Category Archives: Stress

healthy relationships after chaos

Having healthy relationships after growing up in chaos

When you are a child raised in an emotionally chaotic environment you learn how to survive in that situation. I am talking about children who are raised in untrustworthy situations where they have become accustomed to the fact that even when things don’t feel right nothing they say or do is going to make things better. 

In many cases, these children have learned that expressing discourse of any kind is a bad thing. They learn to shut their feelings down and ignore the bad they might be feeling inside. This is because as children we know that we need our parents or other caregivers to survive. They give us what we need, so we have to keep things as livable as possible. 

Stuck in Old Patterns

Now, this sort of behavior might work for a child but as an adult keeping your feelings buried and not listening to them, leaves us stuck. As an adult you can’t keep silent, it doesn’t allow us to grow or develop any real intimacy with others. It also doesn’t keep us safe as it did as children. 

By not acting on our own self-protective instincts we end up in harm’s way, consumed by fear, obsessively thinking about what we dislike about our world, and carrying overwhelming feelings of resentment. We become mad at ourselves for not being able to change our situation. 

Rediscover Healthy Relationships

When you have spent your whole life ignoring your nervous system, how do you then recover and allow yourself to develop healthy relationships? 

The first step to any change is to recognize what is happening inside of you. How are you feeling when? What causes you to react in a certain way? Then confront those feelings. Instead of pushing them down, react. Stand up for yourself. Speak your thoughts. Remind yourself that this behavior no longer takes care of you, and allow yourself compassion and gratitude for the fact that you once did exactly what you needed to survive. 

Let Go of Toxic People

Then, ask yourself what you need to know and hear from others in your life. If those people can’t provide what you need, then understand it is ok to let them go. You don’t need to hold on to another out of fear. Find the courage inside of you to speak your truth and to acknowledge what you need. You may not have gotten what you needed as a child, but you don’t have to live like that anymore. The time is NOW to take care of you. 

You can make changes for the better. The power is within you. Seeking help from a licensed professional can help you to identify these feelings within and confront them head-on. A mental health professional can guide you and help to give you the tools to make positive changes. 

woman insomnia

Why Do Women Have More Sleepless Nights?

There is no question that women generally get less sleep than men. They are raising young children and have significant hormone fluctuations making it harder to catch those necessary zzzz’s. In fact, the Society for Women’s Health Research found that women are 1.4 times more likely to report insomnia than men. 

But, research shows there is more to it than that. A study published by the Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that women have a higher genetic risk of developing insomnia than men. 

Part of the increased risk of insomnia is also attributed to women being more prone to mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Many of the same brain chemicals that are disrupted in someone with a mood disorder are also involved in regulating sleep. 

And, what about time? There is just not enough time in the day to do everything. In addition to being the primary caregivers of their children, women are also the primary caregivers of their elderly parents. Coupled with the desire to hold careers outside of the home, women are forced to decrease their sleep time to complete all their responsibilities.

It is exhausting.

If you are suffering from insomnia, what can you do? 

Therapy can help.

Talking to a licensed professional counselor can help to align your priorities and figure out an appropriate schedule. Therapy can also help teach healthy coping skills to combat symptoms of mood disorders so you aren’t staying up all night worrying.

If you experience chronic insomnia, three or more nights a week, then you should consider seeking the help of your health care provider or sleep medicine specialist. There are solutions to help curb the frequency of sleepless nights. 

Sleep is important to our overall health, and especially our mental wellbeing. When we don’t get enough restful hours we are more easily agitated, anxious, short-tempered, emotional, and it is hard to think clearly and focus. So many women put sleep to the side, they don’t feel like they have the time to get the hours in, but it is so important. 

 

abandonment article

Feeling abandoned can be painful

When we think of painful life experiences many times we jump right to trauma, but abandonment can be just as raw and painful as physical or emotional trauma.

Abandonment, such as a parent or grandparent who suddenly leaves a child, can stay with a person through their whole life. It can be easily triggered by other situations, such as a significant other who doesn’t call one day or forgets to say goodbye before they leave for work. When it is triggered it often floods the person with fear, panic, and intense shame — why am I not worthy of someone sticking around? What is wrong with me?

Raw Pain

That pain can be just as raw as it was on the first day of abandonment. That intense fear of being abandoned again can develop into harmful coping strategies that actually increase the risk of being rejected. This could include being clingy to a significant other, getting upset at missed phone calls or missed connection, severe jealousy, or complete isolation from others, to name a few. It can be a never-ending spiral of events.

