Seasonal Sadness

 Seasonal Affective Disorder is Real!

Seasonal Affective Disorder is Real!

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is serious. It is most common this time of year, as the light leaves our hemisphere. It shows up with symptoms like being excessively tired, not sleeping well, feeling blue, depressed or sluggish. If you already have a mood disorder, it can be made worse.

Sometimes SAD can become so intense that it can lead to full blown depression, excessive anxiety, suicidal thoughts or a bipolar episode. So if you have notice that you are struggling with the darkness this coming Winter, don't take it for granted that your feelings will just go away! Talk to a professional.

Although the holidays themselves can contribute to feeling melancholy or blue, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a separate issue. I will address holiday blues in next week's blog. In the meantime, feel free to call me is you suspect you may be dealing with S.A.D.

Am I Telling Myself the Truth about Me?

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Are you being much harsher on yourself than you need to be? This is a common problem for many people and it leads to thinking that limits one’s capacity to enjoy life.

Below are a few other examples of what not being truthful about yourself looks like:

1) Believing you lack the talent, intelligence or emotional capacity to handle the task in front of you - when a person does not apply for a better job, shrinks from setting boundaries with someone or from learning something new, they are failing before trying.

2) Letting negative emotions such as depression or anxiety foreclose your capacity to see creative solutions to life’s problems - there is a difference between facts and feelings. Feelings may not be facts.

3) Avoiding seeing the truth out of fear - this can have very serious consequences. Having feelings can’t kill you, but not having them actually can!

Self honesty is the best way to become a grounded, productive and happy human being. So take the time to tell yourself the truth about your situation today. If the truth seems too overwhelming, please seek support from someone you can trust to listen to you, or talk to a therapist or other professional.

How to Find Peace Between the Holidays

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With Thanksgiving now past, this is a good time to pause and be focused on the work you have to do today. By doing a good job at this very moment, you will give yourself a chance to recharge your batteries before the weeks of holidays ahead.

All you really have to do today – or any day - is make a good job out of what is right in front of you! Do so and find peace in the present moment.

Difficult Relatives on Thanksgiving Day, Part III

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Happy Thanksgiving! Here are your final three tips for dealing with difficult friends and relatives on your holiday:

1) After a little while with family and friends old unhealthy patterns often emerge. Don't be codependent based on past dealings with your relatives. Don't expect others to take care of you. And don't let others make you take care of them. Unless you are dealing with an actual child, treat the other person with the kind of respect you would give an adult coworker or friend. If someone tries to make you act codependent, take a break from them or even stay elsewhere.

2) Are you truly listening? Listen to your friends and relatives, even when what they say seems dull or annoying. Don't interrupt. When they have completely finished what they want to say, ask them if it is ok to repeat back what you just heard for your own clarification if you need it. If you do this, your experience of them will be greatly enhanced.

3) Don't confuse fighting with caring, as is done in many family gatherings. This negative form of “caring” easily becomes ugly and can even create family cut-offs. Deliberately find ways to be more positive with your relatives and friends, or step aside until you can see how to do better do this.

It is my hope that you will make some good Thanksgiving memories with those you care about. So no matter what others do or don't do, decide to act differently and be creative about finding ways to enjoy yourself during this special time of the year.

Dealing with Difficult Relatives: Thanksgiving Week, Part II

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Now that family and friends may be traveling far and wide to be together, it is time to look at a couple more ways to keep the peace and make good memories this Thanksgiving. These are:

1) Understand that a difficult relative or family friend may have no idea they are impinging on you. When people just want to feel important, are acting unconsciously, are drinking or just not feeling well, they tend to cross boundaries without even knowing it. Decide to believe that this is true and don't react.

2) Decide ahead of time that you would rather get along with your loved ones than engage in drama. Stay true to what you want the relationship to look like. Chances are good that if you do not respond to their negativity that you can win them over. Kindness is the fastest way to end a drama.

More tips are coming – if Thanksgiving day is difficult, check back on November 22. I will have three more tips for you then.

Dealing with Difficult Relatives Part I

 When you get lemons. . .

When you get lemons. . .

