This past year has been tough and a lot of people have lost hope for a better future. But that can change by recognizing that we’re somewhat in control of our thoughts. Did you know that we have about 6,000 thoughts per day? And about 80% of them are negative! That means that we have a huge amount of negative self-talk. We spend a lot of time telling ourselves that we’re not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough or not as good as someone else. When we do this often, it becomes a habit. We can start feeling bad about ourselves and lose hope.
The great news is that we can change these negative habits and train our minds to interpret our experiences in a more positive way. Sure, life can be HARD, but our patterns of thinking and the way we perceive the world can make it much harder than necessary.
In the words of Greek Philosopher Epictetus, “We are disturbed not by things, but by what we think about things.” Therefore, if we can change the way we think, we can change the way we feel!
Have you ever expected, even visualized disaster? Have you noticed or heard about a problem and started asking, “What if?” What if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to you? That way of thinking is called “catastrophizing” where we catastrophize a problem and make it worse by escalating our negative thoughts.
With catastrophizing, we worry that the worst possible outcome will happen. We exaggerate the problem. When you realize you might be catastrophizing, stop and ask yourself the question, “What story am I telling myself?” It might take a moment, but get specific. For example, maybe you are telling yourself that you are ruining your kids and that you are a terrible parent and that none of you are ever going to be happy again. Whatever it is, when you force yourself outside the thoughts and examine them, it becomes apparent how dramatic your story has become.
After identifying the story you’re telling yourself, ask yourself, “What other story could be true?” This is where you use your logical brain and reference facts. An example of this would be, “Patty went through a divorce and it was so hard, but her children are all doing well and she moved on with her life and is thriving. That can happen for me, too.”
When you identify the negative thoughts, and replace them with positive ones, you’ll feel better. If you think you are a good person who deserves to be happy, you’ll create a happy life. You’ll see possibilities for the future and have hope. While using these techniques takes mindfulness and work, it’s worth it as it can give you a tool to start the new year off in a great place.
In today's world, it's very difficult not to feel anxious. With the advent of the 24 hour news cycle, an infinite amount of information coming at us from a multitude of devices and recent current events, people are more anxious now than ever before. Everyone seems to be worried and it is significantly impacting our physical health, our mental health, our relationships and our lives.
What can we do about this? It turns out that we can start with some advice from our elders. In an article in Psychology Today, the author interviewed hundreds of older people over a 10 year period about what they would like to pass on to younger people. You would think they would talk about their regret of a big decision they made or an affair. As they reflected on their lives, over and over they said "I wish I'd spent less time worrying." We need to take this advice from our elders and worry less!
The best way to decrease anxiety and worry less is to be in the moment. When you're truly in the moment, you can't be anxious. Often we spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about the past or the future. When thinking about the past or the future, you aren't in the present moment. Being in the moment means looking at the beautiful colors of the fall leaves or noticing the curve of your child's face. It means taking some deep breaths and smelling what's cooking on the stove. It means being in your body, not in your head.
Sounds simple? Obviously it's not that easy to do. One very important method to help stay in the moment is meditation. Meditation takes time and practice. There are several meditation apps and YouTube videos that can teach how to meditate. Meditating once or twice a day, it could be for only 10 minutes, has been shown to change the way the brain works and decrease anxiety. The apps that I found helpful are: Take a Break, Headspace and One Moment Meditation - all are free! Also, there are many YouTube videos with instructions on how to meditate. Just type meditation in the search bar and look at all of the options.
So the next time you find yourself worrying, tell yourself, "Stop". Refocus your thoughts to the present and use your meditation skills to decrease anxiety in your busy life. You may find that when you become an "older person", you'll have less to regret!
The following blog is authored by guest author, Chloe Pearson, a freelance writer and research specialist. She volunteers for Consumer Health Labs, which aims to help consumers make healthy choices.
When living with any mental illness, routine can be key. Routines are helpful for everyone but they can make profound improvements on the symptoms and side effects (http://www.drugrehab.org/addiction-suicide-veterans/) of mental illness. As stress decreases and your life becomes more reliable, your symptoms can significantly decrease.
If you have PTSD, here are 3 things you may want to incorporate into your daily or weekly routine:
1. A Well-Rounded Diet
Nutritional gaps and deficiencies can trigger or exacerbate a number of symptoms, leaving your illness more difficult to manage. Examples of nutrients that if deficient can affect mood include calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, zinc, Omega 3s and vitamins B6, B12 and D.
It’s a good idea to consult your doctor or a nutritional expert to locate where your diet is lacking and how you can correct it. Supplements can always be used to fill any deficiencies that are difficult to correct with diet alone.
2. An Evening Routine
Insomnia is a symptom that plagues many people struggling with PTSD. Whether due to nightmares or simply the inability to fall asleep, this symptom can wreak havoc on one’s mental health.
