3 Strategies To Decrease Worry And Anxiety

How Family and Friends Help the DepressedEveryone has anxiety from time to time, but chronic anxiety can negatively impact your quality of life and have serious consequences on your physical health.

Some stress experts warn that chronic worrying may be the number-one killer in this country.  Every time we allow ourselves to experience anxiety (the clinical term for worry), we change our physiology (changes in blood chemistry, blood sugar level, blood pressure, muscle tension).  If persistent worrying or anxiety is a part of your lifestyle, these physiological changes are prolonged and undermine your health.

The short-term effects of chronic worrying include depression, mental and physical exhaustion, chronic fatigue, insomnia and general achiness.  In the long term, the person whose lifestyle includes worrying predisposes him/herself to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

Strategies to help

If you are concerned about the amount of worry and anxiety you may be feeling, below are three strategies to help:

— Control your worry.  Select a half-hour “worry period” that will take place at the same time and place each day.  Observe your worrying throughout your day.  When you “catch” a worry beginning, postpone it to your worry period, reminding yourself that you will have time later to worry about it and there is no use upsetting yourself now.  When you get to your worry period, spend 30 minutes thinking about your concerns and what you can do about them.  Try not to dwell on what “might” happen.  Focus more on what’s really happening.  Distinguish between worries over which you have little or no control, and worries about problems that you can influence.  If you can influence the problem, do some problem-solving and take action.  If the worry is largely beyond your control, recognize that little or nothing can be done and that you are only making yourself feel bad by worrying.

What causes you to feel anxious?  Try to pinpoint what it is you are feeling anxious about.  If you can recognize what’s really bothering you, what can you do to eliminate or minimize the situation in some way so that it isn’t so stressful?  More important, how can you react differently so you won’t be so affected by this situation?

— Exercise and learn relaxation techniques.  Not only can exercise and relaxation techniques ease tension and relax the body, they can give you a break from worry.  For exercise, focus on aerobic exercise like brisk walking, jogging, swimming or cycling.  Relaxation techniques may include muscle relaxation, yoga, biofeedback, meditation or deep breathing.  Choose what works best for you.

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Four Tips To Improve Your Energy and Mood

3 Tips To Improve Your Mood...Fast!All of us could use more energy.  The tips below can help you improve your personal energy and mood to help you get the most out of each day.

Tip #1 – Take a brisk walk.  A survey of more than 300 Californians ranked exercise as the best way to lift a bad mood.  According to renowned mood expert Robert Thayer, Ph.D., a bad mood has two major components, feelings of tension and low energy.  Exercise can boost your mood by relieving tension, raising energy and increasing optimism.  If you’re dragging or in a bad mood, take a brisk walk.  In experiments conducted by Thayer, a brisk 10-minute walk not only increased energy and mood, but the positive effects lasted for up to two hours.  And when daily 10-minute walks continued for three weeks, overall energy levels and mood were lifted.

Tip #2 – Don’t skip breakfast…or any other meal.  Start your day with a nutritious breakfast.  Studies show that people who eat breakfast report being in a better mood and have more energy throughout the day.  Other benefits include improved metabolism and better concentration and performance.  Additionally, studies published in the journal Nutritional Health found that missing any meal during the day led to an overall greater feeling of fatigue by day’s end.

Tip #3 – Identify the biggest source of stress in your life and face it head on.  Too much stress drains your energy, undermines your mood and negatively impacts your health.  If you’re suffering from overwhelming or chronic stress ask yourself: What is the biggest problem or conflict that is troubling me and how can I deal with it more effectively?  Face the issue head on by devising ways to change or manage the aspects of the issue over which you have control.  Learn to let go of those aspects over which you have no control.

Tip #4 – Commit to getting adequate, quality sleep each day.  Many people drag through each day because of nothing more complicated than a chronic sleep deficit.  According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, those who got fewer than six hours of sleep on weekdays were more likely to describe themselves as stressed, sad, angry and pessimistic.  Conversely, those getting adequate sleep reported more positive feelings.  For better energy and mood, make the quality and quantity of your sleep a priority.  Commit to getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

Note: If your fatigue lasts for two weeks or more, see your doctor.  Fatigue is a common symptom of many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, anemia, thyroid disease and sleep apnea.  Additionally, many medications can contribute to fatigue.  List all of the medications you are taking – both prescription and over-the-counter drugs – and show the list to your doctor.  If appropriate, your doctor may suggest some alternatives.

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Strategies To Decrease Emotional Overeating

Eating to Reduce StressAccording to the American Psychological Association, almost half of Americans (48 percent) reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods to manage stress.  Many people use food to fill emotional needs, contributing to overeating and being overweight. Do you use food to:

— Relax or calm your nerves?
— Comfort yourself?
— Numb yourself from emotional pain such as sadness, hopelessness, rejection, or anger?

