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How To Manage Fear Around COVID While Still Staying Safe

There’s a delicate balance between vigilance and prioritizing other parts of our physical and mental health. Here’s what to know.

At this point in the pandemic, many people are struggling to make decisions about how to behave.

Since the start of the pandemic, the bulk of messaging about COVID has been extremely fear-based. We’ve read scary headline after scary headline as we have kept tabs on record-high case counts, death rates and hospitalization rates. We have consumed stories of people’s life-threatening battles with COVID and long COVID.

As a result, many of us have become exceedingly fearful about navigating life in the pandemic. And for a valid reason: This has been a scary 22 months. The coronavirus is new and ubiquitous, and, for a long time, we didn’t have ways to effectively mitigate the risk, said Dr. Lucy McBride, a practicing internal medicine physician in Washington, D.C. There absolutely has been a reason to be afraid — to a degree.

Fear has a very important role in our lives: It keeps us safe by teaching our brains to avoid dangers and threats. In a way, it also helps people understand the risks associated with COVID so they can make informed decisions about what is and isn’t safe.

But hitting people with too much fear can backfire. Excessive fear can reduce our tolerance for risk, it can make us hyperalert and hypervigilant, and it can cause us to make decisions that don’t optimally serve our mental and physical health. The key is finding the delicate equilibrium.

How fear influences our behaviors

Our brains are devoted to learning about the world, said Dr. Greg Siegle, a professor of psychiatry, psychology and translational sciences at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. If we are rewarded for a good thing, our brains continue to seek out the good thing. If we are punished for a bad thing, our brains become fearful of the bad thing so that we learn to avoid it.

“Fear is very good at creating avoidance,” Siegle said. “If you want somebody to avoid something, you make them afraid of it.”

Of course, for many people — especially certain immunocompromised individuals — it makes sense to be fearful of COVID. The risk isn’t zero, and it probably never will be. Vaccines have significantly improved outcomes in immunocompromised individuals who get COVID, but those with weakened immune systems are experiencing higher rates of breakthrough infections, and some of those can turn severe. Their vulnerability greatly depends on what local transmission is like, and whether the people around them are vaccinated ― two things that are largely out of their control.

But when we become absorbed by fear, our brains prioritize that fear and we start constantly scanning for threats with wide eyes. When this happens, we stop processing other important healthy behaviors that might seem more optional — things like digesting food, sleeping and connecting with loved ones.

“Particularly, at this moment, with a ubiquitous virus that is highly transmissible, fear isn’t shielding us from coronavirus,” McBride said. “It’s actually, for many people, limiting their ability to meet their broader human needs.”

When our fear systems are chronically over-activated, our physical and mental health can deteriorate. That’s why it’s important to walk the right line when it comes to fear, particularly fear-based thoughts that are within our control. Previous research has found that when people are overwhelmed with fear, they become anxious and engage in more destructive behaviors like smoking, drinking and unhealthy eating. Being overwhelmed with fear can even demotivate us to seek out the rewarding things in life, according to Siegle. Plus, when it comes to public health messaging, too much fear erodes trust in public heath.

It’s crucial to be intentional and nuanced when communicating the risks associated with COVID so that people don’t dismiss what’s going on or become overly afraid. (It’s worth noting that how much fear we can tolerate is also very individual and cultural. Some people, and cultures, can handle and comfortably live with more fear and arousal than others.)

“Fear is natural and important — but maybe it shouldn’t take us over and be the primary ruling thing in our lives,” Siegle said.

“Fear is very good at creating avoidance. If you want somebody to avoid something, you make them afraid of it.”  – DR. GREG SIEGLE

How to manage fear while still being responsible and safe

If you want to develop a more rational and less fear-based approach, Siegle said you’ll want to look at your risk assessment in a nuanced, evidence-based way. Be intentional about where you get your news and information: Avoid sensationalist headlines, look for the facts, and try not to solely read articles that reinforce your fear.

Siegle also recommended using the microCOVID risk calculator, which helps people estimate their personal risk for various activities in a specific, nuanced way. You punch in your location, vaccination status, and the activity you’re interested in doing ― including with whom and for how long. Then, you determine how much risk you’re willing to assume (some, none or a lot) and the calculator provides you with an idea of what living with that risk level looks like.

Similarly, McBride’s biggest piece of advice was to find a trusted doctor who can translate all of the information about COVID and apply it to your unique situation.

Ultimately, you want to find meaningful activities you can engage in, with modifications when necessary, that can bring you comfort, joy and solace, said Nathaniel Ivers, an associate professor in the department of counseling at Wake Forest University who specializes in terror management theory.

It’s important to stay connected to others, Ivers said, and COVID has created so much isolation that has left us alone with our thoughts.

“Try not to sit in the thoughts and the emotions by yourself ― really try to bounce them off of other people because, in so doing, you’ll receive feedback on how reasonable and rational those ideas are,” he said.

Mindfulness can also be extremely helpful in bringing us back to the present moment. When we are fearful, we’re oftentimes future-oriented and thinking about all the things that could happen.

“Mindfulness requires us to be present-focused, non-reactive and non-judgmental about the things that are happening around us and within us,” Ivers said. It helps us focus on what’s actually happening, rather than worrying about what could.

Finally, if your fear has led to debilitating depression and anxiety, ask for help and find a good therapist or psychiatrist. Living with fear — especially in the time of COVID — is natural and normal, but there are helpful therapies and medications available if fear has become overwhelming and is negatively interfering with the quality of your life.

“Fear is human, and fear is important,” Siegle said. “We can respect it and we live with it, but we don’t have to be ruled by it only.”

By Julia Ries        01/29/2022

pandemic

 

Coronavirus Anxiety:

Coping with Stress, Fear, and Worry

Fears about COVID-19 can take an emotional toll, especially if you’re already living with an anxiety disorder. But you’re not powerless. These tips can help you get through this stressful time.
Understanding your anxiety
It’s a frightening time. We’re in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, with many places at least partially shut down, others struggling to reopen safely. Some of us are in areas where the coronavirus infection rates are getting worse. Others are bracing for what may come next. And all of us are watching the headlines and wondering, “When is this going to end?”
For many people, the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus is the hardest thing to handle. We still don’t know exactly how we’ll be impacted, how long this will last, or how bad things might get. And that makes it all too easy to catastrophize and spiral out into overwhelming dread and panic. But there are many things you can do—even in the face of this unique crisis—to manage your anxiety and fears.
Stay informed—but don’t obsessively check the news
It’s vital to stay informed, particularly about what’s happening in your community, so you can follow advised safety precautions and do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus. But there’s a lot of misinformation going around, as well as sensationalistic coverage that only feeds into fear. It’s important to be discerning about what you read and watch.
  • Stick to trustworthy sources such as the CDC, the World Health Organization, and your local public health authorities.
  • Limit how often you check for updates. Constant monitoring of news and social media feeds can quickly turn compulsive and counterproductive—fueling anxiety rather than easing it. The limit is different for everyone, so pay attention to how you’re feeling and adjust accordingly.
  • Step away from media if you start feeling overwhelmed. If anxiety is an ongoing issue, consider limiting your media consumption to a specific time frame and time of day (e.g. thirty minutes each evening at 6 pm).
  • Ask someone reliable to share important updates. If you’d feel better avoiding media entirely, ask someone you trust to pass along any major updates you need to know about.
  • Be careful what you share. Do your best to verify information before passing it on. Snopes’ Coronavirus Collection is one place to start. We all need to do our part to avoid spreading rumors and creating unnecessary panic.
Focus on the things you can control
We’re in a time of massive upheaval. There are so many things outside of our control, including how long the pandemic lasts, how other people behave, and what’s going to happen in our communities. That’s a tough thing to accept, and so many of us respond by endlessly searching the Internet for answers and thinking over all the different scenarios that might happen. But as long as we’re focusing on questions with unknowable answers and circumstances outside of our personal control, this strategy will get us nowhere—aside from feeling drained, anxious, and overwhelmed.
When you feel yourself getting caught up in fear of what might happen, try to shift your focus to things you can control. For example, you can’t control how severe the coronavirus outbreak is in your city or town, but you can take steps to reduce your own personal risk (and the risk you’ll unknowingly spread it to others), such as:
  • washing your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) with soap and water or a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • avoiding touching your face (particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth).
  • staying home as much as possible, even if you don’t feel sick.
  • avoiding crowds and gatherings of 10 or more people.
  • avoiding all non-essential shopping and travel.
  • keeping 6 feet of distance between yourself and others when out.
  • getting plenty of sleep, which helps support your immune system.
  • following all recommendations from health authorities.
Plan for what you can
It’s natural to be concerned about what may happen if your workplace closes, your children have to stay home from school, you or someone you love gets sick, or you have to self-quarantine. While these possibilities can be scary to think about, being proactive can help relieve at least some of the anxiety.
  • Write down specific worries you have about how coronavirus may disrupt your life. If you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break.
  • Make a list of all the possible solutions you can think of. Try not to get too hung up on “perfect” options. Include whatever comes to mind that could help you get by.
  • Focus on concrete things you can problem solve or change, rather than circumstances beyond your control.
  • After you’ve evaluated your options, draw up a plan of action. When you’re done, set it aside and resist the urge to go back to it until you need it or your circumstances significantly change.
How to stop “what-ifs” from spiraling
Relinquishing our desire for certainty and control is easier said than done. If you feel yourself start to spin out into negativity or panic, grounding yourself in the present moment can stop the negative spiral and allow your rational brain to come back online.
 
