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
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
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
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
Just 1-2 months ago we were watching the news of the Corona Virus in China with the safety and security of nearly 7,000 miles of ocean between us. Today we find this threat on our doorstep and our world-changing all around us. All the things we took for granted are now becoming scarce and inaccessible. We face trying times ahead and many people think it may last for a while. Sustained stressors are one of the known variables that put us at risk for developing depression and anxiety disorders. Once you have a few essentials in place, it is going to be important to think about your mental and emotional wellbeing over the long haul of this crisis. Telehealth will be a great way to receive the services you need and retain your sense of safety and security by not having to go out.
What is Telehealth and How Can it Help During the COVID-19 Crisis?
Telehealth includes both teletherapy and telepsychiatry visits. Teletherapy is a psychotherapy session conducted over the internet using software that allows for both audio and visual display between a therapist and their client. Given the need to social distance at this time to prevent the spread of COVID-19, online therapy provides a convenient work around to be able to receive the services clients want, while protecting themselves and the public at the same time. Clients can remain in the safety of their home and still see highl read more
Impact of Caregivers Stress
It is estimated that 34 million Americans are providing unpaid care to an adult that is 50 or more years old. 66% of caregivers are women. Being a caregiver might include tasks such as shopping, providing transportation, or help with cleaning, or could be much more involved and include grooming, bathing, managing finances, feeding, or assistance with dressing and toileting. Although most people willingly become caregivers and find much reward in being able to help care for the ones they love, it does not come without a price. The toll is physical, mental, and emotional for most caregivers, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. They often feel like they are on call 24/7 and end up neglecting themselves in the process of being a caregiver. Compounding this stress for many is the sad reality of watching loved ones slowly deteriorate despite all your efforts.
It is vital to get the physical and emotional support you need as a caregiver, or you run the risk of becoming susceptible to any number of problems. Some of the common signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout include: feeling anxious, depressed, irritable, fatigued, troubled sleep, poor concentration, feelings of resentment, neglecting your own responsibilities, low energy, increased drinking or smoking, and less eread more
Despite how the holidays are portrayed on television and in the movies, they often create a lot of stress for people. Research says that 8 out of 10 Americans are expected to feel stressed out by the holidays. Nearly two-thirds of people claim that the holidays create financial stress in their lives. Upwards of 40% report eating unhealthy during the holidays in large part due to stress. Spending time with family and relatives, although enjoyable on one hand, often fuels stress on the other hand as old family dynamics are recreated and played out. Almost 65% of people say that the lack of time to plan and prepare for the holidays is one of the top stressors during the holiday seasons. This year, try to take a proactive approach to keep your stress more manageable and in check. Talk with family members early on to coordinate dates, times, and locations. Start meal planning 2-3 weeks ahead of time so you have plenty of time to shop for food and get supplies. Consider splitting up the meal and have each family member bring a couple of items. This will be much more affordable for everyone and you won’t have to try to prepare and cook so many dishes on the day of. Gift-giving is a wonderful expression of love and appreciation, however, don’t feel obligated to out-do yourself from last year. Talk to family members, set a spending limit that everyone is comfortable with, and consid read more
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop after exposure to any number of traumatic events that can happen to people. Some common types of traumatic events that can result in PTSD include military combat, physical or sexual assaults, accidents, or natural disasters such as a tornado, hurricanes, etc. Although PTSD has likely existed since humankind has been involved in traumatic situations, PTSD has only been recognized as a diagnosis since 1980. It should be noted that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will end up with PTSD. Many people endure and recover from difficult life situations just fine. Others develop less severe problems such as depression or anxiety problems. Traumatic events that are enduring (military combat) or recurring (physical or sexual abuse) increase the likelihood of developing PTSD.
Symptoms & Features
A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if you suspect you might have PTSD. The diagnosis of PTSD can be difficult and complex. In response to a traumatic experience where real or perceived life-threatening situations have occurred, people experience some of the following symptoms. There are re-experiencing symptoms that include: 1) intrusive thoughts or images, 2) feeling like the event is recurring or reliving it, 3) dreams or nig read more
What is Compulsive Gambling?
Where many people enjoy gambling as an occasional social or recreational activity, for others it becomes a real struggle. Problem gambling is an urge to gamble despite experiencing negative consequences or continuing to gamble despite a desire to stop. An estimated 15 million Americans have problem gambling with more than 3 million of them having severe problematic gambling. Problem gambling is not a bad habit or moral weakness, but a serious condition that is treatable. Although it is commonly referred to as gambling addiction, it is actually categorized as an impulse control disorder. However, like chemical addictions, it is a progressive and chronic condition. Problem gambling tends to strain relationships, affect one’s ability to fulfill responsibilities at work, home, or school, and can lead to financial catastrophe. It can lead people to do things they never thought themselves capable of such as borrowing or stealing money from partners, employers, and even their children.
Symptoms & Features
Pathological Gambling Disorder is a persistent and recurring maladaptive gambling pattern as evidenced by five or more of the following symptoms: 1) a mental preoccupation with gambling, 2) a need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement or effect, 3) repeated unsuccessful efforts to con read more