Tag: #anxiety

The Danger of Social Media Comparison

Social media is a part of our lives in today’s day and age, for better or worse. There are many parts of social media that are very good. It’s wonderful to connect with new friends and reconnect with old friends. It’s fantastic to be able to stay in touch with loved ones from across states, countries, and continents – all by logging in to our Facebook or Twitter. There’s a plethora of information available to us as a result of social media, as well. It’s easier to stay informed – not just about personal things, but about world events and breaking news. More than that, though, the driving need to post positive aspects of our lives on social media forces us to notice and capture what is good about our lives. As a result, we might push ourselves to be better, or we might feel more consistently content.

However, social media also has a dangerous side – the side of comparison. Being able to see all of the happy, shining moments of our friends’, families’, and colleagues’ lives can make us doubt the positivity of our own life. This is dangerous because, of course, it puts us in an unhealthy cycle of self doubt. It’s also dangerous because the “moments” we see that other people post about aren’t their whole reality. Everyone has ups and downs, and just as many moments of mundane day-to-day activity. But when we believe that everyone around us is only experiencing the utmost joy and happiness, it’s easy to wonder why we aren’t experiencing those things, too?

These thoughts can be dangerous – we end up spending too much time comparing. We spend too much of our time taking careful notice of the negative emotions in life. We are lacking balance.

This is unhealthy. And it leads to profound anxiety, and an inability to be mindful or to live in the moment. That is why it’s very important for people to be aware of social media’s negative impact on our lives. When we catch ourselves falling into the trap of comparison. When we find that the addiction to this comparison is becoming overwhelming, it’s critical that we unplug. This is so much more than turning off our phones, or leaving them in the other room (although that’s a start!).

It’s healthy to take social media sabbaticals from time to time. It’s also healthy to schedule meetings with our loved ones outside of social media – meeting for a cup of coffee, for example. When we take a trip, it’s healthy to wait until we return to post our photos or gush over our experiences with friends. Taking more time to focus on what we experience in the moment, and fully immersing ourselves in those connections, sometimes means turning away from being “connected” on social media. It’s okay to not constantly be accessible, or constantly be connected. Taking care of ourselves and our emotional, social, and mental well-being is always more important than being accessible and connected.


Dealing with Loss

Well, everyone can master a grief, but he who has one. – William Shakespeare

We have all been there, a loss of one kind or another; the death of a friend or family member, the passing of a beloved pet, an unexpected tragedy such as a flood or hurricane  that alters our journey forever.  You may be experiencing a divorce or the end of a long term relationship.   Whatever the loss, it can be downright torturous to get on with living.  Most of us veer towards the familiar and when you experience a demise, change crashes in on your life uninvited.  But there are tools that can help you navigate through the painful terrain of grieving and dealing with loss.

First and foremost, don’t deny your feelings, otherwise they will end up somewhere in your body and wreak havoc.  It is normal to feel a profound sadness, to cry or wail, and to experience a sense of hopelessness. You don’t have to make excuses for your emotions, they are uniquely yours and everyone copes with loss differently.  You may feel utterly overwhelmed, angry or unequivocally fearful. When a person or family pet or companion passes it can flood you with memories and the void can feel physical.  Or the ending of a marriage or partnership can produce tremendous grief.  Acknowledge the surge of emotions with the same empathy you would give others who have experienced loss.  This is not the time to be stoic and keep a stiff upper lip.

When you are ready, share your feelings, talk to friends and other family members who are good at listening.  What you don’t need is a list of things you ‘should’ do.  Open up to people who can actively listen, that means they’re not the ones talking. Stave off those who try to cram unwanted advice down your throat, although they may have your best interest at heart, they are not you, they have not walked your path.  Now is the time to be present with what you are experiencing.  Facing your feelings helps you to come to terms with them, to put them in perspective, to shake hands with them and realize they are part of the process and part of you.      

