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Why Deep Breathing Helps Calm Anxiety

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

 

As someone whose friends and family know I’ve endured some heartbreaking challenges and physical and emotional difficulties, I’m often asked how I cope with anxiety. They see my eternal optimism as at odds with the turmoil I’ve gone through in life and wonder what my secret is for dealing with a magnitude of life’s ups and downs. I tell them, quite simply, that it isn’t a secret, yet the most effective technique I’ve discovered to calm anxiety is deep breathing.

How and why does deep breathing work in calming anxiety? The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that about 40 million adults in America have an anxiety disorder, making anxiety this country’s most common mental illness. If deep breathing exercises can help, surely more people should add this technique to their anxiety-busting toolkit. While my anecdotal experiences may serve as peer advice, to further validate the benefits of deep breathing as an easy-to-use anxiety intervention, I combed research for some scientific answers and offer them here.

Deep Abdominal Breathing Reduces Anxiety and Stress

According to the American Institute of Stress, 20-30 minutes of deep breathing daily is effective in reducing both anxiety and stress. It has to be breathing deeply through the abdomen to produce the best results. What happens during deep abdominal breathing is that the oxygen breathed in stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, produces a feeling of calmness and body connectedness that diverts attention from stressful, anxious thoughts and quiets what’s going on in the mind.

Researchers Find Why Deep Breathing Induces Tranquility and Calm

Research published in Science uncovered what may be a likely reason why deep breathing is so successful in bringing about a sense of calmness and tranquility. In studies with mice, Stanford University researchers discovered that a neuronal subpopulation in the animals’ primary breathing rhythm generator projects directly to a center of the brain with a key role in “generalized alertness, attention, and stress.” This subgroup of neurons belongs to a cluster of neurons in the brainstem that controls breathing initiation. When scientists removed the neuronal subgroup from the brains of the mice, it did not affect breathing, yet the mice remained in a state of calm. Their calm behaviors increased while they spent less time in agitated or aroused states. Further research, they said, should explore mapping the full range of functions and emotions controlled by the breathing center.

Deep Breathing Turns Off Body’s Response to Stress

When you’re anxious and tense, the body automatically kicks in the stress response. This is known as the “fight or flight” syndrome and is the physiological reaction that occurs from the release of chemicals cortisol and adrenaline. Initially, the stress response helped man respond to external threats to his existence, like fire, flood, marauding wild animals, or an attack by members of rival clans. While not so applicable today, the body’s stress response still throttles up when it senses danger or a threat. Being aware of the danger when it suddenly appears helps us take preventive action to save lives. Yet when stress goes on indefinitely, and the stress response is constant or chronic, it wreaks incredible havoc on the body. Not only does anxiety increase, so do many health risks, such as obesity, heart disease, and digestive problems. Deep breathing, however, turns off the body’s natural stress response, allowing heart rate and blood pressure to decrease, the tension in muscles to relax, and promotes an overall resiliency build-up to better withstand life’s stressors and anxiety.

How Does Deep Breathing Affect Stress?

In a pilot study published in Neurological Sciences, researchers said their results point to the possibility that deep breathing has the capability of inducing mood and stress improvement effectively. The study utilized both self-reports and objective parameters. They noted that deep breathing, particularly as practiced during yoga and qigong, has long been perceived as beneficial to overall well-being. Research of yoga, the oldest known technique for relaxing, has found improvements of a “remarkable” nature in blood pressure, heart rate, body composition, motor abilities, respiratory function, cardiovascular function, and more. Also, researchers found positive effects in mood states, such as anxiety and perceived stress, including deep breathing’s effect on reducing tension anxiety.

Breath Control (Slow, Deep Breathing) Can Decrease Anxiety

Research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that slow, deep breathing can decrease anxiety by promoting changes that enhance autonomic, psychological, and cerebral flexibility through many mutual interactions. These include links between central nervous system activities that are related to emotional control, parasympathetic activity, and psychological well-being. The psychological and behavioral outputs resulting from these changes produce an increase in alertness, relaxation, vigor, comfort, and pleasantness and a decrease in anxiety, depression, anger, arousal, and confusion.

In a study published in Frontiers in Physiology, researchers Donald J. Noble and Shawn Hochman investigate the effect that sensory nerves around the chest play in deep breathing’s ability to relax the chest during exhalation, thereby triggering baroreceptors (another set of sensors) in arteries. Both sets of sensors, the researchers said, feed into the brainstem, and the resulting slow brain waves produce a state of relaxed alertness. The ideal is six breaths per minute, note researchers.

What if You’re Chronically Anxious?

If you suspect that you may have an anxiety disorder and deep breathing only works sometimes to help dampen the anxiety level you feel, you may benefit from seeking treatment from a doctor or mental health professional. Symptoms of chronic anxiety include, but are not limited to, exhaustion and fatigue, constantly worrying, sleep problems, decreased or increased appetite, digestion problems, difficulty concentrating, and lack of energy. There’s no shame involved in asking for help to learn how to overcome anxiety. While medication and talk therapy may be necessary as you work through how to effectively cope with anxiety, deep breathing and other therapies will likely also be incorporated into the healing plan.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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The Extraordinary Power of Perseverance

Photo by Aleksey Kuprikov on Unsplash

 

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” – Winston Churchill

 

When someone is in recovery from substance abuse, addiction, major depression or other mental health disorder, or a medical condition resulting from surgery, an accident, or disease, they’ve got a lot of challenges to face. A hard truth to accept is that not all of those challenges will result in successful outcomes – at least, initially. But that should never dissuade a person from giving their best effort in all instances, for it is only through perseverance and diligence that dreams can be achieved.

Yet, it is also true that most people find that it’s just too easy to become disheartened when things don’t go as planned or anticipated. That is human nature. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if the individual is in recovery or not. Human beings are subject to making mistakes, having clouded judgment at times, often being overly emotional about things when making decisions, and a litany of other contributing factors.

The tendency may be to blame time and place or say that it is just bad luck when it comes to success. But that’s an excuse, a rationalization employed instead of owning up to the truth: We didn’t keep at it, or gave up too soon.

There are good reasons to get discouraged, to be sure. These include attempting a goal without being ready for it, insufficient training, lack of knowledge or experience, and fear of succeeding or failing.

However, that’s all the more ammunition to keep plugging away at plans, going step by step until there is an achievement, at least some measure of success, such as progress along the way that can serve as the reassurance of being on the right track. This serves as motivation when perhaps nothing else will. How else can we explain the success of others who, by all outward appearances, have nothing going for them and seem doomed to failure? Yet, it happens every day that individuals do achieve tremendous success, reach what appears to be lofty goals, perhaps because of or despite the disadvantaged backgrounds they come from or have overcome.