The technique is simple yet effective: Bring your attention to your breath and your body. Focus all of your attention on the here and now: noticing the sights, sounds, and smells around you and what you’re feeling in your body. Continue to breath slowly in and out—gently bringing your mind back to your body and breath every time it drifts—until you feel more calm.
 
For audio meditations that can help you relieve anxiety and regain inner calm, click here.
Stay connected—even when physically isolated
Evidence shows that many people with coronavirus—particularly young, seemingly healthy people—don’t have symptoms but can still spread the virus. That’s why the biggest thing that most people can do right now to make a positive difference is to practice social distancing.
But social distancing comes with its own risks. Humans are social animals. We’re hardwired for connection. Isolation and loneliness can exacerbate anxiety and depression, and even impact our physical health. That’s why it’s important to stay connected as best we can and reach out for support when we need it, even as we cut back on in-person socializing.
  • Make it a priority to stay in touch with friends and family. If you tend to withdraw when depressed or anxious, think about scheduling regular phone, chat, or Zoom dates to counteract that tendency.
  • While in-person visits are limited, substitute video chatting if you’re able. Face-to-face contact is like a “vitamin” for your mental health, reducing your risk of depression and helping ease stress and anxiety.
  • Social media can be a powerful tool—not only for connecting with friends, family, and acquaintances—but for feeling connected in a greater sense to our communities, country, and the world. It reminds us we’re not alone.
  • That said, be mindful of how social media is making you feel. Don’t hesitate to mute keywords or people who are exacerbating your anxiety. And log off if it’s making you feel worse.
  • Don’t let coronavirus dominate every conversation. It’s important to take breaks from stressful thoughts about the pandemic to simply enjoy each other’s company—to laugh, share stories, and focus on other things going on in our lives.
Emotions are contagious, so be wise about who you turn to for support
Most of us need reassurance, advice, or a sympathetic ear during this difficult time. But be careful who you choose as a sounding board. The coronavirus is not the only thing that’s contagious. So are emotions! Avoid talking about the virus with people who tend to be negative or who reinforce and ramp up your fears. Turn to the people in your life who are thoughtful, level-headed, and good listeners.
Take care of your body and spirit
This is an extraordinarily trying time, and all the tried-and-true stress management strategies apply, such as eating healthy meals, getting plenty of sleep, and meditating. Beyond that, here are some tips for practicing self-care in the face of the unique disruptions caused by the coronavirus.
  • Be kind to yourself. Go easy on yourself if you’re experiencing more depression or anxiety than usual. You’re not alone in your struggles.
  • Maintain a routine as best you can. Even if you’re stuck at home, try to stick to your regular sleep, school, meal, or work schedule. This can help you maintain a sense of normalcy.
  • Take time out for activities you enjoy. Read a good book, watch a comedy, play a fun board or video game, make something—whether it’s a new recipe, a craft, or a piece of art. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it takes you out of your worries.
  • Get out in nature, if possible. Sunshine and fresh air will do you good. Even a walk around your neighborhood can make you feel better. Just be sure to avoid crowds, keep your distance from people you encounter, and obey restrictions in your area.
  • Find ways to exercise. Staying active will help you release anxiety, relieve stress, and manage your mood. While gym and group classes may be out, you can still cycle, hike, or walk. Or if you’re stuck at home, look online for exercise videos you can follow. There are many things you can do even without equipment, such as yoga and exercises that use your own bodyweight.
  • Avoid self-medicating. Be careful that you’re not using alcohol or other substances to deal with anxiety or depression. If you tend to overdo it in the best of times, it may be a good idea to avoid for now.
  • Take up a relaxation practice. When stressors throw your nervous system out of balance, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can bring you back into a state of equilibrium. Regular practice delivers the greatest benefits, so see if you can set aside even a little time every day.
Help others (it will make you feel better)
At times like this, it’s easy to get caught up in your own fears and concerns. But amid all the stories of people fighting over wearing face masks or lining up outside gun stores to arm themselves, it’s important to take a breath and remember that we’re all in this together. As a quote circulating in Italy reminds us: “We’re standing far apart now so we can embrace each other later.”
It’s no coincidence that those who focus on others in need and support their communities, especially during times of crises, tend to be happier and healthier than those who act selfishly. Helping others not only makes a difference to your community—and even to the wider world at this time—it can also support your own mental health and well-being. Much of the anguish accompanying this pandemic stems from feeling powerless. Doing kind and helpful acts for others can help you regain a sense of control over your life—as well as adding meaning and purpose.

Even when you’re self-isolating or maintaining social distance,

there’s still plenty you can do to help others.

Follow guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus.
Even if you’re not in a high-risk group, staying at home, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding contact with others can help save the lives of the most vulnerable in your community and prevent overburdening the healthcare system.

Reach out to others in need. If you know people in your community who are isolated
—particularly the elderly or disabled—you can still offer support. Perhaps an older neighbor needs help with groceries or fulfilling a prescription? You can always leave packages on their doorstep to avoid direct contact. Or maybe they just need to hear a friendly, reassuring voice over the phone. Many local social media groups can help put you in touch with vulnerable people in your area

Donate to food banks.
Hoarding has reduced supplies to food banks in many areas, while unemployment and economic difficulties have greatly increased demand. You can help older adults, low-income families, and others in need by donating food or cash.

Be a calming influence.
If friends or loved ones are panicking, try to help them gain some perspective on the situation. Instead of scaremongering or giving credence to false rumors, refer them to reputable news sources. Being a positive, uplifting influence in these anxious times can help you feel better about your own situation too.

Be kind to others.
An infectious disease is not connected to any racial or ethnic group, so speak up if you hear negative stereotypes that only promote prejudice. With the right outlook and intentions, we can all ensure that kindness and charity spread throughout our communities even faster than this virus.

