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Keir Brady, Author at Keir Brady Counseling Services
What Is Dissociation

What Is Dissociation

Dissociation is quite common. Tuning out from boredom, or not remembering a conversation that was uninteresting, are some typical ways you might dissociate. However, sometimes it can occur often and become problematic, especially after experiencing a traumatic event. When this happens, you might develop a dissociative disorder that can have a negative impact on your daily life. Read on to learn more about dissociation and what you can do about it.

What Is Dissociation

Dissociation refers to someone disconnecting from their thoughts, emotions, memories, surroundings, or sense of self. Everyone dissociates at times. It can be described as zoning out, such as when you arrive home, but can’t remember the drive, or when you reread the same sentence over and over again because your mind was elsewhere. When you dissociate, you often lose your sense of person, time or place. There are mild forms of dissociation, like spacing out when you are bored, or more severe forms, such as emotional numbness that can occur after a traumatic experience. With complex or severe trauma, a dissociative disorder can develop requiring professional treatment.

Why Does Dissociation Occur

Dissociation is often linked to a traumatic event. When a situation overwhelms your capacity to cope, your brain protects you by enabling you to disconnect from this experience. This makes it easier to cope with the feelings of fear, helplessness, or pain. It is a part of the freeze response in the fight-flight-or freeze response system. The shut down helps protect you from the trauma you are going through so you can survive. Although dissociation can be helpful in times of increased stress, with experiences of trauma, the brain often remains on high alert. This can cause it to occur even in benign situations.

What Are The Common Types Of Dissociation 

The most extreme form of dissociation, dissociative identity disorder, where someone experiences two or more distinct personalities, is extremely rare. Depersonalization, derealization and dissociative amnesia are more common types of dissociation. In dissociative amnesia, you are unable to remember things about yourself, a period of time, event, or even your own identity. Dissociative amnesia can last from a few minutes to several years. Depersonalization feels as though you are having an out of body experience. It is common to feel detached from yourself as if you are watching what is happening from outside of your body. With derealization, you may feel as though the things and people around you are not real. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Dissociation

One of the most common symptoms of dissociation is zoning out. Feeling disconnected from your body or numb to your emotions is another common symptom. Memory loss, daydreaming, and having flashbacks are all symptoms of dissociation. A more extreme symptom is losing touch with reality. Most people will experience mild forms of dissociation at times. However, dissociation can become problematic if it interferes with your ability to function effectively in one or more areas of your life. If this happens, a dissociative disorder may have developed and treatment will be needed. 

Treatments For Dissociation

A combination of medication and psychotherapy is used to treat dissociative disorders. There are also some techniques you can try. Grounding techniques can help you reconnect with your body and can bring you back to the present. To ground yourself, you want to engage your senses. Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. You can drink something hot or cold, or hold an ice cube in your hand and pay attention to the sensation as it slowly melts. A technique called box breathing can also be helpful. For this technique, you slowly breathe in through your nose for a count of 4. Next, you hold your breath for 4. Then you slowly exhale for 4. Finally, you hold your exhale for 4 and repeat the cycle over again.

While mild dissociation is very common and generally not an issue, dissociation related to trauma can be difficult to overcome on your own. If dissociation is interfering with your ability to function effectively, therapy can help. Then you can learn to manage it so it no longer has a negative impact on your life.

Why Practicing Gratitude Is Good For You

Why Practicing Gratitude Is Good For You

Practicing gratitude on a regular basis is good for you. Gratitude has been linked to better physical health, stronger interpersonal relationships, and improved self-esteem and emotional well-being. By focusing on the good, you not only decrease negative feelings, you also experience more positive emotions. If you want to increase feelings of happiness and joy, a regular gratitude practice such as keeping a gratitude journal is a good idea.

What Does Gratitude Mean

Gratitude refers to noticing and expressing appreciation for all the good in your life. Instead of focusing on the negative, and the things that you don’t like, practicing gratitude requires you to focus on the positive, and the things you appreciate. Since it is natural for your brain to assess every situation you are in for danger, and to dwell on the negative in order to keep you alive, purposely focusing on what is going well can have a number of noticeable benefits. In fact, practicing gratitude on a regular basis can be very good for you. It can have a positive effect on your relationships and your physical and emotional well-being.

Practicing Gratitude Improves Self-Esteem

Practicing gratitude can improve your self-esteem. When you practice gratitude on a regular basis, your focus shifts to what is good. Instead of noticing what isn’t going well, how you don’t measure up to others, or the things you dislike, you begin to notice what you like and enjoy. This positive outlook enables you to be more aware of your own positive qualities as well. It is harder to be unkind to yourself when you are paying attention to all of your blessings. By focusing on all of the good things in your own life, you are less likely to compare yourself negatively to others. Practicing gratitude creates a more positive mindset that can enhance your self-esteem and overall happiness.

