More Resolutions? Here's How to (Actually) Keep Them This Year

More Resolutions? Here’s How to (Actually) Keep Them This Year

For many of us, the new year often means the perfect time to start a new chapter in our lives. That is why people make New Year resolutions to help them change their bad habits and create new and healthier routines that will help them improve psychologically, emotionally, physically, and intellectually. 

However, before you create a new year resolution list, you should understand that the New Year is not a catalyst for immediate and drastic behavioral transformation but a time to reflect on your past behaviors and establish positive lifestyle changes. No matter how long and well-thought-out your new year resolutions may be, many people end up abandoning their resolutions immediately and settling back into old patterns. 

How Your Behavior Affects Your New Year Resolution

Changing your unhealthy habits to good ones can be challenging

Why do many people find it hard to keep their new year resolutions?

Psychologists say that it typically takes 66 days to develop a habit. According to research, only 40% can successfully follow through with their resolutions after 6 months. While changing a person’s goals and intentions is relatively easy, it is much more difficult to change one’s behavior

While many people want to change their unhealthy ways, humans are creatures of habit. Between 40% and 95% percent of human behavior is habitual, making them difficult to break.

Another reason why people fail is that they make too many resolutions that are difficult to achieve, making them victims of “false hope syndrome”. This happens when you set unrealistic expectations about changing your behavior. To successfully change your actions, you have to start by changing your way of thinking. Keep in mind that the power of positive mental thinking is key to achieving your new year resolutions in 2022. 

Psychological Strategies to Help You Keep Your New Year Goals

Taking small steps is key to achieving your goals

Many of us probably do not know that psychological strategies can effectively help achieve a healthier new year. That is why we have rounded several tips on how to create a plan that will help you keep and reach your resolutions:

  • Set Realistic Goals

Your new year resolutions should not only be attainable but also practical. For instance, if you tend to drink alcohol every day and plan to minimize your intake, do not stop abruptly. Start by avoiding drinking alcoholic beverages every other day or only drink once every 3 days. You can also break down your long-term goal into more workable short-term goals. Apply this principle if you want to start exercising or eating more healthy foods this year. 

  • Start Small

Getting rid of your unhealthy habitual behaviors and replacing them with good ones requires time. While the thought of reassessing everything in your life may seem overwhelming, you only need to start small and work on one goal at a time.

If you want to start a fitter and healthier new year, take one step at a time. If your goals include quitting smoking, giving up drinking, getting regular exercise, and eating more nutritious foods, you don’t have to do them all at once. Focus on a single goal and stick to it. Once you achieve it, move to your next target 

  • Talk About It

Sharing your new year goals with your family and friends can help you keep your resolution since they can act as your support system. For instance, if you want to quit smoking or drinking, they will know not to smoke or drink in front of you. Also, talking about your goals makes you more accountable so it’s more difficult for you to back out.

  • Learn to Adapt

It is normal to encounter a setback, but do not let it be the reason to give up on your new year resolutions. If you suddenly find yourself falling back into a bad habit, do not consider it a failure. Understand that the process of changing your habits is often long, and there will be obstacles along the way. Instead of considering relapses as a failure, view them as learning opportunities.

  • Reaffirm Your Motivation

You may feel confident and highly motivated to achieve your goals during the first days of your New Year’s resolution. Change may seem easy because you have not yet encountered the discomfort and temptation along the way.

Eventually, your motivation will begin to dwindle when you start to deal with the reality of dragging yourself to the gym early in the morning or the unpleasant effects of nicotine withdrawal.

When you start to feel unmotivated, remind yourself why you want to do this. You can even write a journal to record your small successes. This can help inspire you to keep going when times get rough. 

When it comes to achieving new year resolutions, understand that perfection is not attainable. It is normal to falter along the way. If you failed to follow your diet or skipped the gym for three days because you are busy, it’s okay. We have ups and downs. What is important is that you get back on track.

If you are looking for a psychologist who can help you better understand your behavior and guide you in changing unhealthy habits into good ones, ask Dr. Katie Dashtban for help. She will see you through your new year resolution using cognitive behavioral therapy if you’re in Toronto, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Call 1-888-539-1172 to book a free online consultation.

Winter Blues: What to Do About Seasonal Depression

Winter Blues: What to Do About Seasonal Depression

Do you feel the need to be alone and to withdraw from the world this time of year? You might have winter blues, otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression. Fortunately, you are not alone in this battle, and there exist many ways to fight it.

Does Seasonal Depression Only Occur During Winter?

The weather affects your mood and energy. If you get depressed specifically in the middle of winter, you may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal affective disorder usually lingers for a few months before disappearing. Then, it revisits you as the winter season approaches once more.

People in the Northern hemisphere are more prone to winter blues

SAD, however, isn’t limited to the winter. The disorder can affect you anytime, depending on which season triggers your depression. Despite being colourful seasons bringing in fairly enjoyable weather, fall, spring, and even summer can still bring in depression for those affected with SAD.

Why Am I SAD This Time of Year?

