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We live in a world where information is available to us at any time and almost any place. If we’re not feeling well we can search online for the potential source of our issue or we can ask others on our social media pages what it could be. We have access to much more in the 21st century than ever before and, unfortunately, this can work against us.

Based on a quick Internet search, some may assume they have a deadly illness or a severe mental disturbance. It’s even become commonplace to hear “Oh that’s my OCD” or “I have ADHD because I can’t sit still.” Yet, it takes much more than reading information on a webpage to determine if someone has a medical or mental illness. It also takes more than not being able to sit still to arrive at a diagnosis of ADHD.

I remember when I was in graduate school and first opened the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the book we use to determine if an individual has a mental diagnosis). I started reading through this three-inch thick book and would comment to myself, “Oh my goodness…I have that!” Then I’d get to the next thing and assume I had that too. Eventually I realized that any one of us could open this book and find symptoms that fit us. Why? Because “normal” is somewhat subjective and we all have things that we like, don’t like, do, don’t do, etc. and those things may not always be understood by others. But just because we may find that we fit some of the criteria for a specific disorder or disorders doesn’t mean that we’re diagnosed.

I explain to clients that essentially what brings them into my office is that the issues they’re facing have begun to cause distress in their lives. They’ve recognized that, while they may not have an actual disorder, something is not working for them. For some, they’ve been previously diagnosed and are fully aware of the scope of that diagnosis. They come to see me for help managing or eliminating their symptoms.

Regardless, in recent years human behavior has become categorized by those who aren’t trained to categorize it. We hear statements that people are “antisocial,” “narcissistic,” “crazy,” “bipolar,” “anorexic,” and the list goes on. Sure, maybe these people do in fact have a disorder, but to make these words a part of everyday conversation and to use them so casually has caused us to view ourselves in terms of what’s wrong and we can be very quick to judge someone based on what makes them unique as a person. We categorize ourselves based on the issues we face and when we do this, we may only see ourselves or others as a disorder (Example: “She’s bipolar”).

I encourage you to seek help if you believe that what you’re experiencing could be more than just every day ups and downs or more severe than general restlessness. In fact, I’d never discourage that for any of you. What I do discourage, however, is assuming a disorder is present just because you behave in a way that others don’t understand, because you don’t agree with how someone else is behaving, or because you read something online that indicated you did.

When you self-diagnosis, it can be very dangerous. Not only could it cause you to not seek an appropriate evaluation and treatment (after all, you already know what’s wrong, right?), but it can lead to thinking and behavior patterns that then suggest you really do have that issue/disorder. You may begin to live your life according to the criteria and be unnecessarily convinced that you are in fact ill. Likewise, you may begin to treat others differently based on what you assume is wrong with them. You might find yourself labeling or judging someone in a way that is unjustified.

So, if you have genuine reason to believe you or someone you know may have a physical or mental illness, I urge you to err on the side of caution and seek an appropriate evaluation. The Internet is a great resource, but it doesn’t replace the need for doctors or therapists.

Guest Post By Camille McDaniel, LPC, CPCS

I didn’t know exactly which topic I wanted to share with you initially. I wanted it to be relatable and at the same time hold your attention. Then it hit me. A voice said, “Just write what you see.” So I’m listening.

This is something I’ve helped so many people with over the years and this is a road that I travel regularly. Logically, you may know that you need boundaries with friends and family in order to keep your emotional and mental wellness intact. However, it can be difficult to put these boundaries into action when the time comes. Why? Why can’t we just do what we know we need to do and say what we need to say in order to maintain emotional and mental wellness? It has a lot to do with our perception of what it means to be assertive, how we want people to see us, and how we feel about ourselves.

Today, I want to give you three tips for creating the foundation of healthy boundaries. I also want to provide support for that part of your brain that may hold tight to the idea that it’s not worth the risk to try these three tips.

