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What Is Compassion Fatigue? Here Are The Signs You’re Experiencing It.

The onslaught of bad news — from the abortion rights ruling to mass shootings to COVID — can lead to a unique type of burnout.

With COVID, mass shootings, monkeypox, the fall of abortion rights, racially fueled hate crimes and the exploding mental health crisis ― just to name a few ― it can really feel like we’re stuck in a black hole of bad news.

There is only so much trauma a person can take before it starts to chip away at their mental and physical health. When you’re exposed to constant stressors, as we’ve all been over the past few years, it’s natural to experience compassion fatigue, a type of empathy burnout that can occur after being excessively exposed to negative events.

Compassion fatigue looks a bit different from person to person but often leaves people feeling exhausted, detached, emotionally disconnected and helpless. For example, maybe you find yourself feeling less affected by horrific shootings, or perhaps you feel indifferent to protests on reproductive justice or unable to help people living in Ukraine. Compassion fatigue is real, and it’s no surprise that so many people are experiencing it after enduring an extreme amount of pain, rage, disbelief and worry on multiple fronts.

Compassion fatigue also doesn’t happen overnight. It takes weeks, sometimes months or years, to take hold. By the time most people recognize they’re struggling, it’s fully surfaced.

“Usually we’re gradually shifting into this state of becoming less and less capable of coping with the stress of new events, and therefore, when we get big news — like what happened with the most recent ruling on abortion — we might not really have the emotional reserve to cope with such big news,” Sheehan D. Fisher, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told HuffPost.

Here are a few signs you might be dealing with compassion fatigue:

A shift in your mood

Some people may start to notice a difference in their moods and feel more agitated or irritable on a daily basis. Those with compassion fatigue tend to develop a more pessimistic view of the world and begin to lack hope about the future.

There’s “just feeling generally unhappy or apathetic or having difficulty in maintaining compassion or empathy in a way that is typical for you,” explained Jessica Stern, a clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone Health.

Compassion fatigue may also cause changes in cognitive function, affecting people’s ability to think clearly, make decisions and use good judgment, research shows.

Feeling fatigued or burned out

When you are repeatedly exposed to trauma and are chronically in a fight-or-flight state, it’s typical to experience intense exhaustion and fatigue, Stern said. In the beginning, compassion fatigue can feel like a roller coaster, with dips of intense stress and depletion.

But over time, depletion will take over and set in. “With time, you’re going to find that the ‘on moments’ are going to become diluted more and more and more, where you’re just going to feel the low end of that, which is exhaustion and fatigue,” Stern said.

This is more common in people who feel like they lack agency over what’s occurring in their life. “The more that they feel that they don’t have a way to fix the problem and that there’s just a problem that’s unresolvable, it’s more likely for them to start to feel fatigued by it because they don’t feel like there’s a way to make change that they have control of,” Fisher said.

Compassion fatigue can happen after weeks of exposure to tragedy or negative news.

compassion-fatigue-lr-knost

Becoming disengaged from things that once mattered

Compassion fatigue can cause people to avoid situations that may normally cause them to feel stress or even compassion, according to Fisher.

Because they have already met their limit of what they can handle emotionally, it can feel like a burden to put themselves in yet another situation that would bring on more stress. As a result, people may become disconnected from their social networks and lose touch with the activities that previously brought them joy.

Feeling desensitized or complacent

Over time, this disengagement can turn into complacency. People can become desensitized to negative events and lose the ability to feel empathetic or sympathetic. They may develop a more muted response to stressors because they’re so burned out from their ability to engage, Fisher said. Eventually they may completely shut down emotionally.

“What we worry about sometimes is people become so complacent that they walk away from dealing with problems in general,” Fisher said.

Here’s how to cope with compassion fatigue

Stern recommends first identifying where you feel depleted — whether that’s at work, at home, in your social life or with sleeping and eating. Notice what in your life might be contributing to your fatigue. Focus on the small things that you can control, Stern says. Start there and see if that helps, then begin to make bigger changes.

Although it’s important to be aware of what’s happening in the world, overexposure can be more harmful than helpful. In some cases, it can create the reverse result, and people may become inactive or disengaged with the problem, according to Fisher. “Limiting how much we are exposed to to make it functional for the goal is important,” Fisher said.

Self-care is also crucial and can include things like reaching out to your support system, exercising, resting and taking care of your physical health. All of that can help you cope with the stress of life events.

Fisher recommends approaching your recovery as you would a big lifestyle change. “They need to maintain a certain level of well-being and a certain level of self-insight into their emotional health to know how much they can take on, or not, and know when it’s safe to take on more,” Fisher said.

If you are able to make substantial changes and adjust the factors that have been contributing to your compassion fatigue, you will likely be able to recover quicker, Stern added.

It takes time to recover from compassion fatigue — a couple of weeks if not a couple of months, according to Stern. If you try these things and the fatigue persists or worsens, it’s worth talking to a therapist or psychiatrist who can assess whether you’re experience compassion fatigue or perhaps a more serious issue.

By Julia Ries        Jul 1, 2022

source: www.huffpost.com


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Accepting Things As They Are: Why and How to Do It

Life is full of situations that shouldn’t be the way they are! Sometimes you can fix these situations, but sometimes you can’t. Accepting things as they are is a powerful way to cope with situations that you don’t want or that shouldn’t happen.

Many things in life are beyond your control. Examples are everywhere: traffic, the weather, a burst bathroom pipe, difficult family members, or the death of a loved one — all things you don’t want or need, but things you cannot always prevent. Not having control over things can make you feel sad, angry, frustrated, or anxious.

Sometimes people try to gain a sense of control by trying to make changes, even if they’re unlikely to help. Other times people try to regain the feeling of control by ignoring what’s happening. The sad truth is that trying to change something you cannot (or denying it) only leads to more pain and suffering.

So, what’s a healthy way to deal with things beyond your control?

Accepting Things As They Are

To accept things as they are means to let go of your expectations of how things should be. Instead, allow things to be what they are. It means to say to yourself, “It is what it is, and there is nothing I can do to change the current situation.” This is a contrast to asking the universe “why is this happening to me?”

Why Is Acceptance So Important?

There are three main reasons why it is good to accept things as they are.

First, trying to change reality is a battle you’re guaranteed to lose. It leads to feelings of bitterness, anger, and sadness.

Second, acceptance allows you to recognize and face the actual problem. This can allow for problem-solving. For example, if you’re unhappy in your career, it’s impossible to make any changes before you face the reality of your current situation. Denying reality prevents you from problem-solving and may lead to more serious consequences — in this example, further years of career dissatisfaction.

Third, accepting things as they are leads us toward a sense of peace and calm. It is normal to feel angry, sad, or disappointed when you first acknowledge that you have no control over a difficult situation. However, acceptance will help you eventually feel lighter — as if a burden has been removed.

How to Accept Things As They Are

  1. Notice when you are trying to change or deny things that can’t be changed. For some people, warning signs include thoughts like This is unfair, It shouldn’t be this way! or Why me? For others, warning signs tend to be emotions like anger or frustration.
  2. Remind yourself that “it is what it is” and there is nothing you can do to change it right now. You may need to do these multiple times a day/hour/minute depending on the situation.
  3. Allow yourself to feel sad and disappointed; these feelings are healthy! At the same time, trust that acceptance will eventually bring you peace and calm.
  4. Seek out social support. Engage in self-care activities to help you cope with difficult feelings and improve your mood.

Remember: accepting things as they are does not mean that you have to enjoy what’s happening. It also does not mean that you are giving up. It simply means that you acknowledge that you don’t have control over the situation, and it is what it is.

