harm:

Self-mutilation is common among folks with borderline personality disorder. This includes cutting, burning, picking, or anything else that an individual does to harm their own body intentionally. Suicidal thoughts and threats are also common, and many individuals with BPD actually attempt to end their lives by suicide. Some of them succeed. Sadly, approximately 10% of individuals with BPD die by suicide.

Emotional Challenges:

Intense emotions are experienced by people with this personality disorder. Their reactions to everyday stressors often seem extreme and excessive to others. Their moods can change swiftly and dramatically in response to challenges or changes, whether large or small. They are often angry, irritable, anxious, or depressed.

They live in fear of abandonment, and constantly worry about hypothetical things that could cause their worst fears to come true. Even when all is going well, they are often unable to enjoy anything due to that horrible, nagging fear that is always lingering right under the surface. Some individuals with BPD report a feeling of emptiness that never seems to completely go away. They become bored easily and are often searching for something to do, in hopes that it will help them feel more fulfilled. Their communication often comes across to others as sarcastic or bitter.

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Anger Issues:

Anger is a very real issue for people with borderline personality disorder. They feel angry often, and it is usually a very intense form of anger that they have difficulty controlling. Often their anger is inappropriate — in other words, it occurs without a valid reason. They tend to have a short fuse and lose their temper easily and often, which can lead to verbal outbursts or physical assaults on others. Individuals with BPD may seem like they are always angry about something — and often, this is true. Sometimes they are angry and don’t even know why. This anger is sometimes directed at others, and sometimes it is directed inwardly at themselves.

When they lash out at others, these angry altercations are often followed by intense feelings of guilt and shame, which further increase their fear of abandonment and can seem to validate their low self-esteem. This creates a vicious emotional cycle.

Paranoia and Dissociative Symptoms:

Stress creates difficulties for everyone, but individuals with borderline personality disorder have an extra tough time dealing with it. For them, extreme stress (especially if related to a real or imagined abandonment) can actually lead to symptoms of paranoia and dissociation, which fortunately, do not usually last very long, but nevertheless, can be distressful and frightening. Dissociative symptoms may include the experience of feeling detached from one’s own body, temporary loss of memory or perception of time, or feeling like the world is distorted or not real. In some cases, brief psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations could also occur.

Additional Information:

Borderline personality disorder is diagnosed predominantly (about 75%) in females, according to the American Psychiatric Association. This personality disorder has a strong genetic link, but childhood physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, or loss of a parent as a child can also increase the likelihood of its development.

It is common for individuals with BPD to also have diagnoses of Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, various substance use disorders, eating disorders (especially bulimia), PTSD, ADHD, or other personality disorders.

Treatment options are available for borderline personality disorder. Mental health therapists skilled in providing Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) or Transference-Focused Psychotherapy (TFP) can provide treatment that can be helpful in reducing suicidal ideation, regulating moods, and altering harmful behavioral patterns.

Diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder is taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association. For more information on personality disorders, please visit What is a Personality Disorder? – Navigating Life (juliebailey.net) and Get Help With Personality Disorders (psychiatry.org).

What is Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder disregard and violate the rights of others and they don’t feel remorseful about it. They lack empathy for the pain and suffering of others. You may have heard these individuals referred to as “psychopaths” or “sociopaths.”

To be officially diagnosed, the person must be at least 18 years old and have a history of symptoms of Conduct Disorder prior to age 15. Conduct Disorder is a separate diagnosis that involves behaviors such as aggression toward people or animals, destruction of property, breaking rules, theft, or dishonesty. In other words, some kids and teens with Conduct Disorder may later be diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder as adults.

Symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder:

Diagnosis requires at least three of the following symptoms:

  • Repeatedly breaking rules or laws that could constitute grounds for arrest
  • Deceitfulness and manipulation — this includes lying, using aliases, and scamming or conning others.
  • Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
  • Irritability and aggressiveness — may frequently be involved in physical fights or verbal altercations
  • Reckless disregard for their own safety and the safety of others
  • Irresponsibility, such as a pattern of failure to keep jobs or pay bills
  • Lack of remorse — they may harm or mistreat others and feel indifferent about the pain or damage they cause

Three Important Things to Know

Before we take a closer look at how Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) can play out in various aspects of an individual’s life, there are three important things to know: First, understand that different individuals with this same diagnosis may actually seem very different on the surface. Some may seem cold and uncaring, while others may come across as quite charming and personable (which helps them manipulate others).

Second, keep in mind that only three of the symptoms above are required for diagnosis, so different individuals may not have the same symptoms. One person might be extremely impulsive and reckless, while someone else might be very calculated and precise. What they both have in common is that they hurt others and do not feel guilty or sorry for their actions.

Third, while it’s true that serial killers and hardened criminals often fall into the category of ASPD, it’s important that we understand that not everyone who has this disorder is a serial killer or hardened criminal.

Aspects of Life with ASPD

Individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder tend to disregard rules and laws, and as a result, they are frequently in trouble with employers and law enforcement. They are often arrested for theft, assault, stalking, property damage, child abuse, sexual misconduct, or for running some sort of scam.

Substance use problems are common among individuals with ASPD. They may binge drink, use or sell illegal drugs, and may have a history of DUIs or other drug charges. When angry or impulsive, they may speed excessively and take dangerous risks. They are involved in accidents frequently and tend to be unconcerned about others who may have been killed or injured due to their recklessness.

Occupational problems are common as well since some folks with ASPD believe that ordinary work is beneath them. It is often difficult for them to keep jobs because they disrespect their supervisors and coworkers, break rules that result in termination, or impulsively quit or walk out if they become irritated. Those who enter the military often receive dishonorable discharges.

Individuals with ASPD may move frequently or end up homeless. This may also be related to impulsivity, or it may be due to failure to pay rent or keep up with mortgage payments — they often don’t care for such responsibilities. Or, for those who tend to be destructive, they may be evicted due to property damage.

Interpersonal relationships are often entered into with an ulterior motive. In other words, when an individual with Antisocial Personality Disorder engages in a relationship with someone, it is generally because there is something they hope to gain such as money, sex, a place to live, or power. They usually end up hurting the other person, and if confronted, they may just shrug dismissively or rationalize their behavior. They are unmoved by tears, begging, or guilt trips. They may even blame the victim for being stupid enough to fall for their lies, or say they “had it coming.” They rarely apologize or make amends for what they do.

Individuals with ASPD are sometimes very opinionated, cocky, and arrogant and often enjoy using big words or technical jargon. They may have inflated egos, a cynical attitude, and grandiose plans, and they tend to get bored easily.

Depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, somatic symptom disorders, and gambling disorders are common among individuals with this disorder. They may spend many years in prison, and they are more likely to die prematurely by violent means such as suicides, accidents, or homicides.

Antisocial Personality Disorder is more common in males than females, and research indicates that both genetics and environmental factors contribute to the risk of developing this Cluster B personality disorder.

