Feeling anxious or worried is something everyone experiences and feels. It is absolutely okay to feel anxious. Most of us feel symptoms of anxiety when we are about to take a test, interview for our dream job or if we have to perform in some way in front of others. Feeling anxiety is not always negative as everyone has an optimal level of anxiety, which is needed for the ideal learning environment. Anxiety symptoms become problematic when they are impacting our daily lives in a negative way. When we find ourselves using “What If” statements when thinking about a situation, when we have trouble sleeping at night because we cannot turn off our mind or when we feel keyed up or stressed out. During these times, we may need to utilize coping strategies to reduce these excessive anxious symptoms and feelings.
Here are 5 ways to reduce anxiety symptoms:
1. Journal: some people find it useful to write down their worries and concerns. You do not have to write in paragraph form or even sentences. You can simply write a list of your concerns/worries. It also helps to set aside some time to worry, think of it as a time out for worrying. The idea is, if you have a set time to worry, you can write down your concerns and worry about them at a scheduled time and not throughout the day and at night while trying to work and/or fall asleep.
2. Breathing: when some people feel anxiety, their heart rate increases and other people hold their breath. When you realize you are feeling anxiety/stress symptoms such as What If thinking, excessive worry or a change in your breathing, you can utilize deep relaxed diaphragm breathing, which can assist with putting your body into a more relaxed state. Sometimes doing deep breathing for a count of 30 can make a difference. Trying yoga and/or meditation can help with learning how to regulate your breathing and also assists in reducing anxiety and stress symptoms.
3. Exercise: not only is exercise good for your body, it is also great for your mind. Exercising such as running, swimming or yoga assists with reducing anxiety and stress. In addition, regular exercise increases mood, overall wellbeing and assists with sleep. If you are having trouble with beginning an exercise program, find something you love to do such as tennis, biking, whatever it is, find an exercise buddy and start. If you are having trouble finding time to exercise, schedule it. Start by walking once or twice per week, to get your body moving. Please speak with your physician before starting an exercise program.
4. Caffeine: decreasing your caffeine intake can help reduce anxiety. Caffeine can increase anxiety symptoms and feelings of stress. It can also interfere with your sleep. If you are consuming caffeine and find you are experiencing anxiety symptoms, notice the next time you have a caffeinated beverage if you feel calmer or more keyed up and stressed out. Try decreasing the amount of caffeine you consume. You can try decaffeinated products or having less caffeine. In addition, decreasing and/or eliminating caffeine from your diet will also assist with sleep issues such as feeling exhausted and alert at the same time as well as difficulty with falling asleep.
5. Self-care: increasing self-care, things that you do, just for you, will help reduce symptoms of anxiety. When we are anxious and stressed, the first thing we usually cut out are the things we do to feel grounded. We remove these from our routine due to lack of time, a sick loved one or a big meeting, etc. When these things are happening and our anxiety is increasing, this is when we need to do self-care and take care of ourselves the most. If you are not taking care of yourself, you will not be able to do the best job you can when you take of others. I am not saying this is an easy thing to do, but if you take care of yourself, you will have more to give to your family, friends and career.
Anxiety is something everyone feels, what is different is the level of anxiety which is individual to each of us as well as how we cope with these anxious feelings and symptoms. To find out more information regarding symptoms of anxiety, please see my blog on the signs and symptoms of anxiety at http://www.droshea.com/blog/top-5-signs-you-may-have-anxiety. In addition, there are some great apps that you can download for your phone or iPad to help with relaxation and breathing which can decrease the symptoms of anxiety and stress.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for diagnosis, treatment or therapy. Please consult with your physician before beginning an exercise program.
Have you ever had a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day? Like Alexander in the children's book? Many people experience illness, grief and loss, I am NOT minimizing these issues, these people had a very very bad day. This is for those of us, who have bad days, when it really was not the worst day. When we arrived at the gas station only to realize we left our wallet at home. Then we walked into the office and realized our keys were in another bag and had to wait an hour for security to come and let us in the office. This then made us late for our meeting, because the flash drive with the presentation was locked in the office. The presentation was not the best, because we did not review it and make final changes, because we were sitting in the hallway waiting for the key. It is not even noon yet... and at lunch you burn the roof of your mouth on pizza. It is definitely one of those days. You can see how a day starting off this way could leave you in a stressed and frustrated space.