Difficult relatives tend to emerge as Thanksgiving draws near. Many who expect to see extended family do so with trepidation. Sometimes, the people they are supposed to love are coming from a place of discomfort, anger or pain. Sometimes they drink too much, or abuse substances.

Over the next week and a half, I will be offering tips on how do get along better with your more difficult relatives. Here are my first three:

1) Remember that most of the reason they are upset has little to nothing to do with you. Their feelings and the thoughts that arise from them are creating a version of reality that is inaccurate. It is not you, even if you did have a cameo role in the drama they are creating. It is not personal.

2) If you go into the holidays thinking you somehow deserve to feel slighted, you will be. Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Don't let another person dictate your sense of self-esteem.

3) Feeling disliked stings. It is hard to not retaliate when someone seems to deliberately want to misunderstand and even hurt you! Do your best to not respond if you are emotionally reeling from a verbal attack, a nasty silence or show of contempt. Give both yourself and the other person time to back down.

Do your best to enjoy your holiday, and stay tuned for more tips on dealing with difficult family members as Thanksgiving season progresses!


Quiet Desperation

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“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”

- Henry Thoreau, Walden

This alarming sentence still applies today. When having a “good” job is seen as the goal of adulthood, it is easy to close other doors to one's full humanity and become unbalanced. Other occupations of one’s time can also leave one lonely - being too much of a caregiver, being unemployed or disabled, or enduring a destructive relationship.

To start to move away from “quiet desperation,” one needs to discover what else is important at the core of one's identity. For instance, how important is it for you to expand the relational, physical, spiritual and social side of life? Is there something else you would rather do to make a living, whether or not friends or family approve? Is there an interest that makes it worth while to go back to school? What is really important in life?

Keeping the universal aspects of one's humanity open for exploration is step one toward creating a balanced, happy life. Having the courage to explore what is essential puts one on the path to deep contentment.

Write in a journal about each aspect of what is essential to you. Talk these over with friends. Make plans to infuse the neglected aspects of your life. Even if they seem impractical, they will manifest down the line.

No one should have to lead an empty life.

Feeling Desperate?

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Desperation brings many people to therapy because their efforts seem not good enough in a seemingly hopeless situation. Desperate people make bad decisions most of the time. They just want to relieve the relentless anxiety and pressure to do something, and it backfires. Desperation can lead to things like ending a relationship, quitting work or moving across country without really having a plan. In the worst case, suicidal thoughts arise out of desperation.

If you are feeling desperate you actually do have options that you temporarily cannot see. Stop trying to fix what is broken. Being desperate puts you in a tight-fitting box and you can see only a little of the whole picture through the slats. Here are three ways to start to defuse desperation:

1) Don't do anything right away. The feeling that you need to do something now is usually not true. Wait 24 hours and your situation will look different.

2) Do your best. If it doesn't work, walk away peacefully because you have done what you can. This is the basis of humility. Don't give in to pride as it will lead you right back to desperation. Go inward and look at what you really need. Step out of the story of what others have done.

3) Don't let yourself continue to lead a life of “quiet desperation” focusing on people, places and things as a way to avoid your problems. If your best effort has led to your feeling desperate, then you probably need to find a therapist, mentor, spiritual leader or trusted friend to help you to go inward.

And please know you can contact me today for a free 15 minute consultation today to look at your options for getting out of your own way. Because no one should have to feel desperate.

Impostor Syndrome

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Impostor Syndrome creates a life of anxiety and stress in those who have it. It is exhausting! People who have it often report having symptoms like the following:

- Being uncomfortable with praise, promotion or being singled out for positive attention

- The feeling that making a mistake means you are not good enough

- People pleasing

- Not standing up for yourself when it would be appropriate

- Fear of rejection even when people seem to like you

- Feeling invisible

Our society frequently rewards people for being someone they are not, and in some families, wearing a mask is a pragmatic survival mechanism. But for people with Impostor Syndrome, the need to stay masked, even from oneself, runs deep.  Here are three tools that can help free one from this debilitating syndrome:

1) Acknowledge your own specific symptoms. Write them down and be aware that they are just stories and not real. Seeing them as symptoms will give you more clarity in choosing how you decide to think. act and feel.

