Why counselorssoapbox by David Joel Miller

By David Joel Miller.

Who is this David Joel Miller and why is he writing a blog called counselorssoapbox?

Amazing Happy Places Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Amazing Happy Places
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Counselorssoapbox is a blog about recovery, wellness and having a happy life. Yes, you guessed it, I am David Joel Miller and I write this blog. It occurs to me though that I have not explained why I write this blog and why I called it counselorssoapbox.

Someone is snickering under their breath the words “for the money” If you were thinking that then you would be more delusional than I was when I started writing this blog. Not delusional in the psychiatric sense, but delusional in that I had no idea how much work writing a blog on a regular basis would be. As for this blog making money, I definitely will not be quitting my day job, or my night job for that matter, anytime soon.

My first exposure to all things psychological was, like many of you, a few classes in psychology. It was the sixties after all. I have since learned that psychology, the kind we study in high school or most colleges is only a distant relative of counseling and recovery. Clinical Psychology, that takes 6 years of college for a Ph.D. and then you can start looking for the answers to why life is the way it is.

My first exposure to counseling and therapy was as a client. I discovered school counselors could tell me what classes to take if I wanted to make the big bucks but none of them seemed to know how to be happy along the way. Eventually, I ended up seeing some therapists. I discovered that there were helpful therapists and unhelpful therapists.

Becoming a therapist was not in my original plan. I took the classes and became a Drug and alcohol counselor. Along the way, I learned a few things. One was that there was a lot of wisdom in those 12 step programs. The other was that my AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs) clients all had families. If I wanted to be helpful to those families, especially the children and the significant others, then I needed more training.

Next stop was the classes in how to be a Marriage and Family Therapist. Originally here in California, this was called a Marriage, Family and Child Counselor. Marriage in this context means any two or more people who have a close, primary, usually sexual, relationship.

Over the years of trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to be when I grow up, I discovered that having a job or at least a purpose in life was an immense part of being happy. The answer to the who and what question I am still working on, but at least now I know something about the how of being happy.

To help people with their job issues and substance use issues took me in the direction of Professional Clinician Counseling and today I have that license also. From there I drifted, more like jumped, into teaching and supervising other counselors and therapists. So now you know a little bit about me. More is on my “about me” page.

But I still haven’t told you “Why a blog named counselorssoapbox?”

Throughout my process of becoming a professional in this field I kept thinking about those times I had sat on the other side of the desk and what I had experienced. I decided I did not ever want to forget what it was like to be on the client side of the room.

In graduate school, they explained a lot of stuff to us but honestly, I did not feel like some of these professionals I had seen had explained things to me in the way they were supposed to be explained. I asked about confidentiality and never seemed to get a straight answer.

Therapists were often good listeners but if they knew the answers to the “how to have a happy life question” they wanted me to suffer through the process of finding them myself and they flat resisted giving me any answers to these questions.

Counselorssoapbox started off as a way for me to express my opinions about what worked and what didn’t in the therapy world. I wanted to demystify the therapy process and explain what I had learned. Those times I got a reader question and didn’t have the answer took me back to reading the research and looking for more ideas. Writing a blog meant I needed to keep reading, studying and living wellness and recovery. So I just took it one post at a time.

What quickly happened was you readers prodded me in a few directions. Counselorssoapbox received a lot of questions about the safety of counseling, confidentiality and what gets reported. I was surprised at the number of search terms that involved counselors having sex with clients. So I put up a link to the publication “Professional Counseling Never Includes Sex.”  That post and the link keep getting hits so there remains an interest in this topic.

There has also been some interest in particular diagnoses and their treatment. While I can’t do therapy by blog post I have tried to provide general information on mental health and illness. All sorts of how to have a happy, productive, successful life posts find their way onto the blog also. Whatever tips on having the best life possible I come across I try to share.

There you have it. The answers to the questions who is this David Joel Miller and why a blog called counselorssoapbox.

What’s next? I continue to work on some books, both fiction and nonfiction and I write more blog posts looking for all the things that seem worthy of sharing with you. So if there are questions or comments related to the fields of substance use disorders, mental health, and wellness or living a happy life, send them along. I will do my best to answer questions or send you to someone who can. Comments and information from you or others gets shared here also.

If you read this far an extra thanks. Talk with you again soon.

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. 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.

Advertisements

Do people with problems not want to change?

By David Joel Miller.

Why do they say that people with problems want to be that way?

Disabilities

Not want help?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Lots of people, with varying problems and disabilities, seem to be dismissed with the expression that the reason for their problems is that they do not want to change. Is there any truth to these claims and why do we hear this so often?

First, let me give you a list of the things I have heard recently. Some of this comes from professionals, some from the news media and some from just average people. After the list let me tell you why I think we are hearing this more these days and lastly what we should be doing about this.

