Why Stress Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

stress

If you’re trying to breathe and stay calm in more stressful situations and generally remain cooler under pressure, then you’ll often be approaching the idea of stress as something ‘bad’ that you need to ‘fix’ or address. Actually though, this is the wrong way to think about stress and it’s even responsible for some of the issues associated with it. The perception is that stress makes us less confident, less able to make decisions and generally weaker. But the reality couldn’t be further from that. In fact, stress actually makes us much stronger and also improves our performance in various other ways too.

How it Makes You Stronger

When you’re stressed, it triggers your body to release neurotransmitters and hormones which include adrenaline, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Together, these contribute to pain relief, an increased heart rate, dilation of the blood vessels, increased blood viscosity and tension in the muscles. Blood and oxygen are directed away from the digestive system and immune system and instead they’re directed to your muscles and brain. This makes you faster and stronger and therefore better able to escape danger or confront it head on. What’s more is that it improves your focus and alertness and improves your ability to act quickly and respond to threats. If you’re in a fight then, or an athletic contest – stress can actually help you to perform better and achieve more.

How Stress Motivates Us

At the same time, stress has the positive effect of motivating us. An example of this might be when we’re studying, at which point it’s often anxiety that makes us revise more or double check our work. The same goes for interviews and any other scenario where the outcome relies on us putting in work. This type of positive motivating stress is called ‘eustress’ and people tend to be more successful if they experience this to a good degree.

stress

The key then is not to completely eradicate stress but rather to control it. By being able to dictate when you become anxious and how much stress you experience, you can thereby improve your ability to stay while at the same time tapping into the heightened strength, speed and intelligence that comes from a stress response. Next time you find yourself feeling anxious, don’t try to fight it (which will only make you more stressed ironically) but instead lean into it and channel it!


Soothing Tools

Stress-Free Stress Management Checklist

stress check list

Looking to improve your stress levels?

Ironically, stress management can end up being stressful in itself! Knowing you have a problem with stress is of course the first step towards getting better but it also means you now know you have a problem… and it means you have a long road stretched out in front of you to ‘recovery’.

If only there were a stress-free way to manage stress… like a checklist for instance!

Do You Have a Stress Addiction?

The first point of order is to consider the possibility that you may have a stress addiction. Unlikely though it may sound, stress addictions are common as we find ourselves unable to pull away from work and other high intensity activities.

* If you ‘thrive under pressure’ and if you can never take time off, you may well have a stress addiction.

* If you feel bored and fidgety when you’re unwinding, you may have a stress addiction

* If your friends and family complain that they never get to see you, this is a sign of a stress addiction

* If you feel constantly ‘wired’ then you may have a stress addiction.

The first step to overcoming stress then is to recognize that you may feel it’s difficult to change these habits: but you must in order to gain freedom from stress.


Identifying Your Stressors

A good place to start when tackling stress is to look at your stressors. Stressors are things that cause stress and these can include things like work and debt. At the same time though, they can also include slightly smaller things in many cases.

Common stressors include…

– Impending deadlines

– Calls you need to make and don’t have time for

– Angry bosses

– Awkward colleagues

– Friends or partners who are angry with you

– Arguments

– The commute to work

– Untidy homes

– Health problems

– Inability to pay bills/debt

stress management

What you’ll notice is that some of these things are rather small and easy while others are big and abstract. A good place to start is by dealing with the smaller problems that you can tackle more easily. You might also be able to break down bigger problems into smaller issues.

For instance ‘work’ can actually mean:

– Awkward colleagues

– Bad bosses

– Uncomfortable working environments

– Unpleasant commute

– Painful working hours

– Large workloads

– Impending deadlines

So even if you can’t change your job, you may be able to deal with some of these specifics. Where will you start?


Good Habits
for Stress Management

A lot of these problems wouldn’t occur if you were to use good stress/time management habits.

Here are some good examples:

stress mangement
Stress Man. Businessman suffers from a headache

* Little and often – instead of letting your dishes pile up, try tackling them sooner so that they never build up to that level.

* The pomodoro technique – are you prone to procrastination? Get around this tendency by using the pomorodo technique: segregating your working hours into periods of work and rest using a timer.

* The 80/20 law – if you’re self-employed, you might find that 80% of your work comes from 20% of your clients. Cut the rest.

* Close open loops – don’t let things continue to stress you out over the long term. If you have a call to make, make it sooner and ‘close the loop’.


