Unhealthy Methods of Self-Soothing
This year has been incredibly stressful. Between COVID19, BLM movement, political unrest, racially police killings, salary losses due to budget cuts, and so much more; we find ourselves trying to cope with trauma, stress, and manage our relationships in unique ways. We do the best we can, while trying to stay strong for ourselves and our family – in isolation. Social distancing aka isolation has been challenging for those who desire in person connections. In addition to the new challenges of the pandemic in 2020, the burden of stressors have increased exponentially. Thus, we look for ways to manage our stress which we think will make us feel better; and it does momentarily. We engage in these coping mechanisms to achieve the desired effects of self-soothing. Some common ways of unhealthy self-soothing include:
- Spending money incessantly. Raise your hand if you have been engaging in more retail therapy to deal with stress. Has Amazon or online shopping in general has become your new best friend? There is something about clicking a button and having something brand new delivered to your house the very next day that is gratifying.
- Substance abuse. In order to escape the emotional turmoil or relax after a long day, we may come to pour several glasses of wine or perhaps even smoking marijuana. Drugs and alcohol allow us to emotionally escape and feel numb, if even only for a little while. Before you know it, what was once an occasional indulgence turns into an everyday ritual.
- Emotional eating or abstaining from eating. Food is easily accessible and affordable in most cases. We use food to comfort us when feeling distressed. Feeling upset – eat ice-cream, feeling stressed out after a long day at work – order pizza. We often turn to carb and sugars to make us calm down, relax, or just to feel good in general. On the other hand, there are those who stress out so much that they stop eating altogether. Stress has exacerbated them so much mentally that they physically lose the desire to nourish their bodies.
- Spending excessive time at work. On the surface, spending a lot of time at work can appear to be a good thing. You feel like you are overachieving, staying productive, and dedicated to getting your job done. By digging a little deeper, one can see that spending copious amounts of time at work is a defense mechanism where one may be attempting to avoid problems at home. Spending time at work becomes a welcome escape to not have to deal with issues at home.
- Using Band-Aid tactics to fix relationship problems. Instead of addressing relationship problems with our significant others or family members, we use other things to move on past the situation quickly. Some examples include: buying material things, having a baby, taking a trip, relocating, or renewing vows just to name a few things. These things by themselves do not cause issues, however many people embark on these endeavors with the idea that this wonderful thing will fix all of the problems in the relationship.
- Avoidance of conflict. Sometimes we may avoid conflict or having to deal with a difference of opinion. The way that we do this is by ghosting people or avoiding our obligations to them. With respect to ghosting, in this context, it does not reference toxic people that need to be cut off; but more of the people who avoid coming home after work, who avoid talking to their children or significant others just because they don’t want to hear their problems, problems in the relationship, or deal with the stress of someone else in general.
- Projecting blame onto others. To avoid dealing with our own issues within our lives, we take it out on the person that is closest to us. We may be a little more edgy, irritable, or pick irrelevant fights with the ones that we love, simply because they are there.
- Depending on others to fix responsibilities. We avoid our responsibilities altogether because we are so checked out or overwhelmed. We procrastinate and put things off. We may look to our significant others or someone close to us to fix it for us, thereby creating a relationship that is codependent.
- Self-harm. When someone has difficulty coping with emotions, sometimes they feel better through engaging in activity that physically help them to release pain. Self-harm can come in may forms such as hitting, burning, cutting, scratching yourself.
- Sex. Sex can be a release. It can come in many forms from masturbation, pornography, hooking up with strangers and various other things that we do to quell anxious energy and fulfill the needs of instant gratification.
- Gambling. Gambling is another impulsive activity that is easily addictive and can cause you to get caught up in instant gratification – that is until you lose. Some people who engage in gambling are so caught up in the high of winning or winning potential, that they find it difficult to stop and face reality.
