Difficult challenges seem to come in bulk- it’s a real phenomenon of life. These strange time periods in which there is a piling of negative events one on top of another is experienced so universally that we all say, “When it rains, it pours.” How do we outlast the down-pour?
Stress is a fact of life. Thankfully, some of it can be alleviated by honestly evaluating our priorities, relationships, behaviors, etc., and making different and healthier choices. But, some of it just has to be lived through. (Example: last week I was dealing with a horrendous tax audit chore when my car decided to break down, expensively. That was chased with an extended family emergency and a two day migraine… You’ve been there, right?) Stress is part of life, but misery does not have to be! If you choose to, you can navigate the rainy times of life healthfully and resiliently. You can, and should, honor your feelings and acknowledge that things suck sometimes. Write it out, talk it out, and don’t pretend everything is okay. But then give yourself a break and navigate the storm with confidence.
Write down as many pleasurable and relaxing activities that you can think of. Many of them should be free, in case of financially stressful times. Use this list to take care of yourself and wait for the sun to start shining again. Worrying solves nothing. Take a break; enjoy something. Get lost in a book. The problem will still be there when you’re done playing with your dog, trust me. Memorize some mantras that are empowering to you for times of emotional overwhelm. Positive self talk is everything when you feel fatigued from life! I’ll let you peruse some of mine if you need some ideas:
It’ll be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
This, too, shall pass.
I’ve survived a lot of hard things, and I’ll survive this, too.
Anxiety won’t kill me, it just doesn’t feel good.
I’m strong enough for this.
Everything changes. This is only temporary.
Finally, a few basic coping skill reminders: Get enough sleep!! Drink water, eat well. Take walks and breathe deeply. Get enough sleep!! Learn how to say ‘no’ to unwise time commitments. And did I mention, get enough sleep?!
All parents want to raise strong, confident, happy daughters, but there’s evidence showing that female adolescents are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. A recent article in the Deseret News suggests that young women are having a rough time; researchers are seeing anxiety, self-harm, and even suicide in girls as young as 10. In recent years, I have witnessed an increase in the number of referrals of young people (girls and boys) to my therapy practice who are experiencing these same sorts of issues. Clearly, we have a real cultural problem to address, and there’s certainly reason to be concerned.
If you feel stressed and anxious more often than not then welcome to the club. In our ever increasingly busy world of information overload, these two unwanted companions can seem to take up permanent residency in our lives. Having to maintain the work/life balance while simultaneously multitasking endless to do lists can get to be quite overwhelming which creates the perfect storm of unwanted feels. How does one navigate these storms of certain woe? It may be more simple than you think and doesn’t take much time from your busy day. When you begin to feel these pesky squatters start to take up space in your mind, use these two following steps:
1. With either your eyes open or closed, begin to count your breaths (without changing your normal breathing patterns) from 1 to 10 with 1 being your inhaling breath and 2 being your exhaling breath up to 10.
2. Focus only on the counting (if you find yourself thinking random thoughts as you count – that’s totally fine, observe them, dismiss them, and refocus on the counting)
Unlike having to create addition time like most activities designed to get you to a place of calm, this can be done on your way to whatever demands of the day require. The best part is it can be as little as a minute or up to an hour, YOU pick the amount of time you need to get to your happy place. Now doesn’t that amount of control make you feel devilishly good inside? It’s okay to admit it because YOU ROCK! Now go forward and continue to conquer all of life’s demands you busy go-getters!
…and other holidays you feel pressure to make IT great!
There are a few holidays, you know which ones they are, that bring a chain of different thoughts.
“My anniversary is coming. I guess that means we should probably have sex.”
“Sweet, it’s my birthday. This means a party in the bed tonight!”
“It’s Valentine’s, does that mean that I should actually dress up for sex tonight?”
There is even a song titled Birthday Sex by the artist Jeremih. So, what is it that creates these expectations about holiday sex? Is it that we consider sex the ultimate gift and it seems fitting to give it on a holiday? Is it because in a situation where someone feels deprived of sex, that seems like a day you really shouldn’t deprive someone? Or is it that it is the ultimate celebration of your love for someone and that seems like a perfect day to celebrate? Who knows?
