anger management counseling chicago

Conquer Your Anger with Anger Management Counseling

Anger is a basic human emotion. Depending on how it is managed and expressed, anger can have positive or negative consequences. Awareness of angry feelings can be helpful as it can signal when our rights are being violated or our needs are being ignored by others. Anger can also help to energize and motivate us to work to address problems with another person or to change our life situation. However, there are potential negative consequences of anger when it is not managed or expressed appropriately. Prolonged or intense anger contributes to physical conditions such as insomnia, loss of appetite, chronic fatigue, headaches, stomach aches, tightness in the throat, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure digestive problems, heart disease.

Typical symptoms of anger management issues include:

  • yelling
  • cursing
  • threatening others
  • pushing
  • shoving
  • hitting
  • hostility
  • resentment
  • rage
  • anxiety
  • numbness
  • depression
  • crying spells
  • low self esteem
  • abuse of alcohol or drugs

Throughout our lives, we improve our skills by taking “courses” and practicing what we learn. If you played sports, you were coached in the basics and practiced them until they became rote. At work, you were shown how to perform tasks, then got better and better as you repeated the process. Similarly, controlling one’s emotions is another skill, one that gets little or no attention until failure to do so results in trouble.

If you are considering anger management counseling, you may have a respectable job and care deeply for your family and friends, even though you may lash out at them. So why do you do it? More than likely, your problem managing anger is due to various factors, some of which are hidden from awareness. The goal of anger management therapy is to isolate the triggers that ignite your rage in the present.However, as you start to get a meaningful understanding of your problem, past experiences are often explored, including any toxic childhood experiences or dysfunctional parenting to which you were expos

Learning to deal with feelings of anger, rather than running away from them will enhance your feelings of empowerment. It may help to reframe or reevaluate the situation(s). To begin, start by looking at your choices and what you do have control over. You cannot control other people, but you can control your behavior and reactions to events.

Relaxation skills like deep breathing can also offer a natural way to calm a racing pulse and mind.

Writing your feelings down in a private journal is an additional step you can take to lower your level of distress.

Anger management counseling can be a valuable for people of all ages, like the ancient Chinese proverb says, “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.”

Search UB counselors who specialize in anger management therapy


Untangling The Links Between Money, Self-Esteem, and Happiness

The relationship between our thoughts and our personal income

The way we think about ourselves actually has an influence on our personal income. Those who have confidence and high self-esteem tend to behave in ways that allow for them to successfully take advantage of opportunities to make more money. On the other hand, those with low self-esteem and negative thinking patterns tend to sabotage their own chances of financial success. Those who believe they are not worthy or capable will look towards their past failures to justify their negative self-image, thereby hindering their financial growth. Those with a positive attitude and a high sense of self-worth will look towards their past achievements to know that they can succeed in new financial endeavors.

More money mean more happiness?

You may have heard “money does not buy happiness” and according to most research, that is true.  If you earn an income that allows you to comfortably pay your bills every month (e.g. $50,000 a year), then the link between money and happiness is weaker than compared to an income below that amount. Those who are struggling to get by financially experience a lot of stress, but once they have achieved a level of financial stability and comfort, their happiness level is no longer affected by money as it once was before. Although they are happier due to the lack of financial stress, it does not means that more material purchases will be the key to long-term happiness. Studies have found that the happiness level of someone making $100,000 a year is not much different that someone with a million-dollar income.

More money does not bring more happiness

Researchers have found that money spent on fun experiences (like a vacation or concert) is linked with more happiness, whereas material purchases with no sense of anticipation, do not have the same effect. The anticipation of an experience or purchase of a material good seems to be much more satisfying, no matter what your income is. However, the happiness that results from these purchases is fleeting. We tend to think that if we have more money, we can benefit from the short-term happiness by making these purchases on a regular basis. What many don’t realize is that we lose the sense of appreciation and positive emotions attached to those materials or experiences when it is so easily attained.

What affects happiness more than money?

Self-esteem and relationships with others are some of the biggest factors that determine happiness. With a little bit of effort and the right attitude, you can make improvements in your own happiness.