  1. Give yourself permission to be okay. Everyone is not interested in being healthy emotionally and mentally. Sometimes staying in what is familiar, even if it’s toxic, is more comfortable than trying to change for the better. When you decide to start creating a healthier space for yourself, some people may try to use manipulation as a way of getting you to just accept their poor behaviors, as if you’re the one who is wrong for trying to create boundaries for yourself. My advice? Don’t try too hard to make them okay with your changes. Let them own their own feelings. Boundaries are okay and YOU are okay for wanting to create a healthier life for yourself.
  1. Let people know how you feel when it happens. When you don’t advocate for yourself by speaking up, something happens. You sit and think about the event over the next few days and instead of actually saying what is wrong, you may let your body language speak for you or you may act like everything is fine and start resenting the person for “not knowing better” than to act that way. Letting the person know how they affected you will give that person an opportunity to learn more about you and understand how their actions are impacting you. What if they don’t care you ask? Well let me refer you back to the last part of #1: “Boundaries are okay and YOU are okay for wanting to create a healthier life for yourself.”
  1. Know when to let go. Sometimes you just have to love people from a distance. It’s not because you don’t care about them. It’s because you care about them and yourself enough to know when to stop toxic cycles from continuing in both of your lives. In time, that person may change or maybe they won’t. Either way, you must know when it’s time to put space between you and them.

Cam Headshot

Camille McDaniel, LPC, CPCS is the founder and director of Healing Psychotherapy Practices of Georgia, LLC in Kennesaw, Georgia.  She is also the creator of an online business called The Counselor Entrepreneur. You can find more about her work at http://www.CamilleMcDaniel.com.

A few years ago I was at the store looking for something unique to hang on the wall in my counseling office. Scouring shelves of artwork, I finally came across a piece with a butterfly near the top and the words “Patience in the present; Faith in the future; Joy in the doing.” I thought it was perfect for the type of work I do so I bought the piece and it has since been hanging in the office.

From time to time I’ll catch myself looking at the quote in between my sessions and wondering if I myself am having patience in the present, faith in the future and joy in the doing. The answer is sometimes, “no.” In a world where expectations are high and we have technology which we allow to keep us working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, having patience can be particularly difficult. We want to get things done. We want to achieve. We want what we want when we want it.

So, how can we teach ourselves to slow down and have patience when life is whipping by at lightening fast speeds? Here are three steps that can lead us back to the present, build our patience and help us to get more accomplished.

1. Breathe deeply!

How many times have you caught yourself feeling so rushed that you get dizzy or disoriented? It’s not uncommon for those who are impatient to subsequently experience heightened levels of anxiety and shortness of breath. Being on the go continuously, we can fail to notice that we’re not breathing appropriately. The number one skill I aim to teach my clients is to breathe! Deeply! Taking the time to slow down, breathe air deep into the lungs and out again, has been shown to lower the heart rate and can decrease levels of anxiety. I usually then ask them to try the following two steps…

2. Remind yourself that you are where you are for a reason.

There are so many times when I’m driving down the highway and I get behind someone driving well below the posted speed limit. I can’t always get around the vehicle and that’s when I may notice my impatience increasing. “Oh, come on!” I might exclaim as I’m forced to slow my vehicle. However, by shifting my thinking from “they are in my way” to “I’m right where I need to be in this moment,” I can focus on driving responsibly and having patience for the other person. I’ll also sometimes tell myself that I don’t know what is going on for the person driving the car slowly and that they may have good reason (new driver, difficulty seeing, car problems, a new baby on board, etc.). Once you remind yourself that you are where you are for a reason, then…

3. Bring your attention to only what you need to do right now, in this moment.

When we have demands coming at us from all directions, we can feel as if we’ll never catch up. This can lead to increased levels of anxiety and sleepless nights. If we pull our attention back to only what we need to do in the present, we can accomplish more and reduce our feeling of being overwhelmed. Something I ask clients who have trouble sleeping due to laying in bed thinking about all of the things they need to get done, is this: “What can you truly do about it at 11 p.m.?” I follow up by encouraging them to make a To-Do List during their day, mark off the things they complete, and when they lay down in bed at night, all they have to do is sleep. The rest of the list can wait until the next day.

The next time you notice yourself rushing around, unsure which end is up, try breathing deeply while reminding yourself that you are where you need to be in this moment. Then focus only on what you need to do right now. By practicing these three steps, you’re training yourself to become mindful and in turn can lower your level of impatience.

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