Finding Comfort

As a child, our parents are primarily responsible for giving us comfort. As we grow and mature, we take on that role ourselves. Yet, for many adults, the idea of comforting oneself can be foreign. In times of stress they may spin out, not having a way to slow down the chaos. And in a time of chaos, the last thing you want to do is brainstorm what to do to feel better. So, how do we build comfort into our lives in a way that works?

One of my clients had a brilliant idea – a comfort box. You could think of anything that makes you smile, makes you relax and makes you feel good. You might put pictures of comforting things/places/people in your box. You might put things that you can touch, feel, smell, wrap around you or experience with your senses in some way. You might put that one book or movie that you always come back to in your comfort box. You might include candles, music, or an oil diffuser with some essential oils. That way, when you experience stress, you can just go to your comfort box, with everything all ready to go.

Also, touch from others can go a long way. Get a hug from a friend or family member, or go for a massage. Spend some quality time petting your animals, or visit someone who will share theirs.

Figure out what works for you. Start a list, and if something doesn’t work for you, then agree to try it again a different time, or scrap it all together. Ask friends and family what works for them, and try their ideas out, too. In the end, you should be able to compile a list of activities that you can do to feel comforted. pexels-photo-935750.jpeg

What is a disorder and how do I know if I have one?

people-office-group-team.jpgA large part of my professional career has been doing assessments. As part of this process, I always encounter clients who are of two minds – they are convinced enough that they need help to schedule an assessment, but who think that they really aren’t sick enough to need serious help. How does one know if they need help?

As a clinician, a set of symptoms becomes a disorder when it is significantly impacting the functioning of one’s life. When you think back about the course of an average day, what percentage of your day is impacted by your symptoms? What areas of your life are significantly impacted by your symptoms? Often times people end up coming for assessments when they feel out of control, and unable to contain the effects of their symptoms anymore.

Mental health is unique in this respect. If someone was diagnosed with a serious medical condition, such as cancer, there would likely be little to no consideration made about following the suggested treatment of the physician, whether or not it impacted our lives otherwise. When it comes to mental health diagnoses, however, the attitude tends to be much different. People feel the stigma of the label, and don’t always want to share with others the burdens they bear. They also struggle to consider taking time off from work or family commitments, minimizing the need for the intervention that drove them to assessment in the first place. So many struggle alone, feeling ashamed that they cannot pull themselves up by their bootstraps, as they have been told they should.

My general advice is to follow your gut and be your own best advocate. Start with your primary care doctor, they can usually point you in the right direction of what help would be best. Another resource that can be used is your insurance company. They have staff that can find resources within your insurance network so that it can have the least financial impact.

Someone once told me that the hardest part of running is putting on your shoes. It takes great courage to admit that you need help. Reach out and get the help that you need, and that you deserve.

Do more of what makes you happy

Hello! I am Nicole Lee, LICSW. Welcome to my blog!

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I am a clinical social worker who currently does therapy with clients identified with disordered eating. One of the first things I always ask my clients is – what do you do for fun? I get lots of sidelong glances from this one – I’m sure they are wondering how some random “fun” activity is going to help that raging “ED” (eating disorder) voice go away. Well what I find is that, especially in those with disordered eating, is that they have centered all of their free time around their eating disorder, and have nothing left that is just for fun anymore. By establishing a hobby, you can carve out time in your life just to relax and do what you enjoy. It sounds simple, but can have remarkable results. What do you like to do for fun?

If you struggle with any habits that you aren’t as happy with, such as disordered eating, you may try to create a list of positive activities you can do before using your less functional coping skill (i.e. binge eating, biting your nails, etc.). If you struggle to find activities that you like to do now, you may have to think back to another time when you did allow yourself to have hobbies and down time, and think what you liked to do then.

Some common activities you can do on your own might be reading (check out The Emily Program for some great suggestions for those struggling with disordered eating), meditating with an app on your phone or with You Tube, listen to cheery music or calling, texting or, best yet, face-timing with a support person. Also, watching some funny TV can help lift your spirits if you are down.

If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or ADHD symptoms, you might struggle with being fidgety. Sometimes going with the fidget and giving yourself something to do can help calm your mind. My favorite way to fidget is to crochet, knit or weave. If you have interest in learning how to do any of these, you can get supplies here, and there are plenty of tutorials online here. For the less crafty, there are a plethora of other way fun fidget toys to pick from here. You can combine the activities above with a fidget activity in order to keep your mind and your hands busy.

A huge contributing factor to depression and other mental health concerns is isolation. One way to increase your happiness is to increase your social time. Depression decreases motivation and takes pleasure away from the things you used to like to do, so getting out of the house and being social can be a push if you are suffering from these symptoms, but can be effective in increasing positive mood. If you are struggling to find motivation to do this, start slow – meet a friend for coffee or do something that is short in duration and a low-pressure activity. Work your way up from there.

As we say, “Fake it until you make it.” Slap on that smile, and your brain thinks you are happy. Go forth, find a hobby and have fun!