Living life, paying bills, raising kids, navigating work issues, and so much more are the things that make our lives challenging and stressful. When faced with all this, it becomes clear why we need a break from time to time. Taking time to indulge our hobbies or activities to reduce our stress is wonderful, but also requires a chunk of time that we may only be able to carve out once a day or even less. The drudgery of life would become virtually unbearable if we didn’t have some quick fixes along the way. One of the best and easiest is laughter. Our amazing brains have evolved to see and appreciate all the ironies, foibles, and follies that make us human. Whether it is recognizing the absurd, appreciating the silly, or enjoying the hyperbole; these are the things that bring smiles to our faces and cause us to expel joyous laughter. It’s important that we do not take ourselves or life too seriously. We need only to watch a few old episodes of Star Trek and watch Mr. Spock to see how sterile, bland, and joyless life is when we are too pragmatic and logical. Laughter is part of what brings color and brightness to our life experiences. Laughter also has countless positive health benefits. Laughter has been found to boost our immune system, relax muscles, improve circulation, and prevent heart disease. Laughter is also great for our mental health in that it can reduce anxiety, re read more
Don’t we all want to be in charge?
Everyone wants to feel like they have control over things in their life. Having some power and control helps us accomplish tasks and orchestrate things in our life the way we want or need. Even small children want power to be able to control their environment suggesting this is an innate human desire and need. Not everyone wields power and control very fairly or effectively; children being a good case in point. When it comes to relationships most people want a sense of power and control just like they do over other things in their life. In healthy and mature relationships people are able to discuss and negotiate the sharing of power and control so that there is a mutual meeting of needs. Unfortunately, many people are not real good at navigating this balancing act. Additionally, a lot of people are not even consciously aware that some of their actions and words are driven by their unconscious need for power and control. Needless to say, this can create issues, conflicts, arguments, or even the demise of relationships.
When power and control turn abusive
In extreme situations some relationships become abusive. For a long time, people in physically abusive relationships, and those people outside, have been able to see that the person who becomes abusive is driven by an intense need for power and need to control things and peo read more
Part Three: Proactive Tools for Anxiety
In the last two articles, we talked about the physiological chain reaction that occurs with anxiety and some of the reactive tools that we can employ to mitigate the escalation of anxiety at a physiological level and keep that anxiety from building or culminating into a full-blown panic attack. In this article, we are going to discuss how we go about keeping the anxiety from ever manifesting in the first place.
Principles of Proactive Tools
The primary goal with proactive tools is to intervene at the source of the anxiety where it is originating. As we alluded to in the previous articles about anxiety, most anxiety is originating at the cognitive level. By this, we mean, that it starts with our thinking, perceptions, and interpretations. When we arrive at conclusions that are anxiety-provoking interpretations, this triggers the emotions of anxiety, and from there activates a physiological response and drives our behaviors. When we teach people how to control and check their thinking and conclusions, they end up of having far less anxiety over time.
The Brain is a Noisy Place
Most people will agree that our minds are filled with a running stream of consciousness that some of us refer to as our inner dialogue. Most people feel like they are simply along for the ride when it comes to their thinking. The brain just read more
In the last article, we talked about the physiological chain reaction that occurs with anxiety. As anxiety triggers the release of stress hormones into our bloodstream the body is switching from a state of relaxation to a state of arousal. For many people, this creates a rapid snowball effect that causes anxiety to spike quickly in the moment.
Principles of Reactive Tools
The primary goal with reactive tools is to try to reduce anxiety in the moment and prevent the cascading snowball effect and keep anxiety from building or triggering a full-blown panic attack. Unfortunately, we cannot control much in the physiological chain reaction in order to keep our body in a state of relaxation. The main objective of reactive tools is to try to get our body back into a state of relaxation. With some conscious effort, there are a couple of things we can control to try to force the body back to a relaxed state.
When we feel stressed and anxious, physical tension builds in your chest which causes chest muscles to contract. This causes breathing to become short, shallow, and choppy. This general lack of oxygen, in turn, causes your veins and arteries to constrict and the heart has to pump harder to circulate blood flow. All this facilitates increased arousal. For the most part, our breathing operates unconsciously. Fortunately, with a little conscious read more
Anxiety: A Three-Part Series
Part One: The Physiological Chain Reaction
Treating Anxiety in Therapy
Many people elect to treat their anxiety with anti-depressants and/or benzodiazepines such as Xanax when they are dealing with panic attacks. These can be very effective for many people. That said, we get an equal number of people who would prefer to treat their anxiety without medications or treat their anxiety with counseling in addition to medication. When treating anxiety in counseling there are two main ways to treat it therapeutically. There are reactive tools and proactive tools. Reactive tools are utilized when the anxiety flares up and is actively going on. The goal is to reduce the intensity of the anxiety and try to get it to dissipate. These are useful tools to have and can keep anxiety from escalating to the point of panic attacks for many people. As a precursor to discussing the reactive and proactive tools of anxiety, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the chain reaction that occurs with anxiety. In the next two articles, we will spend time talking about reactive tools that help mitigate anxiety and proactive tools, which are designed to keep anxiety from manifesting in the first place.
