Whenever you are feeling tense or worked up and want to calm yourself down, remember CALM:
C = Chest: breathing should be slow and deep.
A = Arms: loosen your shoulders and relax arm muscles.
L = Legs: have leg muscles loose, knees slightly bent.
M = Mouth: relax your jaw muscles and have a little bit of space between your teeth so you are not clenching.
If you breathe slowly and deeply, this will slow your heart rate which will help calm your bodily systems and mind. Many people tense their muscles when they get stressed which can cause muscle pain and headaches. Therefore, it’s important to relax your muscles in addition to breathing slowly and deeply. Keep in mind, if you try too hard to relax, that can add to your tension. Therefore, focus on “effortless” breathing and allow the relaxation response to kick in.
It’s easy to practice the CALM steps to getting calm. It can be done anywhere, anytime, and no props are needed (e.g., medication, music, etc…). It is also important to practice calming yourself on a daily basis, even if you are not tense. Just like any skill, practice is required to become proficient. The more you practice, the better you will become at calming yourself!]]>
Making big changes is a natural part of life. Change often moves our lives forward in a positive direction. So why are we so afraid of it?
Even if you usually feel comfortable handling almost anything that comes your way, you might be thrown off when a major change is introduced to you.
Here are a few ways to get yourself back on track and handle chaotic moments as you go through the inevitable changes that life has in store for you.
1. Stick to a schedule. This involves eating, sleeping, and allowing relaxing time for yourself on a daily basis, even if only for a few minutes. Making time for exercise will be immeasurably valuable in keeping your mind and body on track.
2. Rely on your support system. When you don’t think you can handle all of your regular responsibilities, ask for help. Friends and family don’t want you become ill from being so stressed out and hopefully will not mind pitching in to help you through the transition.
3. Remind yourself of the positive outcomes that might await you. Make a list of reasons why this was a good change for you or create a mantra to repeat to yourself. It’s important to replace negative anxiety-provoking thoughts with positive, reassuring thoughts. This is especially useful if you lie awake at night trying to calm your fears.
4. Talk openly about your experience. Your support system can be great for this. Share with your friends, family, coworkers and counselor who are a positive influence in your life. Their reassurance will help supplement yours.
The transition process is a very challenging time. Allow yourself time to adjust to it. Change is inevitable and often leads to opportunities that you will not even begin to imagine.]]>
Do you suffer from pain when you chew or move your jaw?
Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) occurs as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and moving the jaw. The cause of TMD is not clear, but dentists believe that symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself.
Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or muscles of the head and neck – such as from a heavy blow or whiplash – can cause TMD. Other possible causes in teeth grinding (bruxism) or clenching, jaw bone dislocations, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in jaw, and stress, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth.
What are the symptoms of TMD?
TMD can cause moderate to severe pain in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide. Other common symptoms may include toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, ear aches, hearing problems, upper shoulder pain, and ringing in the ears (tinnitis).
How can TMD be treated?
There are several ways to treat TMD including night guards and medication. A proven and relatively non-invasive treatment for TMD is a Biofeedback-Assisted Relaxation Training in which one learns to “master” involuntary TM joint movements while learning how to reduce joint tension.
For more information, call The Center for Pyschological Fitness at 954-434-1886.]]>
Are you angry and don’t know it? Have you ever heard the expression, “Anger Turned Inward”? While that idea might be oversimplified, self-anger has been linked with depression, low self esteem, anxiety, and a host of other problems that get in the way of our feeling energized, motivated, healthy, and fulfilled. I like to call this the “anger arrow” which looks a lot like a U-turn sign, but pointed right back at you. That’s the direction the anger goes, and for many of us, that’s right where the anger stays.
What is the “Anger Arrow”?
Anger serves a purpose. It is not only an emotion. It’s a communication to you and, when expressed accurately, to the person or people who have contributed to that anger. It means that a rule has been broken in terms of how you deserve to live your life, or how you deserve to be treated. Often, the reason for the arrow being bent in the first place is because you’ve had doubts as to your “rights” in this regard. You may have been put in a position where you were, or had sensed, powerlessness. You may have felt that expressing anger, appropriately¸ was not your right. So where did it go? In your mind’s eye, picture this bent arrow.
