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‘Setting boundaries’: Dealing with stress around the holiday season

We’re now only weeks away from Christmas which means, for some, a time to stress over having to have a perfect holiday season. Experts say the season is not a time for competition but a time for celebration with friends and family.

Family dynamics around this time of year, though, can be a point of stress.

“Understanding boundaries and setting those boundaries. Also looking at triggers there might be within the family and trying to preplan to avoid those triggers and then having escape plans,” said psychologist Dr. Delaine Shackleton with the Kelowna Psychologists Group.

With rising prices and inflation, financial pressure is proving to be one of the biggest stressors of this Christmas season.

“I think people compare themselves to other families and the big thing there is to just not compare, to try and focus on yourselves, getting the basics in line and making sure that you’re reaching out for support as needed,” Shackleton said.

“People feel a lot of pressure and they feel like they need to be the provider that they want to be. They feel like they have to admit defeat if they can’t be what they had an idea of being.”

christmas

Kelowna’s Mamas for Mamas has seen a huge jump in people accessing their services this year and this holiday season isn’t any different.

The organization will be providing Christmas hampers to families, doing their best to help alleviate the pressure of the holidays.

“You just want to make sure that they have that special gift under the tree for their little one, you really want to make sure they’ve got a special meal they can have while they’re off of work,” said Mamas for Mamas founder Shannon Christensen.

“You really want to make sure that you’re reducing the mental health crisis that these families are often facing trying to do it all on their own.”

Although the holidays can cause a lot of stress, Shackleton wants to remind people to enjoy this time of year.

“We can do the best that we can do and that’s all we can do, nobody can do more than the best that we can do. Just give yourself that grace and that period of just taking a breath. Embrace the lovely moments because (there) are lots of lovely moments about the holidays as well,” Shackleton added.

She also emphasizes the importance of self-care during the busy holiday season.

By Jasmine King    Global News   November 25, 2022

source: Global News


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Some Millennials And Older Generations Are ‘Kidulting.’ Maybe You Should, Too.

The mental health benefits of play and nostalgia are vastly underrated.

Tapping into nostalgia ― especially if you share it with others ― can be a powerful mental health booster.

At the height of the pandemic, I kidulted plenty.

To kidult ― I know it sounds obnoxious, but bear with me ― is to recreate childhood memories by partaking in activities generally considered for children.

In my case, I clocked in more hours of “Animal Crossing” than I care to admit (mostly because my island still looks crap). I went down a rabbit hole of Polly Pocket content on Instagram, I dabbled in watercoloring (or rather, I bought a watercoloring set and used it once). I started playing “The Sims,” basically in villain mode (The goal: Steal Mortimer Goth and the Goth family mansion from Bella Goth. The result: A depressed Mortimer Goth moping around my home, too broken over his divorce to care about my homewrecking self.)

While I never took the plunge and bought a Sims expansion pack or Polly Pockets on eBay for old time’s sake, there are plenty of millennials (and members of older generations, too) who have spent quite a bit on their kidulting activity of choice.

As Bloomberg recently reported, kidult shoppers have helped U.S. toy sales surge 37% over two years to $28.6 billion in 2021, according to data tracker NPD Group. Toy executives and insiders first attributed the spike to exhausted parents buying their kids toys to keep them distracted during lockdown, but a survey last year from the U.S. industry’s Toy Association found that 58% of adult respondents bought toys and games for themselves.

Some examples of popular nostalgia-pegged kidulting?

  • McDonald selling out of their limited-edition adult Happy Meals that came with a collectible toy
  • TikTok influencers dressing up in Y2K fashions and pretending they’re going out in the early ’00s
  • Adult kickball leagues
  • The huge popularity of Pokémon Go a few years ago
  • Disney adults
  • Anyone who’s overly invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)

Before you start tearing into child-free millennials with disposable incomes, older generations have kidulted, too. Jaabo, who runs the YouTube channel Train Tsar Fun, always loved Legos. Now at 54, he finally has the means to make his wildest little-brick dreams come true.

“I have over 6,000 sets now. The most I’ve spent for a single set is $850 for the LEGO Grand Carousel,” Jaabo, who lives in northwest Georgia, told HuffPost.

