PLUG YOURSELF IN

Many of you wrote in to express how much you enjoyed our posts on self-care. With that in mind we decided to do another and bring you a little something different. I think the picture above is a great example of why we need to recharge our batteries, as well as that of our cell phones. In fact, if you need a good reminder to take care of yourself, every time you plug in your cell phone let that be reminder to charge your own batteries as well. Most of us cannot even imagine taking as much time for ourselves as we give to let our cell phones charge. Writing that just sounded crazy to me. Most of us take better care of an electronic device than we do of our own bodies.

What happens as our cell phone battery begins to get low? We may drop a call. Our connection to the internet may be spotting or may not exist at all. Perhaps our applications we are running slow down. We look at our phone and realize it is because the battery is low. We not only know this, but we expect it. As the energy in the phone becomes lower, so does its performance. How come this does not transfer to our thoughts on people, most of all ourselves? We realize our phones run best with a full battery. Wouldn’t it make sense we would too? We often feel guilty for saying no to someone or for taking time for ourselves.

Let us look at what happens when we let our battery run low. This can be skipping sleep, working extra long hours or not addressing stress in our lives. What are some of the symptoms? Let us first look at the physical or ‘outside’ manifestation of this. It often first appears as general fatigue. Much like our phone slowing down, so do we. Just like an electronic appliance, if we keep going at this rate we will eventually stop. Either by passing our or passing away. We also can get headaches. There are even specific pain relievers marketed as “tension headache relief”. If Madison Avenue can figure out stress can cause us physical discomfort, how come we can’t? Add muscle cramps or pain. This can come not only from stress, but not practicing other self-care methods such as staying hydrated.

Many of us “battle through” these symptoms. Some even consider them a badge of honor of sorts. Let us look at how this can affect our mental state or our mood. Stress can bring on feelings of anxiety or even paranoia in extreme states. Even milder cases can drain our motivation. This can cause us to get less done which can stress us even further. Talk about an equation for disaster! How about feelings of restlessness or overwhelm? Those are fun aren’t they? You may be tempted to say “So what! As long as I am making the boss happy, who cares if I am a wreck?” This brings us to our next reason taking time for self-care and to recharge is so important.

We may think being continually stressed and running ourselves on empty only impacts us, but we could not be more incorrect in that thinking. Being both physically and mentally drained can cause our behavior to change as well. We can be prone to angry outbursts. Have you ever found yourself snapping at someone who did nothing wrong except to cross your path when you were stressed and burnt out? Not only is this not good for our relationships, it also adds the stress of having to repair the damage your stress did in the first place. We can begin to overeat or even under eat when we are not taking time to focus on our well-being. We certainly wouldn’t be eating the stuff that will fuel our body and allow it the best chance of coping with what we are putting it through. Some people even turn to drug or alcohol abuse to help them cope with the stress when they are no longer able to do so physically or mentally. This often can be true of high-achievers, who have a hard time taking time out from chasing their goals to focus on themselves. Can you imagine how one or several of these behavior changes would impact the lives of those close to you or even those depending on you?

Most of us charge our phones at least once a day. Make sure you do at least that much for yourself. As you can see your cell phone is not the only thing that performs poorly when its battery is drained or it has too many programs running at the same time. Make sure you are getting enough rest, eating and drinking the right things to fuel our brains and bodies. Lastly, make sure you are taking steps to address stress. This can be meditation, exercise, talking with a professional or even a friend. Make sure you do not have too many applications running in your own life. Keep the batteries charged and you will keep yourself running smoothly.

LEARNING WHAT YOU NEVER KNEW

Last post we discussed addressing some issues we may not have known we had inherited from our family, neighborhood or other influences. It may make some people uncomfortable to think they are changing or God forbid, improving something about themselves. I get it. In today’s world it can be hard to admit we are anything less than perfect, even if it is through no fault of our own. Nobody likes to admit they have something to work on. Do you know what nearly everyone likes? Realizing they are getting better at something. It can be close to downright exciting to think you may be working on mastering something. Here is some great news, there are plenty of areas in which we can do this!

If we stop and think of the very important issues in life, how many were we taught or have we stopped to research? What do you think is important in your life? Where did you learn how to do it well? Did you ever stop to learn how to do it well? Relating to others is one of the most important skills a human can have. How well did you do in your ‘relating to others’ class in school? Do you recall when your parents sat you down and explained some of the many aspects that go into a healthy and sustainable relationship? Me neither. How about communication? The ability to both convey your thoughts, feelings and emotions to others as well as hear and understand theirs is skill that is as rare as it is valuable. How many years did you study that in school? If your education was anything like mine, that answer would be less than one. . What good is learning our alphabet and how to spell words if we are never taught how to effectively convey and use those very words.

