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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Feeling Stuck? Two Things You Need to Know to Make a Change

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 13th 2009

three people confused Sometimes the instructions we get in life can be very simple, but not necessarily that easy to engage. There are so many books that come out year after year that we connect to, make us feel good for moments at a time, but for some reason, we just don't end up engaging in the practice the book is telling us about.

Take for example the simple message that when you engage in healthy activities, you feel good and when you engage in unhealthy activities you don't. This could mean engaging in activities from diet, to exercise, to letting go of beating yourself up so much.

Aha, there's the culprit. Just when we start to try and do something for ourselves the ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) creep in. "This is just surface stuff, my issues run way deeper than this," or "I'm too busy for this," or "I'm hopeless, this isn't working." We then follow by putting the book, CD, therapy session, etc... down and falling back into the auto-pilot of our lives.

But wait, there's a second culprit. The people you hang out with. Yes, that's right. If there's one thing we've learned, the community we spend time with has a great influence on our ability to actually cultivate change. Take a good look at who you spend most your time with. Are these people supportive of the changes you want to make? Are there other people you don't spend time with who are more supportive? Are there groups or organizations in your area that would be more supportive? Begin spending a bit more time with people and groups who are more supportive and a little less time with those who are not.

Most of all, know that it took you many years to get to the state you are in today and it may take some time to work through the ANTS and engage with supportive people. So try and have compassion for yourself along this process and as time goes by, you may notice, overall, there are less ANTS in your head or they bother you less and you feel better about the people you're spending your time with.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    the ANTS - Carol M. Mak - Dec 7th 2009

    This is a brilliant explanation of how people make thoughts an escape from doing things that they know would help them.  Thanks for this enlightenment.  "Getting Into Gear" is always a good thing.  I just love this.  It sure turned on a light for me.  "the ANTS" is an exciting concept...a good link-word.  Thanks ((hugs)) even. Carol, yes, I'm from Canada, wouldn't you know it!

    Where do you turn? - Sarah - Aug 29th 2009

    I am unemployed, hove been for almost a year.  I go to workforce center for tips, helps and use of internet to do resumes and look for work since pretty much everything is on-line.  I am over 50 and that adds to the frustration of looking for a job.  They say there is no discrimination but you practically are told to fib, or stretch the truth, or cover-up on your resmue any indication you are over 50.

    Yes that's what they teach you to do at the workforce center!  I am from the "old school" I guess, where telling a lie should not be rewarded!  You are supposed to leave out your graduation date, stretch the truth on something you accomplished while at work that, in your own estimation, saved the company X amount of dollars, even if you have no proof you did!  I want a job!  But how can I respect myself or my employer if that is want is required on a resume to get a job?

    I also do not have health insurance.  I am over 50 with type 2 Diabetes. high blood pressure, thyroid condition, but have not seen a doctor in over 2 years.  I was also unemployed for 6 months prior to me getting this last job, the previous job position was "eliminated" and the most recent one the company "downsized" about 40% of it's staff.  I was not able to pick up insurance as I had taken about $2.80/hour cut in pay and couldn't afford the premiums.  Now I can't get insurance because I have been without it for over 6 months so you are penalized by having to pay a high premium ($400/month or more) or paying a lower premium ($180-$390) with $5,000 or better out of pocket per year before anything is covered and also a "penalty" of no coverage for pre-existing conditions!  I didn't accumulate $5,000 worth of medical care in last 3 years when I had insurance!  So in other words I would be paying premiums for health issues I don't have!

    I can see why depression is on the rise nationally.  I used to take anti-depressants but dropped them because I couldn't afford the drugs.  I can't afford to go to mental health clinic because I have no job and no insurance.  I do no qualify for any assistance because I am able to draw unemployment (1/2 the amount I made in my former lowest paid job) at least until end of year. 

    I find it difficult to: "lie" on my resume, "sell" myself in interviews, have the energy to do things I normally love to do.  Since my parents have passed away the families are living further apart and busy with their own lives, so seldom hear from them.  When I do call they are on their way someplace or don't have time to talk or busy with kids.  I don't drink or go to bars and find inter-net dating or socializing scarry!  I just want to curl up on the coach or stay in bed.  I guess I have to just accept that as life and hope I live through it with-out living on the streets for lack of job or with some disease that I can't afford to have treated.  I had hoped writing this would make me feel a lttle better today, but I almost feel worse with the thought of the futility of my situation.  I see no relief!

    Letdown by others? Can't stop gossiping? - Marge - Aug 18th 2009

    If your family lets you down, find friends through volunteer activities.   Check out courses around town and you will make new friends.   Just be friendly and positive yourself....Expect good things will happen and then they will....that might sound strange, but it really works.   I lost most of my family and friends through a divorce many did not approve of, but I kept working and connecting as much as possible and I now have a new network in a matter of 6 months.       Remember that whenever you speak badly of someone else, the real and genuine people will not want to hang out with you because they know that as soon as their back is turned, you may say something negative about them....that should squelch a bad habit.

    This is so true - amy - Aug 18th 2009

    This document is right on-but more so the person that commented on it--I could have written that!!!!!!!  So just know you're not alone in your struggles---people (all of us really) are negative way too much--so in turn we're negative towards ourselves--I read a great book-feel wonderful--then go back to the ANTS--every single time--I hate myself when I talk badly of others--what is that in us that we keep doing it??? Good article....good comments.....

    good - Toury - Aug 14th 2009

    Ya, that is true. and I will agree that it takes a while to change the people you hang out with, as I am doing that right now and I find myself really lonely at times. And it's tough to not pick up the phone and call 'an old pal'.

    Second. the bad habit of beating yourself up. that is a real tough one. Not only that, but stopping ruminating as well, and venting to friends, and saying bad things about others, that they learn and then you just made a fool of yourself and feel like you can't go to certain places. Very very hard to not do that mistake!

    And many other details. Like, starting to do something that should make you feel better, and then stopping because you feel sad. And don't really feel like it anymore and start seeing the thing your doing as crap.

    Resisting temptation is another one. Going out with good friends, and then they eat chips and then you eat the whole bag. even if you aren't hungry.

    So, ya, it's true. doing the good things and keeping on the program is good. Continuing not giving into those bad thoughts about self is good. But so incredibly hard!!! Especially when you have limited amount of people around you that remind you to do the good things. Maybe there's 2...that you see once a week, might be the therapist. and then maybe one other friend that constantly boost you up and remind you of what you need to do [just by being themself and happy], but then, the rest of the week, you are entirely by yourself and depression constantly comes back uninvited.

    It's a real har fight to fight.

    Support - Maureen - Aug 13th 2009

    It is a little difficult to get support when you have no one in your life that you can rely on. No family or friends or spouse because they are the reason for the depression and feelings of giving up.

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