What about those of us who have nothing positive in our history to point to? What if we are convinced that we messed up everything we’ve ever attempted or that we’ve made more mistakes than wise decisions for a long time? We can blame it all on someone else, our preoccupation with making money, an obsessive focus on relationships, or one or more addictions. To the extent that we took our eye off the ball and let our lives slipped into such disarray, or that we ignored symptoms that were evident to others, there may be some valid basis to such explanation. But it is still not owning up to our responsibility for what’s happened. After all, no one forced us to drink or do drugs. No one made us the way we’ve become. We did that. Granted, we may have a biological marker that is a contributing factor, say, to alcoholism that runs back generations in the family. Yet there are thousands of individuals with such markers who do not become alcoholics, so that explanation isn’t universal.

Suffice to say that if we have a bleak history concerning success, it is time to change that. Start working today to achieve small successes. It is necessary to start somewhere. Be sure, however, to make these reasonable goals that have a realistic chance of success. And some things qualify in this area. Take, for example, the goal to treat ourselves better, to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, to eat regular and well-balanced meals, and get some type of physical exercise each day. These are not tough goals. They should be ones that we can do and be successful in the attempt.

Little accomplishments will begin to add up. Here’s how it works. When we are properly nourished, well-rested, and have increasing amounts of energy because we are getting physical exercise to jumpstart our system, there are multiple physical, emotional, and psychological benefits. There’s no reliance on substances for a jolt or to numb reality. Therefore, welcome the opportunity to live clear-headed and free of alcohol and drugs. This is the path of healing from addictions. This is also an example of taking the first steps in a personal path of recovery from any medical condition, disease, tragedy, or emotional disturbance or illness.

Be sure too to make use of the support and encouragement that’s readily available to us from our family members and loved ones. Only those who are committed to our recovery can offer the kind of unflagging support that’s so crucial to ongoing progress.

Knowing that we have allies in our corner will go a long way toward easing our mind and allaying some of the fears about tackling goals, especially difficult goals and those that require an expenditure of time. Everyone who ever started recovery began from uncertainty and fear. Not knowing the future can be truly frightening.

Know that it is possible to get through this with perseverance and determination. It may not always be easy. It probably won’t be. But it isn’t out of the question, either. Life is precious. It is also short. Isn’t it better to live with the hope and expectation of doing the best to be happy and productive and fulfilled? One of the most positive aspects of perseverance is that it is self-renewing. The more we persevere, the more we want to continue, and the clearer the goal or objective becomes. Should obstacles arise, having a strong commitment to perseverance can sometimes lead to the discovery of alternative ways to achieve desired goals or different paths to the result.

Be comforted that millions of individuals now in recovery have been down this road and have found hope, comfort, peace, happiness, and love. We can too, as long as we persevere, never give in, and never give up.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Why Good Mental Health Is Important and How to Promote It

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It might seem self-evident, yet evidently everyone doesn’t recognize the importance of good mental health. Beyond the fact that maintaining good mental health is crucial to overall well-being, finding ways to promote it is equally beneficial. Even those who have a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety, or develop one coincident with substance use disorder, can take proactive measures to achieve good mental health. What is good mental health and what helps promote it? Here are some points to consider.

Mental Health Defined

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Mental health is an integral and essential component of health.” Furthermore, the WHO constitution states, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Being blessed with good mental health is also more than not having a mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety. A mentally healthy person knows their capabilities, can cope with life’s normal stresses, work in a productive manner on a regular basis, and can contribute to the community. As a construct, good mental health is the foundation for effective functioning and well-being for both individuals and the communities where they live.

Promoting Mental Health

It takes action to promote good mental health. Promoting mental health encompasses various strategies, all with the aim of making a positive impact on mental health. These include programs and strategies to create living conditions and an environment supportive of mental health that allow people to both adopt and maintain healthier lifestyles. The range of available choices has the added benefit of increasing opportunities for everyone to experience the benefits of good mental health or improve their mental health.

Factors That Determine Mental Health

Mental health and mental health disorders are affected by multiple factors, just as is the case with illness and general health. Often these factors interact and include elements of a biological, social, and psychological nature.

Some of the clearest evidence, according to experts, is associated with various poverty indicators. Among them are low levels of education, inadequate housing, and low income. Risks to mental health for individuals and communities tend to increase as socioeconomic disadvantages increase and persist. In addition, disadvantaged individuals within communities are more vulnerable to mental health disorders. Some of this may be explained in part by other factors, such as rapid social change, risks of violence, having poor physical health, and feeling insecure and hopeless.

Good mental health is not possible without policies and an environment that respects and protects basic civil, cultural, political, and socio-economic rights. People must have the security and freedom of these rights to achieve and maintain good mental health.

Behavior and Mental Health

Certain mental, social, and behavioral health problems may interact with each other and intensify effects on a person’s behavior and well-being. Substance abuse, violence, and abuse against children and women are key examples, along with HIV/AIDS, anxiety, and depression. These problems tend to be more prevalent and difficult to cope with in conditions that include high unemployment, low income, stressful working conditions, gender discrimination, violations of human rights, unhealthy lifestyle, social exclusion, and limited education.

Cost-Effective Interventions to Promote Good Mental Health

Promoting good mental health doesn’t require million-dollar budgets. Low-cost, cost-effective interventions can raise mental health on an individual and community level. The following effective evidence-based interventions can help promote good mental health:

  • Early childhood interventions
  • School mental health promotion activities
  • Community development programs
  • Support for children
  • Improved housing policies
  • Violence prevention programs
  • Empowerment of women, including mentoring programs
  • Elder social support
  • Workplace mental health interventions
  • Programs targeted for vulnerable groups

Good Mental Health Basics for Children at Home

Promoting good mental health in children involves a number of things that parents can do in the home.

Unconditional love

All children need unconditional love from their parents. This love, and the associated acceptance and security, are the foundation for a child’s good mental health. Children need to be reassured that parental love doesn’t depend on getting good grades, doing well in sports, or how they look. Another important point to stress is that childhood mistakes and defeats are common, and should be expected and accepted. When parents show their unconditional love, and their children know this exists no matter what happens, their self-confidence will grow.

Confidence and self-esteem

Parents can nurture their child’s confidence and self-esteem by praising their efforts, either for things they attempt for the first time or those that they do well. This encourages the child to learn new things and explore the unknown. Other ways for parents to build their child’s confidence and self-esteem include providing a safe play environment, active involvement in their activities, giving assurance, and smiling.

