Stress-management-2

5 Ways To Manage Anxiety

Many people experience periods of anxiety when they are under stress, or going through major changes, such as moving home or jobs. For the majority of us, anxiety plays out by worrying about what may or may not happen, feeling tense, irritable and reactive. It can cause you to feel tired and have difficulty relaxing and/or sleeping as you struggle to deal with challenging life experiences.

Many people find that these symptoms of anxiety are transient and disappear after a few days or weeks as worries subside, and life gets back to relative normality. The old adage applies here: ‘A problem solved is a problem halved’.

However, for others these symptoms of anxiety do not disappear after the stressful event has passed. They may continue to feel anxious and worried, sometimes without any specific event triggering the feelings.

If these worries, fears about the future, and physical symptoms, such as fast heart rate and sweating, become severe enough to interfere with your ability to cope with daily life, you may be suffering from anxiety. For whatever level of anxiety you may suffer, it is possible to manage the symptoms. Here are some techniques that can help:

Understand the nature of anxiety

We all experience anxiety; it is a natural human state and a vital part of our lives. Anxiety helps us to identify and respond to danger in either ‘fight or flight’ mode. It can also motivate us to deal with difficult challenges.

However, there is another side to anxiety, a side which, if not addressed, can cause significant emotional distress and unmanageability. An anxiety disorder can lead to a number of health risks and it’s important to understand its nature in terms of severity, triggers and behaviour. Anxiety can be exhibited through a variety of behaviours including panic attacks, phobias and obsessional behaviours. Anxiety at this level can have a truly debilitating impact.

Gain awareness of underlying factors of anxiety

Some life experiences that are stressful or traumatic, such as family break-ups, ongoing bullying or conflict at home, school or work, abuse, or traumatic events, such as car accidents, can make people more susceptible to anxiety. These extra stress factors may be more than a person’s normal coping mechanisms can deal with comfortably, and may leave them vulnerable to experiencing anxiety.

Anxiety disorders, such as panic, phobias and obsessive behaviours, may be triggered by a range of specific external or internal stimuli. These could include traumatic memories, specific objects, particular situations, physical locations, or a persistent general worry that something bad will happen in the future.

If the anxiety is triggering to the point of a panic attack, part of the process of understanding our anxiety involves being curious about our developmental history, and also learning to regulate our physical state.

Set healthy limits for communicating and developing relationships

The lives of those with the most severe forms of anxiety can become completely dominated by their condition, and often their anxiety can impair their ability to sustain healthy personal relationships. People with anxiety may start withdrawing, they may stop attending social functions, they may become snappy, irritable and irrational, or they may worry unnecessarily that something negative is going to happen.

The first step is to start to identify our ‘reality’, in particular some of our thoughts and feelings. This can be very difficult when anxiety has been present for a while as we generally feel overwhelmed by our emotions. Identifying them can be hard. However, being able to share in our relationship that we are dealing with anxiety and having an ally you trust can be very helpful.

Learn relaxation techniques to calm your stressed nervous system

Anxiety and depression are among the most common conditions cited by those seeking treatment with complementary and alternative therapies, such as exercise, meditation, tai chi, qigong, and yoga. Several studies have demonstrated therapeutic effectiveness superior to no-activity controls and comparable with established depression and anxiety treatments.

Use distress tolerance and mindfulness skills

Mindfulness focuses on changing the relationship between the anxious person and their thoughts, rather than changing the thoughts themselves. We become a witness to our process, we become aware.

Meditation can help people break out of the ‘automatic pilot mode’ that leads to negative ways of thinking and responding. Carl Jung stated that unless we make “the unconscious, conscious, it will direct our life, and we call it fate.” With the help of therapy, we can interrupt this unconsciousness, truly becoming aware of the way our environment triggers our physiology, and thoughts and the emotional states it then triggers.

Anxiety can be debilitating condition and can impact many facets of your life. Whether it’s brought on by stressful situations or you have a genetic predisposition to anxiety, the effects of anxiety can be managed. The first step of acknowledging there may be a problem is often the darkness before the dawn.

By Steve Stokes, Program Manager at South Pacific Private, Australia’s leading mental health and addiction treatment facility offering inpatient and day programs to treat anxiety disorders, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, behavioural addictions, alcohol addiction and substance abuse. 

Why You Really Do Need To Take A Holiday

During your working year, it’s so easy to become absorbed in your career diary; planning the meetings you’ll be in and the paperwork you have to fill out, and often holidays and time off are forgotten because work commitments seem more important. Many of us are guilty of bringing work home, checking emails and systems on our laptop after our other half has slipped into slumber.