People with depression are using this illness to avoid doing anything.

Fat people don’t really want to lose weight.

There is no such thing as mental illness, those people just want to get on disability.

People who say they have anxiety are just trying to get other people to take care of them.

The homeless prefer to live out on the street.

Drug users do not quit because they want to use.

The unemployed are unemployed because they do not want to work.

There are many other forms of these statements, but mostly they seem to me to be ways of dismissing people with problems by blaming them for having those problems and then saying that they are unwilling to change.

So why if obesity, homelessness, unemployment, loneliness, drug addiction and mental illness cause all that pain, do people seem to so strenuously avoid doing exactly the things that would change their situation? Doesn’t it look sometimes as if people with problems really do not want to change or they would?

Turns out that change is far harder most of the time than doing nothing.

I can see why society and people who work in the helping fields could start blaming the people with the problems for their lack of progress. As long as we can blame them we do not have to think that our programs and policies might be letting the suffering down. It is easier to think that the homeless like to be out there in the cold, the rain or the snow, than to really try to tackle those issues.

Why do we blame those with problems for those problems?

Turns out that change is hard for humans. We learn a certain way of coping and then we continue that coping style over and over. Even when we come to believe that what we are doing is not working, deciding to do something different and then carrying through on that decision is difficult. People in these situations sometimes have to give up everything they have to reach for something else. Here are some examples.

Unemployment is rarely a choice.

If I think that unemployment is caused by a lack of jobs, I might get scared I could end up out of work. If I can convince myself it is because they don’t want to work I can pretend it won’t happen to me.

For a huge stretch of time since World War II here in the United States, we have had growth and expanding employment. There have been ups and downs but overall more people work as time goes on. There was a time when any able-bodied person who wanted to work could find a job. Recently we have seen a trend, there are jobs available, but those jobs require advanced skills and are often in distant places.

Many who are unemployed lack the skills needed to get a good job, they may live in places with high unemployment and as a result become seriously depressed. When you are depressed doing anything can be at the limits of your abilities.

For the homeless shelters may mean giving up all you have.

If you are homeless, most of your friends and partners are homeless also. If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend you need to leave them behind. Your pet? That dog that kept you warm and comforted you on that cold night? That animal goes to the pound. There are few places a homeless person can take their partner or their pet.

While in the homeless shelter you need to be there in the early afternoon and leave in the early morning. Getting to and from the shelter takes up the whole day. Your life begins to revolve around being a recipient of a place to sleep.

When you have next to nothing you use what tools you can find to cope. Many homeless people drink to dull the pain, physical and emotional. Without an address, it is hard to get into medical or psychiatric services.

Homeless programs often require that the people they house stop alcohol and drug use altogether to get housed. It is easy to say that the homeless do not want housing and harder to recognize that they may not be willing to give up friends, relationships, pets or other coping mechanisms to fit into the requirements of a given program.

Obesity is about more than just eating less.

Once upon a time, we idolize the person with some meat on their bones. When food was scarce the healthy, those who were not emaciated, made it through the winter to live another year. Then times change, food became instantly available, and the ideal change.

Weight loss has become big business. Despite a quizillion diet books and weight loss programs, the rate of obesity in America continues to climb. Food is available on every corner. Fast food and food available 24 hours a day in any season. The result of this increased availability of food has not been better health but more unhealthy food.

Most dieters learn all too rapidly that the minute you relax your diet the weight returns and brings a few pounds of extra fat with it. With the weight gain comes physical ailments. Exercise is harder the more weight you need to lose. The modern solution? Surgery to reduce the body’s ability to hold and process food.

The mentally ill are likely to be told to just snap out of it.

For most people who have a mental illness snapping out of it is only slightly more difficult than growing a few inches because you should be taller.

When you have depression, severe major depression, getting out of bed in the morning is an all-day task. This is not laziness, it is horrific work to make yourself do something that you lack the ability to do.

If you have an anxiety disorder, the most common mental disorder in America, you are likely to be told to just not worry about it. If you go for treatment those of you who have social anxiety can look forward to spending hours in crowded waiting rooms with people you do not know and with whom you wish you did not have to spend time.

I know there are exceptions. Programs to treat anxiety that are small and personalized. But all too often treatment programs are organized to meet the needs of the system, not the individual.

The truth is that those with problems no not always use programs, not because they like things the way they are but because they are being asked to do more than they are able to in order to access those helps that most of the rest of us take for granted. We need to stop blaming the sufferers for their illness and look for solutions that work rather than create more programs that fail the people they are designed to serve.

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. 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.

PTSD or Acute Stress?

By David Joel Miller

What’s the difference between PTSD and Acute Stress?