Deserves Attention

If you or someone you love has experienced some type of abandonment it is important that he/she/they recognize that experience deserves some attention. It can seem easiest and safest to push that experience deep within and to not share it with anyone, but it will only compound and lead to more abandonment down the road. Seeking help from a licensed mental health professional can help to confront those feelings and develop healthy coping strategies, leading to healthy relationships.

stress low

One thing you can do to keep stress low

Stress is part of our everyday lives. It comes and goes based on the days’ events resulting in the release of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies.  

Cortisol is our brain’s natural response to both minor moments of stress—also called good stress or eustress, which can be beneficial for our productivity, such as starting a new job or finishing a project and doing it well; and major stress —known as distress — such as finding out you are late on bills, getting in a vehicle fender bender, or suffering a traumatic event. 

Fight-or-Flight

This hormone is released by our bodies’ adrenal glands as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism. As it states in the definition, this hormone puts your body in a state of mobilization. It is preparing you to get active and ready for action, so you can fight off whatever is stressing you. You know, just like in the caveman days when there was a predator going after a food source. 

But, these days we aren’t as active. We are getting hit left and right with more and more stressors compounding in our bodies and our cortisol levels are off the charts. All this cortisol not only leads to health problems like weight gain, high blood pressure, lower immune function, loss of learning and memory, increases in depression, anxiety, and more, but it also makes it hard for our body to find and accept alternatives to situations. It clouds our reality. 

Keeping Stress Low

So what is one thing you can do to keep stress levels low? 

Take that feeling of flight seriously. Get active. Get out there. And reduce your cortisol levels.

Regular physical activity can help to lower cortisol levels and allow your brain some clarity. Regular activity can increase your self-confidence and resilience to life’s everyday ups and downs. Coupled with interaction with friends and meditation and mindfulness practices you can lighten the load in your brain and feel lighter, less stressed, and more at peace with your life. 

burnout

The modern health concern: Burnout

And, what we should learn from it.

Burnout in the workplace is so much more than something we say when we feel like we need a break. It is a legitimate health concern, and it is so common that the World Health Organization has officially classified it as an “occupational phenomenon” in its International Classification of Diseases.

WHO classifies Burnout as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Characteristics include: (1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; (2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism; and (3) reduced professional efficacy. 

After all these years of increased workloads, less taken vacation time, and longer hours spent in the office, it is no wonder this health concern is becoming legitimized. It raises (and answers) the long asked question: Are we working too much?

What happened to balance? To slowing down? Why are we working so much? It is eye-opening. The reasons we work are to live. Yes, we want success and feelings of accomplishment, and to keep climbing the socioeconomic ladder.  But, what about the other things that make us, US — time with family/friends, travel, exercise, weekend hobbies, or even just watching movies or tv sitcoms. It is not that these things aren’t happening, it is just that they are taking less priority than they used to. 

Being successful in our jobs is great and all, and money is what we need to do many of the things we enjoy, but our mental health also needs to take priority. We need to be taking more breaks, more time off from work. We need to take the occasional moment in life to do nothing, to recharge, to refuel, to remember just why we do what we do. 

Rather than ignoring those feelings of dread we have for the day, the utter exhaustion we are faced with the moment we return home from the office, and the lack of desire to focus on our jobs, take a break. Take the time to focus on your mental health — whatever that may look like. Maybe it is seeking help from a licensed professional to help you determine what does matter to you in your life. Maybe it is setting limits on your time, not bringing work home from the office, not checking emails at 5 p.m., not working on weekends, etc. 

Let’s take this official classification as a wakeup call. Burnout is real and it is a threat to our health and our overall wellbeing. 

anxiety anger

Anxiety Can Make You Angry

It happens to those of us with anxiety all the time. The little things that are part of our everyday environment set us over the edge. That feeling of not being able to see straight, or “seeing red” as it is sometimes referred to, can be triggered by the most innocent of things. A compounding of the day’s responsibilities, a slight unraveling of the day’s schedule, the inability to get something done, an interruption at a busy time, it can be like the flip of a switch. 

Anxiety can make you angry. 

The other day a friend shared a personal story with me, and with her permission allowed me to share it as an example of this very thing. This friend, a mother of two young children, had woken up at 5 a.m. (as she does every day) to complete her mounting to-do list. She wanted to get in her workout, fold the laundry, shower, wash the dishes, send a couple of emails, get the kids fed, etc. all before getting the kids off to baseball practice. The list was set. It seemed manageable. All was well. That is until the dog ate the kids’ breakfast, the mom ran out of shampoo, the kids got into an argument, the dishwasher was full, and all of a sudden the mom was running out of time. Those feelings of being overwhelmed crept up on her, then her child asked her if they could go to the park after baseball…and she lost it. 

