Tag Archives: stress

Combat Stress, Meet New Friends, and Reduce Isolation by Giving Back This Holiday Season

By Jennifer Scott, www.spiritfinder.org

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Do you often choose feel stressed and anxious over the holidays? Purchasing and wrapping gifts, worrying about money, planning and attending parties, preparing meals, decorating, and more leave many people choosing to overwhelm, exhaust, stress, and even depress in an attempt to cope. If stressing, depressing, or anxietying are getting you down this year, why not a take a different approach and volunteer. Here are just a few compelling reasons to consider volunteering as a way to beat the holiday stress while giving back and improving your Mental Health & Happiness.

Volunteering Cultivates Social Skills Development

If spending time alone over the holidays leaves you feeling down and out, volunteering is the perfect fix. Offering plenty of opportunities for socialization, volunteering with a charity that has meaning to you will help you meet new people with similar interests.

Donating your time and energy to people or animals in need can help you overcome the challenges of meeting new people by connecting you with others who are working toward the same goal. Volunteering can even help people who are shy or otherwise struggle with social situations become more comfortable around new people by providing a common ground for initiating conversations.

Gain Professional Experience through Volunteerism

In addition to social skills development, volunteering can also provide networking opportunities that could benefit you professionally. If you’re volunteering for an organization in the same field as your ideal career, you might connect with leaders in the field who can help you land a coveted role in your chosen field.

At the very least, it serves as a valuable resume-booster that can help you advance in your current company or explore new opportunities. So, if finances are a source of stress for you around the holidays, volunteering your time won’t cost you a thing, but it might help you land a better-paying job.

You Can Choose a Cause Close to Your Heart

There are ample ways to donate your time and energy to the greater good this holiday season, meaning that you can choose a cause that’s close to your heart, making the experience all the more meaningful. If a friend or loved one has been given the gift of life thanks to blood donations, consider finding a local blood drive and donating blood in honor of them.

Maybe you’ve benefited from the love and companionship of a service dog, and have a desire to help the animal community. There are thousands of animal shelters all over the country always in need of volunteers to help raise funds and help care for the animals, as well as supplies such as food, treats, and cat litter. If you enjoy spending time with older adults, volunteer to take therapy animals for visits to your local senior living communities.

Volunteering Keeps You Busy

With so many volunteer needs during the holiday season, you can easily fill up your holiday calendar and take your mind off of your stress with plans to help people in need. If you’re not typically a social butterfly who has dozens of invitations to every holiday gathering in a 50-mile radius, there’s no reason to spend a single evening home alone when there are so many ways to get out and about in your community while helping others in need.

Anyone can keep their social calendar filled with meaningful activities by volunteering to help prepare meals for the homeless, offering companionship to homebound seniors, or spending time with older adults at a local senior center or senior living community. Socialization is crucial for the wellbeing of older adults, so these activities are mutually beneficial.

Volunteering helps to put meaning back into the season for those who feel stressed and exhausted, lonely, or depressed over the holidays. From meeting new people and staying busy, offering opportunities for socialization and networking, volunteering provides many benefits, but nothing beats the feel-good vibes you get from doing something selfless for someone in need.

Reflection: Take the First Step – Turn on your Bright Lights

By Debbie Crinzi

Reflection is a critical part of making life better and happier. I compare the process of reflection to using your bright lights when driving. When you have good habits that keep you on track and the world around you is clear and understandable, you don’t feel the need to use your bright lights. However, when problems arise and unhappiness ensues that is the time to turn them on.

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The first step towards reflection involves turning on your bright lights. I often look for a quiet place to be alone where whether sitting, standing, or lying down I can deliberately relax every part of the body – starting with facial muscles, moving to neck, shoulder, neck, arms and hands.  Then I focus on calm, even breathing. Sometimes I have to start counting my breaths before I can just focus on the breath entering and leaving my body.  I have to control the thoughts flooding my mind before I can listen. Emptying my mind of thought, just focusing on breath, is the trigger to turning on bright lights. It is the first step towards self reflection. Try it! Whether indoors, outdoors or just sitting in the car, take a moment to first relax your body and then to clear your mind of its busy thoughts.

What you do a lot you get good at doing. It is easier for me to practice relaxing my body’s muscles and taking calm, even breaths when standing at the kitchen sink or looking out the window. I don’t have to wait until my emotions are choking me to use this skill. Actually, I want to become good at doing it before problems occur. By practicing the relaxing of my body and clearing my mind of anything except for my breathing, I discovered that it becomes easier to use this skill during times of stress and anxiety. After all, what you do a lot, you do become good at doing! Practice this skill at any time of the day for any amount of time. Putting the practice in strengthens your personal mind control and allows you to retrieve the skill when unhappiness pervades your life.

