8 tools to defeat your ‘workaholic’ ways


workaholic

I am a workaholic. While on vacation last week, I became cognizant of the benefits of r&r and was inspired to write a blog that might help my fellow workaholics to address this issue. Do you find it difficult to disengage from work? An imbalance between your work life and your personal life may be behind of myriad of other problems, such as anxiety, depression, or insomnia. Are you obsessed with working to the exclusion of other things in your life? Some people work as though they were addicted to working. Have you convinced yourself that you have to work harder than everyone else? At your place of work, are you always the first to arrive and the last to leave? Has anyone ever accused you of being a workaholic or a perfectionist? Do you feel as if you are addicted to work? Work and your professional identity may be overly tied to your self-esteem so that you over-allocate time to work pursuits. Do you feel badly about yourself when you are not doing work? Do you view non-work activities as a waste of time? Do you believe that any idle time should be filled with some useful activity towards a goal? Have you come to devalue activities done for the sake of leisure or rest? If so, here are some cognitive and behavioral therapy techniques for you to try:

 

  • Ask yourself, Why am I the exception to the rule that human beings need rest and relaxation? In other words, challenge the idea that you do not require rest or pleasure in your life—all human beings do.
  • Imagine what would happen at work if you were incapacitated in some way. Would the business cease to exist, or would it find some way to make up for your absence? Challenge your tendency to overestimate your importance at work. Paradoxically, people who take breaks and recharge are often more productive at work.
  • Experiment with putting some rest and pleasure into your life and taking away some of the time currently allotted to work. For example, if you are working more than eight hours a day, commit to leaving work at an earlier time this week. Spend extra time doing something enjoyable.
  • Shorten your to-do list this week to essentials only.
  • In your own personal currency (i.e., in your mind), consider increasing the value of moments of pleasure and decreasing the value of accomplishments.
  • Create a “Buffer zone:” about an hour before getting ready for bed, begin to transition away from your “active self” by restricting your activities to those that are relaxing and enjoyable to you.
  • Say no to at least one request this week.
  • Think of the needs of people who currently depend on you. Now think of your own needs. Is your list of needs shorter? If so, why? How are your needs different from theirs? Why are you an exception? What is missing from your list of needs? Add to your list of needs and make time to de-stress and unwind every single day.

 

In summary, like any other human being, you need time for rest and relaxation. Far from being wasted time, making a conscious and consistent investment in “self-care” will help you be happier, more self-aware, calmer, and more productive throughout your days.

 

 

 

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MEDITATION 101


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Author: NYC-NYC staff therapist, Mike Comparetto, LMSW.


CBT Therapists have lots of tools to teach our clients. But I often think, what if I had to pick just one to share with people? My answer, without hesitation, would be mindfulness meditation. It is the most powerful and transformative tool that I have ever come across, and these days we have ample studies to prove it. If you are a skeptic (as you should be), just Google “medical research on meditation” and you will find results from Harvard Medical School, Time Magazine, Mayo Clinic, the CDC, etc. showing a vast array of benefits both mental and physical. Here is just one article from the APA listing many of them.

What is Meditation?

This question is simultaneously very simple and very complex. Let’s start with the simple, and we can save the complex discussions for another day. There are many types of meditation, but for this article I will only be referring to Mindfulness Meditation. The officially accepted definition of mindfulness, penned by Jon Kabat-Zinn, is “…awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Mindfulness can be practiced while doing just about anything, but when we say meditation, this usually refers to practicing mindfulness in a seated position. There are ways to do walking meditation, standing meditation, and other forms of moving meditation, but seated meditation is the most common, and that’s what we will be focusing on here.

What is the Aim of Meditation?

If I could boil the aim of meditation down to one thing, it would be switching our frame of mind from conceptual to experiential. Meditation allows us to tap in to our lived experience, and let go of the stories we tell ourselves about it. These stories often magnify (or in some cases manufacture) the pain and difficulty in our lives. Mindfulness also reminds us that we never have to endure our experience for more than one moment at a time, which is quite freeing. All experiences are impermanent, and meditation brings this into direct focus.

If you learn how to effectively manage your mind, your thoughts and actions start to lead you away from suffering and towards happiness. This is why we practice meditation- to end suffering.

“Mindfulness helps us get better at seeing the difference between what’s happening and the stories we tell ourselves about what’s happening, stories that get in the way of direct experience. Often such stories treat a fleeting state of mind as if it were our entire and permanent self.” –Sharon Salzberg

How to Meditate

There are so many different ways to meditate that it can be overwhelming. A Google search on “how to meditate” returns 258,000,000 results. I think when you are starting out, it is important to just find a style that is accessible to you and do it. Later on, if you find that that particular style or tradition doesn’t really resonate with you, you can do your research and find the one that does. In the beginning though, any meditation is better than no meditation.

Since this article is about the bare basics, let’s establish some guidelines for just about all types of meditation:

1) Meditating for 5 minutes every day is better than meditating for 1 hour once a week. Developing the discipline to cultivate a daily practice is extremely important, and doing it every day creates the momentum needed to get results. If that means starting with only 5 minutes, then do what you can.

