Tag Archives: Stress

15 Easy (and Necessary) Ways To Practice Self-Care

Self-care is vital.

But it’s hard to tell yourself that it’s vital. You’ll always have another assignment to finish, another job to apply for, another errand run to make – you probably live by the adage “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

If you don’t practice self-care, you’ll burn out. End of story. Human beings aren’t robots. Burnout leads to mental and physical side effects like high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Take care of yourself. Here are some easy ways to do so.

Here are some easy ways to do so.

For the body:

  • Meditate for fifteen minutes a day in order to clear your head.
  • Find an exercise that you enjoy, such as yoga, and treat yourself to it.
  • Get a full night’s sleep every night. It will increase your productivity the next day.
  • Don’t be afraid to eat dessert. Sure, you’ve heard sugar is bad for you, but sugar is also delicious, and you deserve to live a little.
  • Drink in moderation. Don’t be afraid to hit happy hour with friends and decompress.

For the mind:

  • Check out all of the new comedies on Netflix and devour at least one episode a day.
  • Take a nap several times a week (or a day).
  • Learn stress-handling techniques.
  • When was the last time you read a good book? Head to a bookstore or read one on your phone.
  • Learn something that you’ve always wanted to learn. It’s finally time for you to learn sign language and improve your contour game.

For your spirit:

  • Create art. You don’t have to splurge on a class – teach yourself from free resources on the internet.
  • Log off of social media when you’ve had enough. Don’t feel pressured to keep up with everything.
  • You don’t have to read the news. For your own sanity, skip it some days.
  • Find a safe space. This doesn’t have to be a community center; it can be your comfy bed or a friend’s apartment. Anywhere you feel at peace.
  • Make time for religion. If religion is important to you, don’t shove it to the end of your to-do list because life is too hectic. Attending a religious service will help you find community and also decrease your stress levels.

Need more inspiration? Here are 134 more ideas.

13 Habits To Help You Feel Better About Yourself

I’ve struggled with my self-image and self-esteem for most of my life. For a long time, I was ashamed that I even had these self-image problems, so I kept them to myself in the hopes that no one else would bring them up.

Unfortunately, though, I’d get really insecure if they ever did come up.

In my mind, I falsely associated my own insecurities with other people tearing them down – even though, really, I knew that I was at least partially responsible for how I felt about myself. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was already well into my 20s that I started to understand the real ways to fix my self-esteem – and it didn’t involve a bit of pretending.

1. Focus on the here and now.

We spend way too much of our lives thinking about the past and the future. Personally, I’ve had to fight the urge to plan my life months and months ahead of time, because something always comes up. I’d also dwell on the things I’d done wrong in the past. Instead, I’ve learned to simply take things as they come. After all, the only moment in time you have any control over is the one you’re currently in – so make the most of it. Release your hold on the future, and let go of your hold on the past.

2. Take time for yourself, every day.

Much like we spend too much time thinking, we spend too much time doing things for other people. Don’t get me wrong – doing kind things for others is one of the biggest joys in life. But you can’t give to others if you aren’t leaving anything for yourself. Instead, make sure you put yourself first, and fit everything else in around that. Suddenly, you’ll notice that your life has more joy in it – and that’s a great motivator.

3. Make it easier for you to eat healthy.

Many people feel like they “don’t like healthy foods,” or that they have a dependence on junk food. Most of the time, though, it’s just that the junk foods are easier to get to than the healthier foods – so prep something healthy ahead of time, so that it’s easy to grab and go. Your whole body feels better when you put the right things into it.

4. Get moving more, and make it fun.

Even for people who consider themselves “fit”, we’re probably not exercising as much as we should. Most people don’t find most exercise enjoyable, and they think it’s the act of exercising that feels wrong – so they don’t look for an alternative. When you take time to find an exercise routine that’s fun to you, it won’t feel like working out, and you’re more likely to stick with it. Not everyone needs to load up on cardio, and not everyone has to enjoy strength training. Find what works for you – the specific type of exercise matters less than you might think.