Set realistic goals for children that match their abilities and ambition. As they get older, they’ll be able to choose more challenging goals that test their abilities. Avoid being critical or sarcastic. Instead, give children a pep talk if they fail a test or lose a game. They need reassurance, not criticism.

Be honest, yet don’t make light of parental failures or disappointments. Knowing their parents are human and sometimes make mistakes helps children to grow. Encourage them to do their best and enjoy learning. Trying new activities helps children learn teamwork, build self-esteem, and develop new skills.

Guidance and discipline

Children also need to know that some actions and behaviors and actions are inappropriate and unacceptable, whether at home, school, or elsewhere. As primary authority figures, parents need to provide their children with appropriate guidance and discipline. In the family, make sure discipline is fair and consistent, not having different rules for the child’s other siblings.

Set a good example as well, since kids won’t adhere to rules if parents break them. Also, when the child does something wrong, talk about their inappropriate behavior, but don’t blame the child. Explain the reason for the discipline and potential consequences their actions may involve. Do not nag, threaten, or bribe, since children quickly ignore those tactics and they’re ineffective as well. Try not to lose control around your child. If you do, talk about what happened and apologize. Providing parental guidance and discipline is not for controlling children, but to give them the opportunity to learn self-control.

Safe and secure surroundings

Children should feel safe and secure at home, and not be fearful there. Yet, despite parents’ and caregivers’ best intentions, children do experience fear, anxiety, become secretive or withdraw during certain circumstances and situations. It’s important to remember that fear is a real emotion for children. Trying to determine the cause of the fear and doing something to correct it is necessary. Children may show signs of fear that include aggressiveness, extreme shyness, nervousness, and changes in eating or sleeping patterns. Moving to a new neighborhood or school, or another stressful event may trigger fears, and being ill can bring on fear over going back to school.

Play opportunities with other children

Children should have opportunities to play with other children, both inside and outside the home. Playtime, in addition to being fun, helps children learn to solve problems, be creative, learn new skills, and exercise self-control. Playing tag, jumping, and running helps them become mentally and physically healthy. If there aren’t kids in the neighborhood that are age-appropriate, look into a children’s program at a recreation or park center, community center, or at school.

Encouraging, supportive teachers and caretakers

Teachers and caretakers play an instrumental role in promoting a child’s good mental health. As such, they should be actively involved in the development of the child, offering encouragement and support that’s consistent.

Resiliency and Good Mental Health

Resiliency is all about emotional balance. Yet, being mentally and emotionally healthy doesn’t mean that people never experience hard times or painful situations. Disappointments, loss, and change are part of life and cause even the healthiest individuals to feel anxious, sad, or stressed.

When a person is resilient, he or she can bounce back from adversities like losing a job or going through a relationship breakup, illness, grief, sadness, or other setbacks. They recognize the reality of the circumstance and do what they must to restore emotional balance.

People can teach themselves to become more resilient and improve their mental health. Learning to recognize emotions prevents a person from becoming trapped in negativity, or falling into a state of anxiety or depression. A good support network of family, co-workers, friends, counselors, and therapists can also help during times of need.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), resiliency is not a trait. It does, however, involve thoughts, behaviors, and actions that anyone can learn and develop. They suggest the following 10 ways to help build resilience:

  1. Accept that change is a part of living.
  2. Make connections.
  3. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems.
  4. Take decisive actions.
  5. Make progress toward goals.
  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery.
  7. Nurture a positive self-view.
  8. Maintain a hopeful outlook.
  9. Take care of yourself.
  10. Keep things in perspective.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Here’s What Loneliness Can Do To You During COVID-19

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

 

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Loneliness is never easy to endure, yet during times of mandatory social isolation and distancing, such as millions of Americans are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be particularly damaging. Among its many effects, loneliness can exacerbate and bring upon a host of mental and physical conditions.

Social Isolation and Loneliness May Increase Inflammation

A study by researchers at the University of Surrey and Brunel University London found a potential link between social isolation and loneliness and increased inflammation. Although they said the evidence they looked at suggests that social isolation and inflammation may be linked, the results were less clear for a direct link between loneliness and inflammation. Researchers said both are linked with different inflammatory markers and that more studies are necessary to further understanding of how social isolation and loneliness contribute to poorer health outcomes.

What we do know about the stay-in-place recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic is that those who live alone, or who may be infirm or sick and isolated from family members, may feel loneliness and being cut off from social contact more deeply. Many who suffer from comorbid conditions, may also experience an increase in inflammation.

Gene Expression May be Changed Through Loneliness

University of Chicago researchers found that loneliness triggers changes in gene expression, specifically leukocytes, the immune system cells that are involved in protecting the body from viruses and bacteria. Researchers found that chronically lonely people have an increased expression of genes that are involved with inflammation and a decreased expression of genes involved in antiviral response. Not only was loneliness and gene expression predictable a year or so later, but both were also apparently reciprocal, each being able in time to propagate the other.

It will be interesting to see results of studies conducted after the coronavirus pandemic abates somewhat to learn whether loneliness and gene expression are, indeed, reciprocal as well as what further associations between the two can be confirmed.

People With Dementia are at Higher Risk for Loneliness

A 2016 report from Alzheimer’s Australia found that people suffering from dementia and their caregivers are “significantly more lonely” than the general public and that their experience levels of loneliness are similar. Both those with dementia and their caregivers have smaller social circles and tend to see outsiders less frequently, although those with dementia are at even greater risk for loneliness due to diminished social contacts.

Since many individuals suffering from dementia, whether in nursing homes or being cared for by family members in their own residences, are more prone to loneliness than those who are not afflicted with the debilitating condition. Couple dementia with COVID-19 and the loneliness experienced may become overwhelming.

Loneliness Makes Managing Stress More Difficult

The stress associated with being quarantined for having or coming into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 is all too real for thousands of individuals. The stress of caring for a loved one or family member quarantined for the virus in no way diminishes personal stress being cooped up and responsible for caregiving during the homebound stay.

First-responders and healthcare professionals caring for seriously ill patients with COVID-19 is another prevalent situation today, one that causes an increase in stress levels and may precipitate a feeling of loneliness even during a time of intense workload. Finding ways to manage stress during this extraordinary and unprecedented worldwide phenomenon is much more difficult.

Besides the immediate stress, there’s also secondary traumatic stress that people experience, resulting in feelings of loneliness, guilt, exhaustion, fear, and withdrawal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s important to actively seek out ways to cope with stress during COVID-19, taking good care of yourself, realizing that everyone responds differently to stress and to allow yourself time to recover after the direct threat is over.