September 14, 2020 by Rachel Chang, Psy.D.

source: www.manhattancbt.com


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10 Ways to Ease Stress

Stress refers to your body’s reaction to challenges and demands. Stress can be positive or negative and there are healthy ways to deal with it. Sleeping well is important in stress management.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s response to a challenge or demand. Everyone experiences stress, which can be triggered by a range of events, from small daily hassles to major changes like a divorce or job loss. The stress response includes physical components such an elevated heart rate and blood pressure, thoughts and personal beliefs about the stressful event, and emotions, including fear and anger. Although we often think of it as being negative, stress can also come from positive changes in your life, like getting a promotion at work or having a new baby.

How can we handle stress in healthy ways?

Stress serves an important purpose—it enables us to respond quickly to threats and avoid danger. However, lengthy exposure to stress may lead to mental health difficulties (for example, anxiety and depression) or increased physical health problems. A large body of research suggests that increased stress levels interfere with your ability to deal with physical illness. While no one can avoid all stress, you can work to handle it in healthy ways that increase your potential to recover.

  • Eat and drink to optimize your health. Some people try to reduce stress by drinking alcohol or eating too much. These actions may seem to help in the moment, but actually may add to stress in the long run. Caffeine also can compound the effects of stress. Consuming a healthy, balanced diet can help to combat stress.
  • Exercise regularly. In addition to having physical health benefits, exercise has been shown to be a powerful stress reliever. Consider non-competitive aerobic exercise, strengthening with weights, or movement activities like yoga or Tai Chi, and set reasonable goals for yourself. Aerobic exercise has been shown to release endorphins—natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude.
  • Stop using tobacco and nicotine products. People who use nicotine often refer to it as a stress reliever. However, nicotine actually places more stress on the body by increasing physical arousal and reducing blood flow and breathing.
  • Study and practice relaxation techniques. Taking the time to relax every day helps to manage stress and to protect the body from the effects of stress. You can choose from a variety of techniques, such as deep breathing, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation. There are many online and smart phone apps that provide guidance on these techniques; although some entail purchase costs, many are available free of charge.
  • Reduce triggers of stress. If you are like most people, your life may be filled with too many demands and too little time. For the most part, these demands are ones we have chosen. You can free up time by practicing time-management skills like asking for help when it’s appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and reserving time to take care of yourself.
  • Examine your values and live by them. The more your actions reflect your beliefs, the better you will feel, no matter how busy your life is. Use your values when choosing your activities.
  • Assert yourself. It’s okay to say “No” to demands on your time and energy that will place too much stress on you. You don’t have always have to meet the expectations of others.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations. It’s okay—and healthy—to realize you cannot be 100% successful at everything all at once. Be mindful of the things you can control and work on accepting the things that you can’t control.
  • Sell yourself to yourself. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem.

There are several other methods you can use to relax or reduce stress, including:

  • Deep breathing exercises.
  • Meditation.
  • Mindfulness meditation.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Mental imagery relaxation.
  • Relaxation to music.
  • Biofeedback (explained below).
  • Counseling, to help you recognize and release stress.

Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these techniques or other suggestions.

Managing-Stress

Biofeedback

Biofeedback helps a person learn stress reduction skills by providing information about muscle tension, heart rate, and other vital signs as a person attempts to relax. It is used to gain control over certain bodily functions that cause tension and physical pain.

Biofeedback can be used to help you learn how your body responds in stressful situations, and how to cope better. If a headache, such as a migraine, begins slowly, many people can use biofeedback to stop the attack before it becomes full- blown.

What to do if you have trouble sleeping

You may experience insomnia (an inability to sleep) because of discomfort, stress from personal concerns, or side effects from your medications. If you cannot sleep, try these tips:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule – go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Make sure your bed and surroundings are comfortable. Arrange the pillows so you can maintain a comfortable position.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
  • Use your bedroom for sleeping only. Don’t work or watch TV in your bedroom.
  • Avoid napping too much during the day. At the same time, remember to balance activity with periods of rest.
  • If you feel nervous or anxious, talk to your spouse, partner, or a trusted friend. Get your troubles off your mind.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Do not rely on sleeping pills. They can be harmful when taken with other medications. Use them only if recommended for a brief period by your healthcare provider if other non-medication methods don’t work.
  • Take diuretics, or “water pills,” earlier if possible, so you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
  • If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired. Don’t stay in bed worrying about when you’re going to fall asleep.
  • Avoid caffeine.
  • Maintain a regular exercise routine, but don’t exercise within two to three hours before the time you go to bed.

source:  my.clevelandclinic.org

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How To Ease Some Of The Vicarious Trauma You May Be Feeling Right Now

It’s normal to feel anxious as you follow what’s unfolding in Ukraine. Here’s how to stay informed while protecting your mental health.

Thanks to social media, news reports and violent images that bombard us at all hours, we often experience what experts call vicarious trauma when a horrific event occurs ― like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which as of Thursday morning had reportedly resulted in at least 40 deaths. It’s in our physiological nature as human beings to feel some amount of empathy and sorrow for others dealing with a traumatic event. Even though we’re not physically present, we still feel the mental health effects of what’s going on.

This is applicable to any grim situation. An impending war, a relentless virus, a devastating mass shooting ― you don’t have to be immersed in the crisis to be affected by it. If you are dealing with feelings of unrest, anxiety or doom right now, know that it’s completely normal. And while you may not be able to abate it entirely, there are ways to make it more manageable.

Here’s some advice on how to handle the emotions associated with vicarious trauma right now:

Follow trusted sources.

Disinformation spreads like wildfire during times of crisis. Make sure you’re following credible sources and engaging with confirmed reports, tweets and other content. (And remember that just because a Twitter account is verified doesn’t mean it’s legitimate.) If possible, try to find multiple sources confirming the same information before you share or even necessarily believe a report. Spreading and buying into inaccurate stories, photos and videos only contributes to your own panic and anxiety, and the panic and anxiety of others.

Set a few boundaries to prevent excessive doomscrolling.

It’s unrealistic to suggest logging off entirely, but it’s vital to set some boundaries when it comes to social media. Stay informed, then give your brain a break.

For example, try setting aside a block of time to check in on the news. If you find yourself reaching for your phone at night when you can’t sleep, try directing your attention to a lighter part of the internet instead of scrolling through headlines.

“Social media is a gift and a curse, but I’ve begun using it to find someone or something new,” Racine Henry, a therapist and owner of Sankofa Marriage and Family Therapy in New York, told me in December. “I limit myself to the explore page of either Instagram or Twitter and click around until something piques my interest. Or I watch random videos on Facebook of people making an extravagant cake or applying a complicated makeup look. I will never do any of the things I watch, but it’s entertaining and there are endless videos available.”

Turn to mental health experts on social media.

During tumultuous times, I personally find it soothing to read quotes and hear takes from mental health professionals, whether on Twitter, Instagram or even TikTok.

There are tons of great therapists who offer soothing words of wisdom on social media (here are a few of my favorite follows). Whatever they post online shouldn’t be taken as direct mental health advice, but it can serve as a calming voice when your brain is otherwise racing.

Try to keep a normal routine.

Speaking of scrolling late into the night, do everything within your power to stick to your normal schedule. That includes bedtimes, wake times, working if you’re able to handle it, and any other regular aspects of your routine.

When tragic events happen, “we feel a loss of control in our lives and everything going on around us,” Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, previously told me. “The more we can stick to our normal routines, the more our brains and our bodies feel like we’re back in control.”

It can be hard to shake the emotions that arise when following the news.

Move your body in some way.

Our emotions need a physical outlet. To relieve some of that anxiety and tension, try gently moving your body. This could mean going for a walk, doing some light stretching, taking a home boxing class, or whatever it is that helps you feel good. The idea is less about exercise per se and more about finding a tangible way to get out your feelings. And speaking of which…

Cry if you need to.

