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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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10 Ways to Become More Resilient

10 Ways to Become More Resilient

Build Your Resilience and Coping Skills With These Tips

Resilience can often mean the difference between handling pressure and losing your cool. Resilient people tend to maintain a more positive outlook and cope with stress more effectively. Research has shown that while some people seem to come by resilience naturally, these behaviors can also be learned. The following are just a few of the techniques you should focus on in order to foster your own resilience.

1  Find a Sense of Purpose in Your Life

After her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Candace Lightner founded Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Upset by the driver’s light sentence, Lightner decided to focus her energy into creating awareness of the dangers of drunk driving. “I promised myself on the day of Cari’s death that I would fight to make this needless homicide count for something positive in the years ahead,” she later explained. In the face of crisis or tragedy, finding a sense of purpose can play an important role in recovery. This might involve becoming involved in your community, cultivating your spirituality, or participating in activities that are meaningful to you.

2  Build Positive Beliefs in Your Abilities

Research has demonstrated that self-esteem plays an important role in coping with stress and recovering from difficult events. Remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments. Becoming more confident in your own ability to respond and deal with crisis is a great way to build resilience for the future.

3  Develop a Strong Social Network

Having caring, supportive people around you acts as a protective factor during times of crisis. It is important to have people you can confide in. While simply talking about a situation with a friend or loved one will not make troubles go away, it allows you to share your feelings, gain support, receive positive feedback, and come up with possible solutions to your problems.

4  Embrace Change

Flexibility is an essential part of resilience. By learning how to be more adaptable, you’ll be better equipped to respond when faced with a life crisis. Resilient people often utilize these events as an opportunity to branch out in new directions. While some people may be crushed by abrupt changes, highly resilient individuals are able to adapt and thrive.

5  Be Optimistic

Staying optimistic during dark periods can be difficult, but maintaining a hopeful outlook is an important part of resiliency. Positive thinking does not mean ignoring the problem in order to focus on positive outcomes. It means understanding that setbacks are transient and that you have the skills and abilities to combat the challenges you face. What you are dealing with may be difficult, but it is important to remain hopeful and positive about a brighter future.

6  Nurture Yourself

When you’re stressed, it can be all too easy to neglect your own needs. Losing your appetite, ignoring exercise, and not getting enough sleep are all common reactions to a crisis situation. Focus on building your self-nurturance skills, even when you are troubled. Make time for activities that you enjoy. By taking care of your own needs, you can boost your overall health and resilience and be fully ready to face life’s challenges.

7  Develop Your Problem-Solving Skills

Research suggests that people who are able come up with solutions to a problem are better able to cope with problems than those who cannot. Whenever you encounter a new challenge, make a quick list of some of the potential ways you could solve the problem. Experiment with different strategies and focus on developing a logical way to work through common problems. By practicing your problem-solving skills on a regular basis, you will be better prepared to cope when a serious challenge emerges.

8  Establish Goals

Crisis situations are daunting. They may even seem insurmountable. Resilient people are able to view these situations in a realistic way and then set reasonable goals to deal with the problem. When you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by a situation, take a step back to simply assess what is before you. Brainstorm possible solutions, and then break them down into manageable steps.

9  Take Steps to Solve Problems

Simply waiting for a problem to go away on its own only prolongs the crisis. Instead, start working on resolving the issue immediately. While there may not be any fast or simple solution, you can take steps toward making your situation better and less stressful. Focus on the progress that you have made thus far and planning your next steps, rather than becoming discouraged by the amount of work that still needs to be accomplished.

10  Keep Working on Your Skills

Resilience may take time to build, so do not become discouraged if you still struggle to cope with problematic events. According to Dr. Russ Newman, “research has shown that resilience is not an extraordinary thing but is rather ordinary and can be learned by most anyone”. Psychological resilience does not involve any specific set of behaviors or actions, but can vary dramatically from one person to the next. Focus on practicing some of the common characteristics of resilient people, but also, remember to build upon your existing strengths.

 
By Kendra Cherry    May 10, 2016 
source: www.verywell.com 

Characteristics of Resilient People

Why are some people better able to cope with crises than others?

While people vary dramatically in the coping skills they use when confronting a crisis, researchers have identified some key characteristics of resilience. Many of these skills can be developed and strengthened, which can improve your ability to deal with life’s setbacks.

Resilient people are aware of situations, their own emotional reactions and the behavior of those around them. In order to manage feelings, it is essential to understand what is causing them and why.

By remaining aware, resilient people can maintain control of a situation and think of new ways to tackle problems.

