10 Signs You Are Suffering From Burnout

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Stress Burnout

In today’s fast-paced world, stress has become an all-too-familiar companion in our lives. When stress becomes chronic and overwhelming, it can lead to burnout—a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. Recognizing the signs of stress burnout is crucial for maintaining our well-being and preventing its detrimental consequences. In this blog, we will explore the key indicators of stress burnout and offer insights into how we can regain balance and vitality.

1. Physical Exhaustion

One of the primary signs of stress burnout is a profound sense of physical exhaustion that persists even after adequate rest. The body’s constant exposure to stress hormones can disrupt sleep patterns, leaving individuals feeling fatigued and drained throughout the day. Frequent headaches, muscle tension, and unexplained aches may also manifest as physical manifestations of burnout.

2. Emotional Detachment

Chronic stress can lead to emotional detachment, characterized by a feeling of emotional numbness or a lack of enthusiasm for activities once enjoyed. Individuals experiencing burnout may find it challenging to connect with others on an emotional level, leading to a sense of isolation and loneliness.

3. Decreased Productivity and Motivation

Stress burnout can take a toll on our cognitive abilities, impairing our focus, memory, and decision-making skills. As a result, productivity at work or in daily tasks may decline, and individuals may find it challenging to maintain their previous levels of motivation.

4. Persistent Negativity and Cynicism

Prolonged exposure to stress can foster a negative outlook on life and the world around us. Those experiencing burnout may become increasingly cynical, finding it hard to see the positive aspects of situations or people. This negative mindset can further perpetuate the cycle of stress and burnout.

5. Withdrawal from Social Interactions

A common sign of stress burnout is withdrawing from social interactions and avoiding gatherings or activities that were once enjoyable. Social isolation can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and exacerbate emotional exhaustion.

6. Changes in Appetite and Sleep Patterns

Stress burnout often disrupts our typical routines, leading to changes in appetite and sleep patterns. Some individuals may experience an increase in emotional eating, leading to weight fluctuations, while others may encounter sleep disturbances like insomnia or oversleeping.

7. Reduced Sense of Accomplishment

As burnout progresses, individuals may start feeling ineffective and experience a reduced sense of accomplishment. Even small tasks may seem insurmountable, contributing to a cycle of self-doubt and further stress.

8. Increased Irritability and Impatience

Stress burnout can manifest as heightened irritability and impatience, causing individuals to become more easily frustrated with themselves and others. These emotional outbursts can strain relationships and exacerbate the feelings of detachment.

9. Neglecting Self-Care

When overwhelmed by stress, self-care activities like exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones may take a back seat. Neglecting self-care further depletes emotional reserves and hampers the ability to cope with stress effectively.

10. Weakened Immune System

Prolonged stress can suppress the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to frequent illnesses and infections. Frequent colds or infections may be indicative of chronic stress taking a toll on the body’s defense mechanisms.


Stress burnout is a pervasive issue that affects countless individuals worldwide, but it is essential to recognize the warning signs before it takes a severe toll on our well-being. Identifying the signs of stress burnout empowers us to take proactive measures to replenish our physical, emotional, and mental health. Engaging in self-care practices, seeking support from loved ones or professionals, and setting realistic boundaries are crucial steps in breaking the cycle of stress burnout and restoring balance to our lives. If you are experiencing any of the signs mentioned above contact us today to speak with our Care-Coordinator, who can match you with one of our expert clinicians. Remember, prioritizing our well-being is not a luxury but a necessity for leading a fulfilling and sustainable life.


Diagnosing ADHD in Adults

ADHD isn’t just a problem for children. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), one of the most common neuropsychiatric disorders of childhood and adolescence, often persists into adulthood. Several studies have found that most adults diagnosed with ADHD as children still meet the criteria for the disorder. Recent research has shown that many adults who have ADHD did not have the condition as children. In adulthood, ADHD is associated with significant occupational, academic, and social functioning impairments.

The symptoms of ADHD go beyond simply not paying attention. In particular, it can make it difficult to plan, organize, and focus on daily tasks. It is also possible for ADHD to have a negative effect on your relationships. Furthermore, people with ADHD can experience difficulties with alcohol, substances, and drugs, as well as ongoing emotional and lifestyle problems.

The good news is that ADHD can be managed. You can manage adult ADHD by learning ways to turn challenges into strengths by receiving education and support. Many people find great relief in getting a diagnosis and understanding that there is a reason for their difficulties.

Symptoms of ADHD

A person with ADHD may:

  • Have mood swings that are unpredictable
  • Work carelessly and make mistakes
  • Have a difficult time maintaining attention
  • Be unable to listen when directly addressed
  • Fail to follow instructions or complete tasks
  • Have trouble organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoid prolonged mental effort at work
  • Often lose keys, paperwork, and task-related items
  • Be distracted easily by other stimuli
  • Be forgetful in daily activities
  • Squirm in their seats or fidget with their hands or feet
  • Be continually on the go
  • Become impatient
  • Say things without thinking
  • Butt into conversations or other activities
  • Have sleep difficulties

Causes of ADHD

As of now, it is unclear exactly what causes ADHD. Heredity and genetics may play a large role in who develops ADHD. Scientists are still determining whether certain genes, especially those linked to dopamine, play a role in ADHD development. It has also been suggested that exposure to certain chemicals may increase a child’s risk of ADHD.