Sadness is an integral part of human emotion, a natural response to external forces. It’s another story, though, when it gets too extreme and lingers longer than usual during the winter months.

It helps to know the possible causes of your winter blues. You may be:

Experiencing a change in body clock pattern

Most animals — including us — are inclined to sleep longer in the winter

Your body clock patterns change depending on the seasons. And in winter time, it is expected to change drastically due to the shorter days and longer nights. When daylight decreases, your body automatically knows that it’s nighttime and you feel more fatigued.

Overproduction of melatonin

Melatonin is the hormone that helps you sleep. It is also a main factor to the body’s clock function. This hormone is produced when stimulated by darkness. When the nights are longer, melatonin increases and you feel tired the whole day.

Lacking Vitamin D

Vitamin D comes from sunlight and the food you eat. The sunlight you get during winter is low, which also deprives you of the much-needed serotonin. As it happens, Vitamin D regulates your serotonin levels. When your Vitamin D cache is depleted, you may not feel like doing anything for the whole day because you’re not getting enough serotonin to stabilize your moods.

I’m Not Sure If I’m Having the Winter Blues

Before, winter blues might have felt quite “normal.” But with our world reeling from the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, depression has become common with extended periods of isolation from the outside world. Your feeling of being withdrawn from society may have become even more intense.

Seasonal affective depression takes on a different meaning these days because of the pandemic. In the USA, SAD affects an estimated 10 million people, with women being more affected than men. In Canada, 2% to 3% of the population experience the disorder in their entire lives. Most of these are living in areas less exposed to sunlight.

The symptoms of SAD vary from person to person, but if you’re having the winter blues, these are fairly common:

  • Sadness in the winter months
  • Unmotivated to do small tasks
  • Sleeping troubles
  • Spending a day or two in bed
  • Social withdrawal
  • Longer hours of sleep
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Irritability, fatigue, and a heavy weight in some parts of the body, especially in the arms and legs
  • Prolonged bouts of sadness

Formal diagnosis for SAD can only be confirmed with a visit to your psychologist. If going out of your way for a physical visit eludes you, consider online therapy so you can consult with your psychologist in the comforts of your own home.

The Fight For Seasonal Depression: How to Combat Your Winter Blues

While you’re still mulling over therapy as a viable option to fight your seasonal depression, there are other ways to help you deal with or overcome your winter blues. Admittedly, building a stronghold to fight your SAD doesn’t happen overnight, but you can start brick by brick by doing the following:

Mentally preparing yourself

Since SAD is a yearly affair for you, consider preparing your mind for the onset as early as fall. Do some activities with friends to help you keep connected. With the harsh winds and snow winter can bring, you’d be compelled to stay at home more than necessary.

Getting some light therapy

Light therapy for seasonal depression using SAD lamps and SAD lights can help stimulate light inside the room and lessen the fatigue you feel. Expose yourself to a light box for 20 to 30 minutes per day to get your body clock pattern on the right track. However, if you’re on medications that might cause photosensitivity, you need to talk to your doctor.

Moving your body

And we mean to get yourself moving more than usual. Take some time to do some light exercises to keep your mind off things. It will also help you stay fit for the holidays and beyond.

Letting the sunlight in

Sunlight in the winter is scarce, so whenever the sun shines, let up your blinds, open your windows to let the sunlight in. If you’re feeling it, you can take a quick stroll outside so you can stock up on your natural Vitamin D.

Writing your thoughts down

Grab a pen and a notebook to document your journey to battling SAD. Just write every thought you have throughout the season. Read every entry you have and take note of your progress however it might have turned out. Specifically pay attention to patterns of negative thinking such as overgeneralization, fortune telling and discounting the positive.

See Dr. Dashtban When the SAD Gets All Too Much to Bear

The SAD times are always tough to get through, but if everything’s too much to bear, you can always turn to Feeling Good Wellness Center for help. Whether you’re in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Toronto, you can talk to licensed online therapist Dr. Katie Dashtban through virtual one-on-one sessions. Call 888-539-1172 so you can feel good again.

YES to Less Stress: When and How to Say NO

YES to Less Stress: When and How to Say NO

“Can you do me a small favor?”

How you answer this question creates a direct impact in your life. Most of the time, you just can’t refuse any favor, especially if the other person is looking at you like you’re their savior. You find yourself giving in even if you don’t have the resources, let alone any idea, on where to start.

If you find yourself saying “yes” to most, if not all, of these “requests”, you’re giving yourself more stress than necessary. Learn to say “no” if it compromises your health and well-being. There’s always a bigger price to pay on your part if you keep on making yourself available for everyone.

Are You Saying “YES” Too Much?

Life provides more opportunities for us to improve ourselves. There’s work, organizations to support, and chores to do. Saying yes to everything that comes your way will drain your energy in the long run.

Here are some signs that you’re overextending yourself:

  • You’re busy almost the whole day.
  • Your to-do list is too long you can’t even track which ones are done.
  • No matter how hard you work, you feel like it’s still not enough.
  • You rush things and get impatient along the way.
  • Saying “no” makes you feel bad because you don’t want to disappoint somebody or miss an opportunity.