There is no cure for ASPD, but symptoms may decrease a bit as the individual gets older, especially once they are in their 40s. They are often unwilling to engage in treatment, but for those who do, it is possible to make some degree of progress and reduce problematic behaviors and symptoms.

Diagnostic criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder is taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, published by the American Psychiatry Association. For more information on personality disorders, please visit What is a Personality Disorder? – Navigating Life (juliebailey.net) and Get Help With Personality Disorders (psychiatry.org).

What is Schizotypal Personality Disorder?

Schizotypal Personality Disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of social isolation, distorted thoughts or sensations, and eccentric behavior. This pattern begins no later than early adulthood, and for many, onset may be as early as childhood.

Symptoms of Schizotypal Personality Disorder

In order to officially diagnose this personality disorder, the person must demonstrate at least five of the following:

  • Ideas of reference — These are irrational beliefs that random things are somehow directly related to them. It’s sort of a combination of being a little paranoid and self-conscious at the same time. For example, they tend to assume that people are talking or laughing about them when they are not.
  • Odd beliefs or magical thinking — They may believe that they possess special powers to cause things to happen with their thoughts or actions. For example, they might believe that standing outside in the rain will cure cancer or that they can make the wind blow by thinking about a windmill. They may be fascinated with the paranormal or, in contrast, they might be highly superstitious.
  • Unusual perceptual experiences — This means that the individual perceives things that others don’t. They might “sense” that someone is sitting next to them even though no one else can see anyone there. They might see, hear, or feel things that others do not.
  • Odd thinking and speech — The individual might be very vague, or they might overelaborate. They might communicate with bizarre metaphors, or their comments might seem illogical, like they don’t all fit together. They may seem to have strange ideas or they might use words that seem unusual, such as “greenable” or “off-est.”
  • Suspiciousness or paranoid ideation — The person may constantly suspect that others are out to get them. They may be preoccupied with conspiracy theories and may always seem to distrust people and agencies. They tend to both believe and expect the worst in others.
  • Inappropriate or constricted affect — They are terribly uncomfortable and awkward in social situations, and their facial expressions may seem all wrong. They may have a completely inappropriate expression for the situation at hand — they may smile when someone else is in pain or scowl when something great happens. Or they may seem to have no facial expressions at all.
  • Behavior or appearance that is odd, eccentric, or peculiar — They may dress in clothing that doesn’t match or fit properly, or they may put on articles of clothing that don’t seem logical for the occasion. Their mannerisms may seem unusual and this often makes others uncomfortable or irritated.
  • Lack of close friends — This means that they have very few, if any, lasting relationships. They may not have any interest in developing friendships or romantic relationships and are viewed by others as a “loner.”
  • Extreme social anxiety — Individuals with Schizotypal Personality Disorder avoid social situations and they don’t like to interact with other people. It makes them extremely uncomfortable, and this does not diminish with familiarity. In other words, it doesn’t get easier after they get to know someone. This is often due to paranoid fears about the true colors of others. It is not generally related to having a negative self-image but rather a negative, distrustful image of others.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder is not a form of schizophrenia. They are two completely different diagnoses, although they may have certain symptoms in common. Sometimes individuals with Schizotypal Personality Disorder later develop schizophrenia, but this is not the case with everyone.

Schizotypal is a Cluster A personality disorder. Diagnostic criteria is derived from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, fifth edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

For more information on personality disorders in general, as well as the various other types that exist, please visit Personality Disorders Archives – Navigating Life (juliebailey.net) and Get Help With Personality Disorders (psychiatry.org).

What is Schizoid Personality Disorder?

Schizoid Personality Disorder is characterized by ongoing detachment, lack of desire for relationships, and a restricted range of emotions. It can be easy to confuse this disorder with other mental health diagnoses with similar names — schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, schizophreniform disorder, or schizotypal personality disorder. All of these have certain symptoms in common, but this article will describe the characteristics of Schizoid Personality Disorder specifically.

Symptoms of Schizoid Personality Disorder

Individuals with Schizoid PD will have a persistent pattern of detachment from social relationships and will generally appear emotionless. This generally begins in adolescence or young adulthood. For someone to be diagnosed with this personality disorder, they must demonstrate at least four of the following:

  • Neither wants nor enjoys having close relationships, even with family.
  • Prefers to do things alone and almost always chooses solitary activities.
  • Little or no desire for sexual experiences.
  • Experiences very little pleasure, if any, in activities.
  • Lacks close friends, confidants, and romantic partners.
  • Seems indifferent to both praise and criticism from others.
  • Seems to be emotionally “cold” and detached; there may be a lack of facial expressions.

Interacting with an Individual with Schizoid Personality Disorder

It can be very challenging to interact with someone with this disorder because they tend to have little, if any, interest in engaging in conversations. We often view these individuals as “loners” because they prefer to keep to themselves and avoid people in general. They may not talk much, and there may be very little eye contact. They tend to prefer hobbies, careers, and games that they can do alone, and they are often especially talented in the areas of mechanical or abstract tasks, math, and computer skills.

Individuals with Schizoid Personality Disorder very rarely show any emotion. They don’t tend to get excited about anything, and they also don’t tend to get angry about anything. When something adverse happens, they don’t have emotional reactions like others might. They may be viewed as cold and uncaring because of their lack of emotion.

Their response to lavish compliments or rude insults is generally the same — flat. They don’t pick up on social cues or subtle hints. If you nod, wave, or smile at them, they may not return the gesture, and they genuinely care very little about what anyone thinks of them. Because they prefer to be alone, they usually have very few friends and often never marry.

They tend to have reduced pleasure in activities that others usually enjoy. This includes everything from walking on a beautiful beach at sunset to having sex. Because they cannot truly enjoy things, they often just opt out of doing them. We tend to misunderstand and think they are just being shy, and we may worry that they are lonely. In reality, though, they often truly prefer to be left alone. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is not pressure them to participate in social situations. If you invite them and they decline, try to understand from their perspective. They simply may not be able to enjoy the activity like you do. In fact, it might seem absolutely horrible to them.

Other Related Disorders

Having Schizoid Personality Disorder is not the same as having schizophrenia, but sometimes this personality disorder can proceed a later diagnosis of schizophrenia or delusional disorder, especially if the person begins to experience psychotic episodes. Schizoid Personality Disorder is not the same as autism either, but they may seem similar, especially in regard to difficulty with social interactions and lack of emotion. But they are different in several ways — autism generally begins in childhood and is marked by stereotyped behaviors and interests which are not present in Schizoid Personality Disorder.

Individuals with Schizoid Personality Disorder may sometimes also develop major depressive disorder, and they often have additional personality disorders (PDs) as well. The most common are a combination of Schizoid PD with Schizotypal PD, Paranoid PD, or Avoidant PD.

