Welcome to Ask a Therapist, a new monthly column where a licensed professional—not Dr. Google, not your judgmental co-worker, not your college roommate who tends to shoot from the hip—gives honest answers to the big questions that are keeping you up at night. They'll tell you when you're in a toxic relationship, how to move on from a traumatic memory, techniques to better manage your finances and worry less between paydays—and they'll also give you a no bullsh*t reality check when you have a shortcoming to confront. Here, we have Sherry Amatenstein, an NYC-based therapist, author, and editor of the anthology How Does That Make You Feel: True Confessions from Both Sides of the Therapy Couch. Today she's answering questions about how to stop canceling plans with friends last minute, and why you shouldn't bite off more than you can chew.
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I'm in an endless cycle of making plans and then wanting to cancel when the day rolls around. I've tried making plans only when I think I can commit to them, but I still get this feeling. I'm just so zapped at the end of the workday that it's hard to muster up fresh energy. On days when I feel like this, is it better to go through with it, or reschedule?
Wanting to cancel plans at the last minute, even occasionally going through with the 11th hour back-out text or phone call doesn't make you villainous. And I am not just exonerating you of bad friends-manship because I've been guilty of this very same thing.
But there is a difference between feeling the impulse to cancel last minute and actually bailing, and it sounds like you want permission to follow the impulse. It's justifiable to bail if it's an emergency. For instance, experiencing a sudden stomach virus, punishing deadline at the office, or ill family member. Otherwise, splash your face with water, run in place to muster up energy, and remember that you'll feel awful later if you disappoint someone you care about and/or miss an important event. Go out and be your word.
When making a commitment to another person, you should not be saying under your breath, "I'll show up if I'm in the mood." Do you stay home from work because you don't feel like dragging yourself out of a cozy, soft bed at the crack of dawn? No, you suck it up, push down the temptation to play hooky, and head to the office because you fear the consequence of continually staying home just because you feel like it.
It's important to understand your desire to crawl home after work. Is it a sign that work stress is burning you out, or due to social anxiety that you'll spend the evening feeling judged and found wanting? Or are you depressed and lack interest in activities you used to enjoy?
But it is totally normal to feel like chilling at home at the end of a long hard day. Knowing the level of exhaustion you experience when you finally power down your work computer, perhaps you should limit the plans you make on a work night even further. Don't bite off more social obligations than you can chew.
How should I ask my boss for a mental health day?
In 2017, a woman named Madalyn Parker emailed her co-workers and boss that she needed to take two days off to devote to her mental health and would return ready to operate at 100 percent. Her CEO responded, thanking Madalyn for "the reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health," adding, "I can't believe this is not standard practice at all organizations." A grateful Madalyn posted the entire exchange on Twitter, where it quickly went viral.
If only more bosses were like Madalyn's. A study led by the World Health Organization (WHO) found a link between lost productivity in the workplace and depression and anxiety to the tune of $1 trillion annually. Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that a mental illness that could potentially affect your job performance might legally entitle you "to a reasonable accommodation that could help you do your job." Companies with 15 or more employees are covered under the American Disabilities Act. With all this, work culture attitudes toward mental health can vary greatly.
The person setting the culture in your workplace is the supervisor to whom you want to confess your desire for a breather to reset. Therefore understanding his or her personality can help you figure out the best approach, whether it's: "The run-up to the deadline left me so jittery and shaking and running on fumes I can't function without 24 hours either sleeping or jones-ing on General Hospital" or "This new project demands the best of me. I think a day to recharge and prepare would help me perform to my best ability." If you are uncomfortable figuring out exactly what to say, or fear your boss' potential negative reaction, know that you are not obligated to give a reason for requesting a sick day.
Still, it's important to evaluate why you want this mental health day. Has it been a particularly stressful work period? Is your stress triggered by unhappiness with your job? Or, are you having a more serious mental health episode that might necessitate more than one "play" day?
Regardless, when you do take the mental health day, use it for something fun—not to guiltily check work emails every ten minutes.
My partner is a hypochondriac. For example, when I cook dinner, he'll ask over and over, "Is this fully cooked? Are you positive it's fully cooked?" I'm a patient person, and I don't mind working with him, but we don't have the money for a therapist every week. I love him and I want to help him so desperately but I'm not sure how.
The first thing to understand is that hypochondriasis, also known as "somatic symptom disorder" or "illness anxiety disorder," feels very real to the sufferer. It impacts as much as 5 percent of the U.S. population, according to the American Psychological Association. This form of obsessive compulsive disorder is defined by JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) as "a persistent fear or belief that one has a serious, undiagnosed medical illness."
That said, living with someone who interprets an arm tingle as evidence of a significant cardiac episode is not exactly conducive to your mental health! While weekly therapy might not be healthy to the bank account, I strongly encourage your partner to get at least a proper diagnosis by a psychiatrist, who might recommend psychiatric medications that can help with the ferocious anxiety. CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy), a short-term treatment focusing on changing maladaptive thoughts and emotions, has also been shown to yield positive effects.
Here are some ways you can find relief:
Don't treat his fears as a joke. While not buying into his fear that every headache signals a malignant tumor, you want to be empathetic rather than scoffing. He is scared out of his mind, and having the one he loves treat his fears as a joke can exasperate and prolong the episode. For example, my patient Emily (names have been changed), whose husband is a hypochondriac, says, "Every time Ed thinks his blood pressure is shooting up I say, 'Ok, let's check it,' and drag out the blood pressure kit. He appreciates my concern and we test his pressure—which is usually normal."
Set boundaries. It hurts your heart to see your loved one in a super-anxious state, but it's essential to set limits on how long you will listen to a recitation of imagined ailments and worries—as in 20 minutes versus 20 hours at a stretch. Ask your doctor to recommend a support group for yourself and/or your partner to attend. Being able to listen to and share thoughts with others in your predicament is a healing ritual. Insist that your partner okay his medical expenditures with you to avoid opening the latest Amex statement and discovering a riot of doctor visits and health gadget purchases.
Ask yourself why you are in this relationship. Look at the positives and negatives. Do you have a tendency to fall into codependent patterns and need to perpetually parent someone, or do you find that focusing on your partner's neuroses is a welcome distraction from examining your own issues?
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. If he exhibits symptoms that appear troubling, make sure he goes to his physician for an exam.
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Ask a Therapist: "Does Canceling Plans Last Minute Make Me a Flaky Person?", Source:https://www.prevention.com/life/a28543562/ask-a-therapist-cancel-plans-late-minute/