“I get to do the things I could only imagine doing as a kid,” he said. “Building process is relaxing and satisfying, but the memories are better.”

Debbie Zelasny, a Gen Xer who goes by @TheJerseyMomma on social media, doesn’t restrict her toy collection to just one thing: She collects everything from Funko POP! figurines and blind bags to cute ’80s and ’90s relics (anything from Sanrio, LEGO, Lisa Frank, Calico Critters) and stickers. Pretty much anything that screams “that’s my childhood,” she’ll buy it.

“My sister will text me photos of 1970s Battlestar Galactica figures from garage sales or estate sales and I’ll reply, ’YES, get me those!” she told HuffPost.

Does she feel guilt over her purchases? Sometimes, but then her happiness overrides it. “I think it is important to keep that sense of magic and excitement over fun things that you just love for no reason other than pure happiness,” she said.

For many grown-ups, play got them out of the pandemic.

“Kidulting has been the source of a whole new community for me online recently. It helps me to feel less isolated in our current landscape of uncertainty and distress,” said Cole Chickering, a YouTuber who collects vintage ’90s and 2000s print media like Nickelodeon Magazine and flips through it, page by page, with his followers. (It’s incredibly charming!)

“My viewers and I have so many nostalgic childhood experiences, and it feels good to share those stories and feel that connection,” Chickering told HuffPost. “Physical paper magazines and catalogs are frozen in time, so they serve as an excellent portal back to a simpler life.”

Tapping into nostalgia the way Chickering does ― especially if you share it with others ― can be a powerful mental health booster.

Though nostalgia was once cast in a negative light ― in 1688, Johannes Hoffer, the Swiss doctor who coined the feeling, called it a “neurological disease of essentially demonic cause” ― today’s researchers are looking at the bright side. According to a study published in April 2021 in the journal Emotion, nostalgia is a highly social emotion that can bolster our feelings of connectedness with others.

Even getting nostalgic on your own has feel-good benefits; a study published in the same journal in 2016 found that nostalgic people tend to have a healthier sense of self-continuity ― meaning a sense of connection between one’s past and one’s present. (Which is not to say that getting wistful about that past can’t be a little depressing; nostalgia is bittersweet, of course.)

“Overall, I think nostalgia is just comforting,” said Nicole Booz, the founder of GenTwenty.com and author of “The Kidult Handbook.”

“Adults who reminisce [in] the nostalgia of childhood are looking back to a time in their lives where they felt secure, when there was an entire lifetime of possibilities in front of them.”

“Play can foster creative benefits of imagination,
fantasy, and the temporary suspension of the limits of reality.”

– KRYSTINE BATCHO, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY
AT LE MOYNE COLLEGE IN SYRACUSE, NEW YORK

 

slot cars

Factor nostalgia in with play and you’re bound to feel better about anything.

“When we engage in pure playfulness, the kind of activities that whisks away time and worry, that’s done solely for sheer enjoyment and fun, the frontal cortex of our brains literally burst into fireworks,” said Meredith Sinclair, a “Today” show contributor and author of “Well Played, The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family’s Playful Spirit.”

Serotonin levels go off “giving us a feeling of well-being and contentment while creating a fertile soil for creativity, art, invention, and cognitive flexibility,” Sinclair wrote in an email. “We always come away feeling better for taking the time to play.”

Krystine Batcho, a professor of psychology at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York and the author of the “Longing for Nostalgia” blog on Psychology Today, thinks more adults should seek out play when they’re feeling stressed or anxious.

“At first, play might serve as an escape from the burdens of responsibilities, disappointments, or worries but given a chance, play can also revive feelings of awe as ordinary things are seen through curious eyes from a new perspective,” she wrote in an email. “Play can foster creative benefits of imagination, fantasy, and the temporary suspension of the limits of reality.”

More adults should seek out play when they’re feeling stressed or anxious, experts say.

Pretending there are no limits or boundaries can be liberating and broaden our sense of what’s possible, Batcho added.

“Putting our mental ‘editor’ on pause for a bit can allow innovative ideas to surface and unexpected options or solutions to problems can come to mind,” she said.