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A. and Lawrence Robinson                          October 2021
 
References
Pan, K.-Y., Kok, A. A. L., Eikelenboom, M., Horsfall, M., Jörg, F., Luteijn, R. A., Rhebergen, D., Oppen, P. van, Giltay, E. J., & Penninx, B. W. J. H. (2021). The mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with and without depressive, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorders: A longitudinal study of three Dutch case-control cohorts. The Lancet Psychiatry, 8(2), 121–129. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30491-0
 
Mertens, G., Gerritsen, L., Duijndam, S., Salemink, E., & Engelhard, I. M. (2020). Fear of the coronavirus (COVID-19): Predictors in an online study conducted in March 2020. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 74, 102258. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2020.102258
 
Millroth, P., & Frey, R. (2021). Fear and anxiety in the face of COVID-19: Negative dispositions towards risk and uncertainty as vulnerability factors. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 83, 102454. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2021.102454
 
Twenge, J. M., McAllister, C., & Joiner, T. E. (2021). Anxiety and depressive symptoms in U.S. Census Bureau assessments of adults: Trends from 2019 to fall 2020 across demographic groups. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 83, 102455. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2021.102455
 
Aylett, E., Small, N., & Bower, P. (2018). Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice – a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1), 559. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-018-3313-5
 
Kandola, A., Vancampfort, D., Herring, M., Rebar, A., Hallgren, M., Firth, J., & Stubbs, B. (2018). Moving to Beat Anxiety: Epidemiology and Therapeutic Issues with Physical Activity for Anxiety. Current Psychiatry Reports, 20(8), 63. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-018-0923-x


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Why you might be happier if you don’t buy anything in Cyber Week

I delight in finding the perfect gift for a loved one and experience joy in thoughtful personal purchases. But I bristle against spending for the sake of spending, especially for manufactured “holidays” like Black Friday.

Decisions about dollars are complicated. “The consumer dilemma is the idea that the planet clearly needs us to reduce our consumption, but our economy needs us to consume more and more every year,” said James MacKinnon, author of “The Day the World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves.”

The pandemic revealed how vulnerable our economic system is to any kind of disturbance in people’s appetite to shop, MacKinnon noted. “We have created a system that is dependent on us acting as consumers. It’s almost as though it limits our freedoms to choose how we want to live and determines what our social role will be.”

There may be financial circumstances that drive a person’s need to make purchases on big sale days, but if you experience the financial freedom that allows you to spend, you might even be happier if you don’t buy anything on Black Friday. Here are some realities to consider:

Acknowledge that biology is in play

If you are feeling bad about compulsive spending habits, you are not alone.

“One thing about Black Friday that makes it even more pernicious is that not only can shopping release dopamine in the brain’s reward pathways — hence becoming potentially addictive — it also manipulates the social herd source of dopamine,” shared Dr. Anna Lembke, psychiatrist and author of “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence.”

Lembke, who refers to smartphones as the modern-day hypodermic needle that delivers digital dopamine 24/7, noted that when people feel they belong to a tribe and share experiences and emotions with other people, dopamine is released.

“That feeling of oneness or immersion is a huge source of dopamine and also serotonin,” Lembke said. She noted that these primitive brain circuits can get in the way of the prefrontal cortex’s ability to make rational decisions, such as realizing you can’t afford to spend the money you are spending.

fomo

Skipping Black Friday shopping this year helps counteract overconsumption.

Shop with intention

If you are looking for a different tribe, an intention-based shopping herd exists.

I recently asked on Instagram Stories whether people were opting out of Black Friday shopping and if they were doing something else instead. Many people shared that they were choosing different ways to shop this holiday season.

Carolyn Kornwitz of Boston wrote that she is opting out of Black Friday and any sale shopping altogether. “I’m going to source the majority, if not all, gifts for the kids from my local Buy Nothing Facebook group, as well as secondhand stores.”

Others shared that they were focused on supporting local businesses, independent sellers on Etsy, or putting their maker skills to use. “My pandemic hobby is knitting so everyone is getting ornate hand-knit items!” wrote Anna Brakeman of Madison, Wisconsin.

MacKinnon agreed that all spending is not created equal. “There are definitely better and worse ways to consume. Support smaller scale businesses, particularly ones that don’t have shareholders to answer to … when you spend your money, spend it in your local community thoughtfully on products that will be meaningful to you or whoever you are giving to.”

Counteract overconsumption with people and experiences

Overconsumption can result from people trying to escape their circumstances, a tactic that is understandable but ultimately doesn’t work, Lembke noted. “A potential antidote is to do the opposite and deeply immerse ourselves in our lives.”

“If we really turn towards our lives everything becomes more interesting. When we reinvest in relationships and experiences, we create new energy and new meaning and it becomes transcendent,” Lembke said.

Indeed, many people shared that they were bypassing Black Friday shopping and opting for connection time in the form of hikes with family or friends, epic games of tag, pickleball, tennis, cycling, or relaxed time at home.

Others shared that they are getting into the holiday spirit through activities such as Christmas tree trimming and experiences like “The Nutcracker” at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. “My parents are in town for Thanksgiving this year. We bought tickets to a nature walk/light show at Crystal Bridges, which is an art museum near us,” shared Liz Fernandez of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Think back to lessons from last year

Evidence for non-consumerist holiday contentment may come from your own memories.

“Last year forced us to opt out of the traditional Thanksgiving thing and got us thinking this year about how we actually wanted to spend those four days off together,” wrote Kaci Lint of Mesa, Arizona. Given that she has five children, Lint noted that material items get overwhelming quickly. This Thanksgiving, her family is intentionally choosing experiences over things by traveling to camp out and watch the sunrise over the sand dunes in Utah.

MacKinnon is eager for people to shift back to the mindset that it’s enough to spend time together and concentrate on making that time a rich experience.

“Last Christmas everyone wished they could just be together; that would have been more than enough,” he said. In contrast, he noted that this season people feel like company alone is inadequate and they need to show up with armloads of gifts.

People are capable of change

One of the most dramatic and surprising observations amid the pandemic to MacKinnon was how quickly people found their way from a consumerism value system to a new value set centered on relationships, experiences and skill building.

“What we saw as people moved into quarantine and lockdown was that they turned towards other values really quickly. People reached out to old friends they had lost touch with. They were bird watching, mastering new skills, planting things. It took a matter of days for people to find their way to a new value set,” MacKinnon said.

That said, depending on the circumstances, behavioral change may take longer depending on the severity of their addiction, Lembke noted. “People need to abstain from a behavior long enough for homeostasis in the pleasure-pain system in the brain to be restored. Eventually, people will then be able to take pleasure in more modest rewards,” she said.

There is considerable work to be done to figure out the balance of consumerism as it relates to the planet and our economy, but one thing is clear: Our relationships, experiences and well-being are things worth investing in. And we don’t need to be held to a day on the calendar or a line around the block to do so.

Christine Koh is a former music and brain scientist turned author, podcaster, and creative director. You can find her work at christinekoh.com and on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @drchristinekoh.

By Christine Koh, CNN       Fri November 26, 2021


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14 Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes

The mind is a wonderful thing.

It’s also a complete liar that constantly tries to convince us not to take actions we know are good for us, and stops many great changes in our lives.

I’ve had to learn to watch these rationalizations and excuses very carefully, in order to make the changes I’ve made in my life: a healthier diet, regular exercise, meditation, minimalism, writing daily, getting out of debt, quitting smoking, and so on.

If I hadn’t learned these excuses, and how to counter them, I would never have stuck to these changes. In fact, I failed many times before 2005 (when I started changing my life), because these excuses had complete power over me.

Let’s expose the cowardly mind’s excuses and rationalizations once and for all.

First, the main principle: the mind wants comfort, and is afraid of discomfort and change. The mind is used to its comfort cocoon, and anytime we try to push beyond that comfort zone very far or for very long, the mind tries desperately to get back into the cocoon. At any cost, including our long-term health and happiness.

OK, with that in mind, let’s go into the excuses:


1. I can’t do it.

It seems too hard, so we think we can’t stick to the change. We don’t believe in ourselves. This can be countered from the fact that many other people no more capable than us have done it. For example, Oprah ran a marathon a little before I started training for my first marathon, and so I told myself, “If Oprah can do it, so can I!” I was right.