The Mechanics and Physiolo read more
Even during the best of times life is full of stressors and challenges. It is difficult dealing with the competing demands of work, finances, relationships, kids, parents, and trying to do a little something for yourself. Nearly 20% of American’s will be faced with a clinical depression or anxiety disorder at sometime in their lives. read more
For the first time in our lives, our society is faced with very real danger and threat. As we struggle to figure out how to cope and survive a worldwide pandemic, many people are experiencing increased anxiety. They find themselves worrying, ruminating, and are preoccupied with news and updates about COVID-19. Compounding their anxiety is a dramatic disruption to our everyday lives. Our routines and the structure we are accustomed to has been turned upside down and most of us are floundering and scrambling to keep up and create some sense of normalcy in our lives.
What is Coronavirus Anxiety?
Anxiety is a very normal emotion and reaction to a perceived threat and unknown situation. Often the fear of the unknown will amplify our anxiety. Many people are prone to catastrophic thinking, meaning their thinking often goes to the work case scenario. With this thinking, anxiety can increase tenfold. Although this virus poses a real threat to people’s wellbeing, it is important to try to keep our thinking grounded so we are not pouring gas on a fire. Often in the course of therapy when dealing with anxiety in clients, we discover that much of their anxiety stems from irrational and unfound fears and conclusions. In this situation, the dangers are real and are not irrational inventions of our thinking or distorted interpretations. Anxiety for one’s physical health and finan read more
For decades we have heard about the hardships and tragedies around the globe from the relative safety and calm of our own personal lives. For the first time ever all of humankind is faced with a very real and serious threat all at one time. The whole world is hunkering down in an effort to escape this coronavirus. We are faced with a whole new stress that threatens our physical wellbeing and that of the people we love. Although humans are adaptable as we have all demonstrated over the last several weeks, it is not without its toll. We are all wrestling with the stress and worry about contracting this virus and have made great changes to our lifestyles to keep ourselves healthy. As a social creature keeping our distance from friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even family limits the comfort and support we naturally derive from being with each other. We are isolating and alienating ourselves from the people we very much want to be with for our own mental and emotional needs. In short, we are struggling to cope with the possibility of contracting the coronavirus and at the same time trying to cope with the lack of connection and support we would usually seek to cope with this type of stressful situation. On top of feeling scared and lonely most of us have been forced to deal with a lot of change on top of the stress of isolation. Our children are no longer going to school or daycar read more
In the last article, we talked about what burn out is, the signs and symptoms of burn out, and some of the common causes of burn out. Now you can find out if you have burn out and we will discuss what to do about it.
Burn Out Quiz
Read through the following questions and ask yourself if you would agree with the statement most days over the past month.
- I feel that my support is lacking and I don’t have people I can talk to.
- I feel misunderstood and unappreciated.
- I have negative thoughts about my relationship and/or job.
- I wake up tired even when I go to bed early.
- I don’t have enough time to plan or get things done.
- I feel like I have more tasks, chores, and jobs to do than there is time to do them.
- I often feel frustrated with my job, coworkers, or the people in my life.
- I am easily irritated by things that I know should not bother me that much.
- I find myself being unsympathetic toward others.
- I feel run down and lacking energy physically and/or emotionally.
- I dread what lies ahead today or tomorrow.
- I feel less productive or accomplished than I should.
- I feel I am in the wrong job or career.
- It seems like small tasks take more energy than I can afford.
- My efficiency is down and things seem to take longer to do than they did in the
What is Burn Out?
Burn out is no longer a trendy descriptor for how you might feel, it has now been classified as a legitimate condition by the World Health Organization (WHO). Burn out is categorically different than the usual stress that we all feel. Stress produces feelings of frustration and anxiety but is often short-lived and tied to a specific event or circumstance that resolves in a short period of time. Burn out, on the other hand, is a longer-term state of mental, emotional and sometimes physical exhaustion. This often evolves from prolonged or repeated stressors. People are often left feeling overwhelmed and struggle to meet life’s demands and can develop a negative or cynical outlook toward their stressors. There are three types of burn out:
- Organizational Burn Out: This occurs when there is a mismatch between the person and their job or work environment. For some people, this could be hours that are too long, work that is monotonous, or work that is not aligned with your sense of purpose.
- Interpersonal Burn Out: This can evolve from difficult relationships at work, with family, or a romantic partner. Burn out could manifest from dealing with a difficult coworker, a strained and dysfunctional marriage, unhealthy family relations, or even the taxing impact of caring for others such as elderly parents, oft