It would seem a great deal of important subjects are left for us to learn by chance, or for far too many of us, by trail and error or not at all. The problem with this is that the stakes are far too high for most of us to learn that way. One mistake in how we relate to others can not only cost us a job, it can ruin relationships and cause emotional trauma to others, including those we truly care about. We occasionally get some instruction on interviewing to get the job we are seeking, although even that is limited. Did ever seem odd that nobody ever told us how to ask the right questions to discover if someone would be the right life partner for us? The same holds true with maintaining a healthy mental and emotional state. As far as I know, there exists very little, if any, instruction in public education on this subject. Is it any wonder, as the stresses in life continue to rise, we are seeing a host of people with mental health challenges. We were never even told how to deal with the stress that is all too prevalent in our lives.

We repeat here the axiom from the last post that fault does not equal responsibility. It is certainly not our fault we were never taught how to succeed in some of the most important areas in life. This is not a knock on our teachers and parents. They were never taught these things either. It is, however, our responsibility to educate ourselves on these very subjects. If a healthy relationship is important to us we need to learn what the components of one are and how to get them. If being able to communicate to others and have them understand you may be valuable, don’t you think it might be worth a few hours of research? How much effort is living a life with less stress and more joy worth to you? What other areas are important? Do you think being a great parent to your child is important? Do you think you may have received some bias or incomplete information on that subject growing up? Would you like to give your children the best possibility of success as they grow up?

When I share this information I hear a lot of groaning about having to dedicate additional time learning. “I spent enough time studying in school.” is a refrain I hear all too often. If that is your mindset you must then become comfortable at the thought you will not develop past the person you were when you left school. “I don’t have time.” is another answer I hear. To that I say this – it is not that you don’t have time, it is that it is not a priority for you. If I told you that you could have ten million dollars but I would need 2 days worth of your time starting tomorrow at 6am, where would you be at 5:59?

Dedicating time for study in these subjects is worth more than that ten million dollar price tag mentioned earlier, it is priceless. Being able to better understand, and even more importantly meet, the needs of your spouse? How much would you pay for that? Not feeling so stressed out at the end of every work week, or even every work day, how much would that be worth to you? You see, studying the main topics in life is like digging in a vain of solid gold. The knowledge you get can not only positively transform your life, it can do the same for lives of those you care about. Can you imagine sitting down to share topics like these with your children while at the same time listening to what concerns they may have? How valuable would that be? How about learning how to help people feel good about themselves? Would that be skill that might come in handy with the boss at the office or the one you love at home?

Here is the grand upside to all of this. The knowledge on all of these subjects is readily available and it is free. All it takes is some time and effort on our part. There are literally millions of books available in the public library system at no charge to us. There are forums, articles and experts available online with a click of a mouse. There are audiobooks we could listen to in the car, seminars we can attend, videos on YouTube we could watch while we are in line at the grocery store. There is so much information out there, in so many different forms that there is no excuse not to become an expert in any area of life that is important to us. Learning one new thing a month, which is painless to do, can give us 12 tips to a healthier lifestyle. Can you imagine incorporating 12 new things this year to improve your health? How much of an impact do you think that would have? What if we learned one new way to improve our intimate relationship a week? This is still insanely easy to do. Do you think adding 52 improvements to your relationship in a year would positively impact your love life?

There is no excuse not to begin to become an expert on the important areas of our life starting today! How important is the success of your children? How important is the happiness of the love of your life? How valuable would having extra energy and health be? Decide what is important to you and begin to study today! Your life is far too valuable not to.

DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME ON NONSENSE!

As we grow older we realize what we thought was important in our youth may very well turn out to be quite less important in later years. If we think about our own lives we undoubtedly will realize that this is true for us. I have heard people say “Ask yourself if this will mater 10 years from now.” Some things in life that seem make or break we can’t even remember a year from then. Gossip, even work related issues that can certainly be tricky at the time, can pass by to be forgotten. In looking back, I have been upset by some pretty silly and stupid things. How do we know what not to waste our time on? How do we know if the issue we are currently dealing with will even matter a year from now? After all, in the heat of the moment, most things do seem pretty important. There is a simple way to reduce the time we spend getting upset with, and wasting our time on nonsense. This will not only reduce the amount of time we spend upset, thus reducing a good deal of stress in our lives, but will also allow us to put that formally wasted time to better use.