I am not here stating that it is neither good nor bad to have expectations about holiday sex. You and your partner can decide whether that is awesome or a problem. I thought it would be fun to consider some of the pros and cons.
We usually also eat a lot of great food on these holidays and sex with a full stomach can be… interesting.
Expectations can add stress and stress can be debilitating when it comes to sexual function.
You can’t save your sexual relationship with your partner on a holiday every now and again. Spice is necessary more than 3 times a year.
If you don’t have holiday sex and it is expected, it can lead to a lot of hurt, passive avoidance techniques, or anger.
If sex is already a problem, the problem usually comes to a head when these expectations are unfulfilled and you can spend a perfectly good holiday fighting.
If you conceive, you can guarantee you don’t have to share an anniversary or birthday with your kid.
Going above and beyond on anything, sex included, can really make your partner feel wanted, seen and important.
The pressure of expected holiday sex, keeps you on your toes and actively working on improving your sexual relationship.
These holidays can create deep feelings of love, and perhaps create the desire to have sex in the first place.
If you plan to have sex on these holidays, the kids are usually gone and sex can be more enjoyable.
Consider these points for yourselves. Wishing you a Valentine’s Day full of love and closeness for whomever or whatever you love!
The original purpose of social media is to connect us, and yet for many women, looking in on others’ lives can leave us feeling inferior, jealous, isolated, or dissatisfied. So how can we put all these posts and pictures in perspective when we seem to get discouraged by them? There’s been quite a bit of research done on how social media affects us psychologically and emotionally. Here are a few tips to help you if you find that it’s dragging you down:
1. Be Intentional & Interact Directly
Studies have shown that always consuming, or simply binge reading and looking at picture after picture online can negatively impact you. I encourage you to instead intentionally research, seek out information, and connect with people in your life. Engage more and be purposeful; don’t just mindlessly scroll through your feed to fill time.
Muscle relaxation has always been a staple in stress reduction, but is often not something we jump to when we recognize stress or other uncomfortable emotions. In fact, we often unnecessarily carry emotional stress in our muscles long after a stressful event or situation has passed. To combat the negative effects stress has on our bodies and minds many researchers and clinicians suggest engaging in activities like yoga or deep breathing. When we hold tension in our muscles we are sending our brain the signal to release cortisol, the stress hormone. This is a good thing if we need to be primed for action, but can have adverse effects on our mental and physical health if we don’t counter act the cortisol after the stressful even has passed. In the fast-paced world we live in, with near constant stressors being thrown our way, it is rare that people can or do take the time needed to fully relieve their muscles of the stress impact, and thus it builds throughout the day.
Maybe you cant skip that stressful work meeting to go to a yoga class, but what if you could de-stress without leaving the office, or even de-stress in the stressful moment itself. You can. Here is a 5-step tip to help you tap into stress reduction throughout the day.
1- Check in with yourself throughout the day to see if you are feeling stress. Even little amounts of stress can have a big impact on your mental and physical health. Being aware of when we are feeling stress is the first step to stress reduction.
2- Rate your stress level on a scale of 0-10 so that after the muscle relaxation you can have a gauge of how it worked and if you need to take a few more seconds to relax and bring yourself further down the scale.
3- Do a body scan to assess how and where your body is holding the stress? Are you feeling tight, tense, pain, aching, fidgeting, or tingling? Are there any more subtle areas are holding tension?
4- Consciously release the tension of this area as you exhale. Imagine the muscle relaxing even if you can’t fully feel it right away. Drop your shoulders away from your ears, let your hips and legs rest heavy on the seat, and soften the muscles in your face and neck.
5- Repeat. Now that you’re more relaxed notice if there are other areas in need of relaxation.
This activity done frequently in short periods of time throughout a day may have a bigger impact on your stress reduction than that yoga class you’ve been meaning to get to. So the next time you get cut off on the freeway, overloaded with another task at work, or frustrated with your child notice how your body responds and let go of the tension in your muscles.
The holiday season can mean added stress and higher expectations (which is not good for “perfectionists” or “recovering perfectionists”!). Part of the added stress is that we often go on autopilot and rarely examine our expectations, or our “shoulds.”
