Why you are burned out.

By David Joel Miller.

Are you experiencing burnout?

Burning out

Burnout.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Burnout has been one of the major problems of the last century, and it’s getting worse, not better. As more people work in jobs that involve contact with other people, stress has been magnified. Among social worker’s burnout was called “compassion fatigue.” Teachers experience burnout, so do bankers. Customer service representatives and those who work in phone centers commonly experience burnout.

High levels of stress, particularly in situations where you are low in your abilities to control the situation, can result in burnout. Once you experience burnout, you may never be able to return to that job again. For some people, burnout is so complete that they become disabled and are never able to work afterward. Here are some of the things that may be putting you at high risk for burnout.

Trying to do too much results in burnout.

Worldwide, everyone seems to be doing more and finding less happiness. Today most families are either single parents or both parents work. With more hours put in on the job, there is less time for children, relationships, and self-care.

The price we have paid for more material possessions has been long commutes, more stress on the job, and declining life satisfaction. Recently we have seen a tremendous increase in anxiety disorders, depression, and stress-related disorders. Poor mental and emotional health is resulting in poor physical health. If your whole life consists of running from one thing to the next you’re at high risk to break down and not be to do anything in the future.

When you don’t say no, you take on too much.

Whether it’s on the job, or in your personal life; not being able to say no puts you at an increased risk of burnout. If you’re one of those people, who feel guilty when you say no, you are sacrificing your health for other people’s approval. Taking on that one more project may be the one to many that lead to emotional exhaustion.

Not taking care of your body, leads to burnout.

Most people are chronically sleep deprived, not out of necessity but out of choice. In that respect electricity, has been a mixed blessing. People set their alarms so they can get up before the sun. It’s a rush to get yourselves and your family ready for the day. The evenings are spent binging on electronic entertainment. It’s common for people of all ages to stay up late online, frantically pursuing pleasure. Junk food provides the bulk of the fuel for human bodies today. Being overweight or obese adds another burden, physically and mentally, for you to carry around each day. Poor physical self-care leaves you emotionally depleted as well and at high risk for permanent burnout.

When other people’s opinion matters too much, you risk burnout.

Social media likes have become the measure of personal satisfaction. A diet of craving other people’s approval leaves you starved for self-esteem. If you don’t feel good about yourself, you will never be able to get enough approval from others. One of the first signs of burnout is feeling chronically, physically and emotionally exhausted.

You will burn out if your brain never gets time off.

It’s common for people in therapy to report that their mind races. An unquiet mind can be a symptom of a particular mental illness, but it can also indicate stimulus overload. The human brain is designed to do most things automatically, without thought. Fewer things require serious deep thinking. When your brain is full of things you need to remember, and you are thinking deeply, your thought processes will slow down. When your brain is full, trying to do your daily job, life can be overwhelming.

Pursuing someone else’s goals causes burnout.

Some people look forward to their daily tasks. When you enjoy what you do each day, it energizes you. If you are pursuing your passions, are on the jazz about what you do each day, you were unlikely to experience burnout. Many people find they can tolerate an unpleasant workday if their leisure time allows them to pursue their passions. The more of each day you spend pursuing someone else’s goals, the less time you will have to reach your objectives.

Negative thoughts result in burnout.

The thoughts you have, produce the feelings you feel. If your typical way of thinking is pessimistic, full of negative, unhelpful thoughts, you will become emotionally drained. As burnout progresses people move from feeling physically and emotionally exhausted to being cynical and negative about other people, the situation, and the future. When you begin to feel that you are incompetent, unable to do your daily task correctly, you are at the end of the line for burnout.

More posts about – Burnout.

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Becoming more resilient.

By David Joel Miller.

Resiliant

Resilient. 
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How do you get back up when life knocks you down?

Resiliency is the key to getting back up when life knocks you down. Resiliency is a skill that you can learn, but it requires practice. When you’re going through difficult times, it can be hard to imagine life getting better. Here are some tips for improving your resiliency and learning to bounce back from adversity.

Shift your focus from where you are to where you’re going.

When life has knocked you down, avoid wallowing in the mud. When your down, it is tempting to spend your time thinking about how bad things are and how unfair it is. It’s inviting to look for someone to blame. Don’t make the mistake of believing that there is something inherently wrong or defective about you. Don’t become paranoid and believe your difficulties are caused by others who are out to get you.

Do spend your time planning for and working to become the best person you can. Learn from your mistakes. Change what you can. Do the work you need to do to change where you are.