Sleep Quality, Fatigue, Concentration and Indecisiveness Worsen With Loneliness

Research published in Lancet on the psychological impact of quarantine reported on a study that found of hospital staff who cared for or came into contact with those with SARS, being quarantined was itself most predictive of acute stress disorder. Furthermore, that same study found that quarantined individuals were more likely to report symptoms of irritability, indecisiveness, poor concentration, fatigue and exhaustion, and insomnia consistent with the loneliness and social isolation they felt during the quarantine.

Another study mentioned in the Lancet article cited the fact that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms were reported by hospital workers three years after quarantine, lending credence to the belief that loneliness and isolation can have long-lasting mental health consequences.

Those who are most at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic include those with compromised immune systems, underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, serious heart disease, obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and liver disease. Older individuals and those confined to nursing homes or long-term care facilities are considered highly vulnerable to experiencing severe illness from coronavirus.

Loneliness Serves as a Contributing Factor in Substance Abuse

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the current COVID-19 pandemic may hit those with substance abuse “particularly hard.” In particular, those who regularly take opioids or have diagnosed opioid use disorder (OUD), or use methamphetamines, those who smoke tobacco, cannabis, or vape, can be at special risk for serious coronavirus complications to their lungs. Homelessness, being hospitalized and isolated or quarantined at home also elevate the risk of increased loneliness.

Furthermore, among the general public, even those not quarantined due to contracting the virus or caring for someone who has it, serious stress and caregiver fatigue may lead them to try coping with drugs or alcohol. An increase in impulsive behavior, engaging in risky activities as a coping mechanism to avoid painful feelings of loneliness, loss, financial devastation, and a diminished sense of hope for the future appears also increasingly tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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What We Are Learning About Ourselves From the COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

 

Some say that life will never be the same again, that we’ll forever be haunted by the tragic loss of life, untold suffering, mental anguish, diminished economic prosperity, curtailment of basic human freedoms and so much more. On the other hand, what’s unfolding as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is a reawakened sense of life’s meaning and purpose, recognition of our hidden strengths, and willingness to tap into our core goodness and generosity. We are learning a lot about ourselves, which benefits everyone.

Learning to quickly adapt

There is no doubt that what America and the rest of the world are experiencing is a reality that no one could have anticipated. Despite the fact that some in the medical community and those who’ve extensively researched viruses and past pandemics provided warnings of collective ill-preparedness for any pandemic of the magnitude of COVID-19, most people went about their lives unconcerned about potential catastrophic and widespread illness and death.

Now, however, since there is a new reality forcing a reassessment of how to live everyday life while maintaining social distancing, businesses, factories, and public and private places closed, we’re learning to quickly adapt. Long-held habits changed overnight. Commutes evaporated, replaced by the recommendation to stay in place.

Rediscovering our humanity

While there are instances of hoarding, selfishness, greed, and isolated crime, most people in America are united in a common bond: We are facing the pandemic, doing what we must to survive, and pledging to work tirelessly to find solutions to universally-experienced problems. In the process, we’re rediscovering our humanity.

Adopting technology at an accelerated rate

From online business meetings to connecting in-person and live with family members, loved ones and friends, we’re adopting technology at an accelerated rate. Social media networks, long a technological tool for connection, are even more important during a time when people are inside for weeks at a time. Mobile and online ordering for curbside pickup of staples, food, meals, and medicines is rapidly becoming the go-to way for Americans to conveniently and safely get what they need on an immediate basis. There’s a measure of confidence in adopting technology for these purposes since it means we’re not going to starve, run out of toilet paper, or much-needed medicine. Telehealth is also ramping up, as medical practitioners and patients connect via secure and HIPAA-compliant portals to ensure necessary medical and mental health needs are professionally addressed.

Discovering we are resilient

No one knows when the threat of the COVID-19 virus will subside, or if it will resurface again, perhaps seasonally, or undergo mutations that could be even more deadly. There is an unwavering focus on developing effective treatment medications and vaccines to combat coronavirus. Dealing with such uncertainty calls into question our personal and collective ability to bounce back. Yet, in the face of the crisis, we have discovered just how resilient we are. We have strengths we took for granted, and courage that we didn’t know we possessed. Recognize that resilience is a strength that can be cultivated and can then serve as a reservoir to utilize as needed.

Repurposing factories, tools and processes to meet urgent medical needs

From the automakers to plastics-makers to tobacco companies and virtually every type of business with machinery, equipment, and the processes and know-how to jumpstart an entirely new model, we’re repurposing assembly lines, retooling equipment and revamping processes to meet the country’s most urgent medical needs. These include making ventilators, N95 and surgical masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPEs) so desperately needed by front-line medical personnel, first responders, police officers, and others serving a citizenry affected with coronavirus.

Becoming more generous

Parents raising their children at home during this challenging time can impart invaluable lessons about the importance of generosity by serving as examples. Put together shelf-stable items such as canned goods, flour, and baking items, spices, condiments, packaged milk, and other staples and deliver them to the doorstep of someone who’s unable to get out and shop, or who may be ill, or is scrimping just to buy food. Americans are also showing their increasing generosity by donating money online, funding critical resources for disadvantaged individuals. In times of calamities and natural disasters, people in the United States have always stepped up to the challenge, yet the COVID-19 pandemic is proving just how generous this nation’s inhabitants can be.

Realizing life is precious

A recent story about a couple married 51 years, contracted the coronavirus and died within minutes of each other showcases how quickly life can be snuffed out. The two were in good health until the husband, aged 74, came down with a cough, developed breathing problems, had to be hospitalized, was diagnosed with COVID-19, and was intubated. His wife, aged 72, wracked by stress, became ill and her condition progressively worsened. When doctors told their son his dad didn’t have long to live, he took his mother to the hospital where she was tested, proved positive for coronavirus, and put the couple together in the same hospital room. She died within six minutes of her husband.

No matter how well you feel at the moment, follow CDC recommendations on the COVID-19 virus to take precautions and stay home, only venturing out with proper face mask, gloves, maintaining the minimum social distancing guidelines. Send one person to the store for food, instead of shopping together. The least contact with others outside the home as possible is the best practice.

While no one knows how long they’ll live, everyone can recognize how precious life is – every second of it.

Living in the moment

Now, more than ever, we’re keenly aware that this moment is what we have. This is what is real, the here and now. There’s less time spent dwelling on the past and no reason to engage in endless self-berating, constantly recycling negative and painful memories. We’re finding constructive things to do, making plans, and encouraging each other to enjoy today.