A great way to make sure we do not spend time on what does not matter is to spend some time deciding what does matter. This is best done when you are not emotional. Being able to reflect on what is truly important in your life will allow you to often see the nonsense of life for what it truly is. This is helpful when you find yourself in a highly emotional state. If what is important to you is your spirituality, your family and your health, does it really matter what foolish thing a politician does? Is it worth wasting your time arguing the point with your coworker or the guy standing next to you at the bus stop? Probably not. Then again, if your politics are very important to you, it might be. If you can spend an afternoon (or whatever time of day works for you) pondering what you value in life and writing it down, this could pay great dividends down the road. When you find yourself greatly upset about something, refer to your list. If it is not on there in some capacity, find a way to let it go.

These are one of those times that recognizing that we are different in this regard will also save you a lot of stress. All of us place importance on different things in life. If it frustrates you why your spouse does not get as upset as you do about a certain issue it may serve you well to consider it just might not be that important to them. Although that might also frustrate you, it could certainly help you to understand your spouse and the situation better. If you are in the market for someone to spend your life with, this is also a great exercise to do. Finding someone who is passionate about the same issues as you do, could save a lot of stress as the years progress. If you are already in a relationship, being able to articulate what upsets you in a clear and concise manner to your partner will be helpful in both reducing upsets, but also getting to know one another on a deeper level. Like most relationship tools, this does not only work in an intimate relationship, but in other relationships as well.

As we grow older it is helpful to realize what is important to us and what becomes nonsense can and should change. As we mature, so does what is worth our time and energy. When I was younger, I placed great importance on solving every issue with people in my life. As I grew older, I began to value my own peace of mind more. When there was an issue that involved a conflict of values, or some unnecessary drama, the question went from “How can we solve this?” to “Is this an issue that really needs to be solved?” Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree. On a few occasions, when the other party refused to do so, it was sadly time to let that person go. My own peace of mind was more valuable than maintaining a relationship full of conflict. As a result of getting clear what is most important to me, I have been able to not only reduce the stress in my life, but use the time that would have been wasted on this unproductive conflict to further and deepen the healthy relationships in my life. One secret to an amazing life is periodically checking in with ourselves to ask “Are there some issues in my life that I spending time on that are just a bunch of nonsense?” As the years go by that answer will change and develop as we do.

WHATEVER SOOTHES YOUR SOUL

Whatever soothes your soul

We began the week by discussing how important taking care of our mental health was. If you do not understand why that is important, I highly suggest you go back and read Monday’s post again. One of the fun, life-changing things I advocate in my second book, Living the Dream, is to create lists of things that sooth your soul. The picture above gives us some great ideas. Although I am not sure about “taking a nap with your loved ones” not sure what kind of polygamous situation the author has going on, but finding yourself sleeping with too many people could lead to a very stressful situation.

Back to the lists I was speaking of earlier. This can be movies that make you laugh. Creating a Happy Playlist on your MP3 player or other device of songs that put you in a good mood. It can be creating a list of friends you can call in an emotional emergency. One of the things people do not think to write down is a list of places where you feel at peace. These can be vital in times of distress, but are just as important as a preventative measure. Keeping your soul happy can help you deal with stress better which can lead to a stronger immune system and a healthier you overall.

You may think creating these lists as something you don’t need to do, but that would be overlooking a very important aspect of human nature. You may wonder why you would need to write down what movie makes you laugh or where you feel most at peace. You already know those things. Whenever the human brain is under stress, it does not operate at its best. That is why you see game show contestants with blank looks on their faces when asked how much 2 +2 equals. Of course they know the answer, but with prizes on the line and the what seems like the whole world watching their minds go blank. Have you ever studied all night for an exam and when you get to class you forgot everything you read? I think we have all been there. This weekend, take some time to write down what sooths your soul. It will not only be helpful, but it is actually quite fun. You can edit these lists as you grow through life, but having the information on hand can shorten the intensity and duration of many a stressful day.

ARE YOU AN EGG OR A POTATO?

Life is tough my friends. This week we are going to look at a couple of strategies that may help us to deal with all of the tough times we are facing. There is still a pandemic, there are chaotic situations in many workplaces and a million other daily stresses we face. Even if it appears someone is ‘doing better’ than we are, chances are they just have different life challenges, or are better at hiding what they are going through.

