Navigate / search

Do You Suffer From “Christmas Perfectionism”?

If you already struggle with perfectionism, the holiday season can be particularly difficult for stress management. For one thing, there are often higher expectations, more on your to do list, and more people to please. So, whether you struggle with perfectionism when it comes to buying the “perfect” gift, decorating the house “perfectly”, sending out the “perfect” Christmas card with the best family picture (mailed the day after Thanksgiving), or whether your obsessed with what to make for Christmas Eve dinner. Never fear! Here are a few tips to help you take a step back and let go of holiday perfectionism.

1) Says who?

Perfectionists tend to have rules about how things should be.

  • Write down a list of a few of your Christmas “shoulds” that weigh you down.
  • What if you thought about every tradition, decoration, gift as optional, as something you get to choose to do or attend or buy, or not?
  • Add the question “says who” at the end and actually answer the question. For example, if my rule is “I should give a handmade neighbor gift to everyone on my street…says who?” my answer may be “Martha Stewart”
  • Ask yourself if you want to accept that rule or reject that rule. Read more

JulieHanks.com listed #1 Online Depression Influencer by Sharecare

I have a passion (bordering on obsession) with using technology to blog, tweet, post, and answer questions about mental health and relationships because 1) I love what I do as a therapist 2) I want to make a difference in the world for good by educating and providing helpful resources.  So, this morning when I woke up to an email letting me know that I’d been recognized for my online efforts by an amazing national organization Sharecare it’s icing on the cake. Thanks to technology, anyone’s voice can be heard and anyone can make a difference–even a little social worker in Salt Lake City, Utah.

If you’re not familiar with Sharecare.com check it out! It’s an amazing online Q&A platform website founded by Jeff Arnold, founder of WebMD & Dr. Mehmet Oz, with partners Harpo Studios, Sony Pictures Television and Discovery Communications.

 

Read more about the top 10 online influencers

 

Here’s how the top 10 are selected…

“Ask The Therapist” Live Facebook Event Dec. 21

The holiday season can bring out the best…and the worst in all of us, and in family relationships. Here’s your chance to get FREE advice to help you during the holidays and those cold winter months.

I’m excited to be participating in PsychCentral.com’s Ask the Therapist Live Facebook Q & A event with Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker. We will both be available to answer YOUR mental health and relationship questions on Wed. Dec. 21st at 5:30-6:30PM MST in real-time in our Ask The Therapist Facebook Group.

Click here for details

Send you question to PsychCentral’s Ask The Therapist column anytime here

My Turn On “The Couch”: Psych Central

PsychCentral.com’s Margarita Tartakovsky, MS recently interviewed me for a new series featuring therapists  called “Clinicians on the Couch. She was delightful to interview with. Check out her body image blog  Weightless.

So…if you’re interested in knowing what I wish my clients knew, what psych books I’m reading, what’s surprised me about being a therapist, how I cope with stress and more, click the link below…

Clinicans on the couch: 10 Questions with Therapist Julie Hanks

Ask Julie: I Don’t Feel Anything

The problem that I have is that I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. Last summer, I tended to wake up without any emotion at all, then I would be all depressed and thinking I’m fat. Around 1-4 in the evening, I would become apathetic and it would feel like I didn’t have any more feelings. Then, around 6 or so, I would have emotions again. I don’t know if there is anything wrong with me. Sometimes I feel like I have no emotion at all and then out of the blue I start to have emotion. It feels like I overreached my limit to how much I can feel at one point and then I have to wait for my emotions to heal or something. Is there a limit to how much I can feel? Is there a limit to how much I can feel one thing? I feel really bored a lot of times but I still have a lot to do. Sometimes, though, it feels like I have to force myself to feel feelings and emotions. I don’t know if there is a problem or something.

A: It does sound like there is a problem, but I need more information before I can provide an answer for you. I suggest that you get in to see a therapist for a mental health evaluation for depression. Feelings of emptiness, lack of enjoyment in life, and focusing on negative thoughts may be symptoms of depression.

I’m curious what was happening around you or inside of you when you’d start to feel again. What activities were you engaged in? How would you describe the transition from not feeling to feeling? I also have questions about what it felt like to have no emotions at all.  Also, I’m curious about your relationships with family and friends and how you’re functioning in other parts of your life, like school or work.  Please write back with more information if you’d like additional advice. Until then, I urge you to seek therapy to help you get to the bottom of your confusing emotional patterns and start working toward enjoying your life.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my PsychCentral.com column

Ask Julie: I Feel Stuck In My Own Mind

Q: I’ve been sitting here for 30 minutes trying to formulate my thoughts into a paragraph but I can’t do it so I’m just going to list feeling as they come to mind.