2) Try not to judge your meditation. You may have some meditations that leave you feeling great, some that leave you feeling tired, discouraged, or indifferent. They are all equally valuable. Nobody is bad at meditation- it is a constant practice. Each time you redirect your mind, you are building new neural pathways in your brain.

3) Don’t seek out particular states of mind or experiences. As a beginning meditator, you will most likely not have the ability to sit down and immediately cultivate the exact mind-state you are looking for (if you can, let me know your secret!). Meditation is about observing what is arising in the present moment- it is not about creating an alternate reality to dwell in. Remember that mindfulness is meant to cultivate a non-judgemental mind. That is absolutely critical. The goal of meditation (you will not always achieve this goal and that’s ok) is to meet each moment without adding your own commentary, opinion, interpretation, or sense of like or dislike to it. Yes, it’s as hard as it sounds, but that’s why we call it a meditation practice.

4) Have compassion for yourself. You will quickly find that the mind can sometimes be, well, kind of a jerk. The last thing you ever want to do is make things worse by beating yourself up when you can’t focus for more than half a second, or when your mind won’t stop repeating the same thoughts over and over. This is all a part of meditating, and even advanced meditators experience a mind that is uncooperative at times. It’s all about how you relate to those experiences. Try to use it as an opportunity to observe what it’s like to be in a busy mind (or an angry mind, a sad mind, etc).

5) Develop patience. I don’t know how to break this to you, but you are not going to achieve enlightenment after your first meditation. You will most likely see some immediate results, but the real benefits come weeks, months, years, and decades into the practice. As a bonus, you can use your meditation to observe the mind’s compulsion to want instant gratification.

6) Don’t worry what anyone thinks about it. If your friends think you are weird for meditating, or you fear that your co-workers will never speak to you again, just let it go. Nothing is more important than finding true peace and happiness. Be yourself, be free, and do what makes you happy.

Keeping those guidelines in mind, use the resources I have provided at the end of this blog to try meditation. If you are absolutely brand new to meditation I suggest starting with the Headspace app, or this guided meditation.

I hope meditation can be as powerful and transformative for you as it has been, and continues to be, for me. Supposedly the last words the Buddha ever spoke were, “Strive on with diligence.” May you strive on towards liberation and well-being.

-Mike

Resources

Get in touch with us to book a session:

info@nyccognitivetherapy.com

Apps:

Headspace

Insight Timer

Webpages:

Simple Guided Meditation

Kristin Neff – Self Compassion Exercises

Tara Brach – Guided Meditations

Books:

Meditation for Beginners – Jack Kornfield

How to Meditate – Pema Chodron

Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation – Sharon Salzberg

Against the Stream – Noah Levine


Got Clutter?


got clutter

Noah Clyman and his team at “NYC Cognitive Therapy” can help.
Think about the following 5 questions:
1. Because of clutter or number of possessions, do you have difficulty using the rooms in your home?
2. Do you have difficulty discarding (or recycling, selling, giving away) ordinary things that other people would get rid of?
3. Do you have a problem with collecting free things or buying more things than you can use or afford?
4. Do you experience emotional distress because of clutter, difficulty discarding, or problems with buying or acquiring things?
5. Do you experience impairment in your life (daily routine/job, school, social activities, family activities, or financial difficulties) because of clutter, difficulty discarding, or problems with buying or acquiring things?
If you answered “yes” to 2 or more of these 5 questions, you may have a problem that can be helped considerably with Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
What happens in therapy: Treatment is designed to educate clients about the diagnosis of hoarding disorder, to develop skills to address the problems, to address barriers and learn how to work with setbacks. You will learn the required skills for sorting and discarding and you will have opportunities within each session to practice these skills. Briefly, the skills and topics that will be covered during treatment include: assessment of hoarding symptoms and severity; understanding the nature of hoarding; developing a personal model of hoarding; setting goals; increasing motivation; reducing acquiring; improving decision-making; problem-solving; and organizing skills; practicing sorting and discarding; addressing unhelpful thoughts using cognitive strategies; managing barriers to progress; accessing support (e.g., through coaches); maintaining gains and preventing lapses; and wrapping up.
Understanding the psychology of the problem: Overcoming chronic clutter is often very difficult. Many people find it extremely helpful to have a support person or “coach” who can assist you with the process. Chronic clutter is not a single, simple problem, but consists of several interconnected problems. These usually include:
A. Excessive clutter. This is the most easily recognized symptom. Often the clutter becomes so overwhelming that the person has a hard time knowing where to start.
B. Problems organizing and making decisions: A person with excessive clutter may have difficulty thinking clearly and their clutter and what to do about it. They may have a hard time recognizing the difference between items that are useful vs. non-useful, valuable vs. non-valuable, or sentimental vs. non-sentimental. Therefore, to be on the safe side, they may treat all items as if they are useful, valuable, and sentimental. This leads to difficulty in deciding when it is time to throw something out.
C. Difficulty letting go of possessions: One of the most striking problems is difficulty letting go of and removing things—discarding, recycling, selling, and giving away items. This occurs even with items that seem to have little or no value. The amount of distress associated with removing clutter is often enormous.
D. A tendency to avoid or procrastinate: People with clutter problems often feel very overwhelmed by the sheer volume of clutter and the difficult task of decision-making. They may also feel depressed or nervous, which can add to a sense of fatigue and a tendency to avoid taking action. As a result, the person with clutter is often tempted to decide, “This is too big to tackle today. I’ll do it tomorrow.”
E. Difficulty resisting urges to acquire objects: For many people with clutter problems, the urge to acquire things can feel very strong, almost irresistible. Some people may feel a need to buy things; others may feel a need to pick up free things.
Not everyone with clutter has all of these problems. Every person and every clutter problem is a little bit different, but all involve strong emotional reactions to possessions, thoughts, and beliefs about saving things that may not seem rational to you, and behaviors that enable the problem to persist. As part of the treatment program, your therapist will carefully review these aspects of clutter and determine which problems are particularly troublesome. This is important, because the particular kinds of the problems you are facing will guide your therapist in deciding what interventions to use.
Want help? Ready to get started? Call today (347-470-8870) or email (info@nyccognitivetherapy.com) and ask for “help with clutter.”
Best, Noah
Noah Clyman, LCSW-R, ACT
Academy of Cognitive Therapy (ACT) Diplomate & Fellow
Certified Trainer/Consultant & Credentialing Committee Member
Clinical Director, NYC Cognitive Therapy
347-470-8870, x700
Fax: 347-470-8870