If we bottle up our feelings they fester and eventually, like bad wine, turn sour and are that much harder to swallow.  Open the door to your heart, let the contents spill out to those you feel emotionally safe confiding in. Get out of your thinking mind and into your feelings.  The mind tries to rationalize or distract you or even judge you, which will not help your progress towards wholeness.  Perhaps write how you’re feeling down or pen a letter to the deceased or journal your experience without censoring your words.  Let the paper absorb your sadness or resentment then either keep it or burn it, depending on what will honor your emotional well-being.

If there is no one that can help you unburden your emotions, seek out a support group or a counselor.  In fact, there is an array of bereavement groups that could help you with your specific loss and even those with a plethora of family and friends can benefit from the solidarity of those who have suffered similar experiences (although let me be clear every situation is different and don’t compare your grief response to another).  Find the right one for you, one you can feel comfortable in expressing yourself honestly and without judgement.

Keep some semblance of a routine. If you like to walk in the morning or evening, perhaps try to keep that healthy habit up.  Or maybe you love to water your flowers every morning or make coffee and read a book or listen to the news or watch the squirrels dart in the trees.  Whatever it is, by sticking to a few simple constants, you will create a sense of stability that not everything is lost, not everything has changed.

Try to eat as healthy as you can and stay rested.  If you have lost your appetite try eating smaller meals more frequently, foods that are easily digested.  Get a little exercise to help you sleep, ask a friend to walk with you or perhaps cycling helps clear your mind. If you have a yoga practice, this can be very soothing during times of duress.  Taking little measures to maintain your health, will help you cope with the loss. It is okay to step away from the sadness for a bit and indulge yourself in an activity that quiets the pain, if even temporarily. This is not the same as ignoring or escaping your feelings, it is rather an attempt to bring your life back to balance. Throughout the day we experience a gamut of emotions, allow yourself a reprieve from the painful ones.

Breathe, and give yourself time to grieve, be kind to yourself.  Try to not self-impose deadlines for when you should feel better.  Know that it is a process, just like learning how to be a parent or how to keep your relationship healthy, grieving a loss takes time. Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”  Allow the wounds of loss their proper healing time and eventually the pain will subside.


Approaching Situations that Cause You Anxiety

Many of us have situations that cause us anxiety. It may be speaking in public, or it may be facing a conflict in your relationship. Recognize that many people have similar reactions. Whatever situation you’re facing that causes you anxiety – I know that it can feel overwhelming. You may feel as though you’re unable to control how you’re feeling, or that you can’t possibly face these situations.

I suggest you take these steps to overcome your anxiety so that you’ll be able to manage the negative impacts.

Accept How You’re Feeling

Any anxiety that you’re feeling is usually a response to a deeper fear or source of upset. The first step to approaching situations that cause you anxiety is to embrace how you’re feeling. Accept the fact that the situation you’re about to encounter causes you anxiety. Feel it deeply, and allow for your reaction.

Create Space for Yourself to React

It’s important to give yourself emotional and mental space to react to the situation that causes you anxiety. If you’re afraid of public speaking and you throw yourself into a public speaking event without preparation or time to accept your anxiety your negative feelings are likely to escalate. Instead, create space for your reaction to the situation. Give yourself time to react. Likewise, after the situation is over, give yourself time to decompress. You will want to have plenty of space during these situations to accept and move past your anxious reaction.

Practice a Moment of Meditation

When the anxiety you experience is situational, meditation can help. Some people prefer to meditate before they approach the situation that causes them anxiety. If we follow the public speaking example, you could take time before the event to meditate calmly. Focus on being fully present. You can also meditate during the situation that’s causing you anxiety. Meditation doesn’t need to be a quiet act where you’re alone. It can be repeating a mantra to yourself in your head, or it can be focusing on your breath instead of any negative emotional reaction. Again, using the public speaking example, you can take a few seconds between sentences to repeat to yourself, “I am strong.” Or you can take slow, metered breaths between each phrase. After you exit the situation that’s causing you anxiety, you can still practice meditation to soothe yourself and bring yourself back to the present moment.