For more information on other personality disorders, please visit http://www.juliebailey.net or the American Psychiatric Association: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/personality-disorders

Diagnostic criteria for Schizoid Personality Disorder has been taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, fifth edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

What is Paranoid Personality Disorder?

Do you know someone who is always suspicious and distrustful of others? They might have a Paranoid Personality Disorder. Yes, that’s a real thing. Let me explain.

Paranoid Personality Disorder is a mental health diagnosis. Individuals with this disorder tend to constantly believe that others are out to get them. They do not trust anyone, and they misinterpret the motives of people who are genuinely trying to be kind to them. This generally begins in adolescence or early adulthood.

Symptoms of Paranoid Personality Disorder:

Individuals with this disorder will have at least four of the following traits:

  • They suspect that others are trying to harm them, use them, or deceive them, often without any evidence or legitimate reason. They never give anyone the benefit of the doubt. They don’t believe that there is ever an “honest mistake.”
  • They spend a lot of time obsessing about whether others are loyal to them or not, even though their doubts are unjustified. They scrutinize everything that others say or do, trying to catch them in a lie.
  • They are hesitant to open up because they fear that if they confide in someone, that person will maliciously use that information against them somehow.
  • They twist up innocent remarks, circumstances, and events and incorrectly read hidden meaning into them. They perceive things as an insult or threat when that was not the intention of the other person at all. In other words, they make mountains out of molehills, and they constantly think someone is picking a fight with them or doing something underhanded. They take things the wrong way.
  • They are often quick to anger and may blow up easily when they perceive that someone has insulted them, cheated them, or harmed them in some way. They may talk a lot about revenge or getting even with someone. And sometimes, they may act on it.
  • They hold grudges for a very long time and are very unforgiving. If you ever slip up, they may hold this against you forever, regardless of how many times you apologize or prove yourself. They may say something like, “I love you, but I just can’t trust you.”
  • With their spouses or partners, they will frequently suspicion that you have been unfaithful to them, even though you have given them absolutely no reason to believe this. They may demand to know your whereabouts at all times and who you were with. They may ask you to account for every moment of your time, and they may go through your phone and other personal items frequently to check for any clue that you might be cheating or lying to them. They may be pathologically jealous and become unhinged if someone else talks to you, looks at you, or shows interest in you, regardless of how you responded.

Interacting with an Individual with PPD

Individuals with Paranoid Personality Disorder are very controlling in general, and because they are difficult to get along with, they struggle with close relationships. They will often have a string of ex’s and broken friendships. They might also have a long list of previous employers because they may struggle to get along with supervisors and co-workers, or they may have the notion that the company they work for is corrupt and out to get them.

Their interactions with others are often negative and turbulent, and they make frequent accusations without having any real evidence to back them up. For this reason, many people get fed up and break off their relationships with them. Ironically, when this happens, they will often process this as proof that confirms that those people couldn’t be trusted.

In general, the tone of an individual with PPD will be sarcastic, stubborn, and hostile. They adamantly believe that they are right (about pretty much everything), and they refuse to entertain evidence to the contrary. They blame their shortcomings on others — in fact, everything always seems to be someone else’s fault.

In extreme cases, their hostility and suspicious nature may lead to involvement in cults that share their paranoid belief systems. They may be viewed as fanatics, and seem to always be looking for a fight with people groups that they negatively stereotype and hate with a passion. In less extreme cases, their hostile mindset may lead to a pattern of rocky relationships, repetitive scrapes with the law, arguments with neighbors or co-workers, or a tendency to always want to sue someone.

Because of the nature of this thought disorder, it may be next to impossible to convince someone that they have a Paranoid Personality Disorder. However, mental health help is available if they are willing to participate. If you are in a relationship with someone who has PPD, you might need help and support as well.

For other basic information pertaining to all personality disorders and how they are diagnosed, please read the introductory article to this series:

For additional information about Paranoid Personality Disorder, which is diagnosed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association, please visit:

What is a Personality Disorder?

Approximately 15% of U.S. adults have at least one personality disorder. But what does that mean? What is a personality disorder exactly?

A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving in ways that are quite different than what is expected in a person’s culture. Because it’s an “enduring pattern,” it doesn’t just quickly come and go. You don’t suddenly have a personality disorder because you had a bad mood one day. Disorders like these generally begin during adolescence or young adulthood, and they remain very consistent over time. They are ongoing personality traits.

However, just thinking or acting differently than others isn’t enough to be diagnosed as a personality disorder. The individual must also experience some sort of distress or impairment — in other words, it must cause problems in the individual’s life. It could be that the personality disorder causes the person to feel badly, or it might cause problems for them in relationships or at school or work. They might have legal or financial issues.

Additionally, it is not considered a personality disorder if the symptoms can be attributed to another mental disorder such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, or any other mental heath diagnosis. And it is not considered a personality disorder if the symptoms are due to a medical condition, use of a drug, or an injury, such as a head trauma. However, it is possible to have both a personality disorder and a mental health disorder or medical condition at the same time. And it is also possible to have more than one personality disorder.

There are several types of personality disorders, and I will be writing a series of articles explaining each one in greater detail. Below is a general overview of the different categories (“clusters”) and the specific personality disorders listed in each.

Cluster A includes:

  • Paranoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder, and
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Individuals with Cluster A personality disorders may seem odd or eccentric.

Cluster B includes:

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder, and
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Individuals with Cluster B personality disorders often seem overly dramatic, emotional, or erratic.

Cluster C includes:

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Dependent Personality Disorder, and
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

Individuals with Cluster C personality disorders often seem anxious or fearful.

All of the above are diagnosable conditions in the DSM-V — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association. Each disorder has a specific set of diagnostic criteria. In my upcoming posts, I will explain what the symptoms are for each disorder and how they can affect the way a person thinks and acts.

What is a personality disorder? Image of misty lake and mountain scenery.
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Grief — The Other Pandemic

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COVID19 is not the only pandemic we are currently experiencing. There is also a pandemic of grief, and it is not only because we are grieving the deaths of those we love, but also because we are grieving all the other losses we’ve experienced as well. Additionally, COVID has greatly complicated our grief processes.

Understanding Grief

When we think of grief, we think about mourning the deaths of people we love. During our grief process, we are faced with accepting the reality of losing that person, which can be especially challenging if their death was sudden or unexpected. We’re also flooded with a variety of emotions that can be very intense and confusing. You might feel a strange combination of sadness, anger, or even fear. Grief is experienced differently by different people, but working through that thunderstorm of emotions is necessary for all of us.

Sometimes we try to avoid dealing with our emotions when we lose someone. We might just bottle up our feelings and try to ignore them. We might believe that we need to keep it together so we can be strong for everyone else. We might be uncomfortable crying or showing emotion in front of others. Or we might be in a crisis situation where it would be unsafe to be emotional — like a soldier in a combat zone or a nurse or doctor who needs to be able to keep treating other patients. Regardless of the reason, when we avoid dealing with our grief, it is called inhibited grief.