Stressed

Feeling stressed out?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has made the news a lot recently. This is a good thing. More recognition of PTSD should result in more treatment and less suffering from those who have PTSD. Stress caused problems may or may not be from a Trauma.

What hasn’t gotten as much notice and should have, is the role of Acute Stress Disorder in the events that knock people down and cause a lot of suffering. Acute Stress Disorder creates a lot of problems for a lot of people. Reactions to severe stress can cause long-term changes in people’s feelings and behaviors. Many of these changes go unrecognized and untreated. Acute Stress Disorder may be missed more often than it is diagnosed. More on that later in this blog post.

Stress can harm you.

We know stress is a problem a lot of the time, for a lot of people. Outside the field of mental health, there are lots of blog posts and books on stress, what it is and how to deal with it.  I have written posts about stress and managing it for those of you who have too much stress in your life even if it does not get you a diagnoses or disability.

Stress, plain simple stress, can break people down even if they never meet the criteria for a mental illness. Think of stress like this:

Remember those spectacular car crashes at those televised car races? Some of those crashes were the result of car parts (or drivers) under stress. All day, for hundreds of miles that car and that poor car part, ran hard and fast. The stress just kept coming, then suddenly that part breaks, that car goes all which way and the crash occurs.

Stress on people can be like that. Too much stress too long and the person develops mental health problems. Some of those problems need a day off, others become diagnosable illnesses. In the past, we tended to think of stress related disorders like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as close cousins to Anxiety. That has started to change.

Beginning soon mental health professionals will begin to use new coding systems. The DSM-5 or the newer ICD codes. In those systems, Stress and Trauma-Related Disorders get their own chapter. While Stressor-Related Disorders can cause anxiety and have some symptoms in common with anxiety disorders they also have some differences.

Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders.

From the day you are born till the day you die too much stress can cause you a problem. One key factor in Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders is that there has to be a specific thing that happened to you, the stressor. Trauma is the king of all stressors.

So these things do not just suddenly happen for no reason and they are presumably not something you are born with. This fuzzes up the expression that mental illness is a brain disorder, in that the cause of these disorders are things that happen to you.

If life events result in acquiring a mental illness, then events, as in therapy and learning, can be helpful in treating that disorder.  Much of the treatments for stressor-related disorders are cognitive type therapies.

Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders also can have features that are similar, we might even say overlap, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and the often overlooked dissociation. Not every other mental illness is caused by stress or trauma. We just need to be aware that sometimes there can be connections. This similarity to other issues results in a lot of stress-related disorders not being diagnosed until years later when the person is severely mentally ill or disabled.

What is Acute Stress Disorder and why is it important?

Acute Stress Disorder has two sets of “symptoms,” the things people experience that are a problem for them and the technical things professionals use to give out the diagnosis.

Some of the things you might experience as a result of having Acute Stress Disorder are also symptoms of other mental health issues or other mental illnesses. There are a variety of diagnoses that someone might get as a result of injuries they sustained due to stress.

These symptoms can impact your life in long-term ways. People may find their personality has changed.

Poor or no sleep is a cause for worry. Poor sleep now, predicts mental health issues down the road. In the aftermath of stressors, many people report that they do not sleep well. Some report bad dreams, nightmares or night terrors. A few days of bad sleep after you are stressed and you should get back to normal. If the sleep disturbance goes on for very long it starts to change your functioning and your life.

Panic attacks are common in the first month after a severe life stressor. The time period of thirty days becomes important when we try to separate Acute Stress Disorder from other problems. This panic attack may first be experienced immediately after a stressful incident and then go on to become Panic Disorder.

If you have been through a severely stressful incident it is not unusual for you to blame yourself for not expecting it, not doing something differently and not being able to prevent it. Rationally you should know that it may not have been possible to prevent what happened, but people commonly experience guilt or even shame over not being able to stop that trauma.

After a trauma, some people report that the happiness or joy has been sucked out of life. They stop caring about themselves or others. They may begin to take risks that they never took before. They drive too fast, gamble, take more sexual risks. Some trauma or stress survivors become angry, bitter and more argumentative. They get in more fights, verbally and physically. It is as if they have changed who they are and they no longer care.

If you knew about the traumatic experience you might understand why the changes in behavior occurred. If that trauma survivor kept the trauma a secret, and many do, you might think this was all bad behavior.

Trauma survivors, even those who do not go on to develop more serious mental health problems, may become confused or think they are losing their minds. They may get tested for or treated for concussions. They could have both a concussion and a longer term mental illness.

After a trauma or a crisis from the buildup of long-term stress, you may find it difficult to go back to places that remind you of the trauma. People become unable to go back to work, visit certain places or they avoid social situations.

How do professionals diagnose Acute Stress Disorder and why is that diagnosis so rare?

