Per My Last Email: Mental Health Advice for Working Women

January 22 - Dr. Nahal Delpassand

Dr. Delpassand is a licensed psychologist, currently in private practice in central Austin. She enjoys working with adolescents and adults. Some of her areas of interest include chronic illness, disability, depression, anxiety, disordered eating, body image, life transitions, and advocacy/mentorship. Dr. Delpassand obtained her doctorate at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. She completed her pre-doctoral residency at Emory University in Atlanta.

Her practice principles are derived from the Biopsychosocial model of health. This model conceptualizes health and illness as multifactorial, addressing the relationship between biology, psychology, and social factors. Simply put, when one or more of these factors is out of alignment, it often leads to distress. Dr. Delpassand emphasizes emotional wellness as a way to build self-efficacy; the belief that one is capable of tolerating and, most importantly acting adaptively when faced with, adversity.

Dr. Delpassand helps to empower her clients by guiding them to acknowledge rather than suppress their emotional experiences. Psychotherapy, she believes, is analogous to emotional strength training. Psychotherapy creates space for understanding the nuanced relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. In her experience, when emotional muscles are strengthened and emotional awareness is applied to everyday acts of living, clients grow and become more self-reflective. This increased self-awareness helps clients to more clearly identify what drives both progress and stagnation. Ultimately, Delpassand believes that emotional wellness helps to cultivate motivation, intentionality with decision-making, and sustainable fulfillment in various realms of life.

On The Dot sat down with Dr. Delpassand to get some tips on dealing with workplace stress:

  1. Q: What are the career/work/professional-related anxieties you find that the young women who visit you are often faced with? (Namely, women in their 20's and 30's).

    Pressure related to balancing their many roles. Overwhelmingly, distress is reported when personal and professional obligations are out of alignment.

    2. Dissatisfaction with job or career trajectory. Am I pursuing a career that I am passionate about? Are there growth opportunities? Am I being challenged enough?

    3. Interpersonal distress at work. Questions about how to navigate the tough conversations. For example, salary disputes and conflict resolution with colleagues.

    4. Imposter syndrome: a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” This is a normal occurrence for women early in their careers.

2. Q: Many people would like to go to therapy, for example, for anxiety but often can't afford it. What are some non-expensive tips to manage work-induced stress?

A: Firstly, maintaining boundaries. To put it simply, navigating the art between saying “yes” vs. “no” in the workplace. When helping my clients with this, I often ask them to describe their feelings when they have said “yes” to a commitment. If they have feelings of uneasiness and regret, they often report they agreed out of obligation and not genuine interest. In contrast, if feelings of calm and resolve are reported, then the commitment was important and meaningful. Trusting our embedded emotional signals, and thus our intuition consistently can prove to be a powerful “free” coping mechanism in managing anxiety and work-induced stress.

Secondly, with the advent of technology, we are all managing the consequences of over-stimulation. Most simply and concretely, I tell my clients to create very structured boundaries around phone and computer usage outside the office. I advocate for only using these devices when absolutely necessary and limiting social media exposure. Technology has created ease for accessibility, but also has caused a growing epidemic of isolation.

There is an embedded societal expectation that we should all stay connected, at all times. In my experience, clients report heightened stress because of the exhaustive internal conflict between logging on and logging off. It is critical to disconnect and prioritize rest. Numerous studies have highlighted sleep irregularity, vision problems, and overall diminished mental health due to this issue.

3. Q: How can women who work 40+ hrs a week find time to relax?

A: I believe true relaxation when balancing a busy schedule comes with the pursuit of activities that are in alignment with what one truly values. The following three things must be taken into consideration: self-reflection, planning, and consistency.

I believe we use the term “self-care” quite frequently without really considering what it means. Taking care of the Self requires knowing the Self. Thus, reflecting on what one values is the first step. The process of exploring values creates a deeper understanding of wants and needs that, over time, may have been overlooked. Thus, the optimal self-care plan places precedent on highlighting activities that can strengthen ones understanding of the Self.

I often find that when clients deepen their exploration of their values, it facilitates increased motivation to plan with intention and do what is most fulfilling. Finally, when a meaningful connection is made between values and self-care, this fosters increased “buy in,” diminishes excuses, and ultimately sustains commitment to the thing they choose to spend their time doing to de-stress.

4. Q: Are there any other actionable tips can women take to reduce that stress?

A: In my experience, clients struggling with work-induced stress often struggle with pre-conceived notions about asking for help. Clients report there is pressure to maintain a façade, even when overwhelmed, because the shame that comes from disappointing others and feeling incapable is intolerable.

Delegating tasks or honestly communicating needs can ameliorate the experience of stress. Whether it’s the support of colleagues, supervisors, friends or family, being open about needing help displays strength rather than weakness.

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