Category Archives: Anxiety

Is Broken Bad?

Everyone feels “broken” at some point on their journey through life. It is that unbearable pain, that adversity, feelings of hopelessness, and despair that shapes us. These experiences teach us about who we are, and they help us grow as people. 

As hard as it is when you are in the thick of suffering, as a counselor I don’t see being “broken” as being a bad thing. The only real way to live a full, happy, evolving life is to overcome the challenges thrown our way. Think of a seed—a broken seed sprouts and germinates generating new roots. 

It is easy when caught up in a moment of despair to avoid life—to go forward with feelings of regret, pain, disillusionment, and sadness. Rather than living in fear of those “broken” moments, I encourage you to embrace them—to focus on the positive, the future, and persevere. 

What do you do if you feel broken inside?

Here are a few tips to help you when you are feeling broken inside:

1.) Remind yourself change is inevitable. We cannot avoid change, it is part of life. Rather than fight it—accept it.

2.)Embrace the power of choice—you have the choice to control your thoughts. As hard as it may seem to shape what we do and how we feel, you can make the decision to live your life. To choose to search for the positive. To continue to get up and get dressed and get going during those moments of despair. You do you. 

3.)Ask for help if you need it. Life is hard, and you aren’t expected to know all the answers. Sometimes it takes a conversation, a new perspective to help lift us up and pull us out of the holes we sometimes fall into—and that is ok. Make an appointment for therapy, call a friend or a relative. It is ok to not be ok. 

4.)Be in the moment. Mother Teresa said “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” We don’t know what tomorrow has in store, and there is no point in wasting time regretting things of the past. You are here today—so be here. 

5.) Focus on the things in life that bring you joy. Those things will help to bring you out of your place of pain. Whether it be exercise, cooking, spending time with family—do the things that bring a sense of happiness to your being.

6.) Find hope. Tomorrow is a new day, and anything can happen. You will get through this moment and you will find happiness again. 

No one can predict the future. There will most likely be more times you feel “broken” but those times will only continue to help you grow, to learn more about yourself, and be the best version of you. 

New Studies Show that Social Media Has Become A Global Mental Health Problem for Younger Generations

As the next generation of young people grows up under the embrace of 24/7 social media feeds, one study has concluded that there is a link between the prevalence of social media and the increase of mental health issues on a global level.

The American Journal of Epistemology has recently released their study that draws a connection between the development of mental health in young people and their experiences on social media. This connection is most notably drawn through their interactions, or essentially the lack thereof. Generation Z, the group born between the mid 1990’s and early 2000’s, conducts the majority of their communication through social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Musical.ly, and the most widely criticized for fostering negative self-esteem, Instagram. It’s through these social channels that Gen Z communicates through likes, photos, videos, and other features built into the app, thus increasing their exposure to the images on these apps.

Many of these sites do not require parental consent to use the app. In fact, the legal age to search the web without the consent of a parent is 13, as set by Congress in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. With this in place, many children are exposed to a variety of content across all age groups, but specifically within their peer group, without the guidance of their parents. While online predators are the most perceived threat from online social interactions, another growing threat on the internet is the content generated by other users. Viral photos, videos, blog posts, and games that promote self-harm and substance abuse are forms of user-generated content that are often used in cyber bullying, whether directly or indirectly. This can affect the mental health of their victims. Teens exposed to this increase their chances of participating in unhealthy activities, including eating disorders, self-harm, aggressive behavior, and unhealthy sexual practices.

Another form of user-generated content that contributes to the increase of mental health problems as cited by the Royal Society of Public Health is that image-based social media platforms cause the most harm to an individual’s mental health state, i.e. Instagram. As a result of these online interactions, the suicide rates amongst young people have increased significantly over the past few years from 2007-2015. The number of suicides in young, teenage girls almost doubled in 2015, after hitting a relative low in the previous years. Psychologists and researchers have linked this spike in suicide rates amongst young girls to the prevalence of perfection standards that social media sites create.