I like to think of this quote when I am facing a challenge. Will I let this control me, or will I control it? You might think “How can I control losing my job?” or for that matter any of the other challenges we face? In my latest book, Living the Dream, I talk about asking yourself the question “How can I use this?” You could also think of this quote, or maybe even have a copy printed out to look at. There are 2 ways that I make use of this quote in stressful times and I would like to quickly share them with you. Feel free to share anything you have come to mind. I am always interested in new perspective.

The first thing that came to mind was that the egg was made stronger by the boiling water and the potato was made weaker. Stress can be like an emotional workout strengthening our resolve and resiliency. It can, however, break us down and leave us drained. Much like if we workout too hard. When stress comes I ask myself that question recommended in the book – “How can I use this?” I know that it can prepare me for a similar experience in the future. I give myself a little pep talk. “I’m not going to let this stress get the best of me. I am going to use it to make me a more bad ass motivator.” Not always those words, but something like that.

The second way I view this quote is that the egg becomes harder. Stress and challenges make some people hard and uncaring. It is really a manifestation of fear. You are afraid to get hurt again, so you become less emotionally available. Much like our egg in the boiling water, you become hard. On the other hand, the potato becomes softer in the boiling water. Usually, it is not a compliment to be called soft. In this case, I think the word soft could be replaced by the word compassion. When you go through a stressful situation, you immediately become more compassionate to those going through something similar. In this case, being soft could be a good thing.

When it comes to stress, which can often feel like you are being put into boiling water, are you an egg or potato? I guess depending on how you view this statement, you could be both. Let challenges be an emotional workout for you making you stronger and better equipped to face things in the future. Be careful, however, not to let it make you emotionally hard and lose your sense of compassion and ability to relate to others.

FINAL STEP IN COPING WITH ANXIETY

3 methods for anxiety

Today we tackle the third and final strategy for coping with anxiety. Before we jump into today’s topic, I would like to take a moment to discuss the last few posts. The subject of anxiety has been front and center in the media as of late, and judging by the high level of engagement I have received in these posts (which I love) it has been front and center in your lives as well. I am honored and appreciate the responsibility of being asked to write about this subject. In speaking with many of you, it has become apparent that anxiety exists in some form in the lives of everyone. Personally, this time of year I face the highest levels of anxiety I face all year. Suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder and living in a cold climate make for a stressful situation. While writing about these coping strategies, I was reminded of some methods in which I can employ to assist me. I welcome – no I encourage – you all to continue to share your methods for coping with anxiety as well as other topics you would like to see discussed on this blog. It is you, the reader, that can take this blog to the next level.

Emotional coping strategies is our last category we are going to discuss. Anxiety, being an emotion, can make thinking of doing anything emotional as a formidable challenge. That is why we suggest you start with physical and social coping strategies. If you are like me, you start with anything and everything you can. Anxiety doesn’t play fair and neither should you when treating it. After all, this is YOUR life we are talking about here. The first suggestion I have for attempting to change your emotional state is one I use in my life-coaching and motivational speaking career. That is creating lists. This does not initially sound inherently powerful or sexy, but trust me, they work wonders. Ideally, the time to make these lists is before anxiety rears its ugly head, but if it is too late for that, there is no time like the present! There are many things that create powerful emotional reactions in our lives. Create as many lists as you can think of in regards to them. There are two types of lists to make. The first is a list of things that can trigger your anxiety. This is important to know for two reasons. First, and what should be obvious, is that it will help you avoid situations in which these may be present. Second, you can share these lists with people you regularly surround yourself with. Hopefully, these are also people who care a great deal for you. Letting them know what triggers your anxiety will help them better understand why you may not want, or be able to, do certain things. It will also better help them help you in addressing these concerns.

The second set of lists are not only very powerful, but can be fun to create. What a bonus! These are lists of things that put you in a positive mental state. One of the first I recommend creating is what I refer to as a happy playlist. Which is simply a list of songs that make you feel happy. The only caveat here is that they should be songs without negative lyrics. Seek and Destroy by Metallica may make you happy on the treadmill, but subconsciously the brain latches on to funny things when in a stressed emotional state. So for this exercise, do your best to only include songs with positive lyrics. Then when anxiety first begins to creep in, close your eyes, put on your headphones and just push play.