2) Do something small every day to counteract Impostor Syndrome. Huge change all at once will probably be too much. Small measured steps work best.

3) Talk to someone who knows you well and has your back. Or speak with a mentor that you trust or a professional therapist. Talking about what is going on will help you to develop the resiliency that is needed for you to really start to be yourself.

Impostor Syndrome need not be a permanent condition. Get the support you need to go inward so you can begin to develop the strength to be your true self. By doing so, your life will become happier and much less stressful.

Inner Worth

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It can be easy to lose touch with one's inner worth. Indeed, some people live their entire lives never experiencing what they are worth, and believing they are less than they are.

When a person becomes lost in the people, places and things around them, it drains one's capacity to find inner worth. No amount of outer worthiness – not social capital, a respected career or all the money in the world – can create inner worthiness or its corollary self-esteem. That is because self-esteem flows from a sense of inner worth, not the other way around.

A sense of self is developed through learning to use methods and tools designed to cultivate it. A few of these are:

1) Being alone, meditation, contemplation, spiritual practice

2) Therapy, writing, journaling, having deep conversations with oneself in nature

3) Respecting one’s body - stopping substance abuse, eating right, sleeping right, exercise

4) Talking kindly to oneself. Refusing to beat oneself up. Treating oneself like a loved child.

If you are afraid of finding out who you really are, that is understandable. Find someone to help you with the process. But nothing will ever come to a person who plays it safe. Remember, you are as worthy as anything or anyone has ever been. You are made of reworked stardust. No one can make you feel less than that without your consent. Don’t give it!

F.E.A.R. - False Evidence Appearing Real

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Our imaginations are often no good to us when it comes to fear. Imagination can be a rabbit hole that can take you away from the resources of flexibility and reason.

Think back to all the times you feared something would happen - how often did it happen just the way you thought it would?

It's not that scary things don't happen in life, its that 90% of the time the imminent danger is not where we think it will be. So 90% of the worry and anxiety about an upcoming event simply steals our energy.

If we know that the really scary incidents in life are almost always unpredictable, it frees us to work on being the kind of person that can handle raw deals.

Learning to be grounded, to examine our fears realistically and to breathe when we feel tense will work wonders for not anticipating and inadvertently creating F.E.A.R.

Have a Calm and Peaceful Week

Cheryl

What Were You Put On Earth To Do?

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Often a person is not just put on earth to not just do one thing but many. But it is also heartening to think of that one might have an overarching purpose. To find a bigger purpose for your life this very day, look into your heart. What does your heart want?

I am not asking you to be pulled willy-nilly by the transient feelings we all have every day - these are not necessarily the feelings in one’s heart. And of course, there is also a difference between the wishes of your head and those of your heart.

So what does your heart want? Stop. Go inside and spend some time looking at your heart’s desire.

How Depression Affects Concentration

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Many folks think they are tough enough to ride out depression - and if they are having a mild or moderate depression they may well do this. However, riding out depression is not without its penalties. One of these is the capacity to concentrate, which can have consequences in many areas of life. Below are 3 common ways that a lack of focus can hurt a person:

1) Relationships. When one is depressed it is hard to concentrate on what someone is saying - especially if their words bring more pain or sadness. Being caught up in your own head hurts relationships. Plus, depression can be contagious!

2) At work and school, a lack of focus can cause one to entirely miss the point of a task or assignment. It can make one appear disinterested even when one it trying to pay attention. It can lead to missed deadlines. And it can lead to the unconscious distancing of important work relationships.

3) Driving. Driving while on autopilot is simply dangerous. A lack of focus can cause an accident or a ticket. Also, it is simply annoying to miss a turn, or to just forget to bring something important with you, like your wallet or your grocery list.

Depression is not just a matter of emotional pain is causing you to feel sad or numb out. Long term depression also can cause changes as to how the brain processes and remembers information. But there is hope.

The right person can give you tools and help you find a way to deal with and even eliminate depression. Feel free to call me today. If I can’t help you personally, I will refer you to people and resources more suited to your particular situation. Suffering is more optional than you may think!

Want More Intimacy in Your Life?

