Anxiety or Excitement: You Decide

Interesting article in the New York Times today about the whether you perceive an elevated heart rate as anxiety or excitement; and how this perception can affect your ability to successfully negotiate:

anxiety or excitement, you decided

photo courtesy of the New York Times

A study from MIT recently showed that when confident people enter a negotiation, they perform better if they have an elevated heart rate.  So if you are looking forward to asking for that raise from your boss, get on a treadmill, get her on the phone, and ask.  You are more likely to achieve success than if you talked with her while seated at your desk.

What about people who are not confident about their ability to negotiate?  If you are nervous and doubt your abilities, you may label that elevated heart rate while on the treadmill as anxiety.  If you label physical response from exercising (pounding heart, shortness of breath, & sweating) as anxiety, you will perform worse than if you negotiated while resting.  If, however, you can say to yourself, “I always feel this way when I exercise”, “this is a natural, expected response”, and “I am excited to be asking for a raise”, you will improve your ability to engage in negotiations. 

Alison Wood Brooks, Assistant Professor of Business Administration and a scholar at the Harvard Business School, recommends:

“Get on the treadmill, get your heart racing and once it’s racing, 
appraise the feeling as excitement — tell yourself ‘I am excited, not anxious,’ ” 
she said. “And then go forth and prosper.”

Source:New York Times Article

Controlling Emotions: Is it possible?

This discussion about controlling emotions compares two different women’s reactions to the same event.


First Woman’s Reaction:  Take a Picture

controlling emotions

From Hannah Price’s collection, City of Brotherly Love

When photographer Hannah Price moved from Colorado to Philadelphia, she began to experience something new to her – catcalls from men on the street. After several catcalling episodes, she decided to take action.  She would either snap a photo of the man immediately; or she would talk with him about the incident, and then ask if she could make his portrait. Ms Price created a project called “City of Brotherly Love” from these photographs.

Ms Price states her project is not meant to be an aggressive rebuttal to the individuals in the photos. It is, she states, “just a way of trying to understand it. It was way for me to just deal with it on another level besides avoiding it. Sometimes it’s easier to … just respond….. you just start talking to people, you find out more about them than your initial [impression].”

To see the complete 17-photo collection, see the NPR blog post of Code Switch by Kat Chow.

Second Woman’s Reaction:  Send a Message

controlling emotions

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s original posters on Tompkins Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Brooklyn artist Tatiana Fazlalizadeh’s response to her experiences in Brooklyn is very different from Ms. Price’s response with the photography project. She created posters with direct negative messages to the catcallers and posted them around her neighborhood.  Ms Fazlalizadeh states she can’t walk down her street without getting catcalled or harassed. “It happens almost daily to me where I get frustrated or annoyed or upset by something that someone has said to me or done to me outside on the street.”

Ms Fazlalizadeh used her posters to try and rally the neighborhood around her efforts to stop the cat-calling.  She hopes that by calling attention to the negative effects of this behavior, the men will change.

controlling emotionscontrolling emotions

Why the Difference?

Why does one woman feel okay to take photos and even have a conversation about the experience, and another woman feel anger and frustration?  Our individual responses to catcalls are a result of our thoughts about the experience. If we think: “wow, someone thinks I’m cute.”, “I still have it”, or “this is going to be a good day”, our response may be:  happiness, a big smile, a skip in our step, better posture.

If we think:  “that reminds me of my abusive former boyfriend”, “will he try to come after me?”, “they must think I am promiscuous”, our response may be:  fear, increased heart rate, hunched posture, a frown, anger.