Saying yes to whatever life throws at you diminishes the amount of quality moments that you create with yourself or with somebody else.

Why Say “NO”?

Don't allow yourself to run out of you

You have to know something—you’re not at everyone’s disposal 24/7. You have things to attend to and you will get tired. There’s no way you can be anyone’s savior when they badly need saving. Your peace of mind always matters in situations that you can’t even handle.

Requests, regardless of intensity, won’t lessen over time. Saying “no” may not be easy, but there will be times you just need to do it for the sake of:

  • Self-care

Saying “no” to some requests gives you time to take better care of yourself. Eating out, watching a good movie, or just relaxing in your room would do.

  • Lessening their control over you

When you always say “yes” to requests, people think they have control over your time and will keep on making you do favors for them. Some people don’t even think of the stress they can cause to another when asking for favors. This can be toxic, or worse traumatic, for you if the cycle of bad feelings keeps repeating.

  • New opportunities for others

Saying “no” to requests gives opportunities for others to do it. This is especially important in a work setting when people have piles of deadlines to work on and a new task comes along the way. When you delegate requests to others, you give them a chance to learn a new skill that might come in handy in the future.

  • Pursuing other interests

Saying “no” allows you to pursue other interests outside of your work. You have more time to do your hobbies, go to the gym, and even relax in the comfort of your home.

  • Dodging stress

No one likes to be stressed, and if you say “no” to requests, you’re giving yourself more hours to relax. You feel better when you have fewer things to handle.

  • Diminishing the guilt

Saying “no” for the time being is not selfish. You can always say “yes” next time a person asks for another request.

How to Stop Saying Yes to Everything

Reaffirm the fact that there is only 1 you—nothing more

If you keep on saying “yes” to whatever comes your way, now is the time to stop. You don’t have to please everybody all the time by making yourself available.

Take your life back by saying “no” with these simple tips:

  • Focus on what’s important. When you have too much on your plate, saying “yes” to a request is an additional burden. Say “no” and focus on the matters that need your attention.
  • Weigh things. There are times when you’re not that busy. When someone requests something, think about whether or not the stress it will bring will last for quite some time. If you think it does, look for other ways to help.
  • Take the guilt out of the picture. You don’t have to fulfill a request just because you feel guilty.
  • Take time to think. Some requests can be physically taxing. Tell the person that you’ll give it some thought before giving your answer. However, always make sure to respond after a day or two. You need to respect the other person’s time as well.
  • Say the word “NO”. This two-letter word holds a great deal of power. Never be afraid to use it when you need it. There’s no shame in saying “no”.
  • Maintain honesty and respect. Sometimes, “no” can be interpreted as rude. Be honest and respectful in refusing requests. Tell the person why you can’t handle it using the right words. Don’t say that you think you can’t do it and that you’re not sure. The other person might think that you’re saying “yes” later on.
  • Make yourself clear. When all else fails and when worse comes to worst, make your stand clear. Some people just don’t understand your first refusal until you make it clear that a no is a no.

How to Minimize the Feeling of Guilt

It takes a great deal of courage and commitment to say no despite the pressure. More often than not, it comes with guilt. That feeling is normal and will linger for some time before it fades away. Take these steps to lessen that feeling of guilt.

  • Look at your own limits. People have their own limits, and you’re not an exception. Take a look at how your life would change if you go beyond your boundaries.
  • Stand by your decision. You shouldn’t be swayed by further pressure from other people. When people know that you stand on your ground, there would be no reason to force you more.
  • Expect various reactions when you say “no”. Some are calm while some are pretty much emotionally charged. Guilt won’t shake you up when you’re prepared enough before saying “no”.
  • Detach from emotions. Sometimes, our emotions after saying “no” get the best of us. It can cloud our judgment in the process. Take a step back and assess the situation you’re currently in. Know what you want and make sure to stick by it.
  • Never forget why you said “no” in the first place. This lessens the guilt you feel and decreases the chance of saying “yes” to roughly the same requests in the future.
  • Trust your gut. Humans have instincts for a reason. Listen to what your gut tells you, especially if a request seems to be a dangerous one. You might not reap the rewards of listening to your gut immediately, but it will unravel its magic of keeping you safe in time.
  • Write. If you have a problem with saying “yes” all the time and you just started declining requests, writing about your progress will show your journey. You’d be amazed at how far you’ve come. From someone who gets easily shaken, you’ll bloom into a person who knows what he wants and what he doesn’t.

Get Your Life Back

Let your healing journey begin with online psychotherapy

Learn how to say “no” to what you dread doing, and say “yes” to less stress. If you are having a hard time coping with such changes (and the stress it may bring), help is available for you at Feeling Good Wellness Center. Dr. Dashtban is an online therapist you can talk to from the comfort of your own home, whether you’re in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Toronto. Call 888-539-1172 now!