It seems so simple. So innocent. Yet those moments of anger are a frequent part of living with someone with anxiety. It is not that the mom wanted to be angry with her child for asking about going to the park, it is just that it felt like one more thing added to a mounting to-do list. Could that laundry wait? Those dishes wait? Yes. But, with anxiety, it can be hard to think in those logical terms (even for the most logical of people). It is not that we want to be an angry person. We want to be a place of solitude for those we love. We want to be a safe landing zone, not something to be feared. Anxiety makes that difficult. 

After that moment went down, her kids looked at her in fear and she felt awful. She was full of guilt, overcome with emotion and started on her usual string of apologies. She didn’t mean to lash out, yes she would take them to the park. And, her kids, used to the drill, gave her grace. They forgave. They hugged her. They told her they loved her. She asked if they were ok. 

This is one of the ugly sides of anxiety. It is hard. Acknowledging these issues, getting help from a licensed professional, learning coping mechanisms, stepping away from the situation, all of these are positive steps in the right direction. Nobody wants to be an angry person. We all want to be calm and level-headed. If you are an anxiety sufferer, allow yourself some grace. Try to say “yes” more often. Give yourself breaks. Apologize to those you love. Talk to them, explain to them why you may have reacted the way you did. Teach them the beauty of forgiveness.

Relating to our previous post on how managing your anxiety, especially as a parent, is important so that you don’t pass it on to your children, taking the difficult step to acknowledge your anger as a symptom of your anxiety is also crucial.

Motherhood and Alcoholism: When is it a problem?

Alcohol has widely become “part” of motherhood as odd as that may seem. Our culture is normalizing this practice and minimizing its potential impact on moms and their families. There are social media groups and websites like “mommy needs vodka,” and “moms who need wine.”

As a mom myself it has become commonplace to hear “when is it too early to start drinking?” or “wine time.” There are many moms that turn to alcohol at the end of the day, or even the middle if it’s a “special occasion” (like Tommy using the potty for the first time). We use alcohol to celebrate the small victories, to numb our stressors, and to dispel boredom. Moms feel like they deserve that glass of wine at the end of the day, they should be allowed to do something for themselves, and while all of that is true — when does the drinking become a problem? 

This past weekend was Mother’s Day and while it is a time to honor moms and all that they do, it is also a time to recognize the need to care for our moms. Moms need to be well. They need to be healthy and happy to take care of their families and themselves. 

While there are many factors that can impact whether a person is a problem drinker — everything from past traumas to genetics to things become habitual, despite their health repercussions. As a society that is putting alcohol in the face of moms everywhere, maybe we should start to reassess. Do moms really “need” alcohol? No, they don’t. Do they deserve to treat themselves? Yes, of course, they do. But, everything needs to be done in moderation. 

Drinking becomes a problem when it is a core thought. If you are constantly watching the clock waiting for that magical time when it is socially accessible to pour that first glass of wine and then next thing you know the whole bottle is gone. We tend to laugh about it. “Oops, I finished the whole bottle.. oh well.” But, we need to be careful. We need to look for other ways to care for ourselves. 

Rather than making alcohol your nightly ritual, try meditation, yoga, a special TV show, talk with your spouse, a weekly night out with friends, something other than the bottle. Drinking feels like a special dessert, a treat. It feels harmless and normal. But it can easily get out of control. That glass can turn into a bottle, which can turn into a bottle a night and next thing you know you are feeling crappy all the time, you are having trouble caring for your kids, you are overrun with guilt, you are hiding it from your spouse, it can easily escalate. 

Being a mom is hard work, don’t get me wrong, and while alcohol can make it feel a little better for a moment it can easily lead to more problems. My advice to you is to reign it in, seek help from a licensed professional, and work to develop healthier coping mechanisms. You don’t need to feel guilty, or alone, in this battle. We are here. We can go forward together for a healthier you. 

How do you cope with motherhood?

Ask Mabel: Is it possible to physically not be able to move because of stress?

Hi Mabel,

My eldest child continues to have these episodes where she falls over and physically can’t move. I have taken her to a neurologist who has several thoughts on why this might be happening, one of which is dissociation. The neurologist said it is very real physically but could be brought on by stress. Is this possible? Does anyone have post-traumatic stress disorder or dissociate by falling over and not being able to move? 

Signed, Mary from Texas

Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Mabel: Hi Mary, I am so sorry to hear you are going through this with your daughter. To answer your question, yes. People can have dissociation show up in a variety of responses. Think of fight, flight, or freeze. The fighting response is to get angry and act defensively; the flight response is to black out, experience memory loss, have no recall of events; and the freeze response is when you can’t move, you are stuck quite literally both mentally and physically. 

I understand how this can be confusing but your mental state can have a huge impact on your physical well-being. If something is going on mentally that is just too big to take on your body may display a physical response as an act of protection for your brain. In the case of your daughter, she may be unable to move because it is her brain’s way of shutting down to protect her from stress. 

