Why Therapy Is Not For Me (but actually might be)

1. I want to get through it on my own.

We live in a society that places a lot of value on independence, but in truth, we are interdependent. Each of us does need other people to some degree. Participating in therapy is not a passive process. You are not “attending therapy”, or “getting therapy”.  Therapists are not administering something to you. Therapy is an active, collaborative process of figuring out life. Therapists do have some specialized knowledge about mental health, but we act as guides, not fixers. In fact, but of the unique aspects of therapy is that therapists act as guides, not as fixers.

2. If my friends and family can’t help me, how will someone I don’t even know help me?

Friends and family play extremely vital roles in our lives, and there is no substitute for those types of relationships. Often the people in our life have a vested interest in what we choose to do or in what direction we move. The role of a therapist is very different. When you go to therapy, the first task is for the therapist to be able to understand your hopes and goals, because your agenda is our agenda. Sometimes family and friends have the tendency to try to make things better for you. Therapists are trained to help you find the tools to make things better for yourself.

3. It’s not that bad. I’m not crazy. Therapy is a last resort for me.

People participate in therapy for a wide variety of reasons.

Sometimes things in their lives are pretty bad when they initiate therapy.

Sometimes they start treatment because they aren’t feeling fulfilled, or because something in life feels “off”. They want to not simply get through each day, but instead want to thrive. Sometimes students come to therapy because they are aware that academic stress is unavoidable and they want to learn strategies to manage it before it starts to create problems. At UNC Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), we work with people throughout the whole spectrum, between preventing problems before they start and treating issues before they begin.

Mental Health is similar to physical health in that it is often a quicker, easier process if you take a proactive approach. I often hear from students who have recurrent depression that the first episode was the worst, in part because they didn’t know to take action until things felt completely unmanageable.

Stigma is real. Often times we are socialized to have some negative feelings towards individuals with mental health disorders and towards seeking mental health treatment. Where have you heard some of those messages? What do you believe? How might you overcome the stigma associated with seeking services?

4. Therapy is too _____________________ (Expensive, Time Consuming)

There is no arguing with that. Participating in therapy definitely takes time (typically 45-60 minutes weekly). It also may require a financial investment. Although CAPS brief therapy services are free, there are times when students may start off with or transition to a community provider, where there will likely be a copay.

Often when I meet with students, their symptoms are impacting their ability to be as successful as they could be academically. Their friendships or relationships with loved ones may be impacted. Anxiety, for example, could make it extremely difficult for a person to concentrate and learn new material, and to seek frequent reassurance from friends, or to avoid social situations altogether.  Also, some of the symptoms they are experiencing are painful. They are in real distress. Can you relate to this? How are the issues you are having impacting your quality of life?

If one part of the equation is the cost/time/effort, please remember to include the other side of the equation- the impact the symptoms are having on your well-being.

In Conclusion

Therapy is not for everyone. But therapy is helpful for some people, and it just may be that it could be helpful to you. But don’t take my word for it! See if therapy can help you. The best way to get something out of therapy:

  • Come in with some goals in mind.
  • Ask your therapist questions.
  • If you don’t feel as if the first person you see is a good fit, work with someone else.
  • Monitor your symptoms and your progress toward your goals, and work with your therapist to get the most out of your time together.
  • Be open with your therapist about any concerns you have about the therapy process.

If you would like to initiate therapy or simply talk with a clinician more about your options for mental health services, please walk in to CAPS between the hours of 9*-12 and 1-4 M-F (8-5 if you have urgent concerns). *Friday morning initial appointments begin at 9:30 a.m. 

 

Originally posted August 6, 2013. Revised and updated 2016. 

Take a Break! Hey, Take 10

This blog post was originally published on July 7, 2015.

Tar Heels, if you’re still hanging around the general vicinity of North Carolina this summer, you don’t need me to tell you it’s hot, but…OMG it’s sooooo hot! If you’re anything like me, a long string of hot days might make you complain a lot and think less clearly than you might otherwise.