Click here to browse financial and self-esteem resources in the Urban Balance Directory.

Hale, J. (2013). What Makes Us Happy?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 22, 2015, from

Marter, J. (2013). Change Your Thinking to Have More Money. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 22, 2015, from

Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Does Money = Happiness ?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 22, 2015, from

UB Therapist Spotlight: Alyssa Yeo

Alyssa Yeo holds a M.A. in Counseling Psychology from The Chicago School of Professionalalyssa yeo Psychology, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and a Certified Yoga Teacher. Alyssa uses an integrative approach to therapy with an emphasis on cognitive-behavioral and solution-focused methods to help clients achieve more balance in their lives. She fosters a collaborative, open, and empathic environment that draws upon an individual’s strengths to encourage and inspire them to develop to their full potential.

View Alyssa’s Full Bio

What made you become a therapist?

This is such a loaded question. though I recognize that my decision to become a therapist was a choice, I do believe that in some way this profession was chosen for me. From the time I was young, I was always really attuned to how other people were feeling and thinking. I had a deep desire to understand them and to be involved in whatever was upsetting them. Over time, I realized that I am most fulfilled when I am able to make other people feel more positive about their experiences, or when I can remind them of their strengths in dealing with challenging situations. Being a therapist is my calling, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What are your specialties?

I work a lot with depression and anxiety, as well as young adults struggling to cope with relationship issues, work/life balance, and identity issues.

Did you have a career before becoming a therapist?

Before becoming a therapist, I worked at a public relations agency as a creative associate. I was in the corporate department, doing a range of marketing, design, and media projects. I worked there for a couple years, but was largely unfulfilled by the career. I knew deep down that I would return to my true passion, psychology, it was just a matter of when. My decision to go back to school and become a licensed professional counselor was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. My work at Urban Balance is incredibly rewarding, and I am grateful to have found happiness in my career.

Why do you believe that counseling can help?

I’ve always been a firm believer in counseling, and have experienced many changes myself from seeing a therapist. The act of therapy itself requires you to be courageous and vulnerable, and taking that step is often needed for people to start being honest with themselves about what’s going on in their lives. Sometimes it’s too difficult to talk to friends or family about your experiences, and you may not be able to be honest in expressing your thoughts and feelings. Having an objective, third party person to validate your experiences and provide support is really beneficial.

Why is it important to seek counseling?

Seeking counseling at any and all stages of life is important because our lives are so full of ups and downs. I think it’s so important to continuously check-in with yourself about how you’re feeling or handling different situations. Individuals so often avoid or deny their feelings, and this leads to a build-up of emotion and experiences that can result in larger issues. Being proactive and taking preventative measure to stay mentally and emotionally healthy is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Why suffer when there are resources to help you?

Favorite Self Care Activities:

My number one self-care activity is yoga. I do it about 5-6 times per week to help reduce stress and keep me grounded. I also make it a priority to spend time outside as much as possible. Running, walking, and biking along the lake are among my favorite activities. Additionally, I love listening to music and I try to see live shows on a regular basis. I also enjoy traveling and it is important to me that I plan vacations to see friends and family as much as I can.

counseling chicago 6 locations

Why Seeing a Therapist Makes You Strong, Not Weak

By  for Psych Central, quoting UB’s Joyce Marter.

When a potential client calls psychologist Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D, the first thing she does is congratulate them. “I say, ‘good for you. You did something great for yourself and those around you.’”

That’s because seeking professional help takes strength. But we rarely see it this way. We feel overwhelmed or burnt out. We feel vulnerable, exposed — a gaping wound. We beat ourselves up, believing we should be able to solve our own problems. We should be able to tough it out. And we berate ourselves endlessly because we can’t.What’s wrong with me?!?!

Maybe you were raised to believe you should be completely self-reliant, Bennett said. You were taught that you shouldn’t need anyone else, and if you do, then you’re inadequate, she said.