 

World Peace through Laughter

By Denise Daub

Today, May 1st is World Laughter Day.

Laughter Day was first celebrated on January 11, 1988 in Mubai, India and was founded by Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga now practiced worldwide.

laughterLaughter has proven to be instrumental in lowering blood pressure and stress levels, not to mention it just makes you feel good … and happy!  Interestingly, the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter.  This is where Laughter Yoga comes in.

We all know that emotions stimulate physical expressions… when you are happy you smile, but it can also go the other way.  Studies have shown that physical expressions can stimulate emotions. So fake it till you make it will actually work when it comes to laughter.

Laughter is contagious, has the power to bring people together and creates happiness.  It  strengthens your immune system, boosts your energy and triggers healthy physical changes in the body and…. it is totally free!

Laughter helps to create a positive mental state to deal with negative situations and negative people. It gives hope and optimism to cope with difficult times. – http://www.laughteryoga.org

Improve your mental health and happiness and take some time to laugh 🙂

 

Love

by Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted 7/2/14)

Love and belonging is at the top of the list of our basic needs named by Dr. Glasser.  What we do to fulfill those needs is the essence of mental health and happiness.   Love is a word with many meanings.  I’d like to examine some of those meanings.

Anyone who has been to summer Bible camp has probably been exposed to the Greek words we have for “love”.  They are:

  • “Philos”.   This is brotherly love. Think of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.
  • “Agape” is the selfless, unconditional love that is often used to describe God’s love for humanity.
  • “Eros” is the intimate affection between lovers.
  • “Storge” is a parent’s love for their children.

Each of these ways of expressing love are lifegiving and enriching of relationships.

We need an infusion of love to live and to enjoy life in health and happiness.

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Love is poured into us from the very beginnings of our existence.  A mother looks on her baby with love while caring for her baby’s needs.   We are learning that this life giving, life enhancing connection between a mother and her baby is much more than just a “nice to have” expression of affection.  It is actually essential for the healthy development of the baby, especially  for their social and emotional development.  This connection goes both ways.  Both mother and baby enjoy a release of neurochemicals that support their mental health and happiness.

Sadly, there are some children who are deprived of this early enriching experience of love and care.  Many of these kids grow up and experience difficulties connecting socially.  Often there is limited ability  to self regulate difficult emotions.  This often leads to the self medication that leads to addictions.  Violence and unloving sex are behaviors often associated with people that have not had the early experience of love that is needed for mental health and happiness in a stressful world.

I am convinced that it is better to reach out a helping hand before we read another tragic headline born of the not so quiet desperation suffered by some of our people.

How can each of us make a deposit of love into the accounts of those whose emotional checks are bouncing?  There is no quick and easy answer, at least none that I know of, but I do know that it is better to reach out than to reject and ignore.  There is that wonderful tagline that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

Elvis did a song entitled “Life” back in the 70s.  The closing line is “…for life is love and love is life.”

Here’s the song if you’re interested.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4cWkMXrGjo

Performance Stress

Contributed by Denise Daub

The Pressure To Perform Is Destroying Our Well-Being

The more stress we feel, the more out-of-touch we are with our health. Here’s how to fix it. — By Lindsay Holmes

Run from the fire or reach for the stars

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

What best describes you?  Do you run from the fire or reach for the stars?

When you spend your time running from the fire the energy propelling you is sourced from fear and pain. You are attempting to avoid getting burned, or alleviate the pain and fear of more pain. In order to keep going on this path you need to keep “re-fearing” yourself by reminding yourself of what can and may happen. It is stress, fear, and a whole lot of negative energy detracting from your Mental Health & Happiness that’s propelling your action.

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When you reach for the stars the energy propelling you comes from inspiration. This means you’ve identified what you really want, what your quality world picture or pictures are. You are driven with inspired energy. This doesn’t mean life is stress free but it does mean the energy is uplifting and hopeful, filled with possibilities of dreams coming true. This energy keeps you going, enhancing your Mental Health & Happiness.

Some say when setting your goals you should ask yourself if your goal is realistic. Hmm, seems like that question contains not only realism but also doubt and potential fears.

Imagine if Columbus had asked himself if his dream of finding a shorter sea path to the Orient was realistic. Imagine what Martin Luther King might have done differently if he had asked if his dream was realistic. Imagine what might have happened if Rosa Parks asked if sitting in the white section of the bus was a realistic or good idea. Had any one of these people been driven by their fear instead of their dream to reach for the stars our world would be very different.