Also, while the pictures on my Facebook feed tell me that this is vacation time for a lot of people…it might not feel like vacation time for all of us. Yes, NECESSITY, as well as our culture that socializes us to ideals of BUSY! and ACHIEVEMENTS!, can chase us down even into these summer months.

So, please allow me to be your Captain Obvious right now and give you a loving reminder:

Here is a comfy pink chair in the forest a person might sit in if they were taking a break.
Here is a comfy pink chair in the forest a person might sit in if they were taking a break.

Take a break.

Take a break! There are many ways to take a break today, this week, this month, this summer, even if you’re jamming out in Summer Session II and can’t afford a beach condo for the next decade. Here are some ideas to get your creative break-making juices flowing:

  1. Finish reading this blog post and then turn off whatever screen you’re looking at for at least 5 minutes. Feeling brave? Do it in silence. Feeling tense? Think about relaxing each part of your body, starting with the toes and working your way up. It’s just 5 minutes. You can do it. Too easy? Make a summer resolution to do this every day and see what happens.
  2. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time and catch up.
  3. Commit to listening to an entire album you haven’t heard ever or haven’t heard in a long time. Do it in one sitting. Invite some buddies over for a listening party.
  4. Find a path you’ve never walked and walk it. (If you’re in Chapel Hill, consider these!) Find some flowers and sniff them.
  5. Take a social media hiatus. Y’all. I haven’t been on Facebook for 3 days and I feel like a new person right now.
  6. Drink some water. It’s hot.
  7. Do something you haven’t done since you were a kid. Is there a swing set at your apartment complex? Can you get your hands on a pool noodle? Are there old board games for sale at PTA Thrift Shop? Where are those crayons your roommate was waving around? Can you YouTube your favorite old cartoon?
  8. Plan a day trip to a swimming hole or a waterfall.
  9. Cook something for dinner tonight that you’ve never cooked before. Never cooked at all? Then this assignment has NO LIMITS!
  10. Read a book…for fun. When was the last time you read a book for fun??

Other ideas? Do share in the comments!

How Being YOU Can Reduce Stress

I always joke with my coworkers that they have to watch what they say around me because I believe everything that I hear.  And, although I think it is important to draw on other people’s experiences to shape your own success, at the end of the day you are the only person who knows what is best for you.  As a follow up to last week’s stress-free blog, I’d like to leave you with four more tips focused on how being YOU can lead to a productive and carefree school year. Continue reading

Getting Busy (Doing Nothing)

Have you ever noticed how many things require your attention?

School. Family. Work. Friends. Homework. Clubs. Papers. Post-graduation. Wait, me? Oh yeah. Me. Or you. Us, really.

It’s really easy to forget to give ourselves attention when all these other things are happening around us. Think about sleep. When was the last time you cheated yourself a little sleep? Or a lot of sleep? What about meals? Ever find yourself pushing those back further and further in the day?

No one’s saying it’s easy, but it is important to be sure we take a little time to ourselves to do absolutely nothing.

Nothing.

But how do YOU do nothing?

Maybe you’re taking a break to do nothing and you start watching some Netflix. Or maybe you pick up that new book – finally. Or maybe you just take a few minutes to check your updates: Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.

But this isn’t nothing.

Photo by Jason Howie of Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by Jason Howie of Flickr Creative Commons

A great blog by Nicole Liloia explores the difference being busy doing nothing and actually, truly, really really doing nothing. Liloia talks about how we tend to feel overwhelmed by all the “something” we have to do that when we take time to do nothing, we don’t truly allow ourselves to do nothing. Sometimes, when we’re worn out and overwhelmed, binging on Netflix doesn’t seem to recharge us at all.

This is being busy doing nothing: giving into the subconscious guilt that we should always be doing something – anything.

The times at which we do nothing are essential for recharging our bodies and our minds. When we really allow ourselves to do nothing, we give ourselves time to reconnect with ourselves and to enjoy our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

By keeping ourselves busy – even if it’s only Facebook – we are distracting ourselves from ourselves. We are losing focus of the most important person in our lives: us.

So let’s give ourselves a fair chance, shall we?