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The problem with this is that grief eventually demands that we deal with it, even if it is years later. Inhibiting our grief is a temporary fix. Just because we bottle it up and ignore it does not mean that it goes away. Unresolved grief lives within us and will eventually come pouring out. This can be confusing and might make you wonder why you are suddenly so emotional about something that happened a long time ago. When this happens, it is called delayed grief.

There are times when we are not able to work through our grief and all the assorted emotions and adjustments that it requires. It feels like we get “stuck” in our grief, like we can’t seem to get past it and move forward. Some people feel too emotionally overwhelmed to go to work or school. Some struggle with their marriages and other relationships. Some try to cope in really dangerous and unhealthy ways. And others may even think about ending their own lives. This is called complicated grief.

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It’s important to also understand that grief is not just about death. We can go through a grieving process anytime we experience a significant loss. We grieve divorces and break-ups, the loss of a job or a home we loved, loss of our driving privileges, or leaving behind our hometown when we move away. It’s natural for us to grieve when we lose things that are dear or important to us.

Current Events and the Pandemic of Grief

COVID19 not only created grief but also complicated it. It’s difficult enough to wrap our minds around the number of lives lost, but let’s also consider that, for each person who died, there is usually at least one person left behind to grieve. Some who died left behind dozens of mourners. If we were to do the math on this, we would clearly see that there is a staggering number of grieving people in our world right now.

But grief isn’t just limited to lives lost to COVID. Everyday, people die of heart attacks, cancer, and strokes, as well as in car crashes, freak accidents, overdoses, and suicides; and their loved ones mourn for them as well. But this isn’t all. As a global community, we are also dealing with terrorism, war, gang violence, racism and mass shootings. A condominium collapses, leaving a community to mourn multiple losses. Shots are fired in a high school, leaving a community in shock and grappling with traumatic grief. Tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, and wildfires are claiming both lives and homes and leaving behind destruction … and grief.

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During the COVID19 pandemic, many people lost their jobs, their homes, and their financial stability. They lost family businesses that had been in operation for generations. They lost opportunities for major celebrations like weddings and graduations. And they lost opportunities to be present with their loved ones and say their goodbyes as they died in hospitals and nursing homes, separated from their families. COVID restrictions also limited their ability to have public funerals where they would have received the social and emotional support they needed — all of this greatly complicated their grief.

How This Contributed to Our Conflict and Division

Everyone lost something during the COVID19 pandemic, even if it were just the freedom to go where we wanted to go and do what we wanted to do. We all had to do things differently — teachers had to learn how to teach virtually, some of us had to adjust to working from home (with spouses and kids and critters), and we all had to wear masks whether we agreed with the rule or not. Everything was suddenly different, which was stressful and confusing for us all. People panicked and hoarded toilet paper. Kids and teens couldn’t see their friends in person. Workplaces had to swiftly adapt. Borders were closed between countries. Non-essential businesses were closed. Vacations ceased. And no one knew what was going to happen next.

This swirling environment of change, fear, and stress, combined with the heartbreak of multiple losses, overwhelmed our ability to work through our grief. It is my professional opinion that our society, as a whole, is struggling with complicated grief. We had not worked through the grief of one loss before another occurred — and another and another.

When we couldn’t be there, exhausted medical professionals stood beside the bedsides of our loved ones as they died. They saw so much death, and as humans, they feelings about it. But they had to keep going — they couldn’t stop and deal with emotions. They have inhibited a vast amount of grief for the patients they lost.

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Because we all lost something, the emotions of grief came upon us all — denial, fear, anger, bargaining, depression. Some were able to work through their grief and come to a place of acceptance. Others were not. These turned on each other, unleashing a flood of anger that has resulted in hostility and division. When we are emotionally overwhelmed, we have very little patience or tolerance. And when we are exhausted, we are easily irritated. When we bottle up our feelings, they often morph into anger. And anger is always searching for a target.

All the events going on in our world left many of us feeling uncertain and fearful. We looked to leaders we trusted for guidance and, when it came, we latched onto it for dear life. Being already emotionally overwhelmed, we began to lose patience with those who disagreed with us, and they quickly became the target for our anger.

How to Turn This Around

It’s time that we stop the madness. We have to grieve, but we don’t have to hate each other — and people who disagree do not have to be enemies. It is a perilous thing indeed, when we choose hatred. Voice your concerns, but do it with love and compassion. Debate your differences of opinion, but do it with respect.

  1. We all need to work through our grief. This will mean accepting the reality of what we lost, processing the pain of that loss, adjusting to a world without that person or thing, and finding a way to move on. If you get stuck in your grief, ask for help.
  2. Help others with their grief. They may need someone to listen or a shoulder to cry on. Provide that support. The sooner we can begin to heal as individuals, the sooner our society will begin to heal as well.
  3. When you begin to feel frustrated with others, remind yourself that you might not know what it’s like to walk in their shoes. You might have no idea about their struggles or losses. Maybe they act the way they do because they need to heal. At least offer them the benefit of the doubt.

How to Be a Safe Space for Someone

Have you noticed that people are brimming over with anger lately? One of the reasons for this is because we’ve bottled up too much emotion. Instead of dealing with our emotions, we’ve developed a tendency to just stuff them away. We bite our tongues, choke back tears, stifle sobs, and try to suppress every outward show of emotion because we want to be “strong.”

The problem is that all those pent up emotions just keep accumulating. And we can only bottle things up until our bottles get full. And then one day, without much provocation, our bottle overflows — often in the form of an angry outburst.

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But let’s back up — why are we holding everything in? Is it because we think we’ll seem weak if we cry or admit that we’re struggling? Is it because we are afraid people will think we’re dramatic? Is it because we don’t know who we can trust? Is it because we think we should just be able to handle it? Are we afraid we’ll be judged? Yes. It’s all of these.

So let’s become part of the solution. Let’s revisit the lost art of human connection, deep conversations, and bonding. Everyone needs a safe space to share what’s on their hearts and, unfortunately, this isn’t easy to find. Here are 7 ways you can help heal our society, one hurting heart at a time, simply by becoming a safe space for others.

#1) Connect with People — Start by just noticing people. Strike up conversations at work, at home, on the bus, in a hospital waiting room, wherever you encounter other people. Don’t be creepy about it — just make some good old-fashioned small talk. Ask the cashier if they’ve had a busy day. Ask the waitress what she recommends on the menu. Roll your window down and tell your neighbor their new landscaping looks really nice! Pop in your co-worker’s office just to say hi. Smile and tell someone it’s fine if they want the seat next to you. And it’s ok to talk about the weather. Amid a downpour, I love to jokingly ask others if they think it will rain. AVOID striking up random conversations about politics or controversial issues — it’s better to start with neutral topics. Smile a lot and throw in some humor when possible. Try not to come across fake or creepy. Just be genuine and pleasant. And it’s ok to keep it brief — pressuring someone to talk too long can be awkward and they will avoid you in the future. But the more brief encounters you have, the more comfortable the person will become with you.