2. He/she can do it, but that doesn’t apply to me.

Just because someone else can do it, doesn’t mean we can, right? We look for reasons they can do it but we can’t — maybe he can be a minimalist because he has no kids, or is a freelancer rather than someone with a real job. Maybe she’s way, way fitter than I am, so she can run a marathon. Maybe she doesn’t have all the obligations I have, or has a supportive spouse, or doesn’t have a crippling health condition. OK, fine, it’s easy to find excuses: but look at all the other people who have worse obstacles than you who’ve done it. I have 6 kids and still managed to change a lot of things in my life. Stories abound of people with disabilities or illnesses who overcame their obstacles to achieve amazing things. Your obstacles can be overcome.


3. I need my ___.

Fill in the blank: I need my coffee, my cheese, my soda, my TV shows, my car, my shoe collection … these are things we convince ourselves we can’t live without, so we can’t make a change like becoming vegan or eating healthier or unschooling our kids or simplifying our lives or going car-free. And I’ve made these excuses myself, but they all turned out to be lies. I didn’t need any of that. The only things you really need are basic food, water, clothing, shelter, and other people for social needs. Everything else is not a real need.


4. Life is meant to be enjoyed.

Sure, I agree with this statement (as many of us would) but the problem is this is used to justify all kinds of crappy behavior. Might as well scarf down those Doritos and Twinkies, because hey, life is meant to be enjoyed, right? No. You can do without junk food and still enjoy life. You can exercise and enjoy it. You can give up pretty much anything and still enjoy life, if you learn to see almost any activity as enjoyable.


5. I need comfort.

This might also be true, but we can push ourselves into more discomfort than we let ourselves believe. We can be a bit cold, instead of needing to be at the perfect comfortable temperature. We can do hard exercise, instead of needing to lay around on the couch. We can write that thing we’ve been procrastinating on — it might be hard, but we can push through that. When our minds seek comfort, don’t let them run — push a little bit outside the comfort zone, and begin to be OK with a bit of discomfort.


6. I don’t know how.

This is also true, but you can learn. Start with a little at a time, and learn how to deal with this new change. Do some research online. Watch some videos. Ask people online how they dealt with it. This is easily overcome with a little effort and practice. In fact, if you do it now, and learn a little at a time, then you’ll be able to do away with this pesky excuse.

change


7. I can do it later.

Sure, you can always do it later … but your later self will also feel the same way. Why should the later self be more disciplined than your current self? In fact, because you’re allowing yourself to slide now, you’re building a habit of procrastination and actually making is less likely that your future self will be more disciplined. Instead, do it now, unless there’s something more important that you need to do … don’t let yourself slide just because you don’t feel like it.


8. One time won’t hurt.

This is so tempting, because it’s kind of true — one time won’t hurt. Assuming, that is, that it’s only one time. One bite of chocolate cake, one missed workout, one time procrastinating instead of writing. Unfortunately, it’s never actually just one time. One time means your brain now knows it can get away with this excuse, and the next “one time” leads to another, until you’re not actually sticking to something. Make a rule: never ever believe the “one time” excuse. I did this with smoking (“Not One Puff Ever”) and it worked. If you’re going to allow yourself a bite or two of chocolate cake, decide beforehand and build it into your plan (“I will allow myself a fist-sized serving of sweets once every weekend”) and stick to that plan, rather than deciding on the fly, when your resistance is weak.


9. I don’t feel like it.

Well, true. You don’t feel like working hard. Who does? Letting the rule of “I’ll do it when feel like it” dictate your life means you’ll never write that book, never build that business, never create anything great, never have healthy habits. Create a plan that’s doable, and execute it. When the rationalizations like this come up, don’t believe them. Everyone is capable of doing a hard workout even when they’re not in the mood. Everyone can overcome their internal resistance.


10. I’m tired.

Yep, me too. I still did my heavy squat workout today. There is truth to needing rest, and resting when you need it (listen to your body) but this is usually the mind trying to weasel out of something uncomfortable. There’s a difference between being exhausted and needing some rest, and being the little tired we all feel every afternoon. Push through the latter.


11. I deserve a reward/break.

We all deserve that tasty treat, or a day off. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give yourself a reward or break. But if you make this rationalization your rule, you’ll always be on a break. You’ll always be giving yourself rewards, and never sticking to the original plan. Here’s what I do instead: I see sticking to my plan as the reward itself. Going on a run isn’t the thing I have to get through to get a reward — the run is the reward.


12. Wouldn’t it be nice to stop?

This again is our mind wanting to run from discomfort, and of course it’s true — it would be nice to stop if you’re pushing into a discomfort zone for too long. The thing is, the implication is that it would be better to stop, because it would be nice … but that’s a lie. It would be easier to stop, but often it’s better to continue pushing. This excuse almost beat me when I tried to run my 50-mile ultramarathon last December, because honestly it would have been much nicer to stop and not finish the race, especially in the last 10 miles or so. I pushed through, and found out I was tougher than I thought.


13. The result you’re going for isn’t important.

If you’re trying to run a marathon, this is phrased like, “It’s not that important that I finish this”. I’ve used this excuse for learning languages (it doesn’t matter if I learn this) or programming or any number of things I wanted to learn. I’ve used it for writing and exercise and eating healthy food. And while the result might not be that important, the truth is that the process is very important. If you stick with a process that will be better for you in the long run, then you will be better off. But if you let yourself go just because you are uncomfortable and at this moment care more for your comfort than the goal you set out for, you’ll have lots of problems. The goal isn’t important, but learning to stick to things when you’re uncomfortable is extremely important.


14. I’m afraid.

Now, this is the most honest excuse there is — most of us don’t want to admit we’re afraid to pursue something difficult. But it’s also a weaselly way out of discomfort — just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean you can’t do something. You can. I’ve done tons of things I’m afraid of — mostly creating things that I was worried I’d fail at. And while the fear sometimes came true — I didn’t do too well sometimes — the act of pushing through the fear was incredibly important and I learned a lot each time.


Awareness & Practice

I’ve used all of these excuses hundreds of times each, so don’t think I’ve overcome them all. And you can use them in the future too. There’s nothing wrong with giving in sometimes.

The key is to learn whether they’re true, and see your pattern. Here’s what I’ve done:

Notice the excuse. It has way more power if it works on you in the background.
Try to have an answer for the excuse beforehand — anticipate it.

If you give in, that’s OK, but recognize that you’re giving in to a lame excuse. Be aware of what you’re doing.

After giving in, see what the results are. Are you happier? Is your life better? Was it worth it giving in to discomfort?

Learn from those results. If you pushed through and are happy about it, remember that. If you gave in to excuses, and didn’t like the result, remember that.
If you consciously practice this process, you’ll get better at recognizing and not believing these lies. And then, bam, you’ve got your mind working for you instead of against you.
by Leo Babauta


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20 Ways To Be A Happier Person

20 Ways To Be A Happier Person In 2020, According To Therapists
If you’re going to make a resolution for the new year, it may as well be improving your mental health.

Looking to make 2020 your happiest, most fulfilling year yet?

If your mental and emotional wellness took a backseat in 2019, there’s no better time than right now to prioritize it. (If anything, it’ll make the election year just mildly more bearable.) Your mood affects everything in your life ― your relationships, your work, your self-care ― so improving it should be at the top of your goal list.

That might feel like a huge and lofty task, but small, actionable habits can help you get there, according to experts. Below are the most common happiness tips therapists recommend. Maybe they’ll sound challenging or unrealistic (more on that later), but maybe they just might change your life.

1. Conquer one anxiety

Give yourself a motivational benchmark to start conquering your biggest fears this year.

“Single out the goal of selecting an anxiety that is holding you back, and thoroughly commit yourself to obliterating that fear,” said Forrest Talley, a clinical psychologist. “Hold nothing back in your assault; treat that fear as though it is enemy number one.”

Perhaps you’ve been worried about signing up for a half marathon. Maybe you’re afraid to reach out to book agents because you don’t want to be rejected. Perhaps you’re fearful of having a difficult conversation with a toxic friend or family member and you’re putting it off. Set the goal, pick a reward you’ll get when you complete it, then get to it.

“The thing to keep in mind is that very often happiness is found just on the other side of a doorway guarded by our anxieties,” Talley said. “And the new year is a great time to start kicking down some doors.”