In 2003 Amitay Tweeto created the quiet place project, an online site where you can “choose quiet.” It may see a bit counter-intuitive, but look at is as a first step in one of many to get yourself back to you.

The quiet place project uses several different ‘rooms’ to guide you through the process of reconnecting and doing nothing. It’s a judgment free place – a place free of social media and cell phones and advertisements. There aren’t even capital letters!

In the quiet place, you are invited to shut off all your devices and absorb yourself into a guided conversation with yourself for at least 30 seconds. Another ‘room’, the thoughts room, is a place where you can get out all of your thoughts and feelings and stress using a status bar, and watch your words burst into stars. Finally: the dawn room. The dawn room is extra special because it’s a place to go when everything seems too hard. As you navigate through this area, you are bombarded with kindness and encouragement to get you through whatever hardship your dealing with.

Though this isn’t technically doing nothing, it is a good step. The quiet place project is space where you can learn to do nothing, to connect with your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and begin to enjoy them.

“i’m gong to say goodbye soon.

and let you get back to your notifications

but before that, i just want to give you some advice

from time to time

stop everything you do

and go to your quiet place

goodbye.”

Take a Break! Hey, Take 10

Tar Heels, if you’re still hanging around the general vicinity of North Carolina this summer, you don’t need me to tell you it’s hot, but…OMG it’s sooooo hot! If you’re anything like me, a long string of hot days might make you complain a lot and think less clearly than you might otherwise.

Also, while the pictures on my Facebook feed tell me that this is vacation time for a lot of people…it might not feel like vacation time for all of us. Yes, NECESSITY, as well as our culture that socializes us to ideals of BUSY! and ACHIEVEMENTS!, can chase us down even into these summer months.

So, please allow me to be your Captain Obvious right now and give you a loving reminder:

Here is a comfy pink chair in the forest a person might sit in if they were taking a break.
Here is a comfy pink chair in the forest a person might sit in if they were taking a break.

Take a break.

Take a break! There are many ways to take a break today, this week, this month, this summer, even if you’re jamming out in Summer Session II and can’t afford a beach condo for the next decade. Here are some ideas to get your creative break-making juices flowing:

  1. Finish reading this blog post and then turn off whatever screen you’re looking at for at least 5 minutes. Feeling brave? Do it in silence. Feeling tense? Think about relaxing each part of your body, starting with the toes and working your way up. It’s just 5 minutes. You can do it. Too easy? Make a summer resolution to do this every day and see what happens.
  2. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time and catch up.
  3. Commit to listening to an entire album you haven’t heard ever or haven’t heard in a long time. Do it in one sitting. Invite some buddies over for a listening party.
  4. Find a path you’ve never walked and walk it. (If you’re in Chapel Hill, consider these!) Find some flowers and sniff them.
  5. Take a social media hiatus. Y’all. I haven’t been on Facebook for 3 days and I feel like a new person right now.
  6. Drink some water. It’s hot.
  7. Do something you haven’t done since you were a kid. Is there a swing set at your apartment complex? Can you get your hands on a pool noodle? Are there old board games for sale at PTA Thrift Shop? Where are those crayons your roommate was waving around? Can you YouTube your favorite old cartoon?
  8. Plan a day trip to a swimming hole or a waterfall.
  9. Cook something for dinner tonight that you’ve never cooked before. Never cooked at all? Then this assignment has NO LIMITS!
  10. Read a book…for fun. When was the last time you read a book for fun??

Other ideas? Do share in the comments!

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Avoiding the Stress Competition and 6 Other Tips for Surviving Finals

This blog was originally posted on April 30, 2012 and was written by Sarah Weller. Also check out this post by Bob Pleasants for more study tips or The Learning Center for finals week services like Study Boot Camps, Academic Coaching and Peer Tutoring!

Finals period! Oh what a wonderful time of year!

Sike. Let’s just be blunt. Finals. Period. Sucks. It’s a stressful time of year. End of story. There is really no way that a 2 week period testing your knowledge on ALLLL the things that you learned during the past 14 weeks could be anything but a little stressful.  But there are some ways to make it suck less, and maybe to even harness some of that stress for good.