Strengthen or develop a support system.

Humans do best when they are part of a group. When times are tough, you will find out who your real friends are. If there are ruptures in your support system, try to repair those relationships that you can fix. Evaluate the people you spend your time with. Hang out with negative people, and you will become more negative. To be a healthy, happy person, you need to have positive people in your life.

Stay connected to family, friends, faith, support systems, and your community. When times are hard, your connections are vital. Friendships cannot be one-way streets. If someone only takes from you but never gives, that’s not a friend. If you have a particular faith or religion, make sure you stay connected. Stay involved in positive things in your community.

Contribute to the world around you.

Doing things to make the world a better place will improve your self-esteem and self-confidence. Do what you can. It’s not necessary to donate large amounts to causes. If you can afford to, give small amounts of money. More important than the money you give, is the time and the giving of yourself.

The smile you give some may be exactly what they needed. If you give a smile, you may get one in return.

Identify the areas in your life you can control.

Sometimes bad things happen, and they are out of your control. You may have an illness. You didn’t pick that sickness. Pretending you’re not ill will not help. Suffering in silence is not a virtue.

What you can do may be significant. You can see a doctor. You can take your medicine as prescribed. You can illuminate unhealthy habits. Quit smoking, give up or reduce your drinking. Get plenty of sleep. Get up off the couch and move around as much as you are able.

When you start looking for the things that are in your control you may find many opportunities to improve your life. Small improvements here and there can add up.

Identify and develop your skills.

The situations in your life will change. The skills you learn in one situation may be useful in the next situation you encounter. Don’t focus on what you can’t do. Identify the strengths you have and build on them.

Develop the good parts of yourself.

Begin by identifying the good parts of you. If you have trouble thinking of those parts right now, ask yourself what a good friend might say about you. Maybe you’re creative. Some people are naturally curious, and they love to learn new things. Perhaps you are a kind person or someone who cares about fairness. Do you have a good sense of humor? Whatever your qualities look for ways to strengthen them and to build on them to create a better future.

Learn to manage stress.

Stress is a part of life. As long as you live, you will experience stress. Even good things can be stressful. Learn some simple stress reduction techniques. You may find that deep breathing can slow down the floods of emotion that can overwhelm you. Many stressful events have both good and bad features. Avoid focusing on only the distressing parts of the situation.

Practice coping with adversity.

Use the small, everyday problems as an opportunity to identify your strengths and to practice your coping skills. Coping with everyday irritations develops your coping skills for the big challenges in life.

Increase your self-confidence.

In parenting education, we tell people to build resiliency in children by catching them doing something right. Hopefully, you had people in your early life who gave you praise for the things you did well. If you didn’t get that praise, start today to recognize and acknowledge your accomplishments. If you have difficulty accepting, compliments learn to compliment yourself and receive the gift of a compliment rather than returning it as being of no value.

Avoid shaming and guilt tripping yourself.

The field of positive psychology tells us that shame and negative motivation does not spur people to do better. Recognize what you can improve on but don’t fall into the trap of believing that calling yourself names and beating yourself up will result in doing better. Making a mistake does not make you a “bad person.”

Try to fix the things you can and accept the things you can’t. What other ways have you found to increase your resilience? What will you start doing today to create a better future?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Is your paranoia showing?

By David Joel Miller.

Increasing paranoia – the mental health challenge of this millennium?

Fearfulness

Paranoia.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The growing problem of paranoia is gone unrecognized for very long time. Currently, anxiety disorders are the number one diagnosed mental illness. The category of anxiety disorders has grown so large that recently professionals separated this family of disorders into two groups, the disorders of excessive anxiety, called anxiety disorders, and the disorders caused by real-life events, now referred to as trauma and stressor-related disorders. What has often overlooked is the prevalence of Paranoia.

The problem of paranoia frequently gets ignored.

Many people describe themselves as paranoid, or “a little bit paranoid.” Professionals often dismiss these labels as exaggerations. Over the last 25 years, as there has been more study of paranoia, professionals are starting to recognize how common paranoid symptoms are in the general population. Recent studies conclude that among the general population, people who have never been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, the rates of paranoia may run between 15 and 20 percent.

There’s no specific diagnosis for paranoia.