Now that we’ve got you all in on play ― or halfway in if you’re being curmudgeonly and grown-up about it ― play scholars share a few ways to tap into your inner kid below.

Allow yourself to get bored.

Jeff Harry, an international speaker who uses positive psychology and play to help teams and organizations build better workspaces, considers boredom the pivotal starter ingredient for play.

Get good and bored, he said, like as bored as you were during the crazy-making height of lockdown.

“That’s one of the best ways to cultivate your inner child and to hear what your inner child has to say,” he said. “And when your inner child starts telling you all these crazy ideas ― like why don’t why don’t you start a podcast, why don’t you start baking sough-dough bread, why don’t you start a TikTok account ― listen.”

By the way, Harry loves TikTok and looks at it as a digital third space for productivity-free fun: “It’s like a playground for a lot of people who didn’t have the opportunity or space to play before.”

Involve your friends and family.

The experts agreed: Play is considerably better with friends. Round up the people in your life who share mutual hobbies and make playtime a collaborative effort, Batcho said.

“Inviting others to play can enhance the pleasant feelings of youth,” she said.

If you have kids, you have an obvious leg up with play, Batcho said. But regardless of what age groups you’re working with, games are an obvious choice for play.

“You can do an adult scavenger hunt, make homemade Dunkaroos, make playdough or pottery together, or do something like play frisbee golf,” Booz said. “These are activities that are reminiscent of childhood and bring out the best in all of us.”

Or it could be something more unconventional and slightly more adult: During the shelter-at-home stage of the pandemic, I had a friend who hosted boozy Zoom read-throughs of bad movie scripts.

“Inviting others to play can enhance the pleasant feelings of youth,” said Krystine Batcho, a professor of psychology at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York.

Ask your friends when they’ve seen you most playful and happy.

Not really sure what your “play” of choice is? Call three or more of your closest friends and ask them to indulge you in this “play experiment” that Harry created. Ask them these two questions:

1. What value do I bring to your life?

2. When have you seen me most joyful, alive and playful?

With the value question, you’re asking them what you bring to their lives and what you may be good at. The second, specifically on play, will help you explore who you are in your peak state and what activities you’re doing when you’re in a joyful state, Harry said.

“See what patterns emerge, as they may help you discover a new way for you to play based on capturing the essence of what you used to do in the past,” he said.

Grant yourself permission to play.

If you’re a play agnostic, try to acknowledge that you’re doing something really good for yourself when you play.

“You have to push aside your ego, self-consciousness, and adult responsibilities, let go and embark on a fun-finding mission,” Sinclair said.

Kidulting is not about being childish or immature or time-wasting, Booz said: “It’s about re-embracing the positive parts of childhood as adults so that we can practice healthy escapism and tap into things we truly, deeply love.”

By Brittany Wong     Nov 22, 2022

source: Huffpost

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I found it interesting to come across the article above

after recently taking up slot cars as a new hobby 


slot cars

🙂
Pete Szekely YouTube Videos ~


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7 Habits That Will Drastically Improve Your Energy Levels

Feeling tired or hitting an afternoon slump? These simple lifestyle shifts can make a big difference.

Waking up already feeling worn out? Unable to overcome the afternoon slump? These may be signs that various lifestyle factors are taking a toll on your energy levels, leading to brain fog and straight-up exhaustion.

When constantly on the go, it may be difficult to find ways to recharge. However, Dr. Alfred Tallia, professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explained that more often than not, low energy levels can be remedied by adopting simple changes to your daily routine.

These are seven research-backed habits to boost your energy, according to experts:

Identify healthy ways to cope with stress.

Unsurprisingly, emotional stress can leave you feeling less lively.

“Stress has a huge impact on your physical well-being. If you are feeling elevated levels of stress, it can absolutely contribute to low energy,” Dr. Nina Vasan, chief medical officer at mental wellness app Real, told HuffPost.

So, how can you combat unchecked stress to boost your energy levels? Vasan explained that it’s crucial to “find ways to integrate meditation or mindfulness into your daily life,” even for just five minutes each day. Experts also say that identifying coping skills that work for you — such as journaling or reading something that brings you joy — can help you destress and feel more energetic.