The official criteria for Acute Stress disorder are found in the DSM-5 or DSM-4-TR if your agency is still using that one. The DSM’s are published by the APA and you can order the full text from them. Here is my oversimplified plan language version of that criteria. I hope I do not make errors in this explanation.

A warning

Self-diagnosis or diagnosing your family and friends is a risky behavior. If after reading all this you believe you or someone close to you has Acute Stress Disorder, another Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorder or any other mental health problem, go see a professional and get it checked out. There are treatments available for all of these conditions and there is no need to suffer alone.

There are 5 things the professional needs to look at for Acute Stress Disorder

  1. Did you experience a really bad Traumatic Stressor Recently?

There is a “waiting period” of 3 days. Most people have difficulty for a few days after a serious trauma. Then there is the requirement that the problems you are having must last UP TO 30 days. This is a huge thing for Acute Stress Disorder. If your problems go on more than 30 days the name we call this (diagnostic code) changes to something more long-term like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)

The result of this time factor is that a whole lot of people who have this problem do not ever get diagnosed. In outpatient settings, it can take 30 days to get your insurance settled and to get in for an appointment. In hospital settings this diagnoses may be found more often using “strict criteria” but in most other places the results of trauma do not show up till years later and the issues then get called something other than Acute Stress Disorder.

  1. You must have at least 9 of 14 possible symptoms.

This leads to lots of ifs. Depending on who is doing the evaluating some things get counted and not others. Another problem is that trauma victims do not like to talk about their trauma. One symptom is avoiding reminders of the trauma and talking about it again is a reminder. So not having said they have a symptom can rule people out who did, in fact, meet criteria and do have Acute Stress Disorder.

I will not go through all the 14 criteria here, just a few of the big ones.

You can’t get the trauma or stressor out of your head.

This is sometimes called intrusive thoughts. You may also have dreams and things will trigger the memories so much you begin avoiding those emotional triggers. After the 30 days waiting period this may become PTSD.

From now on you are in a bad mood and can’t get out of it.

The happiness and joy get sucked out of your life. You are in a bad mood all the time for no apparent reason. Some people, kids, and men mostly, become irritable, angry and possibly violent. In my view, Acute Stress Disorder and its aftermath are involved in a lot of these unexpected violent incidents.

People may “space out.”

Researchers have noted that zoning out, technically called dissociation, is common, almost universal in the first three days after a trauma. If that dissociation continues after the third day we think it indicates Acute Stress Disorder. After thirty days that dissociation gets diagnosed as something else. I believe that there are more cases of dissociation than get recognized. Some are ignored and some get another name like Psychosis NOS (not otherwise specified.)

Acute Stress Disorder is time limited.

Acute Stress Disorder must last more than three days and less than thirty. Beyond the thirty the name gets changed. Many people try their hardest to cope and do not report symptoms. They can’t work and go on disability for a while until that runs out. Some end up alone and homeless. They get angry, depressed or anxious and their relationships suffer. They develop panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive disorders. Some get other mental illness diagnoses.

Having Acute Stress Disorder really matters.

This disorder, like most things we call mental illness, really makes a difference in people’s lives. It interferes with their ability to work or go to school. Having Acute Stress disorder can interfere with or destroy relationships with family and friends. It causes the people who have it a lot of suffering even when they can’t express how or why they are suffering. It can also damage other important areas of your life, such as religious observances, hobbies and so forth.

Acute Stress Disorder is not something else.

Professionals are continually reminded to avoid putting the wrong label (diagnoses) on things. If you only have these symptoms because of a medical issue or because you are drunk or high when you have the symptoms then we do not say you have Acute Stress Disorder.

This does not mean that people with medical problems or who use drugs can’t get Acute Stress Disorder, we just want to be careful we do not get the diagnosis wrong and count as symptoms things that were not caused by the stressor.

One last thing to consider.

There are two other groups of mental health problems in the Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorder chapter. Attachments Disorders, those problems that begin in very early life and Adjustment Disorders, which are reactions to stress that may not be life-threatening but have a huge impact on your mental health. These groups of life problems, sometimes, they rise to the level of a mental illness or a mental health problem.

I have written elsewhere about how Attachment Disorders and Adjustment Disorders can wreck someone’s life if not attended to. I am out of time and space here to talk about these other groups of Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders.

Hope this post did not run too long. I do not think I have written a post of this length in the past but this seemed like a topic that needed more space and discussion.

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. 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.

17 Ways to de-stress

How do you manage stress?

By David Joel Miller.

Stress can overwhelm you at any time or anywhere – Here are some suggested ways to turn down the stress volume.

1. Breath.

Pain, Anxiety, Depression, Stress

Pain, Anxiety, Depression, Stress
Photo courtesy of Flickr (marsmet481)

Under stress, most of us forget to breathe. The result is fewer shorter breathes and the overwhelming sense of panic that can follow a lack of air in your lungs.

