How to Cope When Life Isn’t Fair

How To Cope With Life

How to Cope When Life Isn’t Fair

We all know that life isn’t fair but how do you cope with it? Bad things happen to good people, and vice versa. Unfortunately, you can accept this on an intellectual level, yet still feel frustrated and angry when things don’t go your way.

Sometimes, it’s best to accept that – for the time being, at least – things aren’t going to work out. You can try your best, but your circumstances aren’t always under your control. For example, when someone dies, you lose your job with no warning, or your beloved pet gets sick, you need to face facts – the universe can be an unjust place.

The Power Of Radical Acceptance

If you can’t take charge of a situation, what can you do instead? Next time life throws you a curve ball, try “radical acceptance,” a technique made popular by therapist Marsha Linehan. Radical acceptance is about acknowledging your pain, looking reality in the face, and embracing your emotions in difficult times.

As the saying goes, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is not.” We all face problems, but people who work with the world as it is, instead of wallowing in their feelings, find it easier to move on. Paradoxically, sitting with the pain and accepting it will help you heal faster.

Lamenting the unfairness of life, or refusing to acknowledge reality, is a recipe for further hurt. If you can’t accept what is going on in your life, you’ll become bitter and chronically miserable.

The Danger Of Shutting Down

If you get into the habit of repressing emotions you don’t like, you’ll also become cut off from positive feelings. You will become numb to the world, and unable to feel joy when things do work out in your favor. Trying to hide your feelings or wish them away leaves you at risk of anxiety and depression.

Acceptance takes practice. It’s simple, but not easy. The next time you find yourself at the mercy of an uncontrollable situation, take a deep breath and pause. Tell yourself that you are scared, angry, frustrated, or whatever the emotion may be – and that you accept it. Tell yourself that it’s OK to feel unhappy.

Work On The Small Stuff First

Life is full of minor inconveniences and challenges. The good news is that they give you lots of opportunities to practice acceptance.

For example, when you have to wait in a long line at the grocery store or handle a difficult meeting with your boss, accept that you aren’t enjoying yourself. Realize that all situations arise from a long chain of events, with multiple causes. Tough times are inevitable, but you have a choice in how to handle them.

Radical Acceptance Isn’t Apathy

Apathy is a state of tired surrender, whereas radical acceptance requires you to “tune in” to the present moment. Accepting the present doesn’t mean that you can’t change the future. It just means that there’s nothing you can do about your circumstances right this minute.

In fact, the better you are at accepting reality, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to make positive changes. When you embrace life just as it is, warts and all, you learn that no feeling lasts forever. You’ll discover that you can survive any feeling. You are tougher than you think.

Acceptance, Forgiveness, & Grudges

Finally, acceptance doesn’t mean you have to forgive and love everyone who ever wronged you. Neither does it mean you have to agree with what they did, or try to rebuild a relationship that turned toxic.

However, holding onto a grudge or obsessing over someone else’s behavior isn’t healthy. Your anger or resentment doesn’t punish the other person; it just keeps you mired in suffering.

Instead of working yourself up into self-righteous fury, try to understand what the situation taught you. Underneath the drama and pain, there are bound to be a few useful lessons. By accepting the past, you can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. In time, you’ll discover that radical acceptance is an amazing tool for self-development.


About the author: Lia Huynh is a Milpitas, Fremont and San Jose therapist  and counselor who works with clients struggling to radically accept the unfairness that life brings from time to time. If you would like to find out more about working with her in counseling or therapy, click here: San Jose Therapist

Why Stress Can Make You Depressed

depression treatment

Stress Can Make You Depressed

Stress has a bad reputation, but it is useful in moderation. For instance, it can give you the push you need to meet a deadline at work. However, long-term stress can lead to full-blown depression. To understand why, we’re going to look at what happens to your body when you feel under pressure. Can stress really make you depressed?

First, you need to learn about the effects of cortisol. Also known as the “stress hormone, it triggers a chain of reactions in your body that can lead to depression.

What Is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone that plays a key role in lots of bodily functions, such as blood sugar and blood pressure regulation. Our adrenal glands, which are positioned on top of our kidneys, release cortisol when we are under stress. It keeps us energized and alert in the face of danger. Cortisol also triggers immune system activity, which can help ward off infectious diseases.

In summary, cortisol serves lots of useful purposes. However, if you are habitually tense and stressed out, your adrenal glands will release so much cortisol that your body and mind will start to suffer.

If your cortisol levels remain high for a long period of time, your blood pressure and blood sugar will shoot up. Your immune system won’t work as well as usual, and you may start to store more fat around your midsection. Your risk of having a stroke will increase, and you will be at greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

Cortisol, Stress, & Your Mood

Stress also affects how your neurotransmitters work. Neurotransmitters are your brain’s chemical messengers. They have many functions, such as regulating your moods and controlling your appetite.

If your cortisol levels are high, your brain might no longer be able to properly metabolize its neurotransmitters. This can have significant consequences.