When we say paranoia, most people immediately think “paranoid schizophrenic.” We have come to understand that not everyone who has schizophrenia is paranoid. Paranoia can also be part of several other serious mental illnesses. Paranoia is also a part of paranoid personality disorder, delusional disorder, and may even be a feature of severe major depressive disorder. Many drugs of abuse can cause paranoia. Paranoia in its less extreme forms may go under the label “excessive suspicion” or “trust issues.” In it’s more dangerous form; paranoia can be a feature of delusional jealousy.

Humans are often poor judges of danger.

In the 1950’s almost every small child look forward to getting their first bicycle. Kids commonly walk to and from schools which were often a considerable distance away. Today many people do not let their children play outside. One explanation for this is they are afraid something bad will happen to their child.

The statistics tell us that the most dangerous place for most children is at home. Every year in America more children are shot and killed at home by a biological parent who then turns the gun on themselves than all the children killed in school shootings. Absolutely school shootings are a problem that needs to be tackled, but we are fooling ourselves by thinking that it strangers who are the major danger.

America and many other industrial countries are facing an epidemic of childhood obesity. The risk of poor health and shortened lifespan from lack of exercise far outweigh the risk to most children from going outside to play.

Many people worry every time they take to the road that they will encounter someone with road rage will run them off the road or shoot them. These are certainly risks, but the far greater risk comes from people being injured or killed in automobile accidents while not wearing your seatbelt.

Why have we all become more fearful?

High levels of danger are often associated with the big city and crowded urban environments. A hundred years ago less than 5 percent of the world’s population lived in large cities; most people lived in small towns and rural settings. Since the year 2000 more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in large cities. Today television and the online news are available 24/7 to tell you about every awful event.

Belief in conspiracy theories has become more common than not.

Humans use to accept widespread death from illness as normal increasingly people believe these epidemics must be the result of some government or international conspiracy. Throughout history, there have been plagues which devastated humanity. During the Middle Ages, there were places where as much as 70 percent of the population died. These same epidemics would recur periodically. In the 1800’s epidemics of yellow fever and cholera resulted in death rates of 30 to 50 percent of the population of some towns. In the U.S. Civil War, for every man killed in battle mortality in camp due to illness could run from 5 to 10 men. During World War I, deaths from Spanish influenza ran into the millions. These recurring illnesses used to be blamed on devils and demons, religious minorities and more recently bacteria and viruses. Today, when a new illness is discovered many people’s first thought, is that someone has deliberately created this illness or that there is a cure for it, but someone is withholding that cure.

People who believe in conspiracy theories often believe in mutually contradictory ones. The same person who believes that Jimmy Hoffa was killed by the CIA might also believe that he faked his own death and is currently living in Bolivia. The average person’s willingness to believe a conspiracy theory seems to be growing exponentially.

Some increased trust issues, even paranoia, may be reality based.

Modern society has created dangers that didn’t exist past. With larger numbers of people working for the same employer competition on the job becomes fiercer. Many of the people you work with you may never see outside of work. This has led to more competition on the job and less cooperation. When we were an agricultural society, farmers tended to help each other. Today it’s likely that the person in the next cubicle may be undermining you in the competition for promotion or to avoid the downsizing layoff.

Your increased dependence on technology put you at risk.

Technology is becoming more complicated and more pervasive, growing at an exponential rate. Your personal information is no longer safe because you keep it locked up. Every company you do business with, every detail of your financial and healthcare life may be at risk. Online companies know more about the person you sleep with.

How are trust issues, suspiciousness, anxiety, and paranoia connected?

In upcoming posts, I want to talk to you more about why “trust issues, suspiciousness, anxiety and even paranoia have become so prevalent, how they may be connected and how you can cope with your fears and not let the forces of anxiety and paranoia take over your life. But I don’t want to overwhelm you with the problems without talking about the solutions.

The future is not all bleak.

At the same time psychologists and counselors have been looking at some under recognize problems, things like paranoia, burnout, and the role of the Internet in changing human relationships some positive things have also been recognized. Positive psychology has revealed an entire technology centered around having a happy life. We now know happiness is not the result of constant doses of temporary pleasure but comes from long-term ways of thinking and behaving. We are also recognizing that people have certain inherent strengths. Whether you know it or not, you and your children have some talents and abilities just waiting to be discovered and perfected.

For more on these topics see:

Paranoia

Anxiety

Happiness

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

20 Reasons you’re not reaching your goals.

By David Joel Miller.

What is getting in the way of reaching your goals?

Finish line

Reaching Goals.

You started out with a lot of goals you wanted to reach, but along the way, something went wrong.

Things are not turning out the way you wanted them to and are taking longer than you expected.