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#2) Ask People How They are Doing — While this seems overdone and cliqued, it’s very effective. The trick is to ask the question like you mean it. Ask with sincerity, focus on the person, and wait for their answer. Some people will immediately begin to open up and talk, while others are more guarded and might avoid eye contact. It’s ok to nudge, but don’t push too hard. If they tell you anything personal, build on that next time you see them: “Hey, how’s your daughter doing now?” “Are you feeling any better? You had a bad cold last time I saw you.” “Has this been a better work week for you?”

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#3) Let Others Know You Care — Circling back around to previous conversations (as I described above) helps people know that you care. So does simple kindness. Let your facial expressions and body language convey unconditional positive regard. (In other words, let people know you still care about them, even when they’re not at their best or even if they’ve made a huge mistake.) Don’t act like taking time to talk is inconveniencing you. Give them your undivided attention when possible. And if someone seems to be struggling, tell them that you’re willing to listen if they ever need to talk. One day, I apologized to my boss for venting and she replied, “It’s ok. I’m a safe space for you.” That really resonated with me. In that simple statement, she let me know that it was ok to have feelings, that there was no judgment, and that I could trust her to be confidential. Which leads me to my next point….

#4) Keep it Confidential — Don’t betray people by repeating things they say to you. People are hesitant to open up in the first place, often because someone they trusted in the past was a blabbermouth. If you want to be part of the solution, be trustworthy. If you tell someone you won’t repeat what they say, don’t. Even if they didn’t specifically tell you not to repeat it, use some common sense and discretion. Don’t gossip, don’t tattle, and don’t throw anyone under the bus.

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#5) Don’t Give Advice — It’s generally best not to tell other people what to do. Even if they come to you trying to figure out what to do about a certain situation, it’s better for you to just let them talk through their options until they arrive at their own decision. People don’t generally go looking for someone to tell them what to do — we go looking for someone who will just let us talk through the pros and cons, the questions, the scenarios, the feelings. If they do persist in asking, “What do you think I should do?” respond with: “What are you hoping I will say?” Their answer to that question might guide them to their conclusion about their situation.

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#6) Be a Good Listener — Sadly, good listeners are hard to find. Being an active listener isn’t difficult, but it does take conscious effort. We are so easily distracted and we’re usually busy multi-tasking. Active listening just simply entails giving someone your full attention, making eye contact, focusing on what they’re saying and trying to understand. Nod your head, lean toward the person, don’t cross your arms, and try not to let your attention stray. Give them your full attention and focus. Don’t interrupt — let them say what they need to say. Remember, sometimes we all just need to vent and get things off our chests.

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#7) Show Compassion Instead of Judgment — Humans all around you are bottling up their emotions because they don’t know who it’s safe to talk to. We’re all afraid of being judged, and this is a justifiable concern since there is so much judgment in our society. In whatever way comes natural for you, let the other person know that you are not going to judge them. Let them see compassion in your eyes and hear it in your tone of voice.

Our world needs to heal. We have a lot to process and we can only do it in safe spaces. A few moments spent being a safe space for someone could prevent an angry blowup at a family dinner table, salvage someone’s career, or even save a life. Thank you for learning to be a safe space for others.

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How to Prevent Your Emotions From Ruining Your Career

There are two ways that your emotions can derail your career track. One way is to let your emotions run amuck in your work life — the other way is to try to suppress them all. Emotions are a natural part of the human existence, even when we are at work. But many a career has been shipwrecked by unbridled emotions. How can you prevent this from happening to you? Below are 12 tips.

#1) Learn Appropriate Ways to Express What You Feel — In all areas of your life, even when you’re at work, you are a human being and you will have emotional reactions to certain things from time to time. This is normal. You may have received misguided advice in the past that there is no place for emotions in your work life. But we don’t have the ability to simply flip a switch and turn our emotions off. What we can do is learn how to better process and express them. Research has shown that we are more innovative and productive when we work in an environment where it is safe to express our fears, concerns, and other emotions. However, this does not mean that we should allow powerful emotions to go unchecked in the workplace. How we express what we feel within a work place setting is key — communication should always be respectful, even when we’re frustrated.

#2) Realize That You Can Sometimes Choose Your Emotions — Many people think that they have no control over what they feel. But this isn’t always true. The emotions we feel are generated by our thoughts first. How we choose to look at something determines how we feel about it. When we are able to shrug something off and let it go, we are also able to avoid a strong emotional reaction. In other words, we don’t have to have feelings about everything. We can pick our battles. We can choose not to take offense at certain things by 1) assuming positive intent on the other person’s part, 2) by offering a bit of grace (maybe by understanding where they’re coming from), or 3) by chalking it up to the basic nature of the other person (perhaps they’re always a bit too blunt?). But don’t just pretend to let it go while inwardly seething — either truly let it go or, if that’s not possible, address it respectfully once you’ve calmed down enough to communicate professionally.

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#3) Be Self-Aware — Be mindful that your own mood, stress level, personal circumstances, and health affect your emotional reactions to things. When you don’t feel well physically or are stressed to the max, it is more likely that you may easily become emotionally overwhelmed. If you’ve not had enough sleep or you haven’t taken time to eat, you will find that it is more difficult to keep your emotions in check (you might be “hangry”). If you want to perform well at work, it’s vitally important that you take care of yourself so that you will be at your best. None of us want the last-straw meltdown to occur at work.

#4) Maintain a Healthy Work/Life Balance — We’ve all been told not to drag our personal problems into our work, and likewise, not to bring our work home with us. It is ideal to try to maintain a distinction between your personal life and your professional life. But in all reality, there will be times when this line will be blurred. Just do the best you can with it. Create some healthy boundaries for yourself. And understand that you have a limited amount of mental and emotional energy each day. If you spend all your emotional energy being upset about work-related situations, you may not have any emotional energy left for your family when you get home.

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#5) Remember QTIP: Quit Taking it Personal — In any social setting, including a workplace environment, there will be differences of opinion. There will be times when someone disagrees with you. There will be times when someone shirks their duties and tasks get dumped on you. There will be times when a policy changes and you don’t like it. Perhaps someone points out that you made an error. Or maybe someone offered you some constructive criticism. How you react emotionally to all of these things depends on whether or not you took it as a personal attack. Give pause long enough to consider that perhaps that wasn’t the case at all. And if a colleague seems to be in a foul mood, don’t automatically assume they are upset with you.

