We are pleased to announce that the new website for Dodini Behavioral Health has officially launched. The goal of the new design is to make it easier than ever for patients to learn about our staff and services and ultimately settle on the best course of treatment for personal and professional success. Thank you for your interest in our practice and continued loyalty. Welcome to the new site – enjoy!
What is joy? What is happiness? What removes it from life? How can we get it, or get it back? Ever thought about these questions? Have you ever wondered why your life may not feel joyful, serene, and happy? As a psychologist, I hear a lot of people ask these questions. They wonder how they can grab joy and happiness as they amble through their daily routines. New studies show that joy is a feeling you don’t necessarily have to be born with. You can learn to feel joy and happiness a step at a time.
In a book by Donald Altman, MA, LPC, The Joy Compass: 8 Ways to Find Lasting Happiness, Gratitude & Optimism in the Present Moment he writes that joy can be learned, practiced and incorporated into our lives. First and foremost, Altman says we must focus on removing “should” from the way we think, measuring ourselves against what we “should do” or “should be.” Replacing this concept with “could” is a powerful switch because it allows us to choose what we will do, and it promotes flexibility and a gentle voice that can lead to happiness and joy. Joy and happiness seem to be simple concepts, but they’re actually difficult to define. Some psychologists say happiness focuses on being able to enjoy and engage with other people and live a life that is meaningful and has a perceived purpose. Others focus on the relatively brief feelings of joy and pleasure.
No matter how you define it, if you want more joy you may be more vulnerable as you become aware of your surroundings and cognizant of your reactions to it. According to author and psychologist Brené Brown, Ph.D, LMSW, “Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences.” He adds, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.”
So what do we do? How to we become more joyful?
First we realize that we’re going to be vulnerable as we enter this exercise, but we have to move forward understanding that vulnerability is part of our walk toward joy and happiness. We also realize that joy is something we work for; it’s not always just given to us.
Next we can begin by changing our inner language from “should” to “could,” we begin to make decisions about what we will do, who we will spend time with, how we will respond, etc.
Tal Ben-Shahar, a sought after lecturer at Harvard University and author of Happier, focuses on five points we must incorporate into our lives to be become happy:
1. We must accept painful emotions in our lives and realize that these feelings allow us to be alive, to be human and open to ourselves.
2. We must spend quality time with people we care about, family and friends who care about us. These people will help us feel good about ourselves because they know us and understand us.
3. We have to incorporate regular physical exercise into our lives. Exercising at least 30 to 40 minutes three times each week begins to change the functioning of our brain and activates hormones that help us feel happier.
4. Feel gratitude and write about it. Try keeping a gratitude journal writing five things each day that helped us feel happier, more optimistic, successful or physically healthier.
5. Simplify. Less is more, but often that message is not heard in this busy world. We must not respond to every email, Ben-Shahar says. We should turn off our phones for a couple of hours when we come home from work or school. We must try very diligently to simplify aspects of our lives.
Happiness can be ours if we’ll work for it. Try these simple suggestions and see what happens. I think you’ll begin to see some amazing results!
Aaron Dodini, M.S., M.A., Ph.D.
The searing pain that accompanies loss can feel suffocating. The reality is that grief is not something that most people get “through” (this implies that there is somehow a finite ending point). Similarly, to suggest to someone who has experienced loss that it is something that he or she will “get over” can add excruciating insult to injury. Rather, loss is something that we assimilate to. It changes and transforms us. Some losses leave an indelible mark on our hearts and alter the fabric of who we are and how we move forward with our lives.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ seminal work, On Death and Dying, was published in 1969 and brought to center stage what is now classically regarded as a model for five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
It is not uncommon to experience physical and psychological shock when first learning about loss. Some individuals feel paralyzed and are frozen by a dull, emotional numbness in the hours and days that follow the news. It can feel as though you are living in some kind of horrific nightmare filled with moments where you question whether this can actually have become your reality. Anger is frequently part of a person’s journey of grief. It may be anger with yourself, anger with someone else, anger about all that feels unfair and unjust about the situation . . . it can even be anger with the person you have lost (which can often feel very difficult to allow yourself to acknowledge, and grant yourself permission to feel). The gap in your world can cause you to have periods of becoming fixated on what you can possibly do to “undo” the situation, somehow change the outcome of the circumstances, or prevent misfortune striking in the days, weeks, or years to come. And the stark reality is that loss can create a very deep, dark chasm in our hearts and worlds. Over time—often much more quickly than you feel equipped to face it—you are forced to fall into to the putting-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other existence that life requires following loss.
