On tackling pandemic social anxiety.

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Photo by Kawin Harasai on Unsplash

A friend recently asked me for some tips to help with her anxiety. She shared she was having a hard time preparing herself to go the store or to see friends in small gatherings. “It’s like I’ve forgotten how to act. I’m worried I’m going to do or say something stupid or awkward.”

My friend isn’t the first one to mention this fear. Clients and other loved ones have (sometimes jokingly, sometimes seriously) mentioned their concern about having developed a social ineptitude. …

Mind-altering changes and the scientific reasoning behind them.

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Photo by Marianne Krohn on Unsplash

“Kara? Kara! Hellooooo?”

This is all too common an occurrence in my household. One minute my fiancé will have my complete, undivided attention and the next minute I’ve picked up my phone and fallen down the scroll-hole once again. Recently, his annoyance has become contagious; I’ve been noticing how much more I stare mesmerized at my tiny screen, poor-postured and squinty-eyed, instead of being more present. In a time where social interactions are limited and many other diversions are closed to enforce social distancing, I’ve become even more attached to my iPhone.

Over time, the detriments of smartphones have become widespread and more well-known. A 2019 study from Computers in Human Behavior followed 385 adolescents into young adulthood and found early problematic cell phone use predicted later depression (Coyne, Stockdale, and Summers). Another article found associations between phone use and chronic stress, low emotional stability, and depression (Augner & Hacker, 2011). More recently, the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” explored the many pitfalls of social media, including our reliance on our phones for dopamine hits and the many ways technology can exploit our behaviors. …

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Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

A guide in reverse

In my prior relationships, I was Queen Chameleon. I did whatever it took to cling helplessly to people, even if doing so caught me on fire. Denial was the name of the game. At best, I’d ignore my own feelings and not speak up. At worst, I’d turn a blind eye to clear signs of infidelity. If the price to pay for confronting these issues involved giving up the relationship, I was simply too poor.

Except the price wasn’t just my relationship with that person; it was my relationship with myself.

I now know this ability to morph into what I think an individual wants or needs isn’t just silly and love-sick. It’s a highly adaptive survival coping skill used to ward off the threat of abandonment or rejection. That’s right: the thought of someone leaving you might seem trivial on a conscious level, but unconsciously, it can feel like life or death. …

A straightforward guide to adopting a more optimistic outlook in areas where most people struggle.

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Photo by Rolands Zilvinskis on Unsplash

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” — Wayne Dyer

Our interpretation of events — or “the story we tell ourselves”, as Brene Brown so aptly puts it — is often more important than the actual events themselves. We can look at a rainstorm and say:

“My day is ruined. It’s gloomy and I can’t go outside,” or: “Awesome! An excuse to be cozy, stay inside, and get things done.”

Reframing is the cornerstone of working with the cognitive triad, the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In other words, the rain isn’t going to change either way; it is the way we think about it that’s going to determine how we feel and behave. …

Clouds rolling by in the sky.

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Photo by Luc Dobigeon on Unsplash

Many of my sessions with clients struggling with anxiety start similarly: some variation of “I just want to stop feeling this way” or “How can I make my anxiety go away?”

For the first few years of my career as a therapist, I focused on tips, techniques and tricks to distract, argue or invalidate anxiety. Sometimes they worked, albeit temporarily. But little did I realize I was subtly sending the message that anxiety was a problem to be fixed rather than an emotion to be accepted.

When I took a seminar in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an evidence-based treatment, I saw my relationship with my own anxiety (and other thoughts and feelings, for that matter) change dramatically. …

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Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

And how to break free

Several years ago, I hit one of the biggest ruts of my life. After having just graduated a master’s program in social work, my hopes for a bright future were higher than the New York City skyscrapers. I’d landed a job through my internship in the healthcare system and while optimistic at the beginning, I slowly started to realize my dreams were not matching up with my reality. …

And why you deserve better

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Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

“Well, this job isn’t for everyone.”

I was about 6 months into my first post-graduate salaried job at a behavioral health clinic and feeling overwhelmed. I’d come to a supervisor with a few concerns. I felt a general lack of clinical support around the complex cases I was assigned. In addition, the number of patients on my caseload was making it difficult to make any strides in treatment. Plus, the mixed messages about sticking to my union-assigned hours while also completing all paperwork before the end of each day left my head spinning; it was impossible to do both.

As a new graduate, I admit I was naive to the business modality and the political nature of the work I’d gotten into. My pure, unscathed social work soul was sure my supervisor would validate and fix all my concerns. …

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Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

Spot the signs early on

This summer, my family and I managed to pull off our annual weekly beach trip. There were many new modifications to fit the circumstances, of course, but one tradition remained tried and true: my rookie mistake of not putting on sunscreen when it was cloudy and hazy. It’s all fun and games when I can’t see the sun and then BAM! I’m baked like a holiday ham (and probably the color of one, too).

I always find these burns odd because I don’t know they’re happening. …

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Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

Set boundaries like a pro

We’ve all got one: the friend who convinces you to stay out until 3 am when you know you need 8 hours of sleep; the relative who insists you eat even when you repeatedly state you’re not hungry; the boss who asks if you can squeeze in “just one more thing on your plate”.

Internally, we fuss and fight. We hem and haw over how to handle it, but eventually, we cave. We swear that next time will be different; next time we’ll set that boundary, lay down the law, throw up the “do not enter” sign. …

A simple shift with powerful results

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Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

I have never considered myself a good sleeper. As a child, I was wrought with anxiety about monsters under my bed, burglars breaking in, or storms knocking a tree into my window. As I got older, I must have stored this tension in my body because even when I knew I didn’t have to worry about anything, I just couldn’t seem to settle.

My sleeping problem grew exponentially worse after being diagnosed with depression and came with the unwelcome side effects of irritability, fatigue and poor concentration. …


Kara Lissy

I’m an LCSW and a psychotherapist in NYC. I write about self-care and personal growth. Feel your feels! :) kara@agoodplacetherapy.com // IG: @kara_bout_yourself

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