Begin to think of other items which have a powerful emotional reaction in your life. A list of movies that inspire you. This doesn’t only have to be comedy, although I would imagine a great deal of those would make the list. Think outside the box a little. Does watching Braveheart make you feel like you can overcome great odds? The Pursuit of Happiness may remind you that even the worst situations do not last and if you persevere great things can happen. How about foods that put you in a great mood? As we discussed in physical coping strategies, it helps if they are also healthy. At least a few of them anyway. Another list that is fun is places that make you happy. Sometimes a change of scenery can help do the trick. I, personally, like the grocery store. Parks and walking in nature have been proven scientifically, increase the positive brain chemicals we talked about in the post of physical strategies. Make as many of these lists as possible. Sometimes music may work. Sometimes you may need a movie, or a park or an ice cream cone. Have as many weapons at your disposal in the fight against anxiety.

Another great way to change your emotional state and increase the feelings of control in your life is the accomplishment of small goals. I understand if the word ‘goals’ may cause a slight feeling of anxiety in some. It sure used to in me. It is important to note the world small in front of them. Cleaning your entire kitchen may seem overwhelming and fill you with anxiety. Break this challenges down into smaller goals. It is like the old cliché, “How do you eat an entire elephant? One bite at a time.” I don’t have a personal palate for pachyderms, but you get the point. How you accomplish large goals is by doing one small goal at a time. After a few you gain momentum and find yourself closer to your large goal. This also does one other thing, it gives you a win and a feeling of accomplishment. It allows you to know you did something positive and took a step in the right direction. You may not have got that entire kitchen clean, but you organized that drawer so all of your spatulas fit with no fear of not being able to open the drawer once it is closed.

When all else fails, and quite frankly even when all else doesn’t fail, there is one thing you can do that will help you through some of the toughest and most anxiety filled periods of your life. I experienced this first hand. There was a period of my life when everything seemed to be flying south for the winter. This was made even worse by the fact that it was July. My job, relationships, money, transportation all seemed to be filled with problems that were causing a great deal of anxiety. Questions like, “Am I still going to have a job? If so, how am I going to be able to get to that job if my car is broken? If I can’t get to the job I might or might not have, how can I afford to fix the car that gets me to the job?” Those were just two of the many areas of my life that seemed upside down. There seemed to be no solution and I was getting more stressed by the minute. What did I do? Something I am going to implore that you do – find a way to help others.

Taking our focus of our own problems, even temporarily, can provide a great deal of relief. It also provides a sense of purpose, a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of value. When my life was upside down, I had the great fortune to be able to help at a meal program feeding the homeless and economically challenged. It not only gave me the feelings I mentioned prior, but did a great deal to put my problems in perspective. It also allowed me to see that we all have a great deal of problems in life, but there are always people out there who care and are willing to help. It may take a while to find them, but they are out there. While you are searching for the kind of people that may care and help you, it certainly helps to be one to others.

The last few posts we have explored the three categories for coping with anxiety. We looked at physical methods in the first post, social methods in the second and emotional methods today. We looked at many activities in the realms of these three methods. These posts have only begun to scratch the surface. Through a little research and effort on your part and the inclusion of a professional, you will discover many other options as well. Anxiety is nothing to be embarrassed of, ashamed of or feel hopeless about. We all experience to some degree in our lives and with treatment it is curable. I encourage you to share these posts with those you think may benefit. The conclusion of these posts is not the end of the discussion, but perhaps a way to begin a discussion on the topic of anxiety and how we can help ourselves and each other.

THE SECOND STEP IN COPING WITH ANXIETY

We have been discussing anxiety and ways in which to approach healing from it. Last post we discussed using physical strategies. Today we will discuss social coping strategies for anxiety. We began with physical coping strategies because they are a good first step. It requires very little use of the mind and thus can be easier to put into action. Anxiety can have us feeling keyed up and jittery. Expelling some of that energy through physical exercise, or consuming a calming tea can be a good first step. Ironically, anxiety can leave us feeling both mentally and physically exhausted. It can have us feeling completely drained. Changing our diet to a more healthy option as well as removing things like caffeine and alcohol can give us an energy boost.