Lifestyle Changes for Stress Management

You should also apply these lifestyle changes to make stress easier to cope with:

1. Make sure you sleep well by going to bed at a similar time every day, by having 30 minutes to calm down with a book and by relaxing into bed

2. Make sure you give yourself breaks and holidays occasionally! No one should work 365 days a year!

3. Exercise – exercise improves stress and energy in numerous ways.

4. Eat healthily

5. Wake up with a daylight lamp, not a blaring alarm!


Dealing With Acute Stress with Mangement Tools

Finally, try to learn to deal with acute stress.

Some things that can help here include:

* Breathing more slowly which will activate the parasympathetic nervous system

* Learning mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy

* Reminding yourself of why you shouldn’t be stressed

* Removing yourself from the situation

There you have it: you now have all the tools and know-how to begin your move towards a stress-free life!


Other Soothing Tools

Prioritize More if you Want to be Successful

priorities

Why does Organization help Success?

When you want to be successful, you have to prioritize. This often means that some things get overlooked and unfortunately, sometimes they are things that you don’t want to overlook. But you have to make sacrifices if you want to achieve your goals and that means deciding what is most important, and working on it first and foremost.

The reason for this is simple: we want too many things. Human beings are famous for wanting too much. It’s like our motto, especially here in America. More, more, more. This is true in the food that we eat, it is true of the things that we buy and it is true of the money that we make. Of course, it is also true of the things that drive us and the goals that we have, and that’s not a bad thing.

The Problem

The problem is, when you have too many things that you want to accomplish, you aren’t going to have time for them all, and unless you prioritize, you are probably going to end up doing the things that are the most fun rather than the things that are the most important.

Example

Let’s look at an example of this. Meet Richard. Richard is trying to make a list of the things that he wants to accomplish over the next five years. Here is what he has written down.

  • Learn 5 new languages (1 per year) – Spanish, German, American Sign Language, French and Italian
  • Learn how to play musical instruments like a pro – first guitar and then piano
  • Learn how to do my own taxes and keep track of business taxes
  • Start my own business – some kind of retail store that is unique and fills a need
  • Volunteer more – do some church work, homeless shelters, give to charity
  • Become more organized so that I never miss appointments and always know where stuff is
  • Lose 50 pounds and get in shape like I was when I was in my 30’s
prioritize

We’ll stop here because you probably get the idea. Richard wants to do so many things, but accomplishing them will take up far too much time. For example, learning a new language in a year will take about 30-45 minutes each and every day. If you added up all of his stuff just from this partial list, half the day would be gone.

That’s why prioritizing is vital. If you cannot choose what is most important and work on it first and most often, you are going to accomplish very little.


More Coping Tools

How Anxiolytics Work (And Whether You Should Take Them)

What are Anxiolytics?

Anxiolytics treat anxiety and panic attacks. Whether you regularly find yourself having panic attacks or you simply find yourself feeling stressed from time to time, then you may have been recommended anxiolytics by your doctor. These medications work in a number of ways to help combat both the psychological and physiological symptoms associated with it.

But how do they work?

Neuroscience

All anxiolytics work by changing the release of neurotransmitters and hormones that are associated with stress or anxiety. Stress is essentially caused by the ‘fight or flight’ response, which is our body’s chemical response to danger. When we think we’re under some kind of threat, we release adrenaline, norepinephrine, dopamine, cortisol and more and this leads to an increase in our heartrate, dilation of the pupils, dilation of the blood vessels and even increased blood viscosity. The muscles become stronger and we become more alert but the immune system and digestion are suppressed until we become safer.

Anxiolytics
Blackboard with the chemical formula of Alprazolam

Most anxiolytics work by increasing the amount of a substance called ‘GABA’ or gamma aminobutyric acid. This is an ‘inhibitory’ neurotransmitter. The purpose of an inhibitory neurotransmitters is to suppress activity in the brain and communication between brain cells. This leaves us feeling less alert and less anxious which in turn causes those anxiety-related neurotransmitters to subside. Essentially it works by sedating us slightly. Other anti-anxiety medication works by increasing serotonin. Serotonin is the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter and when there’s lots of it in the brain, we feel happy and cheerful. Increasing this can therefore reduce feelings of anxiety and dread.

The Challenge with Anxiolytics

anxiolytics

The problem is that both these methods can lead to unwanted side effects as well as addiction. When you increase or decrease specific neurotransmitters, the brain responds by reducing its natural production of those chemicals. They also reduce its ability to respond to them (by removing ‘receptors’). Thus you can develop to the point where you need stronger doses of the medication to get the same results. Likewise, you can find yourself feeling even worse when you’re not using the medication. This is called ‘tolerance and dependence’.

Furthermore, using medication like this does not address the root cause of the problems. The root is the thought processes that lead to that chemical change. While anxiolytics might be useful in the short term for preventing the on-set of an attack, it’s important to use other methods in the long term to solve the problem.