Maybe you were raised to see limitations as “she’s not really ill” or “he just lacks the guts to finish,” or “she’s just playing the victim, again,” said Ryan Howes, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist in Pasadena, Calif. Maybe you were raised to think that people who couldn’t overcome their emotional issues (their invisible limitations) on their own didn’t have the guts, willpower or strength of character, he said.

Or maybe you’re worried that others will see you as weak, incompetent, lazy or crazy. Either way, this kind of thinking stops people from going to therapy.

“Nobody would expect themselves or somebody else to power through their cardiac issues, cancer or diabetes and avoid seeking treatment,” said Joyce Marter, LCPC, founder and CEO of Urban Balance, a large insurance-friendly counseling practice with multiple locations in the Greater Chicago Area.

“I wish people had the same awareness of the seriousness of mental health issues and the importance and benefits of seeking professional help.” Mental health issues are serious, and not seeking help is dangerous.

“[M]illions of people who have legitimate needs for help avoid it in order to save face,” Howes said. Millions of people needlessly suffer because they believe that seeking help makes them weak.

“The longer one lives with a mental health issue of any kind, the more dangerous it becomes,” said Bennett, author of four books on depression, including Children of the Depressed. For instance, a person with depression stops sleeping well, eating properly and going to doctor checkups, she said. “It affects their entire being … They start thinking this is how they are. ‘I’ll never be happy. I’m just meant to be this way. Since it hasn’t gone away on its own, this is just me for the rest of my life.’”

They become hopeless. And hopelessness leads to suicide, said Bennett, a survivor of two suicidal depressions. “[E]very year we lose friends, family and loved ones to suicide,” Marter said.

People also self-medicate mental health issues with drugs or alcohol, she said. This “creates a downward spiral that can be life threatening.” Untreated mental health issues can impair job performance and wreck financial well-being, Marter added. For instance, she’s worked with many clients who’ve racked up serious debt during manic or hypomanic episodes.

Seeking help is smart. “We’re not experts in all areas,” Bennett said. It’s a wise decision to turn to people with expertise in one area, no matter what area it is, she said. We see doctors when we’re sick and dentists when we have a cavity. We hire contractors to renovate or repair our homes. Just like we can’t operate on our teeth or fix a broken roof, we can’t treat depression on our own or know how to change deeply entrenched thought patterns.

Seeking help is healthy and courageous. “It takes courage to face our issues and make a commitment to address them consciously and move through them to the best our ability,” said Marter, who pens the Psych Central blog The Psychology of Success.

It simply means we are human, Howes said. “It’s impossible for a person to be strong in all areas all the time, we’re people not gods or perfect robots.”

He also noted that we naturally need others. “Attachment research shows that the healthiest, most secure people are both capable of meeting their needs and reaching out for help from time to time.” They’re not lone rangers who don’t need anyone, he said. Instead, “they’re aware of their limitations and able to ask for help when they need it.”

We think it’s stronger to deal with our issues completely on our own. But suffering and not getting help only make it harder on our loved ones, Bennett said. Our mental health concerns interfere with our daily functioning. They sabotage our communication and create needless conflict. We may be unable to take care of ourselves and our kids. “When you do what’s best for you [and get whatever assistance you need], you’re automatically helping those you love,” Bennett said.

Seeking help is problem-solving, she said. It means you’re doing what you need to do to fix a concern, she said. By seeking professional help you also model healthy behavior to your kids. When Bennett’s clients worry if working with a therapist makes them weak, she asks them if they’d like their kids to reach out for help when they’re having a rough time. They reply: “Of course, I would.”

Seeking professional help is a courageous, compassionate and smart decision. Seeking help takes self-awareness, work and commitment. It means confronting challenges and working to overcome them — whether you’re seeking help because you have a mental illness or you’re feeling stuck. Aren’t these the very signs of strength?

Seek help if you need it. Support others in doing the same. In fact, as Howes said, “Imagine how strong individuals, couples, families, businesses and our nation would be if people felt free to ask for help when they need it.”