When you are suffering from anxiety, being social with others may be one of the last things you want to do. The difficult part, is it can be one of the best things for you. There are ways to mitigate the additional stress often occurred when socializing. Certainly, we are not advocating attending a business networking event filled with strangers giving you highpressure sales pitches. A small gathering at a familiar place with close friends and family can help us feel calm and collected. Discussing our feelings with those who care and we know we can trust can help us feel less alone in battling the challenges we are facing. There are occasions when focusing on the anxiety can only prove to make it worse. The focus does not have to be, and quite often should not be your anxiety. Spending time trading jokes, recalling fond memories or even fantasizing about a future vacation, trip around the world or what it would be like to win the lottery can help change our focus, even if only for a moment.

You may not feel comfortable sharing some of your inner most thoughts or feeling with your friends. Maybe it is uncomfortable to feel that vulnerable with someone you are that close to. Those are understandable and valid feelings. If you are not ready or feel comfortable seeking out a professional counselor or therapist, there are still plenty of good options. As a friend and reader of this blog mentioned on our first post on the subject of anxiety, it would be wise and helpful to talk to your priest, rabbi, shaman or other spiritual leader. Not only are they generally the most compassionate people, but if we are honest, helping those in a challenging emotional state is in their job description. Depending on the the source of your anxiety, life coaches can be another good option. Although they do not deal in challenges of the past, they certainly can help you map out a plan for the future. Sometimes knowing where we are going and having actionable steps to take can relieve a lot of the anxiety we feel.

The challenge with all of these options is that often when we are suffering from anxiety we do not even feel like leaving the house. Thanks to modern technology, and even more so because of the current pandemic, all of these services are available online. As a life coach, I have had several meeting via zoom which not only allowed my clients to feel safe, but allowed me to service individuals across state and even international borders. There are services that allow you to speak to spiritual advisors as well. You can do so through the telephone, online or a mix of the two. There are also plenty of online forums and groups that you can join. There are even ones specific for people dealing with anxiety. I have included a link from verywell mind that lists the top 7 online anxiety support groups for 2021 at the end of this post. Knowing you are not alone is a very important element when experiencing anxiety. Knowing there are several options to explore, I encourage you to reach out and try one. It can be as simple as clicking the link below.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN THE TOP 7 ONLINE GROUPS FOR STRESS IN 2021

3 CHOICES FOR 1 SOLUTION

Last post we looked at discovering the cause of anxiety. Today we are going to begin to look at ways in which we can begin to treat our anxiety and take back control of our emotions, our mind and our life. We are going to take them one at a time, starting today with Physical coping strategies. Please know that the methods we will be discussing, although very valuable, are not all that is available. Before beginning any lifestyle changes it is important to check with your doctor to make sure they are safe and right for you.

Why start with physical coping strategies? Quite often anxiety can cause a paralyzing effect when it comes to mental and emotional changes. There are, however, some physical tools we can use to ease the level of stress that may allow us to then begin to explore methods more directly associated with the mind and emotions. As with any challenge we face in life, anxiety can best be approached using several methods and what works for one may certainly not work for everyone. The order in which you utilize the methods we discuss is less important that your willingness to try them. There will be enough options in each category to find something not only helpful, but enjoyable. Just because we are utilizing these tools to help us become less stress and anxious does not mean we cannot enjoy the process. Quite the contrary. The more we enjoy the method we choose, and the easier it is to incorporate into our lifestyle, the more likely we are to stick with them and the more successful we will be.

The first physical coping method we will look at is being physical. Do not worry. I am not going to tell you to go to a gym, an activity that causes anxiety in some, or run in sandals like the lady in the picture above. Both of those would be helpful, but there are so many other options. One of the main symptoms of anxiety is feeling tired. Believe it or not, this will only be made worse by not moving. Newton’s first law of motion says that an object at rest tends to stay at rest. That is as true of human beings as it is of planets in the universe. The important thing is to just move. Find a physical exercise you enjoy. It could be basketball, swimming, hiking, roller skating, dancing or just going for a stroll in the park.

Why is exercise important? Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. Not only does it increase energy and provide a boost to your immune system, two things that can suffer with anxiety, but it also releases endorphins. Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter which is a fancy term for a chemical messenger of the brain. What message does this neurochemical transmit? When endorphins bind to receptors of the central nervous system, a pleasure hormone called dopamine is released. As you might guess a pleasure hormone helps relieve pain and manage stress making you feel good. In addition the chemical serotonin is released when you exercise. Serotonin helps regulate mood, body temperature and appetite. These three areas are also affected greatly by anxiety. There are even more beneficial chemicals released during exercise. As you can see, exercise can help you feel better from the inside and you don’t even have to think about it, you just have to move.