5. Meditate or practice mindfulness.

This is one that’s still pretty new to me, but it has made a tremendous difference in my life. I find it easier to focus on my work tasks, which means I get more done and have more work satisfaction. It’s easier to forgive the people who have done me wrong, which brings me peace. And, I’m learning how to appreciate my circumstances, even when they’re unpleasant – which makes life in general a lot more bearable.

6. Allow yourself to forgive others.

Many people think that forgiving someone means that you’re okay with what they did to you. That’s not really it at all, though. True forgiveness is about setting yourself free from the pain you’ve felt in the past. It means acknowledging that it happened, and respecting their choices. It doesn’t mean that you have to take the chance of it happening again – you can forgive someone and still not want them in your life.

7. Accept your own forgiveness, too.

We’re often our own worst critics, and it takes work to move on from the mistakes of our past. Try to think of the things you’ve done to disappoint yourself, and try to empathize with your younger, less-informed self. After all, as long as you learned from it, you’re not the same person anymore.

8. Make plans and set goals – and make them happen.

Goal-setting and goal-achieving is pretty much programmed into our brains as a rewarding activity – but not everyone knows how to harness this inner reward system. Long-term planners and goal setters know the value in working towards something for a long time, and how satisfying it is once you’ve finally got what you wanted. Start with a few short-term, highly-achievable goals to get your momentum going, and go after bigger and bolder things when you feel more confident.

9. Talk to yourself (nicely).

The way you speak to yourself sets the bar for how other people should treat you – are you talking to yourself the way you want to be talked to? It can feel really awkward when you first start trying to speak more positively to yourself, but once you get into the habit of correcting your negative self-talk, you’ll find that it really is easier to be kind.

10. Make time for your hobbies and passions.

Many people think that the key to success and happiness is achievement. Unfortunately, “achievement” has a number of broad definitions beyond the normal (financial) measures that come to mind. The most confident people know that all those little milestones they get to enjoy are just as important as any other achievements, even if they don’t make sense to anyone else.

11. Stop competing and comparing.

Most people are far too competitive with one another, often bordering on full-fledged envy. We see the things that other people have, or the talents they possess, and we compare that to where we currently are. However, once you stop looking at these other people as competitors and start looking at them as possible mentors, you might find out a lot more about yourself than you ever knew before – and you may learn a thing or two about success, too.

12. Spend time by yourself.

I’m one of those people who has to take a few hours to recharge in solitude before social settings, so I’ve always put a high value on alone time. But it’s good for people who aren’t so introverted, too – even if they don’t need as much alone time to be happy. Try to take at least a few minutes a week to sit alone, in silence, and just process your life.

13. Spend time with positive, uplifting people.

Finally, if you want to feel better about yourself, you should spend more time with people who feel good about themselves, and (preferably) about you, too. These people can help to build you up, and can help teach you ways to build yourself up. (I bet you didn’t know this, but they struggle with being positive sometimes, too – they’ve just learned how to get around their roadblocks.)

How To Manage Your Anxiety When You’re Surrounded By Stress

Some days, I feel like I’m the most stressed out person on the planet. It’s like the pressure from day to day life gets in and festers, making things almost impossible to deal with. I know it seems like it makes me impossible to deal with. Once you add in the realities of being surrounded by other stressed out people, it’s almost too much to deal with. Without a game plan, I can easily lose a whole day to my illogical thoughts.

While stress and anxiety aren’t exactly the same thing, they can have similar symptoms and triggers. What’s worse is that dealing with someone with anxiety can easily cause stress, and dealing with a lot of stress can easily translate into anxiety. However, the two are not mutually exclusive.

Thankfully, no matter which side of the situation you’re on, there are some easy management tips that can help limit the devastating impact. These tips alone will not fix the problems of stress and anxiety, but they can give you the clarity needed to move past them.