Reconnecting with family and loved ones

Granted, living in close proximity indoors takes its toll and familial arguments are unavoidable at times. Yet, even with the fact that staying inside is somewhat claustrophobic and emotions can be overwhelming in some instances, we’ve found ways to reconnect with family and loved ones – even those living in the same house. There’s more time to talk with each other at the kitchen table while doing chores in the yard and around the house, helping each other prepare meals, clean up, watch favorite shows and movies on TV. Communicating with family and loved ones honestly and lovingly at this time is more important than ever. For those suffering anxiety and depression, providing reassurance and support is crucial. Indeed, coping with anxiety now demands attention. Ensuring uninterrupted contact with that person’s therapist via phone, telehealth visits, email, instant messaging is another way to show your love and support.

Learning perspective

Things that once were annoying and stress-producing may now seem largely irrelevant. Personal peeves about a co-worker’s behavior or workplace habits are perhaps a distant memory. What siblings and family members argued about prior to COVID-19 have little bearing on what everyone is going through now. In essence, all Americans are learning perspective, as what is really important becomes abundantly clear: each other.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Why It’s Important to Your Mental Health to Deal Constructively With Self-Doubt

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

How to Start Making Plans When You’re Recovering From Depression

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

 

Finding Resilience in the Midst of Challenges

Photo from Picography

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” – David Brinkley

One thing is certain, and that is that each day presents new challenges. It isn’t the fact that challenges occur that is most important, however, but how well an individual is able to adapt and bounce back from setbacks and go on to face daily challenges. The secret is resilience, yet a little known fact is that it is possible to find and tap into a wellspring of resilience even in the midst of challenges.

Are You Up for Today’s Challenges?

A common misconception for many people is to wonder if we’re up for the challenges today brings. For some, the go-to course of action is to do anything and everything to avoid what is happening today. More specifically, to avoid what responsibilities should be attended to today. The difference between someone who acknowledges, accepts, and rises to meet the challenges and one who shirks, denies, ignores, or blatantly refuses to take action may well be their attitude.

The good news is that this is one area where proactive steps can be taken to turn a negative outlook into a more positive one, thereby improving outcomes regardless of the challenge at hand. Hence, going back to the reservoir of resilience can produce dramatic results.

How to Deal With Difficult or Unpleasant Tasks

Many people find that they steel themselves to tackle difficult or unpleasant tasks experienced on a more or less regular basis. Another common behavioral tendency is to shy away from anything unknown. Why is that? For one thing, people often feel at a loss as to how to deal with the situation, not having sufficient (in their estimation) experience or knowledge to take on the task with any degree of success. For another, they may be afraid – either that they’ll fail at it or that they’ll succeed. Success may mean yet more challenges, and they may not feel all that up to the job just now.

What If You Have Depression or Other Mental Health Disorder?

This can be especially true for anyone dealing with the difficulties inherent in coping with a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and others. Often, in addition to the uncertainty and self-doubt the disorder creates, the individual feels ill-equipped to make sound decisions. There’s also likely a fear that a previously-used coping mechanism or method may be faulty.

Even so, consider the fact that there’s probably a wealth of lessons just beneath the surface of the various daily challenges encountered, whether one is dealing with a mental illness or any other daily challenge. By failing to pay heed to these lessons or automatically rejecting them as unworkable, too difficult, indicative of failure or not worth the effort, that does a huge disservice to the individual. By way of illustration, think of the last time paying attention to a truth that’s become apparent during the course of tackling a difficult challenge made a tremendous difference in the task outcome. By tapping into that residual memory, it’s not only possible to benefit from resilience but also to jumpstart it this time. The circumstances may be different, yet our inherent knowledge source remains constant.

Finding Resilience in the Midst of Challenges

As to actually being able to find resilience in the midst of these challenges, this is a skill that can be developed and built over time and with practice. It’s possible to somehow stumble on a way to discern what’s hidden beneath or train ourselves to find the good in everything that we do, whether it is a daily task or taking on something that seems complex, demanding and out of normal expertise.

What we’ll find is that we’ve got more going for us than we realized. There are strengths that we each possess that will serve us well, but only if we give ourselves the opportunity to put them to work.

Look at challenges that arise and figure out ways that to possibly tackle them, where to start looking for the solution, how to implement it, when, and where to ask for help or marshal resources.

The stronger the foundation of resilience is, the more strength and resilience there’ll be to utilize when something unexpected threatens to derail progress in working through challenges. Indeed, every action taken makes us stronger we get stronger – as long as we constantly strive to learn something from our efforts, successful immediately or not.

How This Works in Real Life

How does this work in real life? What is an example that we can all identify with? Suppose we’ve attempted a task and find that we run into a roadblock of considerable proportion? We’ve tackled something that really goes beyond our area of experience or knowledge and believe we can’t go any further. There are, however, ways to look at this. Granted, it could be marked as a failure. On the other hand, it is also possible to acknowledge what was learned in the process. That may well be that we have the strength to take on difficult challenges and not shy away from them, or we’ve learned when we need to step aside, possibly turn over the task to someone with more experience and/or follow by their side so as to learn how to do it ourselves.

What we can take from the experience is the fact that all of this adds to our residual body of resilience, knowledge, experience, and self-confidence. While total success may not have been achieved this time out, this should not deter us from tackling challenges again. In fact, we’ll likely find that we’re more hopeful than ever, given the fact that we’ve learned how to make use of our innate resilience to identify and pursue innovative and workable solutions to everyday challenges.

Suppose others are critical of our efforts? Those are neither true friends nor supporters of our goals. Keep attuned to giving challenges complete effort and focus, doing the best possible in the moment. What comes out of this is something profound in return, and that is a belief in our ability to succeed in the end. Remember, as humans, we learn when we act. The more we learn, the more we grow. The more we grow, the stronger our resilience reservoir becomes.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Why It’s Important to Your Mental Health to Deal Constructively With Self-Doubt

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

How to Start Making Plans When You’re Recovering From Depression

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

 

How To Stop Fear From Holding You Back During Troubling Times

Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

 

Living life in fear is no way to live, no matter what is going on in the world. Without a doubt, these are troubling times, filled with uncertainty, sadness, perhaps physical pain as well. Much of what has happened is out of anyone’s control. The new reality of social distancing, working from home, constant hand washing and finding innovative ways to stretch groceries, paper products and cleaning supplies is enough to produce anxiety in any sane individual. Yet, coming to grips with fear is essential. Instead of struggling with this powerful emotion and allowing it to grow, do something to stop it. Here’s how.

What Is Really Bothering You?

While this may be the last thing on a to-do list, it’s important to sit down and identify what is really bothering you now. Just answering “COVID-19” is too broad, yet putting this on paper is a good starting point.

Before diving in, however, make sure family or business duties or tasks are taken care of. They must take priority. Then, feel free to devote sufficient time to centering on what’s most fear-inducing.