Limit the amount of caffeine you consume.

When you’re feeling tired, it may be tempting to make a third or fourth cup of coffee later in the day to perk back up. However, drinking too much caffeine can have a paradoxical effect, leaving you lethargic.

“If you’re consuming large amounts of caffeinated beverages throughout the day, it is probably going to affect your sleep pattern. This can then affect your energy levels,” Tallia said.

It’s important to note that suddenly cutting back on caffeinated beverages can also leave you feeling tired at first. As Tallia explained, “the body gets used to caffeine as a stimulant, and when it’s not present, you can experience an energy slump.”

Most experts suggest gradually reducing the amount of caffeine in your diet until you find what works best for you — and not reaching for that extra cup of Joe even when you’re feeling tempted.

Caffeine can only help you stay alert to a point — then it starts to have a negative effect.

Practice good sleep hygiene and establish a routine.

It goes without explaining that catching enough Zzzs is key to boosting your energy throughout the day. However, your energy levels are not just impacted by the amount of sleep you get each night, but by the quality of that sleep.

Practicing good sleep hygiene can help you snooze more soundly, and in turn give you more pep in your step the following day. Sleep hygiene involves adopting habits such as developing a regular bedtime routine and dimming the lights at night. What’s more, Tallia said it’s important to clear your mind by doing nighttime activities that you find relaxing.

Even when practicing good sleep hygiene, you may find you’re waking up feeling fatigued. Raelene Brooks, the dean of the College of Nursing at University of Phoenix, said that could point to a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, don’t hesitate to pay your physician a visit.

Move your body throughout the day.

Try to incorporate exercise into your day — even just a small amount. Research has shown that daily exercise and movement are essential to boosting energy levels. You don’t have to be lifting weights or running five miles a day to glean the energizing benefits of exercise.

“Even low-impact movement is shown to increase your oxygen flow and hormone levels, which give you a boost of energy,” Vasan explained. “It is the No. 1 tip I recommend to anyone feeling fatigued.”

glass_water

Drink more water.

Dehydration is a common cause of low energy. According to Brooks, the science behind this is quite straightforward: “Our red blood cells carry oxygen. Ideally, a plump and round red blood cell allows for a full oxygen-carrying capacity,” she said. “When we are dehydrated, the red blood shrinks and this decreases the capacity for the cell to carry a full load of oxygen. Low oxygen levels are manifested by fatigue, irritability and restlessness.”

If you struggle with being mindful of your water intake, consider trying hacks such as investing in a smart water bottle to ensure you’re drinking enough H2O every day.

Dehydration can contribute to fatigue. Make sure to drink an adequate amount of water each day.

Be mindful of your screen time during the evening hours, and also during the day.

It almost goes without saying that excessive screen time at night can mess with your natural sleep cycle and energy the following day. As Vasan explained, “spending too much time on your phone, computer or watching your TV can cause fatigue by disrupting the neurotransmitters that are essential for sleep and restoration.”

However, the time you spend looking at your phone or computer during the day can also have a harmful impact on your energy levels. Too much screen time can lead to eye fatigue, which may trigger headaches and make it more difficult to concentrate.

We live in a digital world, so spending extensive time looking at a screen is unavoidable for most people. Making the “20-20-20 rule” a habit is a step towards tackling tiredness. According to Harvard Business Review, “when you’re working on a laptop, take a break every 20 minutes. Look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a chance to relax.”

Avoid skipping meals.

If you ever skipped breakfast or worked right through your lunch break, you probably noticed you feel groggier than usual. While it’s totally normal to miss a meal, making a goal to regularly eat nutrient-rich meals and snacks throughout the day can increase your energy levels.

“Your brain needs nutrition to really function appropriately,” Tallia said. “A lot of people skip meals, and their blood sugar levels are going up and down all through the day.”

Moreover, Tallia said to steer clear of fad diets that encourage people to majorly cut back on caloric intake or to eliminate essential nutrient groups like carbohydrates. This can deprive you of energy.

While it’s not uncommon to wake up feeling low on energy every once and a while, chronic fatigue could point to an underlying health issue.