Steps to regain control

If you’re prone to emotional overeating, you can take steps to regain control.  Below are tips and strategies to help decrease this unhealthy habit:

1. Learn to recognize true hunger versus emotional eating. If you ate just a few hours ago and don’t have a rumbling in your stomach, you’re probably not really hungry. When you feel the urge to eat, get in the habit of asking yourself, “Is it physical hunger or is it emotional or stress-driven hunger?”

 2. Know your triggers. Use a food diary to identify when and why you eat for emotional reasons. Keep an accurate record for at least one week of what you eat, how much you eat, how you’re feeling and how hungry you are.  Ask yourself: What happened today to make me feel this way?  You may become aware of situations or feelings that trigger you to turn to food.

3. Face difficult emotions and stress-producing problems head on. Work on ways to face difficult emotions and stressful situations other than reaching for food. Acknowledge and address feelings of anxiety, anger or loneliness.  Look for solutions to the difficult issues in your life.  Talk them over with a friend or counselor, or write in a journal.  Finding ways to express your feelings constructively can help clear unwanted eating patterns.

4. Find alternative behaviors to eating. Instead of turning to food, take a walk, practice yoga or meditation, listen to relaxing music, take a warm bath, read a good book, engage in a hobby, work in your garden, treat yourself to a movie, or talk to a supportive friend. Exercise regularly and get adequate rest.  Each is proven to reduce stress, improve your mood and help control appetite.

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Better Problem Solving For Couples

Problems are a normal part of life.  How couples handle their problems can lead to relationship growth or deterioration.

Research has shown that successful relationships are not those that necessarily have fewer problems, but those that have found effective means of solving the problems that arise.  Here are two suggestions that can help you and your partner approach problems in a more positive and constructive way and result in a stronger and more satisfying relationship for you and your partner.

  1. Approach Problems as a Team

According to researchers who study marriage and relationships, couples who view themselves as being on the same team are better able to resolve conflicts than those who don’t.  “We” couples aim to resolve problems for the good of their relationship, not to “win” the argument.

How do you and your partner approach conflict in your relationship?  Does it typically become a competition where you fight to prove that you are right, beat your opponent and “win” the argument?  The truth is when one partner “wins” the fight, the other person loses – and resentment builds and intimacy is lost.  In effect, both partners have then lost because the relationship has been damaged.

If you and your partner are experiencing a conflict now – or before the next issue arises – make a commitment to each other to be on the same team to resolve the issue.  Your goal shouldn’t be to win the argument but to strengthen the relationship.  Think about your partner’s needs as well as your own.  Work together to problem solve and brainstorm possible solutions.  By working together – instead of against each other – you will have a real chance of finding a solution that is acceptable to both of you.

  1. Seek Understanding First

According to marital research from the Gottman Institute, over two-thirds of the disagreements that couples have are perpetual – 69% of couples’ conflicts end in stalemates.  However, according to the researchers, you don’t have to resolve your differences to have a satisfying, lasting relationship.  You do, however, have to gain a mutual understanding about the problem. Therefore, it is imperative that you and your partner learn how to approach your issues so that you can come to a place of mutual understanding.

Try this perspective to help put you on the path toward mutual understanding.  Start with a two-person focus.  The two-person focus means that you keep in mind your needs and your partner’s needs, as opposed to focusing only on yourself and your needs.  Having a two-person focus means you have to care about your partner’s feelings, interests, needs, desires and preferences, as well as your own.

Better Problem Solving For Couples – Summary

By using a team approach and striving to seek a mutual understanding about the problem, you and your partner can learn how to resolve your differences more effectively and, in fact, grow stronger and closer by solving them together.


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Teen Depression

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, at any given time, approximately 3.5 million children and teenagers suffer from depression.  Alarmingly, an average of more than 1,000 teenagers attempt suicide each day.  It has become the third-leading cause of death among teenagers.  In most of these cases, depression is a factor.

Signs of teen depression

Because the teen may not always seem sad, parents and teachers may not realize that troublesome behavior is a sign of depression.  Adolescent psychiatrists advise parents to be aware of the signs of teen depression.  If one or more of these signs persists for more than two weeks, parents should seek professional help:

  • Poor performance in school
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Sadness and hopelessness
  • Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
  • Anger and rage
  • Overreaction to criticism
  • Poor self-esteem or guilt
  • Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Substance abuse
  • Problems with authority
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

*Source: National Mental Health Association

Additionally, teens may experiment with drugs or alcohol or become sexually promiscuous to avoid feelings of depression.  Teens also may express their depression through hostile, aggressive, or risk-taking behavior.

