Many of my clients often ask, "What can I do to reduce my anxiety?" While my response often varies depending on an individual's specific situation, there are three core recommendations I often suggest that can help almost anyone.
1) Identify the Source of Your Stress - understanding who and/or what is causing your stress is the first step to reducing your anxiety. If you are able to identify what is causing your worry/anxiety, the next step is to ask yourself, "Is there anything I can do to change it?" Answering such a question can give you an opportunity to evaluate your situation and clarify any choices, if any, you may have.
2) Learn How To Manage - If you can reduce your anxiety, knowing how you can change it and taking action is important. Whether you are in the process of changing it or even if you are unable to make any changes, learning how to manage the anxiety is vital to maintaining your ability to continue functioning. Engaging in activities you find relaxing or finding an outlet for your worry may help release the negative emotions/symptoms associated with your situation. For some, going to the gym, knitting, watching a comedy, meditation, or simply a nice hot shower are a few of the activities they engage in so as to distract their mind and focus their thoughts on something enjoyable.
3). Try, Try and Try Again - learning what coping strategies are best for you is a trial and error process. What works best for one person, may not work well for you. I often encourage individuals to try various techniques until they find something that helps them relax. Of course, it is critical to first rule out any medical explanations for symptoms you may be experiencing like headaches, digestion issues, heart palpitations, etc. Also, if you are finding it difficult to reduce your anxiety on your own, it is important to understand the role therapy can play in helping you. In some cases, therapy can simply help individuals understand why they are stressed, while for others it is a form of guidance that helps clarify what options are available.
The Oxford Dictionary of Psychology defines anxiety as "a state of uneasiness, accompanied by dysphoria and somatic signs and symptoms of tension, focused on apprehension of possible failure, misfortune, or danger."
So now you may be thinking to yourself, "What does that all mean and how do I know if I'm suffering from anxiety?" Anxiety is basically the reaction one has to stressful events that can cause a person to feel nervous, tense and/or apprehensive. There is no denying that many of us suffer from some form of anxiety but how it affects our daily lives is what we need to look out for when determining whether or not to get help.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine whether you should be reaching out for help...
If you answered "Yes" to most of these questions, then you may be suffering from anxiety. One of the first steps you can take is to schedule an appointment with a physician to rule out any medical conditions. Medical conditions like thyroid problems, diabetes, etc., can cause physiological symptoms like heart palpitations, headaches, nausea, etc., thus causing you to feel like you are anxious. Appropriate treatment usually alleviates the anxious feeling.
If medical conditions are not the cause for the anxiety, you should then consider speaking with a therapist. By collaborating with a trained professional, you both can work together to get to the bottom of what is causing the anxiety. For example, are there life changing events that are causing additional stress? Events like a new job, a new relationship, caring for a loved one, etc. can each cause anxiety. The goal of therapy should be to learn strategies and techniques that you can incorporate into your daily routine so as to help reduce the anxiety and/or minimize it's impact on your your ability to function and feel good.
Do you have any questions about anxiety? Maybe you know of some strategies that have worked for you or someone you know? If so, please share them below.
December is a time of year that many individuals look forward to because of the holidays. Whether it is celebrating traditions, being around family and friends, or shorter work weeks - for the most part people enjoy this month. And while for many, this time of season is considered festive, fun and cheerful for others it can also be anxiety-provoking, depressing and emotionally exhausting.
Feelings of Anxiety - Holidays often equate to engaging in family-oriented gatherings. Factors like family dynamics can result in increased anxiety for some individuals. Worrying about mom's approval of a new boyfriend/girlfriend, wondering whether dad will continue to express his disappointment in your career choice, or stressing about your sibling(s) willingness to understand how much help you really need with caring for your parents, are a few examples of situations that can provoke anxiety thereby causing a person to dread the holiday season.
Feelings of Depression - This time of year can also be depressing for individuals who lack familial support, are not involved in a significant relationship or are going through a life-hardship that prevents them from celebrating the season as they normally would. And while they may choose to not celebrate, commercial advertisements and/or innocent questions like, "What are you doing for the holiday?" or "Have you finished shopping yet?" etc., can serve as a reminder of what they don't have thus causing a negative association with the holiday.
Feeling Emotionally Exhausted - Last but not least, emotional exhaustion is a common feeling many individuals experience during this time of year. Sometimes the mere thought of all the planning, traveling and socializing a person will have to do to prepare is enough to bring about a cloud of gloom. In other cases, memory of last year's disorder, dysfunction or drama can serve as a blockade to feeling cheerful about the holiday.
With all of that said, it is important to be aware of your feelings during this time of year and to not let it get the best of you and your ability to enjoy it or to function. Talking with friends and family you trust and/or with a therapist about your feelings can help you get to the bottom of what you are experiencing, learn ways to resolve it and hopefully make next year's holiday season a more cheerful one.
Do you tend to experience any of the above when the holiday season approaches? If so, how do you deal with it? Please share your thoughts below.
For many individuals, the ability to verbally communicate something they find upsetting can be challenging, especially when emotions get in the way. Defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a natural instinctive state of mind that results from one's mood, circumstances or relationships with others, emotions may lead to an inability to calmly, rationally and effectively communicate. Understanding why your emotions may be blocking you from effective communication is often the first step towards improving relationships. Below are a few common reasons individuals may experience difficulty in verbally communicating their thoughts...