Slow your breathing down. Take deep breaths from the diaphragm. You should feel your stomach moving in and out. Short fast breaths from high up in your chest can increase the feelings of stress.

Breathe slowly and deeply, pause between breaths. Watch your stress move out each time you breathe out and pause before taking in that next deep breath.

2. Make friends with silence.

There is noise everywhere. We have our radios and our televisions, our iPad’s and other electronics all screaming away at once. Add on people talking at you all day long and a few people screaming for whatever reason and you are bound to feel the stress meter rise.

Think back to that last time you felt really relaxed and distressed. Maybe a vacation in the mountains or at the beach. One thing you are likely to remember about that time is how quiet it was.

Those voices in your head can get awfully loud some days. Learn to quiet your mind down and embrace the silence. I keep a set of headphones at my desk to minimize the noise. Soft nature sounds help, sometimes no sound at all helps even more to reduce my stress.

3. Say a positive affirmation.

Affirmations are those little saying you tell yourself that help you to cope. Don’t lie to yourself or the whole affirmation will backfire. Tell yourself that this may be stressful but you can handle it. This too shall pass or whatever other saying works for you to put this current stress in perspective.

4. Make a list of the good things in your life.

If you keep thinking about all the problems your life story gets soaked through with problems. Most of us have lots of positive things going on. Take those little sparkling moments and hold on to them.

Writing out a list of things that are good, things you are grateful for, can put the rest of your life in perspective. This list, sometimes called a gratitude list, can be a reference guide when things get tough.

The very act of writing down positive things in your life reinforces those things. Thinking saves the thought briefly in one part of the brain. Writing stores these blessings in a second part of the brain. Sharing them out loud with a friend stores them in a third part of the brain. The more of your brain that is full of happiness the less room there is for stress.

5. Stand more.

Stand and get the body moving. Stretch and relax those tense muscles. Tight muscles can be a result of stress but they can also be the cause of your body thinking that the stress is worse than it really is.

People who stand burn more calories than those who sit. Standing is a quick easy way to relax and reduce the stress of the moment.

6. Walk more.

Walking can be very effective in reducing depression. When the body shares the load the mind can get a rest. A quick walk to the end of the hall, the water cooler or the bathroom can refocus the mind and move the stress off the front burner.

7. Make prioritized lists.

The human brain has a limit on the number of things you can keep in conscious memory at any one time. The more you try to keep in the front of the mind the less space is available to work on the current task.

Writing down a “to do list” can free up space in your brain to get this task done. It also reduces the anxiety you may be feeling that you might forget something.

Once the list is down on paper, prioritize those things. Do one big hard thing first and leave the long list of quick things for later when you may only have a few minutes left.

Check those items off your list as you do them and by the end of the day you may find that you are far more productive and less stressed than when you were spending all that time trying to remember all those things you needed to get done today.

8. Feel what you’re feeling.

Feelings are not the enemy. They can convey needed information. Feelings like human friends are not always right. Because something scares you does not mean it is dangerous. Listen to the feelings but then make informed decisions on how you will handle those feelings.

See the post Making Friends with Feelings

9. Look at things that make you happy.

If you run from place to place with no time to take in the joys of life you will only accumulate more stress. Slow down sometimes and notice the pleasant things. Take an extra second or two and taste the thing you are eating. Pause to notice those flowers growing outside your office.

Accumulating those brief doses of pleasure can make the rest of the day less stressful.

Ever stop to really look at the pictures your workplace put up in the hall?

10. Carry a worry stone

A worry stone, religious symbol or other personal object carried in your pocket can absorb a lot of that stress you are holding onto.

11. Make time for family and friends.

When you don’t have friends and family around you, then you are all alone. Seek out positive people for a role in your stress reduction plan.

12. A pet can help you reduce stress.

When no one else listens, when you feel all alone, that pet, a dog or cat, is waiting at the door when you come home. A pet is a great example of unconditional love.

13. Be an indoor explorer – look for new experiences.

Check out a new deli or other places to eat. Visit a new store or library. Keep an eye peeled for things you might try that you have never done. A local adult education or college class may offer all kinds of opportunities for new experiences.

There are lots of resources on the internet these days to allow you to take a class at a far off university or learn about something that interests you.

14. Develop a skill.

Is there a new skill you might develop? Something you always wanted to do but never got around to? Take the time to develop that skill and see where it takes you. Those breaks while you practice that skill reduce stress and challenge you to keep working on your self-improvement.

15. Do self-care.

The more stressed-out people get the less time they take for self-care. Do something nice for yourself. Look for ways to treat yourself well.