What You Need to Know About: Bipolar Disorder

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings that negatively impact day-to-day life. A person with bipolar disorder will experience manic and depressive episodes. These episodes can vary in length, from a few days to a few months, depending on the type of bipolar disorder.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

  • Mania: A manic episode is characterized by elevated energy levels, restlessness, risky behavior, lack of concentration, aggressiveness, increased self-esteem, and sometimes delusions or hallucinations.
  • Hypomania: A hypomanic state is similar to a manic episode, however it is not as severe.
  • Depression: A depressive episode is characterized by sadness, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, decreased energy levels, changes in sleep patterns, difficulty making decisions, and thoughts of suicide.
  • Mixed: A mixed episode included symptoms of both a manic and depressive episode simultaneously.

How is bipolar disorder diagnosed and treated?

Bipolar disorder is diagnosed with an in-person interview with a trained mental health professional. The interview will cover your symptoms and your family’s medical history.

Treatment of bipolar disorder includes medication and psychotherapy in order to manage episodes. Medications can help stabilize mood swings. Psychotherapy is also very important since it will teach you how to coping with and anticipate mood swings. Additionally, you will learn how to develop a routine and develop healthy relationships.
If you think you or a loved one may have bipolar disorder, click here to browse Urban Balance therapists who specialize in bipolar disorder.
To browse bipolar disorder resources, click here.
Tartakovsky, M. (2015). Bipolar Disorder Fact Sheet. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 15, 2015, from

Meet UB Therapist Rebecca Wolf, LCSW, PCGC

0178Rebecca Wolf, LCSW, PCGC, is a therapist working from UB’s Downtown Chicago counseling office.

Did you have a career before becoming a therapist?

I worked as a waitress during graduate school.  After graduating, I worked as a social worker in a residential psychiatric facility and then at an Employee Assistance Program before landing my dream job as a therapist in private practice.

What made you become a therapist?

It seems that people in my life have always sought out advice and counsel from me because I am very rational and level-headed.  Early on, I realized how much I enjoyed giving feedback and helping people resolve their struggles.  Becoming a therapist just seemed like the natural career path for me.

What are your specialties/areas of interest?

I have extensive training working with problem gambling and other addictions.  My true passion is helping clients resolve communication and relationship issues since these are areas which I believe people can see positive results rather quickly.  I also really enjoy working with military populations because I think this is a group that inherently has many stressors and challenges, yet tends to be underserved.

What self-care activities do you do/find helpful?

I try my best to leave work at work and then come home and spend time with my family and my dog.  I love to take long walks with my family to unwind and be active.  I also love to cook and bake because I think it is so rewarding to create something from scratch.  Another thing I love is to escape reality and get immersed in reading a great mystery novel.  An important part of my self-care regimen includes always having something on my calendar to look forward to – whether this means taking a trip, trying a new restaurant, or a night out with friends.  I think it is very important to have things to look forward to in order to keep you trending forward and not feeling stuck.

Why do you feel it’s important to seek counseling?

We can all benefit from some unbiased feedback once in a while.  The demands and stresses of daily life can wear on us and sometimes we just need some support.  It can also be very beneficial to get an outsider’s perspective on occasion.

Who can benefit from therapy? How can it help?

Just about anyone open to making positive changes in their life can benefit from therapy.  To me, that is the key – being open to making positive changes.  When you are open to changing for the better, great things can happen.  I also think that there comes a time when our family and friends deserve a break from listening to us worry about our stressors, and that is a great time to turn to counseling.  This allows us to get unbiased support and feedback while not burdening our support system.  Not everybody needs counseling all the time, but I certainly think that most of us could benefit from therapy intermittently throughout our lives to help normalize our stressors and allow us to feel supported when life gets a bit bumpy.


Don’t Be Bored at Work: 7 Productive Ways to Fill Downtime

Article written by Ritika Trikha of CareerBliss, quoting UB’s Joyce Marter

Boredom kills — well, not literally. Succumbing to it at work, however, can totally kill your motivation, causing you to (oh horror of horrors) disengage and become all around unhappy. Next thing you know, you’re the guy in the coffee line no one wants to stand behind because you just ooze negativity.