Imagine how your life could change if you reached for your star, inspired by what you want rather than what is realistic. If you are willing to let dreams inspire you rather than relying on an internal energy to avoid fear, not only will your Mental Health & Happiness improve, you just might change the world too.

Stress Management

Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Today there is much written and blamed on stress, stressors, and stress management.

angrywomanIs your health less than optimal? Perhaps too much stress is to blame? Are your relationships suffering? Could it be that you and your partner are both experiencing too much stress and stressors? Could this stress be interfering with the joyful expression of your love for one another? There are more than a few people who complain regularly about all of the present work stresses they must deal with.

There seems to be an equal amount of solutions being advertised to relieve the stress we each experience in our every day lives. You can sip a hot cup of herbal tea while sitting quietly in nature. Or you can indulge in the latest cocktail made from the finest liquor while enjoying the convivial company of friends. Or you can choose from any of the wide range of “medications” each advertised to bring the relief you seek from the diagnosed problem the ad teaches you is your problem. What all of these solutions have in common is their attempt to eliminate the feeling associated with stress but most do little to actually deal with stress.

What exactly is stress? Is it some unknown overhead cloud that follows some people around? Or perhaps stress is some internal knot that some people tie themselves into? Rather than reaching for the latest remedy advertised to obliterate the feelings of stress would you find it useful to actually understand where stress comes from?

Whenever there is a difference between what you want and what you perceive you are getting you experience stress.

With this understanding and definition, there are several solutions for eliminating stress:

1. Get more of what you want. If you can manage to change your perception of the world to match what you want then you will have eliminated stress. Of course this is easier said than done, but it is a successful stress management strategy.

2. Change what you want. When you accept and perceive that what you are presently getting matches what you want you will have eliminated stress.

3. Change your perception of the world. When you focus your attention on all that you are getting that matches what you want even though your present primary want may not be matching your world perception you will decrease your stress. This is the goal of attitude adjustment practices as well as cultivating gratitude — being grateful for what you do have.

4. Learn more effective behaviors and strategies to increase your chances of getting what you want thus eliminating stress.

And you can keep reading Mental Health & Happiness blogs. You can sign up for the free 21-day challenges to help you deal more effectively with feelings of stress. Both will help you learn and practice specific strategies to eliminate stress and improve your Mental Health & Happiness.

Color Yourself Happy

By Denise Daub

While perusing amazon.com looking for a book,  I came across something I had never seen before, adult coloring books.  Maybe you have heard of this… it is a very big thing now. Supposedly, taking time to sit and color can be relaxing  and help relieve stress.  It  can also have meditative qualities.

I know, I know who has time to color….or exercise or meditate for that matter.  I don’t know there is something intriguing and whimsical about sitting down and coloring.

colormehappyIf you are interested, just go to amazon and search “adult coloring books” and you will find many different ones.  The first one that I seen was entitled Color Me Happy, which inspired me to write this post.  Unfortunately, this book is out of stock as of the time of writing this post, but there are lots of books on different subjects like stress and balance and themes such as animals and flowers.

I plan on ordering one of these coloring books and am going to give it a try. Maybe you want to give it a try and color yourself happy!

Feel what you’re feeling

by Dr. Ken Larsen

There is a phrase that I’ve heard from people who practice mindfulness.  “What we resist, persists.”

insides_kenFears that persist in our lives can have a devastating impact on our mental health and happiness.

While practicing dentistry I would see patients who were nearly paralyzed with fear.  This fear was connected to anticipation of the dreaded Novocain injection.  The images dancing through the minds of these people were associated with all the signs of stress and anxiety.  They were not without courage, however.  To show up for a dental appointment carrying that kind of fear was very courageous.

As I talked with these patients, I would hear them describe their struggle with fear.  “No matter how I try to fight it and overcome it, it is still there.”

If I could gain a bit of trust from the patient, I would get their permission to try something.  Usually there was a wary nod of the head.  I’d smile and say something like, “what I’d like you to do is feel what you are feeling.”  This usually elicited a puzzled look. I would then do something like touch the patient’s cheek with my finger and ask them what they felt. They would reply that they felt my finger touching their cheek.  Then I would ask them to stay focused in that mental state of feeling what was actually happening.  I would tell them that I was going to administer the anesthetic and I wanted them to feel precisely what they were feeling and then report to me after the injection just what they felt.

The results were amazing.  Most people got kind of a goofy look, remarking something like, “I hardly felt a thing.”  Or “I felt a little stick and then some pressure.”  We would then briefly discuss what they had learned about the difference between “feel what you are feeling” compared with reacting to an imagined fear.