Sometimes you may feel like that hamster stuck in the wheel, running harder and harder but getting nowhere.

What can you do to finally reach your goals?

Here is my top 20 list of reasons you’re not reaching your goals.

1. Chasing someone else’s goal takes you in the wrong direction.

Make sure your goal reflects your passion in life. Pursuing someone else’s dream for you results in you neglecting your own dreams. Examine the goal you are working towards, are you the one who selected this goal and will reaching it satisfy you. If you are pursuing a goal to make someone else approve of you, it’s not your goal. You won’t be able to put your all into building something that’s not meaningful to you.

2. You’re pursuing the wrong goal.

Chasing money will not get you to love or happiness. Don’t make the mistake of pursuing one goal when what you want is something else. Many people make the mistake of pursuing money thinking this will get them the love and respect of others. Everyone needs enough money to meet their basic needs, but beyond that more money will not necessarily make you happier. Don’t tell yourself your pursuit of money is for your family if it takes you farther and farther away from them.

3. Your goals are fuzzy.

Beware of nebulous goals that are hard to define. You need to write goals down and research them. If your goal is success, you need to know how that success will be measured. Do you want to have a lot of friends? Do you want to do important work? Which would more say success to you, spending years alone in a lab in finding a cure for a rare disease or spending night after night on stage with people laughing at your jokes?

4. You’re waiting for “someday.”

Make inertia work for you. A body at rest requires a lot of energy to get it moving, once you start moving it takes a lot less energy to keep the progress going. Most people, when they reached their retirement years, find that their greatest regrets are not the things they did that didn’t turn out well. The biggest regrets with the things they said they would do something but never got around to doing them.

5. You’re not clear on your priorities.

If the goal you are working towards is not your top priority, it’s likely to keep getting pushed back. What you spend your time on each day is how you spend your life. As the time passes, if you’re not working on the thing you say is your goal, you haven’t made it your top priority. If you’re too busy to act on reaching your goal, then what you have in mind is a fantasy, not a goal.

6. You’ve left out some steps.

You tell yourself your goals to become a professional, a doctor, nurse, or lawyer but you have left school. Before you can be a teacher or any other professional you first must learn. If you don’t seem to be making progress toward your goal, re-examine your plan and see if there are any steps you need to take that you’ve left out of your planning.

7. Trying to do too much.

Trying to rise to the top of a profession requires you to start at the bottom. Whatever you want to accomplish, you must put in the time practicing. Working on too many things at once dilutes your effort. Highly successful people weed out the unimportant things and focus on their top priorities.

8. Trying to reach your goals too fast.

When you look closely at overnight successes, what you often find are people who spent years learning and honing their skills. Don’t be disappointed when reaching your goals takes longer than you expected.

9. You’re using the wrong tools.

Looking for a better paying job, when you require more education or training won’t get you where you want to go. Are the skills you have the ones you need to reach your goal? The world keeps changing. If you’re not updating your skills, they are becoming obsolete.

10. Your goals are negative and punitive.

Set positive goals. The evidence doesn’t support the helpfulness of using negative self-talk or punishing yourself in reaching positive outcomes.

11. You failed to develop your team.

Everyone needs a support system. The journey to reaching goals involves many people. If you want to reach goals, look for teachers, mentors, and companions for your journey. Some things you will need to become an expert on, for other tasks you will need to learn to identify the experts who can support you in your quest.

12. The closer you get to your goal the stronger resistance becomes.

Don’t slack off when you get close to your goal. If you go to college for three years and then quit what do you have? You don’t have a degree. In my lifetime, I’ve known several people who always wanted to write a book. Some of them even had a manuscript tucked away in a drawer. What they didn’t do was write that last chapter, send that book off to the publisher, or learn the skills they would need to publish it themselves. In the early stages of your journey towards your goal you can see the progress but the closer you get to your goal, the more effort it takes to break through that resistance and reach the finish line.

13. You aim low and hit the mark.

Your goals should encourage you to stretch. Many people self-handicap. The set their goals so low that they can’t possibly fail to meet them. If you repeatedly set low goals, you are planning a life of low achievement.

14. You’re not reviewing and updating your goals.

The goals you set in middle school won’t mean much when you are middle-aged. Some of the goals no longer fit you. Reevaluate those goals. If you are no closer, revise your plan. If you met them all, you might have set your expectations too low and need to raise the bar.

