The Stress of Anxiety

The Exhausted Woman's Handbook(Excerpt taken from The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook)

Ziana struggled with worry, anxiety, and panic attacks ever since the accidental car death of her twin brother 7 years ago. Her mind often raced with imagined future accidents, her response, and the ensuing added sadness. Driving on highways was still not possible for her and she was unable to remain silent when others were driving.

Her panic attacks were debilitating. Her heart would start pounding and racing, her stomach felt like it was in her throat, her palms became sweaty, she got lightheaded and dizzy, her breath became shallow and her thoughts were out of control leaving her completely exhausted. Since medical conditions were ruled out, it was diagnosed as a panic attack. Worse yet, the fear that the attack could happen again (as it frequently did) had a lasting exhausting effect.

Perhaps you’ve had a panic attack recently. Maybe you encountered someone unexpectedly, witnessed something on TV, were in the middle of a presentation or simply were eating out. All of a sudden, your heart started pounding and you were filled with anxiety. It seemed to come out of nowhere when in reality it was triggered by something. The anxiety attack could indicate a major unresolved event still causing problems in your everyday life. Fortunately, there are things you can do:

Mental Solution. Look for an unusual distraction around the room to minimize the intensity. Just focusing your thoughts on something else other than the attack is helpful. The odder the distraction, the better, but it usually isn’t enough to stop it completely. For instance, you might notice a picture that is not straight or a child laughing.

Physical Solution. Next, focus on your breathing. Breathe in for a count of five, hold it for another count of five and let it out for a count of seven. Try this for at least four times in a row. Be aware of the tension in your face, shoulders, hands and even toes and use the breaths to bring relaxation. Don’t beat yourself up when your breaths are short. Do the best you can and try practicing this exercise when you are not in the middle of an attack.

Emotional Solution. Close your eyes and remember a place of serenity and calm. Try going deep into your memory, remembering colors around you, peaceful weather, gentle sounds, the feel of something soft or an enticing smell. Smells are particularly calming as they are easily remembered and can bring about almost instant relaxation. Strangely enough, drinking a very cold glass of ice water (or my personal favorites: an Icee, a Slurpee or a Frappuccino) in an attempt to get a brain freeze can also be very effective. Your brain must wake up first before dealing with the anxiety.

Spiritual Solution. Say a prayer or recall a verse to help ease your emotions. You can also make a mental list of the many things you are thankful for or the numerous blessings in your life. Keep a card in your wallet or a note in your phone to aid your recall when under stress.

Psychological Solution. After the intensity of the attack is over, ponder the cause. There is usually a reason the anxiety was triggered and resolving the underlying issue will lessen future attacks. Triggers like strong emotions of fear or anger, the pressure created by certain people, or perceived potential danger can contribute to an attack. Identify the trigger, and then allow it to point you to a life-altering moment in your history. You may need assistance to process the root cause of your anxiety.

Ziana knew the source of her anxiety, but she had not fully grieved the loss of her brother. Though it was hard at first, she confronted her fears through therapy and her panic attacks eventually disappeared. You can experience the same success; it takes courage to tackle the anxiety caused by a tree ring moment. While it may be difficult at first, the new lasting impression is worth the effort.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

You may purchase The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook at Xulon Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. Or just click on the picture on the right.

Has your Sex Drive Decreased

It happens to almost everyone.  You are not interested in having sex as frequently as before. Or the thought of having sex at all is completely unappealing.  Your sex drive seems to be decreasing and you not sure as to why.  At first, there may not be any logical explanation but looking to some underlying issues may reveal the problem.

Be honest.  This is not a time to be silent with your spouse.  They need to know that you are experiencing a decrease in your sex drive and perhaps not achieving an organism as frequently.  Most likely they have already noticed and is wondering what is wrong.  Check for any relational problems such as difficulty with in-laws, finances, communication, or the kids.  Getting help with these problems and dealing with them can improve your sex drive.

Talk to your doctor.  Sometimes there are physiological reasons for a decrease in sex drive.  Age, discomfort during sex, painful sex or change in hormonal levels can all be contributing factors.  By discussing your concerns with your doctor and running a few simple tests, the physiological reasons can be identified and in some cases resolved, improving your sex drive.