“If you are eating well, getting enough sleep, integrating movement and exercise into your daily life but still feel tired for more than two weeks, you should consider reaching out to a medical professional,” Vasan said, explaining that a consistent drop in energy “can be an indicator of a host of mental and physical health issues ranging from fairly benign to severe.”

Ultimately, boosting your energy often comes down to taking inventory of different activities and current habits that could be draining you. Adopting just a few simple changes to your daily routine could be key to beating the fatigue once and for all.

Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro    Nov 1, 2022

source: www.huffpost.com


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A Connection Between a ‘Calm Mind’ and Better Capacity for Self-Control

Summary: People with greater self-control have calmer minds, which in itself generates fewer distractions from stimuli.

People who have a “calmer mind”—that is, their neuronal processes take longer on average and whirl around less than others—have greater self-control.

This was the finding of Dr. Tobias Kleinert, Prof. Dr. Markus Heinrichs and Dr. Bastian Schiller from the Department of Psychology at the University of Freiburg, together with Prof. Dr. Kyle Nash and Dr. Josh Leota from the University of Alberta/Canada, and Prof. Dr. Thomas König from the University Hospital of Bern/Switzerland.

Their research is being published in the journal Psychological Science. The paper has been accepted and is already available online as a preprint.

“Self-controlled behavior is important to achieving long-term objectives—for example when we do without high-calorie food to lose surplus pounds,” explains Schiller.

Why is this easier for some people than for others? Are these individual differences based in a fundamentally different organization of the brain?

To find answers to these questions, the Freiburg researchers recorded the electrical activity in the brains of over 50 relaxed yet wakeful participants in the laboratory.

The scientists also recorded the participants’ capacity for self-control in other ways: self-evaluation reports, behavioral tasks and the brain activity recorded while they did these tasks. The results of the study carried out at the University of Freiburg were confirmed in a second cooperative study that took place at the University of Alberta/Canada, with more than 100 subjects.

“On both sides of the Atlantic we were able to prove a robust connection between non-task-dependent neuronal processing and the capacity for self-control,” explains Kleinert.

Schiller says, “Our results indicate that people with greater self-control have a calmer mind, which in itself generates fewer distracting stimuli.”

Heinrichs adds that “these findings are hugely significant to a better understanding of clinical disorders associated with deficient self-control processes.”

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Abstract

A Self-Controlled Mind is Reflected by Stable Mental Processing

Self-control–the ability to inhibit inappropriate impulses–predicts economic, physical, and psychological well-being. However, recent findings demonstrate low correlations among self-control measures, raising the questions what self-control actually is.

Here, we examine the idea that people high in self-control show more stable mental processing, characterized by fewer, but longer lasting processing steps due to fewer interruptions by distracting impulses.

To test this hypothesis, we relied on resting EEG microstate analysis, a method that provides access to the stream of mental processing by assessing the sequential activation of neural networks.

Across two samples (N1=58 male adults from Germany; N2=101 adults from Canada [58 females]), the temporal stability of resting networks (i.e., longer durations and fewer occurrences) was positively associated with self-reported self-control and a neural index of inhibitory control, and negatively associated with risk-taking behavior.

These findings suggest that stable mental processing represents a core feature of a self-controlled mind.

 

University of Freiburg    August 15, 2022

Original Research:  A Self-Controlled Mind is Reflected by Stable Mental Processing” by Tobias Kleinert et al. Psychological Science

source: neurosciencenews.com


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More And More People Have ‘Lifestyle Fatigue.’ Maybe You Do, Too.

Two-plus years of a pandemic have altered our mental health. Here are the signs and what you can do to cope.

Even though we’re armed with COVID-19 vaccines and updated booster shots, the world is still largely in a different (and oft-worried) place compared with before the pandemic.

This, experts say, can lead to a feeling of malaise — or “lifestyle fatigue,” in the words of Sean Grover, a psychotherapist who writes for Psychology Today. Lifestyle fatigue can be summed up as “feeling stuck in a rut,” Grover wrote ― and who hasn’t felt at least a little stuck at some point in recent years?

“As it says in the article, lifestyle fatigue’s not any sort of clinical diagnosis,” Alayna L. Park, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, told HuffPost. “You’re not going to go to a psychologist and get a diagnosis of lifestyle fatigue.”