Life After Divorce: 12 Steps to Slow But Steady Recovery

Life After Divorce: 12 Steps to Slow But Steady Recovery

Couples go through challenges and problems that could make or break their relationship. If the marriage turns sour over time, it ends up in divorce. This life-changing event brings out the emotions couples have kept in for so long before agreeing to divorce formally.

Divorce affects you, your partner, your children (if you have any), and the people you hold dear. You fill in the role your partner once had. People take sides and can end up blaming you for everything. You don’t enjoy the same financial leeway as before. There’s almost no one you could seek help from after the divorce.

Rebuilding your life after divorce is definitely the hardest part. You’re doing everything alone and learning new things for the first time in a long time. While you will definitely face challenges as you start anew, you can find your way to a slow but steady recovery:

  1. Allow yourself to grieve

Just like any kind of loss, you need to allow yourself to grieve over divorce. Lie on your bed the whole day. Eat a tub of ice cream while watching sad movies. Spend days looking outside the window and crying all of a sudden.

The path to grieving is by no means linear, and a one-size-fits-all formula for how you mourn an unfortunate loss like this does not exist. Grieve as much as you can. Acknowledging what happened and letting the emotions flow through you are a good first step to recovery.

  1. Seek emotional support

Connecting with people who share the same pain can help you feel less alone

When you’re grieving and emotionally vulnerable, you need all the emotional support you can get. Call up your friends and vent your feelings. Join a support group for divorced individuals. Seek guidance and help from people who went through the same situation. You just can’t go through it alone. You’ll always need someone by your side.

  1. Write a journal

Words hold immense power. With the many things you want to say not just to your partner but also to yourself, you might struggle in finding the right ways to say it.

Spoiler alert: there is no one right way to say any of these difficult things, but writing them down, no holds barred, is a good place to start. Grab a pen and a notebook and write whatever you want. Your entries can be about your feelings or the most mundane everyday happenings.

Writing helps reduce the pain you feel. Develop the habit of writing and you’ll track your progress of healing over time. You’ll notice the changes in your moods and responses to your memories.

  1. Set goals and making new hobbies

Working on you hobbies allows you to feel good about doing something

Now that you’ve wiggled your way out of a messy (or amicable) divorce, it’s time to build new goals and hobbies. Return to your old hobbies or take on something new. You don’t need to excel at it. What’s important is that the hobby you choose makes you smile and relieves you from the upsets of your divorce (or life in general).

  1. Build new connections

With divorce comes losing the people you thought were true to you. At some point, you end up getting blamed for the entire thing. But it’s not too late to build new connections and meet people. It’s natural to gain new friends and to lose contact with some along the way. Open yourself up to new friendships.

  1. Celebrate the single life

Do yourself a favor and pay the world a long overdue visit

Life after divorce signifies a fresh start. Now that you’re single, you can find a way to celebrate what’s left of you and the countless possibilities for your future.

Spend a day alone. Take a trip with your friends. Go on a vacation in your family home. Talk to good old friends back in your hometown. Throw a party. Do all the things you did back when you were single.

Although it takes several adjustments and getting used to, there’s no reason not to be happy after your divorce.

  1. Consider dating again

Happiness after divorce may seem elusive for some people. Some choose not to open their hearts up to potential new partners while some put themselves out in the market again.

If you feel like it, download dating apps and begin swiping left and right. Ask your friends to set you up on a date. Divorce is not the end for you — it’s a new opportunity to find the right person.

  1. Explore what pleases you

Pleasure can be in the form of delicious food and good rest

Marriage may have toned down your libido. Bring it back to life by exploring sensations that you once felt. With divorce comes opportunities to pursue sexual relations with other people. Remember to practice safe sex, choose your partners wisely, and never feel shame about exploring what your body wants.

But not all pleasure is sexual. If this is not your cup of tea, you always have the choice to pursue other avenues of pleasure.

  1. Reinvent your whole self

Take the time after divorce to evaluate where you are in life. Try a new fitness routine. Get a makeover. Apply for a job that’s a total opposite of what you do. Shift your mindset and get used to the new you.

Don’t forget to love yourself after everything you’ve been through. Remember, you can only begin loving others if you love yourself first. Know your worth, always.

  1. Handle your finances

Life after divorce is hard, especially for women. If your partner was financially supporting you, you may now have to handle the finances on your own. Don’t worry, though, there are practical ways to managing your finances post-divorce: Try:

  • Flipping the budget

Revamp the whole budget since you’re handling it alone. You need to make huge changes including downsizing your home and eating at home instead of outside. Lifestyle changes come along with budget.

  • Evaluating accounts

Look at your bank account and make compromises about giving up the things you used to enjoy. Spend the money on more important things.

  • Setting goals and priorities

If you have children, put their needs first above anything. Set goals with your finances and prioritize the things you need to do after the split. Boost your finances by finding home-based jobs and setting up a small business.

  • Talking to a financial planner

If you can’t handle your finances well or you overspend along the way, talk to a financial planner. They’ll help you set goals and allot the money to important matters.