It’s not frivolous to feel affected by what’s happening in the world right now. Suppressing anything you might be feeling only contributes to poor mental health. Experts emphasize that it’s vital to acknowledge how you’re feeling, instead of dismissing it in the hopes of gaining some sense of ease. That might include crying (and research shows that crying can be a therapeutic release).

Be mindful of your other coping mechanisms.

I’ve certainly defaulted to grabbing drinks with friends in the midst of a stressful situation or pouring a glass of wine as I park myself in front of the TV. In moderation, that’s a normal part of our culture as long as you’re not living with a substance use issue. But you should definitely be aware of these habits and be mindful of when they might turn into something more insidious.

If you’re turning to alcohol or other unhealthy coping mechanisms as a crutch, you should reach out to a professional or someone who can help you process what’s happening in a healthier way. Experts stress that these behaviors often worsen your mental health if they turn into a reliance.

Reach out for extra support.

This could be to your therapist, your loved ones, your co-workers or anyone you trust when it comes to sharing your feelings. Support systems are crucial during periods of unrest and trauma.

“When we are distressed by something, the more we talk about it, the better off we are going to be,” Reidenberg previously advised. “There’s only so much ‘yuck’ we can handle before it begins to come out in unhealthy ways … so if you are feeling distress, say so.”

Pay attention to how you feel and behave in the coming days. If you notice you’re withdrawing from others, not keeping up with a standard routine, or feeling intense emotions that make it difficult to function, it’s time to seek professional mental health advice. (The same applies if you notice this happening with loved ones.) This type of reaction is a completely normal response to what’s going on in the world; a therapist can give you the tools to make it more manageable.

By Lindsay Holmes   02/24/2022 

Source: Huffington Post

fine

 As Russia Invades Ukraine,
Tips to Manage ‘Headline Anxiety’

By Damian McNamara, MA

Turn to any news channel, news site, or social media platform, and you’re bound to see continuous updates on the situation in Ukraine, the individual and public health toll from the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing political and racial divisiveness in the United States, and more.

So how can someone who wants to keep up on developments protect themselves from stress, anxiety, and dysfunction when such negative news seems to be everywhere?

Today’s news will induce even more anxiety than usual. The sight of plants & gentle colour gradation alleviates stress. 15 mins walking in a green space dials down blood pressure, pulse rate, stress hormone levels (cortisol) & lifts mood but if that’s tricky my photos may help. pic.twitter.com/3ktiVe4APB

— Emma Mitchell 💙 (@silverpebble) February 24, 2022

“I think everyone’s experiencing some degree of anxiety about what’s happening in the world,” says Michael Ziffra, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University in Chicago.

It’s a matter of severity; being anxious is a normal human reaction, he says. But watching the news becomes a problem if it “makes it hard for you to do what you need to do and just sort of enjoy life.”

Different people will react differently, but in general, “the sign that it’s getting a bit too much is if you cannot stop or pull yourself away from it,” he says.

It also can be a problem if someone spends a lot of time obsessing or ruminating about negative news while off screen, to the point that it disrupts their work or home life, Ziffra says.

When Stressors Stack Up

A cumulative effect is also possible when negative news updates come close together.

“Clearly, what we’re experiencing right now is unprecedented — all this happening at once — prolonged pandemic, the political turmoil, the war, climate change,” Ziffra says.

Long-term exposure to stressors generally worsens anxiety, he says.

Although the effects of chronic stress vary from person to person, many have feelings of depression, anxiousness, sleep disruption, and fatigue.

Uncertainty Can Up the Anxiety

A stressful event generally has a beginning and end, which can help people manage their reactions to it. In contrast, some of the current stressful situations carry more uncertainty.

“Look at what’s going on in the world right now. We still don’t know how things are going to play out with the pandemic or with the Russia and Ukraine conflict,” Ziffra says.

I stopped watching the news after Jan 6 bc the fixation was so unhealthy. For the first time ever something really snapped and I said you know what, I can’t do this to my anxiety anymore.

— Angela (@TheKitchenista) February 24, 2022

If someone has a relative or friends in Ukraine, keeping up on developments is normal, he says. But “people need to be mindful of the fact that they’re going to be very sensitive to the latest developments.”

Avoid looking at photos or watching videos coming out of Ukraine, he says, because they can be graphic. Instead, restrict your exposure to written news updates.

In addition, Ziffra suggests anyone feeling more stress or anxiety than usual seek out their friends and other social contacts. Because most of the country is not in a COVID-19 lockdown, it is easier to reach out to friends and family now for support.

Prescient Advice

In March 2020, ahead of the divisive federal elections and the beginning of the pandemic, Ziffra wrote “5 Ways to Cope with the News” on the Northwestern Medicine website. His suggestions on ways to avoid triggers and manage stress still apply today, he says.

Okay so it’s bad domestic and world news time, you wanna be in the know but you don’t want to make your anxiety worse. Here’s some tips:

– Rather than “hearing every side” prioritize news sources with some kind of journalistic integrity.

— jupitarian decadence as praxis 🍋 (@praxisastrology) February 24, 2022

He warned at the time that “developing obsessive habits of consuming news and information can be dangerous to your mental health.” In addition, social media can intensify the effects of news overload.

Also recognize that obsessing over the news is very common. Ziffra wrote, “We’re in very uncertain times, and times of uncertainty tend to be very anxiety-provoking for people.”

Michael Ziffra, MD,
associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences,
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Feb. 24, 2022

source:  WebMD


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Feeling Extra Stressed Over The Holidays This Year? Here’s How To Deal.

From the omicron variant to supply chain issues, the season doesn’t feel so merry and bright right now.

This year comes with its own particular set of holiday stressors.

The holidays can be a stressful time even under normal circumstances, but the 2021 season seems to be piling on the emotional strain.

Between global supply chain issues and concerns about the omicron coronavirus variant, it’s no wonder many of us are feeling a little extra anxious this year as we try to purchase gifts, plan gatherings and spread some holiday cheer. But that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless.

We asked mental health experts to share their advice for coping with holiday-season stress this year.

Consider your priorities.

When you’re feeling stressed about gift shopping and supply chain delays, give yourself a moment to pause and take stock of your priorities around the holiday season. Is buying all the must-have gifts the most important thing to you? Chances are, the answer is no.

“At the end of the day, the holidays are about gratitude and love,” said Ibinye Osibodu-Onyali, a licensed marriage and family therapist at the Zinnia Practice in Murrieta, California. “Whether or not you’re able to find all the gifts you want to get, focus on the love around you. Remind your loved ones about the bond that you share and begin to create memories that no supply chain trouble can take away from you.”

If you have children, remember that you set the tone for the holiday season and the lessons they receive about this time of year.

If you celebrate Christmas, “remind kids that Christmas is not just about gift-giving, but a special time to spend together as a family,” said Maryanna Klatt, a professor of clinical family and community medicine and director of integrative medicine at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

She suggested telling your children about your favorite part of the holiday season when you were growing up. Share special memories and teach them about your history.

“This is a great starting place for them to feel a connection with their extended family that may no longer be around,” Klatt said. “Another gift you can give your children this year ― a sense that they are part of something larger than themselves, a teaching moment for the truth about the interconnectedness of being human.”

Focus on what you can control.

Thinking about all the uncertainty regarding the future of the pandemic ― especially in light of the omicron variant ― might feel frightening and overwhelming. But ultimately, that bigger global health picture is not something within your control.

“My advice would be to focus on the here and now, meaning deal with the things that are affecting you directly and try not to focus on what ifs,” said Saniyyah Mayo, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles.

If you’re concerned about your family’s health, ensure that you’re up to date on public health recommendations, like getting COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots and wearing masks in public spaces.

“Know what your comfort level is when celebrating this year. Opt for small get-togethers if you do not feel comfortable being in a crowd,” Osibodu-Onyali said. “This would be a great time to create boundaries that are comfortable for you.”