ADHD is not caused by bad parenting, too much sugar, or too many video games. This disorder is based on a biological process in the brain. According to brain imaging studies and other research, the brains of individuals with ADHD show many physiological differences.

Risks of Untreated ADHD in Adults

As mentioned above, untreated ADHD is connected to impairments in key living areas, such as work and school, relationships, and quality of life. A few risks of untreated ADHD in adults include:

  • Low self-esteem: Adults with ADHD often experience negative attitudes due to their difficulties functioning. According to studies, the effects of ADHD on self-esteem in adulthood can be improved with treatment.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety disorders affect about 50% of adults with ADHD. It is possible to improve ADHD and anxiety symptoms with medications and psychotherapy.
  • Relationship issues: Studies indicate that adults with ADHD have poor emotional regulation (a lack of ability to manage emotions). Untreated ADHD makes it difficult to manage emotions, frustration, impatience, and anger. Relationships are negatively impacted by emotional reactivity. Medication and therapy can help treat ADHD and improve communication and relationship skills.
  • Job stress: Adults with ADHD face a variety of workplace challenges, including poor communication skills, distractibility, procrastination, and managing challenging projects. It is possible to gain skills to manage ADHD in the workplace through psychotherapy. Additionally, finding a career path that plays to ADHD’s strengths, such as those in fast-paced environments, is important.
  • Substance use: Studies have shown that people with ADHD are three times more likely to be nicotine dependent. People with ADHD were 50% more likely to develop a drug or alcohol use disorder. Substance abuse can be reduced with ADHD medication treatment.

Diagnosis of ADHD

An accurate diagnosis of ADHD is crucial. ADHD symptoms can be similar to anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses. There is no biological test to see whether or not a person has ADHD. A diagnosis is currently made by subjectively rating a person’s behavior at home, work, or school. The American Psychiatric Association provides clinical guidelines for diagnosing ADHD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). It is widely accepted that these guidelines are used in both research and clinical practice. During an evaluation, one of our SF Stress clinicians will attempt to determine whether these symptoms currently apply to the adult and if they have been present since childhood. Adults should have at least five of the symptoms to make a diagnosis. Symptoms may change over time, so adults may present differently than children. Diagnosis may also include:

  • Ruling out other psychological conditions with similar symptoms
  • Making sure that alcohol or drug abuse is not the cause of the symptoms
  • Assessing the person’s current lifestyle and behavior
  • Seeing if the person showed ADHD symptoms as a child
  • Interviewing their partner, family, friends, and others about the person’s behavior

Treatment Options for ADHD in Adults

The good news is that all types of ADHD in adults can be managed once they have been diagnosed. When treating ADHD symptoms in adults, a combination of the following methods is ideal:

  • Education – assisting the person in understanding and managing their condition
  • Lifestyle improvement – taking up regular exercise, cutting back on drugs and alcohol, and quitting smoking
  • Medication – The use of stimulants and non-stimulants is common
  • Psychotherapy – for problems with self-esteem or substance abuse
  • Therapy – behavioral and cognitive behavior therapy to teach anger management, organization, and social skills according to the individual’s needs.
  • Vocational counseling – increasing a person’s chance of success and satisfaction in the workplace
  • Family therapy – support is needed for the whole family when one member has ADHD
  • Getting involved in a support group.

The Good News

While ADHD can affect people in different ways, once you understand why it is you have been struggling, you can start to explore the many different approaches to managing it and living with ADHD successfully. For adults who discover late in life that they have ADHD, it can be both a source of relief and sadness as they reflect on how different their lives might have been if they had known earlier. Criticizing yourself or others and blaming others for not understanding your struggle won’t help. What matters is what you know now. Learn how to take control of your ADHD and become responsible for managing it so that you can get back to living, working, and pursuing your interests and goals.

Living with ADHD can be difficult, but the good news is that when you implement these strategies and lifestyle changes, you will start to notice how much better you are feeling, and you will grow in confidence about your ability to manage your day-to-day life. A positive solution-focused attitude is something that you learn – and it takes time. Be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself, cultivate a sense of humor, and appreciate the people and things in your life that mean something to you. If you think you might have ADHD schedule your free consultation with one of our highly-trained therapists today.  We offer both in-person and virtual ADHD evaluations.

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What Can Therapy Do? Help you accept yourself, others, and the world.

“I’m my own worst critic.”

The negativity bias in our brains makes it easy to see our own faults and difficult to value aspects of ourselves that others admire.  Maybe the way that familiarity breeds contempt starts with the way we see ourselves?  And yet it feels true to say that loving yourself is the key to loving others.  Perhaps accepting yourself is the pathway toward accepting others, and maybe even building a sense of acceptance for the world.

The “radical” part of Radical Acceptance

Walt Whitman wrote, “To know today or any day I am sufficient as I am.”  Not perfect, but sufficient.  Can I really accept this flawed body, this imperfect mind with all its faults, this man who has hurt others feelings and has made poor decisions?  It may feel impossible to accept all of yourself for exactly who you are.  And yet a conscious effort to do this can be profoundly helpful and grounding.

What on earth is acceptance, anyway?