You might be overqualified, underappreciated or, heck, working at a job that’s just too easy for you. Whatever the reason — if boredom has you yawning at work, grab some sort of beverage that will give you a jumpstart (we’re thinking caffeinated, not alcoholic) and beat your boredom once and for all. Don’t sit like a potato!

First thing on the list: your vocab. From here on out, there is no such thing as “downtime,” only “opportunity time,” says Robby Slaughter, productivity and workflow expert and principal at Slaughter Development. Opportunities are meant to be seized!

Check out these awesome boredom busters the next time you find yourself clockwatching, and seize your opportunity!

1. Tell it to your Blog

Start an industry blog—one that shares fascinating, nail-biting insights, commentary and news updates about your job. Even if you don’t grow a huge Bieber-style blog fan base, it’ll help you learn more from others in your industry. To get started, comb through blog directories like to find fellow bloggers. Google, of course, is your best friend for this.

2. Invest a Little Bonding Time with a Coworker

Nothing beats boredom like a stimulating conversation. “With all the virtual communication we have these days with technology, a personal check-in is much appreciated as long as you are not keeping your colleagues from doing their work,” says Joyce Marter, psychotherapist and owner of Urban Balance.

3. Re-energize with Some Midday Meditation or Yoga

Ommmmmm. Even if your company doesn’t offer a fancy gym, you don’t need much equipment to practice a few Yoga poses. Find a quiet spot outside because A few minutes of self-care can clear out the cobwebs and make you more productive at work,” Marter says. Squeeze some time in for exercise on slow days and get away from the hullabaloo.

4. Expand your Virtual Network

Take this opportunity to make some new virtual contacts outside of your office. Cue LinkedIn, your second best friend. Write a killer, personalized LinkedIn message and reach out to experts in your industry. Join a professional group or two and check out their discussions. LinkedIn even offers a “Groups You May Like” feature (hover over the “groups” tab to find it).

5. Prep for your Performance Review

If someone were to ask you what your three greatest accomplishments are so far this year, could you answer them? Stay ahead of the curve and keep track of your achievements. This will save you a truckload of time when performance review time comes around. Here’s your handy-dandy to-do list to get you started:

  • Gather all emails and reports that include recognition and positive feedback.
  • Handpick your top achievements over the past year.
  • Keep track of past mistakes or projects where you could have done better.
  • Research your salary and see what others in your position are making.

6. Do Something for Someone Else

You will feel good and look good! “Even volunteering to organize a file room or shared workspace is something that would probably be appreciated and show that you are a team player and invested in your workplace,” Marter says.

7. Brainstorm

Grab your umbrella and create a brain storm — make it rain with your brilliant ideas! “Ultimately, anytime we are not actively working on mission-critical activity we should be doing something to enable us to be better at mission-critical work in the future,” Slaughter says.

Go above and beyond by brainstorming ways to make your job more effective and anything else you can do to help the company’s bottom line.


Dealing with the Quarter Life Crisis

What happens after graduation day? Many students come out of college with thousands of dollars in college loan debt. With the pressure to find a job in a recovering economy, before the loan bills start accumulating, some may struggle to secure employment that is related to their degree. Others may settle for positions they are overqualified for in order to get by financially. The portion of students who do begin an entry level position in their intended career path may soon discover that it is not a good fit for them. This may cause some to feel anxious, ashamed, or hopeless about their lives and future due to the pressures of new expectations and responsibilities. In order to prevent a downwards cycle, it is important to recognize the signs of a quarter life crisis. Urban Balance therapist, Alyssa Yeo, has the answers to questions you may have about the quarter life crisis and how to overcome it.

What is a quarter life crisis?

The term “quarter life crisis” refers to a new phase of life that occurs in the interval period between college and the “real” world. During this transitional stage, individuals are struggling to cope with anxieties about their adult life, which often leads to feelings of depression, helplessness, low self-esteem, worthlessness, and other overwhelming emotions.

What commonly triggers a quarter life crisis?

