COVID, recession, unemployment, protests, and an upcoming election — 2020 has set out to stress out even the most stable minded among us. Even those full of optimism cannot help but become depressed or anxious during one or more of these circumstances and need help beyond what a trusted friend or loved one can provide.
So many of us right now may be asking ourselves — “Am I in need of a therapist?” How can we tell when it is time to find a professional to help us process the things we are going through? To walk us through some of the signs we should be observing, we have Dr. Sanam Hafeez, who is an NYC-based licensed clinical psychologist with a faculty appointment at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College. Dr. Hafeez is also the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services.
Here are five signs you may benefit from working through some of your stress and anxieties with a therapist:
1. You are indulging in high-risk coping conduct.
You are not abnormal if you develop coping mechanisms that are not always the healthiest. Many people struggle to find healthy and productive ways to unravel their issues, and this doesn’t mean they are bad people, or that their stress cannot be soothed. If you find yourself, masking or ignoring your core issues, by medicating with sex, drugs, alcohol or other behaviors that put you or people you love in harm’s way, you may find that therapy can provide tools for you to help with pivoting your experience in a more positive direction. Anytime you attempt to “escape” your problems with substances, or momentary pleasures, you are just shortly forgetting about them. But our issues have a way of resurfacing until we deal with them and find a more hopeful approach to life.
2. You are sleeping too little or too much.
Grief and depression can often sink someone into a mental space where the thought of getting out of bed, working, or even enjoying themselves is a farfetched concept. For other people, stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil can manifest in the other extreme of the spectrum. These people cannot fall asleep. They tuck themselves in only to find their mind active into late hours of the night revisiting issues repeatedly. So they get up and start cleaning, working, or distracting themselves on their phones for hours into the next morning. Again, oversleeping or distracting ourselves so far that we don’t sleep at all is a coping strategy that we must observe and work through. Therapy can help you better understand your thoughts and as well as the reasons why sleep has become such an issue. Through therapy, you can address the core situation, helping you relieve yourself of side-effects that could be caused by too much sleep or too little rest.
3. Most of your mental energy goes into focusing on your flaws.
2020 is difficult enough without you constantly counting your shortcomings. If your moments of thought are saturated with self-doubt, remorse, and self-disparagement, therapy can help you navigate some of the things that you have not had an opportunity to work through. Perhaps you find yourself drifting off into negative thoughts and self-disparaging inner monologues, and this can be a sign that you’ve fallen into a cycle of self-defeating consciousness. A therapist can listen to your perception of yourself and talk through some of the ways in which you can break this cycle of what can often become self-sabotage.
4. You are physically manifesting the turmoil you feel inside.
If you find that you are a healthy person but have fallen into feeling physically fatigued, faint, and or experience stomach aches, twitches, or trembles when certain situations or topics arise, you can benefit from speaking to a therapist. Therapists screen patients to see if perhaps there are signs of chemical imbalances that may be causing these physical reactions and sensations. It is important once you make the decision to start therapy that you are honest with your doctor about the physical manifestation you are experiencing. A good therapist will ask purposeful questions as part of your onboarding that helps in assessing some of these occurrences.
5. You are overwhelmed enough that you neglect your duties or loved ones.
The human mind has a finite supply of energy, and the weight of our issues can lead us to neglect things we know we are capable of accomplishing. This can wear down your stamina, your effectiveness, and your ability to focus. You can find yourself preoccupied to the extent that you become forgetful and nervous. This can affect your work, your family, and your goals. A therapist can help you find ways of centering yourself and process the things that are crowding your thoughts. With as stressful a year as 2020 has been, our minds can easily be overwhelmed with concern for the economy, issues pertaining to social justice, health-risks and pandemic, and the state of the environment, to name a few.
Why is there such a stigma about realizing you could benefit from consulting a therapist?
Dr. Hafeez explains that we are living through some of the most stressful times in modern history. “Self-care and mental health go hand in hand and right now our psychological state is under pressure not just because of problems in our personal lives, but also with the current state of the world. It isn’t the time to keep yourself from something you think you may benefit from, such as therapy, because of stigma,” explains Dr. Sanam Hafeez. There is a perception that going to therapy makes you weak or crazy, but Dr. Hafeez flips this notion saying that “having the determination to deal with your issues instead of letting stress overwhelm you is a brave thing to do.” Seeking therapy is a self-loving action to take.
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, is an NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens. Dr. Hafeez masterfully applies her years of experience connecting psychological implications to address some of today’s common issues such as body image, social media addiction, relationships, workplace stress, parenting and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc…). In addition, Dr. Hafeez works with individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, attention and memory problems, and abuse. Dr. Hafeez often shares her credible expertise to various news outlets in New York City and frequently appears on CNN and Dr.Oz. Connect with her via Instagram @drsanamhafeez or www.comprehendthemind.com