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

Three Common Causes of Stress in Your Life and How to Deal With Them

causes of stress

What Causes Stress?

One way to tackle stress is to improve your health, your energy levels and your mood. By doing these things, you can help yourself to become more resilient and hardy to stress and you can avoid letting the smaller things bog you down. But that’s a fairly abstract way to combat anxiety that doesn’t always have an immediate effect.

The other route to take then is to look at the specific causes of stress in your life – the stressors – and to remove them. Some of these will be big and some of them will be small, but all of them contribute to raising blood pressure and making us feel a little less calm and relaxed. The problem is, many of us can’t put our fingers on exactly what it is that is causing us stress and even when we do, it’s not always obvious how we can deal with the problems.

causes of stress

Read on then and we will look at some of the most common causes of stress and at what you can do to deal with them once and for all…

The Commute Cause of Stress

Did you know that the only ‘universal fear’ is things heading towards you? Thus, walking to work and having hundreds of people moving the other way down the street is pretty much a recipe for stress – especially if you’re running late or if you have a long way to travel.

One solution then is to avoid the rush hour. You can do this by speaking with your employer and asking them to give you more flexible working hours: perhaps you could work 8am-4pm for instance instead of 9am-5pm? Alternatively, look at other ways of getting in, like cycling. Or just arrive a little early!

‘Open Loops’

Many of us have lots of niggling jobs and stresses in the back of our minds that contribute to our stress. For instance, you might need to call your relative. Or maybe you have a bill to pay. These are what are known as ‘open loops’ and they can drain us of energy, focus and positivity. The solution is to deal with each of them as soon as possible rather than letting them drag on.

The Money Cause of Stress

Money is a huge stress for many of us and can cause many a sleepless night.

The solution? Creating a budget. Budgets show us how much we’re losing and where and allow us to formulate a plan to get back on top. What you will often find is that simply cancelling some of your recurring bills and changing your lifestyle a little can make a big difference and help you to get back in the black.


Stress Mangement 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

How to Get to Sleep When You’re Very Stressed

sleep

I am Too Stressed to Sleep

If you’ve ever been very stressed, then you’ll know that this can make it very difficult to get to sleep. Common when we’re stressed is to lie awake listening to our hearts thudding in our chest and getting even more stressed that we’re not able to drift off and thus re-energize for the days ahead. This is what makes the situation so bad: we know that the less we sleep, the worse the stress is going to seem tomorrow. Ironically, we’ll experience more of the very same stress that is keeping us awake!

So what can you do to overcome that stress and just drift off?

The Right Frame of Mind

The key thing to remember here is that you can’t ‘force’ yourself to overcome stress and you can’t ‘force’ yourself to relax. The whole idea of forcing yourself to relax is actually contradictory. This is where many people fall down: in trying to make ourselves fall asleep we will often start tossing and turning and even getting frustrated and angry that we aren’t sleeping. This only increases our stress more, increases our heart rate more and continues the vicious cycle. If you have ever looked at your alarm clock at 4am in the morning and felt like you’re the only person awake, then you’ll know this well.

So how do you break this cycle? The solution is to stop forcing yourself to sleep and to instead just let it happen naturally. Specifically, this means you should remove the pressure of ‘having’ to fall to sleep. In fact, remove the objective completely.

So when you go to bed, you’re not going to bed in order to sleep any more. Instead, recognize that simply relaxing and resting can actually be very good for you too and allow yourself to do this. Focus on how nice it is to just lie back and not need to do anything and remember that even if you only do that, you’ll still be relaxing and rejuvenating to some degree.

The irony is that as soon as you start enjoying being in bed and as soon as you take away the ‘need’ to fall asleep, you will almost always drift off right away. And not only will this improve your ability to get to sleep but it will also enhance your quality of sleep as you’ll be much more restful.

sleep

More Therapy Tools

Killing Depression Program (Free)

killing depression

The Killing Depression Program is your introduction to understanding the ins and outs of this mental health disorder. More than 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression according to experts. Depression is a serious mental health condition that requires understanding and medical care. If it is left untreated, depression can be devastating for those who have it and their families.

killing depression program
Download Free Depression List Here

While it may be a common practice these days to refer to a negative feeling inside you as ‘being depressed,’ the repercussions and the effects of a person who is suffering from depression are often ignored, sidelined or worse, they go unnoticed! It can affect the way you feel about yourself which, in turn, will make it very difficult and ‘depressing’ to get through your day-to-day chores.