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Stop. Breathe. Relax. You need it. Employees are entitled to holidays every year, but many are not taken due to a dedication to the job and fear of what may happen while away. No one will think badly of you for loving your job and wanting to do well in your career, but not taking your annual leave and overworking yourself puts a strain on your health, your mindset and your relationships, which can counteract all the effort you’ve been putting in.

To excel in a working environment, it’s crucial to have a healthy and positive work-life balance. Striking a harmony between letting go of work and giving into holiday relaxation can often be the most difficult part, but is essential to allow yourself to recuperate and refresh.

Before we get onto the positive effects of taking a holiday, let’s sort out the negative effects of not taking a holiday, especially on your career. It has been found that not taking proper holidays actually makes you less productive and creative than your holidaying colleagues. Over working yourself also creates added stress and over-tiredness, which can affect your sleep, moods and thought processes. Living on coffee can’t sustain you forever, so take a week off and get on a plane to a fun destination.

holiday, stressed, overworking, vacation

Having mini breaks of 3-4 days are better than not having holidays at all, though it may not give your enough time to switch off. Taking longer holidays throughout the year, such as a two week break, is a better way to free yourself from work priorities, rather than just taking a long weekend. Two weeks not only allows for travel time, which equates two days of your holiday, but it gives you time to allow your mind to relax and slowly let go of career-related buzzing in your mind. It may take a couple of days to liberate yourself, to which a long weekend doesn’t allow.

Taking a holiday really does great things to your mind. It allows you to divert your mind from work to the cocktails at the Tiki Bar in front of you, your stress levels lower and it allows you to handle stress and priorities better when you do return to work. This is not only better for your heart, but also your mental health and sleeping patterns, especially if you get a few extra ZZZs while you’re away.

It also allows you time to reconnect with your partner and family, meaning better communication and interaction. You can make great memories and rediscover passions or try new things, depending on where your holiday takes you.

One positive aspect of taking a holiday, that many people overlook, is going somewhere new, experiencing a different culture and learning a different way of life. If you’ve been dreaming of a place, take that holiday and get over there to see what it’s like! Learning about a different country or state is great for your brain, and gives you excellent stories to tell your colleagues when you return.

What’s that? You’re already filling out your annual leave forms? Good for you!

Images via dareoutloud.com and prco.com

Benefits Of Foot Reflexology

Did you know that certain reflexes found in the foot can help to stabilise the entire body?

Used for centuries all over the world, foot reflexology is a popular way to de-stress and improve circulation. Whether you are suffering from a nasty headache, experiencing monthly back pain, or simply in need of a de-stressing exercise, here are a few ways foot reflexology can help you out.

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How does it work?

Most therapists focus on stimulating the solar plexus which stores all of our excess stress. Once this sacred area is relaxed, then the entire body enters a serene state which seeks to eliminate all forms for stress.

When pressure is applied onto certain areas of the foot such as the heels are lower arch, this has a significant effect on the solar plexus. You will start to notice that stress levels have decreased, and your heart rate is beating a slower, more consistent level.

Circulation

As with all massage techniques, applying a certain amount of pressure onto one area of the body can help to improve bad circulation. This will help to clear the path inside the blood stream, and will better support the proper function of healthy tissues and organs. Massaging the feet holds great health benefits since there are so many nerves linked into this central location.

Pain management

Did you know that applying more pressure to the feet can decrease the amount of pain the rest of your body can feel? A rush of endorphins are released which help to minimise pain signals to the brain, and as a result, brings about a relaxing sensation. Next time you are experiencing a bad cramp or stomach ache, try massaging the area just below the arch of your feet to relax the entire body.

Techniques

If you want to try a few of these stress relieving techniques at home, start with these simple exercises which will surely make you feel better:

Thumb walking

A popular technique which helps to a tense feeling in the entire body. Use both hands to relax the foot, and then simply rub your thumb down the inside of both feet. This should take place from the tip of the big toe, down the length of your foot until you hit the heel.

Stroke

To improve your overall circulation, stroke the bottom of your foot with each thumb. This should be a short, fluid action which firmly applies pressure on the base of your foot. Once you reach the toes, apply less pressure since the tendons around this area are more sensitive.

Tips

Before embarking on your own foot reflexology, make sure to review some of our beginners tips which will help make the process so much more effective.

  • Drink as much water as you can before and after each massage. This will help to remove any nasties from your system, and can improve circulation.
  • Use a light oil to make the massage feel better. Never massage dry feet since the exercises won’t feel as effective, and it will only make your feet feel dry! Coconut oil is a great choice since it’s inexpensive, and melts quickly between your fingers.
  • Start off slow by massaging the top and base of your feet. Don’t apply too much pressure to areas which you’re unsure about. Even just massaging your toes, heels, and arch are enough to relax your entire body.