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#6) Limit the Amount of Time You Hold Onto Negative Emotions — In addition to sometimes being able to choose whether or not you get upset about something, you can also choose how long you stay upset. Think back to a time when you were perturbed about a work-related issue — how much time did you spend thinking about it, venting about it, ruminating on it, rehashing it in your mind? This probably affected your productivity, creativity, and ability to get things accomplished. In other words, it became a roadblock for you. If this happens often, it will hinder your ability to advance in your career. When you become upset, do what you can to resolve it as quickly as possible so that you can move past it. Intentionally get your mind on something else. Don’t nurse hurt feelings or grudges — nothing good will come from this.

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#7) Give Yourself a Safe Space for Emotional Release — Again, it’s not feasible to try to suck up all your feelings. Bottling everything up can lead to an accumulation of suppressed anger and frustration that could result in a blow-up that you might regret. You need a safe space and a healthy way to work through what you feel. Take a break, take a walk, pause for lunch, call a friend, take some deep breaths. Let the tears fall, if necessary. Perhaps talking with your supervisor or a trusted colleague would help — just be mindful of the difference in sharing and over-sharing. Do whatever helps you to sort yourself out and get your head back in the game. If you’re not comfortable with processing your emotions during work hours, that’s fine — just make sure that you give yourself a space to do so later on.

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#8) Don’t Make Hasty Retorts — One of the deadliest career killers is a quick temper. When angry, we often say and do things that we regret later. The key is to take a few seconds to carefully choose your words. Pause. Take a breath. Think about what you need to communicate. What is the goal here? If you want to make things worse, go ahead and unleash that string of expletives and accusations that are on the tip of your tongue. But if you want to make things better, choose your words more carefully. Communicate with respect and assertiveness (not aggression). Tackle issues, not people. And if you’re responding via email, always re-read what you wrote before you send it. Read it from the perspective of the recipient — is this really what you want to convey?

#9) Don’t Make Emotional Decisions — Powerful emotions sometimes cloud our ability to make good logical decisions. Don’t allow your anger or frustration to lead you to make hasty decisions that you might later regret. Instead, give yourself time to calm down first. Once you’ve de-escalated, if you still want to resign or back out of something, you still can.

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#10) Don’t Catch Other People’s Bad Attitudes — People emit either positive or negative energy. Catching someone else’s positive energy can be a great thing — for example, we’ve all gotten excited about something because someone else’s enthusiasm was simply irresistible. But we’ve also all fallen prey to that negative energy that can suck the soul right out of a room when it walks through the door. You will need to make a conscious effort to guard your own energy. Just because someone else is in a crabby mood doesn’t mean that you have to join them in their misery. Negative moods and rudeness can be as contagious as COVID — stop the spread!

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#11) Learn to Move On — When a problem gets resolved, let it be. Bury the hatchet and move on. Don’t keep bringing it up over and over in the future. This will profit you nothing and will keep you stuck in a vicious cycle of unresolved negativity, grudges, distrust, drama, and suspicion. Don’t get bogged down in what’s behind you. If you’re able to resolve it, do so, bury it, and keep your focus on what’s ahead instead of what’s in the past.

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#12) Master the Art of Having Difficult Conversations — Learn to resolve conflict instead of avoiding it. Don’t go around intentionally creating problems, but when one arises that must be dealt with, don’t be afraid to tackle it. Do so with an honest, respectful approach, with the goal being resolution. For additional tips on how to have difficult conversations, follow this link: How To Approach Difficult Conversations – Navigating Life (juliebailey.net)

If you want to succeed or perhaps advance in your career, it’s in your best interest to learn the art of managing your emotions in the workplace. Be emotionally sensitive but also emotionally controlled. This doesn’t mean that you should function like a robot void of any feelings. Not at all! It just means that you have developed the ability to discern what is appropriate to express. And when you do so, it is always in an appropriate, respectful manner. Become the kind of leader who can demonstrate stability, consistency, and calmness, even when under pressure. Develop the art of keeping your cool in stressful situations as much as possible, while also granting yourself the safe space you need to process your feelings. Accept and embrace your emotions, but don’t let them run amuck and destroy your career. Instead, harness your emotional intelligence and utilize it to be sensitive to others and to promote personal and professional growth for yourself and your colleagues.

Mental Fatigue and What You Can Do About It

Do you ever struggle with “brain fog?” Are you re-reading that same paragraph over and over because you’re having difficulty focusing? If you feel like you just can’t think through something, make a decision, or figure out what to do, you might be experiencing mental fatigue.

Mental fatigue happens when your mind becomes tired. Just like the rest of your physical body, your brain needs energy and sometimes that energy has been depleted. When this happens, you will find it difficult to concentrate or to solve problems that would normally not be challenging for you. You might also find that you feel more stressed and irritable because you feel pressured to complete tasks that your mind simply does not have the energy to handle at the moment.

Mental fatigue can negatively affect your efficiency and productivity. As a further result, it can also negatively impact your emotional and mental health and can lead to burnout. You use your brain for so many tasks every day — it is no wonder that it gets tired. The bad news is that your brainpower is exhaustible; but the good news is that it is also completely renewable.

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There are several factors that can contribute to mental fatigue. Some are biological — perhaps you didn’t get enough good quality sleep or maybe you are experiencing hormonal fluctuations. Perhaps you haven’t eaten. Or perhaps you’re a tad dehydrated. All of these play a role in how much mental energy you have available. Try not to get sucked into the vortex of the societal mindset that you must always push yourself beyond reasonable limits. Instead, embrace the healthier holistic mindset that self-care is essential rather than optional. Not practicing good self-care will lead to mental fatigue. Take care of yourself and don’t ever feel guilty about it.

Another factor that greatly contributes to mental fatigue is cognitive overload — meaning, you’re simply trying to think about too many things at once. You might be great at multi-tasking and mental juggling, but at some point, you might get tired. You might find that having your attention divided between so many things causes you to feel overwhelmed. It may make it more challenging to think through things, make decisions, process information, and keep up with all the tasks at hand. Additionally, worrying about all your unfinished tasks also requires mental energy and will cause your available brainpower to deplete even more quickly.

So what can you do? To tackle the biological factors, just simply take good care of yourself as stated above. Make sleeping well a priority. Eat healthy and have some snacks throughout the day, but try to avoid refined sugar which will lead to an energy crash. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. If you’re interested, do an online search to learn about “ultradian rhythms” — your body’s natural cycles which include periods where your performance is at its peak, followed by a short period of rest. It creates a cool wave pattern. You would benefit from learning to pay attention to your waves and rhythms and work with them instead of against them. Do these things so that your brain can be at its physical best.

To tackle the cognitive overload factors, you’ll benefit from getting organized, using time management skills, and prioritizing tasks by simply realizing that sometimes it just isn’t possible to get everything done. What are the most urgent things? Prioritize these. What tasks are important but not urgent? What could be delegated? And what could just be deleted? Look up the Eisenhower Matrix — it’s a really cool guide developed by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower that helps you take a quick glance at your to-do list and make decisions about which items will get your time and attention (since you have a limited quantity of both). There are even apps such as EisenTask that you might find really helpful. Begin to look at each task on your list and either do it, schedule it, delegate it, or delete it.