But she said the concept can relate to “feeling off, feeling down [or] feeling tired,” all things that fall into larger areas of mental health research.

Such feelings are normal right now, and sad days are a part of life. However, a few warning signs can indicate that you may be dealing with something bigger.

Here, experts share what lifestyle fatigue means to them and why society is experiencing it more than ever. (If you’re feeling this way, you are certainly not alone.) Plus, they offer some advice on how to feel even just a tiny bit better.

Lifestyle fatigue may be related to a symptom of depression.

The description of lifestyle fatigue resembles the clinical signs of anhedonia, or an inability to feel pleasure, Park said. And while it’s a symptom of depression, experiencing anhedonia does not automatically mean you are depressed, she stressed.

“There can be a lot of causes for anhedonia or lifestyle fatigue,” Park said. One is engaging in very few pleasurable or productive activities. This contributes to a feeling of boredom, sadness or tiredness.

“We’ve definitely had a very prolonged period of that during the COVID pandemic,” she said, adding that this is due to (very necessary!) restrictions that meant we couldn’t take part in many activities and social interactions.

“Even if we’re not outgoing extroverts, we still crave that social interaction. And that social interaction does tend to bring us a sense of pleasure,” Park said.

And even now that restrictions have lifted and people are vaccinated, we are still faced with tough decisions as we consider the risks of certain activities. Our overall life may look different, too: Our friendships are changing and maybe leaving less room for social interactions. Our workplaces are more tiring or demanding, causing many to feel less pleasure from a career. All of this can take a toll.

It could also be related to emotional exhaustion.

Society is emotionally exhausted because of what is going on in the background of our lives — that is, the pandemic on top of any other stressful life events you’re experiencing — according to Dr. Elaina DellaCava, a psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

When experiencing emotional exhaustion, “you’re lacking the energy to do things, lacking the motivation [and] finding that there are things that you feel you should do [but] don’t have the desire to anymore,” she said.

In other words, you’re exhausted and don’t feel like doing something that would have felt pretty normal in 2019, whether that’s a trip to the grocery store or grabbing a drink with a friend.

“Over time, what I’ve seen in my practice is that people are reporting they try to make themselves do things but just the enjoyment isn’t there in the same way it used to be,” DellaCava said.

After two-plus years of less structure than ever (like rolling out of bed and logging in to your computer) and more isolation from loved ones compared with before the pandemic, any kind of structure — such as plans, chores or an in-person meeting — can feel like an unwanted responsibility.

Your ‘fight-flight-freeze’ response has likely been activated for too long, resulting in sadness.

The pandemic has activated people’s “fight-flight-freeze” response — named for the possible reactions to a perceived threat — for the past two and a half years, according to Park.

“What our bodies naturally do when our fight-flight-freeze response [has] been activated for so long is they start to experience some depressive symptoms,” she said.

These will tire you out so you can get more sleep and heal from this stress response, Park said, adding that the symptoms are essentially telling your body: “Hey, you’ve been in this fight-flight-freeze response for two years. That’s way too long. You need to rest.”

This is your body’s way of trying to get back to its normal state, but as the pandemic continues all around us, these fight-flight-freeze responses are still reacting to that stress. So instead of going back to its typical state, your body could be experiencing depressive symptoms over and over as it pushes for rest.

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Though lifestyle fatigue isn’t depression in all cases, it may be in some.

It’s normal to feel sad or off at times, Park said, but if you feel tired or down for the majority of the day on most days for at least two weeks, this may be cause for concern. At that point, you should get in touch with a doctor or therapist, she said.

DellaCava said that many people attribute these emotions to burnout — a term that is now pervasive. But feeling down for long periods of time could be a symptom of something larger than burnout, which is generally more work-related and comes from chronic stress.

It’s OK to feel this way.

After multiple new COVID-19 variants, politicized public safety protocols and a sometimes overwhelming fear of getting the virus or passing it on to a loved one, it is normal to feel different than you did before the pandemic.

“If people are feeling this way, they’re certainly not alone,” DellaCava emphasized.

