Category Archives: Articles

Therapists v. Post-Election Stress

Another day, another stressful election. And they’ll keep on coming. Here’s an NYT roundup of therapist advice about just how exactly to cope.

[T]herapists report that many of their patients are even more upset as they struggle to make sense of the direction in which the country is heading. And many can’t tear themselves away from the news…

“Use your anxiety to motivate you,” [Dr. Stephen Hayes] said. “Think about what you value most and take action.” Taking action can help to instill the sense that you have some control over your environment — what psychologists call perceived self-efficacy — and leave you feeling less stressed.

Breathing v. Stress

The NYT illustrates some approaches to  controlled breathing:

Controlled breathing…has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system. For centuries yogis have used breath control, or pranayama, to promote concentration and improve vitality. Buddha advocated breath-meditation as a way to reach enlightenment.

Science is just beginning to provide evidence that the benefits of this ancient practice are real. Studies have found, for example, that breathing practices can help reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and attention deficit disorder.

Meaning v. Happiness

NYT relays four “well-being workouts” from Dr. Martin Seligman.

“Psychology is generally focused on how to relieve depression, anger and worry,” he said…“What makes life worth living,” he said, “is much more than the absence of the negative.”

To Dr. Seligman, the most effective long-term strategy for happiness is to actively cultivate well-being.

In his 2012 book, “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being,” he explored how well-being consists not merely of feeling happy (an emotion that can be fleeting) but of experiencing a sense of contentment in the knowledge that your life is flourishing and has meaning beyond your own pleasure.

Post-Election Anxiety

Los Feliz is a deep blue neighborhood in a deep blue state. Right now, a lot of people are experiencing an unpleasant combination of lingering shock and continued anxiety. From How to Cope with Post-Election Stress (The Atlantic), come some suggestions. First, there’s basic self-care. Then:

At an individual level, people can check in on their families, friends, and coworkers, to see how they’re doing, and host gatherings or create opportunities for people to socialize and be together. They can donate or help organize or volunteer at charities, organizations, or religious groups that work in their cities and neighborhoods[…]

Ultimately, taking action is likely the biggest thing people can do to combat the anxiety and fear they may feel while waiting for Trump’s inauguration, and after. A trap that it’s easy to fall into is what psychologists call “counterfactual regret”—thinking of all the ways an outcome could have been prevented, how the world could be different if people had just done something different.

Can therapy help? Yes, it can. Call or write to get started.

Election Anxiety

suffragettesExperiencing a spike in anxiety connected with the election? You’re not alone.

The American Psychological Association says that 52 percent of American adults are coping with high levels of stress brought on by the election, according to national Harris Poll survey data released last week. Therapists around the country said in interviews that patients are coming to appointments citing their fears, anger and anxiety about the election.

Both poll data and anecdotal reports show that the high levels of election anxiety are affecting both Republicans and Democrats equally.

Therapists nationwide on are on the case (including here in Los Feliz).

More Mindfulness

More help via mindfulness, this time for elementary school kids in Watts:

Mindfulness has been found beneficial for stress reduction, anxiety and depression, dietary challenges, addiction recovery, and many other conditions. Now it has found its way into a classroom where children as young as three are using its techniques to manage emotions and stay calm.

Using a strategy called Calm Classroom, Los Angles students, ranging from transitional kindergartners to fifth graders, are being guided by teachers three times during the school day through three-minute mindfulness exercises. The drills call on students to refocus their attention on deep breathing, relaxation, and body awareness.

Haven’t tried it? For some free, short, guided meditations, check out UCLA’S Mindful Awareness Research Center.

Politics in Therapy

In case you missed it: Why Therapists Should Talk Politics (NYT):

There comes a time when people can’t take it anymore, when too much is being demanded of them. How much blame can people tolerate directing at themselves? When do they turn it outward?

My sense is that psychotherapists are playing a significant role in directing this blame inward. Unfortunately, many therapists, because they have been trained not to discuss political issues in the consulting room, are part of the problem, implicitly reinforcing false assumptions about personal responsibility, isolation and the social status quo.

If the patient describes a nearly unbearable work situation, the therapist will tend to focus on the nature of the patient’s response to the situation, implicitly treating the situation itself as unchangeable, a fact of life. But an untenable or unjust environment is not always just a fact of life, and therapists need to consider how to talk about that explicitly.

Overconnecting

Stop Googling. Let’s Talk” (NYT again) surveys the trouble-with-cell-phones research (distraction up, empathy down). This jumped out:

Studies of conversation both in the laboratory and in natural settings show that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone on a table between them or in the periphery of their vision changes both what they talk about and the degree of connection they feel. People keep the conversation on topics where they won’t mind being interrupted. They don’t feel as invested in each other. Even a silent phone disconnects us.

If you make it through the article wanting more, there’s a whole book of this stuff (to read on your phone, of course).

Nostalgia v. Angst

nostalgia v angstResearch says nostalgia is good for you (NYT).  One study:

First, the experimenters induced nostalgia by playing hit songs from the past for some people and letting them read lyrics to their favorite songs. Afterward, these people were more likely than a control group to say that they felt “loved” and that “life is worth living.”

Then the researchers tested the effect in the other direction by trying to induce existential angst. They subjected some people to an essay by a supposed Oxford philosopher who wrote that life is meaningless because any single person’s contribution to the world is “paltry, pathetic and pointless.” Readers of the essay became more likely to nostalgize, presumably to ward off Sartrean despair.

Moreover, when some people were induced to nostalgia before reading the bleak essay, they were less likely to be convinced by it.