Another characteristic of resilience is the understanding that life is full of challenges. While we cannot avoid many of these problems, we can remain open, flexible, and willing to adapt to change.

Here are some other characteristics of people who have strong coping skills.

A Sense of Control

Do you perceive yourself as having control over your own life? Or do you blame outside sources for failures and problems? Generally, resilient people tend to have what psychologists call an internal locus of control. They believe that the actions they take will affect the outcome of an event. Of course, some factors are simply outside of our personal control, such as natural disasters. While we may be able to put some blame on external causes, it is important to feel as if we have the power to make choices that will affect our situation, our ability to cope, and our future.

Strong Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving skills are essential. When a crisis emerges, resilient people are able to spot the solution that will lead to a safe outcome. In danger situations, people sometimes develop tunnel vision. They fail to note important details or take advantages of opportunities.

Resilient individuals, on the other hand, are able to calming and rationally look and the problem and envision a successful solution.

Strong Social Connections

Whenever you’re dealing with a problem, it is important to have people who can offer support. Talking about the challenges you are facing can be an excellent way to gain perspective, look for new solutions, or simply express your emotions. Friends, family members, coworkers, and online support groups can all be potential sources of social connectivity.

Identifying as a Survivor, Not a Victim

When dealing with any potential crisis, it is essential to view yourself as a survivor. Avoid thinking like a victim of circumstance and instead look for ways to resolve the problem. While the situation may be unavoidable, you can still stay focused on a positive outcome.

Being Able to Ask for Help

While being resourceful is an important part of resilience, it is also essential to know when to ask for help. During a crisis, people can benefit from the help of psychologists and counselors specially trained to deal with crisis situations. Other potential sources of assistance include:

  • Books – Reading about people who have experienced and overcome a similar problem can be both motivating and good for ideas on how to cope.
  • Online Message Boards – Online communities can provide continual support and a place to talk about issues with people who have been in a similar situation.
  • Support Groups – Attending support group meetings is a great way to talk about the challenges you’re facing and find a network of people who can provide compassion and support.
  • Psychotherapy – If you are having trouble coping with a crisis situation, consulting a qualified mental health professional can help you confront the problem, identify your strengths, and develop new coping skills.
By Kendra Cherry   October 03, 2016


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10 Truths That Will Help You Through Any Challenge

BY JEN NICOMEDES STONE    FEBRUARY 27, 2014 
I recently took a trip to the Florida Keys, when I often sat on the porch along the beach, mostly alone, next to the ocean. Sometimes I read, sometimes I practiced yoga; I napped, sipped peppermint tea, wrote, soaked up the sun, and relaxed. But mostly, I gazed out into the ocean.That’s where I found an incredible source of healing.The grandness of the water created a quiet, yet visually stimulating space for my meditation. Next to the ocean, I nestled into an easy place to silence the chatter noise of the external world and my inner voices.That first day, gazing at the blue, I dug much deeper within myself than I have ever done before.

In feng shui, elementally speaking, the Water Element symbolizes spirituality and wisdom. It helps us foster a deeper sense of self. It is a vehicle that helps us navigate and seek our inner truth and purpose. And it also teaches us to go with the flow of life.

While nature has its many gifts, the ocean, in particular, has taught me a few new things worth sharing, and they are:

1. Life is not always how you plan it, no matter how much you force or try to control it.

2. Change is inevitable, so you might as well welcome and embrace it.

3. Letting go is the scariest and most liberating thing you can do for yourself. It’s a gift in disguise.

4. It’s totally OK to be by yourself, alone; because sometimes, growth is a solo journey.

5. Learning to be more flexible affords you the ability to adapt. By adapting, you become more understanding, compassionate, and patient, especially when things get a little tough.

6. Clinging to the conviction of certain ideals and thoughts can sometimes destroy you. Once in a while, it’s best to bend the rules.

7. Never underestimate the power of idle silence. Some of the most profound insights come from the quietest of places.

8. Your inner strength manifests when you’re ready to confront your struggles. You are stronger than you think.

9. Make room for less talking, less exchanging. Just be.

10. Embrace all of your human tendencies — the good and bad — because those qualities already make you beautiful and real.


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How One Trait Can Make You a Fabulous Leader

Dr. Neala Peake, selected from AllThingsHealing.com      May 4, 2014

I recently learned that the leadership-training curriculum at Google places a heavy emphasis on self-awareness building.

The thinking, of course, is that managers can only become effective influencers of others once they’re fully mindful of their own strengths and limitations.