Heal from the past.  Oftentimes when you are in a stable relationship and things are going well, sexual images of your past or unresolved sexual issues surface.  Your ability to put aside these images or issues is no longer working.  However, dealing with them again is not what you want to do.  Yet, this is precisely what is needed.  A past experience of abortion, rape, molestation, sexual abuse, multiple partners, pornography, sexually transmitted disease or infection can all be contributing factors to your decreased sex drive now.  Take some time to work with a professional counselor to help heal from these past hurts.

Reduce stress.  The stress of maintaining a household, managing the competing schedules, and working to improve finances can be overwhelming.  Knowing what needs to be done and realizing that it cannot be accomplished increases your stress level.  Usually the things you choose not to complete are the very things that help you to relax and unwind.  Like proper amounts of sleep, eating right, exercising, reading a favorite book, taking a relaxing bath, going on a date with your husband, or just playing with your kids.  Add these activities back into your schedule and take time out for yourself.  Sex will be far more desirable.

Not addressing your diminished sex drive could result in an increase in marriage problems or/and increase in lack of self-confidence; neither of which is desirable.  This is a problem that will not go away with time or get better without being addressed, rather it is something you can confront and manage.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How to Eliminate Stress from Your Life without Taking a Yoga Class or Changing Your Schedule in 10 Steps

parentHave you ever Googled “eliminate stress” only to find a long list of impossible tasks from people who obviously don’t have a job and aren’t married with kids?  My personal favorite ideas were to quit work (really… because last time I checked you work to earn money to care for your family and quitting work would add considerable stress to your life), have an open schedule (this is laughable as my schedule is almost entirely dictated by my kid’s activities), and avoid difficult people (yes, that is really possible when you work with difficult people all day long).  You already know that you need to reduce the stress in your life but having ridiculous suggestions about how to go about it only increases stress and gives you the impression that reducing stress in your very busy life is impossible.  It’s not.

Here are a few suggestions that been tested and proven to be effective by very busy people like you.

  1. Know where you are going.  As silly as it sounds, having goals for each area of your life actually reduces stress.  For instance, if your goal with your teenage son is to help him be a self-sufficient adult who is not stuck playing video games on your sofa at age 25 then you have a goal.  With that goal in mind he should be making his own meals, taking care of his own laundry, and working at a part-time job.  Doing this process for each area of your life makes decisions easier and less stressful.
  2. Stick to your plan.  Using the teenage son example you will undoubtedly be met with stiff resistance on his part as you enforce the new direction.  This is good.  As a parent your responsibility is to teach your child to become a functional adult it is not to be their friend (hopefully that will come much later).  By remembering your goal and sticking with it and serving out consequences for not following the plan, you will reduce more stress in the long run but not the short run.
  3. Set realistic expectations.  Just because you spent all day cleaning the floors of your house does not mean that anyone will even notice.  If you clean the floors expecting gratitude or praise then you are likely to be disappointed.  Instead, recognize that you like the floors clean and you are really cleaning them for yourself.
  4. Monitor your thoughts.  This is a biggie for most women as thoughts tend to run ramped and one strange phone call can leave you replaying it for hours if not days.  Give yourself the two times rule.  You are allowed to replay a conversation two times but any more than that you need to distract yourself and move on.  Think about it for a second, when was it ever productive to waste a bunch of time obsessing over something that you can’t change.
  5. Be your own best friend.  Your inner dialogue should be as kind to yourself as you are to your best friend.  Would you ever look at your best friend and call her “stupid” for making a mistake at work or call her “fat” for eating a piece of chocolate cake or call her “loser” for missing an appointment? Of course not!  So stop doing this to yourself.
  6. It’s ok to say “no”.  Mommy guilt runs strong and powerful especially when you are working and you know that your kids don’t have your undivided attention.  This means that some activities will conflict with work forcing you to say the dreaded “no” word.  It’s ok, you are not in this alone and it is good to teach your kids that they can’t get everything they want when they want it.  Remember the bigger picture.
  7. Don’t lie.  It is very tempting to play God and believe that you know what someone else is thinking and can make someone feel better by telling a little lie.  But lies have a strange way of catching up to you and creating much bigger problems and stress in the end.  So make a habit of being truthful even if it might hurt someone’s feelings.
  8. Set boundaries in your life.  Boundaries are like walls which are very useful after all who wants to watch you in the bathroom at work (ok, I admit that visualization was a bit over the top but highly effective).  Here are some practical stress reducing boundaries: don’t answer your phone when it rings, check email only three times a day, non-emergency communication gets an automatic 24 hour wait before responding, and limit social media stuff to once a day.
  9. Choose OCD behaviors wisely.  Some OCD tendencies are rather useful such as always putting your keys or purse in the exact same place every day.  This eliminates the mad dash to find things.  But some OCD behaviors are not useful such as needing to wash your hands 50 times a day or cleaning obsessively with bleach.  Get help for the behaviors that you need to change and embrace new habits that are time savers.
  10. Work on you, not everyone else.  In the end, you are only responsible for yourself. (Yes, there are those kids of yours but they are already responsible for some of their behaviors and most likely need more not less responsibility.)  When you take time to work on your own issues instead of pretending they don’t exist, you will find more energy.  After all, you can’t give what you don’t already have.