I am not expressing approval of the long-standing phenomenon of men yelling things to women in public places.  My writing about this behavior is focused on the difference in the two responses, not a right or a wrong response.  I believe this is a perfect example of the Cognitive Model theory in action.  The theory is:
Our THOUGHTS about a SITUATION create our REACTIONS, which are EMOTIONAL and PHYSICAL.   In Cognitive Therapy, we focus on our THOUGHTS.  A few of the questions we may ask in therapy about our THOUGHTS are:
What are they? Are they true? How much do we believe them? How do we change them?  
Through training and practice, you can learn to control or change your thoughts that create negative reactions.  This type of training has been shown through extensive scientific testing to be an affective way to treat depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and other mental health challenges.  My opinion on catcalling is that, for so many women, the experience generates extremely negative feelings; therefore, I do not like the behavior.  For further information and discussions on ending street harassment see Hollaback!.
Stephen Nessen : Reporter, WNYC, Not Taking it Anymore: One Woman Talks Back to Street Harassers, Friday, April 19, 2013

Kat Chow, A Photographer Turns Her Lens On Men Who Catcall, October 17, 2013.


Postpartum Depression: Tragic Consequences

Did Miriam Carey have Postpartum depression?

postpartum depression

From CBS News: Emergency personal help an injured person after a shooting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. Police say the U.S. Capitol has been put on a security lockdown amid reports of possible shots fired outside the building. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) The small photo comes from what is believed to be the Facebook page of Miriam Carey, who according to multiple police sources, allegedly led authorities on a car chase near the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 3, 2013. / FACEBOOK / EVAN VUCCI/AP/FACEBOOK

We may never know whether Ms. Carey was suffering from postpartum depression when she drove from her home in Connecticut with her 1-year old daughter to Washington, DC., where she lost her life after being shot by police.  At approximately 2:00 in the afternoon on Thursday, October 3, Ms. Carey rammed her car into a temporary barrier in front of the White House, then lead officers on a chase down Pennsylvania Avenue.  Police cars surrounded Ms Carey’s car at Garfield Circle, just south of the Capitol.  Ms. Carey then rammed a Secret Service car (pictured below) in an attempt to escape.

postpartum depression

From USA Today

At this point, officers began to fire shots at Ms Carey’s car.  She then drove to Constitution Avenue before eventually stopping in the 100 block of Maryland Avenue NE, near the Hart Senate Office Building.  She fled from her car on foot and was shot and killed.  Her daughter, who had been in the backseat, was unharmed.
Ms. Carey’s mother, Idella Carey, stated her daughter had been suffering from postpartum depression and had been hospitalized once for the condition.  Other relatives stated Ms Carey believed her apartment was under surveillance and that she was being stalked by President Obama.  Amy Carey-Jones, a sister, spoke to Ms. Carey about a week ago and believed her sister was fine.
Postpartum depression can be difficult to diagnose and monitor.  It is possible Ms. Carey had a severe form of the disease, Postpartum Psychosis (PPP), a rare condition that affects only 1 or 2 women in 1000.  PPP can suddenly come out of nowhere and present any time up to one year after the birth of a baby.  Sufferers and their caregivers are usually totally unprepared with how to cope with the symptoms of this disease.
postpartum depression
Ms. Storrs recommends that family members and friends of a new mother immediately notify a healthcare professional or local emergency department if she suddenly starts showing any of the following signs:
• Acting very energetic or agitated
• Being unable to get out of bed
• Showing unusual or nonsensical behavior
• Acting fearful or paranoid
• Believing bizarre ideas, such as thinking that the baby is the devil

postpartum depression

printed with permission from deamstime

One of the most difficult aspects of PPP is that the new mother does not believe she is ill, and she will often be very resistant to treatment.   Additionally, the worldwide publicity surrounding some especially gruesome PPP outcomes (Andrea Yates drowning her 5 children in 1991) has added to the negative stigma associated with any postpartum mental illness.  Because there is so much misinformation, many new mothers with even slight symptoms can become scared and refuse to seek help.
The vast majority of women who do develop this rare illness are never a threat to themselves or their children.  Early treatment from a qualified mental health professional can have a significant impact on alleviating the symptoms and speeding the treatment of this disease.