The language we use around grief is critical. The nuance of certain words and terms can actually hurt more than help when someone is contending with loss. For many, even implying that grief follows prescriptive “stages” can be problematic. Some people may start to question or fear that they, or the people around them, are somehow not grieving the way that they “should” be. Grief looks very differently for different people. It is not a linear process. Grief reactions often occur in waves. The timeline over which certain grief reactions surface is unique to each individual who finds himself or herself in the midst of the experience.
William Worden set forth four tasks that he identified as being an important part of healing when someone has experienced loss. They take place in no particular order and often times must occur over and over again.
1. Accepting the reality of the loss. While “acceptance” can still feel like a sticky concept for many individuals, “adjusting” and “acknowledging” the reality of what has occurred is an important part of the process. It’s certainly not about condoning what happened, liking the circumstances, or fully understanding what transpired, but rather acknowledging “what is.”
2. Working through the pain of grief. Loss is painful. It rakes up a lot of very intense, raw emotions. Grief can be even more complex when the relationship shared with the person who is lost was a complicated one. People who have experienced loss often find themselves grappling with a lot of larger existential questions and the fear, discomfort, and anxiety that frequently arises when faced with a reminder of the reality of our own mortality.
3. Adjusting to an environment in which the deceased is missing. Waking up next to an empty pillow. Taking on the task of paying the bills each month. Realizing that it’s up to you to pick out what your children are going to wear to school each morning. Going to a different house for Thanksgiving for the first time. Setting one less seat at the table. Following loss, days can suddenly seem filled by reminders that someone is gone. Things are often taken for granted that may have previously been rote and automatic, but are now frequent, powerful—in some moments completely overwhelming—reminders of what has happened.
4. Finding an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on a new life. You don’t forget. You don’t stop loving. Part of the journey becomes working out how you can keep living despite these things. It’s wrestling with how you can simultaneously look ahead and press forward while being able to fully trust that you can maintain a healthy tie with what has been lost. It’s knowing in a very deep place that creating a future does not erase a precious history. It’s discovering how can you honor and keep memories alive without becoming completely arrested by your pain.
Grief. It’s horrific, complicated, lonely, and completely exhausting. It’s messy. It’s also not something you should have to walk through in isolation. No one can remove your anguish or “know exactly what you are going through.” Yet, it is so very important that you don’t hold your pain in isolation. Let someone in. Even if it is to provide regular reminders to be very gentle with yourself. It’s okay to bury yourself under your duvet and not want to leave the safety of your bed. It’s okay to want to scream and give a black eye to the well-intentioned individual who offered you what felt like a trite, invalidating platitude when you crossed paths last week. It’s also okay to have a good day. And to laugh. Wherever you are in the journey, give yourself permission to be fully there.
Worden, J. W. (2002). Grief counseling and grief therapy: A handbook for the mental health practitioner. New York: Springer Pub.
Kübler-Ross, E. (1969). On Death and Dying. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company Inc.
Joy Lere, Psy.D.
1. It’s 5:30 in the morning and you’re in the extended stay parking lot driving in circles, because that’s when the cheapest flight could be had. You frantically look around for the shuttle bus, worried that if you miss your ride you won’t make it to the check-in desk before the flight closes. Did your anxiety about money manage to ruin the trip before it even started?!