The dreams you built with your ex-partner haven’t completely gone down the drain after divorce. You have the choice to achieve them by yourself or with a new partner, as long as it does not bring back the unpleasant parts of your former life.

  1. Be strong for your children

Never make your child feel like the divorce is their fault

Divorce brings about huge changes to both parents and children. Co-parenting is even more challenging for divorced parents who separated on bad terms. As a child, seeing your parents divorcing when you thought everything was okay can be shocking and confusing. As parents, you have to be strong for the sake of your children.

Explain divorce and be strong for the children by:

  • Being united

Talk to your partner and come up with the best explanation for the divorce. Stick to it and relay it to your children.

  • Putting a stop to fights

There’s no real benefit if you and your partner always fight even after the divorce. You’ll just bring more harm to the children than any good.

  • Getting involved

It won’t hurt to ask your children how they are doing and asking them questions. That way, your children feel that you still care for them individually.

  • Being honest

Honesty is always the best policy, especially in divorce. When your child asks questions, answer them as honestly as you can. You need to be aware of the information you share too. Little children don’t need too much information. For teenagers, you need more transparency. They are surely as confused as you are in navigating their new normal.

  • Spending time

Plan the times you spend with your children. You can ask them what they want to do and go with it.

  • Addressing changes

Tell your children about the changes in living arrangements now that the divorce is finally official. Downsizing the home and cutting back on some unimportant expenses are some things your children need to understand.

  • Giving love and reassurance

Your children need to feel that you still love them despite the divorce. Always assure them that you’re there for them no matter what happens.

  • Respecting your partner

Treat your partner with the same respect you once did while you were married. Respect their decision in life and their parenting style.

  1. Consider divorce mediation and therapy

When things are hard to deal with, therapists are there to listen and help you out. Divorce mediation or divorce therapy is a viable choice for individuals seeking support during the rockiest days of their new post-divorce life. Divorce therapy is a new approach that is not as prevalent as couple’s therapy, but is quite effective for those who are motivated to re-gain their steady and happy selves after divorce.

You and your psychologist can work on a solution that’s tailor-fit to your situation. You don’t need to delay getting help if you badly need it. If you are in Toronto, ON or San Francisco and Los Angeles, CA, help is available at Feeling Good Wellness Center. Consider online divorce mediation or divorce therapy with Dr. Katie Dashtban and begin your journey to healing.

A future filled with love and happiness awaits you and it must start with yourself. Let Dr. Dashtban help you feel good about your life after divorce. Call 1-888-539-1172 or email [email protected].


Therapy for medical diagnosis

What Happens When You Receive a Medical Diagnosis?

What happens when you first receive the news of a medical diagnosis? When you first learn that there is something about your health or a loved one’s that has been compromised. If you are like most people, you probably feel a rush of anxiety and maybe even anger. Some also feel a rush of sadness and grief, become tearful and feel extreme fear and a sense of doom.

These emotions are difficult to handle. Here is a list of best ways to embrace yourself and handle such a challenging moment in life with grace.


First Do Nothing

In order for the news to set in, it needs to go through the “Alarm System” of the brain first. In there, the brain needs to process it and decide if it is imminent danger, such as when you are about to be in a car accident, or is it non-imminent, like when you can wait and decide on the best course of action.

You might have heard of the Fight or Flight response, which is the brain’s way to keep you away from imminent danger.  In this case, you do not want to kick start that fight or flight response, instead you need to give your brain time to turn on it’s higher thinking parts, which is the Cortex or the “thinking brain.”


Know that you have options

Instead of letting your mind take you to a thousand places, where all that comes to mind is doom and gloom, allow yourself to think. Asking questions like “what options do I have, even if they seem far-fetched.”

It is always a great idea to seek a second and even a third opinion, from a variety of different medical providers and even other health care providers. Medical doctors can inform you of the medical aspects of your health, but other health care providers such as psychologists can tell you about your psychological and emotional health status, which are just as important.


Reach out to people who might have been in your situation

Not only you can learn of the options that others have used, which is a significant source of information you could really use, but you also get some support and empathy from those who understand you. Receiving that kind of empathy is super important for the actions you will be choosing to make.


Keep hope alive

Hope is what keeps us going through our entire life. Without hope, we are practically gone. Hope in this case does not refer to wishful thinking. It is recognizing that you can work through this, as opposed to work passed this. True that many of us do work passed several obstacles in life, including a severe medical diagnosis.

But what I mean by hope in this context, is trusting yourself that with the proper help from your doctors, your psychologist, your family, and the community, you will GO THROUGH and EMBRACE this phase of your life. And in the end, you will experience it with grace as opposed to experiencing it with grief.

Coping With Change

It’s easy to fall into hopelessness and despair, especially in the face of crisis, which effectively calls for CHANGE.

Let’s agree that COVID-19 has brought into question most everything that we once considered “normal.”

Meeting Face to Face: used to mean literally seeing the face of the person with your own eyes in a place where you are only about two or three feet apart. Now, face to face meetings means meeting online via your favorite platform.