Therapy Tools

Quick Tips That Will Help You to Get More Done in Less Time

Less Time? I Need More Time!

Want to be less stressed at work or running your business? Often it comes down to simply getting more work done more quickly. If you can be more efficient with your workflow, then often you’ll find that your job is far more manageable and much less stressful. And there are tons of tips out there on the wide web that can help you to be more productive.

Here we will look at some of the easiest and the most effective…

  • Want to keep yourself productive and optimistic? Try using a positive affirmation as your online password!
  • Multitasking has been shown in countless studies not to work. Work sequentially by moving from one task to the other.
  • Always focus on the ‘why’ of what you’re doing. If you remember why it matters and you think about your long-term goals, then you’ll be far more likely to stay focused.
  • Priming is a psychological technique you can use to put yourself in the right mood for what you’re about to do. For instance, you can prime yourself for work by watching a clip from a film you find inspiring.
  • Listening to white noise can help you to be productive! Other good things to put in your ears are background chatter (try ‘coffitivity.com’) and also music tracks on loop.
  • Want a quick energy boost? Try consuming honey! This contains fructose and sucrose and the combination provides both long-term and short-term energy.
  • Don’t have your first tea or coffee until you’ve done something productive. Likewise, don’t check Facebook until you’ve completed another task. This keeps you motivated and prevents procrastination.
  • A smartwatch can prove to be a great way to get e-mails without losing yourself in Gmail.
  • Want to really focus on writing or coding? Unplug your mouse. By making browsing less difficult, you reduce your chance of doing it.
  • Try moving your working day forward one hour. We naturally ‘crash’ at 4pm, so don’t try and work through this natural lull.
  • If you’re prone to procrastination, try starting your to-do list with a task that you’ll enjoy and that isn’t too stressful. This way, once you’ve completed the first item, you’ll be into the ‘swing’ of work and you’ll be feeling much less stressed.
  • Another one: leave one task half-finished when you leave work. We hate ‘unfinished business’ and this will compel you to start right away the next day.
  • Joy makes you work faster, make sure you add some humor to your day. Less time for fuss more time for play!
less time

Maintaining Mental Health During Covid-19

covid mental health

As we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic it is vital that we pay attention to mental health. Over the course of the pandemic, fear, uncertainty, anxiety, sadness, grief and depression have become common place. Not only are individuals worried for their physical health and that of their loved ones, they may also be experiencing financial instability, isolation due to social distancing and quarantine measures, or perhaps a sense of hopelessness. It is important to make some adaptations while we hope for brighter and safer days ahead. Doing so can greatly improve and protect your mental health.

Tips For Improving and Maintaining Mental Health During Covid-19:

Ask for Help and Seek Mental Health Support

It can be really challenging to reach out and ask for help when you are struggling. While it may not feel comfortable, asking for help when you need it is the most important tip on this list. Asking for help can start small with things like asking a partner to assist you with a task around the house when you feel overwhelmed. Asking for help may also mean contacting a mental health professional for professional mental health support.

Most importantly, if you are experiencing a mental health crisis, or fear that you may, ask for help by utilizing mental health crisis lines and support networks. Here are some crisis lines that you can keep handy:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1- 800-799-7233
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
  • The Trevor Project: (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQIA+ individuals under the age of 25.) 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678.
  • Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net
  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline- (Provides treatment referral and information for individuals and families facing mental health or substance use disorders.) 1-800-662-4357
National Helpline
National Helpline

Stay Social

Social distancing measures, while working to keep us safe and protect our health, have left many people feeling isolated and lonely. It is important to maintain social contact as best as you can during this time. Here are some ideas for staying socially connected, while socially distanced:

  • Talk to your friends and family and determine a day and time that is open for everyone. Schedule a weekly video chat to catch up.
  • Find online virtual gaming spaces where you can play games with your friends or family online together. Set up a weekly game night.
  • Where you would normally text, try calling where you are able to instead, so you can have more of a socially connected conversation.
  • Have themed video call “parties”. You and your friends or family can dress up according to the theme, and show off your outfits during the video call. This can be a fun way to get out of your typical routine and comfort zone!

Limit News Intake

It is important to stay informed during this time, to make sure you are taking the proper steps to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy. However, the constant influx of COVID-19 news can leave you feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and depressed. Limit your news intake if possible by setting a designated amount of time per day, perhaps one hour, to catch up on news. Receive your COVID-19 important news and updates directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, as opposed to watching lengthy news presentations. Limiting your news intake, can be really beneficial to your mental health.


More Coping Skills Tools

Why LGBTQIA+ Affirmative Therapists are Important

Ask a Therapist

Why is an affirmative therapist important?

