All too often, I meet people who have no idea that what they are experiencing in life is not just "stress," but anxiety, often chronic anxiety. I believe that some of the reasons people do not recognize they are suffering from chronic anxiety are because they have "been this way all their lives," and because we live in a very stressful world defined by constant busyness, fears, chaos and high expectations. And, we live in a culture of numbing through food, drugs, computers, alcohol, etc. where we learn to "dampen," those feelings rather than to "define," them.
The feeling of anxiety has been described with many different words which include: worry, fear, edginess, panic, jumpiness, butterflies, jitters, shakes, freaking out, agitation and angst...just to name a few! And while everyone experiences some anxiety, there are many of us who feel it often; and it can be deep, overwhelming and intense, and make us feel out of control.
But why do some people struggle with anxiety more than others?
Genetics, brain chemistry, how our families handle anxiety or stress, things that happen in our lives, our personality or our "natural born temperament," can impact how we deal with anxiety and how much it affects our lives. Many people feel powerless to stop the worry, the re-thinking things over in their heads a million times, insomnia, panic or chaos that constant anxiety can create.
The feeling of being powerless to control anxiety can be very real since our bodies respond to anxious thoughts by emitting stress hormones. These stress hormones are biologically built-in mechanisms from prehistoric times when we needed to survive daily threats. Should we fight or flee? Or maybe just freeze?
The problem with experiencing frequent anxiety is that our bodies are constantly experiencing this rush of hormones which raise our blood sugar, heart rate, blood pressure and pulse, as well as slow our digestion, dilate our pupils and cause us to breathe shallowly. To stay healthy, we need to find ways to reduce this experience and to avoid or disperse those chemicals in our bodies because they can increase our risk of :
Memory and concentration impairment
So, what can we do about it? It may sound like a cliche, but the first thing we have to do is embrace and acknowledge that we are struggling with anxiety. And there are many forms of anxiety which range from constant ruminating or constant worry, to feeling an angst when we are in a social environment, or to feeling extreme panic around a range of different life events or experiences and expectations. A great beginning to understanding your anxiety is to first become clear about what makes you anxious and how it shows up in your life, relationships and body.
1) Make a list of all your daily challenges and write them in order from most to least anxiety provoking. 2) Describe the physical symptoms and how they show up in your body when your feel "worried, stressed, full of angst, anxious," etc. It is incredibly helpful to start with becoming very clear about what makes you anxious and how you can learn to identify it in your body and life.
My next blog will address more about how to handle your anxiety now that you know when and how it shows up in your life. But to start with, things like high cardio-driven exercise that makes you sweat, yoga, guided imagery, journaling and meditation are great ways to begin gaining control of your anxiety and living your best and most beautiful life....
10 Benefits of Listening To Music.NELL
1- BRINGS BACK MEMORIES:
Regardless of your age, you are sure to be able to remember a song from your childhood. In fact, many people identify with one or more pieces of music from our childhood. More often than not, when we hear certain songs, it brings up specific memories. Music has the ability to bring up forgotten memories, giving you the chance to travel down memory lane.
2- CONCENTRATION DEVELOPMENT:
When you are listening to music, you are forced to concentrate on what you are hearing particularly if you are training to play a musical instrument. Over time, this focus will extent to your everyday life. You will notice that you are concentrating more intently at your job, schoolwork, or simply in a conversation.
3- SOOTHING ABILITY:
While plenty of music has lyrics and acts to pep you up, it also can be soothing. This is particularly true for infants after a long day. Moms may notice that singing a soft lullaby helps their little one to fall asleep. In addition, plenty of adults find that listening to jazz or classical music helps calm them down as well.
4- ENERGIZING ABILITY:
There is no denying that music also acts to give you energy. In fact, many gyms opt to play upbeat music or suggest that you listen to an MP3 player. To keep your natural energy going, you should listen to upbeat music or music with a lively tune.
5- EXPLORING NEW THINGS:
Frequently, we only listen to music that those around us, such as our friends and parents, introduce us to. Listening to different types of music broadens your horizons and exposes you to music thatyou may never have thought you would be interested in.
6- INTELLECTUAL OPPORTUNITIES:
In many instances, songs represent a story or message to interpret. This acts to challenge us intellectually. It can cause you to study that song, as well as the reason it was written. You may even find that you can use the song as inspiration in your daily life.