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More intimacy can seem unattainable, but often not for the obvious reasons.  For instance, do you work too much?  Watch TV most evenings or spend more than you earn?  Party a little too hardy?  These are common substitutes for closeness.  They may bring a temporary measure of pleasure, power or satisfaction, but afterwards, emptiness remains.

Creating more intimacy in one’s life is not just about eliminating vices. That would only lead to new vices! In my practice, I have found that the most common reasons people lack intimacy are:

1) They were not raised with healthy-enough models of intimacy, so don’t gravitate toward personal intimacy in their adult life. Or it feels natural to seek intimacy with people who don’t want to be close.

2) Intimacy is scary for reasons that are too uncomfortable to face. The individual cannot resolve the issue in their own heads and becomes a prisoner of the past.

To start understanding why you are stuck and how you can get out, sharing your concerns with a good friend, therapist, trusted family member or other safe mentor is highly recommended. Sometimes, it may be the only path to finding the intimacy you want and deserve.


Codependency and Anger

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A brief definition of codependency is someone who tries to take care care of adults who actually should be taking care of themselves. By this definition, they will grow more and more angry because this is an impossible task. Yet they may not even realize they are angry!

To others, codependency is unlovely. The codependent person may talk as though they are put upon. They may snipe and complain about other people to the extent that others wonder what is being said behind their back. Codependents want to control things that are not always theirs to control. And when a codependent person's anger oozes out sideways, no one wants to get too close!

However, the codependent person may think of themselves as a nice person who is not consciously angry at all. They feel that other people are disappointing them and although this might make them feel depressed and anxious, or affect their self-esteem, they don’t feel anger. They feel disappointed because they try so hard to be helpful to unappreciative people.

Anger is often suppressed by codependent people. If their anger was faced head on, major changes in the way they think about and organize their lives would be in order. So irritable outbursts are soon forgotten. If anger does boils over, guilt and fear follow because they don’t want to risk pushing away or harming someone they care about. Its a tough life.

The good news is codependency is that it is a habit, not a character disorder. It may be deeply ingrained but it can be unlearned with the right tools and the right kind of support. If you suspect that you or someone you care about may be codependent, call me today. The journey away from this self-destructive - but reversible - habit is always worth it!

Three Things to Consider When Starting Therapy

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Therapy can bring positive changes to a person's life that last a lifetime. Here are three suggestions to help make your decision a more powerful and meaningful.

First, consider if you really have to want to change whatever is causing you pain. You might think, "Well, of course I do!” But it is not that clear cut. Are you willing to look at the ways you have coped with difficult situations that are not really working for you? This can be a little scary! You may find that habitual ways of seeing the world, while unproductive and satisfying, are still familiar and comfortable. Do you want to give these up?

My second suggestion is that you be willing to be frank with your therapist and most importantly to yourself. How do you think you have gotten to the place you are in today? How are feelings affecting the quality of your life? Who in your past has shaped the way you see the world? Questions like these can have many layers of truth. You may not be able to immediately understand how you tick, but the importance elements of your story will reveal themselves to you at the right time. A good therapist will be sensitive to your pace. You may discover that letting someone truly know you can be not only a major relief, but a turning point in your life.

Thirdly, spend some time finding the right therapist to work with. Is the therapist you contact willing to talk to you on the phone first to help you decide if their personality, training and style feel like a good fit for you? Do they seem kind? Can they listen? After a session, do you leave a therapist's office feeling better than when you walked in? Trust grows from a good relationship, and therapy is about being very real.


When therapy works, it is a powerful healing tool that allows you to see beyond your present circumstances. It can be an experience that not only enlivens your thinking and feeling, but gives one the kind of hope, clarity and connectedness you need to live life more fully. Therapy is a unique relationship like none other, and trust grows when therapy feels right.

When Life Seems Like a Series of Unfortunate Events - 3 Tips

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Sometimes life can feel like a trap, due to a to a series of unfortunate events that can seem endless. Sometimes there is a theme to the events and at other times the events can feel totally random.

The biggest symptom of this state is that life can begin to feel like a swamp to be slogged through every day. Sometimes it can feel like depression, and sometimes it actually is depression. At times, this state is totally circumstantial, such as when one is experiencing profound grief, loss or illness. But what matters most is that it feels the same.