It is the little things that can make or break a day for most people. One extra small thing going wrong could be the difference between an ordinary day or a bad day. Why do we let this happen? Many times it is because we fall victim to the villain of Stress and his sidekick Frustration. It is usually when we start feeling frustrated that we realize, "I am stressed" and somewhere along the way, today took a turn to the dark side.
It helps if we are aware of what is going on, when it is going on. Early intervention is important and can make the difference between a good day and a bad day. The earlier we realize that we are stressed we can make a conscious effort to change our outlook on the rest of the day and implement stress reduction strategies. Be an active participant in your day, try not to let your day happen to you.
5 steps to turning around your day (if you want too):
1. Embrace your bad day: It is okay to feel your emotions, all of them, both negative and positive. It is okay to be upset, stressed and down, even if you do not know why you are feeling that way. It is also okay to stay in a down or bad mood for the day as long as you are not taking things out on others, as this behavior will hurt your relationships.
2. Me Time: Go for a walk or take a time out. Go somewhere you can relax and think. Listening to music can be soothing and can lift your mood. Try some relaxation breathing, yoga or meditation if you enjoy these things. Do something you enjoy while you are reflecting on your day.
3. Exercise: This can help increase your mood and pull you out of the doldrums. Do something you enjoy such as going to the gym, running or biking. Sometimes it helps to exercise with a friend or workout buddy.
4. Phone a friend: Call a loved one or someone in your support system. Processing your day can do wonders in turning it around. Discussing your day with someone also helps with gaining perspective on the events of the day.
5. Let the Love In: Make a mental list of all of the wonderful things in your life, everything that makes you happy and smile. Thinking about all of the goodness in your life as well as everything you are grateful for, can help you feel better. Try to focus on the positive things in your life. Hugging loved ones, children and pets (trees are optional) can help.
Many times it is the rushing around that has us forgetting important things and making errors that we usually would not make. We can still turn the day/evening around if that is what we choose to do. However, it is okay to be in a bad mood for a few hours or a day. Your self talk should say something like "tomorrow will be a better day." It also helps to realize that if burning the roof of your mouth was the worst part of your day, then you had a pretty good day!
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for therapy or treatment. Please consult with your physician before starting an exercise program.
Guilt: Emotional Enforcer
Guilt is our emotional enforcer of what is right and wrong. We all feel guilty about something we have said or done. It usually involves a mistake or error we made. We may have hurt a friend's feelings over a comment or action. Healthy guilt is a way for us to reevaluate our behaviors and apologize as well as deciding to make a behavioral change for the better.
Appropriate guilt keeps us from making the same mistake twice. If you are feeling guilty for drinking excessively and your friends and family have expressed concern about your drinking, then this is healthy guilt. Your mind is trying to tell you that you are doing something that is not congruent with your body and an analysis of the behavior as well as insight may be useful for change. Healthy guilt helps us to examine our decisions and actions and make better and more appropriate choices.
Unhealthy guilt is something we feel that is based on irrational or faulty logic. An example is when we feel guilty about setting healthy boundaries in our life or leaving an unhealthy relationship. Decisions based on unhealthy guilt can lead to poor decision making, poor problem solving and indecisiveness. Unhealthy guilt can impede our decision making and we may find ourselves making frequent decisions based on guilt. At times unhealthy guilt can be a part of feeling inadequate about a situation/self or feeling down. If your guilt does not involve correcting something that you have done, then it is probably unhealthy guilt.
The first thing we must do to manage feeling guilty is to recognize whether this is healthy guilt or unhealthy guilt. Unhealthy guilt clouds our judgment and healthy guilt assists us in making better choices. If you are feeling appropriate guilt, an apology may be the next step along with evaluating the situation and deciding how to do things differently in the future. Inappropriate guilt is not reality, just because you feel this, does not make the situation true. Accept you made an error, make amends and let it go. Harboring the guilt and negative self talk will not change the situation or improve your life. Accept responsibility, apologize and work toward moving forward.
Guilt is a normal feeling when we have done something wrong. Depression is associated with feeling guilty, however, everyone who feels guilty is not depressed. People who have depression tend to ruminate about things and find themselves with a list of items to feel guilty about, most of the time this is unhealthy guilt. The internal dialogue of someone with depressive symptoms exacerbates the guilt and depression. This is faulty thinking and furthers the depressive symptoms and negative self talk. If you suffer from depression, and you find yourself ruminating, filled with guilt and experiencing negative self talk, it may be time to seek professional support.