15. You’re using the wrong “worry process.”

Some people try to protect themselves from failure by considering every possible thing that could go wrong. They worry endlessly that they’ll make a mistake or something bad will happen. The worry-about-everything approach leaves you paralyzed in inaction. People who reach their goals consider the big possibilities. They use a “worry-enough” process. Once they have thought it through enough, they stop worrying and take action.

16. You talk about your goals rather than working towards them.

Psychologists discovered that people who talk about their goals a great deal get their satisfaction out of discussing those goals with others. As a result, they rarely take significant action. People who reach goals discuss them with fewer others. Limit your discussion of your goals to mentors, advisers and those who can support you in the process. Don’t tell everyone, but do have a few accountability partners who will encourage you to keep working towards your goals.

17. You don’t recognize what you accomplish.

Many people who feel they’re not reaching their goals have failed to recognize all the things that they have accomplished. Your big goals need to be broken down into smaller segments, and you need to recognize each of those smaller goals as you accomplish them. You don’t get a college degree by taking all the classes at once. You take a few classes each semester, and at the end, your payoff is the degree. If you’re writing a book, you write it one chapter, maybe even one paragraph at a time. Pay attention to the things you accomplish. Don’t dismiss your achievements as unimportant. Not giving yourself credit where credit is due will leave you too discouraged to continue your journey towards even larger goals.

18. You have not learned from the mistakes of others.

Whatever goal you are pursuing, make it a practice to look at how others have tried to reach similar goals. Learn from their mistakes, so you don’t have to make them all yourself.

19. You can’t picture what reaching your goals would look like.

High performers can picture what their life will be like once they reach their goal. Olympic athletes practice imagining that perfect performance, then standing on the gold medal stand. If you don’t believe you can succeed, you sow seeds of doubt in your mind. Your mind is likely to protect you by creating that failure you imagine. Avoid fantasy images of sudden wealth and fame. Picture the very real results of long, hard, work towards your goals.

20. You haven’t become your own best friend.

If you don’t like yourself, no matter how many goals you reach, it will never be enough. Spend time getting to know who you are and work on accepting that how you are right now is adequate. Self-acceptance doesn’t lead to complacency. Negative self-thoughts become obstacles in your path to reaching your goals.

Take another look at your goals. Re-examine your plans and your attitudes. Change the things you’ve been doing that are not working and head back out there in your pursuit of the life you want to have.

You will find related posts under –

motivation 

success

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why you should plan on being late.

By David Joel Miller.

Should you make showing up late a habit?

Time to change.

Are you on time?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Are you tired of being on time while others are often late? Wouldn’t you just love to be the one who walks in at the last moment, makes a grand entrance, and commands everyone else’s attention? If you’re one of those people who has wasted countless hours being on time or worse yet are always arriving early, so you are not the one disrupting things by arriving late, wouldn’t you be better off developing a habit of always arriving late? Here are some simple tips to make sure you’re always the last to arrive.

Always leave later than you think you should.

Wait to start getting ready until the last-minute. Don’t include time for getting ready and travel in your plans. Leaving before the last moment is a total waste of time. Your time is absolutely more valuable than anyone else’s. If your appointment in is at three, there is clearly no point in starting to get ready before 3. Why should you have to wait if someone else is late? By always waiting to get ready until the last-minute, you can guarantee that you will not have to wait on anyone else. Your valuable time is better-spent binge-watching TV or posting on social media.

Allow less time to get there then you think it will take.

Punctual people estimate the drive will take 20 minutes, so they leave half an hour before the scheduled appointment. This process wastes valuable time you could use for your purposes. Make the most of every minute, leave 10 minutes before your meeting and drive as fast as possible to try to “make up for lost time.” Plan your schedule for ideal situations. It’s not your fault if you hit red lights or there’s traffic on the road.

Schedule more places to go each day than you can possibly reach.

If most of your appointments take an hour, schedule them 30 minutes apart. You know you can do eight things a day, so schedule 10 or 12. The places you don’t get to must not have been that important anyway. Better other people should wait for you that you should have to wait on anybody. If you don’t get to all the places you scheduled, it’s not your fault. You planned to do it, didn’t you?

Avoid creating schedules or writing anything down.

Creating schedules will just interfere with your spontaneity. Writing things down is restraining. If you make two appointments at the same time, don’t worry about it, show up to the appointment you feel like going to. Go to the other one some other time. You are important, right? As busy as you are, people will need to learn to make time for you when you get there.

Try to do everything in half the time others take.