Similarly, global supply chain issues are not something you can control, but you do have the power to try to get your holiday shopping done earlier than usual. Get organized with your prep. Additionally, you might spend more time planning a special meal or decorating the tree to bring your holiday vision to life.

“Regarding what you can control, ask yourself, ‘What do I want to be sure happens this holiday season?’” Klatt said. “That way you can focus your attention on what is truly a priority for you and your family.”

christmas

Make this the year you start new holiday traditions with your family.

Start new traditions.

Rather than focusing on what might be different or more challenging this year, think of this holiday season as an opportunity to try something new.

“If gift-giving plans fall through, this is the perfect year to start a new Christmas tradition,” Klatt said.

She suggested bonding with your family by going caroling in the neighborhood or driving around to look at holiday lights.

“Get Christmas nighties for kids to wear on Christmas Eve,” Klatt said. “Involve kids in the kitchen by passing down a Christmas recipe. Or teach your kids how to ‘be Santa’ by bringing cookies that they baked with you to neighbors who may be homebound this holiday season. This way they can experience firsthand the joy of giving.”

Prioritize self-care.

While it’s wonderful to focus on others during the holiday season, don’t forget about your own well-being.

“Make self-care your priority,” Klatt said. “It helps to make a list of calming activities ahead of time that gives you the much-needed break you need among all the holiday chaos.”

She suggested putting some of those self-care activities in your calendar for the coming weeks, to increase the likelihood that you actually do them when you need them most.

Make backup plans.

Ultimately, you might not be able to give your loved ones their prized store-bought items of choice, so it’s worth thinking of some backup options.

“Try to find alternatives for the gifts that you are unable to find, or lean into sentimental gifts this year such as crafts that you make or spending quality time together,” Osibodu-Onyali advised. “What COVID has taught us all is that life is truly precious and we most definitely were not spending enough time together before the pandemic.”

If you’re a parent, talk to your children about the difficulties this year when it comes to their first-choice gifts (even if through the lens of Santa). Have a couple of alternate gifts ready and plan fun holiday activities to reduce the chances of disappointment.

And speaking of disappointment ― Klatt emphasized the importance, and the benefits, of modeling to your children how to deal with it.

“If they see you acknowledge the challenges presented by COVID and its collateral impact, and then, most importantly, they see you move beyond a disappointment to find joy in what can come to fruition this holiday season, this is a gift they will take with them throughout their lives,” she said. “The process of acknowledging the difficulty and yet not allowing it to squash happiness is a gift of a lifetime you can give your children during this 2021 holiday season.”

Caroline Bologna      12/08/2021

source: www.huffpost.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ bonus link ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How to Radiate Peace During the Holidays


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4 Ways To Create And Maintain Inner Peace

4 Steps to Create a Lasting Inner Calm

When it seems like the world is in complete disarray, is it possible to create inner calm?

Is our well-being at the mercy of external events, exclusively affected by circumstances? Many people believe this to be true—or at least live their lives as if it is. The problem with this mindset is that it creates a massive sense of lacking something, of unrest and of overall stress. We cannot possibly feel like we are in control of our lives if we let the environment we live in rule our inner tranquility. The truth is, you’re greater than your surroundings and the events that are happening around you. You have the ability to create inner harmony regardless of situation or circum- stance. The key is to unlock your inner power and knowledge. As the founder of The Positive Change Group, I help clients find balance. And as an expert in the field, I know that understanding the following simple steps and staying true to them will create lifelong positive changes.

CREATING LASTING INNER CALM

1. YOUR TIME

Time truly is your most precious commodity. When clients I work with say they don’t have time, they’re expressing a false reality. We all have the same amount of time in a day. The difference is that people who are truly happy and have inner peace are very discerning about with whom and how they spend their time. You have time for anything that you make a priority. The key is to reassess your priorities and make sure they are in alignment with what is right for you.

It is simple, really. Where you spend your time can either drain you or energize you. When was the last time you asked yourself questions such as these: Why am I doing this? How is this serving me?

Do I really want to be doing this?

All these questions are necessary to ask because the answers lead to the next vital point: When we understand how precious our time is and how it directly relates to our self-love, then we’re more careful about whom we spend it with. And this is key to having what I call healthy boundaries.

Healthy boundaries are essential to finding inner calm. Many people can attribute the lack of healthy boundaries to a feeling of depletion and disharmony. How can you possibly have inner harmony if you are not able to say no to what doesn’t serve you? Many of us often feel a sense of obligation or duty to say yes to things that make us miserable.

Positive Change Exercise #1: Do a Time Audit

Take a week and look at the things you do and whom you spend your time with. Decide what brings you joy and what depletes you. The simple act of bringing consciousness to how you spend your time is the first step toward making change.

Once you become aware of how your time is being spent, then you can start to create healthy boundaries and choose when you need to politely say no. This may mean making small changes or starting out with only what you feel comfortable doing, working forward from there. And don’t worry about feeling selfish. The reality is that everyone around you gets the best version of you when you take care of yourself and cultivate that inner calm.

Emotional_intelligence

2. YOUR THOUGHTS

They can be the hardest things to change because thoughts are so powerful. But let’s just look at it in a simple way. Thoughts hold energy. For instance: Think about a time in your life when you felt like you weren’t enough or when you felt you were a disappointment. How does that feel?

Now I want you to think of a time in your life when you felt joy, love, or a sense of accomplishment. How does that feel?

Notice the difference in your body when thinking of each moment. Our thoughts are powerful and have energy.

Calming tip: When you’re in a difficult situation or feeling stressed, breathe in deeply, filling your body completely; on the exhale, intentionally release the stress. Now, in this moment, take yourself to that place where you felt love or joy or accomplishment. Sit in that energy and know that it exists in all moments. Then, take another deep breath, let the stress go and inhale love. Look at the situation you’re currently in and understand how your inner state can impact the outer environment, either by fueling stress or eliminating it. Keep breathing, and let your mind shift.

3. YOUR WORDS

The next key step is paying attention to your words. Do your words lift your spirits? Do the words you say create calm or promote the opposite reaction? It is impossible to feel a sense of inner peace when the words you speak are negative, judgmental or aggressive. Words carry energy. Where do you want your energy to be? Make sure your words match your desire.

Positive Change Exercise #2: Do a Vocabulary Audit

Notice some of the common phrases you use that create stress or struggle. I used to always say, “I am so busy.” It was an easy go-to when talking to people until I decided that I hated saying this and I hated the way it made me feel, as if I didn’t have time and was always on the go. Once I started to eliminate this phrase from my vocabulary, it was amazing what shifted. I felt more in control of my life and my time. “Busy” can be a choice. It takes practice to change, but the more you work on it, the easier it becomes.

4. YOUR ACTIONS

Finally, our actions need to create calm, too. This active part is one of the biggest aspects of creating change. But it is easier to carry out calm and harmonious behaviours when our words and thoughts are also in line with the goal of inner peace. When we train our brain to think and speak calmly, it becomes easier to do.

Positive Change Exercise #3: Do an Action Audit

Create a list of all the things you love to do that nourish your body and soul. Now look at that list. How many times a day or a week are you actually doing the things on your list? The simple act of bringing a conscious awareness to what you do is the first step toward accomplishing change.

  • Activities that can create inner calm:
  • Spending time in nature
  • Moving your body
  • Eating healthfully
  • Finding quiet time for self
  • Reading or journaling

Activities that can drain your energy:

  • Watching or reading the news
  • Eating unhealthy food
  • Surrounding yourself with toxic people
  • Spending too much time on social media

Think of other things you can add to your calm list and what you can eliminate or do less of from your energy drain list. This is what I call being in alignment.

The effort is in the inner work. When we realize the power we have within us to improve our thoughts, words and actions, we can see the results of these efforts in our own reality. We realize that we have some choice, regardless of what is going on around us. We get to choose what we think, say, do and feel.