Reducing stress in your life does not have to be about taking a yoga class, changing you schedule, exercising more and eating healthy.  These are all external things, not internal things. And while these things certainly have their place, the best place to start is in your mind.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

The Most Stressful Songs of Christmas

English: A rendition of the musical notation f...

English: A rendition of the musical notation for the chorus of “Jingle Bells”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you remember the old nursery lyric “Rock-a-bye Baby” that tells a story about a baby in a cradle in a tree that falls crashing down to the ground when the wind blows?  It’s not the most calming of lyrics nor is it a concept that is “baby appropriate”.  Yet the tune is sweet so we blindly sing the song.  But this is Christmas time and it is likewise full of similar songs that are more stress producing than peaceful.  Here are just a few samples:

  1. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow.”  Perhaps your Christmas memories are different but I have yet to experience a Christmas when any “children listen” to bells or even adults for that matter.  Having an expectation that a child will be patiently listening for a bell in the snow is frankly silly and unrealistic.
  2. “Deck the halls with bounds of holly…tis the season to be jolly…strike the harp and join the chorus…follow me in merry measure.”  The demand of a decorated house, being happy all the time, playing cheerful music, singing, and dancing is a lot to accomplish when life usually hands the toughest of blows this time of year.  Statistically, this is the most depressed and lonely time of the year as many families are experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one, without a job or in worse financial condition than ever.
  3. “On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…on the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me.”  This song portrays 78 gifts that a “true love” gives to another which is an unusual amount of gift giving and excessive by most standards.  It sounds more like the “true love” is trying to buy love instead of showing love.
  4. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”  Have you ever tried to roast chestnuts in your oven?  If you don’t score them precisely, they will explode in such a mess that it will take weeks just to get all of the gummy like nut off the sides of your walls.  Forget about an open fire, where a chestnut exploding can knock an eye out!  That shiner will definitely be a Christmas to remember.
  5. Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go, Let It Snow!”   Just one look at your calendar will probably reveal that you already don’t have a free weekend and most of the weekdays are quickly filling up as well.  “No place to go”?  You must be kidding this season is packed with too many places to go and too many decisions to make resulting in too many people to disappoint.
  6. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.”  Any repetitive noise such as a bell for long periods of time is not likely to cause fun but rather a piercing migraine.  Add to that an open sleigh which is cold and horses that poop along the way which is smelly and there is definitely no fun to be had.  Just because one person believes an activity to be fun does not mean that another person is going to agree.
  7. “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?”  What is this song saying, that we should forget our acquaintances and not bring them up any more?  Granted there are usually some acquaintances that you want to forget and never bring up anymore but unfortunately these are usually the ones that seem to hang around into the New Year.