1. I feel nothing on a regular basis. For example if I got a call saying that my mother died, I don’t think I would even cry.
2. I’m irritable beyond belief. If someone asks me to do something I get pissed for them even asking me.
3. I’m not suicidal, but I constantly question why I’m living and try to come up with reasons to continue on.
4. I don’t see people as individuals. I see everyone as a mammal, which leads me back to number 3.
5. I want to ask my parents, or anyone for help, but I’m afraid of being laughed at.
6. I don’t even try to interact with girls. I’m not homosexual at all, I’m still attracted to girls, but the effort I need to put in to get an outcome is unbalanced.
Read more

Ask Julie: Depression, ADHD, Self-injury, & No One Cares

Q: Hello, I am a 16 year old Sophomore in high school. For the past 5 years I have struggled with addiction to self injury, depression and ADHD.

My parents refuse too believe anything is wrong with me and every day scream at me and break things as well as insult me about how useless I am and how I am always ruining their lives! My friends all say that I’m amazing and such a good friend but I have a hard time believing them when my OWN parents seem to hate me…My grades have gotten a lot worse because my parents deny that I am ADHD even though my doctor has said I need therapy and medication.

I failed three of my classes and the fights and insults got worse, my parents took away nearly everything I had and I almost committed suicide twice, My doctor finally told my mother I NEED to get therapy so she did reluctant, and told me the entire way about what a failure I am.

I went to therapy for about 3 months and stopped, my therapist was ignorant and treated me like a little kid. She blew off how I was upset about my parents and my hair falling out due too PCOS and being diabetic. I hate my parents but I love them at the same time… they always yell at me and get angry and things I don’t do and forget… I have ADHD and it’s not my fault! but they just yell a me about how I use it as a crutch. Right now I am not allowed to go out with friends and am constantly threatened that if I don’t start getting straight A’s they will take away my desktop and my books… I’m scared because I just keep hating myself even more! I can’t sleep at night and I can’t concentrate in school, I keep having mental break downs and freaking out and am nearly ready to start cutting again because it makes me feel amazing, I’m scared but my parents don’t care! I’m tired of working my butt off just to get yelled at and I really don’t know what to do anymore…. My school even won’t do anything when I talked to my teachers, I am really lost.

A: Thanks for reaching out for help to figure out how to manage your feelings of loneliness and hopelessness and stop your self-destructive behavior.

It’s not uncommon for adolescents to love and hate their parents at the same time when they feel invalidated or misunderstood. It sounds like you and your parents aren’t sure how to help you. My guess is that they’re very scared and are trying to motivate you by grounding you from friends and threatening to take away privileges, which in turn makes you feel punished and hopeless.

Don’t let the fact that you didn’t connect with your therapist before discourage you from seeking therapy again. If you don’t want to go back to the therapist you’ve seen previously, ask your mom, your physician, or a school counselor to help you find another therapist who you feel more comfortable with. Self-injury, suicide attempts and failing grades are all signs that you need professional help as soon as possible. Please don’t wait. To find specific therapists in your area, please click the Find Help link at the top of this page.

In addition to individual therapy, I highly recommend family therapy. Your family can learn new ways of relating with each other and dealing with conflict, and healthier ways to manage emotions. The therapist can also help your parents learn options to support and motivate you other than putdowns and punishments, and can help you understand and express your deeper feelings and needs to your parents in a way that your parents are more likely to hear.

It sounds like you’re trying to tell your parents, through your symptoms, that you’re in a lot of emotional pain, and instead of hearing your pain they’re seeing your choices as “bad behavior” instead of as a desperate cry for help. A family therapist can help you and your parents understand what’s going on below the surface for you, and help you understand your parents’ fears and intentions. The fact that your mom was willing to take you to therapy before is a sign that she recognizes that therapy can be valuable, and that is a good sign. Please talk to her and get the help you need as soon as possible.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my PsychCentral.com column

Ask Julie: I’m Depressed & No One Knows

Q: First off I would like to thank you for taking the time out to help me. But the problem is I’m depressed but nobody knows it.

Half the reason I am is because I have no really close friends to hang out with or etc. While everybody is usually going to the movies, the beach, or somewhere fun I’m at home. My mother has started to notice it, she always suggests I hangout with my friends but truth is I don’t have the heart to tell her I don’t really have any. It started at the age of 11 when I started to notice I didn’t have a lot of friends like all the other kids did.

I have tried on several attempts to makes friends, but all miserably failed. I try not to be clingy or to appear desperate. I think I have

been cursed not to have any friends and it kills me every single day. I don’t wanna go talk to a counselor in person, it makes me feel even more abnormal. And I don’t wanna tell my parents because they’ll feel bad for me and I hate it when people feel sympathy for me.

I’m just tired of feeling so alone all the time, I mean it used to not bother me as bad but now that I’m getting older it really has taken a toll on me. I just wish I had somebody to talk to, or to share my feelings with. I’ve tried to make friends before but I’m probably what you could call a “outcast” I don’t really fit in and it really does bug me.

Another reason why I’m depressed is I get made fun of a lot. Every time I got to school I get called fat, ugly, pig, horse face, I know I shouldn’t let it bother me but it does. It gets so bad sometimes that I feel like just running to the bathroom and cry my eyes out. Getting made fun of has really taken a toll on my confidence as well. I used to be really confident now I can’t even stand looking at myself in the mirror.