It may help to do this exercise with eyes closed. Think about what went on today that may have produced fear. Did something someone said (in the home, on TV, during Internet browsing, reading the newspaper) allow that knot of fear to metastasize? Did it mean reticence about doing something or shying away from any personal contact (even at a distance)? Write down specifics, anything that comes to mind.

The list will vary from one person to the next, although there are some common threads people mention about what makes them afraid. These include:

  • I’m so fearful to be around other people, even with social distancing. What if I’m next to someone who’s got the coronavirus?
  • I’m afraid that I’ll never enjoy success again and, with so many millions of people sick and tens of thousands dying from this novel virus, I feel guilty even thinking of personal goal achievement.
  • Others probably think I’m a selfish person, so I’m reluctant to tell them what I’m thinking so they won’t judge me.
  • I’m afraid for our children. What kind of world will they live in? What happens if we get sick and can’t take care of them.
  • All I can feel is fear – about everything.

This May Seem Obvious, But When Did the Fear Begin?

To overcome fear, it’s important to pinpoint when it took over and began to handicap everyday living.

Some fears are universal, such as fear of abandonment, fear of being alone, fear about disease, dying and death. Indeed, some of what’s now identified as fear may trace back to a dysfunctional home, childhood trauma, economic disadvantage, school bullying, the presence of a physical or mental disability.

Recognize that uncovering when and where the fear started and then focusing on the fear itself is likely to be painful. Dwelling on fear is unpleasant at best, yet getting past fear requires going through this process.

Be Willing to Ask for Help

Identifying fear, when it began, and specifics about the fear will likely produce feelings of discomfort and frustration. That’s because there aren’t any solutions as to how to get past fear yet.

Outside help can prove beneficial here. Psychological counseling or therapy may be appropriate, or taking part in online discussion groups and self-help forums. Literature available online on the topic of overcoming fear is another good source for help.

Two other options for overcoming fear are meditation and prayer, both part of a spirituality practice.

Most people are reluctant to ask for help, yet resources are available and no one should feel any stigma about asking for assistance during these troubling times. Indeed, climbing out of the pit of fear may begin with taking these first steps toward a proactive solution.

What Are You Afraid Fear Will Prevent You From Doing?

When thinking about the future, assuming there will be restrictions on personal movement lifted, are you afraid to return to work? Does the idea of interacting with co-workers and supervisors create a rush of fear?

What if you’ve had the virus, or been in quarantine with family members who’ve had it, are you afraid you’ll get it again?

Are you afraid of ever getting physically close with another individual due to uncertainty over how long COVID-19 will be present, or if it will become seasonal and a pandemic that will recur?

The point about looking at what fear may prevent you from doing isn’t how daunting the list is. It is, however, instructive to see in black and white how self-limiting fear is to daily living. Everyone wants to get life back to normal, even if that normal looks quite different than what it once was. Fear, in this respect, can be a powerful motivator to unleash innovation, creativity, and finding new solutions to everyday problems and daily life.

Future Planning: Create Goals

This crisis will eventually subside and things will get back to some semblance of order. Heartening research from the University of Sydney found that if 80 percent of people practiced strong social distancing, COVID-19 could be curbed in 13 weeks. Be ready with goals to tackle once that happens. These may include personal goals that have taken a backseat to others, yet now they take on greater significance.

Whatever these goals may be, put them down on paper. This exercise provides ample material to work from in taking the next step to get past fear.

Construct Action Plans

Action plans are necessary to get moving on goals. Be sure to include a range of goals, some that are more quickly achievable, some that take a bit longer, and others that are long-term.

In the interim, prioritize self-care, since you’ll need to be healthy to resume normal living once the pandemic subsides. Even during self-distancing, it’s possible to ensure you’re taking good care of yourself, according to suggestions from Johns Hopkins mental health experts. The list includes exercise, which helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression while also benefitting physical health.

Each type requires its own set of action plans. Without a plan to follow, there’s no roadmap to pursue the goal. Another crucial part of action plans and goals is that they’ll likely need to undergo revision. Change is part of life, and goals deemed important now may be less of a priority going forward. Live life in the present, always doing your best while remaining true to yourself and your core beliefs.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Are You Lonely Tonight? How to Combat Loneliness

5 Tips to Banish Loneliness

How to Help Your Child Banish Loneliness

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

How to Manage Your Anger

How to Start Making Plans When You’re Recovering From Depression

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

Loneliness Erodes Your Mental Health – But You Can Get Past This Toxic Emotion

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“Loneliness is proof that your innate search for connection is intact.” – Martha Beck

Loneliness is one of the most miserable feelings to experience. Being alone, however, doesn’t necessarily mean a person is lonely. They may be, although they may be quite deliberate in wanting to be alone for a time, and have no negative effects from such solitude. It’s the protractedness and sense of isolation and desperation that can set in that seems to push loneliness to extremes, even potentially resulting in worsening mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Yet, for those who are suffering with loneliness and want to take proactive steps to get past this toxic emotion, there are some things they can do that can help.

WISDOM AND OTHER LONELINESS COPING STRATEGIES

A sobering statistic from the National Center for Health Studies reveals that, by 2029, more than 20 percent of the adult U.S. population will be age 65 and older. Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine sought to identify common loneliness characteristics of seniors in retirement or senior living facilities, as well as effective coping strategies to combat loneliness. With the increasing number of senior citizens moving into such facilities, it’s important to recognize that loneliness is considered as bad as smoking and obesity in curtailing longevity.

According to the researcher’s findings, the biggest risk factors for loneliness are losses associated with age, and poor social skills. Losing a sense of life purpose was mentioned by participants as another risk factor. Of course, loneliness is subjective, researchers said, and people feel the emotion differently.

Preventing loneliness or combating its presence, on the other hand, involves exploring interventions of wisdom and compassion. Researchers cited various studies on some of the effective loneliness coping mechanisms:

  • Engaging in activities with others. Finlay & Kobayashi (2018) identified poor health as sometimes providing social engagement opportunities with family, friends and caregivers considered valuable.
  • Keeping busy by yourself. Dragestet et al., 2015 found that occupying oneself was a help in combating loneliness.
  • Time for self-reflection and spiritual activities. Stanley et al., 2010, noted that there are benefits to being alone, chiefly that solitude affords time for self-reflection and conducting personally important spiritual activities.
  • Shared public spaces and communal activities help decrease loneliness. Li et al., 2018, said that acceptance and optimism, informal social support, and promoting independence and autonomy can help older Chinese immigrants enhance personal resilience.

