cope with sadness and anxiety after vacation

4 Tips To Overcome Post-Vacation Blues

Returning to your daily routine after a fabulous vacation can feel like an anticlimactic end to a life-changing experience. It’s like someone slowed down time and showed you all the stresses and chores you have to come back to, and all you can think of is “This is how I’m supposed to live the rest of the year?”. It’s like Sunday night blues on steroids.

Vacations give us the opportunity to escape the humdrum of our daily lives for some time and recharge our batteries… at least they are meant to. But what if, instead of feeling energized and ready for new challenges, we return home with an acute case of post-vacation blues?

What’s Up With Post-Vacation Blues?

Post-vacation blues, also known as post-vacation depression or post-holiday blues, are characterized by feelings of lethargy, anxiety, sadness, lack of motivation, and other unpleasant symptoms associated with the return to work after vacation.

According to the research from University in Rotterdam, people experience the largest happiness boost before their vacation, in the phase of anticipation and planning. Furthermore, shortly after the vacation ends, a significant number of participants reported increased levels of stress, anxiety, and aversion towards returning to daily responsibilities. And, ironically, the longer and more exciting the trip – the stronger these unpleasant feelings that characterize post-vacation depression are likely to strike you.overcome sadness after vacation

Feeling blue and unmotivated after a vacation is nothing unusual and is completely understandable. While you’re in vacation mode, you do far more of what you want to do in comparison to what you need to do. You focus purely on pleasure. And that’s great! A number of researches show that taking a vacation can significantly contribute to your mental and physical health. However, a sudden re-entry from ‘mainly pleasure’ mode to ‘more responsibilities’ mode can be a jolt on your mind and body. Thus, you need to take some time to go through this process of re-adjusting to your daily working routine.

Besides, although vacations help you rest, de-stress, and regenerate, they do not eliminate the source of problems that typically bug you in your usual daily routine. A good vacation may help you run away from your annoying boss or your overwhelmingly full inbox for a while, but they don’t fix the issue.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent post-vacation depression or at least minimize its effects. Here are 4 tips that can help you get back on track with a more positive attitude.

1. Mix your responsibilities with pleasurable activities, especially for the first few days.

In other words, give yourself some time to ease back into your daily routine. Getting back from vacation often means having to deal with a pile of chores like unpacking your suitcases, doing the laundry, grocery shopping, maybe some cleaning around the house, etc. But if boring responsibilities are all that waits for you after alluring beaches or calming nature, it can feel like a cold shower and make your life seem a lot more stressful than it actually is.

So, instead of jumping right in and setting your expectations too high for getting everything done immediately upon your return, it may be a good idea to give yourself some more time for post-vacation transition and fill it with little pleasures. For example, make yourself a fancy cocktail and play some music you love while doing the cleaning or sorting out the bills. Or, the first day after work – go to the movies. Having your first few days filled with small stuff that brings you joy and cheers you up can help you avoid the downward emotional spiral post-vacation period can effect.

cope with post-holiday depression

2. Plan something to look forward to – even if it’s the next vacation.

One part of why post-vacation blues hit us is because, for some time, the anticipation of that vacation brought us pleasure and pushed us forward. Now that this long-awaited vacation – aka the source of happiness boost – has come to an end, our mood drops. Having something to look forward to brings positive expectations and therefore positively contributes to our overall happiness. The above-mentioned research confirms it. Thus, what the authors of the research recommend as the best remedy to post-vacation blues is planning the next vacation, or at least the next weekend. Putting yourself in a holiday planning stage again should alleviate the perceived misery of returning to your ordinary working life and bring back the excitement about good times waiting ahead.

3. Make a list of everything you love about your life at home.

There is no place like home. And although you enjoyed your trip, returning to the familiar comforts of life at home is something to embrace and express gratitude for. It is probable that the life you live – your hometown, job, family, friends, your usual routine and habits – have a tremendous value to you. This is the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate how you live and to notice things that you usually take for granted.

It’s easy to forget and minimize the little joys that make our ordinary day feel comfortable and homey. In that sense, it may be a good idea to take some time and make a list of everything you’re grateful for in your everyday life.  Perhaps it’s a view from your window while you’re sipping coffee from your favourite mug exactly as you like it, or the coziness of sleeping in your bed, or returning to your pet, or that grocery store nearby where the kind worker always wishes you a good day, or your neighbour who’s always ready to help. Whatever it is, noticing these amazing, valuable things you’re coming back to is a good way to change the focus from post-holiday blues to gratitude.