Practicing Gratitude Strengthens Relationships

Relationships can strengthen when you sustain a regular gratitude practice. Practicing gratitude can help your relationships improve because it encourages you to focus on the positive traits of the people in your life. This includes your friends, family, and partner. Remembering what you appreciate about the important people in your life can decrease arguments and improve your emotional connection. If you practice gratitude, you are less likely to be critical of your family members, and more likely to thank them for their efforts. Since it feels good to both give and receive appreciation, when you share your gratitude in your relationships, your loved ones are more likely to reciprocate as well.

Practicing Gratitude Enhances Optimism

Engaging in a regular gratitude practice can make you more optimistic. This is due to the fact that gratitude is about looking for the positives in your life. As you notice all of the good in your life, you begin to anticipate more positives in your future. Practicing gratitude releases the feel good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. This helps you experience and sustain good feelings and creates a positive feedback loop. The more you practice gratitude, the better you feel and the more optimistic you become. This makes you want to continue to practice gratitude.

Practicing Gratitude Improves Physical Health 

Gratitude can also improve your physical health. Some studies found that practicing gratitude can improve sleep, improve cardiovascular health, and decrease general aches and pains. People who practice gratitude report having a healthier lifestyle. They also report exercising regularly. Those who practice gratitude are also more likely to attend their yearly physicals and to follow the advice of their doctor.

Practicing Gratitude Improves Emotional Health

Along with your physical health, a regular gratitude practice can also improve your emotional well-being. When you are feeling stressed or worried, the stress hormone cortisol is released. Practicing gratitude not only releases the feel good hormones, but it also decreases the release of cortisol. While it is not enough to treat mental health issues, practicing gratitude can improve feelings of happiness and contentment. Those who consistently practice gratitude are less likely to compare themselves to others. This reduces negative emotions such as envy, resentment, and regret.

If you want to improve your overall emotional well-being, it’s a good idea to practice gratitude on a regular basis. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to do this. My new book, A Year of Gratitude Journal, will be released on August 10 and can be preordered on Amazon by following this link. The book provides 52 weeks of writing prompts, exercises, and quotes and affirmations to help you cultivate a weekly gratitude practice for a year of positivity and joy.

5 Benefits Of Anxiety

5 Benefits Of Anxiety

When you think of anxiety, you probably focus on all of the negative aspects, such as constant worry, and restlessness. However, there are also many ways that experiencing anxiety can be helpful. Below are 5 benefits of anxiety that you may often overlook.

What Is Anxiety

Anxiety refers to feelings of nervousness, unease, or fear about something future oriented, usually with an unknown outcome. It is normal and helpful to experience anxiety when encountering a dangerous situation. During periods of major change and stressful life events, it is common for most people to experience some form of anxiety. Anxiety can be felt physically as well as emotionally. You may experience tightness in your chest, difficulty breathing, and sweaty palms as well as racing thoughts and feelings of dread. Although persistent anxiety can interfere with your ability to function effectively, having some anxiety can actually be very beneficial.

1. Anxiety Can Help Keep You Safe

One of the benefits of anxiety is that it can help keep you safe. When you feel anxious, your amygdala kicks in to assess the situation for danger. This is the instinctual fight-flight-or freeze response that takes over to keep you safe when you become afraid. In a life-threatening scenario, you will respond by running away, fighting for your life, or playing dead. By doing one of these three things, you have a better chance of surviving. If you pay attention to this fear, or anxiety, you can be alerted to danger and take action to keep yourself safe. 

2. Anxiety Can Alert You To Things That Need Addressing

Anxiety can alert you to things that need addressing so you can make a positive change. If you feel anxious about your job or relationship and can’t stop worrying about it, some adjustments may be necessary. Anxiety can help you notice problems in many areas of your life. It requires you to do something in order for the uncomfortable feelings to subside. This can lead you to making a beneficial change that can help you lead a more fulfilling life. If you are always stressed out about your finances, anxiety can motivate you to create a better budget and save more money. This way you can be more responsible with your finances, which can help decrease your worry and anxiety.

3. Anxiety Can Be Motivating

Motivation is also a benefit of anxiety. If you are feeling anxious about a specific outcome, you can be more motivated to prepare. Without a little fear, you will be unlikely to put forth the effort required to achieve success. For instance, if you are worried about getting a good grade on a test, you will probably put more time and effort into studying. Those who don’t experience anxiety may not be as motivated to prepare for the test. Anxiety can also help you focus more on the task at hand, which can improve your performance. Along with focus, anxiety can help you forgo other activities so you are more likely to accomplish your goals.