The twenties are portrayed as an independent, self-sufficient, and exciting good time in life, but for many individuals this is not the case. The unpredictability of the future and onset of new responsibilities and opportunities causes many overwhelming and conflicting emotions that can deeply impact an individual’s ability to maintain emotional stability.

Delayed marriage trends and higher education also increase this phase of life for many individuals. It’s becoming more common for people to explore different career options, pursue hobbies or interests, and continue their education rather than settle into one career and start a family.

What are signs that a person is dealing with a quarter life crisis?

Symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, as well as mood swings and fear, are common signs someone in their twenties or early-thirties could be experiencing a quarter-life crisis. In fact, psychologists have found that the high stress associated with the transition to adulthood contributes to a higher rate of all forms of disorder in the twenty-something age group, including addiction, anxiety, depression, and many other kinds of problems (Robbins & Wilner, 2001).

Are some people more prone to experiencing a quarter life crisis than others?

There isn’t any research to show that some people are more prone to experiencing a quarter life crisis, however, certain factors can put individuals at an increased risk for mental health issues. This includes genes (family history), biology (brain injury, structural brain changes), environment (early childhood experiences, trauma, stress), and lifestyle (substance use/abuse).

How can someone overcome a quarter life crisis?

The first step is admitting to the issues, and then finding a space to talk about them. Many individuals are unwilling to admit to their unhappiness and the majority of young adults suffer silently. Their reality does not match society’s portrayal of what it means to be in your twenties, so they may internalize their issues and feel inadequate or embarrassed.

This can cause a dangerous downward cycle, and while the symptoms of this cycle are dependent on the individual’s struggles, in general it goes as such: individuals are unhappy (i.e. anxious or depressed), they don’t talk about it, because they don’t discuss their problems they don’t learn that these issues are common, this causes them to think something is wrong with them, which in turn, spirals into self-doubt and more feelings of unhappiness (Robbins & Wilner, 2001).

The best way to break this negative cycle is to share your experiences with others and seek out resources that can provide you with insight and support on the topic (here is a link to one of my favorite books for women specifically, but there are many other books and resources that exist). Individual therapy and peer support groups are also beneficial for those struggling to cope with this phase of life.


Robbins, A., & Wilner, A. (2001). Quarterlife crisis: The unique challenges of life in your twenties. New York: Penguin.

counseling therapist chicago and north shore

How to Respond to Rude or Inappropriate Remarks

From Psych Central quoting UB’s Joyce Marter.

Joyce Marter Shares her tips for responding to rude, nosy or inappropriate comments and questions.

Sooo, you’ve been together for seven years; when are you finally going to get engaged?

How come you two aren’t having kids yet? You know it’s harder to get pregnant as you age. For instance, my cousin, Tina…

Do you really think you should eat that?

People say the darnedest things, don’t they? Maybe you, too, have blurted out an inappropriate, rude or nosy comment. (It’s likely everyone has.)

According to therapist Joyce Marter, LCPC, people make these kinds of remarks for a range of reasons. Some people simply don’t have a filter — especially when alcohol is involved. Some think they’re being helpful.

Others have poor boundaries. “Perhaps they are an open book with everyone they meet and expect others to be the same.”

Still others are passive-aggressive. “Perhaps they are envious of you or annoyed with you and expressing this by pushing your buttons.”

People might be black-or-white thinkers, Marter said. “As a professional mother in my 40s, I got a small nose ring last year and found people’s responses to be a fascinating sociological experiment. Some people said things like, ‘Why would you do that?’ Or, ‘At least it’s not a tattoo!’ which they didn’t know I plan to get this year.”

And sometimes people just don’t know any better. When Marter was in her early 20s, she asked a mom of twins – whose kids she was babysitting – about having another baby.

“I truly was naive to the fact that this was a boundary violation. Later, I learned she had been through traumatic infertility treatments to have her boys and that this was a very loaded issue.”

Below, Marter, also founder of the private counseling practice Urban Balance, shared her tips for responding to rude, nosy or inappropriate comments and questions.

Tune in.

Before responding, pause, and take several deep breaths. “Check in with your body and assess what you are feeling.”

Try detachment.

