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
In part one of our article on friendships, we discussed a number of surprising benefits that come with having friends and how many friends you actually need. In part two we will now discuss how to best choose your friends, and how to nurture and maintain friendships.
Choosing and Meeting Friends
If your friendships and social network is not quite up to your standards and expectations, then this section can help guide you on how to go about meeting potential friends and increasing your support system. The reality is that many friendships are often selected in the same way that mates are selected. There is an assortative process that tends to yield the selection of friends or mates that are similar to ourselves on a number of attributes and characteristics such as personality, beliefs, background, and upbringing, or even appearance. Whether you stick with what you are familiar with or reach for greater diversity, you still need to find potential friends somewhere. Many people feel there are at a loss for where to begin looking, but perhaps you needn’t look too far. Often there are potential people that may have been overlooked in your existing social circles. These may be casual acquaintances or even friends of friends. Think about people you may have met even only briefly that perhaps left you with a positive impression. Similarly, you might consider people you encoun read more
A study done by Harvard analyzed dozens of variables over a long-term study of people of all ages to determine which variables have the greatest impact on people’s overall happiness. As it turns out, the number one variable that creates the most happiness in people’s lives are friendships. If you are looking for more happiness in your life, a great investment will be in building strong and lasting friendships. In this two part article, we are going to discuss a number of surprising benefits that come with having friends and how many friends you actually need. In part two we will discuss how to best choose your friends, and how to nurture and maintain friendships.
Benefits of Friendships
Human beings are a naturally social species which comes with all sorts of benefits. Friendships help prevent loneliness, create a sense of belonging and help with our sense of identity, self-worth, and friends often function as a source of support. We use them as sounding boards to vent about stressors, bounce around ideas and brainstorm solutions, and possibly help you tackle tasks and projects. One of the great benefits of friends is having people to hang out with, have fun with, joke, laugh, and build memories with. Our friends make us smile and accept us for who we are and allow us to be ourselves. Good friends help us build confidence, give our lives purpose, and provide compan 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
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
In the fight against COVID-19 and its rapid spread, the human race is going to great lengths to ensure the safety and survival of ourselves and the ones we love. It seems that until we have an effective treatment or eventual vaccine, the best precaution and tool we have at our disposal is social distancing. Washing our hand and keeping a social distance is good common sense and pretty easy to implement in the name of safety. Because these measures are pretty simplistic, most of us have been dutifully complying. The worst we get from all the handwashing is some dry skin, which can be remedied with lotion. Social distancing, on the other hand, maybe having a negative cumulative impact that we are unaware of. Our species has evolved over a couple hundred thousand years to be a highly cooperative and social creature just like our primate cousins. We have an innate and hard-wired need to be with each other and engage in physical touch. An interesting experiment by Harlow done in 1965 drives this point home (Harlow, 1965). In the study, a rhesus monkey baby was presented with the choice of two artificial surrogate mothers in its cage. The first was a wire monkey mother that had a bottle that would supply milk to the baby. The other surrogate mother provided no nourishment but was designed to be soft and comfortable having been made from terry cloth. Researchers were amazed that the b 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
The COVID-19 crisis has affected life as we all know it. The entire world is hunkering down to do their best to slow the spread and impact of COVID-19. As a result of these extreme measures, everyone’s world and sense of normalcy has evaporated. Everyone is struggling to stay informed, engage in safe practices, figures out logistics of work and schedules, remain calm, and still try to be a good parent. Parenting is a difficult job under the best of circumstances, with these added stressors many parents are finding themselves with very little fuel left in the tank for parenting demands. Children and adolescents, just like adults, thrive on routine and schedules. Just as our lives have been upended, so has our kids. They are struggling to adapt as best they can, and some are doing it with more grace than others. Many parents are finding that they are at a loss for words when it comes to trying to explain this crisis to their children. It might not be quite as bad as talking to your kids about sex and drugs, but it is not much easier. What follows are some tips and suggestions for handling and talking to your kids about the COVID crisis.
- Normalize Feelings: It’s important to have our feelings validated by others. We all seek this out and it holds true for your children as well. Regardless of age, your children need to hear that it is normal and