- Refusing to be proactive in problem-solving and leaving it up to a higher power or chance to fix issues. There are those that choose to leave problem-solving to luck, God, prayers, or karma. You’ve probably heard some of these before “give it to God, he will take care of it” or “all we can do is pray about it” or even “karma is a bitch.” While not disregarding the power of a higher being or beliefs about chances in life; there is a dismissiveness about sitting back and not being proactive about problem-solving. Sometimes life requires more than just prayer or karma, and let’s not forget – if you believe in God or some other higher power; there are tools that are placed in your life to help you be more proactive in dealing with things in life.
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Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for treatment with a licensed mental health professional.
© 2021 Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC. This blog falls under the intellectual property of www.drnataliejones.com, and should not be copied without the writer’s consent. Please use the appropriate social media tabs to share the blog.
Deadly Killer of Relationships: The Inability to Ask Your Partner Questions
When you are in a relationship, communication is essential. Part of learning about your partner is being able to talk to them about likes/dislikes, past relationship history, goals, and problems. This is part of building an emotionally and psychologically healthy relationship. Asking your partner questions helps you get to know your partner, establish trust, boundaries, intimacy; as well as learn about your partner’s communication style.
There are quite a few people who have a difficult time asking partners questions. Some believe “ignorance is bliss.” The inability to or refusal to ask your partner questions is a red flag. The red flag indicates overarching themes: 1) that you don’t know your partner, and your partner doesn’t know you, 2) abuse is involved, and 3) one or both partners have difficulty dealing with reality. Here are some problems that are symptomatic of the inability to ask our partners questions in the relationship.
1) You don’t know the person you are in relationship with: Part of getting to know a person is spending time with them and getting to know them by asking questions. If you aren’t asking them questions, that means that you don’t know that person, which means that you are in a relationship with a stranger. Being in a relationship with a stranger, is taking a huge risk because that means that you don’t really know anything about them beyond superficial information.
2) Trust: Trust is another piece of foundation of the relationship which is also acquired by couple getting to know each other. When you trust someone completely, you are comfortable with sharing your most vulnerable secrets with that person and vice versa. Not being able to discuss vulnerabilities will cause you to doubt whether your partner is being truthful and loyal.
3) Inability to problem-solve: Part of discussing of learning how to address issues that arise in the relationship is being able to ask your partner questions about what went wrong, and how they would like to problem-solve the issue. Inability to address the issues that arise in relationships, causes them to increase exponentially. Avoidance or refusal to answer questions about problems that arise in the relationship, will ultimately lead to the destruction of the relationship.
4) Walking on eggshells: Inability to talk to our partner often causes feelings of distress. We become conditioned to feel as though “I can’t talk to my partner, or they will leave.” Thus a fear of rejection or failure develops. We think that our partner will leave us if we pose questions or indicate that there are problems. Thus, we sit silently, and agreeably as though things are okay, trying not to rock the boat.
5) Abuse: Inability to ask questions in the relationship can be an indicator that we are not safe or abuse will occur if we try to do so. If our partners do not allow us to ask questions or become abusive when we try to inquire or problem-solve; this is psychological abuse. Inability to discuss problems because our partner has become volatile emotionally, physically, or verbally is a safety and security issue.
6) Emotional Instability: There are times when we find it difficult to explore issues or problems with our partners because we don’t know how to manage emotions. We could be afraid of our own or our partners, or a combination of both. Thus, we become fixated on avoiding emotions and discussions in our relationships because we aren’t sure how to handle them or what to do with them. For some, it’s easier to avoid, than to feel like we failed.
7) Living in a fantasy: There are a lot of people who are focused on an end goal in a relationship, such as getting married, having children, or living happily ever after – or something along those lines. However, sometimes we get so caught up in what we want that we forget about the steps that are necessary to get there. For some, they believe if our relationship sounds, feels, or looks good – even if it’s only for the moment, then nothing else matters. They forget that real relationships take work. It’s just like when we were in grade school, and our teacher wanted to see how we solved our math problem, as opposed to just seeing the answer. We need to do all the work to effectively solve the problem was effectively addressed.
