Are you thinking about calling a therapist? What's stopping you?
Okay, you check your health insurance. Do you have a benefit for this? You probably do. But what if you prefer to pay out of pocket –- can you afford it? Or maybe you check your schedule –- how are you ever going to find the time to go to therapy?
You have your reasons why you postpone the call. You tell yourself you're still thinking about it. Okay, fair enough.
But here's a question: is there any chance pride is getting in the way?
Easy now, I'm not trying to offend. I'm just asking.
We live in a culture that values self-reliance. Americans are a can-do people. And that's a good thing, right?
Sure it is. Unless you're overwhelmed. Unless you're depressed out of your mind and you're struggling to function. Unless a relationship problem is preoccupying you to the point where it is difficult to focus on anything else. Unless you're being crippled by anxiety.
Sometimes the smartest thing you can do is know your limits. If you have a toothache, you go to a dentist. If you have a serious illness, you go to a physician. If you have an emotional concern, you go to a therapist.
Relying on experts, people who have more knowledge and experience than you do, just makes good sense. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you can do it all. No one can. From time-to-time, we all need the help of other people.
Here's one of the secrets of adulthood: human being were meant to help each other. Joining forces with other people almost always makes us stronger. It makes us better problem solvers, better creators, better builders, better people.
There is little doubt that self-reliance is a good thing. But even a good thing can be taken too far.
Seeking help does not make you weak. It makes you smart.
Therapy won’t help you unless you are present in your sessions. It might be tempting to keep your phone out, but don’t do it. Studies have shown that just having your phone within reach will distract you, even if you don’t check it.
Is there anything that can't wait? For instance, a family or work situation that requires you to be potentially available on short notice. If there is, tell me about it and we’ll make an exception to the rule. But otherwise, silence your phone, put it away, and let yourself have a reprieve from notifications and interruptions.
The focus of therapy should be on you, not your messages.
I will be out of the office beginning 12/24/18 and not returning until 1/3/19. I will be checking my voicemail periodically during this time, so messages can be left at (616)-218-8059. I will return calls for routine matters (e.g,. scheduling) when I’m back in the office.
Not everybody likes the holidays. Not every wants to spend time with their families. Some folks are struggling just to make ends meet, which makes buying presents a stretch on a tight budget. Others have lost loved ones in the past year, and are faced with a stark reminder of this loss when everybody sits down at the holiday table in their usual places, but one of their members is missing.
Holidays can also be stressful because there is so much to do. The holiday traditions can feel like more work on top of a schedule that is already full. Decorations to hang, presents to buy, cards to send, food to make, schedules to coordinate — getting all that extra-work done — and on-time, no less — can feel like taking on a part-time job.
And then there’s commercial aspect of Christmas. For those us who still go in brick and mortar stores, are we not aghast when we see holiday decorations emerge a day or two after Halloween? Please, no, we think; we don’t want to deal with the Christmas push just yet.
Not everybody likes the holidays. I get it, I really do.
Every year, when the holidays roll around, I wonder if I should write up some kind of tip sheet for coping with holiday stress. You know the one I’m talking about. You've probably seen or heard something like it before: “10 Sure-fire Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress,” or "Beat the Holiday Blues." As if you can improve your ability to cope simply by reading some nifty bullet points, ideally limited to a single page.
My problem is, I'm not convinced these one-page wonders actually do much for people. Why? Because everybody’s situation is just a little bit different. To my way of thinking, such lists feel trite. They do not capture the complexity of most people's situations.
Most holiday traditions involve other people in some way, and most of the people I know are complicated, irrational, or flawed, and many them are operating from a perspective that puts themselves at the center of the universe. When human beings congregate, with family, friends, or various communities, are we really shocked when old patterns and wounds and difficulties emerge? Humans are imperfect beings. We’re bound to run into problems with each other, sooner or later. Dealing with holiday stress — or blues, family craziness, or whatever — usually takes some nuanced thought and consistent efforts over time.
I know, I know. This isn’t much help, is it? Maybe you'd prefer the tip sheet…?
Okay, then. I’m going to give you a single suggestion for how to cope with holiday stress.
Go read or watch A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. When it comes to gaining perspective on the season, this is a good place to start. Regardless of your traditions, religious beliefs, or country of origin, you can learn a lot from this story. Maybe you've read it or seen it before? No surprise there; it is popular, and for good reason. But maybe try reading it or watching it again. My guess is, you'll feel inspired all over again. Stories have a wonderful of giving us perspective, and sometimes they even teach us how to live.
So one morning a farmer discovers that his goose has laid a golden egg. This is a startling development, but a happy one. The next day, the goose lays another golden egg. This is fantastic, the farmer thinks. Indeed, the goose continues to drop golden eggs each morning. The farmer can’t believe his good fortune. With all that gold, he becomes a wealthy man.
And then greed sets in.
The farmer grows impatient. He decides he has to have all the eggs — now. Thinking that the eggs are inside of the goose, he kills it. But of course the goose hasn’t made them yet. There are no eggs to get. Even worse, now that he's killed the goose, he has no way to get more eggs.
Steven Covey, his book Seven Habits of Effective People, likens Aesop’s fable to the person who continually produces (works hards) but never takes time off to rest and renew himself. He greedily wants all the eggs, even if it comes at his own expense.
The moral is simple. You can’t always be producing. Sometimes you have to relax, rest, and renew yourself. Sometimes you have to shutdown production.
Don’t kill the goose.