How many times have you heard a song and found that it reminded you of a situation you are currently going through? At times, listening to that song can give you the motivation needed to get through or overcome the situation. Music has the ability to reach us on a more profound level than simple words. By touching us deeply, it may provide the boost we need to meet a challenge head on.
8- INCREASE CREATIVITY:
Simply put, music is a work of art that tends to unleash creativity in us that we did not know was there. People listening to music find they are more creative in regards to the task they are doing, such as painting, writing, or cleaning the house.
9- MOOD CHANGES:
If you are feeling extremely down or up, music can act to change your mood. More than one artist has written a song while they are feeling down to help lift their moods, as well as those that are feeling down for the same reasons. The same goes for songs that have the ability to make a happy person feel sad just by listening to the notes and words of a song.
10- INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY:
Silence simply does not promote productivity, regardless of what you are doing. When you hear music in the background, cleaning, cooking, and writing seem to go by much faster. The next time you are dreading cleaning the house, turn on some high-energy music. Try jazz for cooking. Finally, choose some music that fits the topic you are writing a paper on and see how much your productivity increases.
Write your thoughts and emotions down in a beautiful journal.
Peel an orange. Studies show citrus smells are calming.
Read a book you've been wanting to read.
Eat an avocado. The monounsaturated fats and potassium in the superfood can lower your blood pressure.
Take a walk somewhere outside where there is a lot of green space.
Hang out with a dear friend.
Breathe in four a count of four, exhale for a count of four (through your nose) - do this 4 times.
Take a super power nap. Set your timer if you only have little time.
Bring your dog with you to work or other places. Animals lower blood pressure.
Listen to classical or spa music.
Try some aromatherapy.
Have a belly laugh.
Get a massage.
Give someone a great, big hug.
Be crafty - do a project.
Take up knitting. Research shows the activity puts your brain in a state of flow similar to the one achieved through meditation.
Try some mindful meditation.
Kiss someone you love.
Try progressive muscle exercises.
Try the "chocolate meditation" technique. This allows you to fully savor the sweet treat. Google it!
Take a break from emailing.
Forgive yourself and ask for forgiveness if you need to make a repair.
Practice gratitude - think of 3 things you are grateful for every day and write them in your journal.
Exercise, take a brisk walk, go for a hike.
Be mindful of your thoughts.
Drink green or black tea.
Turn off your cell phone for a while.
Act happy. Research shows that we can become what we are connecting to.
Chew some gum.
Reflect on those you love and what your life might look like without them. Connect to gratitude.
Eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Consider a less stressful job.
Walk or bike somewhere you would normally drive to.
Listen to the sounds of nature on your phone or computer or actually out in nature.
Do some guided imagery.
Have a good cry. Let go of what you've been trying to contain.
Eat some dark chocolate.
Do some yoga.
Say no instead of yes to that event you don't really want to go to.
Have an orgasm.
Try a yoga laughter class.
Dance around your kitchen, to a dance video game or just anywhere. It reduces stress and improves memory.
Take a warm, bubbly bath with candles.
Surround yourself with the scents of pine or vanilla - while you are in the bath!
Float in water.
Actually get 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
Organize your closet.
Spend time around horses.
Try slowing down and doing one thing at a time- mindfully.
Observe your surroundings.
If you smoke, stop.
Go to the beach and sit quietly or take a long walk.
Take a break from people who stress you out.
Try positive affirmations like "Let go of what you cannot control. You deserve love."
Find a mantra and repeat it every time you feel overwhelmed. Ex: "This too shall pass."
Spend time with someone you love deeply.
Accept and embrace aging. Stop fighting it!
Take a break from social media.
Deep sigh, deep sigh, deep sigh.
Make silly faces until you laugh at yourself in the mirror or with a friend.
Do something kind for someone else.
Give yourself a time out in total quiet.
Write your thoughts on a piece of paper, then physically throw them in the trash.
Color a mandala or make a picture. This activity isn't just for kids!
Pet your animals.
Try a de-stressing app. Programs like Headspace, Calm and our own GPS for the Soul are designed to reduce stress.
Make yourself a healthy meal.
Watch your favorite movie and make connections to your own life.
Volunteer to help someone in need.
Organize your kitchen or garage.
Take a class in something you've always wanted to do: cooking, art, etc.