Consider getting her some help from a licensed mental health professional who can help figure out what some of the triggers may be and teach her healthy coping mechanisms. 

Slow down to do more

It doesn’t make sense when you hear it. How could slowing down actually allow you to do more? 

Our lives are so busy these days. I am sure you say it all the time, “I just don’t have time for that.” But, have you ever stopped to really think about your life and how you are spending your time. It is so easy to get caught up in to-do lists, goals, work demands, that we forget about why we are really doing all these things. Our lives are literally passing us by because we are so over consumed with what “needs” to get done. We are overstressed, overworked, and overwhelmed. 

Practice Mindfulness

Slowing down, actually taking a moment to stop and look around us, to be present in the moment, to embrace the act of mindfulness can actually allow us to do more. Taking time to stop and smell the roses, as the saying goes, can help us be more productive and happier in the long-run. 

It is so easy to get burnt out when we are going full speed ahead all the time. We all need rest days. We need days with the family. We need time to enjoy the lives we have built for ourselves and to appreciate all the true beauty around us. 

It is ok to turn the phone off. Put it in a drawer or a cabinet for a few hours a day and be present in your life. The world will not end, I promise. Life is short and there are so many moments we can not get back. Start today with a few minutes of disconnecting. 

The next time you find yourself rushing to get from one place to another, ask yourself “is it really that bad if I am a few minutes late?” In most cases, the answer is “no.” Rather than losing your temper on your children for not putting their shoes on fast enough, or getting distracted by a flower they saw in the grass, slow.down. Turn that rushed moment in a positive memory. 

Source: https://hbr.org/2009/08/to-get-more-done-slow-down.html

You can boost your willpower, here is how:

Just like the muscles in our legs and arms, our brains get tired too. When we spend all day making decision after decision — the willpower part of our brains gets spent. Without even potentially realizing it, you begin to make poor—or even completely avoid—decisions. It is called decision fatigue and scientists are just beginning to learn more about its potentially detrimental impact. 

Whether it be shopping, working, dieting, it is easier for us to make smart, educated, well-thought decisions in the morning before we have depleted so much of our energy. It is why it is easier to eat healthier breakfasts than dinners, and why we often reach for that piece of candy at the end of the day. Our brains are exhausted and our willpower is depleted. 

Think about building a home, or picking out clothes at the store, you are making decision after decision — what hardware to put where, what lighting fixture, where should the outlets go, do I want the purple shirt or the red shirt, is this dress too big, should I spend this much money, etc. Chances are at the end you feel like throwing in the towel. Or you say “ah screw it, I will just go with this one.” This is decision fatigue. The list can go on and on. But, by recognizing that decision fatigue exists and acknowledging its potentially damaging impact, you can make changes to your life to increase your willpower. 

Reduce decison fatigue

Here are some ways to get started reducing decision fatigue and boosting willpower:

1.) Plan reoccurring decisions ahead of time: Obviously you can’t plan every decision before it happens. That is just life. But many of the decisions that are draining our willpower are the ones we make over and over again. Things like what you are going to wear to work, what you are going to eat for lunch/breakfast/dinner, when you are going to hit up the gym, etc. This stuff you can plan before you go to bed at night so the next day you have willpower for the big stuff. 

2.) Whatever is most important in your day, do it first: Maybe it is exercising, getting a project done, getting the laundry folded, helping your child with a project, whatever it is wake up early and get it done. You are the freshest version of yourself when you wake up. Get up, get to it and start your day off on the right foot, it may even help the rest of the day to unfold smoother.

3.) Take care of you: It is hard to have willpower if you feel drained, unhealthy, unfit, bad about yourself, etc. Put time in your day to focus on yourself and make sure you are getting the proper fuel for your day.

4.) Make commitments, instead of decisions: Rather than getting down on yourself by constantly telling yourself you “want to lose weight,” “want to change jobs,” “want to start working out,” start doing it. You will have fewer decisions to make if you just rip the bandaid off and commit. 

5.) Fuel first: If a decision is coming at the end of the day, or maybe a big meeting at work, then take a break, refresh and eat something first. You will be more on top of your game if you can boost some of that brain fuel. 

6.) Keep it simple: Get rid of the things in your life that you don’t need. Don’t waste your energy on things that don’t contribute to your wellbeing, that don’t provide joy. You don’t need to keep doing unnecessary tasks that are draining your energy. 

Your willpower is not always going to be at a steady level. That is impossible. But the first step to making changes is recognizing where the problems are and working to rectify them. It’s ok to put off a decision for a day rather than being impulsive. You can decide to get some rest first, just don’t avoid it completely. 

Sources: 

New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html

https://jamesclear.com/willpower-decision-fatigue