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Additionally, stop saying “I can’t catch a break,” and just take one. If spending 10 minutes away from all your demands helps you to be more productive and efficient when you return to them, you will not be losing ground. Walk away from everything long enough for a short walk or a power nap and occasionally, for a much-needed day off or vacation. Work some short spurts of exercise into your day — remember when you were a kid and you looked forward to recess? Give yourself an adult recess time.

Compare yourself to a smartphone — if it isn’t working well, you check to see if it has enough battery life. If not, it needs to be recharged. (The same goes for you.) If it has enough charge but is still not working properly, check to see if there are too many apps running at once and slowing it down. If so, close some. (The same goes for you.) Stop trying to live life on low battery — take time to rejuvenate and be refreshed. And stop trying to do too many things at once — prioritize, do the things that are the most important to you, and be ok with letting a few less important things go.

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Peel Off Your Labels

“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Wouldn’t that be nice if that were true? Unfortunately, words can cut deep and sometimes they don’t heal quickly. You can probably still remember something hurtful that someone said to you or about you many years ago.

You are probably also painfully aware of the labels that have been placed on you. Granted, labels can be positive or negative, but the negative ones are so destructive that I believe it would be better if we just did away with the whole concept of labeling people altogether. We’re not all the same — but we’re all human beings. And we’re all complex. None of us fit neatly into tidy little labels and categories. And yet we hand out labels left and right — ugly, stupid, hopeless, unstable, needy, attention-seeking, loser, idiot, drughead, whore, pompous jerk, narcissist, abomination, felon…. the list goes on and on.

Not only are these labels hurtful, but worse yet, the people we label often believe what we say about them. They may internalize these things. They may begin to look at themselves through the lens of their labels. They may believe they’re stupid. They may believe they’re ugly. They may believe that no one will ever love them because of “how they are.” They may worry that they’ll never amount to anything, that they will never be successful or happy. And they may begin to live out their labels — beautiful people hang their heads in shame and withdraw from social situations because they believe they are ugly. Brilliant people don’t contribute their ideas to a group because they believe they’re stupid. We are disabling our own society by tearing each other down instead of building each other up. We’ve got to turn this around. Where do we start?

First, begin by peeling off the labels that have been placed on you. Just because someone sticks a label on you doesn’t mean you have to keep wearing it around. Peel it off and throw it in the trash! No one else can define who or what you are. You don’t have to believe everything that others say about you.

Make a pact with yourself not to accept judgment from someone you wouldn’t accept advice from. I know this is easier said than done and when someone says something mean, it’s going to hurt your feelings. But you don’t have to get stuck in those feelings — feel them and then let them go. Don’t hold onto them. Don’t give them the chance to destroy you. Peel off the label.

If there are things about yourself that you would like to change, go for it! If there are old labels that you fear might have been accurate, peel them off and start doing things differently. People can change — you can change. Become who you want to be. And in the process of becoming your best self, commit to not labeling others either.

Tips for Managing Stress

This article is written to provide you with tips for managing your stress in healthy ways. Lots of other articles begin by defining stress, but I think it’s a safe bet to assume that you already know what stress is — otherwise, why would you be reading this article?

Instead, let’s start by taking a look at how you’re feeling in regard to your stress. Are you irritable or easily annoyed? Constantly tired — either physically, mentally, or both? Are you having difficulty sleeping well? Do you feel overwhelmed? Are your muscles tense or sore? Are you struggling with headaches, upset stomach, or difficulty focusing? Are you depressed or anxious or unable to relax? Are you snappy with others? Do you feel burned out? Are you experiencing hair loss, acne, or high blood pressure? These are just a handful of examples of how stress can negatively affect us.

So, what can we do about our stress?

Figure Out What Causes Your Stress — There are multitudes of things that can cause us to feel stressed. And these things can be different for different individuals. One of my big stressors is conflict. Another is performance pressure — because I often set standards for myself that are a bit too high. I feel stressed when I feel like I have more to do than I have the time or energy to get done. What makes you feel stressed? Are you comparing yourself to others? Worrying about money? Are you anxious about meeting the endless expectations of others? Is your stress related to pressure to succeed? Are you having trouble keeping up with everything? Try to think specifically about what ramps up your stress level. Look for patterns. Try to fill in this blank: “I hit my highest level of stress when _____________.”

Take Control of Your Stressors — There are many things in life that we are not able to control. However, there are many things that we can change in some way once we’ve realized that they are major sources of stress. For example, if the constant dinging of your notifications on your computer or mobile device cause you to feel overwhelmed, silence them — you will give attention to each of them when you are able. If you are stressed because you waited until the last minute to finish an important assignment, promise yourself that you won’t procrastinate next time — it’s like doing yourself a huge favor! 🙂 If you are stressed by the relentless, fast-paced demands of your life, let a few things go. Give yourself permission to take a break — even a 5 minute break can help you feel re-centered. If there is a person in your life who is the source of a great deal of stress for you, consider approaching the relationship differently, perhaps by not worrying so much about what they think. You might also consider distancing yourself from toxic interactions as much as possible. Whatever or whoever your stressors may be, consider ways to make changes that are within your control. After all, wouldn’t it be better to let something go and be able to relax than to try to do everything but continue to be a frenzied ball of nerves? Reduce and eliminate your stressors when possible. When that’s not possible, do what is within your control to make them manageable.

Other Tips for Managing Your Stress Level — An important trick for managing your stress is to keep your baseline stress level as low as possible. When you are able to do that, you won’t constantly feel like you’re right on the verge of snapping at any moment. The following are some super helpful ways to keep your stress baseline at a lower level:

  • Keep a healthy work/life balance. Life can’t be all about work. And your work can’t be all about your personal life. Separate the two. Try not to drag your personal life into your work and try not to drag your work home with you. Overworking can leave you depleted of both time and energy and add to your stress level.
  • Self-care is a must. If you have a lot of stress to handle, then you need to be at your best in order to handle it as well as possible. This means giving yourself permission to take time for yourself — to relax, to unwind, to go to the doctor, to get a massage, to eat and sleep and laugh. Take care of yourself with the same love and compassion that you would take care of others you love. And don’t feel guilty about it!
  • Find an outlet for your negative energy. You need a way to get frustrations and emotions out instead of keeping them bottled up. This might mean talking or venting or crying. Let the tears out — your stress will flow out with them! Or your preferred outlet might be physical exercise or a creative hobby. Make time for these things. Don’t relegate them to your “spare time” because we all know there is no such thing. Prioritize them as necessary parts of your life for survival.
  • Deep Breathing. Don’t be a skeptic until you’ve tried it — it really does help. Take some slow, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. (Like smelling the roses and then blowing out the birthday candles.) This instantaneously lowers your blood pressure, slows your heart rate, and helps you feel calmer and more relaxed and self-controlled. It’s almost like a magical reset button. And it’s free! Use it! 🙂
  • Relax your muscles. When you’re stressed, you are holding tension throughout your body. Take a quick second to think about your body from head to toe — a “body scan” — to determine where you’re holding your tension. If your fists are clenched, open them and rest them palm up. Are your jaws locked? Are your neck or shoulders tightened up? Let your muscles relax so that stress can subside.