2. You have an uneasy feeling that you sounded exactly like your dad when your teenager just asked, “why do we have to go to this same stupid beach, AGAIN?” You wonder if entitlement is a disease that affects all children, or just yours.
3. The ratio of dirty diapers changed to book pages turned is nearly 1 to 1. You wonder if other parents have time to read… Intelligence isn’t measured by the quantity or quality of books read, right?
4. Your mother-in-law just told your husband, “Let me put that sunscreen on your back; you always get so burned.” You want to interject and get her off his back (literally). You think to yourself, “I could have sworn my husband was an adult before we left on this trip!”
5. Suitcases filled with dirty clothes and souvenirs have exploded all over your house. It’s midnight because the only affordable flight home for a family of five meant suffering two layovers, eating two meals at the airport, and landing at 10:30. You and your partner fall back onto the bed and simultaneously exclaim, “We need a vacation!”
How can any of us stay sane when we only have 24 hours in a day to keep our partners happy, be good parents, enjoy our alone time, respond to emails, take showers, and get some sleep?
Though getting away for a few days can alleviate some of these burdens (More sleep? Relying on that trusty out-of-office message?), the anxieties, obligations, and stressors present in our everyday lives follow us wherever we go… EVEN ON VACATION.
After all, wherever you go, there you are.
If you are in need of Post-Traumatic Summer Vacation Disorder therapy, call Dodini Behavioral Health!
Here are some tips for managing anxiety as well as new boundaries and roles while our society develops new ways of living to curb the spread of Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). Remember that anxiety makes us vulnerable to physical disease so please see what works for you to transform that energy into something beneficial. May these inspire you to come up with the best way of navigating through this crisis to the other side. Yours always in good health! Best wishes, Renu
- Stay informed, but do not obsess over the news. The quest for certainty brings its opposite, increasing anxiety. Spend only a certain amount of time each day on the news, freeing yourself the rest of the time.
➢ Obtain the news from sources
you can rely on to be calm and factual sites such as Arlington County’s web site: https://health.arlingtonva.us/co vid-19-coronavirus-updates/.
- Take the precautions and measures to protect yourself that feel right to you—you do not need to justify this nor does it need to be “rational.” While not everyone has to self- quarantine for example, lessening in- person contact and controlling more of your environment can reduce fear.
- If you are prone to anxiety or panic attacks, remember your coping skills: use deep relaxation breathing techniques, rub the top of your thighs, verbalize concrete facts to bring yourself back to the present moment and the core of your body. Remind yourself that you are safe. Connect with a loved one.
- Social distancing does not mean isolation. Isolating can be extremely harmful, so use the tools available. Connect with others via video, phone calls, texting, email, and social media on a regular basis.
➢ Use video—seeing someone increases the amount of oxytocin, the love hormone that protects us from the impact of stress.
➢ Have meals or happy hours together via video as if you were in person.
➢ Connect over social media
with loved ones, but be careful not to overexpose yourself to those who are anxious as that could increase your negative feelings.
➢ Don’t just connect one-on-one,
keep up with your groups. Friend groups can convene virtually from multiple locations, meanwhile organized groups such as spiritual and religious organizations are conducting remote events and gatherings.
- Make sure you are in touch with loved ones, esp. the elderly or chronically ill. Since they have been asked to self- isolate, help them make arrangements to gain any needed assistance if you are unable to provide it yourself.
- Stay in therapy and ask for more sessions if desired! I have a lot of experience providing teletherapy, which research shows is very effective. Review my tips on making teletherapy and let’s discuss any barriers to virtual sessions until we are able to resume in person.
- Drill down into your fears and concerns, then work to turn them into problems you can solve if possible.
➢ For example, if you realize
some of your anxiety is related to the fear you haven’t lived a meaningful life, then figure out what that would look like and how you could make small changes toward realizing this.