For many people, the process of finding a therapist can feel confusing, but the process of finding a therapist you trust can feel downright daunting. This can be especially true for the LGBTQIA+ community.  (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and other sexual, romantic, and gender expansive communities).  The LGBTQIA+ community as a whole faces various health disparities, largely due to higher rates of discrimination in the health care field, which includes mental health. Many individuals have experienced discrimination either first hand or vicariously. Even just the potential for discrimination is enough to deter LGBTQIA+ individuals from seeking mental health care when needed.

Struggles with Mental Health Access and the LGBTQ+ Community

LGBTQIA+ individuals being deterred from seeking mental health care is particularly troubling due to the fact that this community is exceptionally vulnerable to mental health struggles. The community is more than twice as likely to experience depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other mental health disorders in their lifetime, compared to heterosexual, cisgender people. It is crucial to point out here that being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is NOT a mental illness or disorder by any means. The way society treats LGBTQIA+ people contributes to the increased vulnerability for mental health struggles. The problem does not lie in their identity, the problem lies in how society often fails to affirm, support, celebrate and love their identity.

What is am Affirmative Therapist?

An affirmative therapist understands the experiences of LGBTQIA+ people, and understands the barriers and challenges they face. An affirmative therapist helps to navigate challenges and views mental health struggles from this perspective. They do not make any attempt to change someone’s identity. Affirmative therapists celebrate and support all aspects of identity, and seek to nurture self acceptance. Affirmative therapists view LGBTQIA+ identities as perfectly valid, and reject the idea that being heterosexual and cisgender is the “normal”. 

Why is an affirmative therapist important?

An affirmative therapist can provide a safe, supportive space for individuals struggling with identity. Thus they encourage you to explore gender, sexuality and other aspects of their identity without judgment. Not all  LGBTQIA+ people seek therapy for reasons related to their identity. However, having an affirmative therapist means they don’t have to teach their therapist what it means to be LGBTQIA+. Also, they don’t have to fear judgment when speaking about sex, gender, attraction, relationships, or any part of their story.  This frees an individual to explore themselves fully,. It also allows you to heal pain, to improve mental wellbeing, and to be seen fully and authentically. Having an affirmative therapist means experiencing true, deep empathy and celebration of their authentic, beautiful self. For many LGBTQIA+ people, this can be life changing, and even life saving.


Soothing Tools

Do You Struggle with Anger?

Anger Management

Anger is a normal part of the human emotional experience. However, sometimes how we manage our anger can be destructive. Most people learn how to deal with anger as a normal part of growing up based. Our parents model and teach us these tools. Unfortunately not all people, were modeled or taught healthy anger management tools. Without good emotional regulation tools, anger can become overwhelming.

Own Your Anger

The first important step in managing your emotions, is recognizing that you need some in the first place. This is often the hardest step in anger management recovery. Shame and guilt are negative feelings that are often associated with poor emotion management. It is important not to get caught up in these feelings. Shame can a huge barrier to anger recovery. Accepting personal responsibility and taking steps towards recovery is the best solution to preventing further pain.

Think carefully about your life.

  • Do you often shout at and hurt the ones you love the most?
  • Do your loved ones try to avoid you, maybe leaving the room whenever you enter or going to their bedrooms when you get in from work?
  • Have you had problems at work because you were unable to control your emotions?
  • Have you ever had the police involved in your anger management?

If any of these situations sound familiar, then the chances are that you do have an emotional regulation problem.

Quick And Dirty Tools

There are a number of techniques available which can help you to take control control your frustration. Emotion management can be as simple as acknowledging the problem and mastering some simple emotional regulation techniques. Some of these tools include counting until calm, squeezing ice in your fists and exercise. However, in more severe cases it will be necessary to attend therapy, hire an emotion coach, or attend psycho-educational workshops.

The Next Step Is Yours

Think carefully about your life. Do you often shout at and hurt the ones you love the most? Do your partner and/or children often try to avoid you, maybe leaving the room whenever you enter or going to their bedrooms when you get in from work?  Have you had problems at work, or worse still, with the police, because you allowed your anger to get the better of you?  If any of these situations sound familiar, then the chances are that you do have an anger problem and you need to address it for the sake of you and all those around you.

Anger is a normal part of the human emotional experience. However, sometimes how we manage our anger can be destructive. Most people learn how to deal with anger as a normal part of growing up based. Our parents model and teach us these tools. Unfortunately not all people, were modeled or taught healthy anger management tools. Without good emotional regulation tools, anger can become overwhelming. Angriness may be an issue in your everyday life if you let it be. Not only does it interrupt your work and play, but it may hurt you when you least anticipate it. Anger has an underhanded way of making itself known in the rarest of situations, and most you do not have any control over.