Angela Djoumbaye, MSW, LICSW angela.djoumbaye@affinitypsych.com

Angela works with adults that have experienced trauma, those navigating substance use, those with sleep challenges, and the military community. Her goal is to help you overcome and navigate life struggles by challenging you to see the struggles differently.

photo of a smiling woman standing outside with her eyes closed and arms up in the air

4 Ways Mindfulness Can Help Calm Anxiety

It’s been said that nearly 70 percent of all medical visits can be chalked up to anxiety. Of course, on its own, anxiety is a healthy, inevitable emotion. In some cases, it can save your life. However, for someone struggling with an anxiety disorder, it’s a very different story. Anxiety can make it difficult to handle daily functioning, and it causes physical symptoms, too.

Across the world, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition. The people dealing with this reality may be stressed in a general way, or it could be something more specific, e.g., social anxiety or particular phobias. But… what’s mindfulness got to do with it?

The Basics of Mindfulness

There is no shortage of definitions for this practice. However, since simplicity is at its core, let’s keep the wording simple, too. When you consciously pay attention to the present moment, you are being mindful. You become more aware and self-aware — connecting to yourself and to the world around you.

To assist with this process, practitioners of mindfulness use meditation, breathing exercises, and focused intentionality. In this day and age, you can add in the fundamental act of putting away your devices. The notifications, the scrolling, and the mindless consumption of content — all add up to create or exacerbate anxious thinking.

Conversely, having a steady mindfulness practice has been consistently found to result in a palpable reduction of anxiety symptoms. Let’s explore four reasons why that happens.

4 Ways Mindfulness Can Help Calm Anxiety

photo of a smiling woman standing outside with her eyes closed and arms up in the air1. No More Time Travel

So much of anxiety is rooted in the past or the future. We time travel back and forth to alternate between past regrets and future apprehension. Mindfulness, as mentioned above, is all about being present. Whatever method you use to enter this mindset, it keeps us focused on the only place and time we have: here and now.

2. Clearer Thinking

Anxiety is a very skilled liar. Its relentless approach can distort our thought patterns. Let’s say you text someone but they leave you on read. Anxiety tries to convince you that the other person dislikes you and finds you annoying. This false perception can set you off into an anxiety cycle. Mindfulness, on the other hand, guides you to recognize the difference between spiraling thoughts and rational thoughts.

3. A Better Understanding of What You Control

When you’re not bouncing back and forth between the past and future, you are better able to assess your present situation. You can differentiate between what is runaway worry and what is actually within your control. This distinction can be what saves you from defaulting to the worst-case scenario. You address what you can control and resist ruminating over what’s not under your control.

4. A Much More Mellow Nervous System

All the patterns, spirals, and cycles mentioned so far relate to our nervous system. Hence, getting to the root involves keeping ourselves from becoming nervous. Mindfulness helps us identify our triggers along with the signs that we’re getting edgy. This empowers our body to shut down the stress response and refrain from flooding our bloodstream with stress hormones like cortisol.

Good News

Becoming adept at mindfulness is not like learning to play the violin or speak Latin. We are naturally disposed to be mindful so it’s more about reawakening an inherent skill. When aiming to do that while also working to reduce anxiety, there is no better guide than an experienced therapist. This choice enables you to rediscover the skill of mindfulness while taking productive steps to decrease anxiety. It’s the best of both worlds and it all starts with a phone call. Reach out to learn more about anxiety therapy and how it can help you control your anxiety.

photo of a person holding a sparkler

5 Tips For Calming Anxiety About The New Year

According to society’s script, New Year’s Eve and Day are reserved for celebration, excitement, and optimism. Everyone knows this is a forced sentiment but no one knows it like the person with an anxiety disorder. You just got through the holidays and now, the New Year is looming. Visions of the future and change fill your head and that can easily transform into fear. Anxiety and uncertainty are not a good mix.

It’s okay if you feel overwhelmed about all this but you also must take active steps to calm your anxious mind. With that in mind, let’s explore some of your options.

5 Tips For Calming Anxiety About The New Year

1. Skip the Resolutions

Resolutions are a pressure-packed concept. No matter how you’re feeling, you’re expected to articulate clear, attainable goals. When in the throes of anxiety, this can feel like a weight on your shoulders. Do yourself a favor and skip this tradition. You can make plans and formulate aspirations any time of year. If the New Year hoopla has you feeling stressed, this is definitely not the ideal time to create more pressure. Setting small, short-term goals might be the best idea if you choose to indulge at all.

photo of a person holding a sparkler2. Reframe What Happiness Means

We live in a world where people perform happiness on social media. Understandably, this can create feelings of shame and inadequacy. To counter this negative trend, take some time to cultivate your own definition of happiness. Keep in mind that it’s not a destination. There is no finish line. Happiness is an evolving process and you have every right to re-imagine what it means to you as often as you like.