➢ If you feel the urge to make
major changes now, it may be an impulsive reaction to the crisis. Do research, meditate, and talk to others so decisions are well thought out.
- Refill medications. If needed, discuss with your psychiatrist whether an anti- anxiolytic would be beneficial on an as-needed basis, but if your use becomes daily let’s work together to reduce your immediate stress.
- Meal plan for the week so you know what you have and what you might need to prepare.
➢ Many delivery services for
groceries and restaurants are providing no-contact drop-offs.
➢ Grocery stores have promised
to stay open and the supply
chain is being amped up so you will be able to obtain food. Are there any types of foods you would like to try? Recipes you’d like to make?
- Most people have more difficulty in the evenings after work when they would go out. Develop distractions that will help you reduce anxiety.
- If you do not feel symptomatic, consider going for walks by yourself or with another to breathe fresh air. When doing so, use the precautions given by the experts: Remain 3-6 feet from others, and use disinfectant on your hands as well as phones.
- If you’re not up to going for a walk, go onto your balcony or patio, or open a window. The sunny world may beckon, so let it in somehow!
- Consider how you can use the increased time at home. Make lemonade of your sour lemons, focusing on what you can control and what you can actually do.
➢ Is there a language you’ve
always wanted to learn, a closet that really needs to be organized, or can you get ahead and finish taxes?
➢ Our bodies need oxygen and
movement. As one client said, he’s going to become “prison strong!” Yoga and other exercises can be done at home. Pranayama yoga simply involves breathwork.
➢ Meditation, journaling, and
praying are three key activities proven to reduce anxiety and alleviate boredom and loneliness. Add motivating (but reasonable) intentions to your day for an extra boost.
➢ Listen and dance to music,
sing, play board games, play video/Internet games with others.
➢ Engage in online dating or
make new friends. Most dating apps now have best friend matches.
➢ Do comforting things. Take a
hot bath, use essential oils or aromatherapy, hug yourself (put your arms across your chest and squeeze).
➢ If you don’t have a bucket list,
create one! Do you have regrets about not doing something or going somewhere? Research where you want to go and what you want to do once restrictions are lifted and it feels safe to travel outside your home.
Working from Home
- Create a comfortable space to work even if physical adjustments are necessary.
➢ Consider how to prevent fur
babies and others from interrupting.
➢ Use devices such as noise- cancelling headphones.
- Restructure your routines as needed
➢ What time will you rise and go
to bed? Rest must come first, esp. if it has become impaired because a lack of sleep will provoke anxiety, increase physical stress, and depress the immune system.
➢ What are your working hours?
Working from home requires exceptional boundaries to
retain a balanced life. Try not to work through meals or breaks. Consider having meals with colleagues or loved ones in-person or via video.
➢ If possible, keep to your
regular working hours as much as possible to feel the stability of your old routine.
➢ Increase connection with colleagues
➢ Don’t just rely on email, pick
up the phone or go on video to connect. Consider creating a recurring virtual watercooler event since work-related calls might not provide that space.
➢ Stay in tune with bosses/ supervisors
➢ Discuss expectations for your
work, including deliverables and hours given that life has changed for everyone. Are deadlines now more flexible? If you do not have as much work, can you relax or are you expected to fill in the time? Ask your organization for the information you need, knowing that things may continue to change.
➢ Talk to your boss/supervisor
about what you need to succeed with the change in circumstances such as access to resources. Don’t be afraid to say when something isn’t working—after all, most did not have much time to put their remote plans into place.
- If you have less work, consider if there is anything you have been wishing to do for yourself professionally such as learning about innovations in your field or looking at new positions.
Working at Home with Families & Roommates
- Sit down and discuss your feelings about having to work from home and having to navigate new boundaries together. If one or more of you is feeling a lot of anxiety, acknowledging and sharing this first can lower tension to allow you to develop new ways of co-existing.