Another physical action many people do not consider is their diet. High processed foods such as chips, snack cakes and fast food can increase anxiety. A diet rich in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other such items can not only increase your good health and immune system, they can actually decrease your level of anxiety. A healthy diet is something we can all benefit from. It will not only help our waistline, it will help our bottom line when it comes to reducing anxiety. Start by adding additional healthy foods to your diet. Swap out a bottle of water for your usual soda. Enjoy a nice healthy protein bowl instead of a burger at lunch. If you try to transform your diet all at once that can cause additional anxiety. Meal prep is another great way to take a lot of the stress out of healthy eating. On what is your slowest day of the week try putting together a few healthy dishes to make cooking and eating them a breeze.

These are but two physical actions you can begin to take today to help cope and treat your anxiety. As with any major health change, make sure to consult the appropriate professional. Physical actions are a great way to begin to reduce anxiety because they do not put additional stress on your already taxed mind. Here area few more you may consider. Quit drinking alcohol. It may seem to relax you, but from a physical standpoint can stress your body even further. Ditch the caffeine. When we are feeling a little tired because of how anxious we are feeling, it may be tempting to reach for a coffee or energy drink. That can leave you feeling jittery and increase the level of stress in the system. Practice deep breathing. Another action that can benefit anyone. By paying attention to your breathing you refocus the mind off of the anxiety and focused solely on the breathing. Plus, deep breathing has a host of other benefits as well. I encourage you to try some, if not all, of these actions to find which ones work for you. Do not stop there. A simple Google search of ‘physical treatments for anxiety’ can open up a lot of other options for you.

MAYBE I CAN HELP

Today we are going to discuss something that touches the lives of everyone – anxiety. In these crazy days of political bickering, health worries due to the pandemic as, well as financial and job worries, it would seem you fit into one of two groups. You have some degree of anxiety or you know someone who does. It is not just the 3 big factors we mentioned either. Each one of us has a whole host of small worries and concerns that we become anxious about. Children and other family members, bosses and coworkers plus a million other issues that can creep up. Maybe even just reading that sentence caused a feeling of anxiousness in you. Trust me when I tell you the one thing you can be certain of is that you are not alone in feeling this way. In the United States alone, 40 million adults suffer from some form of anxiety. That is roughly 18% of the population. That is the bad news. The good news is that anxiety disorders are highly treatable. Sadly, only about 37% of those affected receive treatment.

I am certainly not a doctor or psychologist. I recommend having an honest and open conversation with, at the very least, your general physician. As a certified life coach with over 2 decades of self-improvement experience, I am confident I can offer some tips that will help. As with any challenge in life, I recommend a multi-faceted approach to treatment. In the next few posts we are going to look at several of these starting today. The first thing is to recognize that having anxiety is not something to be embarrassed about. As we discussed you are in some very good company. With all that we experience, it is completely natural to reach a state where we are totally overwhelmed. The next thing that is important to know is that anxiety is treatable. With a proper plan, you can begin to regain control of your life.

Where did it come from?

One of the first steps in treating anxiety is understanding the source of that anxiety. It may be a single source, but oftentimes it comes from several different sources. Looking at the pictures above we can see several of them. Some come from genetic and family backgrounds. Some are organic in nature, meaning it can involve chemicals in the brain. Even these are treatable with proper medical care. A portion of anxiety can be onset by a tragic or very emotional life event. PTSD is a very serious and complex issue. It may involve several different methods of treatment, but can certainly be treated. In today’s world, there is also a good deal of social anxiety. This can come in the form of things like cyberbullying. It can also be an over exposure to negative and fear driven social media. Speaking of social media, we can even feel a good deal of anxiety viewing our friends social media pages. What people post on social media tends to be their best lives. We see the end result, but not very often the struggle that goes into it. That can leave us feeling like we are failing or falling behind. You see the couple that is always posting loving photos while you sit eating fast food for one.

Which brings us to our first major question, “How do I discover the source of my anxiety?” There are several paths to explore discovering your source of anxiety and you will have to discover what will work for you. I am going to look at 4 to get you started. Do not feel limited by these, but at least explore them. The first is the obvious one, talk to a trained medical professional. This can be a trip to your regular doctor who may have some answers or be able to steer you in the right direction. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your doctor or may be looking for something more specific or confidential, I suggest taking advantage of your workplace’s Employee Assistance Program or EAP as they are often known as. Most large companies have one. If you are not sure if that is something your workplace offers, check with your boss or human resources department.