3. Identify Your Rumination Triggers

Anxiety disorders cause overthinking and rumination. A giant step toward quelling this reality involves identifying your triggers. What gets you feeling stuck? When is it hardest to find feelings of gratitude in your heart? It helps to keep a journal as you monitor cause and effect. Recognizing your triggers helps you avoid and/or address them — and thus, reduces anxiety.

4. Make Self-Care a Daily Reality

You may feel particularly drained when you’re anxious. That makes sense because anxiety can be exhausting. An excellent counterbalance is the resilience you build through daily self-care. Some crucial elements are:

  • Making healthy eating choices all day, every day
  • Getting yourself into a steady sleep pattern
  • Engaging in exercise and physical activity daily
  • Developing some stress management and relaxation techniques

In the winter, it is essential to factor in the increased likelihood of the weather bringing you down. So, bundle up and get outside while the sun is out. Do your exercise and meet your friends and take walks.

5. Accept Your Current Situation

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition on the planet. There’s nothing to feel ashamed about and you don’t have to hide it. In fact, it’ll go a long way toward recovery if you accept its temporary presence. Acceptance like this will motivate you to do your homework to learn more and this helps to shatter the stigma. However, if you feel anxiety is hampering your daily functioning, you must ask for help.

Therapy is a Proven Path — Any Time of Year

Anxiety is a proficient liar. It will tell you tall tales about how flawed you are and that you should be embarrassed to feel this way. Connecting with an experienced therapist positions you to start talking back to this inner critic. Your weekly sessions are a safe space to explore your emotions and discover new approaches to help you thrive again. Let’s connect and talk more about your options soon for anxiety therapy.

photo of a family gathered around a dinner table with food on their plates

Frustrated By Family During The Holidays? How To Not Lose Your Mind

Holiday traditions can be such a source of joy. From music to gifts to food and beyond, these annual rituals preserve a sense of connectedness within a family. Unfortunately, eggnog and carols are not the only things that travel from year to year. Complicated family drama and dynamics can turn any gathering into an emotional fiasco.

Of course, we cannot control the behavior of others. Hence, as long as we partake in the holiday festivities, the onus falls on us to not turn losing our minds into a new yearly tradition. But how can we celebrate without risking an all-out family feud?

Self-Care is Fully Under Your Control

Even if you love this time of year, the holidays are exhausting. If you’re like 99.9 percent of humans and you have some frustrating family members, the holidays become draining. Thus, a logical step is to ramp up your self-care. Take care of yourself, build your resilience, and give yourself the love that some relatives can’t offer.

Truth be told, you really should be practicing self-care all year long. But, if you haven’t yet made the commitment, the holiday season is an ideal time to start. It’s the ideal antidote to overindulgence. Whether it’s rich foods, alcoholic drinks, or not getting enough sleep, such behavior will only make it harder to navigate family drama.

Self-Care Basics:

  • Healthy eating choices
  • Daily exercise and physical activity
  • Regular sleep patterns
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Social time with trusted friends and family members

photo of a family gathered around a dinner table with food on their platesHow Else To Not Lose Your Mind With Family During The Holidays

Acknowledge and Accept

If you have family members you don’t like, accept it. Trying to rationalize your emotions and/or waiting for the other person to change will not change reality. You can’t fix them and trying to do so will only exacerbate the situation.

Set Boundaries

You have every right to let others know if there are conversation topics you will not indulge in. If your boundaries are not honored, you’re under no obligation to endure this kind of treatment. Feel free to remove yourself from the discussion. Take a walk if you need or, or if things have truly escalated, you have every right to call it a night.

Ask For Help

Almost certainly, you’re not the only one cringing when a particular relative enters the room. Connect with those who understand and commit together to have each other’s back. Even better, focus your time and energy on those who display mature social skills.

Guard Your Self-Worth

It’s important to maintain civility whenever someone politely disagrees with you. But if you find yourself subjected to abusive behavior, don’t respond in kind. Don’t take this toxicity personally. This kind of family member is probably seeking a reaction. Avoid sinking to their level. You can feel better for a few minutes by attacking back but you’ll regret it later.

Break With Tradition

If the holiday season inspires dread, it may be a clear sign that big changes are needed. Sure, some folks will dig in their heels but who needs more of the same in-fighting. Take the initiative to host a holiday event, control the guest list, and try new things to switch the vibe from contentious to joyous.