Allow yourself half the required time for everything. Working at double or even triple speed will ensure that you have high productivity. So, what if you make a few additional mistakes? Accuracy is highly overrated. As busy and important as you are, people will simply have to accept that your way of doing things is the half-hearted fast way. People who don’t understand this need to learn to do it themselves.

Practice your excuses for being late.

Always have someone or something you can blame for your tardiness. It is not your fault. Blame whatever happens on the weather, your spouse, your kids or your dog. Complain loudly about how hard it was to find this place and how you never come to this part of town.

Do your best to make people who have been waiting on you feel sorry for you. Encourage them all to take part of the blame.

Use your late arrival to prove how important you are.

When you come in at the last-minute, preferably after the event has already started, push your way past everyone to get to the front. Try to find a seat in front of others. As much as possible, complain loudly about how tough your day has been. Hold your head and moan about how unlucky you are. Use this late arrival is an opportunity to get people to feel sorry for you and to gather up the attention you deserve.

If after reading all these recommendations for planning on being late you still insist on being punctual and on time you might want to read this post on punctuality.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Does thought stopping work?

By David Joel Miller.

What is thought stopping and does it work?

Thought Stopping.

Thought Stopping.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Thought stopping is a common cognitive behavioral therapy technique. Some people, clients, and counselors alike report that thought stopping can be very helpful for reducing or avoiding rumination, catastrophizing, and other unwanted thoughts. Learning to stop unwanted thoughts can be helpful for reducing depression, anxiety and recurrent thoughts of substance use. Others have reported that thought stopping was unhelpful and did not work. Why does thought stopping work for some people and not others?

Not thinking about something does not work.

There’s a big difference between trying not to think about something and getting your mind to stop going over and over the thought once you have it. The human brain doesn’t work well at preventing thoughts. Setting up a list of things to “not think about” does not prevent those thoughts from reentering your mind. That no-think list will keep your mind occupied looking for the very thoughts are trying to avoid.

If you have had a history of negative thoughts, negative self-talk, or the kind of recurrent negative thinking that damages your self-esteem, you will find the thoughts recur whether you want them to or not. People in drug and alcohol recovery find that their default thought, no matter what happens, is likely to be I need or want a drink. Maybe I could do a little drug just this one time.

In a past post, I wrote about “don’t think about elephants.” What people find is that the effort to “not think about” anything keeps that thought right at the edge of consciousness waiting for its chance to pop back into your current thinking. If you’re not sure about this, sit for a while and don’t think about something. You will find that every time you tell yourself to not think about it, the thought miraculously enters your mind.

Researchers have used both “white bears” and “red Volkswagen’s” in various combinations to study the effects of thought stopping. The studies are enlightening, but make it hard to set firm rules for when and how to use thought stopping. If you’re someone who has recurrent, unwanted thoughts, you need to practice and probably work with a professional to become proficient in using thought stopping to make your life more manageable. There are some other techniques you can learn that are probably more effective than thought stopping.

Thought stopping is most effective when used briefly in crisis situations. Telling yourself not to reach for that drink or drug can help in the moment. When your mind tries to take into a dangerous neighborhood telling it to “knock that off” may keep you out of trouble for the moment, but it won’t last for very long if you don’t change some of the things.

Suppressing unwanted thoughts requires cognitive effort. When you put a lot of effort into something, you get tired. Humans are cognitive misers and customarily revert to patterns that don’t require a lot of effort. Letting your guard down against unwanted thoughts can happen quite quickly.

Your mood impacts the effort needed to suppress unwanted thoughts. When you are depressed, it is harder to stop negative, painful thoughts. Being in a happy, optimistic mood makes it easier to suppress negative thoughts.

You need to remember some things and forget others.

Forgetting important things can be very frustrating. It can be equally upsetting if you find you can’t forget the painful past. Unwanted and intrusive memories are characteristic of several mental illnesses. People who have been victims of trauma, those with PTSD especially, wish they could forget. There are a lot of materials available to help people improve memory, but far fewer to help people forget the painful, unhelpful memories. Change your thinking techniques are one of those few tools that may be helpful in preventing unhelpful thoughts from taking over your consciousness.

Researchers have found that remembering feelings from the past can influence how we feel in the present. The more you think about an unhappy memory, the more depressed or anxious you may become right now. So, if telling yourself not to think about your ex just brings the sadness you experienced during the breakup into your mind, how do you prevent spending all your time thinking about the things you wish had not happened. Thought changing methods may reduce the amount of time you spend caught in the downward spiral of unhelpful thinking.