Disclaimer: This blog is meant for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for therapy or treatment.
Motivation in its most basic form is our desire to do something, to do anything. There are many psychological theories regarding motivation and several others that can be applied to motivation. Many of us are motivated toward things we view as positive such as planning a vacation or a celebration. Whereas, other activities, such as cleaning the bathroom or walking the dog in a snow storm are less desirable activities and that may influence our motivation, or lack of motivation.
People are motivated in different ways; two common forces that influence motivation are intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is an internal desire to do something regardless of a reward or punishment. Extrinsic motivation is a desire to do something based on an external reward or punishment. For many years, researchers believed that intrinsic motivation is the better of the two motivational forces. However, there has been conflict within the research community for many years over the idea that these two areas encompass all of the forces of motivation as well as the idea that intrinsic motivation is head and shoulders above extrinsic motivation. Ultimately people are motivated in different ways and by different things. One is not necessarily better than the other and each of us can be motivated by either force depending on the situation. The important thing is that we are motivated.
According to Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, we are motivated to satisfy our needs. All of our behavior is motivated by needs that are not met. Once we satisfy one need, we find another need to focus on, depending on our priorities. Maslow developed a five stage hierarchy of needs. When a lower need is met, we are no longer motivated for that particular need and we become motivated for a higher level need. Higher needs only become important when the lower needs are met. If you are having trouble paying rent and you are worried about being evicted, it is unlikely you are concerned with personal growth as you have basic needs that are unmet.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:
1. Physiological Needs: These are basic needs and lowest on the hierarchy. These include food, water, shelter, sleep, air, etc. the things that are needed for basic survival.
2. Safety: Safety needs encompass feeling safe personally, financially as well as health and wellness. Having a sense of stability in your life.
3. Love - Belonging: An overall feeling of belonging. Having the following relationships: work, family, intimate and friendships. Having a strong support system which includes feeling and giving love to others. Loneliness and anxiety can be attributed to this level in the hierarchy as we may not feel as though we belong or are loved.
4. Esteem: This stage involves self confidence and feeling recognized by others. Feeling that you have value and you are contributing to society, work and family.
5. Self Actualization: This is when you have realized and reached your full potential. Our behavior in this stage is driven by desire for personal growth and self fulfillment. This is the highest need and the most difficult to achieve.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is driven by a deficit in one of the first four levels. The final need of self actualization is driven by desire to reach our potential. We must master the first four levels of the hierarchy before we can achieve self actualization.
Disclaimer: This blog is meant for informational purposes only and is not meant as therapy or a replacement for treatment.
A boundary is the line in the sand that is drawn between what is and what is not acceptable behavior, toward oneself. We have physical, emotional and mental boundaries which we should be setting in all of our relationships. Boundaries help us feel safe, secure and comfortable and help us define how others treat us. The idea is to have firm but flexible boundaries, you do not feel as though you are a controlling person and you may need to adapt some of your boundaries to different situations.
At times we may feel uncomfortable in relationships and in the moment we can not figure out why we are feeling this way. A question you should ask yourself, "Is there a boundary violation happening?" For example, someone is a close talker and moves into your personal space, you may feel some discomfort. It may take a few minutes or even days to figure out why you feel this way when this person comes over to your desk to speak with you. They are breaching your boundary of personal space. Another example is if you are interacting with a friend, family member or your partner and during the interaction, you start to feel resentment toward this person. You may feel they are taking advantage of you in some way, this may be a boundary breach. The next question to ask yourself is "Did I set this boundary?" It is your responsibility to take care of yourself, and set appropriate boundaries for you. If you did set the boundary and it is being violated, ask yourself "What should I do about this breach?"
Boundary setting can feel daunting at times, especially if you generally have loose boundaries. You may feel a little anxious setting limits and may be concerned about possible conflict, retribution in the workforce, being perceived as mean or feeling guilty. You may have many other feelings regarding boundary setting, they are real feelings but should not necessarily stop your boundary setting. Here are some tips for boundary setting.
