A major key to successfully working with anxiety, depression, and relationship issues is to address the source of these problems. This is why resolving emotional trauma and attachment wounds is a significant area of focus with my counseling approach.
Healthy skills and behaviors help to establish the types of strategies, routines, and a lifestyle that supports you to be more centered, grounded, resourceful, self-aware, confident, and empowered - qualities that prevent and neutralize symptoms of anxiety, depression, and relationship struggles. The skills and behaviors most important for addressing anxiety, depression, and relationship problems fall into 2 categories:
There are countless ways that self-care and relationship skills can help address anxiety, depression, and relationship struggles. By assessing your symptoms, imbalances, and areas of struggle, we can determine specifically which self-care and relationship skills you need to develop to help reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life. The skills you will be developing loosely break down into 5 categories: Physical, Emotional, Cognitive, Relational, and Spiritual (although there is a strong interrelationship between each category and all skills impact all levels of well-being). Below is a closer look at each of the 5 categories:
When addressing anxiety, depression, and relationship struggles, working with physical self-care is a great place to start for two reasons. First, emotional reactions - stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, etc. - will generally intensify when your physical health is compromised. Second, supporting physical health increases mood, adaptability, and the ability to handle stress and anxiety. Fortunately, there are many physical health strategies that can benefit anxiety and depression and your overall well-being. For example:
Emotions can be an incredible resource that can add a lot of benefit to your life. Unfortunately, for many people emotions are seen as a real problem - something to be stuffed or suppressed. When emotions are avoided, they tend to build up and cause problems such as emotional reactivity; stress and tension; anxiety and panic; and relationship problems. However, if you learn to work with your emotions skillfully, they can assist you significantly.
There are two key aspects to working with emotions. The first part is learning how to recognize and process difficult emotions (e.g. grief, sadness, anger, hurt, fear) so that they can be resolved and you can learn from the experiences that triggered the emotions. Many people did not learn how to be in relationship with their emotions in childhood; left alone with their painful feelings, understandably their emotions seemed intimidating. Like many skills though, when you learn how to work with your emotions, the process becomes manageable and rewarding.
The second part is learning to use your emotions to provide you with information about yourself and your experience of the world. Feelings provide a tremendous amount of information about core needs, likes and dislikes, boundary setting, and they support authentic connection with others. These are extremely useful qualities that can help you to navigate your way through the world, improve your relationships, and find fulfillment in your life. Examples of helpful emotional self-care habits include:
The human mind is an incredible resource that can offer tremendous benefit to your life. Using your mind to engage in intellectual interests, to pursue creative outlets, to work through important problems, to plan, strategize, reflect, prioritize, and take action are all extremely useful skills.
For many people though, their mind is a significant source of suffering. This is because the mind constantly creates thoughts. While certain thoughts are extremely useful, many thoughts can be emotionally disturbing (e.g. worries, fears, negativity, self-criticism, doubt). The human mind has the capacity to remember the past and anticipate the future. Distressing thoughts often revolve around past negative experiences or future worries; either way, they can be a significant source of anxiety, stress, and depression.
Learning how to act on useful thoughts and let go of toxic and/or distracting thoughts is essential for putting yourself in charge of your mind, as opposed to allowing your mind to be in charge of you. Developing mindfulness skills can help you to filter out unproductive thoughts so that you can use your mind to focus on what's most important to you. Examples of helpful cognitive self-care habits include:
Human beings are hardwired to connect with others. When our relationships are healthy, they can be an enormous source of fulfillment, joy, and satisfaction. Unfortunately, all too often, relationships are a source of pain and frustration.
Relational self-care starts with a strong connection to yourself. Taking care of yourself is essential for being a present and engaged participant in your relationships. If you are happy, at peace with, and connected to yourself, it will be easier to connect more authentically and deeply with others.
Learning to be skillful in your interactions with others is also essential for positive relationships. Developing healthy relationship skills naturally leads to happier, more fulfilling relationships. Examples of the self-care habits that support healthy relationships include:
In terms of spirituality, there is nothing to obtain that you do not already have; rather it is a matter of creating space to deepen your connection with your true nature, which is an essential and core part of your being. Qualities that can be used to describe your true nature include: calmness and stillness; presence and awareness; love and compassion; wisdom and understanding; happiness and contentment; a sense of interconnectedness, completeness, and wholeness; and acceptance for things as they are. These qualities are a natural outcome of connecting deeply with your true nature. Further, your true nature cannot be traumatized or emotionally wounded; it is a powerful resource that can support you through life's challenges. Because your true nature is always accessible, any activity can be used as a vehicle to connect deeply within, but some obvious examples include:
As your self-care and relationship skill set increases, you will generally experience significant benefits. For example:
Developing new skills - self-care or relationship - is often crucial for people that have a history of trauma or attachment wounds. This is because people with this type of history commonly miss out on the development of certain key skills for a variety of reasons, such as: negative role modeling; impatient or uninvolved caregivers; positive reinforcement of negative behaviors; lack of positive attention, love, or nurture by parents; criticism and shaming by caregivers; role reversal (child taking care of parent); disruption in psychosocial development due to trauma and attachment wounds; and alcohol and/or drug abuse. Once these healthy skills fill in, a person is much better prepared to be happy with themselves, enjoy their relationships, and succeed in life.
Unfortunately though, at times it can be difficult for people who have experienced trauma and attachment wounds to establish new skills. This is because their nervous systems are overwhelmed with trauma, making it difficult to integrate new behaviors and skills. In these cases, when a person starts to resolve their trauma and attachment issues through the use of specific counseling techniques, they can often start to naturally integrate the skills and behaviors necessary to experience healthy relationships and personal fulfillment.
For a variety of reasons, sometimes people feel blocked around the idea of taking care of themselves. Most people know what it's like to nurture and support another person, or even their pet, but not themselves. Self-care is the process of turning that supportive, caring energy and attention toward yourself. Initially, this may be a challenge for some, but it is a skill that certainly can be developed, especially through a counseling modality called the Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy (DNMS).
The counseling approach that I find to be most effective for anxiety, depression, and relationship struggles incorporates working with both deep issues as well as developing new skills. Deeper work addresses the emotional trauma and attachment wounds that establish the painful triggers and emotional reactions that are at the heart of anxiety, depression, and relationship problems. Developing new skills not only aids symptom reduction and management but can help to make your personal life and relationships fulfilling, satisfying, and meaningful. Working with both skills and deeper issues is a powerful combination that can lead to positive changes and personal growth.
Office located in NW Portland, Oregon. Serving the Portland metro area, including Beaverton, Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Tigard, West Linn, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Tualatin, Gresham, and Vancouver, WA.