NEW: Behavioral Activation for Depression, and CBT-i for Insomnia


Brain x-ray with neurons

At NYC Cognitive Therapy, our staff are trained in two NEW and HIGHLY EFFECTIVE short-term treatments: Behavioral Activation for Depression and CBT-i for Insomnia.

To schedule an appointment, call 347-470-8870, or email us at info@nyccognitivetherapy.com.

BEHAVIORAL ACTIVATION WHAT IS IT:

A powerful, empowering, and highy effective treatment for those suffering from major depression and other forms of depression. Behavioral Activation (BA) works by helping clients reengage in those aspects of their lives that bring the greatest meaning and pleasure.

WHY DO IT:

BA is a proven and powerful behavioral approach that is often more effective in treating major depression than use of anti-depressant medications, and is one of the most powerful psychosocial treatments available today.

WHEN DO IT:

Ask your therapist about BA if you score mild, moderate, or severe on a depression inventory. Click here to find out Am I depressed?

To schedule an appointment, call 347-470-8870, or email us at info@nyccognitivetherapy.com.

COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY FOR INSOMNIA (CBT-I)

WHAT IS IT:

CBT-I is an effective treatment for chronic sleep problems. It is as effective as sleep medication in the short term and more reliable and durable than medications in the long term. CBT-I includes strategies to retrain the body to sleep, reduce factors interfering with sleep, and increase sleep drive to resume the body’s natural rhythms.

WHY DO IT:

Evidence suggests insomnia is an important target in improving overall mental health. Improves sleep in 70-80% of patients.

WHEN DO IT:

Ask your therapist about CBT-I if you have been experiencing sleep problems for at least one month.

To schedule an appointment, call 347-470-8870, or email us at info@nyccognitivetherapy.com.


Got Healthy Habits?


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Often, we have the capability for a desired behavior -we can do (or keep ourselves from doing) a behavior if given optimal circumstances. But we can’t get it to happen reliably in all relevant contexts.

As therapists, when we see that a behavior isn’t reliably happening in all needed contexts, we default to assuming the problem is not enough motivation and intervene to strengthen motivation. Rather than rely solely on motivation, you can DESIGN and BUILD behavior change with scheduled baby steps.  I’ve been working to strengthen this core competency by playing with tiny habits and habit-stacking to support my own and my client’s behavior change.

If this is interesting to you, try a week-long experiment with tiny habits. BJ Fogg, a researcher at Stanford, gives away his method in a super helpful bite-by-bite way (and it’s free!).  You can go to this link and register for the next Tiny Habits Session http://www.tinyhabitsacademy.org/ 

In brief, a “Tiny Habit” is a behavior —

  • you do at least once a day
  • that takes you less than 30 seconds
  • that requires little effort

You use an already established anchor, something you already nearly always do, a well-established habit.  After I _[anchor]__, I will [tiny habit].

To get the hang of the tiny habit steps, I started with the easiest set I could think of (that still were important to me). For example:

After I start the coffee, I will:
1. drink a glass of water
2. take a vitamin
3. mindfully notice the present moment using all my senses

After 2 weeks, I’ve found that all the above are regularly happening and I am kind of smitten with how fun this is.

I also invite you to check out two exciting offerings that will be coming up (see below for details).  Space in both is limited, so definitely contact us NOW to get your spot.  Thanks!

–Noah Clyman, LCSW-R, ACT


TEAM therapy: Brief Intensive Preview Video! — Feeling Good


Register now! The San Francisco summer intensive is right around the corner!

via Brief Intensive Preview Video! — Feeling Good