Radical Acceptance is not a lounge chair.  It is not a way to stop trying and acquiesce to your current condition or lower your standards.  Instead Radical Acceptance provides you with a way to be practical, embracing who you are today.  You can bring awareness to both strengths and areas of growth and then move consciously into construction of your garden.

Your garden includes weeds you may have to pull.  Okay, there are patterns to recognize and change.  Accepting that this is true gives you a clearer idea of what to work through or refine.  No time to meditate?  Wake up five minutes earlier, twice a week and meditate before coffee.  Frustrated with your lack of progress on guitar?  Accept that you feel stuck and sign up for lessons once a month.  Accepting yourself gives you a starting point for moving toward your goals.

Radically accepting others

As above, radical acceptance of others does not mean that you are content with what others have done nor that you will not hold them accountable.  Instead it posits a frank admission of how things stand.  Again, the focus is on a practical acceptance of where others are coming from that provides for a fresh start or engagement.  From there you can start moving toward common ground, taking perspective, and entering into constructive dialog and exploration.

Radically accepting the world

The Negativity Bias of the brain makes it hard for all of us to see the world and its potential in a clear way.  Radical acceptance can mitigate our implicit bias just enough to explore possibilities we otherwise wouldn’t see.   Can you see the desert not as a fixed state but as fertile enough to be a starting point to plant trees and combat climate change?  So it is that we can look out at the world and accept where it is today, maybe the way we see a clock, something that feels endless but always moving into the next, future state.

Your therapist can help you to overcome barriers to self-acceptance.  Your therapist can help you to accept and recognize the patterns others have going, and help you consider how to relate and engage.  Your therapist can help you consider the larger world and refine how you contribute to making change.

Consider employing the experts at SF Stress & Anxiety Center.  Clear the fog.  Find and expand your center. Improve how you relate to yourself, others and the world.  Click the button below to schedule a time to speak to a Care Coordinator.

Diagnosing ADHD in Children


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), previously known as ADD, is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects behavior and concentration. A child or young person with ADHD may seem unusually restless, impulsive, or distracted. In addition, their behavior may seem impulsive, they may need help staying organized, or they may find it difficult to focus and speak without thinking. Even though children and young people with ADHD may also have other conditions or mental health problems, ADHD is not a mental illness or a learning disability. Living with ADHD can be overwhelming for children, adolescents, and their parents and caregivers. The right diagnosis, treatment, and support can make a huge difference to a child’s learning, life skills, and relationships, along with making family life easier.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of ADHD?

A child with ADHD may display the following symptoms:

  • Distracted easily, having difficulty starting or finishing tasks
  • Have difficulty concentrating
  • Restless or fidgety most of the time
  • Often interrupts or blurts out things, very talkative
  • Takes risks without considering consequences, impulsive, prone to acting without thinking
  • Easily angry or frustrated, unable to cope with emotions
  • Has difficulty forming or maintaining friendships
  • Lack of organization, such as losing things and being late

ADHD affects each child or young person differently, so they may not exhibit all of these behaviors. It is important to note that many of these traits and behaviors are typical of younger children or can result from a traumatic experience – they do not necessarily indicate your child has ADHD.

It is also possible for age and gender to affect how someone with ADHD behaves. Because of this, ADHD can be harder to spot, particularly in girls, who are more likely to be misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. It is common for ADHD symptoms to emerge in early childhood, and they may become more noticeable when a significant change occurs, such as starting or changing schools

How Is ADHD Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose ADHD, a qualified professional will use multiple evaluations and tests. ADHD cannot be diagnosed through simple observation or a brief interaction. A specialist can only diagnose ADHD after making a detailed assessment. Additionally, other conditions, such as learning disabilities or mood disorders, will need to be ruled out in some cases.

ADHD can be diagnosed using the following guidelines:

  • A child experiences symptoms in two or more settings, such as at home, school, and social settings.
  • There must be at least six symptoms present in a child aged 4-17 years old.
  • The child must show at least five symptoms if they are 17 or older.
  • As a result of their symptoms, your child has a difficult time functioning in some of the activities of daily life, such as schoolwork, relationships with you and siblings, relationships with friends, or being able to function in groups such as sports teams.
  • A child’s symptoms begin before they reach 12 years of age. In some cases, it may take a child until they are older to recognize these as ADHD symptoms.
  • The symptoms have been present for more than six months.

One of our qualified clinicians will follow these guidelines, talk to the parents and the child, take a detailed history of the child’s development, physical health, mental health, and behavior, and carefully consider other information, such as teacher and school reports. The assessment process often involves parents and educators completing questionnaires and checklists.

Additionally, our clinician might assess the child’s memory and attention. Clinicians might also observe a child in different settings, such as school, to determine how they behave in different envrionments.

Click here to learn more about ADHD Assesments at San Francisco Stress and Anxiety Center.

Treatment for ADHD in Kids

Several treatments are available for ADHD, including medication, behavioral therapy, and lifestyle changes.


It may be necessary to consider medication for children with ADHD to help them manage their symptoms every day. Additionally, it can help children control the behaviors that cause problems at school, with friends, and with family. Several types of medications are FDA-approved for treating ADHD in children, including:

  • Stimulants: Chemicals like methylphenidate or amphetamine boost dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. They come in three forms: short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting.
  • Non-Stimulants: Non-stimulants do not contain methylphenidate amphetamine; they use different active ingredients that have similar effects on ADHD symptoms and do not work as quickly.

