Believe it or not, the ability to worry about the future is adaptive in helping us to detect problems, identify dissonant relationships, gather information and plan for future events (think of gathering information before an important interview, preparing for a big test, recognizing a potential critical or abusive partner). When we are detecting and planning for potential problems, this is our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) hard at work on our behalf. Unfortunately, the SNS can also lead us to fear and avoid every day activities — the social engagement we duck, the appointment we cancel, the meeting we miss, or a class we skip. This avoidance then leads to more fear, more worry, more anxiety, and more avoidance.
Mindfulness practice, on the other hand, activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which restores balance and increases hopefulness, positivity, possibilities and resonant relationships. Research shows that a meditation practice can increase self-compassion, psychological health and well-being, and significantly lower levels of psychological symptoms, rumination, thought suppression, fear of emotion, and difficulties with emotion regulation.
Although you may not be ready to take up daily meditation, if you're like most people, you might be curious to see how being mindful can help you activate the PNS to increase hopefulness, positivity and possibility. Think of these moments as a renewal moment. It’s not rest; it’s about restoring the parasympathetic nervous system to increase feelings of hope, positivity and possibility.
As you walk to your car, through a grocery store, or around your workplace, pay attention to all the details around you. Observe your surroundings "as if" for the first time. Describe what you notice. It could be as simple as the color of a dress, a flower blooming, and a black dog with blue leash out for a stroll with it's owner.
Pay Attention to Your Emotions
If you are human you will have emotions, and they can be busy, painful, noisy and challenging at times. Observe your emotions in a moment when an emotion arises; turn toward it rather than away from it. Write down one of your emotions. What does it say? Is there a sensation? How does it look? What color is it? How does it feel? Don't judge it as 'right or wrong' just describe it.
Practice What You Value
Values are the glue between you and your goals. A goal puts you in the future, a value happens in the moment. Your goal may be to have a relationship, but the value or glue is to be more connected, open and intimate. Focus on the process not the end point. You are not trying to get from point A to point B, you want to be open and connected in a relationship. This you can practice at point, with any person until you meet the one that becomes your partner.
If you are experiencing dark thoughts, hopelessness, or sadness this time of year, you are not alone. Research suggests that each year, more than 18 million American adults will experience some form of depression. Although there are many factors that contribute to depression including weather, genetics, gender, temperament, and lack of social support, my hope here is to provide you with a few thinking strategies and daily activities to challenge the winter blues.
While we often aren't aware of it, we all have an internal voice inside our head that determines how we perceive every situation – our worldview. This inner voice includes our conscious and our unconscious thoughts and beliefs. Although this inner voice is often reasonable — “I better eat something or I’ll get hungry,” or "I better drive with caution in the rain," some of this dialog is self-defeating — “I’m going to fail my mid term,” “I really put my foot in my mouth” or “I’m hopeless”. The self-defeating inner voice is not only often skewed towards the negative, but more often it’s just plain wrong. If you are experiencing depression it may be likely that you are interpreting events negatively and carrying on a negative internal dialog.
Noticing your inner dialog and any self-defeating talk takes practice. But, with practice you can test, challenge and change your self-talk over time. Below are a few simple question you can ask yourself to begin to challenge any negative thoughts you hold followed by a few daily activities that help beat winter depression.
Questions to Challenge Self-defeating Talk:
Activities to Beat Winter Depression:
As one year ends and another begins, many of us consider what we want to improve in our lives. From fitness to health to more time with family, now is a good time to reflect on your relationship and the changes you want to make in 2015.
If you are looking for ideas on how to improve your relationships in 2015, here are 4 tips to help get you started.
1. Let Your Partner Influence You - According to relationship researcher and expert Dr. John Gottman, "the most stable marriages are those in which the husband treats his wife with respect and does not resist power sharing and decision making with her. When these couples disagree, these husbands actively search for common ground rather than insisting on getting their own way.
It’s just as important for wives to treat their husbands with honor and respect. But our data indicate that the vast majority of wives—even in unstable marriages—already do that." So, whether your male or female it's important listen to your partner and try to see their point of view.
2. Stop Criticizing When You Argue - Research indicates that whether you get mad as hell or avoid conflict altogether, negativity and criticism outweighs positivity by five to one. That means for every critical statement you make to your partner, it takes five positive statements to wipe it out. So be thoughtful of what you say, and how you say it when you argue. Lead with kindness.
3. Give Up Technology - Can't give up your computer, cell phone, iPad, or television? How about setting a 2hr Tech Free zone? Instead of turning on one of the many distracting electronics in your home, dust off the dining room table, pull out the 'real' dishes and eat a meal together. If you're feeling bold, plan and prepare a meal together. If dinner time conflicts with your schedule, plan a date night once a week, (think game night, going for a walk, or taking a drive). Just make sure you are focused on each other and not glancing at the clock for 2hrs.
4. Show Appreciation - Notice what your partner does well. Think of what you appreciate and just say it to them out loud. Want to surprise your partner? Write a note and leave it on their car steering wheel, bicycle or bathroom mirror . The more specific you can be about what you appreciate, the more positive your impact on that person may be.
Remember relationships take effort from both partners. That’s why it’s helpful to reflect on the past year and consider how you’d like to change or improve your relationship in 2015. The above resolutions highlight just a few of the meaningful ways to honor your relationship, strengthen connection and have more fun.
We are in the middle of the holiday season where families come together for various celebrations. These are moments that we look forward to and are often filled with holiday traditions, childhood nostalgia, and family members that we have not seen in some time. But, what do you when you sit down for dinner and a family member brings up a loaded topic? And, how do you respond when someone asks that awkward question: Are you still out of work? How are the grades this term? When will you set the wedding date?