2. Lock down a sleep schedule that works for you

You may think you’re doing OK on sleep, but take a closer look at your schedule. Are you really getting optimal hours? Are you maintaining relatively the same bed time every night?

“Getting a [consistent] good night’s sleep is vital; chronic sleep deprivation is a huge problem, especially for those who work late or are extremely busy,” said Joanna Konstantopoulou, a psychologist and founder of the Health Psychology Clinic. “It’s not just the 40-hour marathons without sleep which can be detrimental to your psychological health, but simply losing an hour or two on a regular basis can have a significant impact on your mind and well-being.”

That last bit is important. If you’re constantly shaving off an hour here or there ― thinking you can get by on five hours a night ― it’s time to reevaluate that sleep schedule.

“Start with small steps by giving yourself a sensible and realistic bedtime,” Konstantopoulou said. “Try to go to bed half an hour before your usual bedtime and stick to it. Evaluate this new habit every day by having a journal and writing down your progress.”

She noted that this new routine will improve your memory, reduce anxiety, and “transport toxins out of the brain” to potentially prevent chronic illnesses.

3. Find one small self-care act that works for you and prioritize it

Pick a you-centric activity and engage in it regularly, said Elena Touroni, co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic.

“The most impactful mental health goal a person can set is the commitment to balance workload and responsibilities alongside activities that bring them a sense of well-being and enjoyment,” she said. “When there is an imbalance in what we’re giving out to the world, and what we’re taking for ourselves, that’s when our psychological resources get depleted.”

Her suggestions to get you started? Try beginning each day with a five-minute mindfulness meditation session. Want to go further? “Go to therapy to unravel a lifelong pattern, get a personal trainer, or make time for reading,” she said. “This commitment can be broken down into specific and concrete goals, depending on your personal preferences, but it all comes down to making self-care a priority.”

4. Spend 10 minutes a day outside

Go for a walk during your lunch break, spend a few minutes drinking your morning coffee outside or pick up running. It doesn’t even have to be for a long period of time.

“This year, resolve to spend less time inside and more time outdoors in natural settings,” said Michael Brodsky, a psychiatrist. “Research in multiple countries show that spending time in green spaces can lift your mood and relieve anxiety in as little as 10 minutes.”

5. Regularly practice a simple mindfulness exercise

“Many of us spend our days worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, thus, missing a great deal of what is happening in the here-and-now,” said Anna Prudovski, the clinical director of Turning Point Psychological Services.

Making an effort to be more present “increases the sense of well-being, promotes vitality, heightens our awareness, helps train our attention, improves the quality of our work, and enhances interpersonal relationships,” she said. Sounds pretty nice, right? “Be more present” can feel a little vague, so here’s how you can get started:

Each day, spend five minutes noticing your surroundings and how you feel. Do this by naming five things you see, four things you can physically feel, three different sounds you hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. It’s OK if you point out something far away from you. Then take a second to label how you’re feeling in the moment (like, “I’m frustrated,” “I’m bored,” or “I’m excited”). This is known as a grounding exercise, which experts say helps with anxiety.

6. Say nice things about yourself

Roseann Capanna-Hodge, pediatric mental health expert and psychologist, suggested an adjustment to your everyday vocabulary, both in your thoughts and out loud.

“Instead of always focusing on the negative, flip your dialogue to only positive outcomes. For example, instead of saying, ‘If I get that job,’ switch it to, ‘When I get that job.’ Those subtle changes in using positive language helps to change your mindset to a glass half full instead of a glass half empty.”

You can also increase your positive thoughts by stating one thing you like about yourself when you look in the mirror each morning. Cheesy, but worth a shot.

7. Give up or cut back on one unhealthy habit

We know when things are bad for us, which can cause stress. You can curb that by reducing them or giving them up entirely, said Sarah C. McEwen, a cognitive psychologist. Think activities like high alcohol consumption or excessive caffeine consumption.

Getting those things in check “will all help to manage stress levels,” McEwen said.

8. Find a physical activity you love

“Exercise plays a large role in mental health,” said physician Jena Sussex-Pizula. “While studies are ongoing, a review article found consistent beneficial effects of exercise on depressive symptoms across multiple studies.”

How often? McEwen suggests 30 minutes a day if you can. “This [amount] has been shown to produce the most benefit for improving mood and reducing stress levels,” she said.

The most important part is finding something you enjoy. It doesn’t matter if it’s pilates, martial arts, spinning, running, dancing or lifting weights ― just make sure the activity is something that excites you.

9. Try meditation

Haven’t jumped on the bandwagon just yet? Now is as good a time as ever. McEwen suggests meditation for those who want to improve their level of stress resilience.

“A mindfulness meditation practice will have a tremendous positive effect longterm,” she said. “I recommend allocating at least 30 minutes daily, which can be divided into morning and evening.”

Feeling intimidated by the concept? McEwen suggested trying a local class or an app like Headspace, Waking Up or Insight Timer.

“Research has shown that the regular practice of meditation can actually improve your health because it lowers the negative effects of not only high cortisol, but also high cholesterol and high blood pressure,” she said. “Other great benefits of regular meditation include mental clarity and focus, improvement of memory and overall higher level of mental performance.”

10. Stop negative thoughts in their tracks

“Our thoughts are not always reality,” said Judy Ho, a clinical and forensic neuropsychologist and author of ”Stop Self Sabotage.” “And we need to get into the routine of challenging them and changing our relationships to our thoughts.”

You can do this by asking yourself a simple question when you’re beating yourself up. Next time you have a negative thought, ask yourself: Does this completely and accurately capture what’s going on?”

Ho said from there, you can transform the thought using one of two tactics. One is called “yes, but” and one is called “labeling.”

“‘Yes, but’ involves recognizing a not so great thing, and [adding] something that is positive or shows progress,” she said. “Example: I did eat three cupcakes while trying to cut down on sugar, but I have been doing a great job with healthy eating and can start fresh tomorrow.”

And as for labeling, try mentally recognizing or acknowledging that the thought you’re having is toxic. According to Ho, this “takes the wind out of the sails of a negative thought and reminds you that a thought is just a mental event, and nothing more.”

11. Invest in a quality relationship

“If you want to have good long-term mental and physical health, you need to first see if you have meaningful, loving relationships,” said clinical psychologist Kevin Gilliland. “Who knows you better than anyone and who do you know better than anyone? Have you invested in that relationship by staying in touch and talking on the phone (not just texting)? And when was the last time you got together?”

Gilliland suggests picking one person close to you this year, and planning to spend quality time together.

“If we’re not careful, we will end up giving our best in places that aren’t good for our mental health,” he said. “Study after study finds that loving meaningful relationships are good for our mental and physical health.”

12. Read self-development books

“Read at least one book on someone you admire, and how they have dealt with the struggles in their life,” Gilliland said. “There are a lot of ways to learn about your mental health, from therapy to self-help to the lives of other people.”

You can pick up many tips and find a lot of inspiration in these motivational books, whether they’re memoirs or expert-backed advice. Need a specific suggestion?

“I have so enjoyed Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography and recent album ‘Western Stars’ where he talks about his struggle with depression and family issues,” Gilliland said. “It’s powerful and encouraging … You can’t help but see yourself in some of his stories, he can paint with words like very few people can. It’s a wonderful way to learn about your mental health without feeling like its work.”

13. Cut back on your social media use

So often we view people’s highlight reels on social media. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy in our own lives, according to experts. And given that research shows spending too much time online is linked to poor mental health, now’s the perfect time to cut back.

“External validation is temporary; it’s difficult to maintain the pressure to chase ‘likes,’” said therapist Jennifer Musselman. “Build your self esteem from competence of something important to you, and by being of service to others.”

14. Set better boundaries

Did you find yourself feeling chronically overwhelmed and stretched thin in 2019? Time to reel that in and make more space for you by setting boundaries.

“This one is more important than people realize, and they have way more control than they realize,” Gilliland said. “If you don’t want to go, then don’t go!”