  Above all- Don’t Engage in the Stress Competition at all costs!!!

Person 1:“I’m so stressed. I have 2 papers, and 3 finals to go. I’ve been up since, like, 6:30 this morning.”

Person 2: “Uh, me too. I’ve had like 6 cups of coffee today. I only got like 3 hours of sleep.”

Person 1: “Oh yea, I only got like 2.5. I had to finish that take home we had due for biochem.”

How often have you been hanging out with friends during high-stress times like finals period and suddenly found yourself in a similar conversation, wherein, one person’s stressors just feeds off the other’s. BEWARE! While this might seem like simple commiseration, it only serves to perpetuate an atmosphere of stress! In fact, let’s all actively FIGHT the stress competition. When you find yourself beginning to engage in a Stress Competition, immediately say something nice. Something positive. Do jumping jacks. Make a scene. ANYTHING but engage in the stress competition- for serious.

Oh and here are 6 other handy tips for finals times…

1.       Make a Schedule: Sound familiar? You’ve probably received this advice on repeated occasions, but it’s a good suggestion, so it bears repeating. Many times, stress stems from trying to squeeze too much into too little time. By setting out a schedule, you help to structure your time, ensuring that you’re not left at the 12th hour with 20+ pages to read/write. (Bonus: By creating a schedule and using your time wisely you have more time for #3 and #4!)

2.       Prioritize: Much like making a schedule, prioritizing helps you to avoid that last minute cram.

3.       Avoid Productive Procrastination (Or Procrastination At all): Personally, I often try to do smaller easier tasks, while ignoring my looming larger assignments, something a friend of mine calls productive procrastination. While this might seem like at least I’m getting something done, it really just causes me extra stress when I have to scrabble to finish the BIG assignments in the end. Those little assignments aren’t going anywhere, and they’ll be just as easy when you’re done with the big one. Same thing for procrastination at all. It’s only going to sneak up on you in the end. Facebook, Twitter, that trip to Taco Bell will still be there when you’re done (and can even serve as a pleasant reward for finishing!)

4.       Take Care of Yourself: I CANNOT repeat this enough. If your body is not well, your mind is not well. Deprive it of the essentials– sleep, nutrients from good food– it’s just not going to perform the way you want it to, and you’re not going to perform the way that you want to. So treat your body right. Take care of yourself.

5.       Don’t Forget Balance: Staying balanced during finals period can be hard. But don’t forget to intersperse some of the activities that really make you happy in between papers and study sessions.

6.       Set Realistic Goals: Know what you can and cannot do. Finishing an X page paper in X amount of time might be realistic for some, but not for you. Use this knowledge to help guide you in #1 and #2.
Any other great suggestions on avoiding finals time stress?

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: A Beautiful Body is a Masterpiece. Your Masterpiece.

The following fantastic article was written by Jordan Lee for the UNC 2015 Body Beautiful Project. Jordan is a Fitness Graduate Assistant for Campus Recreation and is a second year master’s student in the Exercise Physiology program.

A beautiful body is a masterpiece. Your masterpiece.
A beautiful body is individual and unique in that it literally can’t be like anything else. It is original and independent. It has no loyalty to the preordained, finds joy in the potential for change, but exists as a delicacy.
A beautiful body always juggles its strengths and weaknesses. It admires room for improvement but doesn’t injure itself with intentional pain. A beautiful body is a canvas for development, decorated with the impact of both disasters and dreams.
A beautiful body seeks and explores its limits, but is conscious of absurdity. It is both nourished and occasionally indulgent, but lacks intention to seek drought as balance. By the grace of self-perseverance, a beautiful body salutes dangerous frontiers.
A beautiful body collaborates with both the extravagant and the mundane. It is creative and curious, learning the lessons of mistakes and the glory of discoveries. It does not gloat in the spotlight nor undermine it’s own success. It is able to step up or step aside, but never surrender.
A beautiful body grits its teeth and lies perfectly still. It is dedicated to challenge itself as a precious machine, yet it finds peace and repair in the silence of nothing.
A beautiful body is attentive to the vivacity of laughter and the depths of tears. It is thankful for the repair reflected in scars, but does not dismiss or forget their birth. A beautiful body is dynamic and malleable, experiencing the pull of a strong-will and the tremors of fear. It brims with self-purpose, even when mute.
A beautiful body is bold but patient. It seeks novelty and endures struggle, but never abandons its intrinsic flame. It venerates opportunity and obligation, even in the face of mystery. Without excuses as a crutch, it takes a conscious oath to respect, nurture, grow and protect the fragile life beneath the skin.
A beautiful body is inextinguishable, thriving, and is an entity of its own. It is everlasting. Granted with the most precious privilege there is, a beautiful body holds itself accountable. For its own sake and not for you or me.
Because responsibility is the cornerstone of beauty.