6 Steps to Shifting Negative Feelings

From time-to-time, we all have feelings crop up that we would rather not to dwell on. Whether that’s worry, anxiety, anger, sadness, or just all-out negativity. However, it can be difficult to let these feelings go and move forward with a more positive outlook. Negative feelings are a part of living, and they occur for a reason. But they also have a tendency to linger longer than we prefer them to because choosing negativity can often be self-perpetuating and, sometimes easier than shifting into positivity. So, how can we accomplish this shift? Practice these six steps to get started.

1. Focus on the issue you want to feel better about.

 

This can be anything, big or small. Maybe somebody cut you off on your morning drive to the office and it’s been bothering you. Maybe you’re going through a stressful time in your personal life and you need a break from constantly feeling overwhelmed. Whatever the issue is, take a moment to focus on it completely.

2. Allow yourself to feel.

 

Whatever emotions crop up as a result of this issue, allow yourself to feel them. Take the feeling into your body by putting your hands on your body palm to body, wherever you feel it most. This will allow these feelings to expand throughout your body which will deepen your experience of what you are feeling

3. Ask yourself the following three questions. Remember that both yes and no are acceptable answers.

 

Am I willing to let this feeling go?

Am I willing to allow this feeling to be here?

Am I willing to welcome this feeling?

4. Now ask yourself:

 

 

If I am not willing to let go of this feeling?

Then ask:

Would I rather have this feeling, or would I rather be free from it?

If you’d rather have this feeling, explore how come you’re resistant to letting it go.

5. Ask yourself, “When will I be willing to let this go?”

 

This is an invitation to let the feeling go now.

6. Repeat.

 

Maybe now isn’t the time to let the feeling go. Repeat these steps until you feel comfortable and ready.

These steps are a start to acknowledging your feelings, giving yourself permission to feel them deeply, and then allowing yourself to let them go. You are fully in charge of how you respond to the feelings you have, and you always have choices on whether or not you want to let them go or keep them.


Will This Matter in 5 Years?

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In some cases, stress can be healthy. The ability to feel stress or anxiety is a result of our fight or flight response that have helped humans survive and succeed for so long. Feeling stress is natural; about finances, relationships, big-moment life decisions…these stresses exist for a reason. It’s our inherent way of focusing on what’s important and guiding ourselves to make positive decisions that bring joy or health to our lives.

But what happens when we stress about the small things in life? What happens when we let the anxiety behind being unable to control whether it rains, whether rescheduling an appointment will cause confrontation, or whether our spouse wants seafood or Thai for dinner on Saturday negatively impact our lives?

We live in a world where controlling even the smallest details of life can feel immensely important. This is partially because it’s so easy to control the small stuff in the 21st century. The ability to be constantly connected, schedule every aspect of life, and have immediate access to nearly everything makes it easy to feel all-powerful. It can feel like we’re in control of everything! Unfortunately, sometimes the stress that accompanies controlling these details isn’t worth dwelling on.

The stress that comes from feeling out of control is truly a vicious cycle. We become stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed by a situation that is beyond our control, no matter how small. Then we become stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed by our emotions and our inability to control them. The cycle continues, and it rarely benefits us emotionally. In fact, it’s usually harmful to the way we approach the world. Think of all the things we miss because we’re mired in our own stress.

As you look ahead, I challenge you to ask yourself this when feelings of stress creep up: Will this matter to me in 5 years?

If the problem you’re experiencing stress over won’t matter in 5 years, stop stressing about it. Release the need to control the outcome. Eliminating the need to control small details of life opens you up to live more fully, free of insignificant stress. It also opens you up to focus on the feelings of stress that crop up around dilemmas that will matter in 5 years – those “big moment” life choices that deserve extra consideration.

It would surely be a magical feeling to live a completely stress-free life. Stress is a result of being in situations where the outcome is not guaranteed. Rather than denying yourself the right to feel stress, refocus your stress on dilemmas that will have a long-term impact to make better use of the stress reaction.