Consider: Is it something you think you “should” do? If so, then why? In the words of a popular therapist joke, stop should-ing yourself. Set those boundaries to thrive in 2020.

15. Make a progress list each week

Expecting perfection guarantees you’ll feel like a failure at least part of the time, and can lead to serious anxiety.

“Learn the art of progress, not perfection,” Musselman said. “We are setting ourselves up for failure from the get-go [when we expect] to ‘have it all’ perfectly balanced. In other words, we will always feel like we are failing.”

From “doing it all” as a mom to building your entrepreneurial business to perfecting your talent, it’s time to let go of that expectation that things are always going to be perfect. Instead, try writing down the incremental improvements you made each week. Celebrate small successes that eventually will lead to big ones.

17. Get a therapist if you’re able to do it

If you were trying to get in physical shape and had no idea where to start, you might turn to a coach or personal trainer. Mental health works the same way.

There are so, so many benefits to seeing a therapist. And there are affordable options, too: Attend group therapy at a local mental health center, seek free options in your community, opt for a sliding-scale psychologist, find a provider through your health insurance or try an app like Talkspace to get started.

“Getting a therapist in 2020 would be a good goal if you need a therapist and have been putting it off,” Talley said.

18. Write in a gratitude journal

Practicing gratitude “is so essential for a full and happy life,” Talley said.

Instead of allowing your brain to go to a place of anxiety and stress, Talley says to arm yourself with grateful thoughts. Writing them down helps.

“If you wake up and focus on that which you have to be grateful for, your brain becomes better at finding even more [gratitude],” Talley said.

19. Turn your phone off

It’s been shown in many studies that too much tech time can negatively impact mental health.

Become less available via text and email so you don’t feel emotionally tethered to your phone, and spend more time off your devices. Opt for screen-free activities ― especially at night ― that help you disconnect from certain social and work stressors.

“While it’s unclear if sedentary screen time is a marker for or risk factor for depression (as all that has been shown is a correlation), there appears to be a consistent association of increased screen time in patients with depression and anxiety,” Sussex-Pizula said.

20. Reduce food shame and stress through mindful eating

Have thoughts around food, calories, dieting, etc. been weighing on you in 2019? Lisa Hayim, a registered dietitian and founder of food therapy program Fork The Noise, said it’s time to kick this to the curb.

“When we feel nervous, scared, anxious, or even unsure of what to eat or how much, our stress hormones begin to fire,” she said. “Our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated, and we’re no longer making empowered decisions.”

Does this sound like you? Are you constantly thinking about what a food choice might “do” to your body?

“Breathe. Your body knows what it wants and how much it wants, when it wants it,” she said. Listening to it is called intuitive or mindful eating: enjoying whatever you want and taking cues from your body when it’s hungry and full.

“Decreasing stress around food choices is not just good for the body, it’s good for the mind and the soul,” Hayim said.

 

By Dominique Astorino   12/30/2019
wellness@huffpost.com.
happiness-comes-from-within-and-is-found-in-the-present-moment-by-making-peace-with-the-past-and-looking-forward-to-the-future

 

6 Things To Let Go Of
If You Want To Be A Tiny Bit Happier This Year

Examining the toxic thoughts and behaviors that you should kick to the curb and advice on how to do it.

Most people kick off January by creating resolutions that drastically aim to add healthy habits to their daily lives (which doesn’t always work, by the way ― and that’s OK). But sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to let some things go instead.

“The new year offers a fresh opportunity, while the weight of the past keeps us in a place of inaction,” said Olecia Christie, a certified life coach and owner of Optix Communications in San Antonio, noting that it’s important to discern when to release the things that no longer serve our own growth and happiness.

With that in mind, here are a few things you should consider leaving behind in the new year, according to Christie and other experts:

Comparing your life to others’ on Instagram

In this era of social media, it always appears that everyone is living their best life — that is, everyone except you. Ibinye Osibodu-Onyali, a licensed marriage and family therapist at The Zinnia Practice in California, said you should remember that social media is a highlight reel. Comparing your daily life to a single picture capturing a perfect moment isn’t the best use of your time.

Instead, Osibodu-Onyali suggested engaging with the people you admire in 2020.

“Rather than spending so many hours per week scrolling mindlessly, begin to actually connect with people you admire on social media. Send them a DM, ask for advice, seek out actual mentorship,” she said. “You’ll be surprised how many new friends you will acquire just by reaching out, rather than being a jealous onlooker.”

Letting fear hold you back from something you want to do

Anthony Freire, the clinical director and founder of The Soho Center for Mental Health Counseling in New York, said in order to release fear, shame and guilt, you must first “shine a spotlight” on them.

“On your deathbed, you don’t want to be kicking yourself for not having completed your bucket list for any reason, but especially because of feelings like guilt, fear and shame — which are only problematic feelings because you’ve told yourself that you should feel that way,” he said.

Worrying about things you cannot control

It’s unrealistic to suggest giving up worry or stress entirely ― these feelings are a normal part of life. Instead, try to focus just on the worries you can take action on.

“Focus your thoughts on things you can change. When you have a list of worry thoughts, write out what you can change and what you can’t. Work on the situation that you can change, and just release the rest. It takes a lot of time and practice to learn this skill, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that you’ll worry less,” Osibodu-Onyali explained.

For some, this is easier said than done. If you find that you’re unable to manage your excessive worrying ― especially over things out of your control ― it might be worth seeking advice from a professional. This could be a sign of an anxiety disorder, which is a very real and common condition.

Old grudges or grievances

Research shows holding onto a grudge or anger for longer than necessary can be toxic for your physical and mental health. Right now is the perfect opportunity to work on letting go of some old baggage “by either working on repairing strained relationships or closing the chapter on relationships that cannot be salvaged,” Osibodu-Onyali said.

This doesn’t apply to people who have severely damaged or hurt you, but could be useful for someone you’ve grown distant with or just no longer envision as a healthy part of your life. You can either choose to move forward or let go.

“Although saying goodbye to a relationship can be tough, the closure can be very freeing,” Osibodu-Onyali said.

What other people think of you

There’s a saying that goes “what other people think of you is none of your business.” It’s important to know what your values are and to be grounded in them, so that you’re not swayed by the thoughts of others. Osibodu-Onyali said she often challenges her clients by asking: “So what if they don’t like you? What happens next?” She said more often than not, the answer is usually “nothing.”

“The truth is that the world doesn’t end and you don’t have to be liked by everyone,” she said. “Stick to your core group of supporters who truly love and respect you, and don’t spend time worrying about the people who don’t quite get you. If they don’t get you, that’s OK. You can’t be a part of every group.”

The need to be right in every conflict

We’ve all strived to win arguments; however, that can cause more stress than it’s worth. Freire said letting go of the need to win “takes up enormous energy because people tend to want to be right.”

“How many times do we fight with someone and we’re simply fighting to be right?” he said. “We say things we can’t take back and later we apologize and think to ourselves ‘I overreacted’ or ‘We fought over something so stupid.’ Sometimes we don’t even remember why we were fighting to begin with. Sometimes trivial things we get stuck on are just smaller manifestations of larger underlying issues.”

These kinds of interactions can often lead to “negative self-talk and anxiety as [we] overanalyze the situation and stress about the impact of the interaction,” according to Elise Hall, a licensed and independent clinical social worker in Massachusetts.

Instead, try looking at a fight as a problem to be solved (experts say there’s one phrase that can easily help you do this with a partner). This can help you let go of the need to be right and put your focus on a solution.

This all might be challenging, but it could be worth it to increase your joy — even just by a fraction.

By Stephanie Barnes      01/02/2020


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The Top 3 Reasons Why You Self-Sabotage and How to Stop

Faulty thinking and fear of failure play a part.