4. Anxiety Can Help You Consider All The Options

If you experience anxiety, you are probably able to imagine a variety of different outcomes based on which steps you decide to take. This can help you formulate a very detailed initial plan, as well as a number of back-up plans that help you reach your goals. Because you are very good at anticipating a variety of different results for any given situation, you can be a very effective leader. It is unlikely that you will be caught off guard, or that something unexpected will deter you. Since you are able to consider possible obstacles, you also know what you need to do to overcome them. You are a cautious thinker, careful planner, and good decision maker. This helps others rely on your judgment and trust in your abilities.

5. Anxiety Can Improve Empathy

If you experience anxiety, you have a greater understanding of the toll it can take on an individual’s mental health. It will be easier for you to show compassion for friends and family members facing personal struggles. You may easily attune to others suffering and empathize with their pain. Because of this, others may seek you out when they are suffering. Your ability to understand things from someone else’s point of view can enable you to provide meaningful assistance that helps others feel understood and valued. This empathic response can strengthen your interpersonal relationships and ability to connect with others on a deeper level.

When you notice yourself becoming anxious, try and remember these 5 benefits of anxiety. Doing this can help you focus less on the worry and restlessness related to anxiety. However, if anxiety is having a negative impact on your quality of life, therapy can help. Remembering the positive things about anxiety can help you manage the negative parts more effectively. This way you can use the benefits of anxiety to your advantage.

7 Tips For Repairing Your Relationship After A Fight

7 Tips For Repairing Your Relationship After A Fight

Disagreements and arguments happen in almost all relationships on occasion. While this isn’t really a problem, feelings can get hurt and your relationship will suffer if you don’t repair the damage. Without proper repair, emotional intimacy can weaken and resentment can build. This can have a negative impact on your couple connection. However, effective reparation after a fight can restore a sense of unity and can even strengthen your relationship. Below are 7 tips for repairing your relationship after a fight.

1. Give Each Other Time And Space

After an argument with your partner, it’s important to give each other time and space. It’s difficult to think about repairing your relationship when your emotions are heightened. A little time and space can give you each a chance to calm down and consider the situation logically as well as emotionally. You can discuss this ahead of time and decide on the length of time that works for each of you before attempting to resolve the issue. If you come back together and the argument resumes, try taking a longer break. 

2. Feel Your Feelings

When you take a break from your partner, allow yourself to feel your feelings and reflect on the situation. Name the feeling that you are experiencing and notice where you feel it in your body. Determine if this feeling comes up a lot for you during an argument with your partner and what you might need. Sit with the feeling and allow it to be until it no longer feels as strong. Once you both feel calmer, you may be ready to talk about the fight.

3. Use I Statements

To repair your relationship after an argument you need to be able to communicate effectively. Use I statements to begin the discussion. I statements are about what happened for you, rather than what you think happened for the other person. These statements start with I, such as I think, I feel, I believe, rather than starting with you. This way your partner doesn’t feel as though you are blaming them or making assumptions about what occurred for them. When you explain things from your own perspective, your partner is less likely to get defensive, and more likely to listen.

4. Actively Listen

Active listening refers to listening in order to really understand your partner. This includes noticing nonverbal cues as well. It is important to put down your phone, turn off the television, and make sure there are no other distractions. Make eye contact and give your partner your undivided attention. Do not interrupt your partner unless you are trying to further your understanding. The focus should be on really understanding your partner’s point of view, not on what you want to say. Summarizing what you hear your partner say lets them know that you were really paying attention to them.

5. Take A Break If Needed

Even if you are using I statements and actively listening, it is still possible for the discussion to turn into a heated argument. If this starts to happen, let your partner know that you need to take a break. Tell your partner when you want to come back together and try again. Make sure you come back at the agreed upon time. Use this time to calm yourself down and feel your feelings. Think about what you might need so you can listen to your partner and share your needs. There is nothing wrong with taking a break if you really need it, but using this tactic too often can interfere with the ability to repair effectively.

6. Apologize And Reconnect

An effective apology can go a long way towards repairing your relationship. In order for an apology to be effective, you need to state what you did to make sure you are on the same page. Then let your partner know how you think that impacted them. Finally, you need to state the steps you plan to take to make it less likely to continue to happen in the future. To reconnect after the apology, you want to let your partner know that you are on the same side. This can be a touch, a hug, a smile, an inside joke, or anything else that helps you feel connected. By apologizing and reconnecting, you both get closure.

7. Make A Plan For The Future

By using what you learned during this process, you can now make a plan going forward to help you navigate future disagreements more effectively. Consider what you learned about yourself and your partner. Discuss the needs that you each had that were not being met. Come up with a way that you can do things differently in the future so these needs are addressed. Make the necessary changes to work on the parts of your relationship that need strengthening.