4. Evaluate what isn’t working.

If your feelings of anxiety and sadness are persistent a few weeks after your vacation has ended and you find yourself escaping into daydreaming about past times much more than being in the present moment, maybe it’s time to look at why home life is so hard to come back to. Is your job too stressful? Are you too busy? Do you lack interesting hobbies and pleasurable activities in your ordinary routine? Are you bored? And most importantly – what can you change? Asking these questions can help you understand what makes your daily routine so unsatisfying and what steps you can take to make changes and move forward to a more enjoyable life.

You don’t have to do this alone. If you need help and guidance in identifying what holds you back and creating an action plan for overcoming these obstacles, don’t hesitate to ask for help. We’re always here.

How do you feel after a vacation? Have you ever experienced post-vacation blues? Share your thoughts and experiences down below in the comments! And if you like this post, please don’t forget to share it with your friends on social media – you never know who you might help.

Welcome home and happy summer!

 

 

Sources:

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Chun_Chu_Chen/publication/258161384_Health_and_Wellness_Benefits_of_Travel_Experiences_A_Literature_Review/links/5a0a17b30f7e9bb949f96e31/Health-and-Wellness-Benefits-of-Travel-Experiences-A-Literature-Review.pdf

https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/20093320218

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self-care routine

It’s Time to Rethink Self-Care (+20 Simple Self-Care Ideas)

There’s been a lot of talk about self-care lately, and it’s for a good reason. Self-care is an essential part of managing stress and living a balanced life. And yet, so many people struggle with it.

But what is it exactly? For many, the first association to self-care is pampering yourself, like taking a long bubble bath or going to a massage. And yes, self-care can surely look like that, if it works for you. But it’s also so much more.

Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.

In other words, it’s any activity that restores your energy, promotes your health, and makes you feel nurtured and taken care of. Shortly, self-care is care provided to you by you. What makes it so important is that it is a vital starting point for dealing with stress and challenging situations in life. Think of it as an armour to protect the energy you need to survive and thrive. It’s not just an escape from the daily grind, but an ongoing routine that increases your resilience and overall vitality.

Struggling With Self-Care

While a part of self-care is taking care of your physical health, it also means – and here comes the tricky part – paying attention to your needs and allowing yourself to act on them. Many of us don’t know how to practice self-care because we weren’t taught to pay attention to our inner states, trust them, and be honest about them. Instead, we learned what we’re ‘supposed’ to feel or think, and try to ignore things that are opposite to that. For example, you may feel upset about something, but at the same time you think that you shouldn’t feel like that but be strong, positive and grateful. So you suffocate your anger, sadness, or anxiety about the certain situation.

If this is something that sounds familiar, there is a chance that you apply the same mindset on self-care too. In other words, you have the idea of how self-care should generally look like and force yourself to do activities that fit into that picture. So self-care becomes a chore, which is exactly the opposite of what the whole concept is all about.rethinking self-care

Despite its huge importance for mental health, self-care still sounds a little yucky for some. The reason for it probably lies in the fact that, in our culture that glorifies self-sacrifice and ‘hustle’, it’s easy to feel guilty for wanting something different than that. We may feel wrong or shameful if we put our needs first, if we take some time to relax and do something nice for ourselves instead of helping others all the time or tirelessly working toward our goals. As a consequence, we might label ourselves as being ‘selfish’, ‘weak’, ‘lazy’, or ‘entitled’. And, of course, because we don’t want to be any of these things, we neglect meeting our needs, sometimes to the point where our body and mind beg us for it. The end destination – exhaustion and burnout.

Rethinking Self-Care

Considering its significance for our wellbeing and at the same time so many misconceptions attached to it, it’s time to rethink self-care, don’t you think? Let’s debunk some common misbeliefs about it.

Misconception: Self-Care Is Selfish
Truth: Self-Care is Necessary for Maintaining Loving Relationships And Investing in Them

Think about it like when you’re in an airplane. The flight attendants always tell you to, in case of an emergency, put your oxygen mask first, and then help others. It’s similar with mental health – if you’re not properly taken care of, there is a chance you’ll end up not helping anyone, including yourself. The lack of ‘me’ time can drain your energy and lead to resentment toward others. And that, you’ll admit, is not the most positive starting point for investing in relationships.

Self-care is the opposite of selfish. It means you’re preparing to be there for others and to give and help not out of guilt but because you honestly want to.

Misconception: Self-Care Means I’m Weak
Truth: Self-Care Is a Necessary Part of Being Strong and Healthy

Self-Care is not a sign of weakness, but a fundamental aspect of staying healthy, emotionally and physically. Practicing self-care is not proof that you can’t persevere and cope with challenges, but a sign that you’re thinking long-term. Almost everywhere we turn, there is some sort of messaging to push it harder, to stretch our limits, to go, go, go. Self-care doesn’t fit in this kind of mindset society imposes on us, and sometimes it takes courage to go in the opposite direction – to slow down and take some time for yourself. And something that takes courage is surely a sign of strength, not a weakness.

take care of yourself

Misconception: Self-Care Means I’m Lazy/Is a Waste of Time
Truth: Self-Care Boosts Your Productivity

Today, many of us are addicted to busyness. We always have to be on the move, make plans, have things scheduled in. But your energy is not limitless. If you never stop to take some rest and you neglect your needs, it is a well-known road to stress, overwhelm, and burnout, which all lower your productivity. On the other hand, self-care is a way to recharge and prepare for new challenges. It’s not a lack of self-determination, but exactly the opposite – a smart strategy to keep you in line with your goals in the long run.

