This is the time of year where many of us will look at what is important and what commitments we want to make in the New Year of 2023. In the midst of this, health and wellbeing goals are some of the top goals, many of which include diets and weight loss. According to a survey by Statista the top three resolutions for 2023 are exercise, eat healthier, and lose weight. All around us, there are ads for diets, exercise programs, supplements, and wellness.
Many of my clients can easily recognize their barriers to self-care. No money for the spa, no time to take a break from work or family responsibilities, little energy to see friends. When we look at self-care, we need to look beyond the “day at the spa” mentality or night out with our partner or friends. These are great things to plan and look forward to, but not something most people can do consistently with our busy lives or financial barriers. So how can we explore daily self-care to help regulate moods and stress more consistently instead of waiting for the build up?
Have you ever sat in the moment and noticed the physical sensations you are experiencing when you get stressed? Many people feel such intense physical pain when they are under extreme stress, frequently bringing them to their primary care physician’s office, an emergency room, or the urgent care. When we are anxious, scared, angry, or experiencing any other uncomfortable emotions, our body has a physical reaction. Our brain and nervous system signal to our body to respond physically when we are under stress. It’s part of our nervous system’s innate response to protect us when it experiences something it perceives to be a safety risk (think of our early ancestors trying to stay safe from carnivores while hunting or foraging in nature). Common physical responses to stress include increased heart rate, muscle tension, increased body temperature, or sweating. Any of this sound familiar? When I sit with my clients and we explore their uncomfortable emotions, I ask them, “What do you feel physically while experiencing that emotion?” This awareness helps us to move forward and address physical stress held within the body. Once we have an awareness of our how body is responding, we can implement one of my favorite Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT, developed by Marsha Linehan, 1993) techniques for distress tolerance – TIPP.
Many of my clients identify their goals for treatment as the following: 1. Improve their overall moods. 2. Develop better coping skills. Eventually, many of my clients articulate that they are still struggling with their depression, anxiety, or overall stress management despite trying to utilize these coping strategies. This is where we start to explore their thought patterns to determine if unhelpful thought patterns (frequently referred to as cognitive distortions) are contributing to their depression or anxiety related symptoms.
Aaron Beck developed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the 1960’s and the basic concept is that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all related and impact each other. If you have more frequent negative or unhelpful thought patterns, you might struggle with regulating your moods and have unfavorable responses to stressful situations. By increasing awareness of these unhelpful thought patterns, an individual is more likely to be able to alleviate their mood and adjust their response to stressful situations.
Do you often feel rushed or anxious during the holidays? Hopping from one family party to the next? Getting the spotlight questions about your love life at the dinner table while everyone chows down on the holiday ham? Political debates?
Family gatherings can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Throw your partner or kids into the mix, the holidays can become juggling the expectations or traditions of multiple families – it can get rough. So how do we manage the demands and creating room for new customs of our own? Setting boundaries. Boundary setting allows you to feel comfortable, set limits to what you feel comfortable being involved in and allows you to have more freedom to make choices that are right for you. Boundaries are about setting limits that are right for you. Boundaries can be liberating, powerful and the best form of self-care.
“Treat those around you as you would like to be treated.”
That golden rule we have all known and heard of. But how often do we apply the same rule to ourselves?
It was 9:15 and I had an appointment that started in 10 minutes. My alarm went off but I on today of all days I snoozed it. I quickly threw on some yoga pants, ran a brush through my hair and while looking at myself in the mirror that bully that I know all too well started to appear.
This year many parents are looking forward to in-person learning for their kids. Maybe you’re also feeling a little nervous with all the unpredictability of the pandemic. I’m with you! We’re talking up first grade to our recently homeschooled kindergartener as well as getting our pre-schooler ready for his first school year. We are pulling out all the stops to help with the inevitable separation anxiety we are likely to face after no child care for 17 months, no structured school schedule, and two self employed parents tirelessly balancing work with our children’s demands.
Clients often tell me that meditation is difficult for them, unhelpful to manage their stress, or they just plain feel awkward implementing it. They say, “I tried meditation when I felt angry, sad, or anxious, but it didn’t work.” This is where mindfulness can be effective to help manage daily stress and improve mental health symptoms as part of one’s daily routine. Mindfulness is a skill that helps us to increase a level of awareness about our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations to help and the situations we are currently experiencing.
Are you in the constant process of trying to lose weight, going on a diet, then putting the weight back on and more? There can be multiple things going on in your body that is preventing the weight loss if you continue to try and nothing is coming off. But if you can actually lose some weight but cannot seem to keep it off you likely need to dig deeper to what is preventing you from being consistent and continuing with the habits you adopted.
You know what it feels like. Your heart is pounding, hands are shaking, and sweat is dribbling down the sides of your face. To some, it may feel like clenching fists, increased heat in the face and body, or a tightened jaw. Despite these physical sensations attributing to different emotions, the reality remains the same. You are entering a state of body crisis. This is a state where you become emotionally overloaded with stress. To better understand how to work with this uncomfortable experience, it’s best to first identify what we’re working with.