Much of this exhaustion or lifestyle fatigue may be due to the feeling that the pandemic cost someone an element of their identity.

People who love to travel may not feel comfortable getting on a plane now, or if they do go on a trip, they might worry about getting sick abroad and dealing with canceled plans. Similarly, someone who once considered themselves an extrovert might struggle with small talk or meeting new people. It’s hard to be the 2019 version of yourself in the world we live in right now. And that’s exhausting.

DellaCava added that social media makes this even tougher. People are inundated with happy images that can be tough to look at when you’re having a hard day.

“They say comparison is the thief of joy, and I think there is validity in that,” DellaCava said, but remember that “you’re seeing everyone’s best day on social media.” Others aren’t posting about their bad moments or restless nights, she added.

Certain activities can help you feel better.

Adding some productive and pleasurable activities to your week can help calm feelings of lifestyle fatigue, Park said. But with many people feeling exhausted due to their work and home lives becoming intertwined, productive activities do not have to revolve around your job, she added.

“Things that can be productive are things like exercising — so, running further than you did two weeks ago — or learning a language,” Park said. Both of these can give a sense of accomplishment if you’re feeling down.

Pleasurable activities can include visiting a friend, playing an online video game with a family member or calling up a loved one.

For those feeling unmotivated or anhedonic, DellaCava suggested focusing on self-care, which can include getting a good night’s sleep or, if you’re a parent, taking time for yourself. If you’re caring for your own elderly parents, try going for a walk alone or using a meditation app. Self-care should consist of enjoyable activities that are just for you, she said.

That said, it may seem tough to go for a walk or visit a friend when you’re feeling this way. But once you’re engaged in something you enjoy, you’ll likely notice that you’re happy to actually be doing it. Plus, you should be proud of yourself for mustering up the motivation to try the activity.

But if you’re not noticing any change in mood while taking part in once-pleasurable activities, do not hesitate to reach out to a doctor or therapist, DellaCava said. There is a lot going on in the world, and it’s OK if you need someone to talk to right now or a little extra help.

Jillian Wilson – Wellness Reporter, HuffPost       Sep 12, 2022

source: HuffPost


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A shift in your mood

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

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

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

Feeling fatigued or burned out

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

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

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

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

compassion-fatigue-lr-knost

Becoming disengaged from things that once mattered

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

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

Feeling desensitized or complacent

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

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

Here’s how to cope with compassion fatigue

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Julia Ries        Jul 1, 2022

source: www.huffpost.com


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9 Simple Ways To Be Happy Every Day

Cloud 9 isn’t as far out of out of reach as you might think. We asked the experts for simple strategies to wake up with a smile each and every day.

Sure, life is filled with ups and downs. Who doesn’t feel sad, anxious or a little bit lost every now and then? But these feelings don’t define us—and they don’t define our year, our week or even our day. The ability to change our thoughts, moods and, in effect, lives lies in the power of positive thinking, so we consulted the pros about what we can do from day to day to turn that proverbial frown upside down and discover greater happiness within.

1. Take frequent breaks.

Though easy access to smartphones and com­puters means we can solve most conundrums with the touch of a but­ton, many apps are highly addictive and take time away from the things that really matter, such as family, friends and com­plex problem-solving that leads to personal growth. “These days, tech is in charge of us; we’re not in charge of it,” says leadership coach Ellen Petry Leanse, author of The Happiness Hack. To break the cycle, take a tech time­out at the start of every day and during social inter­actions.

2. Interrupt adverse thought patterns. 

“Negative thinking creates negative feelings,” says California-based corporate-culture consultant Larry Senn, author of The Mood Elevator. “And grateful thinking creates grateful feelings. If you can change your thoughts, you can change your life.” One easy tactic for transforming your mindset is to interrupt it. If you notice you’re bombarded by stressful thoughts, go for a walk, help someone with a problem or play with your pet and see if you feel your mood shift.