Does “unbending the arrow” mean releasing rage on the people around you?
Absolutely not. While some older forms of therapy encouraged “venting”, and one form was even called “Primal Scream” therapy, research has shown that simply directing anger out at others or inanimate objects only serves one purpose: It makes the anger worse. It’s a little like what you do when you’re learning a skill, practicing a sport, or rehearsing with an instrument. This kind of repetition can help you become really skilled at something. The problem is, it is making you really good at being angry.
What can I do about it?
These are some basic steps you can begin to use today to get to understand your reactions and begin handling difficulties in a different way. You may also find that these steps aren’t limited to anger, but can be used to gain understanding and control over many difficulties. Try the VALUE approach:
With practice, this becomes something that happens regularly and more directly, leaving less room for the argument to be about everything except what the argument was about.]]>
I’d like to be able to say that after she heard herself speak those words, she immediately picked up on the irony. In fact, I’d be almost as okay revealing a second-best resolution: That through a relatively short course of therapy, she listened to my reflection of those words, became open to new possibilities, and came to resolution that the continued distress was far more difficult than anything associated with any self-admissions. Unfortunately, I can’t do either, because despite a good amount of growth in many areas over the course of several months, she continued to cling tenaciously to her outrage, and she eventually left therapy, by my guess, moderately satisfied.
Anger is a strange emotion. I’ve heard it called everything from “our most basic, primal impulse,” to “a secondary, unnecessary feeling that just masks fear or sadness.” Through all these contrasting (and overgeneralized) viewpoints, though, I’ve come to recognize that there’s some truth in all, but the biggest truth I’ve discovered is: it serves an important purpose, for everyone who experiences it. But the next question I have is: Does that purpose serve you? For the young woman above, it served to protect her from severe self-doubt that may have truly clobbered her, if her anger was dismantled abruptly. But it did too good of a job, and made it near impossible for her to confront any self-doubt.
And what about so-called “irrational anger,” or anger that would be seen as socially inappropriate? Do you have the right, for example, to feel anger toward a disabled person who has done nothing, whatsoever, to bring about their problems? Isn’t that forbidden? Well, while it would never be appropriate to treat that person disrespectfully or abusively, there may be some very difficult self-confrontation here. Honesty toward your feelings and resolution to acknowledge and deal productively with that anger will go a long way in your ultimate caregiving.
In the best way possible, anger may be viewed as a built-in human communication tool. It is there to alert you and others to the fact that as a human, you have personal limits and boundaries. When those boundaries are broken, the appropriate expression of anger (not yelling, belittling, or other destructive expression, and definitely not passive aggression!) is immeasurably important in negotiating greater outcomes for you and those you care about.]]>
I want to turn your attention to one particular facet of fitness: Psychological fitness. It really is helpful to consider this an integral part of your physical fitness, since research and practice is rapidly showing us that mind and body are really one big system, rather than two systems that have a few select, specific interactions. You may be thinking, “Oh, big surprise, a psychologist is telling us to look after our mental health,” or “Who really has time for this, I can barely even find time to exercise!” Before you stop to write it off—consider this:
When I see someone for biofeedback services, one of the first demonstrations I routinely conduct is to hook the person up to one simple feedback gauge (for example, skin conductance, as measured by micro-changes in skin wetness). I help them relax, then ask them to think, very briefly, about one thing they have to do today… nothing major, just one task, pleasant or not. Invariably, they then see a MAJOR reaction on the screen, as read by that gauge. I then explain: “Remember that your brain is, in fact, a part of your physical body, and every emotion, every thought, has a physical component. That little, tiny change in thought produced a cascade of brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, to send messages to another part of your body, in this case your sweat glands. But that’s only one response from that tiny little thought; between your neurological system and endocrine system, that was only one of many reactions that just occurred. Now, that’s one tiny change in thought. How many of those little thoughts do you have in a day? And how many major thoughts in a day? Can you see how the patterns of thoughts, stressful or not, can really affect you? They can cause chemical responses that influence processing of foods and nutrients, oxygenation levels, stress hormones that tell the body to retain fats or water, all of that and more…” The picture usually gets very clear; I really like the look of understanding that often follows.