This involves separating yourself from the other person rather than reacting to their words or energy, she said.

For instance, imagine an invisible shield made out of Plexiglas between you and them. “Any negative energy cannot penetrate you.”

Marter also cited Ross Rosenberg’s technique of emotionally distancing yourself from others called “Observe, Don’t Absorb!”

Advocate for yourself.

“[A]dvocate for yourself in a way that is protective and caring, while remaining respectful and diplomatic,” said Marter, who also pens the Psych Central blogs The Psychology of Success and First Comes Love.

For instance, one client received an email from her childless bachelor brother criticizing her and her husband’s parenting after attending their daughter’s birthday party. In the email, he also copied their entire extended family.

The client responded by thanking her brother for his concern, letting him know that they didn’t want his input unless it’s solicited and expressing confidence in their parenting skills.

“Their daughter is a normal, darling child with normal toddler behavior. In time, [her brother] realized this was the case and that my client and her husband we responsible and caring parents.”

Another client was approached by a stranger on the street, who said: “You know, in order to wear your hair that short you really need to have a stunningly gorgeous face…” She responded by saying: “You know, in order to walk up to a stranger and say that is stunningly rude. Namaste.’” Then, she walked away.

Be clear about what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

For instance, you might say: “It is not OK for you to comment on my food, my weight, my exercise or my body.” Marter suggested checking out Cloud and Townsend’s work on setting boundaries.

Communicate your discomfort.

Sometimes, when faced with an inappropriate remark, Marter responds with “Wow,” and then succinctly communicates that the person’s comment crossed the line.

Don’t disclose if you don’t want to.

“Don’t share information you do not want to share,” Marter said. For instance, you can say: “I’m so sorry, I am really not comfortable talking about that right now.”

Don’t respond.

Sometimes, silence speaks louder than words. According to Marter, silence can be “an effective mirror for somebody to gain insight about their inappropriate behavior.” One example is when someone is catcalling or making sexual remarks, she said.

There are numerous options for responding to inappropriate remarks. Just keep in mind this quote from Wayne Dyer, a favorite of Marter’s: “How people treat you is their karma, how you react is yours.”

counseling to find work/life balance

Change Your Thinking, Live More Productively

by UB therapist, Aaron Karmin, LCPC

Changing your thinking habits can make many things less disagreeable. If you don’t like your job, for example, you may habitually think about what a chore it is, how much you hate it, and how much you’d rather do something else for a living. You may think negative thoughts about your job from the time you get up to go to work until you get home, and this may keep you miserable all day long. You will feel better about working at a job you dislike if you practice positive thoughts such as: “At least it pays the rent,” “I sure do like my paycheck,” and “I’m going to do the best I can.”

If you are depressed or anxious, think of the opposite. Instead of dwelling on the worst case scenario, imagine the most unlikely best case outcome. Both are equally unlikely, its absurd to predict the future accurately. So at least by imagining the best case scenario you will stop accepting what pops into your mind and believing it to be true. Pick an area in which you are having trouble, then create or invent new memorable, extremely favorable, ridiculously absurd options to deal with that situation. If you are uncomfortable around your supervisor at work or your relatives, imagine positive scenes in which you solve conflicts or make adjustments. If confidence and self-esteem are low, imagine scenes in which your confidence is increased. Imagine being praised for your efforts, being successful, or finally receiving the acceptance or affection from those who have not provided it in the past. If nothing else by thinking of the best possible outcome you can feel more open to the shades of gray rather then the black and white world of all good or bad. It may sound strange, but your brain will think your life is better (it only knows what it’s told!) and will chemically your mood will lift gradually.

Yet, it may not be so simple. For example, you may be fighting low self-esteem because of prior abandonment. To change your self-image, you affirm, “I am good, beautiful, worthy, and strong.” However, your unconscious mind sabotages your efforts to create a new positive identity by releasing the negative counter-thought, “You are an insecure, awkward, homely loser.” This negative thought has had control of your self-image for years. It is a well-established thought circuit that does not give up its power so easily. The negative thought maintains its power unless neutralized by a stronger, positive thought. With practice, eventually the positive thought will grow and associate with other positive thoughts such as, “I am a good person. There are many successes in my life. People actually do like me. I have a lot to offer.” And its up to you. You can choose at any time to deploy an army of positive thoughts that will rapidly and effectively neutralize the negative ones. Then, when the same provocative situation arises to test you, your mind stays positive, poised, and peaceful.