- Talk through your differing circumstances and ramifications, such as if one of you is not getting a paycheck for now or becomes sick.
- Remember when having conflict discussions to talk from the “I.” When we talk from the “you,” we elicit the others person’s defensiveness. Talking from the I position can help us share how we truly feel and get to the core of our issue while being heard.
- List out all of the things that need to be done during this time on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to determine how it will be taken care of, if one or more will be in charge, and what may need to change about the existing division of labor. Think: Sheldon’s partner/ roommate agreements!
- Examine each of your needs to devise a creative way of handing obligations. If you’re a couple with children, consider if one of you can work after they have gone to bed. Create a new routine while everyone is at home that feels fair to each partner.
- Can you swap time in the home office or do you need to create a new space for each person to do their work?
- Discuss the rules for the workday. Can you be interrupted or do you require privacy and focus? Talk about the ways in which you work—you may
have never needed to understand one another on this level before now. Readjust assumptions esp. if you have been married for a long time. Work personas can show a different side.
- There are still many unknowns ahead so be creative and tackle problems together. Remember that the goal is to stay healthy and sane until life can return to normalcy, so partnership, vulnerability, and honesty will go far. Suppressing how you feel often leads to resentment and anger that expresses itself in unhealthy ways.
♥ Especially for Partners
- Talk to your partner about what you both would like to do with the increased time. Share expectations for connection and intimacy to avoid disappointment.
➢ Intimacy is about authentic connection, not just sexual activities. Figure out what brings you closer and how much space you need space.
➢ Try new things together such as White Tantra or using toys in your love play.
➢ Discuss how you each cope
with anxiety and how the other can help. Shelve major conflict conversations unless in a couples therapy session.
➢ Find shared activities that can
stimulate conversations with one another.
▪ For example, if you’re Netflixing, check out the shows Cheer and Love is Blind. These are now part of our national culture!
- It may seem too scary to tell your children what’s going on, but the truth is your best ally. Ask them what they are hearing and if they have any questions. Children usually pick up on more than you expect, but they always discern your moods.
- Share some of your concerns while comforting them with age-appropriate facts. The pandemic will ebb, and much of what we are doing is to stop it from getting worse.
- Many children will feel heightened negative emotions, including antsy at being cooped up at home and anger that you’re being unfair. You may feel this way yourself and get impatient with them, but validate that this doesn’t feel great to you either. You don’t have to convince yourself or them to be happy about this!
- Remember to monitor your children’s internet activity as they will be spending more time online. Not only will they have access to all kinds of information, but also predators are stuck at home, too.
- Schedule family meal times and family activities such as board games or charades. Have movie night or Meatless Mondays where each person gets to pick the menu. Get everyone involved as much as possible in these and other shared activities.
- Give children unstructured playtime. Teach them to stop working and relax. Everyone needs alone time.
- Increase video or phone calls to grandparents, esp. if visits are limited. The elderly may feel increased isolation and panic, and seeing you and your children can be soothing.
By John O’Donohue
When the light around lessens And your thoughts darken until Your body feels fear turn Cold as a stone inside,
When you find yourself bereft Of any belief in yourself And all you unknowingly Leaned on has fallen,
When one voice commands Your whole heart, And it is raven dark,
Steady yourself and see That it is your own thinking That darkens your world.
Search and you will find A diamond-thought of light,
Know that you are not alone, And that this darkness has purpose; Gradually it will school your eyes, To find the one gift your life requires Hidden within this night-corner.
Invoke the learning Of every suffering You have suffered.
Close your eyes. Gather all the kindling About your heart To create one spark That is all you need To nourish the flame That will cleanse the dark Of its weight of festered fear.
A new confidence will come alive To urge you towards higher ground Where your imagination will learn to engage difficulty As its most rewarding threshold!
RENU K. ALDRICH, PHD, LMFT
Dodini Behavioral Health 703.909.5101, Ext. 114 • firstname.lastname@example.org