GET  MOVING WITH ALMOST ANY KIND OF EXERCISE

A somewhat concerning finding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), garnered from data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for the period 2015-2018, is that more than 15 percent of U.S. adults are physically inactive. Of course, inactivity levels vary by state, with Puerto Rico coming in highest at 47.7 percent, and Colorado lowest at 17.3 percent. Why is this important? The CDC says that inactive lifestyles are a factor in one in 10 premature deaths in this country. Guidelines for recommended amounts of physical activity call for about 150 minutes of brisk exercise weekly, which can be broken down into shorter periods of time, such as 25 minutes or a 30-minute walk five times in a week. Physical activity offers mental health benefits of improving mood, feeling and sleeping better, reducing certain cancer risk, and lowering risks for obesity and heart disease.

What kind of exercise should you take up to get started? Almost any exercise will do just fine, so perhaps begin with going out for a walk with the dog, riding a bike, or engaging in a brisk walk alone or with others. You mood, mind, and body will reap the benefits.

AEROBIC EXERCISE OFFERS COGNITIVE BENEFITS

While getting up and getting going often involves the ritual of drinking coffee, with the caffeine providing an energy jolt but also jumpstarting the mind, researchers from the University of Western Ontario found that a brief burst of aerobic exercise boosts working memory just as much as caffeine. Furthermore, the beneficial cognitive effects of the aerobic exercise were experienced during and following exercise, and after a short delay. The ability of caffeine to positively affect cognition and mood sometimes come with unwanted side effects during withdrawal: jitteriness, anxiety, headache, fatigue, decreased alertness and reduced contentedness. Aerobic exercise, on the other hand, has none of those side effects or withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, especially for those who may be anxious or otherwise unable to consume caffeine, engaging in aerobic exercise can help with safe and effective mood elevation and improvements in working memory. For someone who suffers from loneliness and yet doesn’t venture out much, aerobic exercise may be valuable as an intervention to get them in contact with people again.

TAKE UP JOURNALING

There’s something about the process of journaling, writing your thoughts down on paper, that serves as a catalyst to overcome loneliness. Besides resulting in a tangible document that’s accessible to review later, committing to journaling reinforces a sense of discipline, of sticking to a schedule and doing something proactive for your mental health. It’s for good reason that creative writing instructors encourage their students to take up journaling, since writing down felt emotions and capturing events as they happen often serve as starting points for future action. Whether that action turns out to be making small or significant lifestyle or behavior changes or spurs creativity in another endeavor, activity, hobby or pursuit, journaling is an important foundation for improving mental health.

How to get started is easy. Find something to write on or in, set aside time each day to jot down your thoughts, write without judgement and keep writing without stopping for the minutes you’ve allocated for this purpose. Remember that this is your journal, and doesn’t need to be shared with anyone else. So you needn’t worry about guarding your feelings. If you do have concerns that others may delve into your journal, lock it away. This isn’t about secrecy, however, but more about opening yourself up and voicing your daily thoughts, even venting, if that’s what it takes. Also be sure to detail the good things that occurred each day, how you felt when something pleasant or unexpected happened, the small successes you enjoyed, what you’re looking forward to tomorrow and so on.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Are You Lonely Tonight? How to Combat Loneliness

5 Tips to Banish Loneliness

How to Help Your Child Banish Loneliness

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

How to Manage Your Anger

How to Start Making Plans When You’re Recovering From Depression

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

 

Why It’s Important to Deal Constructively With Self-Doubt

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“I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure… We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.”—Kobe Bryant

 

Everyone, no matter who they are, inevitably experiences self-doubt. Reading through the biographies and autobiographies of some of the most accomplished, celebrated, famous, talented and intelligent people reveals that each one of them has had their moments of personal doubt. Not only did they wonder if they had what it takes, they worried whether they could persevere despite opposition and setbacks, without support and encouragement, even if they were physically capable of continuing.

Self-doubt isn’t an automatic determinant or precursor to declining mental health. Nor is it the killer of goals or success. Giving up is, however, on both accounts. The key point to remember here isn’t that you doubt yourself, because you will, but what you’ll do about it will make all the difference between being proactive with your mental health and allowing it to deteriorate through inattention.

The first step to dealing constructively with self-doubt involves recognition. If you recognize that what you’re feeling is doubt, you can begin to take proactive steps to overcome it. While each person will need to find what works best, here are some general tips to help get past the crippling paralysis that self-doubt can bring about.

AVOID SELF-DENIAL

It makes no sense to deny what you feel. As with any emotion, when you try to shove the present emotion or feeling aside, it only goes deeper. Instead, acknowledge that you have doubts about yourself and your abilities or capabilities. That’s the first step in getting past it.

ACCEPT SELF-DOUBT AS NORMAL

It probably seems like you’re alone in this experience, especially when you’re right in the thick of it. However, when you accept that self-doubt is normal, that it isn’t unique to you, and everyone has it, this can make the experience less discomforting.

NEVER WALLOW IN THE EMOTION

Never give in to self-doubt. If you do, you’ll never accomplish anything worthwhile. Your goals will slip away, you’ll become bitter and disillusioned, perhaps become depressed, and life will seem less hopeful and productive.

STIFLE THAT HYPERCRITICAL INNER VOICE

When you’re worried you won’t measure up, that you’ll fail at the prospective task or endeavor or not be able to meet the challenge you’ve set for yourself, you’re engaging in the futile act of listening to your harsh inner voice and endlessly worrying about self-criticism. You know, the one that’s always warning you to be cautious, reminds you that your ideas aren’t the best, and laughs at your attempts to succeed. Stop and think, though. Did that hypercritical inner voice ever do you any favors when you listened to it? Can’t think of one, can you? So, tell yourself that you know better than that annoying, and utterly wrong, inner critic. That’s another positive step to deal constructively with self-doubt.

REMIND YOURSELF OF PAST SUCCESS

Now is a good time to recall that you’ve had doubts before and were able to rise above them. You found solutions and techniques that worked then and you will do so again. Reminding yourself of past success in similar situations is a great motivator when you encounter something that makes you question whether you have what it takes this time.

LEARN TO IDENTIFY SELF-DOUBT TRIGGERS

When self-doubt cropped up in the past, what were the triggers that you recall occurring? Raising self-awareness about self-doubt helps you understand what’s at the heart of the emotion, so you can reassure yourself that most of it is fear-based and not grounded in reality.

ENVISION A POSITIVE OUTCOME

While it might be tough to do right now, concentrate on a positive outcome. In fact, be hopeful of one. The dynamic of what happens here is that by capitalizing on your strengths and working to overcome your weaknesses, you’ll position yourself for success. This will occur despite the presence of self-doubt.