Perhaps seeing someone in person is a little too uncomfortable for you. There are 2 other methods we are going to look at. There are doctors and professionals available in a virtual setting. You could speak to someone over the phone or even have an online session. With all that is happening in the world these resources are expanding at a tremendous rate. A simple Google search will offer you many options to get you started. Many are available for little or no cost to you.

If you do not feel comfortable sharing yet, there is one therapist that I use and recommend to everyone – a journal. It is private, it is extremely low-cost and can be a valuable tool in self-discovery and treatment. Often recording our feelings can result in a great deal of clarity. When we take the emotions and anxiety we are experiencing in our heads and put it on paper it can diffuse a lot of the emotion or offer us a clearer picture of what we are feeling. I relate it to taking a step back or taking a moment to breath. This makes a journal not only a great tool for discovering the source of anxiety, but can do a great deal to treat it as well. Journaling has some added bonuses too. Should you discover you may want to speak with someone in the future, having a record of your thoughts for the last few days/weeks/months can help them better understand and assist you. Not sure how to get started? It can be as simple as sitting down and beginning to write down how you are feeling and what comes to mind. Some moments, even getting started can be difficult. Do not worry, there are plenty of sites that offer free prompts to get you started such as the ones pictured above from our friends at journalBuddies.com.

Discovering the source of our anxiety can be a very liberating and helpful first step. I encourage everyone to take that step. Even those of us who feel we have a good handle on our anxiety can benefit from developing a relationship with someone, even if that is a journal, for when life overwhelms us. Discovering the source of our anxiety is just a first step. Next post we will begin to look at the three different methods for treating anxiety and which one may be right for you.

EXTEND POSITIVE EXPERIENCES

One of the aspects of improving myself I am still working on is raising the rent in my head. Let me explain. When something happens that affects me negatively it tends to pop back into my head over and over. Does this happen to you? Hours later, the thought seems to pop into your head out of nowhere! You will be seemingly mentally occupied doing something else when a question like, “Why on earth did he say that?” or worse an emotionally charged thought like, “That makes me so mad she did that!” shows up. This happens in my mind more often than I care to admit. The language tends to be a little more colorful, but the basic thoughts are the same.

It frustrates me because it will only serve to amplify and intensify the negative emotions. In other words, not only have I allowed my emotions to be affected in a bad way by this person in the first place, now I am the one allowing this situation to affect me again and again! This person is not continuing to hurt or upset me, I am doing it to myself with my thoughts. How stupid is that? Like I mentioned at the start of this blog, it is something I am working on with myself.

To amplify the frustration I was already feeling, another thought came into my head. How come the same thing doesn’t happen with positive experiences? I thought about what I do to keep this negative experiences hanging around and decided to do the same thing with the positive ones. In the negative example I had unconsciously used negative self talk to relive and feel that emotion again and again. Why this did not seem to happen with good thoughts with equal frequency and intensity was beyond me. What I did decide was to pursue it consciously.

One of the best ways to keep a positive experience alive in our thoughts and in our conversation, both in and outside of our head, is to express gratitude for that experience. This is a great option for many reasons. Let us take a look at a few. First, it allows the other party to feel appreciated. When someone feels that you genuinely feel appreciative for something they did for you, they are more likely to do more nice things for you. That would be the second benefit. The third benefit is the improvement in the quality of your inner dialogue. When your self-talk improves, so does your emotions. Thinking about why that person made us feel angry has us feeling….well…angry. That certainly sucks. If, however, we focus how nice someone was to do something for us we feel grateful. We can also feel such feelings as loved, appreciated, valued and many other positive emotions. All this good emotion brings us two other benefits. One, a positive effect on our health. Being in a positive emotional state helps our immune system, allows us to heal quicker and a host of other positive benefits. By doing so it helps eliminate many of the health ramifications of negative thinking. The raised blood pressure of anger, the upset stomach of worry and the suppressed immune function of depression. Here is one of the best benefits of being grateful – it gives you less time to think and feel all of those terrible thoughts.

Our minds can only focus on one thought at a time. Why not make it a good one? If we allow ourselves to get worked up by negative circumstances, we owe it to ourselves to put just as much effort into getting worked up and excited over positive experiences. For every minute we are happy, we lose 60 seconds of unhappiness. The longer we can express our gratitude for all of the good things happening in our life, the better our life will be.