Behavioral Therapy

As soon as a diagnosis is made, behavior therapy can help reduce disruptive behaviors. Behavior therapy aims to strengthen positive behaviors and eliminate undesirable ones. Some parents use behavioral therapy alongside medication to help their children manage their behaviors effectively. At SF Stress and Anxiety Center, we have a team of therapists dedicated to supporting children with ADHD.

It is common for parents and families to be involved with behavioral therapy, support their child in setting goals, and learn techniques and tools from the therapist so that they can apply them at home and school. Also, parents can learn how to deal with their child’s negative behavior effectively. Parents of children who suffer from ADHD notice a clear impact of cognitive behavioral therapy.

Lifestyle Changes

Even though taking the proper medical steps to support your child with ADHD is important, studies have shown that lifestyle changes can also impact their behavior. In order to help your child live a healthy lifestyle, follow these tips:

  •     Aim for one hour of physical activity per day. Exercise is associated with numerous benefits for ADHD. Children with ADHD can benefit from regular physical activity by improving their focus, avoiding distractions, and performing better in school.
  •     Limit screen time. Those with ADHD are much more likely to become addicted to the Internet than those without ADHD. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under two years old should avoid electronic media use, limit screen time to one to two hours per day, and keep TVs and other internet devices out of their rooms.
  •     Encouraging healthy sleep habits. Approximately 70% of children with ADHD have sleep problems. Not getting enough sleep can cause or worsen ADHD symptoms. You can help your child get a good night’s sleep by following a daily routine, limiting screen time before bed, and making sure the room is dark and comfortable.

Why Early Diagnosis Is So Important 

According to current estimates, up to 50% of children with ADHD also suffer from specific learning disabilities. As a result, they are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behavior. ADHD is associated with underachievement at school, as well as significant behavioral issues. Many children benefit from treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Researchers have described children with ADHD as being several years less emotionally mature than typical peers. To help the child make wise choices, both parents and the child may need additional support. Having an accurate diagnosis will allow your medical, psychological, and educational teams to assist your child most effectively. A thorough psychological evaluation is the key to successfully taking control of ADHD symptoms.
Ready to get your child or teen set up with an ADHD assessment with one of our qualified psychologists? Click the button below to schedule your free consultation with a Care-Coordinator that can walk you through the process and get you started.

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Use Writing to Achieve Clarity, Focus and Understanding

There are four pillars of health:  sleep, diet, exercise and managing your consciousness.  In an era where there is so much competition for your attention, how can you gain mental clarity?

Writing articulates thoughts and ideas in surprising ways

Something extraordinary happens when you write.  If you choose to journal, you may have noticed the gap between what you think you will write and what actually comes through that channel.

This is because writing, at its best, can offer insights into small and large problems.  It appears that the unconscious mind is doing the heavy lifting.  As such, writing can help you clarify your thoughts in a way that brings vague notions in the back of your mind into tangible light.

Through writing, you notice that the stress of work and relationships makes you yearn for some time in the mountains.   Or, you come to understand that fear of failure has been holding you back from taking on that ambitious project at work.  Or, you see the way that your negative self-talk may be something you have internalized from the way your dad spoke to you as a kid. Clarifying what is “on your mind” through writing can feel highly centering and useful.

Writing can provide rich, personal value without regard to whether you choose to share or revisit what you have written.  The writing process can be as valuable, if not more valuable, than the product itself.

Answers that come through distillation or slow-cooking

If you have been wondering how to solve some thorny problem, your unconscious mind may have processed ideas over time.  Writing can pull those ideas together into something coherent and useful.  The eminent doctor and writer Oliver Sacks used to see a patient and then think about what he observed while walking through a Japanese Garden across from his office after an appointment.  When he returned to his office, his patient’s symptoms had coalesced into a diagnosis that he crystalized in writing after letting his thoughts assume clearer form through this forced waiting period.

Scientists and artists have related similar stories for centuries.  Writing solves problems.  The act of writing can help you capture insights that have eluded you for some time.

The power of writing to heal trauma

For several years before Covid, I co-facilitated a creative writing workshop with author Katie McCleary in Folsom Prison (Bridge The Gap).  Given a simple writing prompt and twelve minutes to lay pen on paper, the men in prison wrote vivid, compelling stories that used the Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) method to explore their consciousness in writing.  In this method, all work is treated as fiction.  Writers may choose to share or not share.  Comments about writing shared do not include criticism or analysis but rather observations about the language or ideas that occur when listening.

The catharsis, forgiveness, understanding and healing that emerged through these workshops were astounding and beautiful.  The common humanity of men in prison became readily visible, as the men felt accurately seen, heard and understood through their own written reflections.

Part of the power of writing has to do with the emotional distance it provides.  You can explore ideas or events from different perspectives, see things through the lens of elapsed time and detach from emotions.  You can disentangle from a breakup, process a move, reconcile yourself to loss, and come to accept unanticipated change.  There’s a reason we say “come to terms with it,” in English.  Often those terms may be found in written reflection.

Your therapist can help you use writing to facilitate your own healing from a break-up, a loss, a jarring event or from deeper trauma.  Your therapist helps you extend the insights you produce in your own journaling.  Your therapist can help you find compassion and forgiveness for yourself and others through writing.

