We can get provoked or “triggered” by many things – a fight with a spouse, a child who won’t listen, a boss who treats you badly, an aggressive driver, etc. Being triggered simply means that some event has impacted us emotionally and we have a difficult time reacting rationally. When we’re triggered, we do things that we shouldn’t do. We yell back at our spouse or child, we say something inappropriate to our boss, or we leave in a huff. How wonderful would it be if we could somehow, in the moment that we are triggered, find a way to detach?
One skill that you may have tried in the past when you’ve been triggered is deep abdominal breathing. Deep abdominal breathing is where you push your stomach out as you breath in and pull your stomach in as you breath out. This enables your lungs to expand much farther than if you take the typical “chest breath”. When you do it correctly and for long enough, your brain will release a hormone that will calm you. This calm will enable you to detach. Once you’re detached, you can respond logically rather than emotionally.
Sometimes deep abdominal breathing doesn’t work. You try it and you’re still triggered and unable to detach. Grounding is another technique that can be helpful in these circumstances. Grounding is a type of coping strategy that is designed to “ground” you in or connect you to the present moment. You can only use grounding if you have given yourself some space from the person that you were interacting with. You can say that you have to go to the bathroom, ask them if you can talk about this a little later or find some other way to get to a separate space. Once you’ve gotten to a separate space, you can try these steps for grounding:
The key to being successful with these techniques is to practice them when you’re not being triggered. You can also make up your own method of grounding that enables you to distract and detach yourself from your emotions. Learning to detach is a powerful tool that can help you to be more successful in your communication skills and improve your relationships with your spouse, children, boss and anyone else important in your life. Let me know what techniques work for you!
It’s hard to let go of anger: anger at our parents, anger at a former friend, anger at a betrayal, anger at an ex-spouse, anger at ourselves. It’s understandable. Someone has done us wrong and we’re angry. We don’t have to forgive them. We can hold onto the anger for the rest of our lives if we want to. It’s our right to do that. But forgiveness can be healing and enable you to move on.
Holding on to anger can consume you. You start thinking about it all the time. Special occasions can be ruined simply because the person you are angry with is there. Relationships can be damaged as you project what happened to you in the past onto your current situation.
In order to get to forgiveness, you must work through your anger. A beneficial way address anger is to express it. Although anger is a normal emotion, it must be expressed in a constructive manner. Problems develop when the root of the anger isn’t recognized and the feelings aren’t expressed.
One of my clients was angry at her father for leaving her and her mother when she was a child. She carried that anger into her marriage and became angry at her spouse after their child was born. She felt that he was acting like her father even though he wasn’t anything like her father. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Her husband left her.
With some guidance, my client learned how to express her anger at her father and went through all of the feelings she had about him which included sadness, anger, regret and grief. After expressing all of her emotions, she was actually able to forgive him. After forgiving him, she was able to move on in her life and develop a deep, intimate connection with a man.
It’s like a jar with the top on. If you keep the top on the jar, the anger stays inside. But if you open the jar and let the anger out, it goes away. Once you release the anger you can start the path to forgiveness. Remember forgiving the person is for you, not for the other person. You’ll feel a sense of relief when you aren’t burdened by the anger anymore. Through this process, you’ll be amazed at your ability to heal your past wounds, let go of your anger and move on in your life.
Effective methods of releasing anger:
Positive affirmations have been shown to reduce stress. The following six mantras can be a powerful tool to reduce stress. Take deep breaths as you say the following:
Studies have shown that some people are inherently more grateful than others. People are born with a proclivity towards many different things and being grateful is one of them. It may have to do with a person's temperament and their ability to be tolerant - some people are more tolerant of everyday hassles such as difficulty finding parking, long waits for help on the phone, etc. The people who are more tolerant of everyday hassles are also more grateful for everyday blessings such as seeing the sunset through the clouds, the right to vote, a quiet moment, etc.
The good news is that being grateful is something that can be learned. If you can incorporate more gratitude into your life, you will be happier, more fulfilled and more peaceful. How do you incorporate gratitude into your life? One way is to keep a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is simply a journal where you write one thing that you're grateful for every day. Writing what you're grateful for everyday helps you focus on the positive things in your life so that you can develop a grateful focus.