Going Somewhere: used to mean physically walking, busing, driving, flying, etc., to the desired place. You’d go to your class by walking into it. You’d go to a concert, to the movies, to someone’s house, to a yoga class, to the gym. Now, the phrase “going somewhere” is used to virtually going there, in addition to the physically showing up.

Those are only two examples of what used to be normal, which has now changed into some other type of normal. And now that word: “CHANGE:” If you just ask a handful of people whether they like change, you are likely to hear a big NO!

Our brains are equipped with a wonderful talent, which is called pattern recognition.

It’s the ability to see the pattern in things that are repeated in a similar way and be able to make deductions about future expectations of that same type of pattern. In the absence of such ability to recognize patterns and predict future events, the brain has to fall into a sudden explorative effort to make sense of things, so that you can be protected against danger.

So, every time the brain has to adjust itself to “CHANGE,” it has to naturally fall into that explorative mode, which often is experienced along with anxiety. So, the reason most people say they don’t like change is that they experience anxiety in the face of change.

What to do:

1. Recognize that the change itself is not causing anxiety:

It’s your own perception of the matter that has changed, which makes it anxiety-provoking. For example, you might say to yourself: “I can’t deal with computers, I can only relate to people when I see them in person, I can only experience joy and connection when I go to my place of worship in person.”

The truth of the matter is that the brain would not know the difference. It’s your thoughts and assumptions, particularly when they are narrowed and/or one-sided that make the coping too hard and anxiety-provoking.


2. Practice self-compassion

What might you say to a child who is impatient or apprehensive about something? You’d likely help that child with grace and speak with them about gratefulness and patience, remind them of their virtues, and invite them to use their resilience to cope with what is at hand.

Right now, that child is YOU. The thoughts that you run through your head are the actual narratives you say to yourself, which then will affect your mood. So, speak with compassion and kindness to yourself.


3. Don’t go solo, ask for help

Sometimes we might feel embarrassed to ask others if they feel the same way as we do. Or we might expect too much from ourselves and in the process end up feeling inadequate. The truth is: no one can handle all of life’s challenges alone.

We all need one another, and at times we all need some professional help. So, speaking to others about how they are coping with “CHANGE” is a very helpful thing to do. And, of course, calling your therapist and asking to receive some help in coping with change is perhaps one of the most helpful things to do.

Understanding Our Collective Consciousness

A warm and heartfelt hello to all my current and past patients, and the general public. It sure has been a roller coaster of days and weeks where all of us have had to make quick changes to fit our lives into this new model of living.

Stories I have heard are bitter-sweet. Some report feeling relieved for not having to get out and commute to and from work, not having to stand in lines of stores and establishments, and basically able to enjoy a simpler life.

These groups of people report to have taken the time to see about activities they had always liked but didn’t get a chance to do, such as organizations, writing and reading their favorite books and poetry, watching their favorite shows and hanging out with friends on the phone or via a Zoom call. (I guess “Zoom” is now a basic household name, referring to meeting face to face online)!

Many people are reporting an increase in conflicts associated with being in such close contact with family members, home-schooling their children, and minding the elderly family members’ needs.

Some talk about an increased anxiety about getting sick, or about the future of their financial health or professional goals. Several have been speaking of feeling lonely and isolated, and experiencing some shade of existential crisis, wondering if their loneliness wasn’t only masked by their daily encounters with people.

If you find yourself in any of the above camps, just know you are so not alone. There is a collective unconscious that is guiding us all, in more similar ways than not, which makes me think perhaps there is a positive twist in all this madness.


What Is Collective Consciousness?

How do your beliefs align with the beliefs of others in society? What unites people within a society, at least to a degree? How do you come to see yourself not just as an individual, but as part of the larger society? One explanation for questions like these comes from the theory of collective consciousness.

In sociology and related social sciences, the idea of collective consciousness comes from the French theorist and sociologist Emile Durkheim. Collective consciousness is all about understanding what makes society work.

For Durkheim, individuals in society – while we all have our own individual consciousness – also share a solidarity with one another. We work together in many ways and our collective consciousness is what allows this to happen.

Basically, collective consciousness is a constellation of ideas, beliefs, and values that a great number of individuals in a given society share.¹

As a clinical psychologist I see the strong foot prints of our own personal beliefs when we assess and determine how bad or good we feel. It is often not the very circumstances that we are in, but the way we think of ourselves (i.e: victims or heroes, losers or winners, scared or courageous) that colors the way we feel about the circumstances.


How to tap into our collective consciousness

So, I’d like to share some potential good ways that you could take advantage of the fact that this collective consciousness is at the core of our community in order to help yourself and those around you feel better, more connected, less stressed, and ultimately better capable to weather these challenging times:


1. Search and see what is needed in your community and start volunteering your efforts toward that cause.

Examples: if you are a musician, perhaps you could make some recordings of your music and offer it to our local hospitals, places of worship, or just to your own group of friends. Maybe you like crafts and basically like to create things with your hands.