Give yourself permission to just hang out without an agenda or to-do list.
Give yourself something to look forward to: book a vacation, buy tickets to a show, plan a visit with a friend....
Use the Dishwasher...
rHelp you toddler practice his/her motor skills while minimizing the typical clean up when he or she wants to help you measure ingredients or make dinner. Set a bowl on the open dishwasher door, creating a low table surface for pouring or put some water in a bowl with wooden mixing spoon so your child can copy what you are doing. But never leave your toddler alone while doing this!
I recently heard Brene Brown speaking to Oprah Winfrey on OWN radio as I was driving to pick up my children one Sunday evening. Brene is a renowned researcher who has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Brene was talking about being vulnerable and how the courage to be vulnerable can change the way we live, love, parent and partner. So, later that night I Googled her and discovered a Ted Talk she had done a few years ago....and it had 17 million hits. What that tells me is that many people are interested in being vulnerable, but what does that really mean?
After watching her Ted Talks on vulnerability and shame, I bought two of her books. I am working my way through "Daring Greatly," and while I am not even finished with the book, I have to say it may be the most important psychology book I have ever read when I think about how to help people live their best lives. And when I think about how to live my own best life. The book is not just about vulnerability, it's about how we shame ourselves and others out of our own fears, how we numb ourselves and how we actually try to keep joy out of our lives through foreboding its presence. It's an incredible read, but I have to admit, on some level it is terrifying, because what she is asking of us --based upon her research of those living lives filled with what she calls "Wholeheartedness," -- is to be courageous, with no real promise that our courage will pay off. I use the word "terrifying," because that is exactly what life can be.....terrifying that we could lose the people we love most in less than a second, terrifying because everything we have worked for in our lives could be taken away in a shooting, an accident, a fire..... terrifying because we could discover an incurable illness has suddenly ravaged our bodies, terrifying because someone we love could say to us "I don't love you anymore," and terrifying because we could say to someone we once loved "I don't love you anymore."
The reality of our lives is that we dance upon the edges of our cliffs every single day - even though we don't realize how close we come to the precipice, minute after minute and hour after hour. If the truth of our lives is that we are destined to someday come face to face with our mortality, that none of us has the secret potion to live forever, then why would we choose anything less than insane courage to just be who we are without our masks, without our shame, without our fear? I want to chose vulnerability and the courage it takes to be myself, to forgive myself and to love as myself -- even if I have to fight my way through it every single day. I want to be on the cliffs without the fear of falling and knowing that if I do, I danced along the edges with my whole heart and embraced joy, love and peace. If vulnerability makes me vulnerable, then love makes me lovable, forgiveness makes me forgivable and joy makes me joyful. Where in your life do you need to dance?
A couple of days ago I heard a widely respected man of faith say "You can only go as far in life as you can manage your pain." The resonance of this truth keeps reverberating around my heart and I cannot stop thinking about his words. The statement was made on the heels of an even truer statement "In life, we will all have pain." Given that I not only know that to be my own truth, but that it is also the truth of the patients I see in my private practice every day, I know that pain comes and goes and comes and goes....without end...until the end...
The idea that we will be continually struggling with pain throughout our lifespan is a harsh pill to swallow. And yet, it seems that the predictable nature of pain tends to be what causes us to change our lives, shift our perspectives or sometimes soften our hearts - to ourselves and toward others. The challenging part is the space between the wound and the place in which we hope to heal or recover. We desperately seek a reprieve from pain through drugs, alcohol, sex or work addictions -- anything really, anything that will numb us from what hurts so badly. But the problem is that these pretend Bandaids only work for a little while and eventually, they stop working and destroy our bodies, our minds and our relationships.
How we try to "manage," our pain can easily destroy us with its false promise of healing and it can destroy our chances for living the life of our dreams. The profound silence of unhealed loneliness can be deafening and our brokenness can run so deep, that nothing in the tangible world, but our connection to the universe, to our gratitude and to our humanity can help us repair our aching soul. You can call it whatever you like....from religion to love to spirituality -- it's your choice. But whomever and whatever you use to manage your wound better be something that won't eventually swallow you up or become a scab that continually bleeds and never heals. It better be bigger than you, greater than your wound and more vast than your small space in the world -- because you can only go as far in life as what you believe will heal your pain, or else you will not even come close to managing the pain... but maintaining the pain.....forever.