Sometimes reducing our stress during Christmas is more about thinking through the programmed songs that are sung and resetting your expectations to more realistic levels.  It might not be the “most wonderful time of year” for you but that is ok; it does not have to be.  You can however make it more wonderful by not expecting children to be patiently listening, decorating every inch of the house, insisting that others have fun your way or getting frustrated that you can’t forget something that you would rather not remember.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Holiday Stress is coming to Town

Do you find yourself making a list and checking it twice?  Isn’t that Santa’s job?  With so much to do in such a short time it is easy to double book parties, forget the vanilla extract yet again, lose the address of your favorite client, and spend too much money all before noon today.  The Holidays are here and so is the added stress of more stuff, more money, more places to be, more people to see, and more pounds to gain.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  Instead of making just another “to do” list, make yourself a different type of list establishing your limitations well in advance.  You can call it your Naughty List (what not to do) and Nice List (what to do).

Naughty List.

  1. Overspending your budget just because…
  2. Being unrealistic about the amount of time an activity will take or a visit with family will last.
  3. Failing to communicate your plans with others so they can plan accordingly.
  4. Trying out a recipe out for the first time to bring to your office party.  The expectation that everything will go perfectly and it will taste fantastic is unrealistic.  Instead bring a dish that you already know works.
  5. Increasing your project load at home when you have less free time to complete it.  If you want to make new decorations, make them after the season for next year rather than now when time is already short.
  6. Overdoing the decorations, enough said.
  7. Overbuying for you.  That red sweater you wore last year is still good and you really don’t need a new one.
  8. Being a Scrooge.  Just because money is short doesn’t mean that you have to announce it to the world and remind everyone about your struggles.
  9. Calories unfortunately do count during the Holidays.  That piece of fudge is still the same amount of calories during the Holidays as it is in the summer.
  10. Feeling guilty.  No one can make you feel guilty unless you let them so except your limitations and set better boundaries.
  11. Minimizing the impact of a major life change over the past year.  Any major life change such as a death, divorce, marriage, birth of a child or move significantly changes the way the Holidays will be spent.  If you have had a change over the past year, acknowledge it and plan for the Holidays to reflect the change.
  12. Setting unreasonable expectations for yourself, your spouse, and your family.

Nice List.

  1. Take time out for yourself and rest during the Holidays.  Plan one day to be free from all commitments and enjoy the season.
  2. Reconnect with an old friend.
  3. Extend the free gift of forgiveness to someone in your life.
  4. Revisit the true meaning of the Holidays instead of the commercial meaning.
  5. Give a plant, some food, some time, or some expertise instead of another useless gift.  These gifts are far more valuable.
  6. Create a new tradition.  Instead of all the running around, plan to spend one day with just immediate family and stay in your P.J.’s all day watching old movies and playing games.
  7. Give the gift of humor and learn to laugh at yourself.  This is a great stress reliever.
  8. Before you go to a party set limits on the amount you will eat and drink.  Be reasonable, realistic, and practical about your temptations.
  9. Technology can be a wonderful thing.  Skype a family member that you can’t visit because of the distance.
  10. The older members of your family are likely to feel lonely during the Holidays so plan on extra time with them and patiently listen to them reliving the past.  This is a free gift that will mean far more than a material gift.
  11. Reach outside of your world and touch the lives of those less fortunate than you by volunteering to deliver meals, giving your lunch to the homeless person on the side of the road, providing a bike for a kid in need, or donating clothing that is unused.
  12. Pray.  Pray for your family, pray for your friends, pray for neighbors, pray for your co-workers, pray for your country, pray for those serving in the military, pray for those being persecuted, pray for those who are starving, pray for those who are dying, and most especially pray for those causing harm to others.  Prayer works.  Prayer lasts a long time.  Prayer creates peace.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Panic attacks

If you have ever wondered whether or not you have had a panic attack, here is a good article explaining one.

http://news.health.com/2012/09/19/did-i-have-a-panic-attack/

For more information on how to handle a panic attack, see the post titled “Unexpected anxiety attacks”.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Acute Stress Disorder in Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit

Never thought of Peter Rabbit as having acute stress disorder but it definitely fits the profile.  This article nicely explains the symptoms and diagnosis.  Maybe you will see yourself or someone you know in this story.

Acute Stress Disorder in Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.

via Acute Stress Disorder in Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.