Consider employing the experts at SF Stress & Anxiety Center.  Clear the fog.  Find and expand your center. Improve how you relate to yourself, others and the world.  Click the button below to schedule a time to speak to a Care Coordinator.


What Can Therapy Do? Find your compassion to tell a new version of the story

One of our jobs as therapists is to ask clients to see their experience as a pattern.  To do this requires a shift in perspective.  Whenever we can sideline shame, blame and judgment and regard our experiences as a pattern, we can calm down and see events with fresh eyes.

There is self-acceptance within compassion.  But our brain’s Negativity Bias makes it hard for us to accept ourselves or see our thoughts, actions and decisions in a neutral way.  Let’s imagine your supervisor gives you a review and notes your diligence, productivity, collaborative capacity, and tendency to show up late to meetings.  What take-away will you have from that encounter?  Neurology suggests that your brain will center on the idea that you show up late to meetings.  “I am an unreliable person,” could be one conclusion.

Nearly all the feedback was positive, but your brain dismisses that and attaches emotionally to the perceived insult.  This creates a lopsided view of yourself, which can cause anxiety, self-blame, and even depression.

Compassion provides a different version of events

Now let’s imagine that you are a single mother who is breastfeeding an infant while working remotely from home.  You are sometimes late to meetings because you have been on your baby’s schedule.  That baby just doesn’t respect your meetings!  She has her own schedule.

Seeing your life as a pattern, you can say to yourself, “It’s tough to know when I can be on time, because my baby’s schedule comes first!”  If you are a supervisor who has an employee in this situation, perhaps it is easier for you to appreciate the competing demands.  Can you also apply the latitude you have for your colleagues to yourself?  Easier said than done.

When I quit piano lessons at age 14, I felt like a failure and a quitter, and a terrible kid.  How could I just abandon my sweet teacher after 6 years of weekly lessons!  Now that I am older and have spent much of my life as a professional musician, I can see that decision differently. I wasn’t quitting, but rather I was graduating and moving into a more self-driven approach to music.

Post lessons, I started writing my own piano works, bought more advanced books, and continued to invest in my music education.  Having continued to sing, play, learn guitar and perform publicly, I can forgive that 14 year old kid.  I can think of that moment all those years ago as a graduation rather than a failure.  What a relief to shed the shame, guilt and confusion I carried around for so long!

The cleansing power of forgiveness

Finding a more forgiving way of seeing a painful event in your life can allow you to resolve an old wound and come to terms with decisions.  One truism in psychology is that people do the best they can with the information they have at the time a decision is made.  Knowledge is often incomplete.  It isn’t fair to judge ourselves years after the fact using knowledge we have gained over time.  Finding compassion for yourself means moving more slowly through those painful moments in the past and seeing your perceived failures in light of your incomplete knowledge.  Forgiving yourself is hard, but also useful.

Using a compassionate tour-guide to revisit unfinished business from your past

Your therapist can help you find your compassion and use it to gain a new perspective on events in your past.  Your therapist can help you revisit difficult moments with empathy and the ability to see patterns rather than shame, blame or judgment.  Your therapist can help you work through pain to come out on the other side, feeling lighter for your new version of events and yourself.

If you don’t yet have a therapist, consider employing the experts at SF Stress & Anxiety Center.  Clear the fog.  Find and expand your center. Get the help that makes a concrete difference in your life and how you relate to yourself, others and the world.  Click the button below to schedule a time to speak to a Care-Coordinator.


What is Toxic Positivity and How to Handle It

What is Toxic Positivity?

Generally, positive thinking is beneficial to your mental health. However, toxic positivity is an exception. Positive thinking can become toxic if you ignore negative emotions and pretend everything is fine. Imagine it as a temporary bandage that covers but does not heal emotional wounds. Ignoring your true feelings can do more harm than good to your mental health.

Toxic Positivity Examples

It’s not always easy to recognize toxic positivity in yourself or others, but you’ve probably run across some common phrases encouraging you to minimize negative emotions. Think about how these common sayings might fuel toxic positivity.

  • It could be worse. While this popular catch-all phrase is often true, saying “Things could be worse” could unintentionally come off as insensitive. Consider saying, “I’m ready to listen” or “I’m here for you” and asking how you can help.
  • Happiness is a choice. While some aspects of happiness can be managed, everyone experiences emotions differently. You may not always be able to choose happiness when you have a mental illness like depression or are dealing with grief after a traumatic loss.
  • Positive thoughts/vibes only. Those who use toxic positivity may ask you to surrender all your negative thoughts and only be positive for their benefit. Both positive and negative feelings are equally valuable. You use your emotions to understand your needs, safety, and desires.
  • Things will get better soon. Layoffs and financial stress can trigger anxiety and destroy self-esteem. Don’t forget to acknowledge the present challenge and validate someone’s emotions when you reassure them of a brighter future.

Why is Toxic Positivity Harmful?