Remember, when you begin to feel stressed, assess whether it will matter in 5 years. If not, stop stressing.

 


It’s Not Fair!

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When I was young, I remember complaining about something to my mother. “It’s just not fair!” I cried. She stopped what she was doing and looked at me – a quizzical expression in her eyes and in her voice. “What ever made you think life was fair?” she asked.

The statue of Lady Justice, often found near courthouses, stands blindfolded while holding two scales in one hand. This is meant to show impartiality, divine order and law. As a society, we have an expectation of fairness. As youngsters, we were taught to be fair and to respect fairness. But fairness is in the eye of the beholder.

Studies have shown that when we recognize fairness, parts of the brain thought to be involved in how we perceive rewards activate. When we witness unfairness, our amygdala is triggered. The amygdala controls fear and anger and activates our emotions faster than our conscious awareness. This means that when we feel like we’ve been treated unfairly, we go into “fight or flight” mode, entering a space of agitation, anxiety and emotion.

When real life happens, the tough stuff of real life, do we expect it to be fair? What makes our version of fair better than someone else’s? When we are winning, we don’t think life is unfair. When we learn to release our expectations of fairness, we will find ourselves happier with what is.

We all know that life is not fair. We have seen examples of unfairness locally and globally. Physical and emotional hurts happen every day to the most innocent of people. The question, as Arthur Ashe asked when he was diagnosed with AIDS after a receiving infected blood during heart surgery in 1983, was not “Why me”, but “Why not me?”

Once you accept that life is not fair, we can get on with the business of living it.

We do this by choosing to do things that you enjoy and treating others the way you want to be treated.

* Enjoying a walk in nature to reconnect with life.

* Keep in mind that although we like to believe we have control over things, usually we do not.

* Remember to be grateful for what we have.

* Change our perceptions of reality, recognizing that everyone has their own perception.


Slipping Mindfulness in and Anxiety Out

When you begin to feel anxious, recognize that anxiety is just a feeling and like all feelings, it is temporary. Consider what you were thinking right before you felt the anxiety, as thoughts create your feelings, not the other way around. Once you know what you were thinking dispute your thought by changing it’s language so that you feel calm. This is the first step in eliminating your anxiety and will allow for practicing mindfulness. Being in the present deliberately is the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness involves being actively in present time, being in the moment, paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Focusing your full attention on your breath will allow you to see your thoughts (positive and negative) as fleeting or transient. Thoughts come and go, they do not define you. Just as anxiety comes and goes, it can be as temporary as the thoughts that created it.

Practice a moment of mindfulness. Here is an easy technique to bring yourself into present time: Use all of your senses and notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, feel what your hands are touching. By doing this simple technique you will immediately be in present time.

Suggestions to fit mindfulness moments into your day:

Start your day right: while drinking your first cup of coffee or tea, focus on the smells, the color, the taste. Think about all of the people who are responsible for you enjoying this warm beverage – the coffee bean farmers, the roasters, the packagers, the shippers, the store clerks and so on. Send them a quiet nod of gratitude.

A doorknob: Every time you put your hand on a doorknob or handle, take a moment to center yourself and breathe. Get yourself in the present moment for even just a few seconds think about where you are, as opposed to where you will be.

Driving: Turn the radio and phone off. Breathe deeply. Enjoy the quiet and experience the moment consciously.

Shopping: Mindfully shop. Whether at the grocery store or at the mall; ask yourself, where was the product made? Choose colors and textures that make you happy. Don’t just buy to buy. Thoughtfully choose your purchase.

Silence your phone: When you are with others, keep your phone on silent or better yet, have it in another room. Be present with other people by giving them your full attention. This will show them they are important to you.

Use mindfulness to quiet anxiety. Mindfulness is simply attention to the here and now. Rather than letting life in thoughts that create negative futures, awaken to the gifts of each moment.