Our thoughts have a profound impact on our brain chemistry and basic physiology. Our bodies are programmed to respond in certain ways to different situations. Based on your appraisal of, or thought about, a given situation, your brain will have a specific chemical reaction which communicates to your body how to respond. For example, when you are faced with danger, your thought process might be “there is danger and now I need to run,” but more likely than not, the process happens more instantaneously because you have a thought about danger and your brain then takes over. Here are some specific ways that negativity can affect your brain and body:
It is important to know that "thought suppression" or trying to push away a thought is not helpful. It actually can intensify the thoughts. It is important to foster a better, more accepting way to relate to your thoughts. Practice acknowledging your thoughts ("there's that thought again"), simply labeling them ("I am having the thought that...", choosing not to engage with them ("this is not helpful for me to think about right now"), challenge them ("what is the evidence for and against this?") and explore mindfulness techniques. In contrast to negativity, which more often than not, prompts a physical stress/danger response, meditation and mindfulness which teach your mind and body to quiet themselves are associated with a slew of positive health benefits. Certain newer types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can offer more on this style of learning to relate to your thoughts differently. CBT will help you learn how to challenge your thoughts and come up with more effective ways of thinking. The therapists at PVD Psych have training in all of these types of therapy and can help you figure out what might work best for you.
Eating disorders and body image concern are unfortunately very frequently intergenerational, or passed from one generation to the other. We can presume that some of this is due to biological factors that predispose someone to having an eating disorder due to certain personality traits like being overly conscientious or perfectionistic or being more impulsive or more anxious. However, an eating disorders is in very large part determined by environment and learning history, and these are also the only aspects a parent can control when it comes to helping their child avoid developing an eating disorder. According to the cognitive behavioral theory of an eating disorder’s development, it is brought about by an internalization of a thin ideal, perfectionistic standards, and the idea of having more control over one’s body size and shape than may actually be the case. Much of this is shaped by the media and peers, but parents greatly influence their kids as well. Parents are a primary source of teaching their kids about their personal worth, what eating behaviors they pick up, and general ideas about their beliefs about food. Children also learn a lot about food and eating from observing their parents eat and observing how they talk about food and themselves and how they look at each other in the mirror. If you have an eating disorder, or even one in remission, you may not realize it, but chances are there are hundreds of thoughts and behaviors you might engage in during any given day that your child would pick up on.
It can be difficult enough to move on after a breakup, but when there is an established dynamic of continuing to contact your partner (and vice versa) after the relationship ends, this can turn from difficult to toxic. These types of contact can be hurtful and confusing, and ultimately prevent you and your ex from being able to process the break up and move on. In some instances, when there is repeated contact post-breakup, one or both of you may be fishing for some sort of reaction. For example, you might text your ex because you are still angry and trying to provoke them and continue to argue. Another instance might be repeated bids to get your ex to reconsider the break up. If this type of thing is happening, establishing a “no contact” rule for a period of time whether mutually agreed upon or not may be helpful. It is healthy to be able to recognize when a relational dynamic is unproductive or harmful and to set boundaries in response to that. Sometimes once the “no contact” period is up, neither one of you may have any desire to contact the other. In other cases, you might feel like you want to reach out. Before doing so, I would recommend going through the following steps.
Lastly, in some instances it is just not appropriate to have any future contact. If you want to reach out but the relationship was abusive, this would fall into that category and I would recommend blocking your ex’s number, email addresses, and ability to contact you on social media.
As is the case with many behaviors that have an addictive pattern, workaholism is reinforcing, and so you may feel you benefit from the behavior and have difficulty recognizing that it is problematic. Especially in our society, where achievement, independence (as opposed to a relational focus), and work success are very highly valued, success at work, being a high achiever, and taking no breaks... aka workaholism, can be particularly difficult to recognize and/or want to change because the behavior and results of it are, in many ways rewarding, and positive. However, workaholism can lead to problems in relationships, negative physical health consequences, and mental health problems such as increased anxiety and irritability. Often, you may not recognize that you are behaving as such or that it is problematic.