Do you shrink in your chair, become defensive, or plan your escape route?
While the holiday season may bring abundance and joy, few families are exempt from difficult conversations and intense emotions. If you find yourself in a situation that feels particularly challenging or emotional, remember to step back, breathe and give yourself a break before you take action.
A few tips to remember include: (1) accept family members as they are. When you accept them exactly as they are, your resistance and inner battle dies down. Acceptance doesn’t mean approving of, or condoning their actions. It simply means you stop expecting them to be different than they are. (2) Don't take disapproval personally. If someone disapproves or critiques your job, your partner, your lifestyle, try to keep in mind the comments reflect their worldview. They get to choose their behaviors, and what they choose is always more a function of their experiences and their worldview than it is about you. (3) Finally, when tension is high, don’t let your emotions be overtaken by anyone else in the room. Decide how you want to feel and consciously decide to feel that way. Being calm and peaceful and having gratitude for what is working well in your life is your best asset in any stressful situation.
“Trauma does not have to occur by abuse alone...”
― Asa Don Brown
What is a Traumatic Experience or Event? A traumatic event is an incident that causes physical, emotional, psychological, or mental harm. Traumatic events can result from a serious accident, loss of a loved one, terror, war, divorce/separation/infidelity, violent assault, neglect, rape, a move, natural disasters, physical injury or illness, as well as, emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse. Following a traumatic event, a person experiences a basic loss of connection to their families, themselves, and the world. Most people who experience traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a brief period of time.
What is PTSD? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a group of symptoms that can develop following the witnessing, experiencing, or the indirect hearing of a close friend or relatives experience of trauma. PTSD is generally grouped into four types of symptoms: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in reactions.
Is PTSD normal? PTSD is a normal response to an abnormal situation. Traumatic events that lead to PTSD would frighten or shock most people. When safety or trust is shattered, whether it is through a serious accident, loss of trust, rape, assault, war, etc., it is normal to feel disconnected, numb, and helpless.
How Do I know if I have PTSD? Although people respond to traumatic events in different ways, PTSD can cause an intense physical and emotional response to any thought or memory of the event. It can last for months or years following trauma. According to the DSM-5, people with PTSD may have all or a just a few symptoms from each of the following four categories with different emphasis and severity.
Negative changes in thoughts and mood
Arousal and reactivity
When we experience thoughts of danger, our bodies respond by emitting stress hormones. Adrenaline is quickly rushed into our bloodstream whether the danger is real, or whether we believe the danger is real. While everyone experiences thoughts of danger (real or imagined) sometimes, for people who feel it more often, more deeply, and more intensely, their bodies are constantly on the lookout for trouble and they often feel anxious.
If you are a person who experiences these types of thoughts more often then not, there are a few things you can do to understand what’s happening in your body, and to practice prevention.
Step 1. Identify Your Feelings:
e.g. Stress, Worry, Fear, Panic, Restlessness, Uneasiness, Agitation, Edginess, Nervousness
Step 2. Understand Your Thoughts - Common Thoughts Include:
I'm in danger right now.
The worst possible scenario is going to happen.
I won't be able to cope with it.
They will criticize me.
Everyone will laugh.
Step 3. Understand Your Body Response
e.g. Heart racing, Fast Breathing, Tense Muscles, Dilated Pupils, Shaking, and Sweating.
While there are a number of things you can do to manage anxiety in the moment, one step you can take now is to practice prevention. You can do this simply by practicing relaxation techniques. If you don’t understand why you should practice relaxation techniques before you feel anxious. Think about how you care for your teeth. Do you wait until you have a cavity to start brushing? Or, do you brush everyday? Most of us brush our teeth every day to prevent cavities from forming. It is the same with anxiety. If you know your thoughts and feelings associated with anxiety, and regularly practice relaxation techniques, not only do you have a better chance of identifying anxious thoughts in advance, but also you will have some tools to get you through it.
Everybody gets angry some times, but out-of-control anger isn't good for you and can have devastating consequences that impact personal lives, work, and studies.
What is Anger?
Anger is a result of thinking that we have been unfairly treated or disrespected, or that others have broken or fallen short of our expectations. Thinking this way leads to feeling angry, which stimulates the body's adrenaline ('fight or flight' ) response. As a result some behaviors of anger include: staring & angry facial expressions, aggressive body stance, saying things that you don't mean, physical altercations, arguing, shouting, snapping, running away, and/or staying silent. While frustration and anger can be a healthy and natural response to inescapable problems in our lives, if it is negatively impacting you or someone you care about, it may be a problem.
Three Strategies To Control Anger
1. Stop. Identify Your Feelings - Anger is an emotion that often hides feelings of injustice, hurt, disappointment, and jealousy. When you notice anger, frustration, or irritation, STOP. Sort through your feelings of anger, frustration or irritation to see what might be beneath your emotions before acting out in anger.
2. Focus On Your Needs - Have you ever wondered why you're so angry? When you’re feeling angry, it’s often because there’s something you need and that need is not being met. Instead of getting angry at another person or situation, focus on yourself instead and say, “What do I need right now that’s not getting taken care of? And ask yourself, "How can I start taking care of it right now?”
3. Exercise - Physical activity is a great way to release anger. Engaging in physical activity stimulates the brain to release endorphins which cause feelings of happiness. Next time you feel irritated, go out for a brisk walk, a jog, or swim. Find a healthy activity that works for you. Alternatives include giving yourself a timeout (Yes, like when you were a kid!) Play cards, read a book, take a yoga class.
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