3. Stay curious. 

When someone cuts you off during rush hour or a coworker argues with you during a presentation, it can suddenly seem like the world is out to get you. But feeling affronted and judgmental is a choice—and you can pick a different attitude. “Everybody is doing what makes sense to them based on their own think­ing,” says Senn. “We don’t have to agree with it, but we can decide not to take it personally.” Instead, choose to be curious about the thought processes and circumstances that lead to a person’s actions, and while you’re at it, consider the underlying reasons for your reactions.

happiness

4. Build deeper in-person connections. 

“The majority of the people I interact with in my work as a teacher and a coach say that the thing they want most is a sense of deeper connection,” says Leanse, who’s an instructor at California’s Stanford University. “They say things like, ‘I want to find my tribe’ or ‘I want to be with people I understand and who understand me.’ ” Building those connections is easier than you think. “It can be as simple as trying to engage with others by being curious about them and asking questions to under­stand more.” Try to follow this simple rule: Listen more than you talk.

5. Take care of your body.  

It’s tough to have a positive mindset if you’re running on little sleep, no exercise and a steady diet of burgers and chocolate bars. “We know that when people get run down physically, they catch colds more easily,” says Senn. “When you get run down physically, you also catch moods more easily.” By ensuring that you maintain a healthy diet, engage in vigorous exercise and get adequate sleep, you’ll build resilience to life’s hardships—and you’ll probably feel better about yourself overall, which is another key component of positive thinking.

6. Make time for meditation. 

Spending quiet time focusing on breathing or completing guided meditations is one way to train your reactive mentality—the one that jumps to conclusions and is quick to react—to pause before acting and can promote greater emotional intelligence and a profound sense of calm. “It’s like weight lifting for the mind,” says Leanse. But if setting aside a spec­ific chunk of time seems impossible right now, simply try to be more mindful in your day-to-day life. “Find moments to be reflective and pay attention to the ‘now’ as you navi­gate everyday tasks,” says Leanse. For instance, when you wash the dishes, focus on the temperature of the water, the smell of the soap and the feel of each item in your hands.

7. Practice gratitude.

According to Senn—and a whole host of researchers—cultivating a perspective of gratitude is one of the best ways to tap into a happier life. To do so, keep a gratitude journal, take a few minutes each day to think of three things you’re grateful for or compliment other people to show appreciation. “If you want to be happier, forget the myth that achievements or acquisitions bring happiness,” says Senn. “Instead, focus on activities that will nourish gratitude for the blessings you’ve already been granted.”

8. Challenge yourself.

Guilty pleasures like watching TV or checking social media reward our brains with quick spikes of dopamine, but they don’t offer a lasting sense of satisfaction in the same way that “completing projects, being creative, learning, working on long-term goals or doing routine tasks like weeding the garden will,” says Leanse. That’s not to say we should never enjoy a mindless distraction, but completing “deep work”—the things that actually matter to us as individuals—will provide far more happiness in the long run.

9. Delay reactions.

You will have hard days. That’s a given in life. But the occasional bad day or mood can’t hurt you if you press pause on rash actions (think yelling at a loved one or sending a snooty email). “Your thinking is unreliable in the lower mood states,” says Senn, meaning that you may not be able to think clearly if you’re anxious, angry, impatient or sad. “Don’t trust your feelings during lower mood states. Instead of acting on unreliable thinking, delay important conversations and decisions.”

BY: ANDREA KARR

source: www.canadianliving.com


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10 Ways to Ease Stress

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

What is stress?

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

How can we handle stress in healthy ways?

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

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

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

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

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

Managing-Stress

Biofeedback

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

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

What to do if you have trouble sleeping

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

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

source:  my.clevelandclinic.org

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

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

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

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

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

Follow trusted sources.

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

Set a few boundaries to prevent excessive doomscrolling.

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

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

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

Turn to mental health experts on social media.

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

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

Try to keep a normal routine.

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

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

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

Move your body in some way.

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

Cry if you need to.

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

Be mindful of your other coping mechanisms.

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

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

Reach out for extra support.

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

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

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

By Lindsay Holmes   02/24/2022 

Source: Huffington Post

fine

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

By Damian McNamara, MA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Stressors Stack Up

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

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

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

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

Uncertainty Can Up the Anxiety

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

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

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

— Angela (@TheKitchenista) February 24, 2022

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

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

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

Prescient Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb. 24, 2022

source:  WebMD


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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
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