It’s easy to sabotage yourself when you’re trying to meet an important goal, like developing healthier habits, getting assignments done on time, saving money, managing weight, or building healthy relationships. Self-sabotage isn’t just one thing — it can have many causes — but the end result is that you get off track, mess up relationships, don’t get things done, or don’t perform as well as you would like. All of this can lead to feeling bad about yourself and expecting to fail, which leads to more self-sabotage to avoid facing failure head-on, which perpetuates the cycle.

Below are some of the ways in which you may sabotage yourself and suggestions for what to do instead. My colleague and fellow Psychology Today blogger Alice Boyes has an excellent new book out called The Healthy Mind Toolkit, which provides simple, practical psychological tools to help you stop self-sabotaging and develop healthy habits and attitudes instead.

Why do you sabotage yourself?

There are many reasons for self-sabotage, but three of the most important ones involve your thinking patterns, fears you may have in intimate relationships, and the tendency to avoid things that are difficult or uncomfortable. Read on to find out more.

1. Faulty thinking

Our human brains tend to be wired to cling to the familiar, to overestimate risk, and to avoid trying new approaches. This tendency, known as the familiarity heuristic, leads us to overvalue the things we know and undervalue things that are unfamiliar. And when we are under stress, we tend to rely on the familiarity heuristic even more. When our brains are tired, we resort to old habits and ways of doing things, even if they don’t work well. We are drawn to go with the familiar, even when a different option offers a clear advantage.

In one study, researchers asked subjects to do a complicated word puzzle. One group performed under time pressure, while the other was told to take as much time as they needed. After the puzzle was done, subjects were told they had to do another puzzle, but were given a choice between a longer puzzle invented by the same person who designed the first puzzle or a short puzzle designed by somebody they did not know. The group who performed under more stressful conditions (time pressure) were more likely to choose the longer puzzle, even though this would put them at a disadvantage. It’s as if their brains got confused trying to compare the advantages of length versus familiarity, and so they resorted to the “familiarity heuristic.”

It’s not always easy to tell when your brain is relying on a heuristic. Try to make important decisions when you’re not stressed and to consider the pros and cons of each choice, rather than just going with something that intuitively sounds like the best choice (but may not be).

2. Fear of intimacy or fear of rejection

We all know people who sabotage relationships when they reach a certain level of intimacy. Some people cheat, others pick fights or get controlling to push the person away, still others reveal all their insecurities or become too needy and clingy. These are all unconscious ways in which our brains fear getting trapped or rejected if we get too close. Many of these patterns are based on childhood relationships with caregivers. If you have “insecure attachment,” you may unconsciously fear repeating the past. Perhaps your parent was rejecting or neglectful, critical, inconsistent, or you had to be the “parentified child.” Parts of our brains remember this pain and begin to act in adult relationships as if we are with our parent (or perhaps do the complete opposite in an extreme way, which gets us into trouble as well).

If your fear of intimacy or rejection is strong, it is better to mindfully allow your insecure or fearful feelings to be there, while actively working to find healthy, mature ways of talking about them, rather than running away or pushing people away. You need to remind yourself that you are an adult now and have a much greater capacity to tolerate stress and rejection and to take care of yourself than you did as a child. Also remind yourself of what you have to gain by staying engaged. Try to be more self-aware and to notice the effects of your behavior patterns on your relationship happiness.

success

3. Procrastination and avoidance

A third way you may self-sabotage is by not dealing with problems until they get so big that you are forced to deal with them. Or not being able to discipline yourself to get work done on time. There are several potential reasons for procrastinating and avoiding. You may never have learned the skills to break tasks up into smaller pieces, or you may be too tired to plan out a schedule for doing the work. Alternatively, you may feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task or feel like an imposter who doesn’t have what it takes to succeed. Self-sabotaging by not getting started, staying up too late, or going out with friends or watching television instead of working is a very common pattern. In the short term, you manage to avoid the discomfort of an anxiety-provoking or boring and unrewarding task. But in the long term, the things you’ve put off come back to bite you.

You may also procrastinate and avoid because you are perfectionistic, overthink things, or can’t decide where to begin. All of these tendencies tend to have an anxiety component. You can counteract them by giving yourself a time limit to choose or by allowing yourself to make an imperfect choice. It helps to see yourself as being able to learn from experience and improve over time. This is what researcher Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset.” A growth mindset makes the possibility of failure less scary, whereas if you see your abilities as fixed, you are more likely to avoid performance situations or sabotage  yourself so your weaknesses won’t be clearly exposed.

Procrastination and avoidance (as well as addictive behavior) can also be ways of not taking responsibility for your actions. These behaviors allow you to blame outside factors, like not having enough time, if you do poorly, rather than admitting your role in not using your time well. Some of us fear success, because we shun the limelight or fear that others will expect more from us than we can deliver. But rather than facing this fear head-on, we tend to set ourselves up for failure instead.

Take-Home Message

When it comes to self-sabotage, one size doesn’t fit all. You may be too tired and stressed to think through complex choices and instead rely on easy (but inaccurate) heuristics. You may sabotage relationships, because you fear closeness and intimacy or fear rejection. Or you may procrastinate and avoid, because you fear failure or lack planning and time management skills. The solution differs depending on the area of self-sabotage. Getting enough rest and not taking on too much can help you think more clearly and make better choices. Understanding the roots of your fears of intimacy and rejection and taking small steps towards more closeness can help in the relationship arena. And taking more responsibility for planning and motivating yourself and adopting a growth mindset can help with procrastination at work.

References
Boyes, Alice (2018). The Healthy Mind Toolkit. TarcherPerigree

Jun 11, 2018

Melanie Greenberg Ph.D.


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Fun Fact Friday

  • You have a 96% chance of surviving a plane crash.

  • Canada produces 85% of the world’s maple syrup.

  • Crying is good for your health, flushing unhealthy bacteria out of your body, strengthening the immune system and relieving stress.

  • Adding salt to pineapple will actually cause it to taste sweeter.

~Happy Friday!~
source: @faccccct 


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How Trying Something Outside Your Comfort Zone Can Pull You Out of a Mental Rut

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” – Brian Tracy

Have you ever come to a crossroad in your life?

You know something needs to change, but you have more than one option—and it feels like there’s a lot of pressure on you to make the right choice.

That was me a few months ago.

I was stressed, overworked, and in what you would probably call a rut. Fatigued and struggling to get things done, I initially thought that all I needed was a break. But I soon realized that that wasn’t the case.

What had happened was that being tired had driven me to get stuck in a messy cycle of negative thoughts, and every time I tried to untangle little problems, things seemed to get worse.

Everyone around me was telling me to take a rest. But intuitively, I didn’t think a rest was what I needed. I’m generally a confident guy, but if you spend enough time in your own head, doubt will always begin to plant its seeds.

What I needed wasn’t a break—it was a confidence boost.

So what was my cure for the escalating stress?

What was my grand plan to beat this anxiety?

I thought I’d try stand-up comedy.

Yep. I thought I would do one of the most stressful things most people can imagine. I would get up in front of a crowd and try to make them laugh. So I did.

In the lead up to the night of my set, all the anxiety that I had been feeling was amplified.

As I sat behind the curtain waiting to go on stage, my palms sweaty, leg tapping furiously, I tried to breathe slowly to calm myself down, but my thoughts raced so quickly I couldn’t even make them out. Why was I doing this? Should I just get up and leave right now? Who would knowingly put themselves through something like this?

It was too late. My name was called, I stood up, opened the curtain, and….

It actually went really well.

Don’t get me wrong. It was every bit as scary as I expected, but as I predicted, it shook my brain up enough to break free of the mental rut I was in.

And while it didn’t solve everything overnight, it did set off a chain reaction of renewed attitudes and choices, which left me with more energy, vitality, and positivity than I had had for months.

So without further ado,
here are five ways pushing your comfort zone can pull you out of a mental rut

1. It gives you a reference experience for future challenges.

When it’s been a long time since you really pushed yourself, a new challenge can seem incredibly daunting. Your first response is usually “How on earth am I going to do that?”

If, on the other hand, you’ve done something difficult relatively recently, your brain will immediately look to that reference experience as an example.

