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2 Minute Tips for Stress Management

Woman Relaxing Yoga

In a TED Talk from 2012, Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy explained how our body language not only shapes our interactions with others, but how it can have profound effects on how we feel about ourselves. She suggests that by simply changing our posture for 2, yes only 2 minutes, we can dramatically shift our brains response to stress and begin to feel and act more confident.

Take a moment to notice your body language right now. Are your arms crossed in front of you or resting by your side? Is your chin lifted or tucked down? In her research, Cuddy and colleagues found that “closed” body language, like crossing your arms in front of you and looking down at the ground, can actually increase the release of the stress hormone cortisol in your brain. When we have higher levels of cortisol in our system we feel less confident and more reactive and avoidant. Cuddy found that by simply lifting the chin, unwrapping your arms from your chest, and lifting your heart, cortisol is deceased and testosterone begins to flood the brain. This is a good thing because testosterone can increase feelings of optimism, assertiveness, and confidence.

Is it really that simple? Yes. In practice with my clients, I have found that having them shift their body posture, or even having them get into a gentle and supported “heart-opening” yoga posture, can help them feel more comfortable talking about and addressing their issues and moods. Changing what signals your body sends to your brain changes how you feel about the situation and about your ability to manage it.

I offer this challenge to you, the next time you find you are holding your body in a “closed” posture, assess what your mood is. Then, for 2 minutes open your posture, elongate, spread out, and lift yourself up. Maybe even look at yourself in the mirror as you do this. Check back in and assess what has shifted your mood or perception.

Let your body teach your brain a simple 2 minute technique for stress management.

Check out Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk by clicking the link below.

Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

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The Benefits of Gift Giving

Group of PeopleYes that magical time of the year is upon us where we frantically run about trying to get the special people in our lives that special gift or take time out of our busy schedules to serve others. In all of the madness that is the holiday season it is interesting to note that the act of gift-giving or service has some psychological benefits of better health and less stress and that is pretty neat. Dr. Michael Poulin, an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo, had this to say on the topic:

You may have heard that stress is bad for health.  Well, it turns out that giving to others may undo the negative effects of stress.  In a recent study, my colleagues and I found that there was no link between stress and health among people who reported helping their friends and neighbors in the past year.  But among people who didn’t engage in such helping, stressful life events predicted decreased odds of survival over the next five years.

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Getting to Know Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, Clinical Director of Wasatch Family Therapy

Clair-Mellenthin--300x300

PsychCentral recently interviewed our very own Clair Mellenthin, the Clinical Director here at Wasatch Family Therapy. Clair was asked about how she copes with stress, the best part of her job, and her overall experiences being a therapist. Here are a few of her answers:

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Ask A Therapist: Father-in-law Is Ruining My Marriage

Q: My Father In-law has been living with us for 2 years now. What started out as a temporary situation 3-6 months. Has turned out to be a permanent situation. Despite talking to him, he doesn’t help with expenses and hasn’t made an effort to move out.. We just bought a Condo and can’t very well move out leaving him behind like we did once before 4 years back when our apartment lease was up. We just went our separate ways. He’s Diabetic and still drinks and smokes all day long and doesn’t eat healthy. He rearranges everything in the house to the way he wants it. He yells/makes rules to our kids and I don’t like how he favors our youngest 4 year old daughter causing hurt and stress on our 9 year old older daughter. We’ve tried contacting other family members to arrange a living situation where we each have a couple years of responsibility for him but no one is interested. My husband and I constantly fight over him. I feel my only option is to leave him with the kids and start a new life. There has to be some solution I love my husband and we’ve made it this far with our 11 year marriage. There’s got to be another way please help us.

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Is Intense Mothering Stressing You Out?: Studio 5

Well-meaning moms, trying to do too much, may be at risk for anxiety and depression. Therapist, Julie Hanks, says intense, overly involved parenting can backfire. She has tips to help moms lighten up and live happy.

 

There is a paradox when it comes to parenting. Parenting is considered one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences in life, yet it is also linked with increased stress, unhappiness, and depression. A recent study published in The Journal of Child and Family Studies suggests that it is the level of intensity with which you parent, not simply being a parent that leads to more stress, less life satisfaction, and more depression. In this study, 5 “intense mothering beliefs” were identified and correlated with unhappiness for moms with young children. Ironically, many of these intense beliefs are how we currently define “good mothering.” This research suggests that moderation in parenting is needed, even when it comes to being a mom.

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Ask A Therapist: How Can I Get My Baby’s Father Back?

Q: My daughter is 3 now. Her father and I have been split up for almost 2 years now. Due to postpartum, hormones, stress, loss of a family member, and cancer health related issues I was having and needed treatment for. My emotions were too much. He had been dating a girl from his work for the amount of time we have been split up. I previously got engaged, and am now 7 months pregnant. This relationship failed. During this time of me not connecting my self and my previous EX fiancé being too needy and clingy drowning every ounce of me. Playing games to see “how much I cared.” I couldn’t handle it anymore and shut my wall up. Trying to reason with him if I hadn’t at one time cared I wouldn’t be pregnant or previously engaged. Although that ended I feel relieved and not controlled. And our personalities were too different; I wanted the idea of him trying to fill the hurt.