Becoming more grateful has tangible benefits. In 1,000 people studied, the people who kept a gratitude journal had psychological, physical and social benefits. They felt more alert and alive. In addition, they felt less bothered by aches and pains, they exercised more and they had a 10% increase in sleep duration. There was also an improvement in blood pressure! Socially, they felt more outgoing, less lonely and more compassionate. In addition, children who wrote in gratitude journals showed an increase in their GPA.
A gratitude journal is just one way to become more grateful. What other ways can you come up with to become more grateful?
Being close with another person is one of the most satisfying parts of the human experience. According to the article in Psychology Today, Getting Close, social isolation or the lack of close relationships is as much a risk factor for mortality as smoking. The wider our social support network, the better our chances of warding off obesity, high blood pressure and other corrosive conditions. The degree of support people feel they have from family, friends and significant others actually counteracts serious health risks.
But today, we have more difficulty than ever in maintaining close relationships. There are so many reasons why it's hard to develop close relationships - we are busy with school or work, we have distractions like surfing the Internet or playing video games , or we just don't know how to meet people. Maybe we're scared to be rejected so we don't reach out. These road blocks to intimacy are significant so it truly takes an effort to put yourself out there to become closer to others.
Closeness and intimacy begin when a person shares something emotionally meaningful with someone else. The sharer is taking a chance that the other will respond in a positive, accepting manner. If this doesn't happen, we can feel hurt and rejected. However, if we can put it into perspective and recognize that this person isn't the only person available to be close to, we can get over it quickly and try again. Eventually we will find someone who will respond in the manner we need them to. It takes courage to do this but the benefits of feeling closer outweigh the risks. Some ways to make connections in order to increase close relationships:
I want to highlight volunteering as I believe that everyone should volunteer their time if they can. The benefits of helping others cannot be overemphasized. It is a wonderful way to meet and connect with people but it also helps us feel valued and gives us perspective on our own lives. Volunteering and all of the other suggestions above are wonderful ways to make connections and increase close relationships. With a little bit of effort, we can develop closeness and intimacy, have a more satisfying life and ward off disease.
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/
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!!
Many people have negative thinking patterns. Changing these negative patterns is the basis for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which is one of the most successful techniques used in therapy. Some examples of negative thoughts are:
Once in a while, we all have thoughts like these. But if it happens much of the time, these negative thinking patterns can have serious consequences. Our thoughts impact the way we feel and repetitive negative thoughts can lead to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
What can we do about it? The first step is to notice when you have one of these thoughts. Stop yourself from continuing to think about it by asking yourself two questions: What is the evidence that this thought is actually true? What is the evidence that this thought is not true? Because these thoughts are usually distorted, it is likely there will be a lot more evidence that the thought is not true.
After you recognize the thought is not true, replace the negative thought with a positive one:
At first it may feel awkward to do this but it will become more natural with practice. Give CBT a try and let me know how it goes!
New Year's Resolutions are common - "I'm going to lose 10 pounds", "I'm going to eat all organic, gluten-free foods", "I'm going to be nicer to people". Many times resolutions are somewhat unrealistic. And most likely the reason people create resolutions is that they have the underlying thought - "I'm not good enough." This thought of not being good enough is most likely a result of low self-esteem. In order to feel good about ourselves, we need to actively be aware of our internal messages. Say to yourself, "I like the way I am."
Instead of creating resolutions in the new year, create realistic, attainable goals. You can have goals every day, every month or even every quarter. If you don't meet some of your goals, don't get discouraged. They can be re-evaluated every so often to see if they are realistic.
Here's a good example of attainable goals:
Goals for January:
1. Find a charity or organization that I would like to become involved in.
2. Eat at least one vegetable per day.
3. Spend one day with a good friend doing something fun.
4. Network with one group for my business.
Be sure to include taking care of yourself in your goals. It's really important when you are planning your time to schedule in something that will make you feel cared for. Most people forget to include that in their schedule and if it's not a priority, it may not get done.
What can you do so that you feel taken care of?
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.