When Your Family is More Than You Can Handle

Family conflict can be overwhelming — certainly enough to drain us of holiday spirit. If this is the case for you, there is no reason to grin and bear it. Reach out to speak with us about anxiety therapy. The holidays can be a tough time of year and you deserve to get the help you need. Let’s connect soon.

photo of a stack of presents with holiday decor around it

How To Deal With Stress During The Holiday Season

Who’s ready for the holidays? On the surface, you might reply with excitement about gifts, parties, and traditions. Scratch a little deeper and you’re likely to find some stress. There might even be some angst and dread waiting to emerge. As with most everything in life, when it comes to the holidays, more than one thing can be true simultaneously. You can be excited and stressed at the same time.

End-of-the-year stressors can involve an extensive range of factors (see the list below for a sampling). Regardless, you can find the balance you need. It begins by planning in advance and being as prepared as possible.

What Can Cause Holiday Stress?

  • Financial Issues: You might be traveling to see family or this could be the year you’re expected to host. Then, of course, there’s all the gift-giving.
  • Family Drama: You may be related to them but that doesn’t automatically mean you get along.
  • The Number of People in Your Life: This could mean too many or too few. Either way, this time of year is when it hits home.
  • Time Management: The math doesn’t work. You have a limited amount of time to accomplish what feels like an unlimited number of goals.
  • Too much: Spending, eating, drinking, partying, and more — it’s a season of excess.

2 Big Ways To Deal With Stress During The Holiday Season

photo of a stack of presents with holiday decor around itSay Goodbye to Perfectionism

A giant step toward easing holiday-related stress is to be realistic. Don’t aim to make everyone happy, buy all the ideal gifts, and attend every party. A healthier goal is to enjoy the people in your life. Here are a few tips for making that happen:

  • Make a Plan: It’s inevitable that some plans will overlap. So, get out your calendar and sketch out a schedule you can live with. While you’re at it, create a holiday budget. What can you comfortably afford when it comes to gift-giving and other expenses?
  • Practice Saying No: Even if you were foolish enough to try, you cannot make everyone happy. Thus, make choices that prioritize the people who mean the most to you — and that includes yourself!
  • Sometimes, Silence is Best: When that opinionated uncle goes into his act, it is not your job to set the record straight. Keep the peace and be comfortable walking away without getting involved.

Practice Self-Care

Most likely, you will be more extended during this time of year. Hence, you must take active steps to create a counterbalance, e.g.

  • Stay on Track: The holiday season is not an excuse to slip out of your healthy sleeping, eating, and exercise routines. Be merry without the eating and drinking part. You are under no obligation to conform to unhealthy expectations.
  • Get Outdoors: Winter weather can be harsh but grab every opportunity you can to get some sunlight and fresh air. Studies show that this choice is a proven path toward calming nerves, feeling more focused, and experiencing enhanced mental energy.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Indoors or outdoors, your mind and body will thank you for staying mindful. Center yourself in the present moment by meditating, doing breathing exercises, listening to mellow music, or indulging in aromatherapy.

Talk About What You’re Feeling

Maybe this is an annual problem or maybe this year just feels extra difficult. Whatever the cause, if the holiday season is taking you to a bad mental place, you’re not alone. Connecting with a therapist is a time-proven choice in situations like this. Your weekly anxiety or depression therapy sessions can provide you an outlet and a new perspective. I invite you to reach out to talk soon so you can reclaim your joy at this time of year.

photo of a woman sitting at a window seat with her head resting in her hands

4 Tips To Manage Your Anxiety As A Highly Sensitive Person

High anxiety is a challenge. If you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP), things get even trickier. In fact, it can become a cycle of sorts. At first, you may not recognize the presence of anxiety. After all, an HSP typically feels symptoms that can mirror an anxiety disorder. An HSP can also struggle with guilt and shame — feeling as if there’s something “wrong” with them. Therefore, they don’t ask for help and this can allow the anxiety to escalate.

As a result, it becomes crucial that you challenge beliefs that you’re “too sensitive” or “overreacting.” From there, it can be much easier to both identify and address feelings of high anxiety.

What Is A Highly Sensitive Person?