Euphoric recall – thoughts that need to be stopped.

Some thoughts that seem positive at first glance turn out to be highly inaccurate and unhelpful. It’s common in addiction for people to suddenly experience thoughts of the good times they had when drinking or using. Remember that time you partied? What’s hard to remember is that you got into a fight at the party, took off in a hurry, maybe got arrested for driving under the influence. The same thing happens when dysfunctional relationships end. You tend to remember the good times in the beginning and not the bad events later.

What is thought stopping?

Thought stopping is the process of monitoring your thinking, detecting unhelpful or unwanted thoughts and getting your mind off that thought and back onto something more helpful. It’s important to take active steps to prevent unwanted, intrusive thoughts from taking over control of your mind.

One way of thinking about thought stopping is a process of transforming automatic unhelpful thoughts into cues to activate your thought stopping and thought transforming mental systems.

Thought stopping is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced.

“Recent research indicates that people control unwanted memories by stopping memory retrieval, using mechanisms similar to those used to stop reflexive motor responses” (Anderson, M., Levy, B., 2009.) The article goes on to say that the control of unwanted thoughts and memories happens in the lateral prefrontal cortex, the executive function of the brain. If your brain has an effective CEO, he can control the activity in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that regulates storage and retention of memories. Learning what to remember and what to forget is a skill you can develop.

As people grow and develop, they could become better at regulating which memories are prioritized for storage in which are slated for deletion. We would expect it to be harder for young people to forget the painful memories. Life events that alter your brain chemistry, trauma, depression, anxiety, or a substance use disorder appear to reduce your control over memory storage and retrieval. For example, people who are addicted to methamphetamine had “lower grey matter intensity in the brain region associated with performance” on both thought stopping and the ability to look at past events in another way, a skill called reappraisal or reframing (Tang, D., Schmeichel, B., 2014)

Thought stopping shouldn’t be the only tool in your self-help toolbox.

So, not thinking about things often does not work. You can use thought stopping to interrupt the flow of an unhelpful thought. Anyone who’s tried to do mindfulness or meditation knows that as soon as you empty the mind, a mob of thoughts tries to reoccupy that emptiness. The more you practice, the better you can get at keeping unwelcome thoughts out of your head. In the short run, you may need some mental protection from other skills.

Practice becoming more optimistic. Learned to fill your mind with positive thoughts that can guard the space against the return of unhelpful thoughts. Distracting techniques, filling your mind with other helpful thoughts, appears to make thought stopping more effective.

Are there times you shouldn’t use thought stopping?

Turns out that there are times when thought stopping is not helpful. People have experienced a loss in their life, the death of a loved one, may find that simply trying not to think about that death leaves unresolved grief which they may need to deal with later. While going on with life may work temporarily, eventually you need to come to terms with the loss and find a way to make meaning out of that experience.

If you have a problem that needs to be solved, not thinking about it is likely to interfere with solving the problem or dealing with the consequences. Thought stopping is not effective when eventually you will have to solve the problem.

People who were on a diet and tried to simply not think about eating are at increased risk to binge eat when the thoughts of food return (Sarah L. Gaskell et al., 2001.)

Thought stopping is a verbal technique which works best to correct unhelpful self-talk. Thought stopping is less effective when physical objects such as people, places, and things try to the unhelpful thoughts. For those objects, you need to avoid places where you’ll see them. It’s hard to avoid thinking about having another drink when you’re sitting in a bar.

Some additional cautions about thought stopping.

When trying to stop unwanted thoughts, people tend to look around the room. Be careful what you look at, the things you look at while trying to avoid thinking about something, get paired with the original unwanted thoughts. You look around the room and see a particular lamp or picture, the next time you look around the room those objects are likely to bring back the unwanted thoughts.

When doing thought stopping, look at something positive and reinforcing. If you wear a religious symbol, look at that. Twelve-step groups often have quotes from the recovery literature and helpful sayings on the walls so that people who are trying to avoid thinking about their issues find it easier to shift from unwanted thoughts to helpful thoughts.

If you do have recurrences of unhelpful thoughts, don’t beat yourself up and create those thoughts being triggers for negative self-talk. Dismiss the unwanted thoughts as quickly as possible and shift your attention to helpful thoughts.

My take on thought stopping?