I would further encourage them by remarking that it was OK not to like getting a shot.  I would smile and say, “I think I’d worry about you if you enjoyed it, but you have discovered that it is a manageable experience and doesn’t have to paralyze you.”  At that point there was usually one of those moments that we sometimes experience when two people understand one another in a new way and a good way.

I’ve come to see that his principle can apply to other fearful thoughts and memories and expectations that assail our imaginations.  Do you struggle with an unwanted, unwarranted fear that is interfering with your mental health and happiness?  I think if we understand the dynamics of “feel what you are feeling” we can make progress in getting free from those fears.

Try it sometime.  Notice your fear or anxiety, then notice what is going on around you.  Slow down, focus on your breathing and notice what you are feeling and where you feel it in your body.  Just feel it and breathe.  You might ask yourself how long you want to feel it and when you are done feeling it let it go.  This sounds too simple doesn’t it.  I used to think that, too, just as I thought that touching a person’s cheek could free a person from a paralyzing fear.  If you sit with it, breathing comfortably, you will notice the phenomenon of what has been called “urge surfing.”  The urge to fear will fade, just as a wave in the surf comes along, builds up, and then fades away.

Part of this process is to examine the reality that surrounds you.  Usually you will not see an actual threat.  Then you can realize that the fear is coming from your imagination.  That does not mean it is not real simply because it comes from our imagination.  It is very real.  The wonder is that you can develop the skill to make the choice to diminish and perhaps even eliminate the power that the fear has over you.

I am obviously summarizing the practice of mindfulness which is being used all over our country to manage stress and the resulting anxiety and fear.   If you want to go deeper with these principles, there is much material available.  I would recommend Tara Brach to start.  She has a wealth of material freely available on YouTube.

Overcoming depression, anxiety, suicide ideation and more

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Want to develop, improve and maintain your Mental Health & Happiness? Then you need to effectively follow your psychological instructions every day.

Want to feel less stress, anxiety, sadness, depression, alienation and powerlessness? Then you need to more effectively follow your psychological instructions every day.

Want to stop continually  obsessing over one thought, loss, sadness or failure? Want to stop your never ending internal argument of whether or not to ingest that forbidden substance, whether it be food, drink, or drug? Then you need to more effectively and consistently follow your psychological instructions every day.

sadwomanAre you feeling a complete lack of hope, feeling so despondent that you have been considering ending your life? Maybe you are feeling this right now. Then you need to effectively and consistently follow your psychological instructions right now, especially your instruction to connect in a meaningful and authentic way with one other person.

These are your psychological instructions: the urge to feel safe & secure, to be loving with a sense of belonging and connectedness, to be powerful, to be playful, and to be able to make choices with freedom.

Ask yourself these questions:

Who do you feel closest to in the whole world? Who do you share your hopes, dreams, wishes and sorrows with? If you don’t have at least one person in your life that fits these requirements,  start cultivating that kind of a relationship NOW! Your answer could be a pet, or God, or some other similar answer. That’s okay. However, if you can add a real person that would be even better.

Where do you feel important? What are you doing that you know makes a difference in the world, including just your own immediate world? If you can’t give an answer to this question start doing meaningful work, whether volunteer, paid or family work. We all need to feel as though we are making a difference. Make a contribution and know that your presence adds value not just to your own life but the lives of others.

Where do you feel like you have choices and options? Can’t answer that question? Then start  paying better attention to your world and your life now. You have lots of options and choices, including the choice of reading this blog to the end or doing something different. You have more freedom and choices than you realize. You just need to start noticing and giving thanks for all this freedom and choices. (If Viktor Frankl had choices then so do you.)

When was the last time you laughed so hard your cheeks hurt, tears streamed down your face and your belly got tired? Can’t remember? You my friend are in dire need of more fun and learning in your life. Start doing something, anything to be more playful and joyful. This can include going to a funny movie and watching and hearing others laugh, Laughter is contagious. Find a laughing yoga class near you and attend. Search on YouTube for videos of others laughing and watch long enough until you get tickled too.

Where do you feel safest in your world? This is the place where you seek shelter and comfort when you’re frightened. Don’t have that place? Then create it! If you have to, close your eyes and visualize being in a place from your past or your imaginations where you felt held, comforted and safely in a nest. We all need our own personal refuge.

Now that you have completed this brief needs assessment evaluation, do you have any ideas of what you can do to help develop, improve and maintain your Mental Health & Happiness? Let today be the day you get started.

For better results and greater effectiveness, connect with an accountability buddy. You help your buddy succeed in an area of his choosing, and ask for the help and support you need to succeed in improving your Mental Health & Happiness.