In a truly healthy relationship, you should be able to ask your partner questions and problem-solve. If this is an area with which you struggle, please contact me today to see how I can help you get back on track in your relationships.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog was written by Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC. The content of this blog is written for educational purposes, and should not be substituted for treatment with a licensed mental health professional. If you would like more information on how to become more impowered and learning how to speak up for yourself, email me at [email protected] to book a consultation for a therapy session.
Dear Valentine’s Day: I Hate You! How to Get Through Valentine’s Day As A Single Person
You know the feeling…. When you walk in the store and you see the red heart shaped boxes of candy, the fluffy teddy bears, the roses, and the cards. It may as well be in big bold letters – it’s Valentine’s Day! Everyone appears to be happy with their significant other and has plans for a romantic evening or weekend getaway. Everyone is happy, smiling, and in love. Everyone, but you. You want to hide out in your house, and maybe you even have the evil thought of kicking the fluffy white teddy bear in Walgreens. All of these things are a reminder that you are single on Valentine’s Day. The last thing you want to see is a happy smiling couple, because it’s a reminder that they are something that you are not – attached, booed up, a couple, in love, married, or maybe even happy. You have never even had a Valentine. While your initial impression of Valentine’s Day is one of misery and avoidance, there several things that you can do which will make February 14 more enjoyable, and help you get through Valentine’s Day while being single.
1. Show yourself some love. The best way that we can show up and be present on days like Valentine’s Day is to show ourselves some love. You are a worthy, lovable, and fantastic person. Who knows that better than you? Pampering and complimenting yourself should be a ritual that you engage in regularly. Engaging in hobbies that you love, doing something adventurous that you haven’t tried before, or going out with friends are just a few things that you can do to indulge yourself. If you want to kick things up a notch, go ahead and get yourself some candy and that fluffy teddy bear from Walgreen’s!
2. Show love to others in your life. Remember that even if you don’t have that special one, there are other people in your life that you can show a little love to in your life. Bringing your coworkers homemade cupcakes with fun little Valentine’s Day cards or going out for a fun lunch with your girlfriends are some ideas to show other’s in your life some appreciation.
3. Show gratitude for things that you do have. Showing gratitude is a great practice to engage in daily. Being appreciative for people and things in your life is a wonderful way to focus on the positive. You are less likely to focus on things that you don’t have if you regularly engage in focusing on the positive in your life.
4. Observe couples that are in love. It may be challenging to observe a happy couple, especially if you just got out of a relationship, or if you just find it difficult to be around happy loving couples. However, there is something to be learned from observing from watching couples that are happy and in love; especially if that’s what you want in your life. Take notice of how happy couples are talking to each other, touching each other, and interacting with each other. Make mental and physical notes of their interactions, the vibes that they give off, and how they respond to each other’s cues. Thus, when you find that special someone, you can make sure to incorporate these special touches in your life.
5. Reflect. Think about what love means to you. Do you have a clear understanding of what love is? It is such a small word with a big meaning. So many people use the word, but don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to them. Engage in thought on a deeper level and explore with yourself whether or not your ideas of love are present in your relationships, including the one that you have with yourself. If love is lacking, then I would encourage you to seek the support of a professional that can help you to explore and rediscover love.
While these tips are not meant to be all inclusive, they are a great start to help you learn to enjoy all days – not just commercialized holidays like Valentine’s Day. If you need additional help and support rediscovering your inner happiness so that you can find love, please contact me to see how I can help.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not a diagnostic tool, nor is it meant to be used in place of treatment with a licensed clinician. This blog is for educational and informational purposes. If you are interested in learning how to cope with feeling a lack of love or dissatisfaction in your relationships, please email me at [email protected] to set up a consultation for counseling services.
The contents of this blog post are owned by Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC. Content from this post cannot be copied or reproduced without written consent from the author. Please click the social share buttons to share the blog post.
© 2017 Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC
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