Monthly Archives: July 2019

The Impact of Loneliness

Loneliness is one of the worst emotions that one can feel. Can you think of anyone who likes feeling lonely? So, what is it that we do when we are feeling lonely? We avoid it at all costs. And sometimes those costs can have extremely maladaptive consequences.

What are maladaptive consequences of loneliness? When we listen to the messages that loneliness is telling us, we find ways to fulfill ourselves and connect with others. We may engage in our work, sports, social networking, or creative activities. This is healthy (adaptive) 

However, the problem lies in the avoidance of loneliness, at the cost of our wellbeing. Here is a typical example: one decides to stay in a harmful or abusive relationship because it is “better than being alone.” That may sound shocking to some, that a person would remain in an abusive relationship just to avoid the feelings of loneliness. That gives you an idea of the strength and power of this isolating emotion. 

Another consequence of avoiding loneliness is substance use. When we have a reliable social support system in place (supportive family, friends, and coworkers), we are less likely to abuse substances, have behavioral addictions (gambling, sex, shopping), are less likely to become victims of abuse, and are at a lower risk of attempting or completing suicide. Excessive addictive behaviors are related to feelings of rejection, isolation, and abandonment. 

What can be done to challenge and change your maladaptive consequences? Rather than avoiding loneliness at all costs, mindfully pay attention to your loneliness. What is your loneliness trying to tell you? 

When I am feeling lonely, I feel my anxiety start to rise. I can feel my anxiety physically in my body, usually in my stomach. I immediately try to connect with a friend to alleviate the anxiety. That does not sound so bad, right? However, I over connect with friends (externalizing), preventing me from being productive. When I am not productive, I get depressed, and that gives me time to drink. When I drink, I feel like crap. Then I get more depressed. When I get depressed, I get anxious about being depressed because I am telling myself that I am wasting my life (low self-worth). Then I get even more depressed. Can you see how this is a vicious cycle and that it can quickly get out of hand?

Instead, (I) listen to the loneliness and find out what it means to you (me) specifically. Experience the loneliness. What does it feel like in your body? Does it make you anxious? What does the anxiety feel like? Learn to spend time with your loneliness and your anxiety. Where are these feelings originating from (prior experiences)? Consciously paying attention to being alone, with yourself, will empower you to make better choices, that is, you are finding out the source of your loneliness, what is driving it. (I also have developed a safe social support system, and a have a great outlook on myself worth!) 

For more help with processing and experiencing emotions that are disrupting your life and preventing you from reaching your goals, please contact me and make an appointment today! Let’s process your emotions together!

Thank you for reading. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Wisdom Room by filling out the link below in the righthand column, follow me on Instagram @clevelandemotionalhealth, and Facebook (click the link below). ~ Catherine

Tip # 2: Road Rage and Other Frustrations

It is always important to pay attention to what is going on around us in the world. For example, we need to pay attention to where we are walking, what is going on around us while we are driving, and be attentive listeners when people are speaking. We need to pay attention to our children to protect them and encourage them. We need to be aware of our environment so we can enjoy the beauty of our world while also be mindful of danger and threats. These types of mindful external focuses can bring us into the present moment, which is the only moment that ever exists.

So, how can external focus be harmful? External focus can be harmful when it prevents us from paying attention to our own pain and emotions. If you get frustrated (anxious or angered) easily, it is because you cannot control who or what is going on around you. Do you ever get frustrated with other drivers? For example, do you become frustrated when you are late for an appointment or work? Do you get frustrated with your mate or child because they are not behaving the way you think that they should? Do you have a difficult time getting along with some of your colleagues, peers or boss?

When we get frustrated, it is because our world views and perspectives are clashing with reality. For instance, I get frustrated with my husband when he is in a bad mood. “I am happy. Why are you raining on my parade?” I also have choices. I can get upset at him, yell at him, and blame him for my frustration. It is his fault after all, right? He is the one with the problem (rationalization), not me. I was fine until he… Does this sound familiar?

When we complain about others, blame others, lash out, and try to control other people’s behaviors, this type of external focus can very be harmful. Projecting our control issues onto other people prevent us from paying attention to our own behaviors and reactions. Why do we use projection? Because it can be too painful and too scary to really see what is going on inside us. This type of emotional fear is the number one reason why people resist mental health counseling. Do you know a friend, family member, or a colleague that is continuously blaming, gossiping, or complaining about other people or external factors? This is a perfect example of projecting individual fears onto others to avoid internal pain, suffering, and low self-worth.