If you’re struggling with stress, you’re not alone. Avoid the temptation to try to cope in unhealthy ways since this will only create more problems for you in the long run. Use the tips above to cope in healthy ways, and don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help if you feel that you’re unable to cope on your own.

Make Time for Your Wellness

We do a much better job talking about self-care than actually doing it. If asked, we would say that we understand that taking care of ourselves is important. But unfortunately, this isn’t something we always prioritize in the way we actually live out our daily lives.

Our chaotic schedules keep us so busy that sometimes we don’t leave any time for ourselves. Often, we put the needs of others before our own for so long that our own mental and physical health begin to suffer.

Devoting our lives to meeting the needs of others is a noble and compassionate venture. But this doesn’t mean it’s OK to neglect our own needs in the process. Truly, if we don’t take reasonable care of ourselves, we will not be able to continue to take care of anyone else.

Take time — MAKE time — to take care of yourself the way you encourage others to do in their lives. And stop feeling guilty about time you spend resting, relaxing, or unwinding.

If you want your car to continue running as it should, you do the maintenance on it. You change the oil, rotate the tires, and stop for gas. If you drove it hard and didn’t take care of it, it would eventually break down and leave you stranded on the side of the road. The same is true with your body and spirit.

If you want to keep on keeping on, then do the maintenance — get some sleep, take care of your health, and give yourself a much-needed break. Do this and you’ll be able to continue making a positive difference in this world.

Are You a Person Who Can Accept “No?”

We talk a lot about learning to say “no” and being able to set healthy boundaries for ourselves. But are you able to accept “no” from others?

It’s true that learning to say “no” is an important part of guarding your mental health so that you don’t become overwhelmed. Saying “yes” to too many commitments is a quick way to skyrocket your stress level and deplete your energy. However, if we accept that this is important for us, then we must also understand that this is also important for others.

There is a competing philosophy that empowers us to never accept no as an answer, to never give up, and to keep trying until we achieve our goals and get what we want. This philosophy is great in many circumstances. It can inspire us to keep practicing our skills or reaching for our dreams. However, it’s crucial that we are careful not to apply this philosophy to people — people who also have the right to say “no.”

Think of someone you would be able to say “no” to. There are two types of people who might fall into this category: 1) people who are understanding, gracious, and able to accept your answer without responding with anger or a guilt trip, or 2) people whose opinions mean very little to you.

Now think of someone you would struggle to say “no” to. What makes it different? It’s likely that this is either 1) a person whose opinion means very much to you — someone you don’t want to disappoint. OR 2) someone who will not accept no for an answer. This might be someone who makes you feel horrible if you don’t do everything they want. Perhaps you’re afraid that they will hold it against you or do petty things to get back at you. Maybe this is a person who makes you feel that you must always walk on eggshells — and saying “no” would crack those eggshells.

Now let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s say that you ask someone to do something for you or to be a part of a project you’re working on. Are you the kind of person that it’s safe to say “no” to? Do others know that you will understand if they are too stressed or tired or busy to say “yes?” Or would you respond with guilt or pressure or irritation? Which type of person do you want to be?

By all means, learn to set boundaries for yourself and be able to say “no” when necessary. But also remember that others need to do the same.

Prioritizing Peace in Your Life

On a scale of 1 to 10, how high is your stress level lately? If your answer is 6 or over, you may be struggling with worry, anxiety, burnout, or exhaustion, all of which commonly occur when our stress levels remain high for a significant period of time. You may find that sleep is a challenge and that your relationships are strained as well. In general, it may feel like life is just simply overwhelming.

If you want to feel better and be able to manage your stress as well as possible, begin to prioritize peace in your life. The hectic, non-stop pace of our lives leaves very little opportunity for peace. But without peace, we are unable to manage stress long-term.

It may be hard to imagine how you could possibly add one more thing to your busy schedule. But prioritizing peace in your life does not have to be extremely time-consuming. Below are some quick and easy ways to cultivate peace and reduce stress.

Avoid Perfectionism — Always do your best, but learn to accept that your best may not always be perfect. And that is ok. No one can be perfect at everything 100% of the time. Don’t be overly critical of yourself. Avoid the pitfall of thinking that you are either perfect or a complete failure. You wouldn’t judge others like that, so don’t do that to yourself. By giving yourself a break, you’re also giving yourself an opportunity for peace.

Avoid Procrastination — You’re super busy. I get it. But don’t put things off until the last minute if at all possible. We create an enormous amount of stress for ourselves when we procrastinate and then have to approach our deadlines in a frantic frenzy. If you’ve ever done this, you know there is no peace in this. Do yourself a favor — plan ahead, use your time wisely, and then you can trade the panic for some peace.

Take a Moment — When you feel your stress level rising and your emotions swelling, just pause. Give yourself a moment to think and to breathe. Ask yourself how you would like to respond to the situation. Use words you won’t regret. Give yourself permission to excuse yourself for a breather. Get some fresh air, take a few deep breaths, say a prayer, take a drive, take a nap, take a break, have a snack — whatever works for you and helps you maintain your composure.

Change your media — Watch a comedy instead of a violent movie. Listen to an uplifting song instead of a dark one. Watch the news, but don’t overwatch it. Avoid engaging in unnecessary social media arguments — instead, look for social media groups that uplift and inspire you. Be aware of what your spirit is being fed by the books you read, the music you listen to, and the series you watch. Find media that uplifts, inspires, soothes your soul, and brings you peace. But also unplug and give yourself some quiet time occasionally as well.

Sync Yourself with Nature — Nature can soothe our souls and rejuvenate our minds, but it’s easy to be disconnected from nature if we live and work indoors. A trip to the beach or the mountains or the rainforest might be just what you need from time to time. But on a normal day, it can help to just take a few seconds to enjoy some fresh air, the birds in our yard, or the smell of coming rain. Notice the beauty of the sunrise or sunset, pay attention to the trees as new leaves develop in the spring, plant some flowers and watch as they grow and blossom. In these simple things, there is abundant peace and joy.

As you begin to enjoy the benefits of peace, you may want to explore additional healthy lifestyle activities such as yoga, meditation, or massage therapy. Injecting some peace in your life where possible will help you manage your stress, guard your mental health, and feel calmer and more self-controlled.

Photo credit: Donald O. Smith, Illinois Photography

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