May 11, 2021                   By: Julie Cass

source: www.canadianliving.com


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Foods That Can Reduce Stress

Stress levels may be high these days, but did you know that what we choose to eat can help to reduce stress, ultimately allowing us to take charge of our mental health?

“Instead of thinking of food as ‘stress eating’ or ‘guilty pleasures,’ we can think of using food to shape the lens in how we experience stress,” said psychiatrist Dr. Drew Ramsey, an assistant clinical professor at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and author of the upcoming book “Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety.”

Taking control of stress with the foods we eat can help to counter inflammation throughout the body, as well as elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, which can otherwise lead to high blood sugar, increased appetite and weight gain, among other symptoms, according to Felicia Porrazza, a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian who helps stressed-out clients find natural ways to improve their overall wellness.

Feeling less stressed already? I hope so! Here are some food suggestions to help you live in a state of calm.

Open your palate to oily fish

Try out anchovies, sardines and herring, in addition to salmon, trout and mackerel. These foods are a rich source of stress-busting omega-3 fatty acids known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which play an important role in brain health.

“Increasing omega-3 fatty acids can help to regulate how our bodies handle stress,” Porrazza said. Stress can increase inflammation in the body so if we can reduce inflammation by consuming more omega-3s, we could also potentially reduce cortisol levels, which could improve health and wellness, Porrazza explained. In fact, omega 3s help to blunt the cortisol response after acute stress, some research has shown. On the flip side, low levels of omega 3s may affect the function of the HPA, or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, axis, which plays a role in how our bodies respond to stress, according to Porrazza.

Omega-3 fats might help to reduce the symptoms of clinical anxiety, concluded a recent review and meta-analysis of 19 clinical trials involving over 2,200 participants from 11 countries.

Consuming high amounts of these fatty acids in fish may help protect us from depression, too, according to other research.

Need some ideas besides grilled salmon? Try a Caesar salad with an anchovy vinaigrette dressing, or add some herring to your Sunday bagel order.

Mix it up with shellfish

Mussels, clams and oysters are rich in vitamin B12 in addition to omega-3s, which are both prominent nutrients in diets connected with lower anxiety, Ramsey explained.

In fact, B vitamins, including vitamin B12, help to maintain the nervous system, and stress can cause a slight increase in the body’s requirements of these B vitamins, explained Martha McKittrick, a New York City-based registered dietitian who provides nutrition counseling and wellness coaching to many stressed-out New Yorkers.

Vitamin B deficiencies can increase the risk of developing stress-related symptoms such as irritability, lethargy and depression.

Since vitamin B12 is not produced by plants, if you are vegan, you should ensure that you are consuming vitamin B12 from fortified foods or a supplement.

Consume more vitamin C

Foods such as red and green peppers, oranges, grapefruit and kiwi are rich in vitamin C, which in high doses has antidepressant effects and improves mood, and may be helpful in treating stress-related disorders.

Other research has revealed that vitamin C may help reduce anxiety among high school students.

To boost your vitamin C intake, aim to include one vitamin C-rich food with a meal, and another for a snack. You could also try one of my favorites: dark chocolate-dipped kiwis or oranges for dessert!

Bananas

 

Choose healthy carbs

Carbohydrates can help to boost serotonin production in the brain, which is key in influencing our mood. “Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for happiness and well-being,” Porrazza said.

Serotonin has a calming effect and also promotes sleep and relaxation, McKittrick explained. In fact, low levels of brain serotonin, research has suggested, can lead to increased vulnerability to psychosocial stress.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is necessary for the production of serotonin in the brain. Complex carbs including whole grains and vegetables can help boost levels of serotonin because they make tryptophan more available in the brain.

Carbs like soybeans and peas also deliver a small dose of protein, which can help to balance blood glucose levels. This benefit is important, since fluctuations in blood glucose can cause irritability and worsen stress levels.

Additionally, if you eat too many highly processed carbs that are loaded with sugar and lack protein or healthy fats, like cookies and sweets, you can experience blood sugar spikes and crashes, “and that can make you feel more stressed,” McKittrick added.

Fill up on fermented foods

Fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha, kefir, tempeh and sauerkraut contain friendly bacteria known as probiotics, which have the ability to reduce stress and cortisol levels.

In fact, randomized controlled trials featuring probiotics suggest a causal link between the gut microbiota and stress responding.

Feeling shy? Fermented foods may help reduce symptoms of social anxiety, too, research has shown. These probiotic-rich foods may also help control negative thoughts that are associated with low moods.

How does it all work? Our gut bacteria produce about 95% of our body’s serotonin supply, which can positively affect how we feel, according to Porrazza. On the flip side, stress can increase inflammation and gut dysbiosis, which is basically an imbalance of the gut microbiota, and this can negatively influence mood.

Other fermented foods include sourdough bread, kimchi, miso and pickles.

Ramsey fights stress with a kefir-rich banana smoothie. “I get a good dose of potassium from the banana and I add nuts, cinnamon and cacao for its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a great energy and brain boost.”

Bananas are also a source of vitamin B6, which helps in the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin.

Munch on magnesium-rich foods

A lot of times when you are stressed out, your magnesium levels can become depleted, McKittrick explained. “If you have a magnesium-deficient diet, it can raise stress hormones, so it is important to eat magnesium-rich foods, like leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds; legumes; and whole grains,” she said.

Conquer stress with crunchy foods

“A lot of my clients, when they think about crunchy foods, they think of chips, but sometimes you can manage stress with healthier crunchy foods like celery and carrots with hummus,” Porrazza said.

Cutting up an apple and then munching on it can also release stress, as Porrazza has observed with her clients. “Doing something with their hands can help them take themselves out of their head and give them a little bit of a mindful moment, which can take them out of the stress of the moment,” she added.

Take a tea break

Green, black and oolong teas are rich in theanine, an amino acid that helps reduce stress and promote calm feelings.

These teas are also rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce oxidative stress in the body, which helps protect against disease.

Black tea in particular has been studied for its role in stress recovery and reduction in cortisol levels.

And while there isn’t enough research to show that chamomile reduces stress, the act of sitting and drinking a cup of this herbal tea may be calming for some, Porrazza explained.

Other stress-busting diet tips

Lastly, there are a few diet strategies to avoid, in order to feel less stressed. One is to consume less caffeine.

Caffeine has effects on the brain and nervous system and can elevate cortisol levels and exacerbate the effects of stress on the body,” McKittrick said.

Because of caffeine’s effects, it’s important to pay attention to how your body responds to caffeine. “If I am stressed, I can only have half a cup of coffee,” McKittrick added.

And it’s important to not go too long without eating. Doing so can cause low blood sugar, which can make you feel more irritable and worsen stress. “It’s very individual, but for most I would say don’t go more than four to five hours without food – but pay attention to your own body,” McKittrick said.

By Lisa Drayer, CNN        January 23, 2021

source : CNN


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Long-Term Social Distancing May Be Traumatic. Here Is What To Expect And What To Do

Passover, Easter and Ramadan are occasions that typically bring families together to pray, reflect and celebrate – fellowship needed, perhaps, now more than ever – will look different this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The loss of those traditions is added to a growing list of losses that North Americans are facing as they endure at least another month of social distancing and with it an extended departure from routines, habits, social circles and normalcy.

The protracted disruption to life as it was, mental health experts say, could bring feelings of anger, depression, anxiety and even grief.

“There is literal grief like losing loved ones,” said Dr. Vaile Wright, the American Psychology Association’s director of clinical research. “But there is a grief of experiences that we are losing right now. There can feel like there is a lot of loss right now, a loss of freedom, a lot of things we took for granted.”

The next few months may take a toll on the nation’s mental health, experts say, but it is possible to mitigate the stress.