Simple Self-Care Ideas to Try

Self-care routine doesn’t have to be something big, expensive, or time-consuming. In fact, it might be better if it’s not any of these things. Rather, it should be a series of small and simple actions that you can easily practice throughout your day. So, to create a self-care routine, you need to know yourself, your likes and boundaries, and act on them.

Still not sure where to start? Here are some simple self-care ideas that might give you some inspiration to start exploring what works best for you.

1. Eat a healthy meal. If you’re into cooking, prepare it yourself. Experiment with new tastes.
2. Set a date with yourself. Visit a museum, go to a cinema, or treat yourself with a nice dinner or, yes, a massage or a long bubble bath ?
3. Get a solid eight hours of sleep.
4. Go to your favourite workout class.
5. Take a walk in nature.
6. Stretch. Multiple times a day. Pay full attention to your body.
7. Take time to breathe gently and deeply. While doing that, say some kind words to yourself.
8. Switch off all your electronic devices (laptop, tablet, phone, TV), and enjoy the silence.
9. Meet with a friend whose company you really enjoy.
10. Learn something new that always interested you. Wake up that curious inner child.

self-care routine
11. Write in a journal. Get honest about your feelings and needs.
12. Meditate or practice mindfulness.
13. Practice gratitude.
14. Write yourself a ‘well done’ list at the end of the day to celebrate your achievements, however big or small they may be.
15. Curl up with a cup of tea and read a book or watch your favorite TV show. Extra points if you light up a yummy smelling candle ?
16. Tap into your creative side. Try sewing, writing fiction, painting, dancing, or buy some crayons and a coloring book.
17. Say NO to activities or gatherings that drain your energy.
18. Seek therapy.
19. Practice self-compassion. Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a close friend.
20. Practice taking ‘should’ out of your vocabulary and freeing yourself from feeling that you ‘should’ do things.

How do you take care of yourself? Let us know down below in the comments. And also, if you like this post, please share it on your social media. Let’s raise awareness about the importance of self-care.

Sources:

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kimberly_Wesley2/publication/254734813_Self-Care_Practices_and_Perceived_Stress_Levels_Among_Psychology_Graduate_Students/links/56312eec08ae13bc6c356276/Self-Care-Practices-and-Perceived-Stress-Levels-Among-Psychology-Graduate-Students.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27819888

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6080382/

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sunday night blues

How to Beat Sunday Night Blues

How is it possible that it’s already Sunday night when it feels like Friday was half an hour ago?! The struggle of knowing the laid-back, weekend You has to dress up tomorrow and face the overwhelming to-do list of the working week again is real. That sinking feeling you experience on Sunday night is what millions are dealing with too – the Sunday night blues.

Why Sunday Nights are So Tough?

For one thing, Sunday night blues started in our schooldays, when Sunday evening meant the fun of the weekend is over and we have to return to our boring textbooks and homework. Even when those days are over, out body and mind remember those anxious feelings and Sunday night remains the trigger that brings this response back. The fact that, for many of us as adults, Sunday means roughly the same thing – returning to tasks and responsibilities on our workplace – additionally strengthens that familiar physical and psychological response we developed a long time ago. For this reason, even people who love their jobs are not immune to Sunday night blues.

Additional thing that probably happens is that you are thinking too far ahead. We described this cognitive distortion HERE, so you might want to take a look. In short, when you think about everything you need to finish during the next week all at once, stress spikes up and you feel overwhelmed. What you ultimately do is you’re cramming the workload of five working days, so about 40 working hours, into one moment of thinking; the result is, naturally, that it looks like too much to handle. But in reality, things are much easier while you’re actually going through them.

“You probably know it yourself – something seems so much more frustrating or difficult or boring when you think about it ahead than while you’re actually doing it.”

So, when Sunday evening comes, your body and mind habitually start familiar pattern all over again: worrying about the upcoming week, feeling of overwhelm for everything that has to be done, sadness for weekend being too short, anger at yourself or others for not doing everything as planned, irritability, anxiety, depression. You may even have a hard time falling asleep.

How to Beat Sunday Night Blues?

Sunday night sadness and anxiety may be common, but you don’t have to live with them. Here are a few things you can do to outsmart your sad Sundays and feel uplifted for the week ahead.