Compete to WIN a $1,000 GRAND Prize at LDOC HeelFest–Auditions start this Week…

That’s RIGHT–your or your student group could win $1,000 at the very first LDOC HeelFest!!!

LDOC HeelFest will be an end-of-year talent show extravaganza. This is the first year UNC is doing this event and it is a collaboration among multiple campus departments and student groups. It will be held at Ehringhaus Field from 4-8pm on LDOC, which is Friday April 24th. The talent show will feature a showcase of UNC student talent, and the students at the event will get to vote on the winning performer/group. The Grand Prize will be a cash amount, TBD.

Come to auditions this week and next…Let’s see what you got!

LDOC HeelFest audition schedule
LDOC HeelFest audition schedule

“Guys Nights” and “Girls Nights” (time with friends) are Good for Your Health

I know a lot of couples who do everything together and never hang out much with friends outside of their relationship. I also know couples that only hang out with friends of one of the partners in the relationship, or only engage socially with other couples. I have also noticed since becoming a parent that often social engagements can center around children and events with other parents. Some fathers, mothers, and partners may feel guilty about participating in things like “Guys Nights” or “Girls Nights” or “sports nights” or “movie nights” outside of their relationship, and I have heard people say that they cannot understand why their partner would want to do things without them. These scenarios can lead to tension, unhappiness, pressure, poor communication, and even resentment, none of which facilitate a healthy relationship.

"Ishod, Theotis, & Elijah" by  mor gnar... ,flickr Creative Commons
“Ishod, Theotis, & Elijah” by mor gnar… ,flickr Creative Commons

Turns out however, that hanging out with friends is not only fun and rewarding, but actually helps you not get sick, can actually increase life expectancy , and benefits seem to happen for both men and women. You can check out the links, but the gist is, hanging out with friends increases beneficial hormones, boosts immune function, reduces stress and depression, and improves overall mental and physical health. It also appears that these benefits occur when the socializing occurs with members of the same sex, and part of this could be due to biological hormonal differences (oxytocin vs testosterone) and likely are also due to shared experiences of what it means to be a man or woman. I am certainly not suggesting that all members of the same gender have the same life experiences, but society certainly treats men differently than women, and sometimes people need a space to be with others who have similar experiences and interests. Hanging out with members of the same gender also can remove some of the pressure associated with socializing with members of the opposite gender.

So time spent with the same gender is good, but there is an important caveat. Male bonding, “Guys Nights” or “bromances” if you will may be good for health, but not if they are promoting hegemonic masculinity, or somehow reinforcing male privilege and a gender hierarchy. Guys can hang out together and do “guy things” and not have this result in devaluing typical “feminine characteristics.” Not being a woman, I will not speculate about “Girls Nights” but it is important to makes sure that either gender’s bonding is not causing resentment of the opposite sex. The socializing is about recognizing that, whether socially constructed or biological, there are differences between people and those differences are ok and do not need to be removed.

"Smiling at the sunset (friends)" by Sarah Ross, Flickr Creative Commons
“Smiling at the sunset (friends)” by Sarah Ross, Flickr Creative Commons

Which brings me to my final point. Hanging out with friends, whatever gender or sex they are, is healthy and does not devalue a relationship. The idea of “partner social exclusivity” (I just made up that term but I kind of like it) seems ludicrous, and I believe it is unreasonable to expect one person to meet every single need that you might ever have. People are dynamic and multifaceted, and so relationships should be the same. I also want to say that though the paragraph above is somewhat heteronormative with regards to life experiences, same sex couples also include people with varying experiences and interests and time outside of the relationship can help to validate those experiences and interests.