Kids and teens are still developing, lacking the emotional maturity to form a healthy sense of self. Teens who are most affected by social media either have an extremely low self-esteem or are hard on themselves with unrealistic standards for performance. Both hold unrealistic expectations of perfection. These feelings are often fostered in full by “unrealistic highlight reels” of perfect social media photos and posts. The idea is that this is the image of perfection that must be attained. On the other hand, these same social sites are grounds for disparaging content from their peer groups. Ever emotion, whether negative or positive, is tracked on social media for all to see. This creates the feeling of, “Either I need to be perfect or I need to be punished”. Once the concept of failure or lacking the status to meet those standards is introduced and internalized, teens who suffer from these ideas of perfectionism are quick to detach themselves from the outside world, often threatening suicide or other forms of harm. This behavior continues until the “perfect image” is attained or suicide has taken their life.

Mabel Yiu, licensed marriage, and family therapist, is the founder of the Women’s Therapy Institute, a therapy center dedicated to helping women and young girls deal with the pressures associated with life. During her teen counseling sessions which start as young as 12, she has witnessed firsthand the damage that social media standards and cyber-bullying can have on the ever-developing self-esteem of young girls.

About:
Mabel Yiu, MFT, has been a therapist for nearly a decade. She is a certified suicide and crisis counselor, sexual assault counselor, parenting instructor, and more. Mabel is also an adjunct professor with the University of San Francisco and a clinical supervisor at a community mental health clinic in San Jose. She opened the Women’s Therapy Institute in Palo Alto, California as a means to help young girls and women cope with the emotional and mental pressures that occur in everyday life.

When Scary Things Happen To Us…

Sometimes scary things happen to us. It can happen to us on an unknown path we take, or in a familiar place we love. When bad things happen to us, we start to question everything around us. We question why this happened to us. We question the validity and fairness of the world. The world becomes different. What are we suppose to do in a world that is no longer safe?

When bad things happen to us, our sense of security is under siege and our defense mechanism is on high alert. Even the nice warm summer wind we used to love can make the hairs on our back stand up.  We guard ourselves tightly to the point we can no longer feel.

When bad things happen to us, we may question if there’s something we could have done differently. We desperately attempt to salvage the control we once had but lost. Our mind keeps replaying the fearful scenario that we no longer have room for joy. It’s hard to breathe; even the air feels heavy.

I understand because I have been there. I know therapy can help. With therapy, you can learn to breathe again, slow down the replay in the mind, learn to trust the world, and believe in yourself.  You can move from “what was” to “what can be.”

With therapy, You can live again.

What To Do When Your Partner Is Suffering From Depression

We get it. This article gets your attention because your partner is suffering from depression or anxiety, or other mental illness. And you don’t know what to do about it.  Mental illness drives a wedge into your relationship and family life. It’s not hopeless, here are a few things you can do now.

1) Don’t jump into “fix it” mode and offer “solutions”. We understand, your spouse is feeling depressed and you want to fix it quickly and move on. Maybe you feel helpless for not knowing what’s going on. Maybe you feel nervous that your spouse might harm him/herself. Going into “fix it” mode is more about easing your own anxiety and it’s not about your spouse. Your spouse isn’t stupid, he/she can feel it and he/she would instinctively put up a defensive wall which disconnects you two further. ”Fix it” mode only isolates your partner further.

2) Listen. Like take a deep breath and truly listen…even when it’s hard. A big part of mental illness is isolation. We humans are social animals, we are not meant to be isolated. By truly listening to your spouse can help connect you two, and help him/her feel less isolated. When you get the person out of isolation, you beat 50% of the mental illness’ game.

3) Identify MVP. In tech world, there’s something called MVP – Minimally Viable Product. In everyday household, there’s MVP too – Minimally Viable Process – core chores/processes that make the household function minimally. Identist the core tasks that make the household function and only focus on those. You two are going through some rough time now, and now is not the time to stress about the small stuff.

4) Identify which MVP each of you can handle. We understand, the dishes are piling up. Things can get overwhelming when one spouse is going through rough times. Identify what MVP each of you can handle, have a game plan, write it down, and break down tasks into small chunks.  It’s much easier to handle it little by little.