Since the night of the comedy, I’ve been fortunate to achieve quite a lot in a short amount of time. That’s because every time I face a difficult task, I try to think, “Well, could be hard, but if I could do stand-up comedy, I can definitely do this.”

2. It makes you feel alive again.

A mental rut will depress your emotions and that means you will feel less of the good stuff. The longer this goes on, the easier it is for your body to forget what vitality feels like.

By having a huge rush of neurochemicals like adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin, you immediately remember just how great it can feel to be alive.

3. It can redefine your self-image.

After having spent some time in a mental rut, I started to lose confidence. When I thought about who I was and what I was capable of, I started to constantly reflect on what I hadn’t been able to achieve.

However, when I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I started to again think of myself as the person who could do difficult things.

Our self-image is such a vague and always changing idea in our minds, but it is one that unavoidably has a big impact on our lives. By doing things that allow you to have a positive self-image, you gather the momentum to pull yourself out of tough times.

4. It will inspire others.

Inspiring other people around you, by pushing your comfort zone, has a number of benefits.

For one, it will change how they perceive you and how they act toward you, and in doing so alter the perception that you have of yourself.

But maybe even more importantly, inspiring people around you can encourage them to push their own comfort zones, and their actions will in turn inspire you. When you spend more and more time around people who are helping each other grow, you’ll all benefit from each other’s positivity, and the boundaries of what you believe is possible will expand.

5. It reminds you that emotions will come and go.

For the last few years, I’ve made a big effort to try and embrace one of the fundamental truths in both eastern spirituality and western psychology: that emotions will come and go; they are just experiences and do not define you.

But I’m only human. So like everyone else I’m constantly forgetting and re-remembering of this truth. Sometimes it’s as simple as noticing the differences in your mood change between morning and evening, and sometimes it’s more profound, such as doing something you never thought possible.

So what does this mean about you?

If you’re going through a mental rut or even a period of depression, and you don’t think it’s simply a matter of needing a rest, try doing something that takes you out of your comfort zone.

I’ve heard of countless experiences of someone doing something new, whether it be surfing, jumping out of a plane, or even traveling to a new place, and it’s completely changed their situation. If you decide to do so, at the very least you’ll have a wonderful new experience to refer to.

Remember that if you’re in a mental rut, you’re not alone. Everyone goes through it at one stage or another, and reaching out to others is important.


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Why Your Phone And The ‘fear Of Missing Out’ May Negatively Impact Your Mental Health

Electronic devices, such as smartphones and computers, are a necessity of day-to-day life; but that reliance on devices may be taking a toll on Canadians’ mental health.

A new survey by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) suggests, on average, Ontario adults spend more than 11 hours per week using social media or communicating via email, and nearly four hours per week playing screen-based games. That’s 15 hours a week not including the amount of time spent on devices at work or in school.

CAMH’s study suggested nearly one in five respondents between the ages of 18 to 29 showed signs of reliance on electronic devices, based on questions like, “Have you missed school, work or important social activities because of your use of devices?”

Overall, seven per cent of those surveyed had a problematic relationship with devices, according to the survey. Of those, 24 per cent said they had tried to cut back on their use and 14 per cent reported family members expressing concern about the amount of time they spent on their device.

Ten per cent reported feeling an “irresistible urge or uncontrollable need” to use their devices and seven per cent had experienced anxiety that could only be relieved by using a device.

“It’s clear that, for most of us, our use of electronic devices has skyrocketed over the past five to 10 years,” said Dr. Nigel Turner, scientist at CAMH’s Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, in a press release.

“While our understanding of problematic use is evolving, we know that some people do end up harming their career or educational opportunities by excessive use.”

How to cut down on your device use and improve your mental health

When Canadians talk about limiting screen time, the conversation usually revolves around children – but experts say it’s equally important for adults to consider putting tech restrictions on themselves for the sake of their mental health.

“Technology prompts us to respond – those beeps and buzzes gets our dopamine flowing,” Lisa Pont, therapist and educator with CAMH. “The fear of missing out is huge.”

family tech phones computer

As Pont points out, all of those text messages, Facebook Likes and Instagram notifications lighting up our devices provide us with a hit of dopamine – which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centre. This often leads to people constantly being tuned in to their devices.

“There is this expectation of people in our lives to be immediately responsive because everyone knows you have your smartphone on you,” Pont said.

Pont says it’s important for adults to reflect on their tech use to see how it’s affecting their day-to-day lives and attitude – do you feel the pressure to respond right away; do you feel anxiety due to information overload, or do you feel FOMO (fear of missing out) when you aren’t using your device; have you argued with your partner because they feel you are disconnected?

“You have to look at the consequences. If it’s affecting your work, or its impacting relationships, those are negative consequences,” she said. “This idea that I have to know what’s going on, it sounds so benign, but I think it truly affects our stress level.”

If you feel your device is impacting your mental health, try imposing limits on yourself – for example, no devices after 8 p.m., turn phones off during family dinners, or no phones in the bedroom.

“Consciously not using it at times when you want to be present,” Pont said. “We have anxiety detaching from technology, but you might discover you like it.”

Another important habit to break: using your phone as your alarm. Although sleeping next to your device may not seem like a big deal, Pont said those beeps and vibrations have the same effect our sleeping brain, causing you to lose sleep – and a lack of sleep can contribute to stress.

The light emitted from a smartphone or tablet, for example, can suppress the production of melatonin – a hormone that regulates a person’s circadian rhythm – and multiple studies have shown that using blue light-emitting, like smartphones and computers, before bed can lead to poor sleep.

Of course, cutting down on your screen time might be hard to do if you have a job that requires you to be available after-hours.

That’s why France banned work emails outside business hours earlier this year, Germany’s labour ministry banned managers from calling or emailing staff outside of work hours in 2013, and Volkswagen made it so that its servers would shut down the ability to send emails 30 minutes after an employee’s shift ended in 2011.

No such bans have been implemented in Canada, however.

These latest survey findings are based on the 2015 CAMH Monitor, a collection of survey data which allows researchers to track long-term trends in the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco, as well as identifying problematic behaviours related to mental health within Ontario’s population.

Another alarming issue in the survey: 37 per cent of respondents reported they had texted while driving at least once during the past year, while 11 per cent admitted texting behind the wheel 30 or more times over the previous year.

If you have the urge to text and drive, Pont suggests turning your phone on “Airplane Mode.” If you have a hands-free solution in your car and want to keep your phone on for emergency situations, then try leaving it in the backseat or somewhere out of reach.

By Nicole Bogart       National Online Journalist, Breaking News Global News
source: globalnews.ca


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Fun Fact Friday

Humans have a strong relationship with music

because of the way that music affects our feelings, our thinking, and our emotional state.

Kissing is healthier than shaking hands.

A study found that people born in May

have the lowest risk of illness and disease, while those born in October have the highest.

In Russia, it is illegal to tell kids that gay people exist.

The inability to pronounce the letter “r” is called rhotacism,

making it impossible for the sufferers to pronounce their own affliction.

Pluto is smaller than Russia.

President Lyndon B. Johnson owned an amphibious car

and would scare his guests by driving into a lake, screaming about brake failure.

When two people kiss, they exchange between 10 million and 1 billion bacteria.



Happy Friday  🙂
source:       factualfacts.com       https://twitter.com/Fact       @Fact


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Fun Fact Friday

Dreamt is the only English word 
that ends in the letters “mt.”


Human muscles are limited by our brain – 
we actually have the strength 
to move cars and boulders.


At least once a day 
your immune system 
destroys a cell that 
would have become cancer if it lived.


Distance doesn’t necessarily 
ruin a relationship. 
You don’t have to see someone
 everyday to be in love.

shy

 

Bees are directly responsible 
for the production of 70% of 
fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts 
that we consume on a daily basis.


“Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia” 
is actually the fear of long words.


Your taste in music represents 
what your mood would sound like 
if you could hear it.



Happy Friday  🙂
source:       factualfacts.com       https://twitter.com/Fact       @Fact