16. Practice your spirituality.

If you have a faith practice it. Religion or spirituality are comforting when times are tough. If you have a belief make sure that your actions are consistent with that belief. Pray, meditate or engage in other spiritual practices. Those moments of faith can get that stress volume down to a realistic size.

17. Express Yourself.

Write not because you have to but because you chose to. Draw if that interests you. Do this for yourself, not for the approval of others. Dance, pantomime or practice any other expressive skill.

There are my suggestions of 17 ways to reduce stress. Do you have other ways you have found to help you manage your stress?

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. 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.

How to cure low self-esteem – 19 ways to higher self esteem

By David Joel Miller.

Ways to boost your self-esteem.

Don’t feel good about yourself? Here are some ways to solve the low self-esteem problem.

1. Stop putting yourself down – negative self-talk causes low self-esteem

More Self Esteem

More Self Esteem
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Riude)

If you tell yourself you can’t then you won’t. Telling yourself negative things will keep you stuck. Putting yourself down will not protect you from failure it will protect you from success.

Continued self-criticism is the surest way to lower your self-esteem. Don’t do that to you and don’t put up with others doing it either. Don’t repeat the negative things you have been told to yourself.

2. Do something.

High self-esteem is based on what you accomplish. The more you try, the more you learn how to do things. The more you do the more you will accomplish and the more you have to make you feel good about your life. Make sure you tally up the successes, not just the errors.

3. Stop rating yourself.

Accept yourself as you are. The process of rating yourself points out where you are less than perfect. No one is perfect. There is always room for growth and improvement.

Remember that half-empty glass. Concentrate on doing, not measuring, and you will find that you will have less need of boosts to your self-esteem.

4. Stop discounting the positive.

Learn to give yourself credit for the things you do well. Practice accepting praise and compliments from others. If you do not count your successes then the tally will be only failure.

5. Write out a gratitude list.

Knowing the things that make your life good, paying attention to those things can help you to feel better about yourself.

6. Don’t listen to the haters.

There are plenty of haters in the world who need to pull you down to feel good about themselves. There are those evil trolls under every bridge. Do not listen to them. Do not believe them. Do not waste time on them.

Arguing with haters brings you nothing but pain. Sinking to their level can only destroy your self-confidence.

7. What would your best friend say about you?

Don’t dismiss the things your real friends and loving family might say about you. They know your good and your bad and they like you anyway. What are the good things they see in you? Not sure? Ask them what they see as your skills and abilities. You may be surprised to find how much others think of you while you have been thinking you are coming up short.

Don’t have family or friends that would see the good in you? Work on developing a positive support system.

8. Watch who you are comparing yourself to – looking over your shoulder.

Focus on what you are doing. Constantly comparing yourself to others will cause you to become discouraged. No one wins all the time. Do not compare your everyday life to someone else’s lifetime achievement.

9. Start over each day – past successes and failures do not count today.

Stop beating yourself up for the mistake of yesterday. Each day you start out fresh. Do your best to make today better than the day before.

10. Pick friends that support you.

Surround yourself with people who like you the way you are and will support you. Being surrounded by people who like you is a great way to boost your confidence.

11. Look for the evidence – are you really stupid?

Do not discount all the evidence that you are a worthwhile person. If you only count up the negatives you miss all the evidence that you are a person of value. Not enough evidence that you are accomplishing things? Do more, not less, and you are likely to do some worthwhile things.

12. Avoid emotional reasoning.

If you are sad that does not mean things are going poorly. Just because you feel down right now does not make you a failure. We can all have times when we are discouraged. Being discouraged means you need to take another look at what you are doing. It does not mean that you are not a worthwhile person.

13. Compliment others.

Get in the habit of noticing the good in others. Tell them what you like about them. Cultivate a positive good-seeing vision and you will be more able to see the good in yourself.

14. Accept compliments.

Do not dismiss compliments. You know when people are sincere and when they are buttering you up. Being able to accept compliments and say thank you helps you to feel good about yourself. Stop chasing the positive away from your door.

15. Tell yourself you can – positive affirmations.

Start out each day by saying good things, positive affirmations, and your brain will work on making them come true.

Restart your day at any time by telling yourself that this is a good day. You are a worthwhile person and you do not need to do or say anything to be acceptable.

16. Have a successes resume.

It is easy to remember failures and harder to remember successes. Make up a list of the things you do well. Write them down. Review that list periodically and add to it. You will be surprised how many things should be on that list that you may forget otherwise.

17. Do things.

The more you do the better you will feel about yourself. Do things for the sake of doing not for the success points. The more you do the better you will feel.

18. Play your own game, not the old family role.

Families have roles. You may have been handed the “stupid” hat or the “black sheep” hat when you were born. You can change that role. Stop living down to the things others tell you and the names you may have been called. Stop saying you are stupid or bad and try on a new role. You just might like the “OK person” role.