Find any materials around the house, order them online, or ask neighbors and friends to donate them and then begin creating pieces that give the message of endurance and strength and spread those items around to people. Examples: scarves, embroideries, wood carvings, collages, afghans, music recordings and playlists, etc.


2. Take courses and train yourself in new ways.

It is likely that the future of your trade might take on a different form over the coming months and maybe years. Teaching yourself new ways to offer your trade might require some re-engineering and rethinking. This is a good time to prep for that.


3. Do not forget to stay in close contact with your family and friends.

I know many of us reached out to one another when the shelter in place began. It was novel and unusual, so we thought of our friends and relatives, wondering how are they going through it. But now, we might tend to forget that we really need each other in order to keep our hearts and minds filled with each others’ energies.

As much as it might sound silly, but using online meeting platforms (yes Zoom comes to mind again!!) to meet for group activities is really a great way to feel connected. I know of communities who do group meditations, listen or play music together, read poetry together, do hand crafts simultaneously together, and even watch movies together.


4. Seek therapy.

Of all times, this is the time to see about exploring your own particular coping styles, or learning more about your personal strengths and of course reaching for help if you are experiencing domestic conflicts, insomnia/ hypersomnia, chronic health problems associated with poor lifestyle, and of course depression and anxiety.

All and all, it is very important to keep in mind that social isolation doesn’t literally mean socially isolating ourselves. We are social creatures, and we need each other at all times, particularly at this time of a global pandemic.

Coping with Life in the Corona Virus Era

Life is full of challenges. Sometimes there is an overwhelming feeling of helplessness or hopelessness that might set in, making it difficult for people to trust their own intuition, or feel confused about how they are supposed to feel. This is especially true at a time like this, during a pandemic: COVID-19, Corona Virus.

As the world is facing the threat of Corona Virus, and as the virus’s consequences become more real and affect our immediate communities, fear, anxiety, irritability, even anger, and of course sadness and despair are normal emotional reactions.

Without the comfort of knowing what to do, we might scramble to find answers on how to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

As medical officials tell us how to clean our environment and how to cover our faces or wash our hands, we might feel even more desperate or frightened. We might even begin to think of obsessive thoughts and question ourselves, wondering if we have done everything we can.

If we go by definition, the above describes the anatomy of trauma. This is how traumatic events affect our mental health.

In this blog, I am hoping to accomplish one goal, and that is to bring to awareness the lessons we have learned from past traumatic experiences and apply them to this situation. Here are at least three tips and ideas to keep in mind:



At times of crisis, the mind will want to jump ahead of things and think of the worse case scenario. This is the mind’s attempt to preemptively keep you as safe as possible, because having had thought of the worse case makes you prepared for the worse case, or does it?

As it turns out, staying in the present time, focusing on everything you do know, and not making assumptions about how much worse it is going to get allows you to use your resources in a far more adaptive way. Being in a state of pessimism ultimately makes you feel hopeless, and when there is no perception of hope, you wouldn’t reach out for help or use the positive resources around you. That will make your situation far worse.


Disruptive Routines:

In the wake of crises, people might fall into dysregulated patterns of living, where their eating, sleeping, exercising and daily routines might alter. During the initial stages of becoming aware of a crisis, such as fire or an accident, such dysregulations are inevitable.

However, during more prolonged crises such as the pandemic we are currently dealing with, returning to a more predictive routine will make a huge difference in how well your immune system will be ready to fight. Sleeping on a regular schedule, eating fresh and healthy foods, stretching exercises such as yoga and activities that are more aerobic (like brisk walks in the outdoors) are strongly recommended.

Taking breaks from the news and not obsessively following the updates on the spread of the virus is actually a good idea.

Staying away from excessive alcohol and all recreational drugs including smoking is also particularly important, as you are trying to actually boost your natural health rather than making yourself more vulnerable. Lastly, staying connected with people you trust and love and reaching out to those whom you have not been in contact with recently is actually a fantastic mood elevator, and gives you a sense of belonging and being cared for.



Mixed emotions associated with quarantines:

If you have been separated from your loved ones, you can experience feelings such as fear and isolation, and maybe even rejection and loneliness. You are also likely to experience some guilt, shame, or self-blame. Rest assured that while those emotions are valid and perhaps predictable, they are transient and likely due to the temporary shock of the traumatic event of being quarantined.

Similarly, if a loved one is separated from you and kept in quarantine, you might experience guilt or shame around feeling relieved, or anxiety of being separated and a wish to join them, or just stressed from all the close monitoring of the symptoms. Again, such emotions are expected and normal reactions to a crisis. And yet, it is important to keep in mind that such emotions are transient, and that you should not fall for emotional reasoning, which is making decisions or jumping to conclusions based on the emotions of that moment.


Fluctuations in Mood:

Everyone responds differently to stress and anxiety related to getting sick. In fact, everyone responds differently to the idea of death, being that of their own or of a loved one. So recognizing your own emotions and being able to name them, to speak about them to a mental health professional, to keep a personal journal, or to choose to share them with a trusted loved one, are all incredibly helpful steps you can take to protect yourself at a time that self care is the name of the game.