Killing Depression Program

It is time to take a step towards a journey that will lead you to a depression free life. This checklist will run you through the simple steps and strategies to overcome your worst nightmares, to enter a brighter and highly positive lifestyle and find out how you can gain mastery over your emotions instead of letting them run wild.

Killing Depression teaches you the ins and outs of depression and how to treat it. Unsure if this course is right for you? Read more information with the killing depression program checklist. This program also includes an e-book.


The POP That Never Stops!

pop toy

Feeling anxious … stressed … or just plain fidgety and bored to tears?!  Do you ever find yourself, or even your kids, constantly trying to find something to do with your hands, without even really being aware that you are.  How many times have you been asked OR said to someone else … “Will you STOP fidgeting!”

Fidgeting is … well I don’t know what it is, but I do believe it can be a lot of things and none of them bad.  However, when you have the “fidgeties” and you need something to do that will occupy your mind AND your hands, you will really love the push-poke-pop bubble sensory toy.  This is a non-toxic silicone toy, that fits in the palm of your hand and that can be washed and reused as much as you want.  What that mean is, “the pop never stops!”

The “Green” Version of Popping Paper

With no assembly required or small parts that can be easily lost, the push-pop bubble fidget toy is probably the most user-friendly, discreet sensory tool that you can take with you and use anywhere.  Your child is feeling anxious waiting for their dentist appointment?  Let them get lost in the soothing playfulness of the push-pop bubble fidget toy!  Nervous about flying?  No problem …  having the push-pop bubble fidget toy gives your mind somewhere else to focus and your hands something to do.

What I really love about the push-pop bubble sensory toy is that it gives you ALL the fun and satisfaction of bubble wrap, but without the loud popping noise, so you can use it in a lot more public places.  Essentially, you can deal with your fidgeting, calm anxious nerves and reduce your stress without anyone hitting the deck at every POP!


New Fidget Tools

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

Self Esteem and Teens

self esteem and teens

Despite the brooding and the mood swings a teenagers’ self esteem is more fragile than you think.  There are a great many factors that can undermine a teenager’s ability to build their self confidence. For example, factors ranging from academic issues, poor social interaction and dealing with developing one’s own unique identity while trying to avoid the physical awkwardness that puberty brings.  The constant internal struggles they face on daily basis are for us, hopefully, a distant memory because we’ve forgotten what it was like to be their age.

Peers and Self Esteem

Their social circle has a great deal of influence in their lives with the approval and feedback from peers often validating how they feel about themselves, factors which they allow to determine their self esteem and self worth.  It’s incredible how much impact this can really have in the life of your teenager.  This is especially challenging because adolescents peers are not always known for their tact and empathy. Thus, this is why it’s of the utmost importance for your teenagers self esteem to be nurtured and reinforced from within the home.  This will strengthen them to deal with the pitfalls of life out there in the big wide world.  This can come from giving praise and attention from family members, in particular, parents.

It Starts at Home

ego
Family Self Esteem

Positive and nurturing reinforcement in the home is the first step to repairing your teenagers self woth. Never underestimate the power of love. Just because your teenager knows that you love them doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t show it. However, such an approach acts as an effective hedge against the factors that erode your teenager’s self esteem.  While it is impossible to change the climate teenagers must face, your teenager’s self esteem will improve with various positive strategies designed to counteract the factors dragging them down.

Model the Change You Wish to See

Another effective tool in the building of your teenagers self esteem is to model good self esteem.  By setting an example of healthy self esteem and respect for yourself will instill the same values in your teenager.  Children learn by example, they tend to imitate what their parents do. This includes both the positive and the negative. However, being a good role model can often be the most powerful lesson of all because you teach by doing.  The next time you get upset, be mindful of your words and your actions. Additionally, be sure to keep an optimistic outlook on life. This outlook helps to create resilience. Your work, will influence how they will manage trials in their adult life.  Also, don’t forget that your children are always watching what you do.

Self Care Planner
Self Esteem Planner

Teamwork and Self Esteem

Allow your teenager to be a contributing member of your family.  Give jobs or chores to perform. Whether it’s the dishes or taking out the garbage, a job helps to cement their role within the family unit. Achieving a sense of belonging and importance is a vital building block in the building of their self esteem.

Conclusion

These are just a few tips that can help build up and strengthen your teenagers self esteem but if you’d like more information, sign up for or newsletter. Also, make an appointment with a coach or therapist.


Soothing Tools