19. Stop keeping score all the time.

Life only happens for so long and then it is over. A hundred years from now no one will remember your mistakes. Life is about having the experience, not the score. Enjoy the trip.

Really your worth as a person does not depend on your algebra test score or your golf score.

There are my suggestions – 19 ways to cure low self-esteem. Most involving putting away the tape measure and accepting yourself the way you are. Do you have any other suggestions? What has helped you to feel good about yourself and the things you do?

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. 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.

Surviving sadness – avoiding depression

By David Joel Miller.

How do you cope with sadness when your life goes on?

Sadness is a normal part of life. You feel sad sometimes and then the sadness passes and you move on. Sometimes we feel sadness and we get stuck there. The longer you stay stuck the more likely you are to slip down into the quicksand of depression.

So what should you do when that sadness feeling comes lurking around?

1. Let yourself feel what you feel.

It is OK to feel what you feel. Some things are sad. Sometimes we feel sad just because we do. We hear of someone else’s misfortune and it makes us sad. We see something and we feel this feeling. This is called empathy, the ability to understand and experience what others feel. Put yourself in another’s shoes and you will understand some part of their sadness.

Do not try to stop the feeling the second it comes on. It is OK to experience it. Just do not stay there and wallow in the feeling. Understand that this feeling like all other feelings can pass if you permit it.

2. Share with someone else.

In times of trouble, we need to share our sadness with others. We talk about our pain and grief with friends or family. If you have religious faith or a spiritual tradition you will want to seek out those with like beliefs.

When there is no one that you feel comfortable turning to, when there is no one there or when you do not feel comfortable putting your sadness on those close to you there are professionals that can help. Seek them out.

3. Share with yourself – write it out.

Sadness that continues to rattle around in the head magnifies itself. A first step in getting loose from the sadness is to get it out.

Some people find that journaling, writing about their sadness or depression, helps discharge it. Others use drawing or dance to express these sentiments.

4. Turn sadness into motivation.

A sad event in your life can be the tipping point that turns your life around. Lose someone to a drug overdose and you may be motivated to become a counselor.

How might your sadness, pain, and suffering become tools to help you find your purpose in life?

5. Treat yourself to things you like.

Learn those things that make you happy and make it a point to allow yourself those items on the list that are positive.

6. Budget extra sleep time

Not getting enough rest, being over tired, is a way to let sadness and depression overcome you. Get plenty of rest. Make bedtime a regularly scheduled event.

One type of depression (atypical features) results in people who start to stay in bed all the time. They eat more than normal, like a bear ready for winter and then sleep day and night. If you find that you are tired all the time and just do not have the energy to get out of bed and do things, try setting a time for bed and one for getting up. If that still is a problem consider an evaluation by a professional for possible depression.

7. Eat regular meals.

Failure to eat on time, lack of energy can result in sad, tired feelings also. This makes it hard to get back into life after a life event that creates sadness. Take care of yourself and that especially means eating in a healthy way if you want to reduce the impact of sadness on your life and mental health.

8. Invest in laughter.

Laughing can be a powerful antidote for sadness. Watch a sitcom, visit a comedy club, tell jokes, and your sadness fades. Not able to laugh when the rest of the crowd does? That is a sign that your feeling has moved beyond sadness to major depression. Laughter is a great medicine, take some daily if possible,

9. Hang out with positive people.

You become like the people you spend time with. You friends are your future. Hang with the winners if you want to win. Hanging out with downers will pull you down.

10. Take frequent short breaks.

When you are down and sad, things can be overwhelming. Do what you can. Do not give up. Do a little and then take a break. Repeat as needed. Be kind to yourself when times are tough.

11. Exercise.

A little movement can brighten your mood. Walk around the block if that is all you are up to. Exercise is a good prescription for depression and a little can be a preventative when it comes to the progression from sadness to depression.

Try to include some exercise in your regular routine to improve both psychical health and mental health.

12. Change the scenery.

Get out of the house. Take your lunch break away from the office. Do something new on your time off. A change of scenery can create a new perspective on life and on your troubles.

13. Learn to say no.

When sad we tend to give in and go along. This can create feelings of resentment. Learn to set boundaries. Do not let yourself be taken advantage of. Saying no to requests that are beyond your current abilities can reduce your stress and keep your sadness from drowning you.

14. Avoid negative people.

Misery may love company, but it loves miserable company. If you want to get out of the sadness trap seek out positive people. Limit your exposure to naysayers and Negative Nellie’s.

15. Plan for time to yourself.

When you are down, too much commotion and too many people can be overwhelming. Include in your schedule quiet time for yourself.

16. Reconnect with supportive people.

Make sure those people you do contact are supportive. Call an old friend. Attend a self-help meeting even if you do not feel like it. Being around supportive people is good for your recovery and for your future mental health.