  • It undermines emotions. Positive thinking and optimism at the expense of difficult emotions are not always good for our mental health. People who practice toxic positivity ignore contentious issues in their relationships and instead focus on the positive. When people are pressured to smile in the face of adversity, they are less likely to seek support out of fear and embarrassment.
  • It can come across as insensitive. Bereaved individuals who often receive reminders to move on or be cheerful may believe that others are indifferent to their loss. Telling people who are struggling to focus on positive thinking and a bright future is unhelpful in relieving their suffering.
  • It can cause guilt and shame. Toxic optimism encourages people to suppress or dismiss unpleasant emotions to feel more in control. A person may believe they are failing if they are unable to feel happy. This is a typical example of toxic positivity: you share your problem with someone, and they tell you to look on the bright side of it.
  • It’s not in our nature to be overly positive all the time. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Humans are pessimistic by nature. It’s an evolutionary adaptation. Humans are wired to constantly look for danger. Our ancestors survived by using this negativity-based survival mechanism.

Avoiding Toxic Positivity

  • Be honest about your emotions. Pay attention to how you truly feel. It’s normal to feel different emotions at the same time, and it’s important to honor and accept them. For example, it’s possible to experience joy and grief at the same time.
  • Minimize your exposure to toxic positivity. It’s important to surround yourself with positive people. However, spending too much time with people who are fluent in toxic positivity can be problematic—set boundaries with people who shame you for expressing your authentic emotions.
  • Take a break from social media. On social media, toxic positivity manifests itself by pressuring you to share the best version of yourself. Next time you browse social media, consider others’ posts as highlights rather than a play-by-play. Even your favorite celebrities and social media influencers experience negative emotions. Consider taking a break if social media brings on more negative than positive emotions.

Approaching toxic positivity

It is human nature not to want to see a loved one suffer emotional pain. Consider your approach when you initiate a conversation or respond to someone’s concerns.

  • Welcome all emotions. Each person’s feelings are unique. Recognize that it’s okay to experience negative emotions. In the event that you or someone else is using toxic positivity to cope with negative emotions, encourage them to speak freely.
  • Listen and validate how others feel. In the heat of the moment, you may feel tempted to offer a quick fix or say whatever you can to make someone feel better. However, that approach may make them feel ignored, unheard, or upset. Some people just want an open ear instead of advice or an immediate solution. Listening to others who are facing a difficult situation can help them feel heard and understood. Be mindful, avoid judgment, and give them your full attention.
  • Don’t shame others or yourself. Toxic positivity can lead to mental health stigma, which can make people hesitate to seek mental health treatment. Respect others’ emotions and learn how you can help stop mental health stigma

and support others.

When to Seek Support for Toxic Positivity

Although overcoming negative situations can build resilience, asking for and accepting help is okay. Whenever you find yourself using toxic positivity, drugs, or alcohol to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, or other concerns, consider seeking profession

al mental health support. When you’re ready, you can connect with a mental health  consultant in person or virtually. We have therapists who are skilled at helping you deal with these issues, so you can receive the support you need. Contact us today to schedule a free call with our Care-Coordinator: we’ll get to know each other and see if we can help!


Therapist Column: Expectations Management for Leaders

What Can Therapy Do?  


Expectations Management for Leaders, by Douglas Newton, LMFT

Few phenomena can shift emotions quite as powerfully as expectations.  According to Buddhism, suffering comes from expecting what we don’t get or getting what we don’t expect.  Life circumstances have a way of delivering both situations on a daily basis, personally and professionally.  A part you need doesn’t arrive on time due to supply chain issues, holding up production.  A phone call from a close friend delivers the news that a loved one has been diagnosed with a debilitating disease.

Seeing expectations everywhere

Expectations are woven into the way our brain attaches to rewards and avoids potential dangers.  Understanding what we can reasonably expect has a basic survival use that is woven into our experience and reinforced over time through our DNA (genetic heritage).  Expectations layer into almost everything we do.

All our travel plans, for example, rely on functional cars and airplanes, amenable weather, robust infrastructure and people showing up to help us get from place to place.  Life is tricky, as we all know.  One accident on the highway, one flat tire, one atmospheric river or one airline strike can change our plans and trigger various emotions.  Frustration, pain, consternation, angry phone calling, high blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol flow through us.  Stress can become anxiety and anxiety can lead to panic.  Acute stress is tolerable, but can lead to physical health problems without regular and adequate recovery.

Awareness of expectations in a workplace culture

In the workplace, understanding what we can expect from employees and colleagues influences delivery schedules, product launches, overall reputation and client satisfaction.  Do your reports know when they can and cannot contact you?  Do you have a clear idea of what you can expect from them?  Are those expectations flexible enough to account for unforeseen issues or complex dependencies on partners and processes?

Do what you say and say what you do.

Communicating what you expect and what others expect from you can exert a soothing influence on your relationships.  Clear expectations can increase a feeling of safety that informs a workplace culture.  This in turn can diminish stress, burnout and confusion, improving the internal value proposition for employees and increasing retention.

A focus on expectations can provide useful data, such as subjective and objective measures that define focus, priority, work-flow, and team logic that optimize structure and processes to get things done.  At the same time, anticipating how things may go wrong can provide the elasticity people need to deal with the adventures and lessons along the way.

Pay attention, harvest lessons, and stay flexible

In the publishing world there is an expression, “When you’re 99% done you’re halfway there.”  There’s the bug in the program, the part that didn’t arrive, the colleague out with Covid or the need to seize a new opportunity and shift priorities.  When it comes to expectations, perhaps a leader needs what a body needs, according to Thomas Richardson, “dynamic structural flexibility.”

Learning lessons, and remaining agile requires flexible expectations.  So does your relationship with yourself, others, your business, your job, and society in general.