Another thing is I always compare myself to my cousins. I mean I’m the youngest of the family. All of my cousins are gorgeous, have an abundance of friends. They always have someone took talk to. They don’t know it but their the only ones I hang out with. I haven’t been to an actual friends house in over a year. Which is pretty bad if your my age. I just wish I could be happy and perfect like they are.

Thank you for listening and really do hope you respond, because the truth is this is my only hope. And again thank you for taking the time out to read my “story”.

A: Thanks for reaching out for help so you can start to feel better. It is painful, especially during the teen years, to be excluded from peers and to feel on the outside of social events.

I feel bad that you’ve been so mistreated by your peers. No one deserves to be bullied, made fun of and tormented, including you. If this is happening at school, please reach out to a counselor or administrator so they can help put a stop to this cruel behavior and make sure that they keep your identity private so you don’t have to suffer retaliation from peers. Their behavior is unacceptable.

I’m curious about your comment, “I hate it when people have sympathy for me.” Sympathy and empathy are ways that people express love and concern for you, which is what we all ultimately want and need. I know it feels like a huge risk, but the only way to help the loneliness is to let someone in and share your painful feelings with — your parents, or a trusted teacher or school counselor. Please let someone know how down and alone you feel. Please talk to your parents about your depression and ask them for help in finding a counselor in your area who works with adolescents. Also, your parents or counselor can help you find an adolescent therapy group to help you practice relating to peers in positive ways, help you understand why relationships are so difficult for you, and develop the skills to build and maintain strong friendships.

It’s hard to believe, but your life can get better and you can have meaningful relationships, but the first step is to let someone in your life know about your pain and ask them for help.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally published in PsychCentral.com’s Ask the Therapist

Ask Julie: Do I Have Adult ADD?

Q: I’m a student receiving my Master’s degree. Within the past two years I’ve felt my body and mind change significantly in many ways.

I feel extremely anxious when doing tasks (even small ones like packing/unpacking a suitcase). This is the same with grocery shopping or attempting my homework. I then push everything aside and get nothing done. My habits of cleanliness such as my apartment have declined because I refuse to motivate myself to clean. I’ll find myself in the kitchen then in the bedroom for some reason the randomly in the bathroom, ultimately accomplishing nothing. I get distracted by TV a lot and it impedes my homework. I also feel pressured on what to do when I finish my masters and feel like I’m too lackadaisical to even search for jobs. My relationship with my boyfriend is also affected by this in that I’ll freak out on him, refuse sex, and find him at the mercy of which high or low I’ll be on. I’ll also find myself drinking and smoking cigarettes more often to avoid doing work or tasks. I feel like I have adult ADD due to these symptoms and have spoken with my mother, who revealed she believes she has it as well but was never properly diagnosed. I would like to know what to do and what would happen if I see a psychiatrist.

A: Next time you talk with your mom ask her if she recalls you having similar attention problems in elementary school.

While your symptoms do sound a lot like adult ADD, it’s important to determine whether you experienced these symptoms during childhood or whether they are new. If all of your symptoms are recent, it’s very unlikely that you have ADD. If they’ve been going on for years, it’s more likely that you have have ADD.

There are other possible explanations for your recent changes in your behavior and emotions. Depression or anxiety disorders often emerge in young adulthood and symptoms are similar to what you’re describing – difficulty concentrating, irritability, lack of motivation. ADD is often associated with other mental health conditions as well, so there may be a combination of issues that you’re struggling with.

Your idea about getting an evaluation by a psychiatrist is right on target! An evaluation will provide a clear diagnosis and suggest course of treatment to help you manage your symptoms. Your doctor will likely recommend medication or psychotherapy, or a combination of both.

If you’ve never had a psychiatric or mental health evaluation, it’s natural to be a little nervous because you have no idea what to expect. When you set up an appointment with a psychiatrist, he or she might give you some questionnaires to fill out before the appointment. During your appointment he or she will perform an in-depth interview with you. Medical or psychological testing may also be recommended. In addition to your evaluation and psychotherapy, you and your boyfriend may want to consider couples counseling to help repair any damage to your relationship.

You are in a stressful time of life full of transitions and important decisions – graduate school, serious relationships, career choices. These can be exciting and incredibly stressful. Make sure you’re taking care of your basic needs by getting adequate sleep, eating well, and engaging in regular recreation and exercise. No matter what your diagnosis, all of these lifestyle choices will help you manage your symptoms and will contribute to your overall health and happiness.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

This post originally appeared in my Psych Central Ask the Therapist column

Self & relationship expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is wife of 22 years and mother of 4, a licensed therapist, a popular media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Listen to Julie’s podcast You and Yours , on B98.7 radio as the Bee’s Family Counselor, and read her national advice columns on Psych Central! and Latter-day Woman Magazine