Decisions and Emotions

decisions and emotionsChipotle’s Scarecrow video and game app is an effort to influence your decisions and emotions.  If you haven’t seen the video, you can view it here:

The video went viral with almost 6 million views on youtube and received wide critical acclaim for the video production quality.

The Week’s Peter Weber calls it “the most beautiful, haunting infomercial you’ll ever see.”  Read Peter Weber’s Review to see the rest of his opinions on the advertisement.
On the other hand, Funny or Die has produced a scathing video parody of  Scarecrow.  You can watch that video along with commentary by Scott Meslow here:

Critics of the Scarecrow campaign believe Chipotle is misleading consumers by displaying an inaccurate view of current factory farming practices.  Others believe Chipotle is attempting to make changes to current practices by increasing awareness.  Chipotle chief marketing officer Mark Crumpacker states in a USA Today article, “We’re trying to educate people about where their food comes from.”

Human beings make decisions based on emotions.  Chipotle’s Scarecrow is a classic attempt at generating an emotional response in individuals that will lead to buying decisions that are favorable to Chipotle.  The rebuttal videos and commentaries are attempting to generate emotional responses that will lead to buying decision that are unfavorable to Chipotle.

Where do you stand?  Is Scarecrow unethical, or is it exactly the same as any other type of marketing we are exposed to everyday?

Ideas for Healthy Parenting: Emotional Boundaries

Mari Levy, MA, MFTi, writes in the blog on setting healthy emotional boundaries with your children.


She states:

healthy parenting means you love and accept them for who they are, set reasonable expectations and consequences for unacceptable behavior, and in other ways provide a “stable bow” from which your child (the arrow) flies. Accepting your child as a whole, unique person with his or her own path to follow is part of the bittersweet job of parenthood.
Ms. Levy gives additional reasonable, proactive advice for parents in her article.  The full blog post is here.

Holly Scott, MBA, MS, LPC sees clients at Uptown Dallas Counseling. Holly is trained in the specialty of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and holds the position of Diplomate in the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. Holly works with clients to help them overcome challenges in their daily lives that may be preventing them from achieving happiness. She helps clients with stress management, depression, parenting, marriage counseling, and other mental health concerns. If you are looking for a counselor or therapist, explore this website to see if Holly may be able to help you. 

To make an appointment for therapy or counseling with Holly at her Uptown Dallas Counseling, you have the option of using the Online Patient Portal to register and schedule. 

Your Brain Changes After "Talk Therapy"

colorful brain
As a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, I am excited by any new research that demonstrates a biological brian change after patients undergo “talk therapy”.  A group of scientists just published a study showing:
  • biological brain changes after cognitive behavioral therapy
  • the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy can be studied empirically
The New York Times published an article by Eric R. Kandel on September 6, 2013 describing the biological basis of mental disorders.  He writes about scientists at Emory University who performed a study on depressed individuals looking for evidence of biological changes after psychotherapy and after anti-depressant medications.  They used brian scans before and after treatment to identify biological brain changes.  During this study, the scientists were able to accurately predict whether patients would respond to psychotherapy or medications for the treatment of their depression.
Dr. Kandel summarizes the significance of the study as:
First, the neural circuits disturbed by psychiatric disorders are likely to be very complex.
Second, we can identify specific, measurable markers of a mental disorder, and those biomarkers can predict the outcome of two different treatments: psychotherapy and medication.
Third, psychotherapy is a biological treatment, a brain therapy. It produces lasting, detectable physical changes in our brain, much as learning does.
And fourth, the effects of psychotherapy can be studied empirically. Aaron Beck, who pioneered the use of cognitive behavioral therapy, long insisted that psychotherapy has an empirical basis, that it is a science.
Other forms of psychotherapy have been slower to move in this direction, in part because a number of psychotherapists believed that human behavior is too difficult to study in scientific terms.  The entire article is posted on the New York Times website here.
Eric R. Kandel, a professor at the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia, a senior investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, is the author of “The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind and Brain, From Vienna 1900 to the Present.”