The next time you and your partner have a fight, try the above tips to help repair and strengthen your relationship. If your arguments start getting out of hand, or you are unable to effectively repair your connection following a disagreement, couples counseling can help. By focusing on repairing your relationship after a fight, you can keep your relationship healthy and strong. 

6 Tips To Manage Perfectionism

6 Tips To Manage Perfectionism

While many think that perfectionism is something to strive for, being a perfectionist can have a negative impact on your self-view and emotional well-being. As a perfectionist, you might be very self-critical when you fail to meet the high standards and often unattainable goals that you consistently set for yourself. Since your self-esteem is mainly based on what you achieve, failing to accomplish your unrealistic goals can lead to a constant state of disappointment, anxiety, depression, and feelings of unworthiness. If perfectionism is taking a toll on your mental health, there are some things that you can do to help.

What Is Perfectionism

Perfectionism, or the need to appear to be perfect or flawless in one or more areas, and believing that being perfect is possible, is a trait that many think of as positive. However, perfectionists can set unrealistically high standards that are impossible to achieve, leading to feelings of inadequacy and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. The fear of failure can lead to negative self-judgment and can keep perfectionists from beginning, or completing tasks at times. Self-esteem is often derived from achievements and the approval of others, rather than from within. Perfectionists can be highly critical of themselves and others and often engage in black-or-white thinking. They may experience little satisfaction, a lot of disappointment, and may feel as if they will never be good enough. Below are 6 tips to manage perfectionism.

1. Strive For Good Enough

Instead of trying to be perfect, try to be good enough. The concept of being good enough refers to knowing when putting more effort into something is unlikely to improve it. This way, you aim to do the best that you can do, instead of trying to do the best that you believe might be possible. Doing this sets up more realistic expectations that can actually be achieved. It does not mean not trying, or settling for mediocrity. Mainly it is about knowing when enough is enough, instead of trying to reach unrealistic standards. You will be less likely to procrastinate and more likely to finish what you start, when you are striving to be good enough. 

2. Practice Self-Compassion

When you practice self-compassion, you are able to relate to yourself in a kind, understanding and caring way. Perfectionists often focus on what is lacking and how they are not measuring up. If you are kind and gentle with yourself instead, you can start to notice what is going well and the gifts you have. To practice self-compassion, you need to notice your negative self-talk and how you can change it to something that is accurate, but kind. Stop judging yourself so harshly. Begin and end your day by writing down a few things that you did right and are proud of. Talk to yourself the way you talk to someone that you deeply care for. This way you can start to appreciate your strengths.

3. Forgive Yourself

Practicing self-forgiveness can also help with perfectionism. Achieving perfection is an impossible task. In order to even come close, you will probably struggle to meet the high standards that you have set. You can choose to beat yourself up for this, or you can practice self-forgiveness. Forgiving yourself for not being perfect is a way to let go of the need to punish yourself or ruminate on your shortcomings. Self-forgiveness helps you put these things behind you so you can learn, adjust, and move forward. This way the focus can be on new possibilities, not on past shortcomings.

4. Challenge Your Thoughts

If you struggle with perfectionism, negative thoughts can become problematic. The thought of failure can stop you from even trying. There can be a lot of negative thoughts about not measuring up or being enough. These thoughts can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression that can impact your behavior. When these negative thoughts come up, it is important to recognize them and challenge their accuracy. Consider another way to think about it that is more compassionate, and change your negative self-talk.

5. Focus On The Lessons

A perfectionist has a hard time with mistakes. Instead of viewing mistakes as learning opportunities, you might see them as a character flaw. This can make it difficult to learn valuable lessons that can lead to improvement. When you are able to look for the lessons when things don’t go perfectly, you can let go of some of the negative self-judgment. This way, you start to look at what you are gaining, not what you are lacking.

6. Celebrate Achievements

As a perfectionist, it can be hard to take pride in your accomplishments. You notice all of your imperfections and what isn’t going well, instead of celebrating what you have achieved. This can cause your achievements to seem meaningless as your expectations are so high. You naturally look for the things that need fixing and forget to acknowledge your successes. Celebrating your achievements may seem frivolous and unnecessary. However, it can actually be highly motivating and encouraging. Taking the time to appreciate your accomplishments enables you to give yourself the praise that you ordinarily try to get from others, which can improve your self-esteem.

If you struggle with perfectionism that is having a negative impact on your mental health, try the above tips. Counseling can help perfectionism that continues to be problematic. When you set more realistic goals and try your best, you can improve your self-esteem and emotional well-being.

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