Anchor yourself.

When dealing with the complexities of human emotion (whether your own, or the emotions of others), you’ll need to attach yourself firmly to the ground beneath you – in a literal sense – before you can fully ground yourself in the symbolic sense. Pay attention to your default standing position (you will need to actually stand up for this, since most people don’t automatically pay attention to their foot posture).

If you default to standing on the heels of your feet, this most likely means that you have a need to stand your ground. Often, the inclination to stand at the heels of your feet starts in childhood or early adolescence. While it can mean that you feel a need for physical conflict (if the situation should arise), it could also be a sign of internal conflict and the need to control the situation. Over time, it can cause stress in the calves and hamstrings, which may eventually cause back pain.

If you default to a flat-footed stance, with no obvious contact points, you’re not solidly grounded in your situation. This can be a good thing, since shifting is easier – but, because of the ease of shifting, it’s also a potentially bad thing, if you’re psychologically shifting toward the negatives and the stressors.

If you default to standing on the balls of your feet (near your toes), this is a sign of high energy – whether physical or mental. With a heel in the air, you’re ready to take off at any point in time – whether off on an anxious tangent, or off in a sprint. The foot position itself denotes a rush, and it’s very important for these people to slow down and make a more informed decision. These decisions need to be grounded in logic, not in the things your anxiety tells you.

Once you’ve identified your default position, you’ll need to start reprogramming yourself. (Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it sounds). Start shifting your weight when standing, so that you can feel your foot hitting all three contact points, instead of the one you default to. Now that you’ve achieved the right foot position, bend your knees slightly, and focus on how you are connected to the earth beneath you. This is something you can practice any time you’re walking, running, sitting, or standing.

Over time, this will help you develop a sense of awareness over your body. Once you begin to get more comfortable with this step, start adding in other points of awareness – your breathing, your back posture, your heartbeat, and the tension in your muscles. Focusing on the automatic parts of your life and your body will help you control your reactions to the things that are out of your control, and help you diffuse any tension that lives inside.

Detach yourself from others.

One of the most difficult problems with anxiety is that it causes us to feel the emotions of others just a little too strongly. It makes sense, then, that we need to detach ourselves from them – but that’s not always as easy as it sounds. Make a conscious effort to decide that the feelings of other people have nothing to do with you (or, at most, very little). Understand your personal limits, and understand your personal responsibility over a situation.

If possible, remind yourself that there are challenges and factors outside of your realm of focus that could be affecting the way these other people act toward you. Some challenges (such as poverty and addiction) can make a person’s situation even more disadvantaged, and these people may be more likely to react badly toward any negative information you have, or negative information that may involve you somehow. Do your best to remove yourself from the situation, and view it as an outsider. I find that it’s sometimes easier to first picture the other person’s side of things, and then picture yourself not being them. This allows you to see an overview, as opposed to the “me vs. you” mentality.

An inability to detach yourself from the situation at hand can cause emotional burnout, added stress, and in time can create physical health problems. Detaching comes easily for some, while others will need to practice for a long time. Don’t worry – it will get easier, you just need to hold on and keep practicing!

Communicate rationally.

When in the middle of an anxiety attack, it’s often literally impossible to think logically and rationally. This is because the limbic region, which is responsible for emotional responses, takes control and leaves no electricity for the neocortex region, which is controlled by logic and intelligence. Having someone nearby to help shift the focus back to rational thought can play a tremendous role in helping you out of the deepest pit of anxious thought.

In many cases, asking basic and easy-to-answer questions can help steer their thought process back toward the logical side of things. The questions must be simple, at least in the beginning – they should ask what you had for lunch, what your job title is, what time it is, etc. At first, the answers to these questions might not be at the forefront of your mind, but they will help to distract you from your emotional response, and will encourage your neocortex to start activating and processing things for you again.