Once you realize you are a workaholic, it is important to try to find more balance in your life. Perhaps there is a reason you are a workaholic, like you are trying to get away from an unhappy home situation, or you are lonely, or you do not pursue other interests so this is the only way to feel worthwhile. It can be helpful to see a therapist for help understanding what is driving the behavior and how to work on the underlying issue(s).
7 Signs You May Be a Workaholic
1. Your relationships outside of work are suffering because you find yourself putting work first. Often this is not because you care more about it, but the anxiety you may experience when you have a task overhanging, can be unbearably uncomfortable. However, if your relationships with your partner, family, and friends are being repeatedly ignored or cast aside in the service of needing to 'finish one last email,' or stay late one more night to finish up, it is worth looking at your behavior and considering a chance. Most workaholics hear complaints from their partners, family, and friends about this and if you find that this is happening to you, it would be wise to take their feedback seriously.
2. You find yourself constantly thinking about work. You are preoccupied with work and never get a break. There is not much separation between work and home, and you are routinely bringing work home with you and even up to bed. As many people now work from home, this difficulty protecting home for relaxation and relationships can be even more common.
3. You engage in checking behaviors. You check your work email excessively to see if that customer has responded or if you get an email from your boss, for example, you feel like you must respond right away. You also check your planner or calendar on your phone frequently to see your to do list and might even be routinely adding to it while outside of work when you could be relaxing.
4. You have a hard time relaxing. You feel guilty if you are not working. You find yourself unable to enjoy being present in the moment even if you really want to be, because your anxiety creeps in and you cannot stop thinking about work.
5. As a result of your difficulty relaxing and potential worries about work, you experience muscle tension, regular headaches, teeth grinding or TMJ, or other health consequences directly related to chronic levels of stress.
6. You receive praise at work for being “always available,” responding immediately to emails, or always going above and beyond. Of course, praise at work is important, but if you notice you are regularly standing out for working harder than anyone else, chances are this is coming at some cost to you.
7. You feel anxious and irritable if something impedes your ability to work or complete a task to your satisfaction. In fact, you may notice that your self-esteem is so closely tied to work alone that you start to worry greatly about what you imagine will happen if you run out of time or do not do as good a job as you would like. You feel resentful of those who get in the way of your work. You don’t take vacation time or sick time when needed, and you certainly do not take a lunch break. You might even work against medical advice. You might find yourself regularly inhaling lunch at your desk or just eating a protein bar.
So now that you have realized that this way of life may not actually be serving you as well as you thought, it is time to consider some changes.
The important thing to realize about making change in this area is that you will experience intense anxiety, irritability, guilt, or resentment when you are first trying to change. This is part of the process of any change. You need to learn or relearn how to take breaks and have balance.
It can be helpful to create a very deliberate work free zone at home, for example, during certain hours. You can gradually increase the hours but start small and realistically.
Put away your phone and computer during your work free zones or first thing in the morning and right before bed to resist the temptation to engage in checking behaviors like seeing if your boss has emailed.
Try to fully engage in your time at home and prioritize your relationship with your partner. Focus on what your partner is saying to you and ask questions about their day. Make a plan to go out on a date.
Do things that help you relax or feel better, such as take a long shower or go to the gym and that can serve as a helpful way to symbolically shift out of work mode.
Start taking breaks at work during lunch, for example. It is important to take time for yourself and not taking any breaks actually hinders productivity. You may find that you feel a lot sharper after the break.
Reward yourself for making positive changes. Also, add other positive activities into your life so you are not just focusing on taking away behaviors. Make plans with your family during the weekend, schedule a vacation, or reignite your passion for an old interest like sports, crafts or religion.
Keep in mind that changing behaviors like workaholism, which likely is deeply ingrained in you, is a big challenge. Therapy can be especially helpful if you believe you are struggling with workaholism and your health and relationships are suffering.