1) Your “Guard” Is Up – for individuals who have experienced hurt, it is common for him/her to want to protect their sense of vulnerability. Having a protective layer a.k.a a "guard" may help do just that. Whether the "guard" comes in the form of an attitude or an approach towards dealing with others, the main goal is for it to shield the person from emotional pain. Therefore, instead of verbally communicating and exposing one's thoughts and feelings, an individual may instead express his/her discontent by engaging in a negative interaction. Understanding whether or not you are trying to protect yourself and knowing why you are doing so can help you identify what can trigger your negative reaction and what you can do to improve your communication style.
2) You've Only Learned One Way to Communicate – it’s not uncommon to come across individuals who believe the only way they can get their point across is by being negative. For example, some individuals will speak in a harsh tone, use demeaning language or even scream, believing that is the only way they will be "heard." For others, the thought of expressing their feelings is something they will not engage in for a variety of reasons, including if their cultural upbringing views it as being disrespectful Education and reassurance about the various ways thoughts and feelings can be communicated in a respectful manner can help to address this issue.
3) You are Being Ignored or Disregarded – there is no doubt that upon learning how to communicate effectively, one's emotions can still get the better of the situation especially if he/she feels their concerns are not being validated or addressed. Being ignored, belittled, or disregarded is something that can send almost anyone into a world of frustration. So, what should someone do in this situation? Figure out a way NOT to explode. Whether you take a break from the conversation, count to ten or express your belief of being disregarded - you essentially want to do something that will prevent your negative reactions from surfacing. Of course, this is easier said than done.
Overall, most people will come across a situation where they have to communicate the frustration they are experiencing because of another person. The ability to communicate effectively relies on various factors but knowing who you are, how you function and what triggers your negative reactions can greatly help you better control your emotions so they don't take over.
What techniques do you find helpful in controlling your emotions? Please share them below.
Within my therapeutic practice, I often work with individuals who experience anxiety related to problems they are having in their relationship. While some individuals will question whether they should do anything different, others are unsure if they should put in any more effort. In order to help them with their uncertainty, I often encourage them to work on some of the key components I believe are important to having a healthy relationship.
Communication - Being able to openly and honestly talk with your partner about what is bothering you about the relationship is vital. Without this, you may find yourself not voicing your opinion about what bothers you, which can result in your partner believing everything is fine. The problem with one person believing everything is fine is they will continue engaging in the behavior you may find troublesome thereby increasing the chances of feeling resentment or irritation with your partner. Whether you are worried about your future, your sex life, your differences, etc., it is important to bring up any issues you have so that you can both work on improving the situation and resolving the problem.
Respect - Having to communicate your feelings about what may be a sensitive issue for you or your partner can be hard to do, especially if one person is hot-tempered and/or very emotional. As a result, it is important to remember to be respectful. Essentially, you want to avoid saying or doing things that you know will upset your significant other. For instance, if your loved one despises when you walk away from an argument, then don't. Or, if he/she hates when you scream then try to speak in a low, calm tone. Showing respect can also be done by refraining from accusatory statements that place all the blame on your partner as it will only cause him/her to become defensive.
Being in a committed relationship, especially when the honeymoon phase is over, is without a doubt challenging. While I realize the aforementioned suggestions are "easier said than done", it is crucial to understand that with patience and understanding a lot more can be accomplished as opposed to having anger and resentment.
Do you believe there are other important components to a successful/healthy relationship? If so, please share them below. .
For some family caregivers, finding themselves in the crossroads of caring for a parent and a partner can exacerbate the caregiving experience to a level that many others are unable to comprehend. Aside from learning how to manage and cope with a parent's illness, having to deal with a partner's health concerns can cause a loved one to feel even more isolated, depressed, anxious, etc., especially if their partner is the person they regularly turned to for emotional support and comfort. Managing, coping and maintaining are all ideas that can seem so foreign during this period but learning new strategies and continuing to utilize strategies that have worked is crucial. Below are a few strategies that often prove beneficial to family caregivers I've worked with...
1) Prioritize - part of being able to get through this difficult time is being able to identify what needs to come first, what can come second and what can be delegated to someone else. Without doing so, your world can suddenly seem as if it is crashing down all at the same time. Begin by identifying which days of the week are critical for you to be with your parent vs. your partner, and identifying which tasks need to be handled by you vs. handled by other individuals. Doing so can help maximize the quality time you have with your loved ones as opposed to spending it doing things that impede on that time (i.e. going to the pharmacy, grocery store, etc.)
2) Recognize Your Limitations - It is okay if you can't do it all because chances are, you can't! Asking for help, taking a break and accepting the fact that you are not a superhero are some of the challenges many family caregivers struggle with. This is generally the case when family and/or societal pressures are causing them to feel otherwise. After identifying some of the responsibilities you have, which you would love for someone else to do, the next step is to identify any individuals and resources that can help with those tasks and ask them. While it may, at first, seem like there is nothing/no one that can help, don't be so quick to make that conclusion. While you may have no one in your immediate family/social circle, don't discount the help you may be able to receive from your neighbors, local religious organizations and community agencies. Many family caregivers I've worked with are often surprised at how much is actually out there and in many cases often find out about the services after the fact.
3) Eat Well, Sleep Well and Cherish the Little Moments - There is a lot to be said about the power of good sleep, healthy eating and being appreciative. The amount of energy you exert in any given day to care for someone else is energy that has to be restored. Without tapping in to regenerating sources like sleep, nutrition and positivity, you are losing energy and will end up running on low. Thus, ultimately impacting how much you can physically and emotionally give to caring for your loved ones. While there are many techniques that can be utilized to enhance sleeping and eating habits, the first step is to acknowledge their importance and be proactive about incorporating it in to your routine. The same holds true for appreciating the positive things in your life, no matter how small.
Are you caring for a parent and a significant other? How are you managing? Please share any insight or questions you have below. I also welcome any questions you may have.