5 tips for healthy boundary setting:
1. Be direct: State your boundary in a clear and concise manner, so people know exactly where you stand and what behavior is acceptable to you.
2. Saying no: Give yourself permission to say no. Saying no helps maintain boundaries and sets clear limits for what you are and are not willing to tolerate.
3. Practice self care: Self care is important in setting and maintaining boundaries as you need to start putting yourself first, at times. This will help you set limits as boundary setting is a part of self care.
4. Self awareness: Be tuned into your feelings in situations as they are the key to determining if boundaries need to be set. This will also help with recognizing boundary breaches or if someone is trying to push your boundaries.
5. Be assertive: Be assertive and polite when setting boundaries and when maintaining your boundaries during possible breaches. Assertive is not the same as aggressive and you should not become aggressive when setting or maintaining boundaries.
Many people feel that setting boundaries is selfish and that is not true. They help us define where each of us end and the other person begins. The limits we set help us to separate out who we are, our thoughts and feelings, from others in our lives. They improve our self concept and assist us in moving toward healthier relationships.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and not meant to be a replacement for therapy or treatment.
You Are Not An Island
At times we may feel that we need to do things on our own without anyone else's help. Sometimes this can be cathartic other times it can leave you with a feeling of loneliness and a mild feeling of despair. It is very important for everyone to understand that we are not islands and it is healthy to reach out to our support system. We have support in friends, family and colleagues. It may be difficult at times to lean on this support due to issues that may have come up in your previous or current relationships. However, it is important to nurture and grow our support system.
If you look back, you may see that at different points in your life, you relied on different people for different things. Depending on our age, needs, wants and desires, we have turned to different people in our support system to assist with different areas of our lives. As we grow and age, some of us feel that relying on others is a flaw or limitation, that is NOT true! Reaching out to others in our support system is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of strength. It is just as important to be a support to others, as it is to be supported. Having a good support system is a two way street, we need to support those in our lives just as those people support us.
Here are 5 advantages of having a strong support system:
1. Sense of belonging: A sense of belonging is important throughout our lives. It starts with our family of origin and our friend group as we grow from children to adolescents to adults. We need to thrive, not just survive. With a good support system in place, we can flourish and reach our potential in whatever area we are striving.
2. Reduce Stress: A strong support system aids in stress reduction. Venting and spending time with loved ones can help reduce our anxiety, and increase our mood. Call a friend or family member to go for a walk, hike or a yoga class when you need to reduce stress. Having a strong support system can assist us in decompressing after a stressful day.
3. Improve overall health and wellbeing: A good support system helps with our overall physical health throughout our lives and especially as we age. Feeling as though we are not alone helps with physical health as well as emotional wellbeing.
4. Emotional support: An emotional support system is very important as good emotional health and wellbeing can increase overall physical health. A strong support system is pertinent to good emotional health as it gives us a community of support during the trying times.
5. Improved self-esteem: When we have people we can rely on and who can rely on us for support, we feel better about ourselves. It is always good to feel as though we have some people rooting for us on the sidelines as well as rooting for those in our support system.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a new city or location where we do not know anyone. If this is the case, try volunteering, take a class, music lessons, join a group such as a running or a book club, the idea is to find other people with similar interests as our own. As adults, many of us find like-minded people at our place of work, other times that is not the case. Look for organizations or meet up groups in an interest area and try to slowly build a support system in your new area.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a replacement for treatment or therapy.
I am a firm believer that everyone can change and grow. Although most of us find change daunting, it can lead to positive and fulfilling experiences. Personal growth helps us to continue moving forward as well as enhancing our lives. It is a lifelong process that can enrich us and help us reach our goals.
Personal growth is different for everyone as we all have different dreams, desires and wants in life. It can be in any area such as physical, emotional or relational to name a few. The process of growing can help empower us, find our voice and reach new insights into ourselves. It can challenge us to become better, stronger or more efficient at something.
Here are 5 tips to increase personal growth:
Progressing in these five areas will impact your life in a positive manner. This can lead to increased self-esteem, deepening of your relationships and propelling you toward your goals.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for therapy or treatment.
Dr. Deb is a successful Psychologist who practices in New York City. She is an Anxiety Specialist who works with adolescents and adults providing both individual and couples counseling.
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Debra O'Shea, Psy.D PLLC
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New York, NY 10122
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