What can you do rather than trying to control your external environment? Begin by being mindful of your externalizing behaviors. The only one we can change and control is ourselves through our thoughts and behaviors. Instead, you need to paying attention to your emotions and anxieties, as they are happening, rather than avoiding them through projection and rationalization.

Changing and healing are difficult to do on our own. Especially as we have strengthened these harmful habits over the years. It is possible for us to develop new habits to heal our emotional pain and distress. And the people around us will notice and begin to like us better, especially our children and loved ones.

Please reach out to me, Catherine Cleveland, for more information and to discuss your personal concerns. (585) 432-0313, clevelandemotionalhealth@gmail.com.

How to Mindfully Change Your Suffering

Is it true that we cause most of our own suffering?

Take a moment to stop and pay attention to what is happening in this moment. Take your time and patiently observe and describe your surroundings. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you taste? What do you feel? Doing this sensory exercise brings you into the present moment.

When you think about it, the present moment is the only thing that exists. The past does not exist, nor does the future. In principle, the way to eliminate self-suffering is to always live in the present moment. Even if the present moment is disagreeable, the present moment never lasts. Realistically, our minds seem to have a mind of their own, and we cannot always control our unwanted intrusive and iterative thoughts. 

Self-suffering primarily comes from living either in the past or the present where neither exist. Intrusive thoughts situated in the past are called rumination. Ruminating is when you replay the negative events from the past. Sometimes they come as thoughts, and sometimes as visions also called flashbacks. When ruminating gets out of control, it can have severe consequences in our daily functioning and in our interpersonal relations. 

If our intrusive thoughts are in the future, we are worrying excessively. Worrying is also known as anxiety. And, unfortunately, anxiety and rumination go hand-in-hand. One of the most common types of anxiety that is not well addressed in our culture is social anxiety. Social anxiety is when we are worried about what others are thinking of us. For example, you may have experienced social anxiety going to school, at a job interview, calling, or meeting with your mental health counselor for the first time, even going to the grocery store. For instance, one of my anxieties is when a driver is behind me too close. I am always worried about what they are thinking about my driving. Am I going to fast, to slow, not paying attention? And of course, there are numerous types of generalized anxieties such a relational, finances, health concerns, and not feeling like we belong. 

But what can we do with this human suffering state of rumination and anxiety? First, we have to pay attention (nonjudgmentally and compassionately) to when our thoughts are in the past or the present. Next, we have to label it, “hmmm, I notice that I am ruminating.” Then we can make a conscious choice to do one of two things. We either become mindful of the present moment, as discussed earlier or, we can change the story. For example, think of what you are ruminating about as a scene from a movie. Now, use your imagination to recreate the scene to make it whatever you want. If you were the villain in the original scene, you can change the story to where you are the savior or the hero. If you are the victim, you can change the scene to where you are the villain or the hero. These are just examples. It does not matter how you change the scene; you can even change it to where you are on a sunny beach vacation. Whatever you want! Just change the story in your rumination.

The same thing goes with anxiety. How can you reframe your worry? First, pay attention to your anxiety, then you label it (nonjudgmentally and compassionately). For instance, “oh, this is anxiety. I can feel it in my stomach.” Next, be kind to yourself by saying something like, “yeah, you’re [anxiety] here, but I can get through this, just keep going. It won’t last forever, I promise.” You can also rewrite the scenes of your anxiety-based movie.

Remember, not all past and present experiences have to be harmful. At times we can find comfort in reminiscing and planning. Reminiscing is when you are thinking about happy and funny memories of events, friends, and family. Planning is a way to be future-minded and can reduce anxiety. Reminiscing and planning can be fun and productive. However, if we spend too much time reminiscing, it prevents us from making new memories. And, planning must be followed by doing or implementing. If we do not follow through with our plans, we can stagnate, causing regret and rumination. 

No matter how we decide to pay attention to our past, present, and future thoughts and behaviors, paying attention is a mindful exercise. Mindfulness always takes practice, just like exercise. You cannot go to the gym and lift one weight and expect results. Mindfulness works the same way. If you want to change your suffering, you must make a conscious daily effort.