While there are many medications or supplements you can use to encourage sleep, one of the best ways to do it is to cultivate an evening routine. A series of actions done at the same time each night will help train your brain to release melatonin at the appropriate time which can help you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. For example, choose a time during the evening at least 30 minutes before your bedtime to refrain from working or engaging with a screen of any kind. Have a cup of non-caffeinated tea and read a book to wind down. Figure out a routine that works for you and stick with it.
3. Regular and Enjoyable Exercise
Regular exercise that you enjoy not only keeps your body healthy but also improves mental health by releasing endorphins. It reduces stress which can be a major factor in the severity of PTSD symptoms. Exercise can also battle co-arising issues such as depression by boosting mood. Be sure you pick a form of exercise you won’t dread. You don’t want to cause stress by forcing yourself to perform an activity you don’t enjoy. Some fun ways to get moving might be yoga(1), hiking, tai chi, or swimming.
Learning to live with PTSD is simply a matter of learning through trial and error. Of course, you should always seek the help of your mental healthcare provider to steer you in the right direction. A good diet, a routine and exercise do not replace professional treatment. It is a way to make daily life a little easier on your own. Give a few of these suggestions a try and see what works best for you.
Image via Pixabay by FotoArt-Treu
(1) Research on the benefits of yoga at https://www.jenreviews.com/yoga/
This is the time of year when children are transitioning. Parents are bringing their kids to college, children are starting school and whether it's your first child or your last child, it can be emotional. Throughout a child's life, parents need to let go - when a toddler first learns to walk, the first day of preschool or kindergarten, the first sleepover, the first day of high school - all of these experiences can be difficult for parents to let their children go out on their own. But the more parents can encourage children to be independent, the easier it will be for children to make these transitions.
Children look to us as their role model for many things. If we have a tremendous amount of anxiety or trepidation about our children's independence, children will be able to tell, even if we don't say anything. Talk to a friend or your spouse about your feelings so that you can express your fears and anxieties. If you're still feeling anxious, see a therapist so that you can work through those emotions. It may be bringing up something from your childhood and it may help to have a few sessions with a professional to lessen your anxiousness.
During these transitional times, I encourage parents to ask their children questions - ask them about their feelings about going to high school or leaving for college. Ask them what they're excited for and and what they're nervous about. Ask them how they plan to handle any challenges. After hearing all of their feelings, tell them how confident you are that they are going to be able to handle the experience and give specific examples from their past about how they've handled other difficult situations. This conversation is so important because if children feel that their parents have confidence in them, this can give them the confidence they need to move forward. Letting go of our children is difficult but there's nothing more rewarding for a parent than watching your children conquer a new challenge successfully.
I always feel really good when I walk out of yoga class. My head is clear and I feel calm. My yoga instructor, Gemma, has an incredible peace about her and she puts it into each of her classes. But this morning it was different. Gemma was saying something that was really meaningful throughout the class. She was repeating four sentences which captured the idea that I try to share with clients about being peaceful and content. Just repeating them in her calm voice was impacting me. I started to worry that I wouldn't be able to say them as well as she was able to say them. But then I stopped myself from thinking that way because it was interfering with my yoga practice...
When I opened my eyes after the deep relaxation and sat up, I found a hand written piece of paper next to me. I thought I was the only one who got it and it was my own special message. But then I saw that everyone had gotten one. On the paper were those four sentences:
"May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be peaceful with whatever comes.
May I be free from fear and striving.
May I be content just as I am."
Such simple words but with so much meaning.
Thank you, Gemma, for giving me your inspirational words to take with me!!
The holiday season brings a tremendous amount of stress as we are either incredibly busy or feeling somewhat lonely. Many people don't have as strong support systems as they need and it becomes very obvious during the holidays due to the messages that we receive from the media. If your life doesn't look like some picture perfect holiday card then you feel like a failure. These perfect pictures are usually unrealistic. Here are some tips to make it a non-stressful holiday season:
1. Slow down - our society moves quickly. There is so much to do and we feel that if we aren't accomplishing something we're waisting time. Say no to an invitation. Shut off all screens. Sometimes we need to take a break and breathe.
2. Acknowledge your feelings - know that feeling anxious or sad is normal and allow yourself to feel those feelings. Express them in a journal or to a close friend.
3. Look for the positive - if you don't have an extended family or support system, find the people who are there for you. Recognize that you do have people who care about you and who you care about.
4. Reach out - contact others in the community or in religious or other groups. There are others who are waiting to connect with you and will help you get through this time.
5. Spend time in nature - nature can be healing and if you're feeling stressed or depressed, getting out in the sun can be just what the doctor ordered. Sunlight stimulates the production of the feel good serotonin.
6. Make time for yourself - take a walk, listen to music, take a yoga class, take a bubble bath. Spend time with someone who makes you laugh. Do things to take care of yourself so that you can truly enjoy this time of year.
Jill Barnett Kaufman, MSW, LCSW and Certified Parent Educator is an experienced clinician who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges and bring more happiness and peace into their lives.