I do know couple friends who seem to have the exact same interests and are completely happy doing everything together, but I think these are few and far between and part of most healthy relationship is still holding onto individuality. It is about finding that balance between time together and time apart, and the time apart can be a sign of strength, not a deficit in the relationship. So go hang out with your friends. Have a “Guys Night” or a “Girls Night” or a “whatever your interest is night.” It is good for you, and part of finding the balance between partnership and individuality, and also about respecting and valuing both commonalities and differences.

New Year’s Resolutions: Where Are You in Meeting Your 2015 Goals?

New Year's Resolutions
Resolving to Write More—A Worthy Thought by Carol VanHook, Flickr Creative Commons; https://flic.kr/p/iPsgF2

Can you believe it? It’s now February. You are now almost a month into the spring semester. A month into your new classes, a month closer to graduation, and, for us graduate students out there, one month closer to obtaining your master’s, doctorate, or professional degree and entering the job market. You are now also a month into the New Year and potentially a month into your New Year’s Resolutions. Most of us do it. Actually, in a recent survey conducted by CheapFlights.com, over 60% of Americans reported that they make New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions to eat healthier foods, work out more, quit smoking, spend more quality time with friends and family, and resolutions to get organized, keep up with course readings, and get better grades. These are all great goals to work towards; however, we may not always stick with the goals long enough to meet them. Typically, almost all people (around 90%) are able to practice their New Year’s resolutions for a week but only about 70% of people stick with their resolutions for a month or longer. That leaves 1 out of every 3 people less likely to still be working on their New Year’s resolutions right now. But don’t fret! There are easy steps you can take to make sure you fall into the 70% instead of the 30%.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Before jumping into how to stick to your New Year’s Resolutions, let’s consider how to effectively set goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

  • Specific: Simply written and clearly defined

    SMART Goals
    Goal Setting by Paula Naugle, Flickr Creative Commons; https://flic.kr/p/dGvAay
  • Measurable: Able to measure progress
  • Attainable: Goals are realistic and can be achieved
  • Relevant: Goals matter to you
  • Time-bound: Goals have a specific time frame for being met

An example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal or resolution would be “I will go to the gym for one hour three times a week for the next four weeks.” The goal is clearly defined, measurable (three times a week for one hour each day), it is realistic, it matters to me, and I’ve set the time frame for my goal to four weeks. Using this strategy makes it more likely that you will both stick to your goals as well as achieve them.

Remind Yourself Why the Goal is Important To YOU 

Inspiration Board
Inspirational board by Moni, Flickr Creative Commons; https://flic.kr/p/3caUMp

As time passes, it’s easy to lose sight of why New Year’s resolutions were ever made and why they are important to you. When you’re struggling to find the time and energy to go to the gym and cook balanced meals, it may become more difficult to keep in mind why eating healthier and exercising more were important to you before the New Year. Maybe there’s a pair of jeans you want to fit in, you want to have more energy, or there’s a special event coming up in a few months when you want to look and feel your best. Having physical reminders of your goals and the motivations for achieving those goals are a helpful way to keep yourself on track with your resolutions. This can include making inspirational boards—a creative way to visualize your goals and stay focused on why you set them in the first place.

Keep Yourself Accountable…and Invite Others to Do the Same

Telling yourself that you are going to be better organized this semester is one thing—having others remind you of that resolution is something different! This is where a good support system comes in. Having friends and family either remind you of the resolutions you had set back in December OR working along side you to meet those goals is an excellent way to keep you accountable. You’re less likely to break those resolutions if you have someone who cares about you reminding you of your goals.

With these steps, you cannot only make it pass this one-month mark—you can incorporate these short-term changes into your regular habits, turning New Year’s resolutions into lifetime behaviors.