I think of thought stopping like being in the swimming pool and trying to hold that water polo ball under the surface. The harder you try to hold it under the more it pops back. Eventually, you get too tired to keep holding it down. What you need to do with that ball of unwanted thoughts is toss it out of the pool of your life, or get out of the pool and moved to a better environment.

In an upcoming post, I want to walk you through some techniques that should be more effective at helping you get rid of those unhelpful thoughts on a long-term basis than simply trying to “not think about it.”

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why you shouldn’t have goals.

By David Joel Miller.

Not having goals makes life simpler.

Have you noticed how many books and blog posts there are about goals and

Setting Goals.

Setting Goals.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

motivation? I can’t even read all the materials on how to set goals, the steps you need to take to reach your goals, and why you may be pursuing the wrong goals. Despite all the efforts to reach a lot of goals everybody who is pursuing those goals seems to be unhappy. Then I run into people who have no goals, and they don’t seem to be in the least bit concerned about their lack of goals. Is it possible that we have it all wrong, could this constant emphasis on pursuing goals be the cause of a great deal of insecurity? Maybe the people who have managed to convince themselves they are incapable of reaching goals are onto something. Here’s a short list of reasons why having goals may not be all that desirable.

Goals take effort.

One of the easiest ways to avoid reaching goals is to avoid putting any effort into them. Don’t set goals in the first place. If by accident you discover that you have some life goals, make no effort in that direction. Especially resist anyone in your life who tries to suggest that you need to have some goals. Ignore the advice and encouragement of parents, partners, family, friends, and especially helping professionals. Avoiding all this goal hoopla will save you a whole lot of effort.

Success in reaching goals comes with responsibility.

As long as you have no goals or if you can convince yourself that you could never possibly achieve a goal any way you could avoid all the responsibility for your life. Success comes with responsibilities. The more you have, the more bills you’ll have to pay. If you have a job, they will want you to show up on a regular basis. Being successful in relationships means one more person you must care about. If you want to avoid responsibility in life accomplishes as little as possible, and the easiest way to avoid success is never to try.

Make lots of goals just don’t pursue them; you will accidentally reach some.

Be careful with that process of creating goals. Especially, don’t ever write down a list of goals. We used to think that the process of writing out goals would put the subconscious to work on creating those goals. Some professionals even believed in universal or subconscious goals that all humans might aspire to reach. Absolutely, do not think about goals and especially avoid writing anything down. Keeping any goals for life out of your mind reduces the risk that you might reach some of those goals without effort, purely because of your subconscious creating them.

Don’t waste time on goal planning.

People with goals get sucked into the whole planning their life process. Do your best to avoid thinking. You know that whole trying to figure out who you are and what you want process, is likely to make your head hurt. Save your time for important things like binge-watching television and frantically worrying about why you don’t have enough friends on social media. Planning and implementing goals will interfere with your vegetating time.

Efforts towards goals can be painful.

Effort at anything can be painful. Have you ever watched any of those exercise videos? Don’t you feel sorry for all those fit and trim bodies? Those people doing all that work, they could have saved themselves a lot of effort by just avoiding the work that is required to reach meaningful goals.

You shouldn’t have to choose your goals.

Choosing is hard. Do you want to be a doctor? Maybe you should be a lawyer? Or maybe you were destined to be a successful businessman. Why should you plan your future? Wait for the letter of acceptance from the medical school to arrive in the mail. Maybe the boss who wants to hire you and pay you lots of money will come knocking on your door. If you’re out going to school or hunting for a job, you won’t be home when opportunity knocks on your door and tells you which kind of success you’re supposed to be.

You were born unmotivated, why change?

When you were little, were there always people wanting you to do something. Somebody bugging you, first to crawl, and then to walk? Remember that whole potty training fiasco? You got through your childhood somehow putting things in your face and doing as little as possible. You probably have avoided a whole lot of work by telling yourself you’re lazy. It’s not your fault; you were born that way. Motivating you has always been somebody else’s job. If your parents couldn’t motivate you, your teachers in school didn’t motivate you, why are you going to try to self-motivate? The time for motivation is once you get a job, then it will be up to your boss to motivate you.

Stay unconscious so you won’t recognize when you reach your goal.

If all else fails, you can avoid any strenuous motivational thinking by staying as unconscious as possible. Drink lots of alcohol, do lots of drugs, and try to avoid straining your brain by thinking. But then if you are extra good at avoiding motivation, you probably didn’t read this, did you?

Still not convinced you should avoid goals? You may be one of those people headed for a successful, happy life. More posts on this topic are at motivation and success.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.