5) ASK, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” This is a hard question, I know. Many people wonder if asking this question would “encourage” the depressed person to kill him/herself. The answer is NO. If a person has a will to live, he/she wouldn’t comit suicide even if you ask that question. If a person is suicidal, that question can save a life. How you ask the question is key. When you feel nervous asking that question, your spouse would lie just to keep you calm. You need to keep calm and provide a safe space for the person to be forthcoming. Go to the mirror now, take a deep breath, and practice 100 times the question, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” until you feel less nervous about it.

Get your partner to the hospital, and stay with him/her. Tell him/her that you really care that he/she is ok and that you will stay with him/her through this.

If you feel uneasy asking the question, see #6 below.

6) Call a mental health professional, please.  A proper diagnosis and treatment would make a world of differences for your spouse and you (and the whole family). A qualified mental health professional will do suicide assessment, help with mapping out the unhealthy thoughts/feeling/behavior pattern, and strategize an action plan to disrupt that unhealthy pattern. Therapists at Women’s Therapy Institute are qualified mental health professionals that can help both of you get back on your feet.

You don’t need to do this alone when your spouse is suffering from mental illness. Give us a call. We work with men too.

 

Disclaimer: The articles in my blog are a matter of my opinion and perspective. They are meant to be educational only. Because they are general in nature, they should NOT be used as a substitute for getting qualified professional psychological, medical, or legal help should serious need arise. Please seek mental health or medical treatment from a qualified healthcare professionals.

4 Ways For Girls and Women To Manage Anxiety

Women AnxietyJessica is having trouble concentrating in her math class because she is getting very little sleep at night. She lies awake for hours worrying about why her best friend doesn’t talk to her anymore, whether everyone is looking at her funny, whether she will bomb the math test tomorrow, whether her parents are really going to divorce, and other catastrophic what-ifs.

Tara seems to have the “perfect” life with a home, career and children that she adores yet she feels overwhelmed. Now her things are not getting done and she doesn’t laugh as often anymore. She doesn’t sleep much and when she does, she often wakes up heart pounding and palms sweaty, thinking she is going crazy and fearing “her perfect life won’t last”.

From the time a girl reaches puberty until late adulthood, she is twice as likely to have anxiety as a man. While men are not immune to anxiety, men and women’s differences in brain chemistry and hormonal levels in different life stages may be pieces of the puzzle as to why women are more vulnerable to anxiety during stressful events.

If you or your daughter experiences anxiety, there are things to do about it.

  • Allowing Anxiety: Forcing yourself or your child not to worry or minimize the anxious feelings can create even more anxiety. It can be defeating when those worries just won’t go away. We need a healthy dose of worrying to keep us safe or get things done; it has a purpose so we don’t want to eliminate it completely. Since it serves a function, it’s important to take anxiety seriously and allow it’s existence so we can shift it to our benefits.
  • Relaxation Skills: Breathing and visualization helps you calm down when you are agitated. Relaxation techniques need to be age-appropriate and don’t have to be boring. Some can even be done while you are in the middle of a task. For teens, there are apps such as Breathe that can help.
  • Movement: It’s understandable that when you are anxious, the last you want to do is to get out of bed. It may seem cumbersome but setting a goal to do something as simple as walking around the block can work wonders. Sometimes staying indoor with the blinds closed may affect your circadian rhythm (aka. body clock), which can disrupted your sleeping pattern. Going outside and getting some sun and air can help “reset” your body clock so you can sleep better at night, feel more refreshed the next day, and have better mood.
  • Talk to a licensed therapist who is in tuned with teen and women’s issues, and values whole-health approach. A good therapist is able to listen, teach relaxation techniques, and tailor a therapeutic plan that best fits you. The first session is usually paperwork and getting to know each other, so give it a few sessions before deciding whether the therapist is right for you.

While nobody’s life is completely worry-free, but anxiety can be manageable and it doesn’t have to control your whole life. You don’t need to do this alone.

Mabel Yiu is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in girls and women’s mental health at the Women’s Therapy Institute in Palo Alto, CA. You can reach her at mabel@womenstherapyinstitute.com for more tips or tools, or schedule an online appointment.

Header image credit: Huffington Post