General

And the Border Crisis Continues…

When I sat down to write my blog this week, I had originally decided to share with you the “flashes of insight” I had while on vacation. But with the crisis at the border still underway, writing about vacation feels frivolous.

I try to make it a practice to stay out of politics, especially in my professional life, but it seems that our current government has a way of really ruffling my feathers, to put it lightly.

“Since the Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” policy at the Mexican border in recent weeks, more than 2,300 children have reportedly been separated from their parents while attempting to enter the U.S.” (CNBC)

I’ve read and reread the news - The NY Times, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC and NPR. Each and every time I come to the same conclusion. This is nuts. This is not real. This can’t be happening. Not in our country. And then, about 15-20 seconds later, I either feel intense anger, unrelenting fear, deep sadness and/or profound shame.

Anger that families are being torn apart, that our President is acting amorally and illegally and that it doesn’t seem like anyone or anything can stop him. Anger because it feels like no matter what I do, it’s not enough. Fear because, well, Trump feels more like a dictator than the president of a democratic country. I fear what more is to come. Deep sadness for the parents who have no idea where their children are or how they are doing, for the children who are lost and alone without their parents, and for the fact that there is no “concrete plan for reunification.” (I am now crying hysterically.) And shame. I feel shame because we voted for Trump, as a country. A man who has divided us more than united us, a man who has put fear in so many innocent people’s hearts, a man who has taken away tolerance and acceptance and replaced it with hate and anger and intolerance, and a man who prefers to hide behind Twitter and blame others recklessly rather than stand up, take responsibility and admit fault respectably. I feel sick.

So, where do we go from here? What can we do? How can we help? First, figure out where you stand on the issue. Then feel your feelings. Then get up and fight like hell!

Call your representative: https://5calls.org/issue/keep-families-together-act

Donate - here are a few of the leading non-profits involved in immigration issues:

ACLU - The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting attacks through the legal system. http://www.aclu.org

RAICES - The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services is a non-profit focused on "providing free and low-cost legal services to under-served immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas," according to the organization's website. The Facebook fundraiser raised over $10 million in just four days.

TCRP – The Texas Civil Rights Project is "helping families at the US border get legal advice and translation services," and is interviewing families to document what is happening to ensure they are reunited as quickly as possible. You can donate on FB here.

The Florence Project - provides free legal services to detained immigrants in Arizona. In addition to donations, The Florence Project also accepts volunteers. So if you live in Arizona, you can help out directly as a translator, researcher or even act as a pro bono attorney if you're qualified. You can donate here.

Join the Protests - https://act.moveon.org/event/families-belong-together_attend1/search/

United we stand!If we all do a little, it adds up to a lot. And a lot = CHANGE. Take good care of yourselves... and I hope to see you out there! 

How to Stop Taking Things So Personally

All of us feel sensitive about something. We all have our soft spots and our “no-go” topics, but to the hypersensitive among us, a gentle poke can feel more like a stab in the heart. Instead of being able to shake off certain comments, we focus on them, internalize them and begin to question ourselves.

Learning to “toughen up” by taking things less personally can benefit both ourselves and others. We can protect ourselves from pain, feel less self-doubt and we can stop reacting to hurtful comments with defensiveness and anger, which often leads to relationship conflict making it harder to work or live together. And for those in positions of power, hypersensitivity can cause us to shut people out or to be over controlling stunting our team’s moral, growth and performance.

So how can we toughen up without becoming hard-hearted?

Tip 1: Create space between you and your reactions:

When we feel criticized, our initial response is to react. The result is usually not a good one. Instead of following that knee-jerk reaction, try to pause and take a few deep breaths. This is known as the “mindful pause” and it allows your systems to calm down. In your calmer state, you can then reflect on what was said and choose how you want to respond vs. simply reacting (and then regretting it later).

Tip 2: Consider the source:

Does the critique in question come from someone who knows you well and is a person who you like and respect? Or does it come from someone who doesn’t know you, has zero regard for others and has a tendency to shoot their mouth off regularly?

Considering the source can help you decide whether to take their feedback to heart or with a grain of salt.

Tip 3: Challenge your perfectionism:

There is a straight line between hypersensitivity and perfectionism. Many of us react so strongly to criticism because we’ve worked so hard to be faultless or good enough (precisely so no one will criticize us). When we get negative feedback, it turns all that hard work into dust.

One way to challenge perfectionism is to get better at receiving criticism. Another, even more challenging way, is to accept the cracks and the imperfections. Slowly realizing that you are enough just as you are takes time and work, but simply acknowledging your triggers can be a powerful first step.

Any critique that brings forth old hurts (reminders of being bullied in school or pigeonholed by your parents for example) cuts extra deep, but just being aware that something is a hot button issue for you is the first step to owning it, and eventually healing it.

