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First Lady's Blog

About Dr. Debbie Covino

Dr. Debbie Covino

Dr. Debbie Covino, the First Lady of Cal State LA, is certified as a Master Clinical Hypnotherapist and Integrative Life Coach. She has spoken to diverse groups throughout Southern California about the importance of self-care and inner well-being, including staff, faculty, and students at Cal State LA. Dr. Covino has also taught courses in self-hypnosis for personal and professional success through the College of Professional and Global Education at Cal State LA. She is the co-founder of the Cal State LA WellBeingU initiative, which focuses on the inner well-being of the campus community.


Bad Thought: There’s something seriously wrong with my mental health.

Student looking into the sunlight

I read this morning that rates of anxiety and depression are up four-fold since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. So, the first thing to understand if you’re one of those suffering from mental malaise is that you’re in good company. This is a very important point. When I was suffering from anxiety years ago, I looked around me at my colleagues and was convinced I was the only one. Added to the pain of the symptoms was the perception that I was unusually weak or strange or defective. 

Fast forward 20+ years, and it’s very clear to me that anxiety is a commonplace occurrence. How much more so in our current medical, social, and political context. So, if you’re experiencing inner stress and strain, I have good news for you: you’re really quite ordinary! That bit of news may or may not help with your symptoms but, besides allowing you to feel a part of something bigger than yourself, it may also help you feel reassured that (in the words of psychiatrist James Gordon), “For the most part, these are not psychiatric disorders that [you] are having. These are ordinary responses to an extraordinary situation” (link to full article below).
This bit of news might just make you brave enough to talk to someone about what you’re feeling so that you can start the process of gathering a supportive community around you. I know I couldn’t have done it without that.
Wishing you well at this challenging time.

A Psychiatrist’s Tips for Calming Your Pandemic Stress - Greater Good Magazine  

Bad Thought: I can’t find a ray of light during this coronavirus pandemic

Student looking into the sunlight

We’re all enduring a terrible time in world history. Coronavirus has taken numerous lives, and we remain in the thick of the outbreak and all its related problems. You’re stuck at home, worried about your health and that of your loved ones, and the news stations are elaborating all the details of the crisis.
In this unpleasant context, I wanted to share with you a couple of brief articles from Greater Good Magazine, the Berkeley-based publication that cites and summarizes the latest research in well-being and offers practical advice for maintaining our mental health.

In "Eight Acts of Goodness Amid the COVID-19 Outbreak," we hear about the goodness of people who aim to bring a ray of light into the situation by caring for others and providing remedies for the malaise.

And in "How to Keep the Greater Good in Mind During the Coronavirus Outbreak," we are offered ways to keep our health protected and our spirits up.

During this difficult time, I am thinking of you and hoping you find a few rays of light to see you through the crisis.


Bad Thought: People Will Think I’m Stupid if I Don’t Know the Answer

Achieving your goals one step at a time

I have a client who teaches at the college level, and over-prepares for class so that he won’t be without an answer to virtually any question a student might ask. Impossible, right? And yet I understand: I often did the same thing when I taught college, and felt so much anxiety to have answers when delivering a paper at a conference, I could barely function. It seems silly to me now, but it did not seem silly when I was experiencing it, and I know it doesn’t feel silly to my client. College professors are, as one theorist puts it, “the subject presumed to know,” and playing that role can lead to some distorted self-perceptions.

It would have been so much easier to simply allow myself to be human (i.e., imperfect), and therefore not knowledgeable about a great many things. I could have cited to myself the philosopher Aristotle’s observation that new knowledge is often a reminder of how much one still doesn’t know, or I could have had a sense of humor about my need to prove myself to others. I might have taught myself to be comfortable saying to a student or colleague 3 simple words: “I don’t know.” I might have cultivated more intellectual humility, otherwise described--in a recent article in an academic journal--as owning our limitations.

Intellectual humility is not only a relief, but is of benefit in other ways. A recent article in Greater Good Magazine cites a study that indicates owning our limitations enhances learning and increases open-mindedness. So, next time you’re in any situation in which you’re playing the role of “expert,” tell yourself this: Gaps in knowledge are just fine.

You're reading the Bad Thoughts Blog, which maintains that feeling good is as simple as thinking a better thought. I'm Debbie Covino, hypnotherapist, coach, and creator of the Master Your Own Mind self-hypnosis program.


Bad Thought: This is too big to accomplish

Achieving your goals one step at a time

I remember about kaizen, the Japanese word for improvement, referring in the corporate environment more specifically to continuous improvement through small steps. The concept has been fleshed out more philosophically and psychologically in Robert Maurer’s 2014 book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. Maurer recognizes that while big goals can feel intimidating, one small step toward that goal always feels doable. 

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by a big job or goal? Maybe you need to lose 50 pounds, clean out the garage, or find a new job. For me, it’s often writing projects. Let’s say I want to write a book-length account of ways to become a more positive thinker. Flashes of brilliance flow through me and I take note of all the marvelous possibilities! I’m eager to dive in and make it happen. But then comes the hitch in my thinking: That sounds daunting! A book is, after all, a huge undertaking. Then I think of kaizen, and am reminded that writing even one sentence is a step toward the book.

This thought actually prompted me to start the “Bad Thoughts Blog” you’re reading now. Here I can identify commonly experienced bad thought phenomena, and briefly elaborate each one. A single entry on its own may not be very substantial, but thought-by-thought, point-by-point, I am creating a larger work. A series of small steps, added together, becomes a full-sized accomplishment.

Next time you feel overwhelmed at the thought of a big goal, ask yourself what one small step you can take toward that goal. Then do that, and revel in the idea that you are already on your way. 

You're reading the Bad Thoughts Blog, which maintains that feeling good is as simple as thinking a better thought. I'm Debbie Covino, hypnotherapist, coach, and creator of the Master Your Own Mind self-hypnosis program.


Bad Thought: What I have to say is of no value

Your place in the conversation

I was at a holiday party, talking to a couple of men who are university administrators. As always seems to be the case (in that particular dynamic), the men were more interested in subjects related to their work than in whatever I had to offer. I tried to find a way in to the conversation--something that would get their attention . . . 

Flash back to my childhood. I’m outside with my big brother and his buddies. I’m clowning around to be one of them, but they feel aloof. I think they see me as a nuisance. I don’t fit in, and I desperately want to. I identify with them more than with girls my own age.

Such scenes (I have a very long list) prompt the belief that what I have to say is of no value. Do you have this thought at times? It’s a killer. It’s stopped me from putting my whole self forward in too many ways to cite. It makes us all shrink up and feel small. It makes us sad and lonely.

Another way of being, another way of seeing is possible: I love listening to these guys so much. It’s fun that I get to be a part of their world, listening in, learning about their ways and views. Maybe they’re performing, in part, for me. Showing not only each other, but also the girl in tow, what they know, what they want out of life. Maybe I’m their audience. That’s a pretty important role to play!

I feel much better already.

Opportunity for change: Next time you’re in any group dynamic, professional or personal, ask yourself what role you’re playing. Are you a glue of some kind: without you, the others would be less cohesive? What would the conversation or activity be like if you were absent? How does your presence make the whole scene more functional or meaningful?  

You're reading the Bad Thoughts Blog, which maintains that feeling good is as simple as thinking a better thought. I'm Debbie Covino, hypnotherapist, coach, and creator of the Master Your Own Mind self-hypnosis program.