Although being my daughter is 3 my ex (her father) and I keep in close contact. And being through these last 7 months of pregnancy I realized I missed him. And he’s whom I wanted and WANT to be with. Not someone who looks like him.

These last 7 months also made me realize that the way my ex fiancé was treating me was very similar to the way I was treating my daughter’s father. Because I didn’t have the confidence to believe he cared enough to be there through my emotional roller coaster at the time. And now that this has hit me in the face and my life is in a positive place and knowing I was never happier I want him back.

Is there any advice you can give me on approaching my daughter’s father in time, to take the steps to try and make things work?

A: Thanks for writing in. It sounds like the last 3 years have been extremely stressful for you on many levels, some of which you had no control over, and other stresses that you chose. I know your question is regarding getting your ex-boyfriend back, but I hope you’ll consider that there are other things that need to be addressed before you get back into any relationship.

Please get in to a therapist to explore why you are having such difficulty in love relationships. To find a qualified therapist in your area click here. We often replay our childhood issues in adulthood and my guess is that there are some deeper unresolved issues playing out here.  My biggest concern is not how you’re going to get your ex back, but in you developing the stability and strength in yourself that your children will need in order to thrive, whether you’re in a relationship or not.  Rather than focusing on getting your daughter’s father back, I urge you to focus on being a strong person, and a strong mother for your children, and developing the confidence and the skills to maintain a healthy, long-term, committed relationship. Focus on being the kind of person that would attract a healthy and committed man to build a stable life for you and your children.

Please, be cautious about having more children until you have a healthy, long-term, committed, stable relationship. Focus on getting healthy yourself for the children you already have before you focusing on getting your daughter’s father back. Be the kind of woman he would want to be with. Once you’ve worked on yourself please get relationship counseling before you get into any relationship with your ex or anyone else.

Take good care of yourself and your children!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Ask A Therapist: I Deal With Abusive Boyfriend By Cutting And Binging

Q: Hi, I am 19 year old girl in my 2nd year of college. I currently live with my boyfriend of 4 years who is 25 years old. Our relationship used to be really good, but now all we do is argue. A few years ago I was flirting with other guys and he has never forgiven me for it. He constantly tells me he doesn’t trust me, and when he gets mad he tells me he hates me, that I should crawl in a hole in die, that he can’t stand to look at me, and many profanities. He spends no time with me so I spend the majority of time home all alone, which is the main issue because that gives me all the time alone I need to self-destruct.

I can’t stand myself, I hate everything about me. I’m fat and ugly, sometimes I don’t even know why I bother trying to make it through life nothing ever goes as planned. I feel like I am constantly starving myself or if not eating ridiculous amounts of food and then feeling guilty so that I either make myself puke or cut myself. I can’t control it, I feel like if I can make myself attractive my boyfriend will love me again but I can’t even take care of myself. The worst was when he caught me binging and freaked out along the lines of “No wonder I’m always starving, you eat all the food. For once I wish you would save some for me instead of stuffing your face all the time.” And despite hearing that I still continue to stuff my face… I can’t help myself… maybe I deserve to be fat. I can’t even decide what is worse, the purging or the self-harm. Both cause me discomfort and to feel like a failure, but in the end neither make me prettier…they just make me uglier. This also causes me to spend way too much money on food…I am $20,000 in debt with my bank because of all the money I waste on food. I eat too much so now I cant even barely afford anything…which my boyfriend also blames me for…rightfully, it is my fault.

I just don’t know what to do. I have thought about trying to see a therapist regularly but I’m too embarrassed. I don’t want to make known just how disgusting I am. I don’t want anyone to know how much I eat. I don’t want anyone to know how my boyfriend treats me. I just want to be a normal person… I want to be happy, and loved…what do I have to do to be okay?? 🙁

A: Even though you’re embarrassed, please go see a therapist ASAP. Licensed therapists are trained to help individuals and couples in crisis resolve your problems and help you, not to judge you. Just by reading this letter I can sense the depth of your pain, I have empathy for you,  and I want to help you. This is how your therapist will feel too when you meet with him or her face to face. If you’re not sure where to find a therapist in your area click the Find Help tab at the top of this page for a listing. There are likely earlier roots to your self-destructive eating patterns, cutting, and dysfunctional relationship that can be explored and healed in therapy and are beyond the scope of what I can offer here.

What you’re describing in relationship with your boyfriend is verbal and emotional abuse. No one deserves to be told by their lover “I hate you” or “You should just crawl in a hole and die.”  That is heartbreaking to hear and needs to stop if you are ever going to gain self-esteem and confidence to change your life. Your therapist can help you to build  relationships skills and to help you come up with a plan to stand up for yourself when your boyfriend becomes verbally abusive.

In addition to meeting with a therapist regularly, I suggest you start seeking out books, blogs, and other resources and start arming yourself with more knowledge and tools to help you feel stronger and more competent. Here are some excellent resources right here at Psych Central to help you get started:

Weightless Blog
Eating Disorder & Binge Eating Info
Self-injury Forum
Relationship & Communication Forum
Eating Disorder Community Forum

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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