SEE THIS AS A GROWTH OPPORTUNITY

Granted, it doesn’t seem like it at first glance. Could it be that something you’re worried about is holding you back? Yet, look past your fears and regard self-doubt as an opportunity to grow. This current situation where you feel such anxiety and doubt didn’t happen without some warning. Were you as prepared as you could be? Does this show you that planning, practice and lining up resources is perhaps a better way to push past self-doubt?

FORGET WHAT OTHERS THINK

It’s understandable that everyone has opinions, yet not all of them are in sync with yours. However, the culture of sameness, where only certain ideas and sometimes only the opinions of certain people are entertained is not helpful to productivity, let alone trying to overcome self-doubt. You don’t want this for yourself or your future, so forget what others think. At the very least, don’t put too much credence into their criticism. You need to own your future. That means thinking for yourself and having the self-confidence to know that you’ll make good decisions.

EMBRACE SELF-DOUBT TO ENRICH LIFE 

Perhaps the simplest and most effective advice regarding self-doubt and your mental health is to embrace the emotion. By learning to embrace self-doubt and allowing yourself the experience of overcoming it, you will enrich your life in ways that may today seem unimaginable.

For example, once you’ve realized that you can overcome self-doubt, you’re no longer troubled by fears of failure. You recognize that you may stumble, yet you’ll learn valuable lessons in the process, emerging stronger than before, able to see past obstacles, ignore unwarranted criticism and the enmity of others. A pattern of success makes for greater self-esteem and self-confidence, both of which are integral in good mental health. While you cannot predict when things may go awry, you know that you’re fully capable of weathering the challenges that life presents. That’s another sign that you’ve dealt constructively with self-doubt.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How You Can Be More Confident

Success May Be Elusive, But It’s Possible

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways to Express Gratitude

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

How to Effectively Solve Problems Without Sleepless Nights

Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

“People who believe a problem can be solved tend to get busy solving it.” – William Raspberry

 

When problems require solving and you’re fresh out of ideas, there’s no need to endure sleepless nights filled with anxiety over the situation. What can help, however, is making use of time-proven problem-solving techniques that anyone can use.

WRITE IT DOWN

So you don’t have to think about it all night. How many times have you tossed and turned throughout the night, endlessly replaying in your mind different reasons why you have to get this problem solved? Worse, when you have the problem pressing this way, it’s tough to drift off to sleep. Besides the problem itself, you worry that you’ll forget you have to tend to it. This puts into motion the non-stop cycle of ruminating about the problem, waking from a fitful sleep to wonder if you’ve forgotten about the problem, to beating yourself up over not already solving the problem, to other extraneous problems that may be exacerbated or arise from the unsolved problem.

No wonder you can’t sleep. In addition to not sleeping well, the next morning’s no better when it comes to having a clear head with which to attempt to resolve the problem. Indeed, you’re right back where you started: big problem, no solution.

A handy technique is to write down everything you can about the problem, including what it is, how it started, what you may have done to cause it or make it worse, what other solutions you may have attempted that didn’t work, and what you believe you need to find a solution.

PAMPER YOURSELF BEFORE BED

While pampering yourself before going to bed at night may be the last thing that comes to mind, it should be one of the first. What’s happened already is nothing you can change right now. On the other hand, what you most definitely can do is give yourself good self-care in the form of a relaxing bath, having a laugh with family and loved ones, reading something enjoyable, meditating, going for a walk in nature, watching the sunset, listening to soothing music, even eating a meal you prepare with love.

When you indulge in self-pampering, think of it as a much-needed and well-deserved opportunity to be proactive for your overall health and well-being. It very much is that, and so much more. The nature of self-care, which is the essence of pampering, provides healing balm to body, mind and soul. It is reassuring, comforting, uplifting and enriching.

It’s also free, readily available, and easy to do. Amazingly, many a solution occurs while you’re in the middle of such pampering. It’s almost as if by magic. How can this be? When you’re mind isn’t so obsessed with a particular problem to solve, it allows creativity to flow, and from that wellspring is where problem solving arises.

VISUALIZE A PROBLEM

And let your subconscious do the work. A 2016 study published in Frontiers in Psychology refers to this as the incubation effect, which occurs after setting aside the problem and allowing the mind to process seemingly novel solutions that occur as intuitive insights. Most of us never think about how powerful an ally our subconscious really is. Yet, a fascinating thing happens when we let our bodies rest that has as much to do with revitalizing the mind as it does allowing the body to replenish energy. We do, however, need to give our brain the raw materials with which to work. Not that the mind won’t circle back to what’s yet unsolved, but giving it a little nudge is like having your homework assignment written out already so you know what needs attention.

The best way I’ve found to get a handle on a creative solution to a problem is to visualize the problem before going to bed, knowing that I’m much more likely to wake up with a solution or approach to try tomorrow. The visualization of the problem, along with writing the problem done, are what jumpstarts my subconscious into problem-solving mode. That frees me from the tortuous sifting and discarding of do this or don’t do that I’d otherwise engage in throughout what should be my sleeping hours.

Researchers at the University of Lancaster studied the ability of study participants to solve problems after getting eight hours of sleep and their findings pinpoint the value of sleep to allow your brain access to the vast amounts of knowledge it holds. Tapping into those useful bits of information and putting disparate items together often is the result. They referred to this as most likely occurring do to spreading activation.

TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY

Another tip I’ve found helpful is to remind myself that tomorrow is another day. Perhaps I was overworked or too distracted or pulled in too many directions today to tackle the problem presented. Maybe I wasn’t tasked with finding the solution to the problem until late in the day or got the assignment on my way home from work, school, or elsewhere. There’s certainly nothing like a last-minute problem to solve to ruin a night’s sleep.

It’s also happened to me that I’ve exhausted a list of potential solutions to the problem and they were either insufficient, didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, weren’t appropriate to the situation, worked somewhat but then failed, or some other combination that resulted in the problem still needing to be solved. Also, problems often become compounded, with the initial problem morphing into an even bigger one, or the problem you started to solve became unrecognizable beneath competing ones.

When this occurs, instead of giving up and telling your boss, spouse, friend, teacher, loved one or family member that you can’t solve the problem, give yourself the night off and remember that you’ll have another opportunity tomorrow to revisit the problem. You’ll be fresh and likely have a clearer head to perhaps see the problem in a different light.

A slightly different spin on the fact that tomorrow is another day is the recommendation to enlist others in a brainstorming session to solve the problem. When you’ve got allies looking at potential solutions, you may be surprised at how quickly novel approaches arise. In fact, advice from top problem-solving solutions organizations includes brainstorming as one of the effective ways to find your way past problems.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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