This service is provided by Dr. Katie Dashtban, Psy.D.

Katie defines her role as a psychologist as one who holds a guiding light, while her patients choose the turns in this maze we call life. In her practice, Katie refrains from offering advice, but instead helps her patients overcome obstacles that cause emotional suffering, and shows them tools to use when deciding on the desired changes in their lives.

How to Spring Out of Depression

Yes, You Can “Spring Out” Out of Depression (And Two Common Factors That Prevent It)

Despite popular belief, “springing out” of depression is possible and may not require a lengthy course of treatment including medications and years of psychoanalysis—you can actually start to change how you think (and feel) in this very moment. Depression may no even be a mental illness, but instead a state of mind.

As humans, we have the gift of executive functioning in our evolved brain, which is a function of the frontal cortex, the newest evolved portion of our brain. Executive functioning, among many other things, gives us the capacity to think in abstract terms: for example, thinking about the future without the need for the future events to even have happened yet; or being able to attach more importance to events, or lessen their importance, per our own judgment. These are among the super sophisticated abilities of our frontal cortex. Unfortunately, our sophisticated brains can also engage in negative thought patterns, which are the creations of our own imagination.

The trouble arises when those thought patterns are twisted, or mistaken. With negative thoughts, we can create such strong, painful, and debilitating emotional experiences, which we call clinical depression. However, we can indeed “spring out” of those painful moments by closely examining our thoughts and using our judgment in ways that work to our advantage, as opposed toward our demise.

Here are two common factors that prevent people from moving quickly out of depression:


2 Reasons why people can’t change out of depression:


Diagnoses: It’s commonly the case that patients say something like: “I was diagnosed with Depression by my doctor.” And their outlook from then on is that this diagnosis has a sense of permanency to it.

It is as if they are saying “I was diagnosed with depression, and so now I have depression.” Clinical evidence has shown, however, that clinical depression is not a permanent mental illness.

In fact, the more evidence-based practices such as TEAM-CBT (founded by Dr. David Burns, M.D. Professor Emeritus at Stanford) shows that patterns of negative thoughts such as “Discounting the Positive”, or “Taking Blame for Everything,” are the causes of depression—in fact, sometimes even deep depression.

The moment, though, in which the patient notices how distorted their view is, they begin to see the light and suddenly their depression vanishes, right there on the spot!


Medical Model: Despite overwhelming evidence that shows patients who use medications to treat their depression continue to experience depression years after being on their meds, there is still a common belief that their brain either lacks or over-produces certain neurotransmitters—a condition that should be treated by medications that theoretically corrects the imbalance.

However, clinical evidence shows that the only time symptoms of clinical depression can successfully be subsided is when the patient recognizes the negative thoughts and assumptions they had, which caused them to feel quite depressed and hopeless in the first place.

So, in light of starting a new day or a new beginning this spring, I encourage people to ask themselves what thoughts or assumptions they are holding onto during those moments they are feeling depressed.

I know some people might say they are not aware of any particular thoughts during those difficult moments, and that they only know how badly they feel. In response, I would say, just take out a pen and paper, and jot down the emotions you are experiencing during those upsetting moments. Then ask yourself:

Why Am I Feeling That Way?

And whatever answers you come up with are the exact thoughts and assumptions that are running through your mind.

Next, take this one step further and ask yourself, would I talk that critically or negatively to a beloved friend? And you might notice you are engaged in distorted, negative thoughts that you wouldn’t ever think about someone else who you were judging or criticizing. You can then come to understand that your mind had fallen for those negative assumptions about yourself, and had accepted them unquestionably.

As you begin to practice shining some light onto your thought patterns, you’ll start notice the errors in your assumption, correct the errored ways of thinking, and instantaneously notice your depression lifting.


This service is provided by Dr. Katie Dashtban, Psy.D.

Katie defines her role as a psychologist as one who holds a guiding light, while her patients choose the turns in this maze we call life. In her practice, Katie refrains from offering advice, but instead helps her patients overcome obstacles that cause emotional suffering, and shows them tools to use when deciding on the desired changes in their lives.

Shame Attacking Exercises Reduce Social Anxiety

It’s not uncommon to think of treating a problem by introducing a little dose of that same problem to the system. Antibodies are the best example of such interventions. When it comes to anxiety disorders, the same principal applies. Even though the anxious person’s automatic response might be to avoid the anxiety-provoking situation, in the end, exposure to the anxiety making situation is the best treatment. In this link below, you will see a video of someone standing on the corner of the street, singing “Mary had a little lamb” to reduce social anxiety. You will read a few clips about some of the best ways to reduce social inhibitions, such asking a librarian that you are looking for a book on the art of farting!!

Have fun reading.

This service is provided by Dr. Katie Dashtban, Psy.D.

Katie defines her role as a psychologist as one who holds a guiding light, while her patients choose the turns in this maze we call life. In her practice, Katie refrains from offering advice, but instead helps her patients overcome obstacles that cause emotional suffering, and shows them tools to use when deciding on the desired changes in their lives.