Treating teen depression

If you suspect that your teen may be suffering from depression, understand that depression is not simply a passing blue mood.  Your child cannot simply get better by being “more positive.”  Depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.

It is extremely important that depressed teens receive prompt, professional treatment.  Comprehensive treatment often includes both individual and family therapy.  It may also include the use of antidepressant medications.  Getting treatment as soon as possible is important because the earlier treatment begins, the more effective it can be.

NOTE: Professional help should definitely be sought if a person is experiencing suicidal thoughts.

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3 Reasons To Disconnect From Digital Technology

While it may be the norm for many, being connected 24/7 to your computer, laptop, smartphone or iPad comes with a price.  Here are three good reasons to take breaks from digital technology.

1. Recharge from job stress – According to a survey conducted by VTech, being constantly accessible for work was the number-one source of technology-related stress. Studies show, however, that in spite of modern work trends, our brains need downtime for recovery and we need our evenings and weekends to disconnect and recuperate from the stresses of work. Although it can be tempting to continue to check email, return text messages and answer work calls after normal work hours, it is important to allocate time for yourself and switch off work stress.  Tell your colleagues that you will be unavailable after a certain time, turn off your phone and computer and set aside some work-free time each evening to relax.  Your employer will benefit too, as you’ll be coming back to work more relaxed and recharged each day.

2. Maximize your productivity – Studies have found that multitasking reduces your productivity by 40 percent. This is because our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time and bombarding them with unrelated, extraneous information only slows them down. Researchers at Stanford University found that people who are regularly besieged with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who completed one task at a time.  To improve your productivity at work – or for other cognitive tasks – do one thing at a time and give it your full attention.  Disconnect from your phone, texting, email, social media, etc. and schedule specific times during the day to attend to these.

3. Improve your mood – Mental health researchers report that being overly tuned in to smartphones and laptops causes over-stimulation, anxiety and stress. A recent study showed that people now check their mobile phones more than 150 times per day. Just like your physical body, your brain needs downtime too.  Mental health experts now recommend scheduling breaks during the day from all digital technology, “unplugging” during dinner and at least two hours before bedtime.

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Exercise: Good For Your Body And Mind

Four Steps to a Longer LifeMost everyone is well-aware of the physical benefits of exercise. But did you know that exercise is also one of the most-effective ways to maintain your mental health and keep your brain healthy too?  Here are five ways that exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

Exercise and stress – Exercise is recognized as one of the best ways to reduce stress.  When you exercise, it metabolizes stress hormones in your blood and increases levels of your body’s built-in anti-anxiety hormones, making you feel calmer and lifting your mood.  In addition, regular exercise can be a diversion from day-to-day stress and can provide a sedative effect through natural physical movement.

Exercise and depression – Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria.  Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication – but without the side effects.  In addition to relieving depressive symptoms, research also has shown that regular exercise can prevent you from relapsing.

Exercise and sleep – People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, according to a recent study.  Also, exercise is one of the most important things you can do to overcome or lessen insomnia.  It can help you fall asleep easier and faster and sleep more restfully and deeper.

Exercise and your brain – Exercise enhances brain function.  During exercise, the heart pumps more blood to the brain.  Delivering more blood means more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the brain, which are good for brain cells and make the brain healthier.  In addition, the most-recent studies have shown that exercise boosts the brain’s rate of neurogenesis – the rate at which the brain regenerates brain cells.

Exercise and aging – Exercise slows the aging process.  Brain researchers say that exercise slows down the degeneration of the body and brain by sending powerful chemical messages to every cell in the body to “stay strong and grow.”

No matter your age or fitness level, you can enjoy the benefits of exercise.  Wondering just how active you need to be to get a mental health boost?  Thirty minutes of moderate exercise five times per week is the recommendation.  Aerobic exercises such as running, brisk walking, swimming, cycling or group-exercise classes are best.

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Helping A Friend Who Is In An Abusive Relationship

Teen dating violenceWatching a family member, friend or colleague going through an abusive relationship is difficult and frustrating.  The National Domestic Violence Hotline advises the following for effectively helping a family member or friend who is being abused:

Don’t be afraid to let him or her know that you are concerned for their safety.  Help your friend or family member recognize the abuse.  Tell him or her you see what is going on and that you want to help.  Help them recognize that what is happening is not “normal” and that they deserve a healthy, non-violent relationship.

Acknowledge that he or she is in a very difficult and scary situation.  Let your friend or family member know that the abuse is not their fault.  Reassure him or her that they are not alone and that there is help and support available.

Be supportive.  Listen to your friend or family member.  Remember that it may be difficult for him or her to talk about the abuse.  Let him or her know that you are available to help whenever they may need it.  What they need most is someone who will believe and listen to them.

