Your Mind Matters: Episode 11 – Work Stress, Boundaries, and Eliminating Anxiety

Your Mind Matters: Episode 11 – Work Stress, Boundaries, and Eliminating Anxiety

Stressed but unable to see a therapist? This week we have a special guest co-host, expert CBT therapist Dr. Simon Rego. He’ll help us answer caller questions about how to take steps towards mental wellness when you can’t see a therapist, managing boundaries with adult children, stress related to work, and a grab bag question about eliminating anxiety.

Call us with your questions for future episodes: +1-415-855-0553

Question 1:

What are some good ways for me to deal with or acknowledge the loneliness that I feel whenever I’m feeling anxious or depressed? I can’t go see a therapist right now due to other conflicts in my life, and I need some good ways to know how to deal with that and make my life just a little bit better before I can go see a therapist.

  • Simon explains that the first step is to understand and acknowledge that anxiety and depression are real psychological disorders. They’re real conditions that aren’t just in your head and they shape the way we look at ourselves and other people. At times they can fool us, or convince us into feeling quite alone or disconnected from other people, or lead us to to shut down and isolate ourselves, which worsens feelings of loneliness.
  • One step would be to look at who is in your social support network. Think about the friends, family members, or the loved ones that you feel you can trust, and reach out to connect with them. Connecting with trusted individuals and sharing some of the experiences you’re going through will allow those individuals to help offer some support. Pushing yourself to do the opposite from your urge–to reach out to others when you feel like withdrawing–can be particularly helpful.
  • Chris highlights the importance of taking small, doable, steps and building on those daily steps to feel better and more connected.  
  • There’s a concept from eastern philosophy, Kaizen, that’s often used in cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s based on the idea of continually improving through the smallest steps possible. Rather than making big changes, break down a concept or goal into small enough steps until you feel confident that you can implement the steps. Once you have some momentum by completing small steps, you will feel more confident and able to make bigger changes if you want.
  • Another helpful action is to measure your motivation after you take achieve a step– not before. By acting first, and then measuring motivation, you will be less likely to be stuck in a negative loop. We often get motivated or energized by taking steps. If we wait until we are actually motivated to begin, we might never get there.
  • Finally, our thoughts really can have an impact on our feelings about our ability to move forward, and here again it’s important to try to not have a black & white approach, but instead try to be a little more balanced and look at things as smaller pieces, we can reduce our anxiety or overwhelming feeling. It’s rarely helpful to listen to our anxiety or depression. When things aren’t going well, we are typically better served by trying something different than what we’ve been doing.

Question 2:

I have two kids in their early twenties that have gone through periods in their lives where their anxiety and depression have been severely debilitating. They both have contemplating ending their lives when they were younger. The good news is that they have had excellent support from our family and doctors over the years, so they have both grown and become much more resilient, but they still have their moments, and when they do, it’s almost like post traumatic stress for me. It’s hard for me to know when to step in and help them and when to let them solve their own problems. When I do not step in and I wait and watch, I can suffer from excessive worry myself. Looking back, I think I may have overprotected them and rushed in to save them. Perhaps like a codependency, but it’s hard for me to really tell. Do you have any advice?

  • Chris describes how this question reminds him of his upbringing and how his parents took two different approaches to helping him get through his anxiety when he was younger.
  • Christine validates the difficulty in answering this question and finding the right balance between teaching your children how to work through challenges and be resilient and “grow up” while also wanting to protect them from suffering.
  • Simon explains how this can be a delicate balance between, to some extent, the idea of autonomy and beneficence. Simon describes how he empathized with the caller and how difficult his experience has been. He shares that there is large literature on the impact of caregiver burnout, stress and burden.  He describes the importance of recognizing that, in the process of providing support to your children, you will not be immune to having your own psychological reactions or chellanges and the impact they may have on you. Be open to the idea that we can all use support in our role even as a caregiver or support to others.
  • Simon describes that he would probably err on the side of caution and taking the kids’ relapses seriously, especially in the context of their history. He suggests that if taking a step to help the children would help the caller assuage his anxiety, he should take that step, but balance that with limit-setting and boundaries, to make sure that he isn’t putting his own mental health at risk.
  • Christine suggests considering  the severity of the illness, and whether  it impairs the person’s ability to seek help? If the child lacked insight into their struggles or weren’t able to seek or receive treatment on their own, she might consider intervening sooner. It can also be helpful to look at their overall functioning level and consider whether they need help getting to appointments or getting back on track.
  • There’s a difference between being coddling and helping your child get professional or medical help, so as a parent it’s also important to not beat yourself up about being a caring or supportive parent. Caring for or supporting someone is not necessarily co-dependence and especially as part of larger care team, parents can have a critical role.

Question 3:

A lot of times people are struggling with self worth and maybe depression.  It can be particularly challenging in performance based jobs where you’re defined by very quantitative value numbers. Do you have any suggestions for how to cope with those types of work situations?

  • Though it can be common, it’s very risky if you tie your self worth to an external factor that you don’t have control of.
  • Chris describes reading about five different areas in your life: for example work friends, a romantic relationship, hobbies, etc. But when you’re putting a lot of emphasis in one specific area, it makes you vulnerable to ups and downs like the caller described. If you decide that this is the one area that’s the main focus of your life, or where you put a ton of importance and then it’s only natural that if it’s going well, you feel great. If it’s not going well, you don’t feel as good, because you don’t have the other aspects of your life to fill in the gaps.
  • It can be helpful to step back and look at yourself and your life as a whole, and remember that you have other aspects to yourself and your personality.
  • Simon notes that when you attach your feelings of self-worth to external criteria or evaluations, you are subject to the ebb and flow of those external experiences. So it can be very helpful to try to shift those things upon which you evaluate yourself to internal standards rather than external ones. That way you have much more control over your self evaluations. For example, rather than feeling badly that you did not make a sale, you can feel good about putting forth your best effort. You do not have complete control over actually closing the sale, but you can control how much effort you put in.
  • Simon uses the example of the NYC dating scene to explain how there are very often many different factors that are outside of our immediate control and people often get very caught up in whether people “like” them or not, they lose sight of the bigger picture and focus more on the end result than the process.
  • It can be very helpful to focus your attention on putting forth your best self and living consistently with your values–whether it is career, family, hobbies, health, etc. If you do that, you can more effectively withstand ups and downs in one particular sphere.

Grab Bag Question:

Can anxiety be cured completely or just reduced to the minimum?

  • Chris notes that one of the things he’s learned is that while there is often a strong urge to eliminate anxiety, everyone experiences anxiety to some extent. He now focuses on changes his relationship with the anxiety and how he reacts to it, rather than focusing on getting rid of it. He also notes that if you avoid all of your anxiety triggers, you can cause your world to shrink and be limited.
  • Simon describes that anxiety can be very important for motivating action and in many situations is adaptive. He uses the example of anxiety motivating you to avoid getting hit by a car, making it to meetings on time, or attending to deadlines. Simon highlights how anxiety is very much a spectrum, and that when it gets to the point of a disorder, it is worth looking into improving, but that it shouldn’t be viewed as an “on/off” or “yes/no”.
  • Simon encourages the listeners to keep sending or calling in questions because it’s a great opportunity to not only have your own questions answered, but to voice something that many other people are thinking or wondering about. It’s an act of courage to put yourself out there and serve not only yourself but the community of other people who are experiencing something similar.

Do you have questions about mental health for the podcast? Call and leave us a message: 415-855-0553.

Special thanks to our guest Dr. Simon Rego for his time and insights on this week’s episode!