Affirmations may sound (and feel) a little stiff and unnatural at first, but don’t worry — they work anyway. Once you get the feel of affirmations, relax and develop your own style. For example, there’s nothing wrong with saying to yourself, “Girl, you are so cool. Look how you aced that interview!” Below are some sample affirmations that others have found helpful:

Maturity – Replaces feeling immature.

• “I am a grown-up now.”

• “I am not playing a role from childhood.”

Belonging – Replaces feelings of not belonging.

• “I am a member in good standing of the human race.”

• “I belong to myself.”

• “I belong wherever I happen to be.”

Security – Replaces insecurity.

• “My security is not in material things.”

• “My security is not in phony idealism.”

• “I am secure within myself.”

Independence – Replaces feeling dependent.

• “I am competent to live my life on my own terms.”

• “I am free to cooperate with my fellow human beings in an interdependent relationship of equals.”

• “I can validate my own successes.”

• “I can trust my own judgment.”

Accomplishment – Replaces “I can’t win for losing.”

• “I did it! I made it happen in the real world.”

• “I didn’t do it perfectly, I did it well enough.”

• “I am not required to do it only better than that. I was led to believe that I was.”

Confidence – Replaces self-doubt.

• “I did it once, I can do it again.”

• “I have earned the right to feel confident within myself.”

Courage – Replaces discouragement.

• Courage is the willingness to take a risk.

• “I took the risk. I had the courage!”

• “I know that if I don’t succeed, it will hurt. But it won’t hurt as much as it did when I was a child. It won’t be the end of the world. I won’t take it personally.”

Appropriate Responsibility – Replaces too much responsibility or too little.

• “I didn’t assume too much responsibility.”

• “I didn’t cop-out either.

• “I assumed appropriate responsibility for myself.”

Good Enough – Replaces feelings of inferiority.

• “Good enough is as good as I am right now.”

• “I don’t have to be any better than that. If I am better still tomorrow, that is all right, too.”

• “I can have peace of mind in the present.”

You can begin by spending 15 minutes every day capturing your thought process on paper. Looking at your thoughts on paper helps you to identify the exaggerated pessimistic thoughts you have. After identifying your negative thoughts, write several positive statements for each negative one. First, focus on what you can do about the problem. Replace unfulfilled longing with realistic goals or plans for change. When you can’t do anything to change a problem situation, work toward acceptance. Use thoughts like, “I don’t really need it.”

Keep a list of your most common negative thought habits and positive alternatives for each. Refer to this list whenever negative thoughts arise, until you can substitute helpful alternatives from memory or immediately make up new thought alternatives to counter the negative thoughts. When a negative thought arises and circumstances make it impossible to read your list, read it at the next convenient moment.

Affirmations are best stated in the present tense, because, if affirmations are in future tense (“I will…”) your unconscious mind feels no urgency to act NOW. If you feel hypocritical stating affirmations in the present tense (as in “I am slender and healthy”) then state your affirmations as a process (as in “Each day I am”)

You can repeat you affirmations when you are engaged in activities that do not require your full attention such as walking, raking leaves, washing dishes, cooking, shopping, cleaning, or stuck in rush-hour traffic. You can also do this technique when your mind wanders into negativity, when you are upset, or when you want to change the direction of your thoughts for any reason. Affirmations are more effective when the mind is relaxed, opened, and less defensive, such as just before going to sleep or just after awaking.

You can practice affirmations before, during, or after a particular problem surfaces. For example, if you are struggling with anxiety, you can practice affirmations of “I am calm and in control” while you are anxious. But you can also practice when you are feeling at ease, which is a good time to fortify the unconscious for the tests of life that are sure to come.