On this week’s episode of Studio 5, Dr. Julie Hanks shared a formula for examining your expectations, deciding where they come from, whether or not you want to hold on to the “should” or let it go, and consider the result of keeping or rejecting the belief.
As discussed in the first part of this series, couples often face challenges between the two of them during the holiday season. However, the stress doesn’t stop there. Couple’s often find themselves struggling to enjoy the season because of family-related issues, and the pressure that can come from trying to celebrate with everyone that is important to them. In the second part of this series, I contribute to sharing some helpful ways for couples to navigate through these obstacles, and make the holidays enjoyable for everyone.
The end of the year can be such a special opportunity for couples to connect in unique ways, and strengthen the relationship that exists between them. Don’t let the potential stress of this time prevent you and your partner from taking this opportunity, and having a very happy holiday season!
At the beginning of November my mom sent me a text that read “I just saw my first Christmas commercial of the season…. I’m starting to feel anxious.” It was meant as a joke between us because of how early the commercial side of Christmas starts. All joking aside, Christmas can be a very stressful time for a lot of people. Personally, I can become overwhelmed at Christmas time. The shopping. The parties. The neighbor gifts. The decorating. The list goes on and on. I thought sharing some tips on how I stay peaceful and stress free during this time of year would be helpful.
1) Identify what triggers your anxiety during the holidays. This seems like a no brainer, but is so important to decreasing your stress. Is it handing out neighbor gifts? Is putting up Christmas lights going to send you over the edge? Figure out what causes so much anxiety and then…
2) Identify what causes you the most joy during this time of season. Cookie making? Decorating the tree? If it brings joy write it down. At this point you should have a list of what causes you stress and what causes you joy. Once you have that list…
3) Prioritize. This time of year is not about doing every last Christmas activity, or attending each and every party to which you received an invitation. If that is what brings you joy then by all means please enjoy those parties. If party attendance is on your list of triggers then prioritize which parties are the most important and regretfully decline the others. The idea is to bring joy into this time of year and push out the things that cause so much stress. This may change every year. One year at my house, to decrease stress, we only put up stockings and a Christmas tree. Another year we only attended select Christmas parties. We prioritized what was important to us and let the other stuff fall by the wayside.
4) Make special time for yourself and your significant other. There is so much emphasis on family this time of year. That is such a wonderful thing. I love being together with my family and close friends. Sometimes we forget that we need time for ourselves that does not include Christmas shopping or planning Christmas magic for our family. Take some time for yourself to relax and enjoy the sights and smells of the season. Take time with your spouse to be together without throngs of people around. It will make a big difference.
5) Be grateful. Being grateful always grounds me to be content and joyful. Especially at this time of year I love to keep a daily gratitude journal. It helps keep me centered on what I already have instead of what I need or want as gifts from other people. Everyday take an inventory of the blessings you have in your life. It will create a wonderful perspective for the season.
Good luck! Hopefully as you create and maintain some good boundaries this year your holiday season will be less stressful and more enjoyable.
*Important disclaimer to following article- the tips below address non-suicidal depressed mood. If your partner is showing signs of suicidal ideation or talking about wanting to die, get them to emergency MEDICAL help immediately. At that point it is about life saving measures, and a spouse cannot provide that help.
Hard work and compromise are necessary to keep any marriage alive and well, even during the “up” times of life. But what happens when the stress becomes overwhelming, and emotional challenges get thrown in the marriage mix? What happens when one of the partners can’t give as much because they feel, just… down? How does a marriage whether a storm of mental health challenges?
I’m going to get very personal, with the permission (and help) of my husband. We agree that depression, and its effects on the loved ones of those suffering, is a prevalent and important issue and we are willing to share our own experience. We both have families with histories of mental illness, and have had minor bouts with “the blues” ourselves at different times when life was stressful. Over the last year, however, things got serious emotionally for my husband. His “blues” hit symptomatic levels that made daily activities and participation in family life difficult to manage. Stress from work became oppressive, and soon hopelessness and exhaustion were about the only thing he was feeling. We’ve struggled together to get through this storm and return positive, hopeful feelings to our home.