A guide on using the power of story for connection and support.

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I’m on the phone with my dad. Again. We’re discussing the dilemma of whether to leave or stay in my Ph.D. program. Well, really I’m discussing it out loud to myself while he graciously stays on the line.

I’ve been seeking answers for months. Desperate for the perfect piece of advice that will magically clarify everything and point me in the right direction. I haven’t yet figured out how to listen to my intuition and not outward noise. Presumably exhausted with my circular thinking, my dad eventually cuts in.

“Did I ever tell you about when I switched careers from…

A scientific guide to understanding and treating both.

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I’m sitting at my desk on a Saturday trying to get work done. It’s November of 2019. But just like every day for the past three months, I can’t complete a single task. Just opening my email inbox has become painful. I have little to no motivation, energy, or joy.

When I describe this apathy and fatigue to a therapist, she says: “If we’re anxious for long enough, we’ll eventually become depressed.”

That must be it. Maybe I’m depressed. Research shows that low to mild levels of anxiety can be normal and healthy; they keep us alert, safe, proactive, and…

Understanding the outcome of post-truth politics

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How did we end up here?

Virtually every American has asked themselves that question in the last week. Seemingly simple questions like this usually have varying answers. But one undeniable factor is the rise of misinformation.

What is post-truth politics?

It’s important to distinguish between misinformation and media bias. Political bias in the media has existed since the dawn of the free press. We know that networks like CNN have a liberal bias while Fox has a conservative one. We know that the New York Times traditionally leans left while the Wall Street Journal leans right.

As humans…

Let fear come along for the ride without giving it the wheel

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Anxiety and I are old friends. We’ve been getting to know each other for the past 26 years. I decided as a child there was too much going on out there for a sensitive mind, so I was often an observer rather than a participant.

But when I experienced my first panic attack at age 8, this triggered a fear of choking. Although the world had never felt safe, now I worried my own body couldn’t be trusted to protect me. I starting paying close attention to my throat, how it felt to swallow, how it felt to inhale and…

How to separate your self-worth from your achievements.

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When it comes to our professional lives, we all want to be taken seriously and be viewed as competent, efficient, and valuable to our team, colleagues, or company. This is a basic, universal human need.

But problems arise when you begin attaching our self-worth to your levels of competency and productivity. Sometimes it takes years before this is clear to you and those around you.

For me? It took about 26 years and almost 3 degrees.

My self-worth was based on the quality of what I created, a strong work ethic, and “big” career goals. Specifically, these goals involved climbing…

“There are only 2 industries that call their customers users: illegal drugs and software” — Edward Tufte

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We’ve all been there. You’re sitting at your desk working when a notification pops up on your phone. Maybe Sally liked your Facebook post. Maybe James followed you on Instagram. Maybe it’s an email, a celebrity tweet, or a news alert. You open it mindlessly and before you know it, 20 minutes have disappeared. It will likely happen while you’re reading this article.

You scold yourself for not having enough willpower. You try to set a time limit on scrolling social media. You…

Life lessons outside of the classroom

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1. Fear is never a good enough reason to do — or not do — anything.

It has taken 26 years of life experience to draw the conclusion: what we fear most rarely if ever, comes true. No amount of preparation can fully mitigate the risks of living the life we want. If fear of the unknown is the only reason I have for not doing something, then I better find some other reasons.

2. The characteristics or hobbies that make you feel “weird” or “different” will end up being your superpowers.

As a child, I found solace from chronic anxiety through storytelling. It began by talking out loud to myself, making up stories, and playing different characters. Once I learned to write, these stories unfolded on paper. It wasn’t until I graduated from…

What you need to know about listening to your intuition

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When the coronavirus pandemic began, this new way of life required all of us to adapt. One thing the transition did for me was strip away all the distractions I used to avoid acknowledging my own unhappiness as a doctoral student in psychology. With most worldly interruptions gone, my focus narrowed on my work with data and research. Even on a good day, I was merely complacent.

Something needed to change, but I was looking for every reason to stay in the program. After all, I had worked my entire life to be exactly in this position. What else would…

The psychological benefits of expressive writing

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The process of writing down your thoughts and feelings can be both therapeutic and enlightening. Maybe you’ve experienced this personally because journaling is a frequent practice. Maybe you’ve never journaled because the idea feels too vulnerable.

What is expressive writing?

Expressive writing is a practice that involves writing at least 15 minutes for 3 to 4 consecutive days. Dr. James Pennebaker, a social psychologist and pioneering researcher in expressive writing, suggests writing about something you are thinking or worrying about too much, something that is negatively impacting your life, or something you’ve been avoiding.

Expressive writing differs from…

Evidence-based practices to improve your mental health

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Have you been feeling anxious? Frustrated? Scared? Depressed? Angry? If so, I have some good news.

You are not alone! Not in the slightest. The pandemic has upended millions of lives. It’s easy to believe that anger, anxiety, or depression mean something is wrong with us. Or that we’re not coping as well as we should be. But, as Viktor Frankl has said, “an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”

First, know that however you feel amid this pandemic is valid and normal. Give yourself permission to feel the way…

Taylor Simons, M.Ed.

Writer, storyteller, and researcher in social and health psychology. Published in Thought Catalog, Mind Cafe, and The Ascent. taylorsuzannesimons.com

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