Image via Acupressure

Does Aromatherapy Actually Work?

Aromatherapy has been used for hundreds of years as an alternative medicine which boasts relief against stress, anxiety, general aches and pains all through the use of various scents.

But how does this age-old treatment work, and how can you use it at home?

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How does aromatherapy work?

This is the question which many people find baffling: how can just one scent change the way your body feels from the inside? Sounds kind of creepy, doesn’t it?

For many of years aromatherapy has been explained to stimulate the delicate receptors in the nose, then this sends a message through to the nervous system which reaches the brain. At this point, the brain declares whether this is a good or bad scent; if it is good, it can ultimately have a relaxing effect on the entire mind and body.

What are some popular scents?

If you want to try this out for yourself at home, first read our list of some popular scents and what they’re used for in aromatherapy. This will give you a better understanding of how everything actually works:

1. Lavender

Ideal for: stress

This is probably the most popular oil used in aromatherapy, mainly because of its calming effects. Sniffing anything with lavender is scientifically proven to decrease stress levels, even if you don’t actually like the smell in the first place!

2. Patchouli

Ideal for: antidepressant

Patchouli is a naturally uplifting oil which is used for a few different conditions. One of the most popular ways to use it is for people suffering from depression. The scent helps to release pleasure hormones such as seratonin and dopamine, which relieves sad or angry feelings.

3. Tea Tree

Ideal for: colds, antibacterial

While tea tree is mostly known for its antibacterial properties, it also has a calming effect when used in aromatherapy. The uplifting scent is perfect for those suffering from a chest cold or nasty cough. Rub gently over the chest to clear out the lungs, and leave your body with a sweet scent all day long.

4. Franklincense

Ideal for: spiritual

Used for centuries in the Middle East for a emotional and spiritual connection with a higher being, it is still used today during prayers. The gentle scent is also massaged into joints to alleviate aches and pain associated with arthritis.

Is aromatherapy scientifically proven?

While most essential oils are used to decease levels of stress, anxiety, and aches in the body, not much has actually been proven otherwise. Don’t count on this type of alternative medicine to permanently decrease a high blood pressure count, increased heart rate, or even chronic disorders. They can be used for extended periods of time to help relieve these symptoms, but aren’t strong enough to actually cure any long-term conditions.

Have you ever used essential oils? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Image via Wellness Today

W8less Week 5: Get More Sleep

Leading up to the end of the W8less 40-Day Challenge, the focus is now firmly on getting enough sleep for your body. Kate Troup, founder of W8less, has answered why the amount of restful sleep you get is so important in maintaining your general health and wellbeing.

How is sleep linked to weight loss and wellbeing?

Sleep is so commonly overlooked but it’s critical for long term weight loss success. If you’re constantly tired, you will find it much harder to lose weight and stay healthy. Sleep is the time for the human brain and body to regulate and recharge itself. This is the time during which certain chemicals are released (some are only released while sleeping) and others are suppressed, working to keep the body in a state of balance or “homeostasis”. Inadequate sleep leads to chemical and hormonal imbalances which can cause a myriad of problems, including working against your efforts to lose weight.

In fact, a lack of sleep can be the cause of weight gain. German research showed that after just 4 nights of sleep deprivation, due to the effect on appetite hormones, otherwise healthy women ate 20% more food than when they slept for 8 hours and as a result gained an average of 0.4kg.

How do I know if I have sleep problems?

The occasional period of insomnia is pretty normal and should be interpreted as your body’s way of telling you that it’s stressed. But if you regularly struggle to fall asleep, wake during the night or feel like you could do with another 8 hours when you wake up in the morning, then your sleep is not good enough and you are probably in a state of constant sleep deprivation.

What effect does sleep deprivation have on you?

Poor sleep will:

  • Make you hungry
  • Less satisfied by the food that you eat
  • Much more likely to store food as fat

Why do you think sleep problems are becoming so common?

Stress and poor food choices do play role but I think believe that main cause of the effect of light on our brain’s hormonal response. Your brain has evolved to use the cue of light during the day and darkness at night to regulate your sleep – or circadian – patterns. In the same way that feeling hungry is the cue to eat something, the absence of light is the cue that it is time to sleep.

The screens of laptops, televisions, tablets and smart phones all emit a frequency of light which is blue. This is particularly disruptive to your brain because the sky also emits blue light (which is of course why we see it as blue).

At night-time, when the light is meant to have disappeared so that your body knows that it’s time to go to sleep, the blue light from screens convinces your brain that it is still in fact daytime and it should stay awake. This reduces both the quality and duration of sleep. In fact, many people suffer from something which is akin to chronic jetlag where the body’s diurnal pattern is constantly out of balance.