Your Happiness

408px-Happy_man_in_a_rainy_dayI have become a big fan of Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project, and her website. According to Ms Rubin, we become unhappy “when we feel depleted and drained, and when we have no time or energy devoted to the things that give us pleasure.”  Treating ourselves throughout the day with small pleasures is an important way to avoid those feeling of depletion and to prevent becoming unhappy.  

Ms Rubin suggests creating a list of treats and pleasures that have a very low cost in time, energy, or money. Ms Rubin’s readers have shared a fun and varied list of their treats and pleasures.  Some of my favorites are listed here:

Small Treats and Pleasures

taking the pup to the park
dance party in my office
getting a hot chocolate
reading a chapter of my book in bed
Photo courtesy of squacco

Photo courtesy of squacco

looking at a family photo album
taking an extra long shower
stretching or yoga
Belting along to the Dixie Chicks, Patty Loveless or Lyle Lovett while driving
My Nana’s coffee cake
Iced Dunkin’ Donuts coffee with skim milk and sugar
Really good cheese
Doing the NYT Sunday acrostic
Re-reading my favorite children’s books (esp. the “Shoes” and Betsy-Tacy books)
Calling my mom
Walking a different way to work or coming home, especially through a park
Getting into bed when it’s just been made up with crisp fresh sheets
Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc
Fresh strawberries, raspberries or peaches when they’re in season.  And tomatoes!
Having breakfast from a wooden tray with a linen napkin on it
A gardenia beside the bed.
Mrs. Meyers’ Honeysuckle hand soap.
washing my hands with Molton Brown hand soap
Make home made soup
Lubricating eye drops – make my eyes feel great!
Planting ferns
Give myself a foot massage
Read a travel guide
Petting a dog I meet in the street
Lighting a candle
A face mask, especially a minty one
A hot shower
Writing lists
Making my own bread, kneading is soothin
Watching foreign movies
Stare at trees stretching to reach the sky
Buy a new color of lipstick
I encourage you to make your own list.  Try to work one or two of these into your day.  Enjoy.

How to YOU choose your therapist?

women smilingOnce you make the decision to pursue counseling, you must then decide WHICH therapist to call.  Many people ask friends or family members for recommendations, others search the internet, and still others use the old-fashioned yellow pages.  No matter how you choose, that first session is your opportunity to see if you have found a therapist who will meet your needs.

Dr. John Grohol, CEO of PsychCentral, writes 
The four most important attributes of a good therapist are:
1. A good therapist is positive and empathetic.
2. A good therapist is professional, courteous, and respectful.
3. A good therapist recognizes her strengths and limitations.
4. A good therapist is genuine.

As you meet and talk with your therapist the first time, look for these characteristics. Here are some suggestions of questions you could ask as you are determining if your therapist has the four key criteria listed above:

  1. How are you licensed? What are your training credentials? Do you belong to any professional groups?
  2. How would you describe your treatment style? Many different treatment styles exist. Different approaches may be more or less appropriate for you depending on your situation and needs.
  3. What kind of evaluation process do you use to recommend a treatment plan?
  4. What are the measurable criteria you use to assess how well treatment is working? Can you give me a few examples?
  5. Do you use published clinical practice guidelines to guide your treatment planning? How?
  6. What psychotherapeutic approaches and tools do you use?
  7. How do you decide which approach is best for the patient? Do you ever use more than one approach? When?
  8. How will you work with other medical providers, such as psychiatrist, who may also provide care?
  9. How often will we meet?  How long will treatment last?  How do I know when treatment is complete?

Think about how well you will be able to relate to the therapist as she answers these questions.  You want to achieve the best possible match in order to have the greatest chance of meeting your goals.

If you would like to ask me any of the above questions, or learn more about my practice.  Please contact me.