Robert Sapolsky, in his brilliant book, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” explains this concept well. He cites the example of, say, a zebra in the wild, minding its own business, grazing, until a predator (say, a lion) comes along. What we know as the “Fight—Flight” system takes hold. Automatically, the zebra’s body induces a sudden, extreme stress reaction. All the body’s resources for energy are transferred to the skeletal muscles and the zebra darts away, hopefully escaping the predator. When it’s over, the zebra resumes grazing. But do you think that zebra is still ruminating? Maybe thinking, “Man, that was a big lion, and FAST! He acted like he had something personal against me. I wonder if he does. Maybe he’ll be back when I’m not paying attention. Maybe he’ll mess with my family too, and he does know where I live. He can tell it’s me by the stripes. Ooohhhh… I’m worried!”
Not likely. But we do. Unlike the zebra, whose resources return to normal after an encounter, we have the ability to think of things in a uniquely human way. Obviously, this ability enhances our lives, but also leaves us vulnerable to sustained worry, sadness, anger, despair, or a host of other emotions that all go along with the sustained stress response. And sustained stress does more than make you “just not feel good.” We were wired to run from lions, as well, and the stress reaction is designed for just that. We were not designed to have that feeling, though usually not that intense, hang around us for prolonged periods. That contributes directly (by chemical changes in the body) and indirectly (by reinforcing unhealthy habits) to physical problems easily as much as does a sedentary lifestyle.
A worthy goal for 2010 is to become aware of this tendency (we all have it, to varying degrees), find how it affects you (the signs are somewhat predictable but as with anything, your story will be unique, as will your way of feeding or controlling this response), and begin to figure out some ways to counteract bad stress. It doesn’t necessarily mean countless hours of therapy, or fully changing lifestyles to embrace a whole new life philosophy. Depending on your current condition and how you respond best, one change might be as minimal as giving yourself a scheduled, short “break” in your day. If you feel you might need bigger changes to accomplish this, there are resources ranging from popular guidebooks on emotional health (Sapolsky is a great example, PLUS he’s an entertaining read!), to activities embracing both physical and mental well-being (such as yoga, tai chi, meditation, as well as other ‘alternative’ health practices), to more traditional therapy or stress-focused mental health treatment (biofeedback, hypnosis, etc.). Much like physical exercise, where there are multiple paths to great physical activity, the means for diminishing stress and enhancing life are many and readily available.]]>
There are numerous studies extolling the virtues of a play-rich childhood, especially one in which the child has ample opportunity for “nonstructured” play. This is fertile ground for developing creativity, social skills, and cognitive flexibility via fantasy, mock situational play and conflict resolution, and problem solving. But in today’s society, we are increasingly structuring our children’s time – something that can be positive in the right amounts – but not to the detriment or even exclusion of unstructured time.
And what about adults? Does our need for play simply evaporate after a certain age? The answer seems to be a resounding “no.” It is an invaluable part of our life balance. Having an activity, a hobby, or a pursuit that is not tied to our pressing life goals helps us to express our creativity, keep us mentally astute, and fresh for other challenges. Additionally, it increases our ability to mitigate stress. It also adds a little something we all need: Joy and happiness.
Isn’t this synonymous with goofing off, or wasting time? Maybe you should ask your work computer that question (replace with: the water cooler, your work buddy, the break room, etc. as necessary). We seem “wired” to take those breaks, anyway, which really affects productivity and purpose. Many other cultures have figured this out (you’ve likely heard of afternoon siestas? Longer/more frequent vacations? Higher productivity?). Americans still value their identity as hard workers, and many define this by the number of hours worked. While we live in this system, it’s important to find ways to balance out that expectation with those activities that recharge our batteries.
Remember: Everyone’s needs are different. Take a critical view not only of your designated times for work and play, but also of where it comes out in unplanned places. Then look to you and your needs and see what adjustments you can make. You might surprise yourself!]]>