Click here for more information about Catherine Cleveland. To make an appointment, click here. To contact me call/text (585) 432-0313.

Thank you for reading!

Addiction Impacts Everyone

I define addiction as the firefighter that puts out the flame of anxiety. In other words, we “use” to get instant relief.

What is it that we are using? Overuse of illegal and legal substances might be the first thing that comes to mind. Mainly because alcohol, opioids, nicotine, and prescribed medications (pain killers, anxiety meds), are the substances that the media is currently spotlighting.

Sometimes, we take a biased position about how and why individuals are addicted to substances. “Why can’t they just get their act together?” However, those who live in glass houses should not judge!

Addictions come in many different forms than what is typically considered culturally taboo. Although we live in a fat-shaming culture, food addiction and overeating have become a national past-time. What about behavioral addictions? Behavioral addictions can come in as many forms as can be imagined. Here are a few instances I could think of off the top of my head: gambling, porn, shopping, hoarding, inability to relax and sit still, and excessive exercising.

Then, why is it that some additions are more stigmatized than others? One reason may be because some additions are difficult to hide. For example, food addictions and binge eating disorders are very apparent as are changes in behaviors and health due to prescribed or illegal substance consumption. On the other hand, porn/sex additions are very well hidden in our culture, even after one is caught. We also make judgment calls based on the severity of the consequences resulting from addiction. “S/he may drink a little but always makes it to work on time.” “Only junkies get hooked on…”

Another reason we stigmatize some addictions and not others is that we have the ability to rationalize our judgments about others. We do not admit or realize we have our very own struggles with addiction. 

So, I challenge you, to compassionately and nonjudgmentally discover and investigate your addition(s). What is your addiction? What is driving it? What prevents us from eliminating it? Can you remember how old you were when it first started, and what was going on in your life at that time? What happens to you physically and emotionally when you refrain from your addiction for several days?

My addiction is food. If I could, I would eat nonstop, especially chocolate and artesian breads. Food is my firefighter that reduces my stress (muscle tension) and anxiety (stomach pain). However, for me to eliminate the many consequences of overeating – shame, pain, poor health, lethargy – I continuously find ways to consult with my anxiety as if it is a messenger, rather than let rule my life and take over my core self.

So, the next time we catch ourselves judging other’s addictions, realize that their fire is likely much hotter than ours. If we really knew how they had/have to experience trauma/abuse/neglect, we would see them in a new light, with compassion, empathy and as humans trying to manage their demons.

Catherine Cleveland is a mental health counselor located in Geneseo NY. Online and in office counseling is available (585) 432-0313

Emotional Health Tip # 1: Pay Attention

Pay Attention!

I had a new friend ask me if I was analyzing them. What I was doing was enjoying the day and their company in the present moment. Although I may figure out sooner or later what their neurosis is, their worrying about whether I am “analyzing” them, says more about them than me. If you are worried about being analyzed, start by asking yourself these questions: what am I afraid to reveal? What is it that I definitely do not want others to know about me?

The essential tip I will give you to improve your mental health is to pay attention to yourself. Pay attention to your thoughts, to what your emotions are, and to your behaviors (as a result of your thoughts and emotions). Mostly, pay attention to what is happening to your body – are you having any muscle tension, does your heart race, do you feel tightening in your chest? What does your stomach feel like during stressful times?

Believe it or not, most people are not able to well articulate their thoughts and feelings. There are multiple reasons for why we lack this type of intrapersonal insight. The main reason is that we avoid our thoughts and feelings, hoping they will no longer exist. 

However, avoidance does not work. Thoughts will always haunt us when we are not occupying ourselves with something else like work, homework, socializing, television, gaming, and social media. Unwanted thoughts can most often occur when we are lying in bed, trying to go to sleep. Feelings can get subconsciously triggered and come out in unwanted behaviors and physical reactions, such as fighting with loved ones, aggressiveness, moodiness, anxiety, depression, and OCD, and physical pain. 

If avoiding thoughts and feeling does not work, what can you do? You can pay attention to those thoughts and feelings. Begin by developing a childlike, nonjudgmental curiosity to yourself, and all of your parts. In other words, “analyze” yourself in a compassionate and curious manner. When you pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and physical body, you begin the healing process, which essentially eliminates the coping and hoping behaviors where nothing completely changes.

For more information about Catherine, click here! Call or schedule your appointment now!