Google’s objective is to produce leaders who have profound self-knowledge along with the clear and humble understanding that whatever motivates their performance won’t always match up to the styles and inclinations of every employee. Self-discovery, therefore, leads to a greater appreciation for people -– and a compassion for all their varying personalities, behaviors and approaches to work.

I can spot genius when I see it, and Google’s insight is profound. I’ve known for years that my greatest leaps in leadership effectiveness came after I’d discovered some belief, practice or peccadillo that had unwittingly limited my success. Too often, and to my regret, these epiphanies occurred only after I’d blown an assignment or an interaction with a colleague.

If your organization hasn’t yet devoted itself to helping you identify the components of your greatness, or the behaviors that might one day derail you, I urge you to find every way possible of discovering them on your own. In this regard, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that may help you:

The Law Of Requisite Variety

Early in my career, I was introduced to what’s known as the “Law of Requisite Variety.” Also called “Ashby’s Law,” it essentially means that the most flexible and adaptable person in any situation is inherently the most influential. Keeping leadership in mind, this means that the more versatile your own skill-set and world-view, the greater value you’ll bring to your team and organization.

Years ago, my brother gave me a book called Soar With Your Strengths which made the seemingly compelling argument that we should spend far less time worrying about our weaknesses and devote ourselves instead to maximizing our natural talents.

What I’ve since discovered, however, is that some weaknesses can greatly hinder a leader’s effectiveness and even stall a career. Tied to my understanding of the “Law Of Requisite Variety,” I‘ve devoted myself to finding every means possible to minimize my limitations and even turn some into strengths.

Ask The People You Work With And Manage To Tell You What Needs Fixing

People who see you in action every day come to understand you in the most intimate way. Tapping into that collective insight, and then taking real action against their list of needed repairs, is the fastest road toward leadership excellence.

The way I’ve accomplished this in the past is to solicit (in person) one thing that each person believes I do well. From there, I’ve given people permission to hit me with their best shot and describe one behavior they perceive is holding me back.

Long ago, I filled out a diagnostic tool (“DISC,” if you’re familiar) that helped identify my dominant behavioral style. After the workshop was over, I went up to the facilitator – someone who knew me very well – and asked him to review my profile and tell me one weakness I should be most concerned with.

I owe the guy a debt of gratitude for his incisiveness. “Based upon what I see here,” he said, “you have more than one gap that will do you in if you don’t fix them. First, you need to become far better organized, and you also need to learn to communicate in a much more direct manner.”

The first rule of soliciting feedback like this is to not shoot the messenger. I knew what my friend had just told me was entirely accurate and, in that very moment, committed myself to a life-long self-improvement process. I can tell you proudly that I’ve not only become a highly detailed and plan-oriented person, I know how to be direct when I need to be.

Learn To Embrace And Emulate People’s Differences

As Susan Cain points out in her new book Quiet, people more consistently chosen for leadership roles tend to be extroverted and charismatic. According to her impressive research, this only has been true since the early 20th Century.

Extroverts, of course, have many admirable qualities that match up well to the responsibilities of management. They’re generally good communicators – often inspiring. They have a tendency to get things accomplished quickly and to be very disciplined in achieving goals.

Introversion, on the other hand, is a “second class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology,” Cain writes. Or is it?

While I’ve recently confirmed that I have a slight tendency toward introversion (you can determine your own proclivity here), in the days I believed myself to be an extrovert, I recall feeling slightly dismissive about the introverts I worked with and their more quiet and methodical ways.

Turns out extroverts also can be condescending and ego driven.

Over the next several years, while I managed large teams of people, I gradually (slow learner) came to better understand that my own unique way of operating in the world wasn’t the only way of succeeding. More to the point, I realized that the introverts on my teams had a profound influence in shaping my understanding of circumstances and altering decisions I would have made all on my own.

This is because introverts listen far more than they speak, tend to ask a lot of questions – and actually wait for the answers. While introverts are not necessarily smarter than extroverts, they more often think more carefully and, as Einstein said, “stay with problems longer.” This might explain why they tend to perform better on exams like the SAT’s and earn more post-graduate degrees.

What I’ve come to believe with conviction is that leaders are best suited by being more “ambi-verted,” a balance between being disproportionately extroverted or introverted.

In any given day, leaders need to take action and to be reflective. They need to move with great speed and with great caution. Before giving firm direction, they’re wise to solicit the informed guidance from others.

My best advice: Step back from your own preferences and see what the world looks like from everyone else’s. Over time, this will transform you.

by Mark C. Crowley, Contributor to Meditation on AllThingsHealing.com