Once the other person’s questions have gotten you thinking logically, it’s usually possible to “talk yourself out of” the rest of the anxiety attack. I tend to ask myself, “Is this a real-world problem?” – and, in most cases, the answer is no. In cases where the thing making you anxious actually is a real-world problem, you’re prepared to think rationally about the solution, instead of letting your emotions control the situation for you.

Forgive yourself.

Possibly the most important step in the entire process is that you need to forgive yourself for having anxiety. I know, I know – that’s easier said than done. But hear me out.

If you consistently blame yourself for your anxiety, it’s not going to make you a better person. It’s not going to help you get over your anxiety. In fact, it’s going to make things even worse, because you’ll have meta-anxiety (which is, anxiety about your anxiety). I think I’m the queen of meta-anxiety. While you do need to acknowledge the things that are due to your anxiety, and work to create a long-term solution, blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong is just going to make everything harder on you.

Instead, I like to treat my anxiety as if it were a separate person. (And, quite frankly, my Imaginary Anxiety Friend is a bitch – and I’m sure yours is, too.) Turning your anxiety into its own “person” allows you to shift the blame to the anxiety, without shifting your blame to your own brain. It allows you someone to direct your anger at when your emotional response gets too hyperactive – and then it gives you the ability to ignore “helpful suggestions” your mind offers when in the throes of an anxiety attacks.

It’s important to realize that you usually can’t forgive yourself for your anxiety in the middle of an episode – that is, not until after you’ve trained yourself to separate. Even still, it may take some gentle nudging from your loved ones to get you to shift your focus. Over time (with a lot of practice), it’ll start to become a part of your freak-out routine, and it should help you to keep your future episodes to the minimum possible disruption.

Up For Debate: Do Gay Men Get More Stressed Than Lesbians?

There is a new study in town that shows the odd connections between sexual orientation and stress responses.

According to McGill researcher Robert-Paul Juster, there is something funny is going on with lesbians, gay men and heterosexual people when it comes to stress.

The researcher was curious to see how gay men and women would react to stress. He already discovered that men produce more cortisol than women when stressed, and that gay people are more stressed when they are closeted. However, nobody had ever compared the stress responses of gay men and lesbian to straight people.

For the study, he brought in 87 gay, lesbian, straight and bisexual participants into his lab, made them do stress-inducing math problems and a mock job interview, and watched what happened to the cortisol levels in their saliva.

Since gay men are exposed to stressors such as discrimination and homophobia on a daily basis (what psychologists call minority stress), it was thought that gay men would get more stressed than straight men. Wrong.

It turned out while straight men’s cortisol spiked 20 minutes after the stressor; gay men remained almost entirely unperturbed.

That’s a good thing, right? Not necessarily.

It could mean that gay men have suffered so much stress they no longer react. For example, one previous study found gay men living in American states with more discrimination had blunted cortisol reactions.

It is also possible that gay men have simply developed better coping mechanisms for stress than straight men, and that their hormones have been pummelled into non-reactivity.

Which would mean lesbians should have lower stress reactivity too, right? Nope.

It turns out lesbians and bisexual women were more stressed than their straight peers.

In fact, gay women reacted much more like straight men, and straight women reacted like gay men.

The only difference was that the queer women took twice as long to get stressed. Why? Juster thinks it might be because the gaywomen spent more time turning the stress over in their heads after the event, but for now that’s just a guess.

So what should we make of the mysterious difference between how gay men and women react to stress?

Juster says,

That’s a really good question, and to be honest with you I have no clue. I really don’t know how to explain it.”

What we have learned, Juster says, is that we shouldn’t lump gay men and lesbians together when it comes to stress.

Also, because Juster controlled for sex hormones such as testosterone and progesterone in his study, we now know stress reactivity is related to social factors and not just biology.

Fortunately, Juster still has his postdoctoral research to work it all out.

There’s a lot of follow up studies that I need to do to figure out what’s going on. This is something I hope will stretch out through my entire career.”

Stay tuned.