This effect is so significant that researchers are trialling blue light in cars to reduce driver fatigue at night time. One study found that having a bright blue light inside a car at night was as effective as taking caffeine tablets which were the equivalent of 4 espresso coffees.

How can we minimise the effect of light on our sleep?

  1. Turn off all screens at night time especially after 9pm.
  2. Dim the lights around you at night time
  3. Never check your phone or turn on lights if you wake during the night
  4. Use a non-backlit reading device
  5. Get adequate sunlight during the day

W8less Week 3: Control Stress Levels

In the third week of the W8less 40-Day Challenge, the focus has now switched to stress. Why? so many of us live with high levels and stress as though it’s normal, but Kate Troup, founder of W8less, has answered why it’s not and how it could be affecting your health and wellbeing.

What is the ‘brick’ this week?

It’s a big one this week: stress management! Stress is a normal and beneficial reaction to the world around you and you do need some to motivate and protect you. Problems arise though when stress levels become too high for too long. Over time, your stress response can become “locked” on and it becomes so chronic, you stop noticing the effects of it.

How does stress affect your weight?

Stress triggers the release of a hormone called cortisol which, over time, leads to problems with blood sugar levels and insulin response. This eventually leads to the deposition of weight around your belly. In the industry we call it a “cortisol roll”. Repeated dieting, or yo-yo dieting, is very stressful to your body and it can have a permanent effect on your cortisol levels, making it harder and harder to lose weight each time you try. This is why it’s so important to work with your body to lose weight and not force it through drastic measures. Also stress often makes you want to eat comfort foods like chocolate or crunchy, salty foods like chips, which aren’t ideal for weight control.

What can people do to reduce their stress?

I think it’s important to realise that even though you might think that you can’t reduce the stress in your life, after all there will always be bills to pay and traffic jams, you can completely change how you respond to it. This week on W8less, there’s an exercise where you write down every single thing that makes you feel stressed over a couple of days. That list is then split into two: things you can change and things that you can’t. You need to change the things that are within your power but those that aren’t, you need to change your response to. It sounds simple but it is incredibly powerful. Most people find that they are wasting a lot of energy on things which they can’t change instead of focusing on those which they can do something about.

Meditation really helps slow down your stress response which is why it’s an integral part of W8less. Starting your day as calmly as possible has a flow through effect on the rest of it.

4 Ways to Keep Calm and Stress Less this Silly Season

Beyond the wonderful traditions of ham and family time, Christmas can also be an incredibly stressful period; over-spending, visiting relatives you haven’t seen all year and sheer panic can be as common as Christmas pudding. So rather than giving yourself a beautifully wrapped freak-out this year, here are some essential tips to help you keep your cool over the silly season.

Get a list
Come Christmas, I often end up with lists of lists, and although pedantic it’s certainly helpful. Keeping a checklist of everything that needs to be done can immensely help to calm a mind chaotic with things to do. Taking note of anything along the lines of gifts, cooking, and commitments can help keep you calm and on-track.

Start early
Getting on top of what needs to be done, even before the silly season starts, helps to avoid playing catch-up later. Getting Christmas cleaning, cards and the odd gift early means there’s less of the last-minute panic that results in your sister getting gifts from a petrol station. Covering things like Secret Santa presents or stocking up on wrapping paper and sticky tape can save you from a last-minute panic. I find it easiest to have a spot designated to ribbon, wrapping paper and cards as well as a few handy boxes of chocolates so even if you’re caught short, there’s something on hand to save on stress.

Share the load
With Nigella and the Great British Bakeoff making it look so simple, it’s easy to think we can all hand-weave baskets for our freshly-baked shortbread. In reality, between work, Christmas parties and having a life it’s super unlikely that this will happen. So rather than stressing yourself out trying to be the organic version of Delia Smith, maybe just crack on with what needs to be done without the frantic ‘flourishes’ that can so often turn Christmas into a crafty nightmare.

Even better, rope in friends and family to help out. Having people pitch in with the cooking or gift buying can remove a whole lot of angst. So share the load; after all, part of Christmas is bringing people together, and if that means handballing this year’s pudding purchases – so be it.

Accept that nothing is perfect
Yes, Aunt Dora might sit in silent fury over the way Aunt Nora eats her peas or your mother-in-law might get roaring drunk and fall asleep in the gravy, but there are always things that cannot be controlled. Rather than getting wound up, recognising that things will not always run smoothly (and sometimes go completely off the rails) is part and parcel of the holiday experience. The more you let go of the anxiety to make things perfect, the more likely they’ll go smoothly. So relax, enjoy the few days off to spend with people you care about, and eat something delicious. It’s Christmas after all.

Kate H Jones is a lifestyle and pop culture writer at Clavicle Capitalism.

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