7 Things Your Therapist Wants You To Stop Freaking Out About
March 30 2016
By Krissy Brady
Sometimes (okay, maybe more often than sometimes) we are our own worst enemy. We send ourselves into a tailspin as we strive for perfection in our careers, relationships, and selves. We fret over every bad decision we’ve ever made. We obsess over deadlines, expectations, and the dismal state of our savings account. We even worry that we worry too much.
Sure, navigating through life can be a tricky business, but there are plenty of worries that we’re better off without. Here are seven things we should stop flipping out about, according to therapists:
1. You said something awful (and can’t stop thinking about it).
For some of us, the only time the whole foot-in-mouth thing doesn’t happen is when we’re chewing or unconscious. But constantly beating yourself up over what you said isn’t going to solve anything. Instead, face your faux pas head-on by owning up to what you said and why you said it—and if you find yourself ruminating after the fact, distract yourself with a task that will take some brain power, says Toronto-based psychologist Nicole McCance, C. Psych, such as reading a book, checking your e-mail, or trying a new recipe. “By focusing on a task that takes concentration, you’ll stop berating yourself for what you wish you hadn’t said,” she adds.
2. You always feel guilty about something.
“Women tend to be caretakers with both friends and family,” says McCance. “If you find that you spend a lot of time thinking about others and feel bad if you don’t help them, you’re likely also neglecting your own needs and putting yourself last.” When you don’t have the bandwidth to take on another favor/party/project, saying no doesn’t have to translate into a self-guided guilt trip: You are in charge of your post-rejection feelings. “You get to choose how you react—emotionally and behaviorally—to other people’s expectations,” says clinical psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of Better Than Perfect. That means you don’t have to project your guilt onto them: They are probably totally fine with the fact that you said “no” to them, and you should be, too.
3. Your friends are reaching major life milestones ahead of you.
When you expect your life to happen at a certain pace and it, well, doesn’t, it’s easy to get stuck in panic mode and wonder if you’re destined to be a failure. Spoiler alert: You’re not. But in planning your life so meticulously, you’re not leaving (any) room for error, which can make you feel more behind than you really are—not to mention suck the enjoyment out of everything, says psychologist Nikki Martinez, Psy.D. Adjust your goals and expand your timeframes so they’re more realistic, factoring in the time necessary to combat potential delays, distractions, and derailments like the boss that you are.
4. Your life doesn’t look like Pinterest.
Even though you’ll probably never make that DIY headboard or transform cereal boxes into notebooks, you can’t help but compare your life to the carefully crafted social media feeds people pass off as reality. And if your self-esteem hinges on how much attention your own rose-colored posts get, you may be experiencing “conditional self-worth,” where you only feel good about yourself when certain standards are met, says Lombardo. For example, only believing in yourself if people are impressed by you, or if you’re rocking the latest trend. “This causes you to be at the whim of others, rather than believing in yourself for who you are,” she says. And who wants that?
5. You fantasize about someone else while having sex with your partner.
“Many women feel as though they’re cheating when they fantasize about other people,” says certified sex therapist Marissa Nelson. “Meanwhile, fantasy can be (and is) a huge part of arousal. It can amp up your pleasure—and your orgasm.” Fantasies are like your sex drive’s very own GPS system: They keep you in tune with your needs and desires, and give you the opportunity to transform fantasy into reality with your sig-o. Grrr, baby.
6. You’re not good at everything you “should” be good at.
By now, you thought you’d have your cooking skills on lockdown, fold laundry like Martha Stewart, and have in-depth conversations about world events that go beyond smiling and nodding. But trying to be perfect at everything can cause a ton of internal stress, not to mention take energy away from the things you really do enjoy, says Lombardo. Just because you don’t have an orgasm over kale or aren’t into politics doesn’t make you less of a person—it makes you more of an individual.
7. You’re perma-worried that things aren’t going to work out.
Fretting over worst-case scenarios is common—but totally unnecessary. Making a mistake at work doesn’t mean you’re going to lose your job, and someone calling you in the middle of the night doesn’t mean something terrible has happened. (It’s probably just a butt dial.) “The truth is, a lot of what we spend time worrying about never actually happens,” says McCance. “When you feel yourself going down this path, the best thing you can do is take a deep breath and remind yourself of all the times things have worked out for you.” In other words, when worry shows up uninvited, it doesn’t mean you have to answer the door.
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