Be non-judgmental.  Respect your friend or family member’s decisions.  There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships.  He or she may leave and return to the relationship many times.  Do not criticize his or her decisions or try to guilt them.  He or she will need your support even more during those times.

Encourage him or her to participate in activities outside of the relationship.  It’s important for him or her to see friends and family.

Help him or her develop a safety plan.  Safety planning includes picking a place to go and packing important items.

Encourage him or her to talk to people who can provide help and guidance.  Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups.  Offer to go with him or her to talk to family and friends.  If he or she has to go to the police, court or a lawyer, offer to go along for moral support.

Remember that you cannot “rescue” him or her.  Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the person getting hurt has to be the one to decide that they want to do something about it.  It’s important for you to support him or her and help them find a way to safety and peace.

Get advice.  If you want to talk to someone to get advice about a particular situation, contact a local domestic violence program or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.  NDVH is a nonprofit organization that provides crisis intervention, information and referral to victims of domestic violence, perpetrators, friends and families.



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Aging Parents: 4 Important Legal Documents

Fifty-five percent of caregivers feel overwhelmedDelaying preparation to deal with the illness, disability, incapacitation or death of a parent is understandable.  It is something most of us would rather not consider.  However, you can save yourself a tremendous amount of time, energy and perhaps money by being sure your parent has the following:

* An updated and valid will which ensures that your parent’s belongings, money or property will be allocated according to his/her wishes.  A current will reduces the likelihood of family conflict and an extended and complicated probate process.  If a valid will does not exist, the court may determine how property and possessions will be dispersed.

* A durable power of attorney which allows a designated person to make legally binding decisions for your parent (such as signing checks or making housing choices) should he/she become incapacitated.  Having a Durable Power of Attorney in place means the family can avoid the harrowing process of going to court to have a guardian named to oversee your parent’s care and finances.

* A living will specifies your parent’s wishes, in writing, as to the medical procedures to be performed if they become terminally ill.  With a Living Will, your parent decides, in advance, specific medical procedures to be administered and the circumstances for disconnecting any life-support treatment.  It can also specify who among family, friends or doctors will have the power to decide when to make a decision to disconnect life support systems.

* A durable power of attorney for healthcare is a legal document which allows your parent to designate a person to make certain decisions for them regarding their medical care, should they become unable to do so.  The typical distinction between a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare is that a Living Will usually deals only with medical decisions related to “end of life” situations.  A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare can be drafted to enable your parent to appoint a “healthcare agent” for a number of different medical situations which may arise not necessarily related to “end of life” situations.

Your EAP is here to help

If you need help with caring for an aging parent, your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can provide you with counseling, referrals or information on eldercare issues such as: housing options, preparing wills and advance healthcare directives, long-distance caregiving, protecting and maximizing financial resources, healthcare, community and home-care services, dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease or other disorders, etc.  Remember, your EAP is always available to help you with any type of personal, family or work-related concern.  Why not call an EAP counselor today?  We’re here to help.

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Housework: Getting The Entire Family To Share The Load

Housework: Getting The Entire Family To Share The Load

According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics annual Time Use Survey, for those who are involved in household activities – defined as housework, cooking, cleaning up after cooking, and generally taking care of the household – the average woman spends 2.6 hours each day on household activities, while the average man spends 2.1 hours each day.

Devising a family plan for housework is a must for any single-parent household, or any household combining two income-earning adults and family. The following suggestions may help you.

Making a family plan for housework

1. Be sure that everyone in your family understands that housework is a responsibility for all  family members to tackle.

2. Hold a family meeting. Brainstorm on ways to handle chores.

3. Be creative. Tasks can be divided up in a variety of ways: You can make a list together;
then whoever gets up first on Saturday morning chooses a chore, and whoever wakes
up last gets what’s left.  You can rotate chores, or leave them to the luck of the draw.  Or,
family members can choose certain jobs they like best, as long as everyone is satisfied
with the division of labor.

4. Include standards and regular evaluations, with consequences if a person doesn’t do his
or her share or doesn’t do it well.

5. Suggestion #1: Even very small children can be taught to help in numerous ways. They
can: care for the family pet, take out the garbage, water plants, dust and sweep, set and
clear the table, put dirty clothes in the hamper, make beds, keep their rooms clean and
organized.  Fortunately, younger children like doing chores, so you can easily make a
game of it.  What starts as fun can become a good habit.

6. Suggestion #2: Whenever possible, make chores fun, or at least less burdensome. Add
music; work together as a family; build in a reward or special activity when chores are
done.  Recognize improvement as well as excellence.  Frequent praise and mutual
appreciation will help your system work.

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