Your therapist can help you understand the relationship between healthy boundaries and expectations.  Your therapist can help you explore how rigidity in your thinking may be impacting your colleagues and your culture at work.  Your therapist can help you foster psychological safety at work. By reflecting on expectations, and the dynamics that inform them, you can increase your influence as a responsive, respected leader at work.

If you don’t yet have a therapist, consider employing the experts at SF Stress & Anxiety Center.  Clear the fog.  Find and expand your center. Get the help that makes a concrete difference in your life and how you relate to yourself, others and the world.  Click the button below to schedule a time to speak to a Care-Coordinator.


How to Manage Conflict in Your Relationship

Conflict in a relationship is normal and even necessary because it can help us feel more connected and known by our partner if we handle it well. However, unhealthy conflict can lead to distance, disconnect, and unhappiness. If conflict is tearing your relationship apart, it’s time to bring more positivity into your conflict discussions and everyday life by bringing more positivity into your daily interactions.

Common Causes of Relationship Conflict

So why do couples fight? When couples fight, it’s because they are two very different individuals with different perspectives, beliefs, personalities, and values. Those in a healthy relationship embrace and even welcome these differences and learn how to fight fairly. However, in an unhealthy relationship, people try to change one another, and the relationship suffers as a result.

When Conflict Is Healthy in a Relationship

The important thing is how you handle miscommunications and inevitable differences between you when they occur. Conflicts in healthy relationships help the couple feel more connected and understand one another better because they are able to talk about the issue, listen to one another, and repair when necessary. World-renowned marriage psychologist John Gottman explains, “Happy relationships aren’t relationships where there is no fighting. They are relationships where repairs are made after regrettable incidents happen – and where a couple connects daily.”

In healthy conflict, couples are also respectful of one another. They stick to ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements. They communicate how they feel and what they need without blaming each other. If one partner feels criticized, they can repair the situation in the moment and get back on track. Compromise is possible when they allow their partner’s perspective, feelings, and needs to change their perspective.

When Conflict Is Not Healthy

Conflict becomes unhealthy when the negativity in the discussion outweighs the positivity. In healthy conflict, more positive emotions occur due to repairs being made, partners feeling heard, and emotions and feelings being accepted. Additionally, there are types of negativity that can occur in conflict that are more damaging than others.

Gottman has found four behaviors that he says can seriously damage the relationship and lead to its demise if not addressed. He calls them the four horsemen:

  • Criticism- When we criticize the person and don’t deal with our complaint, we take the focus off the issue. Personal attacks can be hurtful and prevent meaningful communication.
  • Defensiveness- It can be directly linked to criticism but also happens at other times. Partners can become very defensive, which can escalate the conflict even further. Defending can be a way of avoiding taking responsibility for your own actions.
  • Contempt- Mocking or making fun of a partner at any time is not a great idea and can leave a partner feeling belittled. This can be extremely damaging to relationships.
  • Stonewalling- The final horseman is stonewalling. When a partner withdraws from the discussion, it can literally mean they walk away, but it can also mean they emotionally distance themselves from their partner.

How Relationship Conflict Can Bring You Closer Together

Often, conflict in a relationship is seen as a sign of trouble. It is something to be avoided. However, this is not so. Conflict is a normal part of a relationship and can help us understand one another better and make us feel safe and important. Disagreements are opportunities to learn from one another. By listening to our partner and sharing our side, we can learn something new about one another that we may not have known had the conflict not occurred.

Conflict also brings us closer by providing a sense of safety and importance when we are able to repair. We feel safe when we know that, despite challenges, our partner will be there for us, and we will be able to repair the relationship. You don’t have to get it right all the time. You can both feel safe if you can resolve the conflict and repair the damage with your partner, you can both feel safe. Having the assurance that our partner will always be there for us, even when things get tough, helps us feel close, connected, and secure in our relationship.

Tips for Dealing with Relationship Conflicts

Couples Therapy

For many people, the concept of positivity in conflict is foreign. Many of us lacked role models for how to have a healthy, successful conflict discussion. As a result, most of us have no idea how to do it or even where to start. Getting help from a qualified professional is the best way to ensure that you are successful.

Individual Therapy

Many times, one partner wants to seek counseling, but the other is not yet ready to do so. If this is your situation, don’t give up entirely on the idea of therapy. Individual therapy can be a powerful tool in improving a relationship. A therapist can help you understand your role in the relationship dynamic and provide tools and insights to help you shift your relationship in a positive direction.


You must be able to stay calm and engaged in order to be able to hear your partner’s emotions and respond to them. Pay attention to your body during conflict discussions. Do you feel relaxed and at ease or tense and stressed? If you notice tension in your body, take a few deep breaths and try to calm your body and mind so that you can tune back into your partner.

Repair During Conflict Discussions

Nobody is perfect, which is why having the ability to repair during a conflict discussion is so important. Even happy, stable couples get off track at times during conflict discussions. The most important distinction between happy and unhappy couples is their ability to get back on track or not.