North Americans’ collective trauma

Extended isolation and stress from the pandemic can affect everyone differently, said Dr. Dana Garfin, a health psychologist.

It could put strain on families, send children home to abusive situations, make those living alone feel isolated and threaten people’s sense of purpose by keeping them from work, Garfin said.

And those experiencing financial insecurity in the midst of the pandemic have an added stress that is difficult to resolve, said Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University.

Despite those differences, the experience of staying home together through a pandemic can be considered a collective trauma, said Garfin, who studies collective traumas such as hurricanes, terrorist attacks and earthquakes.

Collective traumas start at some point of impact and then ripple out to loved ones of the afflicted, witnesses to the devastation and people whose lives are disrupted.

In this case, many Americans fall into one or more of those categories. People in quarantine show signs of confusion, depression and anger, Garfin said.

“We necessarily run much of our lives by habit,” said Fischhoff. “We know what we have for breakfast, we know how to prepare the kids for school, and that enables us to get through the day reasonably well.”

But now that many North Americans aren’t waking up and going to school and work, it can be difficult to know how to restructure even the most rote daily habits that won’t be coming back for weeks yet.

What life might look like on the other side of coronavirus

How long the pandemic and the isolation continue will dictate how severe the effects are on people’s mental health, Garfin said.

Prolonged exposure to the traumas of coronavirus can activate the fight or flight response, which over time can cause cardiovascular problems, anxiety, depression and PTSD, Garfin said. And the extended isolation can contribute to fear, anxiety, headaches, muscle tension and difficulty concentrating, said Wright.

For some groups, like health care workers, those in the media and people in newly deemed “essential jobs,” the end result may be guilt, grief and PTSD, said Wright.

But, Wright and Garfin agreed, humans are resilient.

Some may forget everything they just went through and go back to their daily lives when it is all over, Wright said, but many can come out of this with stronger relationships and a better perspective on what is important.

How to get through it

The future is uncertain, but life will be different for at least the next month and that knowledge can be the first step to making this new, temporary reality as good as it can be.

Now that it is clear the change is for more than a couple of weeks, it is important to create a new routine – one that includes showering, getting dressed and maintaining family meals — not treating the time as an extended snow day or spring vacation, Wright said.

There is an opportunity for people to develop new habits around the disruption, which can relieve the stress of feeling like starting from scratch every day, Fischhoff said.

And all three say it is important to use social media to be social, not to feed the anxiety that conflicting coronavirus information on the platform stokes.

They also agree that this experience is difficult, and it is important to acknowledge that and not be too critical of what one could have done before or could be doing now.

“I think that we need to recognize that this is totally unprecedented, and we really are just doing the best we can – and that’s OK,” Wright said. And for people doing the best they can but struggling to work, study or care for their families, virtual mental health resources may be a crucial next step.

And for those who are lonely and isolated, Garfin suggests reframing for a feeling of community within that experience.

“We aren’t in our houses alone, we are doing something for each other for our community,” Garfin said. “It’s a shared effort, something that we are all a part of and something we are all contributing to.”
“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s not permanent.”

 

By Madeline Holcombe, CNN       Thu April 9, 2020
source: www.cnn.com
plan

Take A Breath:
How The Simple Act Of Meditative Breathing
Helps Us Cope

A global pandemic causes so much worry, concern and fear. There’s the pressure of suddenly being a homeschooling parent and trying to create structure around newfound chaos in your home.

A lot of us are adjusting to working from home, all while tending to worries about the state of the world. Maybe you fret over the health of aging parents or feel anxious over the ever-changing news cycle.

Psychological stress can damper your overall health, affecting your ability to remain resilient in the face of challenges. It can also thwart a strong immune system, which is needed to keep from getting sick.

“Living through a pandemic can be scary,” said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the March 18 episode of CNN’s “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction” podcast.

The good news: Meditation is one tool that can help our immune systems functioning optimally, according to a recent study.

One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is by simply focusing your attention on your breath, according to Harvard Medical School, since it’s a form of beginner level meditation that anyone can do.

Alternative medicine advocate Dr. Deepak Chopra, in Dr. Gupta’s podcast episode titled “Pandemic Panic,” walks us through how to do a breathing meditation to ease our stress, thus calming our minds.

Breathing through the stress of a pandemic

According to Harvard Medical School, breathing meditation requires either sitting comfortably, standing or walking in a setting with minimal distractions. Many people prefer to sit.

If you’re sitting, focus first on your posture: You should sit with your spine erect.

As you become aware of the space you’re in and sit comfortably, observe your breath without manipulating it for a few seconds, Chopra suggests.

Then, slow your breath down by inhaling deeply to the count of six.

Pause for two seconds.

Exhale to the count of four. Then repeat this six-two-four breathing method for two minutes.

“Then, when you’re done with that, bring your awareness into your body and wherever there seems to be any discomfort, just bring the awareness there without manipulating it,” Chopra said. “Awareness by itself heals. Awareness without conceptual intervention restores self-regulation.”

“The goal is really to breathe from your diaphragm,” as opposed to shallow breaths from your chest, said Vaile Wright, a psychologist and director of clinical research and quality at the American Psychological Association.

“And the way to know whether you’re doing that or not, or a trick at least, is to place your hand just below your ribs on your stomach.” When you inhale you should feel your body expanding, then contracting when you inhale.

If the initial peace is interrupted by your thoughts, the meditation isn’t a failure. Though breathing meditations are simple to begin with, they can take practice before you’re able to maintain focus for an extended period of time, Wright said. Just acknowledge the thought and try to let it go.

You don’t have to concentrate on any format, but some people find that adding some sort of mantra or visualization to it helps, Wright said.

“For example, when you’re breathing in, telling yourself [in your head that] you’re breathing in love. When you’re exhaling, telling yourself you’re exhaling anxiety. Or, breathing in positive energy, exhaling negative energy or visualizing negative energy coming out of your mouth and out of your body.”

Chopra starts his day with three or four intentions: “I’m going to maintain a joyful, energetic body today; a loving and compassionate heart today; a reflective and quiet and creative and centered mind today; and lightness of being and laughter today, whatever it takes.”

By doing these intentions, you can start to feel better, he said.

Modern technology offers up apps and smart watches that can help guide you through a meditation if you have trouble staying focused.

“Slow your breath, your thoughts will slow down as well,” Chopra said.

breathe
try this for 2 – 5 minutes

Benefits for your overall health

Breathing meditations can contribute to a state of mindfulness by bringing your focus to one thing and only thing only – your breath, Wright said.

“The goal of that is to draw your attention away from maybe worry thoughts you’re having or sort of the catastrophic thoughts or maybe depressing thoughts about feeling alone,” she added. When you’re focusing, those thoughts can be pushed aside, helping you to control your emotions.

Mindfulness has been found to influence two stress pathways in the brain, altering brain structure and activity in regions that regulate attention and emotion, according to the American Psychological Association.

In a 2015 review of studies on the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), researchers found that people who received this therapy were less likely to respond to stressful situations with negative thoughts or unhelpful emotional reactions.

Those participants were also more likely to focus on the present moment and less likely to experience ruminating thoughts.

Breathing meditations can also reduce muscle tension and your heart rate, which are signs of stress, Wright said.

Carrying yourself through a hard time

Breathing meditations are another tool you can add to your coping toolkit, which may also include journaling, baking or virtually connecting with others.

“What’s great about breathing is you can do it anywhere,” Wright said. “If music is your way of relaxing, what happens when you don’t have access to it? You always have access to your breathing, so in that sense [breathing meditations] are really portable and very accessible. We really need a variety of different coping skills in order to get through particularly unprecedented situations like this one.”

Mindfulness may not make everything go away, Wright said, but it can bring you to a “calmer state so that you’re better able to deal with all the stress that’s going on.”