Here are three tips to help you to get through life's unfortunate events:

1)  Think about other times in your life when you were discouraged.  How long did they last?  How did you resolve things, or did time just sort them out for you?

2)  Detach.  Step back from the “story” you and others may be telling about what is going on. There is a bigger picture.  In Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" the most sticky and uncomfortable of journeys ultimately were challenges that led to profound personal growth.

3)  Don't be alone in the slog.  Talk to friends, see a therapist, go to self-help meetings or if you have a spiritual path, follow it more closely.  Suffering is lessened from something as simple as talking to another person.

To you in Your Journey,

Cheryl Deaner, LMFT 36764


Why Alcoholic Mothers Don't Get Sober

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Drinking mothers often don’t realize they are damaging their children. In fact, they are two-and-a-half times less likely to go to a treatment facility because they believe their children need them at home. This distortion is due in large part to alcoholic denial and also the need to feel in control of their lives.

When an alcoholic mother does get sober and realizes how her drinking has affected her children she faces a very painful guilt. Also, her children realize the rules have changed and frequently they will begin acting out. At this point she may also lack a stable adult relationship. People leave alcoholic women - in much greater numbers than they leave alcoholic men.

Early recovery is a time for self-care as well as self-absorption. This makes having kids around even more difficult. So when a mother's emotions, such as anger, remorse, sadness and loneliness become unmanageable, they can become triggers for relapse. For all these reasons and more, it can be very difficult for mothers to get and stay sober.

If you know of an alcoholic mother, or were raised by one, please feel free to give me a call. No situation is truly hopeless, and there is no pain that cannot be lessened.

Cheryl Deaner, LMFT



What to do When Anxiety About Work is Ruining Your Life

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Anxiety manifests at work as trying to get everything perfect to the point where one ends up burnt out - doing more and more with less and less heart, spirit, time, clarity or sense of self worth. It takes a toll on one's performance at work, creating an exhausted and “hollowed out” feeling by the end of the day. And it can be ruinous for one’s personal relationships.

Anxiety is almost always the cause of overworking. The temporary relief one receives from of having worked too hard is a temporary lessening of anxiety. But the anxiety will return, and overwork will become an ingrained habit that will eventually lead to even deeper problems and even more anxiety.

To end the self-defeating loop of anxiety and overwork, you may need to work with an expert who can offer you solutions such as cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness therapy or help one to develop life-work balance. These approaches have a good track record because they get at the root of the problem - anxiety.

By utilizing professional support, one can begin to see the why of the problem. For instance, was anxiety a part of one's family growing up? Does one's anxiety have a biochemical component? Is the job basically so demanding that any reasonable person would develop anxiety?

One can also find ways to cope with workplace anxiety by reading books such as “Feeling Good, the New Mood Therapy” by David Burns, or “Dare, the New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks” by Barry McDonagh.

Whatever method one uses to disrupt habitual anxiety, the first step is to realize that anxiety is the cause of the problem, and overworking is the symptom. Then follow that anxiety back to its sources and start there.

Regards, Cheryl Deaner LMFT#36764

Codependency - The Dark Side of Kindness

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Being nice is not the same as being kind. Here are common examples of “being nice” that are not kind but are actually codependent:

  • Being nice to someone at your own psychological expense

  • Taking at least partial blame for something that is not your fault to avoid conflict

  • Being nice in order to manipulate someone into doing what you want.

  • Taking care of someone who should be taking care of themselves

Kindness is altogether different from niceness. It springs from being kind to yourself, which puts you in a much better position to be kind to others.

Here are examples of being kind to yourself:

  • Acknowledging what your gut says is true about others

  • Setting boundaries with people who want more of you than you have to give them

  • Not letting an adult form the habit of being dependent on you

  • Spending more time with people you like and less with those who are draining.

Often, codependency starts in childhood or from a lack of self-esteem from tough experiences later in life. Almost everyone has been touched by its brush, some more than others.

If you feel yourself slipping into doing something you really don't want to do with someone, step back. Feel your feelings, then set them aside and make a decision in a kind yet truthful way. You will not only feel better about yourself, but you will actually be more respectful to the other person.

Cheryl Deaner, LMFT