Jennifer: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your practice.
Alisa: My name is Alisa Kamis-Brinda, LCSW, LCADC and I am the owner and licensed psychotherapist at Serenity Solutions, LLC in Philadelphia, PA. I specialize in helping overwhelmed, stress out professionals and new moms learn how to slow down anxious and angry thoughts so that they can be in the present moment, relax and enjoy life again.
Jennifer: What are some of the symptoms that patients who are struggling with anxiety and feelings of overwhelm might present?
Alisa: People struggling with anxiety or feelings of overwhelm experience a variety of symptoms. These can include obsessive, ruminating thoughts; poor sleep; increased or decreased appetite; and panic attacks with symptoms of difficulty breathing, chest pain, sweating, shaking, feeling like you’re going to having a heart attack or going to faint.
They may also present with anger, as anger is an emotion that often covers up feelings of anxiety. Substance abuse or other addictive behaviors are often present, as well, as they help to mask anxiety in the short-term, despite causing problems in the long run.
Jennifer: Describe some concrete strategies that you might use to help a person struggling with feeling overwhelmed by a bunch of life stressors.
Alisa: Helping clients with effective time management is a very helpful strategy when someone is feeling overwhelmed by many life stressors. Oftentimes, we feel overwhelmed because we are doing too much. Ways to manage time to help with overwhelm include making a schedule, delegating tasks to others and asking for help from others, saying no to requests from others and prioritizing tasks so that the less important ones can be put off until later or skipped altogether.
Learning mindfulness and relaxation exercises are also helpful ways to manage feelings of overwhelm. Encouraging clients to practice effective sleep hygiene is often helpful as well, as it more difficult to manage stress and anxiety when we feel sleep deprived.
This includes going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, getting between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, avoiding caffeine after 12 noon, making sure that where you are sleeping is dark enough, quiet enough and comfortable enough and turning off electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime.
Finally, scheduling time for yourself to practice mindfulness or relaxation exercises, socialize, engage in an enjoyable activity or hobby, exercise or just do nothing is helpful to mange anxiety and overwhelm.
Jennifer: What theoretical orientations inform your practice?
Alisa: My practice is informed by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT). CBT helps people to change thoughts and behaviors so that their feelings can change. ACT helps people incorporate mindfulness so that they can notice thoughts, feelings and other internal experiences without doing things to avoid these feelings so that they can live a life that feels meaningful to them.
Jennifer: How do you personally cope when you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed?
Alisa: I incorporate the same tools that I teach to the clients with whom I work. I use deep breathing for my relaxation exercise. I practice mindfulness to help me refocus on what is important to in the moment so that I don’t stay stuck in my head with anxious thoughts. I exercise twice a week. I avoid caffeine, which can mimic feelings of anxiety. I plan my schedule to avoid having too much to do and I spend time with friends and loved ones.
I also try to get a good night’s sleep each night, as I know I don’t cope well with stress when I am too tired.
Jennifer: What are some helpful things that you would say to people who feels completely overwhelmed and like they have too much on their plate?
Alisa: Since every client is different, what I say to one person might be different from what I say to another person. However, in general, I empathize with them, letting them know that I know what it feels like. Using mindfulness tools, I guide clients into noticing their thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. I also help them make a plan using the strategies listed above to help decrease the overwhelm from their stressors so that they can focus on what is really important to them and live a life that feels meaningful to them.