By Kristen Rogers, CNN      Fri March 27, 2020
source: www.cnn.com


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6 Easy Ways to Reduce Stress Naturally

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the direction the world is heading. And guess who the decks are stacked against? We’re pretty sure you can figure that one out.  Hardworking people who get up, go to work, and just want to live an ordinary and peaceful life are thrown into a vicious cycle of unrelenting turbulence and cynicism. World events affect our health, whether we realize it or not. More on this later.

We Have Enough to Worry About!

Do we really need another source of stress? None of us want to stress. Sometimes we need to deal with it to get along in life. But why are we asking for more? If you’re fortunate enough to have a steady income, the odds are that you stress too much about work – and probably about finances.

Maybe you or a family member has a disability. Maybe your savings are dwindling if you have any at all.

When one problem gets resolved, another always seems to pop up, doesn’t it?

Now ask yourself: “Do I really want to take on more stress? Why?”

Coping Tips

When the information we take in triggers a negative response, it has a very real impact on our health. Stress is stress; doesn’t matter if the source of stress is personal or not.

That said, let’s take a look at some ways to deal with stress caused by what you see, read, or hear.

6 WAYS TO DEAL WITH STRESS NATURALLY

1. KEEP YOUR MIND ON ONE THING

Did you know that the average person has 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day? While we may take a bit of pride in this number – the brain is a remarkable organ – being mindful of what we think about is essential.

Focus on the task at hand. Discard the extraneous garbage that you don’t need. Including obnoxious new anchors and news hosts.

2. DO THINGS YOU ENJOY

At the risk of sounding incredibly cliché, life is too damn short! It can’t (and shouldn’t) be all serious, all of the time.

Getting out the rut that is negativity bias can be difficult, so make it (much) simpler by doing the things you “get lost in.” Maybe it’s painting, writing, computer games, meditation, or reading.

You’ll feel much more relaxed and rejuvenated.

 

 

3. TALK TO PEOPLE

Keeping with the “Life is too damn short!” theme, take the time to visit your family and friends. Share a good meal, go out together, or just sit around and talk.

Of course, try not to limit yourself to friends and family. If that’s all you can manage, fine; but there’s a whole world out there! Trying joining a group of some sort; one that stokes your passions and adds some much needed Joie de vivre.

4. STAY HEALTHY

While most of us (including yours truly) enjoy the occasional grub/beer/wine-fest, make it a priority to stay healthy.

People have a propensity to over-complicate health. Don’t listen to the 8-pack abs infomercial. Here’s everything you need for basic health:

– Eat 3-5 healthy meals per day.
– Abstain or cut back on alcohol and nicotine.
– Get 30+ minutes of moderate exercise per day (break it up into chunks, if easier.) Make the exercise something fun!
– Drink at least six, eight-ounce glasses of water per day.
– Practice diaphragmic breathing or mindfulness meditation.

5. LIMIT YOUR NEWS EXPOSURE

In fact, try limiting your T.V. time, period. Television, while it’s relaxing for an hour or two here and there, is pretty much a waste of time and brainpower.

If nothing else, limit the time spent watching the news. Instead, try scanning the headlines on Google News, Reuters, or your local paper. Bypass the garbage and only read what you think is essential. (Like sports.)

6. MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Can you imagine the difference if everyone allocated just 10 percent of their time devoted to entertainment and “news” and did something to better humanity?

While we all want to make the world better, the uncomfortable truth is too many of us are spectators and not participants.

Make a personal pledge to help one person a day. How does this change the world? Via the “multiplier effect.”

See, when you help just one person, you aren’t just helping one person. You’re making it more likely that they’ll help someone, and that “someone” to help someone – and so on.

You’re being the change.

May you be happy and at peace this day and the next.

sources:
 


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22 Simple Habits That Can Relieve Holiday Stress and Anxiety

Are the holidays the season of excitement or a time for anxiety and frustration? 
Here are expert tips to get you past the stress and into the festive spirit.

Get adequate sleep

It’s no secret that our bodies crave rest; fail to get enough, and you’ll have some nasty symptoms. Not only does adequate rest—at least seven to eight hours per night—recharge your body for the day ahead, it also gives your nervous system a chance to wind down and reset as well. For those who suffer from anxiety symptoms, a lack of sleep can make you much more anxious. No one wants that around the holidays, warns Barbara Greenberg, PhD, a clinical psychologist and the co-author of Teenage As A Second Language. She tells Reader’s Digest, “We must all keep in mind that the holidays can be quite overwhelming as well as exciting. Because we are going to be expending a lot of energy during the holidays we must take care of ourselves. That way, we are less likely to become physically sick and emotionally overwhelmed during the holiday season.” Go ahead and go to bed early—chances are you’ll be better able to handle whatever comes your way in the morning.

Give your body the boosts it needs

The typical American diet can leave you short on nutrients your body needs to function at its fullest potential, and sometimes it needs a boost that food is not providing. During stressful times such as the holidays or busy seasons, it’s important to pay close attention to cues your body is sending about its status. Supplements such as magnesium (almost 80 percent of the population is deficient), zinc, and fish oil can deliver the nutrients your body needs to keep running efficiently. Magnesium helps to relax muscles and decrease anxiety. Zinc will help to boost your immune system during the colder months, and the omega-3 oils in fish oil are powerful anti-inflammatories that provide an overall sense of well-being.

Give yourself the gift of self-care

In the midst of the seasonal rush, it’s easy to forget about your own health. Make time for a daily routine—even if it’s just 15 minutes—of doing something relaxing. Whether that’s pulling out the yoga mat, steeping a cup of your favorite herbal tea, or simply reading a good book, the time you give yourself out of your busy day will make a huge difference in your outlook. Kim Fredrickson, a marriage and family therapist and author of the new book Give Your Kids A Break: Parenting With Compassion For You and Your Children, agrees. She advises, “Treat yourself with compassion. It’s important to treat yourself kindly regarding all the extra pressures and activities you’re dealing with.” She continues, “Come up with a plan to take care of yourself as you head into the holidays. Try getting enough sleep, eat as healthy as possible, take time for a daily walk, and set things aside that can wait until January or February.”

Accept what you can control and release the rest

If you struggle with anxious feelings, you may also have control issues. So when the to-do list becomes overwhelming, that’s the time to step back and assess what is reasonable and what you have to let go of. If you’re hosting a dinner and you know that gluten-free Aunt Martha will complain that she can’t have the stuffing, kindly suggest that she might want to bring a side she’ll be able to enjoy. Fredrickson recommends making a list of the things you feel are top priorities, to keep your focus on what matters most. She says, “What’s important? Think about what is really important as you approach the holidays. Make sure your list includes things that are important to you, rather than only focusing on creating good experiences for your family.”

Do what you can from the comfort of home

There’s never been a better time to get things done without getting out of your pajamas. Sure, the Internet has its drawbacks, but there’s no question it’s made life easier for shopping. Tap the wonders of the web to order your groceries and gifts online. Some grocery services will deliver to your door, while some require that you pick up your order; either way, the time you’ll save is priceless. With online gift-wrapping options, it’s never been easier to have gifts sent directly to the relatives. Consider yourself a tech genius this season and eliminate your to-do list worries.

Delegate the details

If you’re facing a panicked rush to get things done, why not hand off some of the to-do lists to your spouse? If you know you’ll never be able to wrap every gift on time or schedule the carpet cleaning you’ve been putting off, recruit help. The same goes for holiday meals. While it’s true that the host often provides much of the main meal, why not ask people on the guest list to provide a side or dessert? Dr. Greenberg advises, “There are no prizes for doing everything on your own. Delegate. Remember people should come together during the holidays and help each other, right?”

