Category Archives: Stress Management
This time of year can be quite stressful for many of us: we stretch our budgets for holiday gifts, students take finals and family members get on each others nerves at the dinner table. Most of the time we are simply trying to get through these events unscathed, but there is often a piece many of us are don’t consider….
SELF-CARE: maintenance of physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health intended to improve or restore.
Now of course, self-care is not something to do during only the holidays, it’s something we should engage in at all times,regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic background. Before you get too hard on yourself for notpracticing enough self-care, consider this major obstacle:
Overstimulation—we are constantly consumed by work, family, TV, text messaging, Facebooking, Pinning and whatever else you do! Our society’s message is not “care for yourself” but rather “stimulate yourself!” It is so easy to get caught up in doing that we get out of touch with simply being.
For many, we are constantly on the go balancing work and personal life and leave little time to ourselves. Note that time TO ourselves is different than time FOR ourselves. Time to ourselves is time alone; time we can sit with ourselves, our thoughts, our bodies and our emotions. It is often not until we have that time to ourselves that we can truly unwind and get in touch with the toll our daily stressors have taken on us physically, mentally and emotionally. And yes extroverts, you too need alone time!
When we don’t carve out time alone to get in touch with those things, we don’t even realize they are there and sometimes we won’t realize they exist until they hit us in a big way—like panic attacks, burnout, physical ailments, meltdowns, substance use and crying fits.
Our bodies tell us what we need, but we just need to take the time to listen. And when we take that time to listen, we not only can discover what we need for restoration and recovery, but also what we can do to prevent physical, mental and emotional wear and tear.
So what should you do in that alone time?
1. Find a quiet space
2. Turn off or put away your electronics
3. Find a comfortable seated or laying position and take a moment to notice and feel your body settle… this is where your mindfulness and deep breathing skills come in handy!
4. Sit still and observe!
Observe your body’s physical sensations—use a formal body scan or simply check in with your body for tension, tightness, heat, cold, spasms and whatever else you feel.
Observe your thoughts—Again you can use a formal mindfulness practice or just begin by checking in with your mind.
What is the quality of your mind? Racing thoughts, slow, chaotic, foggy?
What is the quality of your thoughts? Replaying one over and over, jumping from one to the other, repeating a theme?
What is the quality of your emotions? Disconnected, aroused, anxious, stressed, sad, angry?
*** If you feel unable to sit/lay still, notice what is going on for you and what your obstacles are.
5. Use what you’ve observed to make a plan!
My mind and body need….
For a healthy mind and body, we need to know what we need to repair, restore and prevent and we can only know this by taking the time to listen.
As part of Stress Awareness Month, it is important not to overlook one population that is particularly in need of tools to cope with stress, teens. Teens today face more and more stress than generations before. These stressors include:
- Academic success
- Cyber bullying
- Body image
- Peer relationships
- Parental separation/divorce
- Sense of self or self-esteem
- Identity formation
Many of these challenges are similar to what adults face, and just like adults, stress can affect a teen’s happiness, health and overall sense of well-being.
When teens run into stress they typically:
A) Don’t know how to identify that they are stressed and B) don’t know how to cope with the stress they’re feeling.
We are using mindfulness to help adults tackle these challenges, among others; however, these tools aren’t as readily available for teens as they are adults. Not only do you not have to be a monk on top of a mountain to practice mindfulness, but you also don’t have to be an adult. Mindfulness is for everyone. And why wouldn’t we want to help teens access their inner resources for awareness and self-control? Read the rest of this entry
It is no coincidence that National Stress Awareness Month happens to be during tax month. Nevertheless, stress is not necessarily all bad; it is the thing that often motivates us, helps us meet deadlines, sharpens our attention and keeps us out of danger. Many of us face stress in our daily routine and are accustomed to functioning with a high level of stress. While we may be managing and functioning in this state, I’d like to take this month of awareness as an opportunity to help you learn more about stress, it’s effects and ways to combat against it.
Basic Physiology of Stress
In order to understand the effects of stress, we must first understand the role of the Autonomic Nervous System, which has two branches: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. When we are in a stressful or threatening situation, our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated, meaning our brain goes into fight, flight or freeze response. This stress response initiates a series of actions, such as increased heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure and a flooding of hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol.
However, our bodies are built to adapt and re-balance with the help of the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases our heart rate and relaxes the blood vessels.
While these two branches of the nervous system are built to maintain balance, many of us are living with chronic stress, meaning our sympathetic nervous system remains activated and on guard. Living in a heightened state of stress, whether it’s due to work, school, relationships or other circumstances, can have detrimental and long-term effects on the body’s health and immune system. Read the rest of this entry
There are many reasons people come to therapy: relationship troubles, traumatic experiences, depression or even self-improvement. Though the presenting reason may vary person to person, the underlying goal is to heal. There are many ideas on how to heal people that range from medical models to holistic approaches. My personal interest is healing that tends to the whole person: mind, body and soul.
An important piece of healing involves exploration. The majority of us have a neatly pre-packaged story of our lives: what our childhood was like, how we decided on our major, and the problems we have endured and overcome. Our story often becomes so airtight that no other possible perspectives or meanings can seep in. This story becomes so routine that when people ask us about our lives we simply reach into our pockets and recite it from memory without batting and eye. We generally believe that with age, cultivated experience and wisdom, we develop expanded perspectives and ideas on life. However, when these stories of our lives go unexamined for so long, we can cut off the opportunity to make new meaning, re-story our plotline and ultimately deepen the understanding of our experience. CONTINUE READING!
With Thanksgiving just behind us, we are well into holiday season. As many of us were recently surrounded by family, we are thinking about how to get through the rest of these upcoming gatherings unscathed. It is truly magical how as young adults and even full grown adults we can walk into our parents home and suddenly we are fourteen again. How’s that for time travel?
For the majority of the year, we are consumed with creating the life we want, focusing on our careers, friendships, love lives and social outings. Aside from a few rough patches here and there, we generally think of ourselves as mature and functional adults. However, much of that goes by the wayside when we come face to face with the people and surroundings that molded us into the individuals we are today. Suddenly, we have picked up right where we left off; resuming the same role in our family as we did in adolescence, arguing over the same issues with our parents and siblings, and of course, resorting to the same old coping mechanisms and habits that we were so sure we left behind once we moved out.
It never ceases to amaze me how prominent this topic of conversation is not only in my professional life, but also in my personal life. For some it is dreading the helicopter mom who prods for all the details, for others it’s avoiding getting sucked into the screw up sibling’s latest saga and for others it’s a struggle to achieve that delicate balance of parental validation and independence. Regardless of what flavor your family cocktail is, here are five pointers to guide you through! CONTINUE READING!