So what does a repair during conflict look like? A repair is anything you say to de-escalate tension in a discussion. Here are a few examples:

  • Tune your partner into their feelings: Perhaps your partner says something that makes you feel criticized. Instead of responding defensively (which will escalate the situation), you can share that you feel criticized. You may say, ‘I feel criticized.’ ‘Would you mind rephrasing that?’
  • Take responsibility when you mess up: We are all human, and sometimes we say things we regret or that we know were harsh. Many of us, however, do not acknowledge that in the moment. However, taking responsibility in the moment can be a powerful way to de-escalate the situation. You can apologize for your actions by simply saying, ‘My reaction was too extreme.’ Sorry. Let me try again.’
  • Humor: Many people find it difficult to access humor during conflict discussions, but if you can use it, it can be the most effective form of repair. You can express humor in a playful manner by sticking out your tongue, making a joke, or giving a goofy smile to encourage laughter and lighten the mood.

Take Breaks as Needed

If you are unable to calm your body and remain engaged in the conversation, it may be time to take a break. Once we become flooded and our physiology changes, we cannot hear our partner, solve problems or have empathy for them until we can calm down, which requires a break. Tell your partner that you are feeling overwhelmed and need a little time.

You may want to go into another room and engage in a relaxing activity for a while. Try deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. Other activities, such as listening to music, taking a bath, or going for a walk, maybe more relaxing to some people. Calm down at least 20 minutes before resuming the conversation with your partner.

Date Nights

It may seem strange to include friendship skills in an article about conflict, but the strength of your friendship determines your ability to manage conflict well. Date nights are encouraged by marriage therapists for a reason. It’s because they work! Date nights give you and your partner time to connect, have fun, and talk about things other than everyday tasks, responsibilities, and schedules. Date night is often associated with an evening out at a restaurant, which can be expensive and the last thing you want to do after a long day.

However, date night can be anything you want it to be. It’s a set time for couples to spend together and focus on their relationship. There are countless ways to accomplish this (and it doesn’t have to be at night or cost you anything!). For example, you could have a picnic on the living room floor, sit outside after the kids are asleep and just talk, take a walk around the neighborhood, or take a cooking class together. The ideas are endless. The key is to get creative and make it a priority to ensure it happens.


Therapist Column: Three Ways to Move From Isolation to Connection

As Nina Simone first sang it, “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good.  Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”  Why can it feel so difficult to convey who we authentically are to others?

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, more social or more solitary, you have a deep need to feel seen, heard and understood by others.  It is as fundamental a need as the thirst for water. So if this need is so central, it can be frustrating not to feel seen, heard and understood by those around you.  And when this need isn’t met, there are costs. Loneliness, isolation and sadness can get woven into your days.  Your identity can feel walled off from others, leading to depression, anxiety and feelings of failure.

Fortunately for all of us, there is a way to move beyond our isolation and get into a state of mind where we feel recognized for who we are.  Acceptance, belonging and intimacy are possible, and help to push past this loneliness and the other feelings that surround feeling misunderstood.

What can you do to bridge the gap?  

1. Clarify your thoughts and feelings through writing

If you have never kept a journal, consider allowing yourself this space and place to go.  When we write we clarify our thoughts and feelings.  Putting words down truly can help us come to terms with how we feel or what we want and need.

Writing connects the unconscious to the conscious mind and, through that connection, can integrate and articulate thoughts and feelings that may be otherwise hidden from view.  The power to reveal yourself in writing can feel somewhat magical and centering.  Once you write something down, reading what you have written can feel like receiving a letter from a long, lost friend.  You may come to recognize aspects of yourself that you value or needs that haven’t been adequately met.

Writing privately creates a safe space for you to express yourself without concern for others’ thoughts and opinions.  You can always choose to disclose what you write to someone, but not having to do so can give you permission to open up to yourself and “come to terms,” literally and figuratively, with what is on your mind.

2. Give your time and talent away to others who need you

Covid has been profoundly isolating.  So many people have unfulfilled needs, and there are plenty of problems, large and small, to which you may connect your talents meaningfully.  Do you code and care about social justice?  Volunteer your talents to a nonprofit doing important work.  Are you a writer and frustrated about climate change?  Explore ways to help locally, according to your time and inclination.  There is a problem out there for every talent.  You may find it meaningful to connect your passions and talents to the problems that need you.   Helping others according to your specific talents and interests will connect you to a community of like-minded people.  Those relationships can flow out of the center of your interest.

3. Use Assertive Communication to Convey Your Needs

Assertive Communication comes from a therapeutic approach called DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy).  When in conflict with someone, you can use Assertive Communication to express your needs and report from your emotions after you have taken the time to process them.  Here’s the framework:  “I felt _________ (identified emotion) when you _________ (said or did something).  It is a way to own your emotions and express them to someone else, in a respectful tone and manner.  This contrasts with aggressive or passive aggressive communication.  Either of these forms can escalate a conflict rather than presenting a safe way to explore emotions and relationship dynamics.  Assertive communication allows you and a friend to explore a conflict and learn from the pattern, ideally free from the shame, blame and judgment that fuels conflict.

Your therapist can help you clarify and deepen the insights you get from writing.  Your therapist can help you explore your talents and service ethic, including directions you might take.  Your therapist can help you understand the grounded nature of Assertive Communication and how it can help you feel heard, seen and understood in ways that matter.

If you don’t yet have a therapist, consider employing the experts at SF Stress & Anxiety Center.  Clear the fog.  Find and expand your center. Get the help that makes a concrete difference in your life and how you relate to yourself, others and the world.  Click here to schedule a time to speak to a Care-Coordinator.