Tip 4: Give critics another chance, but not unlimited chances:

People are human – we make mistakes, we say dumb things and we can be awkward. But if you’re criticized or insulted by the same person repeatedly, that’s not a mistake, that’s a pattern. It does not mean that you need to end the relationship, which may be especially hard to do if the repeat offender is a relative or a co-worker, but it does mean that it’s time to speak up, set some boundaries and limit contact if necessary.

Tip 5: Know Your Worth:

We are our own biggest critics. The more confidence we have in ourselves, the less likely we are to feel crushed by someone’s criticism. Developing confidence can be a slow and arduous process but it might be helpful to remember that our brains are wired to focus on the negative and often we’re much harder on ourselves than we deserve. To start building confidence, focus on your accomplishments and the things that you do well and try to say one kind thing to yourself everyday. Have conversations with people who like and respect you and let them remind you of how awesome you are. Hold on to those feelings. Understanding your own value is your best defense when someone makes you feel small. 

As always, be kind to yourselves and remember, we are all works in progress!

How Long Does Therapy Last?

This is a recurring question at every one of my workshops, presentations and intro sessions.

And the answer is - it depends. It depends on what you’re seeking therapy for, how long you’ve waited to seek treatment, the approach of the therapist you choose and how much and how hard you are willing to work. It also depends on you level of self-awareness. So really the length of therapy depends on you, the client.

I believe in shorter-term therapy, a few months to a few years (max). I would never kick a client out of therapy but I would definitely wonder if I were doing my job to the best of my ability and if I was the right therapist for you if you saw me weekly for the exact same struggle for 2+ years and nothing had changed. That’s not to say that people can’t and don’t struggle with the same issue for more than two years (that’s actually quite common) but I strongly believe that there should be some forward movement, some change, no mater how small.

I tell my clients that my job is to put myself out of business. My job is to empower you and to provide you with the right skills, tools and techniques so that you can achieve your goals and be in control of your own life.

Therapy with me starts with 50 minutes once a week until you feel like you have a better handle on whatever it is we’re working on. Then we start to space things out to every other week and then to once a month until you are ready and can say, “Minal, I feel great. I know how to find you if I need to and I think I’m ready to end therapy.” Those words are music to my ears. We then assess where you are in relation to your goals, what you’ve accomplished and we schedule our final session. Final sessions are so bittersweet.

I don’t believe in therapy for years upon years (I’m not an analyst) and I don’t believe in keeping you in therapy once you’ve achieved your goals just so that I can have a full caseload or so that I can pay my bills. Therapy is for you. And once you’ve decided that you got what you came for, then we’re done, at least for now. My door is always open and you can certainly always come back.

So, if therapy starts and ends when you're ready, the next questions is what's stopping you from being ready? (Click here to schedule your free intro session now!)

 

What is Therapy?

During my WeWork Workshop last week on “How to Manage Anxiety in the Workplace,” one of the attendees asked a wonderful question. “What exactly is therapy?” He was slightly embarrassed for not knowing the answer and excused his “ignorance” as he called it, but truthfully I thought the question was brilliant and a great reminder for me. I told him just that.

As a licensed psychotherapist, or as in most trained professions, I forget that most people don’t know what I know. Most people didn’t go through the same regiment of additional education and 3,000 hours of grueling training. The definition of psychotherapy isn’t ingrained in their brains just like the definition of certiorari (a legal term) and obdormition (a medical term) are not ingrained in my brain. And so for me, the question was a great reminder that when talking about therapy, I need to start at the beginning rather than somewhere in the middle.

So – what is therapy (aka psychotherapy, talk therapy and counseling)? Therapy can be defined in many ways depending on who you ask. If I had to sum up therapy briefly, I would describe it as self-discovery or the intentional act of setting aside time for yourself every week (50 minutes to be precise) to gain more self-awareness leading to balance, fulfillment and clarity.

People attend therapy for a variety of reasons including (but definitely not limited to) to be heard, to be seen, to be understood, to explore, to problem-solve, to navigate transitions, to grieve and to heal. You can learn to answer questions such as, “Who am I?” “What are my values?” “Is this relationship working for me?” “Why do I say such mean things to myself?” “Why do I feel so alone all the time?” “Where am I going in life? And “What obstacles are standing in my way?” You can dive deep into figuring out where your anxiety or sadness or depression or self-doubt comes from and work to manage it so that you feel in control of your own life. And you can examine your relationships, your career path and your communication styles so that you can exist in a way that feels true to who you actually are.

Historically going to therapy meant you were “crazy” or that something was “seriously wrong with you.” The stigma around therapy was so intense that no one even wanted to say the word. Now more and more I’m finding that that’s not the case. The stigma around therapy is slowly, very slowly decreasing, and now rather than a weakness, therapy can be seen as a strength. At least, that's the way I see it. I see therapy as a way to take time for yourself, a means of self-care, and a path to discovering your strengths and your authentic self, your best self. 

So, what are you waiting for?