For example, cortisol levels can change how your brain processes serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates your moods. Lowered serotonin levels are linked with depression and sleep problems.

Normally, our cortisol levels are highest early in the morning and gradually decrease throughout the day. However, if you’re depressed, your cortisol levels stay elevated until the late afternoon or evening. As a result, you will spend more time feeling low compared to someone with normal cortisol levels.

Cortisol Changes How You Respond To Therapy

Talking therapies are an effective treatment for depression, but studies show that if your cortisol levels are unusually high, you are less likely to feel the benefit. This is why lifestyle interventions, such as meditation and exercise, can be so important for people with depression.

7 Easy WaysTo Lower Your Cortisol Levels

1. Learn how to meditate.

Meditation and mindfulness are now widely recommended treatments for anxiety and depression.

2. Use a journal to safely express your thoughts and feelings.

Talking to another person about your problems can be difficult. Writing about them in your journal can be a good alternative.

3. Do something creative.

You don’t have to be an accomplished artist to enjoy some art therapy.

4. Book a soothing massage.

The power of touch is well documented. It can relieve stress within minutes.

5. Make time for the things you enjoy.

Even if you have a busy life, it’s important to have some fun.

6. Nurture your relationships.

Loneliness is stressful. People with strong support networks are more emotionally resilient in the face of life’s challenges, and enjoy better mental health.

7. Pray and turn to a higher power

Having a higher power can give you a feeling that something is in control, even when you don’t feel like you have it. And prayer is shown to lower areas in the brain related to stress.

When To Get Help

If you can’t get your stress under control, or if you have started to feel depressed, talk to a mental health professional. They can teach you how to manage stress, tackle the symptoms of depression, and regain your quality of life.


About the author: Lia Huynh, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has helped many people manage their stress, anxiety and depression in the San Jose, Fremont and Milpitas areas. If you want to learn more about working with Lia, click here

9 Things I Wish People Told Me Before I Had A Baby

baby and mom

Before I Had A Baby…

Most of us assume that new motherhood is the happiest time of a woman’s life. In reality, looking after a baby is full of ups and downs. Sure, becoming a mom is special, and every child is a gift. On the other hand, it’s normal to struggle.

Here are a few things I wish I’d known before having my first child:

Motherhood isn’t always blissful, and that’s OK. Babies are wonderful, but being a mom is tiring! Don’t worry –– most women feel the same way.  You can be a great mom even if you don’t always love everything that comes with the role.

It’s fine to ask your loved ones to take over for a few hours. It’s normal to be relieved when someone offers to watch the baby for a while. All mothers need time alone to relax and focus on themselves.

Your marriage won’t be your first priority for a while. A new baby changes your lives, and it takes time to readjust. Focus on pulling together as a team. Don’t beat yourselves up if your life lacks romance for a few months. When the baby becomes more independent, you can work together to get your intimate life back on track.

Breastfeeding comes with lots of benefits, but it’s not always easy. Ask your midwife, paediatrician, or doula for advice. Your local hospital or clinic might run support groups where you can share tips and experiences with other new moms.

Parenting books are helpful, but reading too many is a recipe for disaster. It’s a good idea to read a couple of books to get an idea of what to expect when your baby arrives. Ask your midwife for recommendations. However, overloading yourself with information can make you feel inadequate and stressed, so don’t buy too many.

Postpartum depression is a serious condition that requires treatment. Around 10% of women experience depression in the year after they give birth. Note that this is not the same thing as the “baby blues,” which go away after a couple of weeks.  

Symptoms of postpartum depression include feelings of sadness, a low mood, problems bonding with your baby, problems focusing, trouble making decisions, and having unwanted, frightening thoughts.

Get professional help if you are depressed. Ask your doctor for advice; they might recommend antidepressants or self-help techniques. Consulting a San Jose counseling therapist can help you get through this difficult time. Remember that depression or other mental illness doesn’t mean you are a “bad mother.”

We’re all individuals, and that applies to babies too! Your family and friends will have their own opinions on how you should raise your child. Trust your own judgment as a mother. You know your baby best. If you do ask someone for their advice, take what you like and leave the rest.

When you feel overwhelmed and sleep deprived, remind yourself that parenting gets easier. One day, your baby will sleep through the night, and eat on their own. When they learn to walk, you’ll no longer have to carry them around. When they learn to speak, you’ll no longer have to guess what they want.

Enjoy your baby. As the saying goes, they really do grow up too fast. The years will fly by, and suddenly your little baby will be a teen. Take lots of photos to capture those precious memories. You’ll treasure them forever.


About the author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who serves the San Jose and Milpitas areas. She works with many mothers adjusting to their new role. This article comes from her own personal experience with post-partum depression and anxiety.  Raising a child is hard work, but you don’t have to go through it alone. If you need help, feel free to reach out to her here. To find out more about individual counseling with Lia, click here.