What other positive coping skills have you discovered that keeps your sadness from becoming a serious depressive episode?

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. 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.

16 Ways to make this a great day

By David Joel Miller.

Try these 16 steps to create a great day.

1. Let go of things before you sleep.

Great Day Flowers

Great Day Flowers
Photo courtesy of Flickr (johnbanchory)

Your brain tends to spend all night working on the things you give it to think about. Try to clear the memory of negativity before you sleep. Pray, meditate, read something positive and think about how you will make tomorrow a great day.

Spending the night with your mind working on happy thoughts will set up the next day in the right direction.

2. Lay things out the night before.

Decide what you will wear. Pick out the clothes. If something is dirty or not where it should be the time to solve this problem is the night before not when you are rushing off to work. Anticipate morning problems and solve them the night before.

Lay things you will need for work out. This prevents forgetting something and starting the day with problems. Plan your lunch menu if possible. Taking a small lunch packed the night before can save you a lot of money over eating out.

Make sure to plan this ahead of time or you may discover you do not have time to make things you would like. Include a few treats that you will look forward to.

3. Get to bed on time – allow time for rest.

Staying up late cuts your sleep short. Being tired first thing each day makes the whole rest of the day harder.

4. Do not start your day off rushed.

Allow time for everything and do not stress yourself out by having to rush. Most people allow less time for travel than it will take. The result is that you will become angry and stressed before you arrive at your workplace.

5. Have a morning routine.

Having a morning routine help you start the day in the zone. Familiar is comforting. There is time enough for variety and excitement later in the day. Keep your morning tranquil.

6. Eat something good for you.

Healthy does not have to taste badly. Spend some time planning healthy and enjoyable things to eat. Make grocery shopping and meal preparation an adventure, not a burdensome chore.

7. Make your commute relaxing.

Look for the least stressful or most enjoyable route when possible. Have things in your car that make the trip more enjoyable. A cushion for the back, a holder for your drink all add to the flow of the day.

Start on time or a few minutes early and avoid the “crazy’s” by allowing all the room and time you need to keep the commute relaxing.

Some places have horrific commutes these days. You can make your trip an ordeal by fire and fumes or a relaxing ride in your cocoon before the stress of the day. The difference is primarily in your preparation and your attitude.

8. Listen to your music.

Whatever your music is, try to have some available for the commute. The news is fine, traffic and weather are fine, but a steady diet of disasters makes you stressed. Try to relax and pamper yourself throughout the day whenever possible.

9. Take time to call or email a friend.

Work an email or a call to a friend into your schedule at least once a day. Put this personal contact on the calendar if only as a mental note to self. Email before work or before bed to have something to look forward to. Call and talk in person when possible.

Staying in touch with positive, supportive, people reduces stress and frames the rest of your day with a happy light. Don’t try this while driving or during other activities that require sustained attention. Multitasking is a myth.

10. Smile early and often.

Smile and others will smile back. A smile makes others less stressed and they will reciprocate. Even if you do not really “feel it” smile all you can. Think to yourself that a smile will keep your competitors wondering what you are up to.

11. Watch a bird.

Look for the things going on in the world all around you. In the poorest places, you will see the birds working on their nests, mating and having babies. Watch them soar and your spirit can climb with them. We are all always connected to the rest of the creatures surrounding us.

12. Enjoy a flower.

There are small snips of beauty everywhere. The weed in the vacant lot still puts out an occasional flower. Look for the beauty and take the time to let those moments of joy sink into your brain. You will need those happy thoughts when the day becomes challenging. Save up the positive and let it soak in.

13. Read a good book or story. Watch a funny video.

Books can transport you to alternate realities. They can expand your imagination and creativity as your mind fills in the details that you can’t see.

A good video can inspire or amuse you. There are plenty of negative stories out there. Look for the tales that enlarge your world and expand your happiness.

 14. Pray, meditate or follow a religious practice.

People with a religious or spiritual faith, who consistently practice that faith, have happier, less stressful lives.

15. Say an affirmation.

Positive self-talk can brighten and improve your day. Find an affirmation that you believe can come true and repeat it to yourself. Your brain will work on making this affirmation a part of who you are.

Remember not to tell yourself any lies. Don’t try to tell your mind today will be an easy day when you know it will be difficult. Say to yourself that today will be a challenge but I will get through it and you will find that you got through it.

Tell yourself this will be a bad day and it will. Tell yourself that you will have a good day no matter what life throws at you and you will have a lot better day.

16. Be of service to someone else.

Help someone else for a brighter day. Anytime you help a child or someone in need it makes you feel better. Do enough good deeds and you become a better person. People who know that their goodness is based on being of service to others feel really good about themselves.

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. 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.