Everyday life is filled with sensory input — sounds, sights, and emotions. If you frequently find this input to be overwhelming, you might be an HSP. At least one out of every five people is highly sensitive and this is not something to fear. Sure, being overstimulated is not fun. But characteristics of an HSP also include:

  • Rich inner life
  • High levels of empathy and compassion
  • Very attentive and aware
  • Able to pick up non-verbal cues and “read the room”
  • Creative, intuitive, and resourceful

The trick is learning how to manage the hyper-sensitivity to external stimuli. Left unchecked, it can be the cause of chronic stress and thus, puts you at risk for an anxiety disorder. Fortunately, once you better understand the source of your stress, there are proven steps you can take to alleviate the anxious thoughts.

4 Tips To Manage Your Anxiety As A Highly Sensitive Person

1. Self-Education

Become an expert on what it means to be an HSP. The more you know, the less you will blame yourself and the more you can do to self-soothe. A great starting point involves keeping a journal. Monitor your moods, triggers, reactions, and coping mechanisms. When you can recognize what situations are stressful and how to best navigate them, you’ve taken away more than half of anxiety’s power.

photo of a woman sitting at a window seat with her head resting in her hands2. Practice Mindfulness

When an HSP feels under assault, things can spiral quickly. Your thoughts begin to race and tend to be of a negative variety. Mindfulness — the practice of staying rooted in the present moment — frees us to identify these thoughts as temporary signs of high anxiety. Hence, they are almost certainly untrue.

3. Practice Stress Management

Every single person reading this would benefit from having self-care rituals. The HSPs reading this would take a giant step toward reducing anxiety by committing to self-care, e.g.

  • Keeping regular sleep patterns
  • Meditation
  • Making healthy eating choices
  • Journaling
  • Grounding practices
  • Breathing exercises
  • Daily physical activity

Self-care reminds you to prioritize your well-being. It also fortifies you by building resilience which is a valuable weapon against anxiety.

4. Help Others

At the moment anxiety strikes, you might not be able to concentrate on anything except the increasing levels of stimulation. But once you’ve accepted that this is something you want to control, you can make lifestyle choices that contribute to that goal. For example, helping others deflects attention from your feelings to the needs of those around you. Look not volunteer work. Even better, make it a life choice to practice acts of kindness on a daily basis. It’s a win-win option.

You Do Not Have To Struggle Alone

Being an HSP can be tough at times. Struggling with anxiety is never easy. If both issues are present at the same time, it only makes sense that you’d opt to speak with a professional. It’s the ideal path toward better understanding and managing the convergence of circumstances. We’d love to talk with you about it soon through anxiety therapy.

Sam Swafford, MS, LPCC sam.swafford@affinitypsych.com

Sam is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor who works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and those who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. They specialize in trauma work and those with dissociative abilities. Sam aims to create a safe and comfortable space for all.

Jonathan Guzman, MA, LPCC jonathan.guzman@affinitypsych.com

Jonathan Guzman is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor who specializes in individual, family, and couples counseling. He works with adolescents and adults to explore meaning, cultivate purpose, and envision ways through all of life’s challenges. He believes in person-centered care with a focus on healing and becoming our best selves.

teen girl looking at her phone while in a coffee shop

Adulting Anxiety Is Real: 4 Tips To Ease These Worries

Kids of all ages can be heard longing to be an adult. When that time arrives, they’ll have more freedom. Of course, with that freedom comes plenty more responsibilities and expectations. After years of waiting to turn 18, young people are faced with an increasing number of challenges. In fact, a 2021 study found over 70 percent of Americans believe today’s young adults have it much harder than the past few generations.

You see, your 18th or 21st birthday does not automatically mean you’re ready to fully start adulting. In some ways, the transition can feel natural. However, the overall process requires support, patience, and commitment.

Why is Adulting Anxiety So Common?

Social norms in the U.S. dictate that kids flip a switch when they “officially” become adults. Here are just some of the anxiety-causing factors that can prevent such a rapid transformation:

  • There are so many adulting basics to learn, e.g. hygiene, laundry, doing taxes, writing a resume, finding a job, paying bills, pursuing a degree, and so much more
  • Forming adult connections with friends, co-workers, bosses, teachers, neighbors, and romantic partners
  • Pressure to succeed
  • Competing with peers
  • Loneliness from not living with your family anymore
  • Navigating a heavily divided society

Adulting anxiety is real. You’re not alone and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. And fortunately, there are fundamental personal steps you can take to ease the transition.

4 Tips To Ease Adulting Anxiety

1. Resist the Temptation to Lose Faith

Anxiety is a persistent liar. It will bombard you with untruths designed to hold you back. Sure, when entering an entirely new phase of your life, you will be expected to take on new challenges. With those new challenges, you will have to deal with some setbacks along the way. Anxiety may tell you that avoidance is the safest choice.