Know your limits and respect them

Do memories of holidays past leave you shuddering with a sense of dread? If so, it’s time to learn from past mistakes, and vow to do things differently this year. If hosting the holiday festivities is simply too much of a strain on you or your family, ask someone else to take it on this year. Stress and anxiety can make even the most well-intentioned hostess less than jolly, and chances are good that there’s someone in your family who would love the chance to show off their culinary skill. Dr. Greenberg tells Reader’s Digest, “Know your limits. If it is difficult to be with your family for too long before you start getting irritable with each other, then set a time limit in advance. Believe me, you will be grateful that you did this! Do not expect that this year your family will get along perfectly and that old grudges will be forgotten. Unfortunately, we tend to regress when we are with our families during the holidays and old issues from years ago rear their heads.”

Make time to move

While it might seem counter-intuitive to add exercise to your daily routine during a time of extra activity, it doesn’t have to be strenuous. Activity reduces blood pressure and stress, and a short walk around the block can really go the distance in making the holiday grind more bearable. If walking isn’t something you enjoy, why not try yoga, and let your breath carry you away from it all? Exercise doesn’t have to produce heavy breathing and sweat to count—so find something that gently allows your body to expend its extra energy, and go with it.

Prep your way to less stress

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Fail to plan? Plan to fail.” That’s a little harsh, but there’s no question that having a holiday-prep plan will help ensure the success of your season. Take a look at your seasonal to-do list and make notes about the things that can be taken care of in advance. Can you bake and freeze some dinner or dessert items now? How about sending out the invitations early, with your requests of what others should bring for the meal included? Some things don’t need to wait to be done until the week before the big day. Take advantage of the time you have, and take action now.

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Maintain realistic expectations of yourself and others

Family relationships are complicated. Add in holiday pressures and heightened expectations for a perfect holiday, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Instead of expecting a perfect holiday staged by Hallmark, keep your vision of the day realistic. That one relative who really knows how to push your buttons will not magically become a joy to be around just because it’s a special day. Accept the likely reality for what it is, and make the best of it. Dr. Greenberg cautions that you should rein in your expectations—especially around the holidays. “It is crucial to keep expectations at a reasonable level. If we set the bar too high and expect family get-togethers or other celebrations to be perfect, then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.” Who needs the extra stress of having a perfect day?

Keep healthy boundaries in place

Some of your family or friends may see the holidays as an excuse for excess, indulgence, or rude behavior. Though more family time might lead you to have an extra glass of wine, Dr. Greenberg says this isn’t the best option to soothe frazzled nerves. She warns, “Keep the drinking of alcohol to a minimum. Too much alcohol leads to saying the wrong thing, behaving in a clumsy manner, and unintentionally bruising the feelings of others. It also leads to embarrassing yourself and your family.” Everyone wants an enjoyable day, but it shouldn’t cost you your sanity or healthy limitations.

Make a date with yourself

“The holidays can be a chaotic time with friends and family and it’s OK to schedule some alone time,” says Prakash Masand MD, a psychiatrist from Duke University and founder of the Centers of Psychiatric Excellence. “Ask your spouse to watch the kids for an hour and go to the spa, or go hit a bucket of golf balls. Seeking some solitude is both healthy and necessary to reduce stress.”

Hit “pause” on family arguments

Old tensions, political differences, blended families with ex-spouses and new loves—for a lot of people, getting together with extended family to celebrate holidays is a mixture of good and bad. If tensions and disagreements arise, consider pressing pause, at least for now. “Holidays are not the time to resolve family conflicts,” says Dr. Masand. “Many individuals use the family holidays to try to resolve longstanding conflicts with family members often with disastrous consequences, particularly when alcohol is involved. Leave addressing those issues to a later time in a one-to-one conversation.”

Do your shopping in short bursts

In an interesting 2016 study, researchers strapped emotion-tracking devices to 100 people and sent them holiday shopping for an hour. The findings? People’s heart rates increased by an average of 33 percent while shopping, about the same increase seen in someone who’s running a marathon. A majority became fatigued after just half an hour. “There’s so much to do: buying presents, cooking, decorating and more. Saving it all for the last minute will raise your stress,” says Dr. Masand. “Start a few weeks ahead of time and do a little at a time.”

Do less!

The number-one stressor during the holidays is time, a survey by the American Psychological Association found. A full two-thirds of people surveyed often or sometimes feel worried about having time to fit everything in, including family visits, cooking, shopping, decorating, and working. If you find yourself feeling stretched thin every holiday season, why not plan to do a little bit less this year? Jot down a quick list of all the parties, activities, and traditions you “need” to fit in and then prioritize. The ones that end up near the bottom? They’re optional.

Stick to a budget

Money is the second-biggest source of holiday stress (“time” is number one), according to the American Psychological Association. That’s why Dr. Masand suggests making a holiday budget and sticking to it. “Every parent wants to buy that perfect holiday gift for their child, but big-ticket items can take a toll on your wallet and your stress level,” he says. If you exchange gifts with extended friends and family, “consider a grab bag gift exchange where each person buys only one gift to alleviate the stress of having to get something for everyone.” Of course, gifts aren’t the only expenses of the season—there’s also food. “Let others help,” says Dr. Masand. “Don’t feel like you have to be the hero of the holiday season. Ask each person to bring a dish to dinner, make decorating a family activity where the kids help out.”

Go store-bought instead of homemade

Do you always bring the pie for the holiday meal, always homemade? If this year has you feeling overwhelmed or overworked, consider giving yourself the gift of time and buy one instead. Store-bought or cafe-bought desserts can be just as enjoyable, especially if you’re not stressed out and exhausted when you eat them! Try this top-pick frozen apple pie or check out this Chicago Tribune review of sweet potato, pecan, and apple pies from grocery stores like Walmart, Jewel, and Target.

Expect some bad along with the good

In a recent survey, 41 percent of Americans admitted to working too hard to have a “perfect” holiday season. “Expect things to go wrong,” says Dr. Masand. “Your son may hate his Christmas gift. Your daughter might get sick. You may overcook the ham. The point is things will go wrong. Appreciate the season for the time spent with loved ones and create new memories, and don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Draw firm boundaries between work and family

Many people have to work regular schedules in the days leading up to the holidays—those in the travel industry, retail, hospitality, and food services may have to work even more than usual. Other than requesting time off as far in advance as possible, those work schedules can’t necessarily be controlled. What can be are your boundaries when you’re not at work. Thirty-four percent of people in an American Psychological Association survey say they experience significant stress worrying that work obligations will impede on their holiday celebrations. So when you’re off the clock, stay there. Make it clear that you can’t respond to texts or emails on your days off, and don’t let yourself feel pressured into filling in for co-workers who ask to swap shifts.

Look out for the holiday blues

Those of us who have lost loved ones or are facing other difficult life situations may feel especially sad during this time of year when everyone is supposed to be jolly. Don’t ignore these feelings of grief or sadness, say the mental health experts at the Mayo Clinic. Not only is it OK to express these feelings during this time of “cheer,” it’s healthier to do that than to ignore or suppress them. Learn more about what to look out for when holiday blues go too far.

Remember that ultimately, a holiday is just a day

“The holidays are filled with both joy and stress,” says Ellen Braaten, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital. If you find yourself feeling extremely overwhelmed by emotions, pressures, or obligations this year, try to shift your perspective by deciding what’s most important and what you want the holidays to mean to you. “The holidays are just another time of year, certainly something to mark, but not the end-all, be-all,” she says.

Focus on the good

Yes, the holidays can be stressful and difficult. But they’re also full of joy for many of us. The American Psychological Association found that 78 percent of people report feeling happy, 75 percent feel love, and 60 percent report being in high spirits this time of year. So don’t lose sight of what you enjoy most about this time of year, whether it’s the twinkling lights, music, food, or fellowship.

Jen Babakhan       Sunny Sea Gold
 
source: www.rd.com