Productive adulting requires you to tolerate some discomfort. This is how you learn new skills. It’s also how you discover what you do and don’t like, and what you’re good at. When adulting challenges arrive, view them as part of a process and not a final judgment on yourself. Don’t lose faith.

2. Follow Your Heart

Very well-meaning people may aggressively push you toward choices they deem to be “practical.” There’s value in hearing them out but nothing can replace listening to your passion. What lights you up. If you don’t yet know what drives you, be patient. Try lots of things and be extra cautious to not settle into a life that you didn’t choose.

teen girl looking at her phone while in a coffee shop3. Practice Self-Care

For any form of anxiety, self-care can serve as a bulwark. Fortify yourself against stress by focusing on elements like:

  • Healthy eating choices
  • Regular sleep patterns
  • Daily exercise
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Practicing self-compassion

To sustain such a regimen, it can be quite helpful to keep a diary journal. Monitor your emotions, triggers, challenges, and solutions. Such a journal will come in mighty handy during your therapy sessions (see below).

4. Take Stock of Your Resources

Whether you are working or attending school, living at home, or living on your own, you have more resources than you might imagine. Anxiety can truly thrive when you feel alone and helpless. Create a support system and never hesitate to ask for help.

Speaking of Resources…

Therapy is a powerful option for this scenario. Your weekly sessions can serve as both a safe space and a workshop. Alongside a skilled guide, you are well-positioned to identify counterproductive patterns while exploring new approaches along the way. If adulting anxiety has you feeling overwhelmed, we urge you to reach out to talk. Let’s get you started with a free and confidential consultation soon for anxiety therapy.

african american woman smiling at something off camera

How To Let Go Of The Idea Of Being “Perfect”

There is a very thin line between striving to be your best and succumbing to perfectionism. Having even one toe over that line can be enough to cause frustration and high anxiety. You’ll live in fear of making a mistake or looking foolish in front of others. As a result, you may stop trying to do anything unless you’re certain you will excel at it. This is a life of limitations and loss.

Yes, life can be pressure-packed and we should aim for success. But each and every one of us has the right to define what “success” means to us. Step one is to reject perfectionism.

Self-Love is the Entry Point

Perfectionism is not a self-loving choice. It is a daily reminder that you’re never good enough. By not accepting yourself, you’re heading down a road to self-hatred. Breaking news: Hating yourself is not a productive step toward acceptance. Thus, with that in mind, I invite you to peruse the suggestions below and you move to liberate yourself from the perfectionist trap.

How To Let Go Of The Idea Of Being “Perfect”

Perfection is a Counterproductive Myth

It does not exist. It cannot be achieved. What every human can attain, however, is their own personal best version of imperfection. We choose to be thankful for this because if everyone could be perfect, the world would be a monotonous and un-motivating place.

Take Breaks From Social Media

Almost everyone presents a carefully curated image of themselves online. Consuming this content all day, every day is enough to shatter anyone’s self-esteem. More specifically, you can start believing that you can’t post anything — thoughts, photos, etc. — unless it is (wait for it) perfect. So, take tech breaks as often as possible to detox your mind.

Try Something New

Don’t enter into this action with a success-failure state of mind. Do it for the sake and the joy of trying something new. You will benefit in the process because shying away from new tasks leads to stagnation.

african american woman smiling at something off cameraPractice Saying No to Others

It’s fine to have times when you prioritize yourself. Part of being “perfect” might be an image of yourself where you’re always there for others. This is a noble goal but not one that will serve you without some balance. Sometimes, you need to make a choice that’s designed to make you happy. This will decrease your stress levels and build your self-reliance while helping others release their “perfect” image of you.

Let Go Of Black-and-White Thinking

Instead of viewing every endeavor as a zero-sum situation, you can break down the effort into parts. Let’s say you have a project at work. You can find satisfaction and fulfillment in the process by breaking it into several parts. All your work doesn’t have to be reduced to a single final grade (read imperfect). Rather, you can take pride in each step along the way.

Talk Back to Your Inner Critic

Perfectionism has a soundtrack. It’s that internal monologue that points out every tiny flaw and tells you you’re not good enough. Guess what? You can snap back at that anxious voice and fact-check its claims. Talk to yourself with the same compassion you’d aim at your best friend. Choose encouragement and patience. Celebrate small victories and find the lessons when things turn out less than ideal. Let positivity have the final say.

Has Perfectionism Gotten Too Deeply Embedded?

A tricky aspect of perfectionism is that it can try talking you out of asking for support. Therefore, I invite you to reach out and talk. Let’s connect in the name of exploring your situation and we can help.  Reach out to learn more about anxiety therapy.