✔️ Keep your weekend plans realistic

You want to make your weekend as enjoyable as possible, and that’s great. However, it’s important to not get caught into the trap of setting the expectations for the weekend so high that it becomes a race of accomplishing everything on the list.

If you’re determined to finish work reports and answer some additional e-mails, reorganize your closet, meet with friends on a drink, spend time in nature with your family, read that exciting book that’s sitting for too long on your bedside table, and go to a yoga class all in the same weekend, activities that are supposed to be fun and relaxing might turn into obligations. The end result is that you’re probably going to end up either exhausted from running to achieve all of it or frustrated that you haven’t accomplished it all. Either way, your mind on Sunday night consequentially becomes, well, a not so pleasant place.

Sometimes, even the most organized people have to deal with the reality that things don’t always go according to the plan. Because of this, try to see plans you make on Friday afternoon as an outline, as a list of possible things that you have the freedom to do on the weekend, not as plans written in stone. It’s wonderful to have a variety of choices – embrace it. But don’t let can and want turn into a must.

sunday

✔️ Active leisure time

About  75% of people don’t leave the house on Sunday (source). When we combine it with the fact that “feelings of anxiety and depression are most common when the person is not particularly busy”, as the professor of psychology at Roosevelt University, Steven Meyers says, then it’s easy to recognize why Sunday becomes a perfect time for those unpleasant feelings to creep into our minds.

One good way to avoid entering this “empty space” is to replace your passive leisure time with enjoyable activities that will occupy your mind and redirect your attention. And by this we don’t mean doing some house chores – reschedule them for some other day. Instead, you want to do something you enjoy – spend time with friends, exercise, devote time to hobbies, do something creative, anything that is fun for you and gives you something to focus on.

One amazing way to spend your Sunday is volunteering. One study found that people who volunteer are happier with their work-life balance. Further, those who volunteered in their free time were less stressed and less likely to feel burned out at work. Another study shows that volunteering in our free time makes us feel like we actually have more time! It suggests that volunteering makes us feel more efficient, like we are doing something big and valuable with our time, and therefore like we are less stressed and hurried.

creative sunday active leisure time

✔️ Schedule something you look forward to for the working week

You know that fuzzy excitement before a vacation? That tingling anticipation of all the adventures that you might experience on your trip? Well, a micro version of that happens before your weekend. Having something to look forward to often serves as a fuel that helps us go through stressful times. But sometimes the weekend can feel too far away, and especially so on Sunday night.

However, you don’t have to save all your fun activities for the weekend. Scheduling little things you enjoy strategically throughout the week should give you something to look forward to, which will relieve some stress and anxiety and boost your mood and energy. When, on Sunday, you know that the next time you’ll enjoy yourself won’t be on the next Friday, but actually much sooner, already on Monday even, the upcoming week doesn’t look so long and scary. These activities don’t have to be anything big – scheduling a romantic dinner on Thursday night, going out for a movie on Wednesday, or curling up in your bed with a blanket, a cup of tea and your favorite book on Monday night will do just fine.

 

✔️ Ask the right questions

Your Sunday night blues might simply be a product of overthinking, but they can also be an important sign. Take a step back and try to identify what’s causing you anxiety, stress, or sadness. Do you have too many commitments? Do you need more sleep? Have you neglected yourself for too long? Is your job in opposition with your personal values and beliefs? Maybe it’s time to slow down a little. Whatever it is, pinpointing the exact root of those unpleasant feelings that occur right before Monday is the first step toward a solution.

If you need additional help, do not hesitate to reach out. Your therapist can help you explore where your Sunday anxiety and sadness come from and create the right strategy to soothe them.

 

If you know a friend or a family member who is having a hard time on Sundays, share this article with them on social media – they may find it helpful.

How do you fight Sunday night blues? Leave a comment below! ?

 

 

Resources:

https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/volunteering-our-time-makes-us-feel-like-we-have-more-time-study.html

https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/people-who-volunteer-are-happier-with-their-work-life-balance.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-couch/201111/what-makes-sunday-nights-so-hard

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2169996/When-weekend-ends-4-13pm-Sunday-blues-ahead-working-week.html

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social media

Saving Your Happiness: How to Use Social Media in a Healthy Way

Today, it would be really difficult to find anyone who’s not using at least one form of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and many more became an inevitable part of our lives. And it can be great – isn’t the quick way to connect with your loved ones and share your experiences with each other in seconds amazing? Isn’t the opportunity to quickly consume any type of information you’re interested in, from educational to entertaining, simply awesome?
Yes, if you have a healthy relationship with social media. But, sometimes, it can be easy to forget what it really means.

Social Media and Mental Health

While some studies claim the relationship between mental health and usage of social media is still vague, others have found that higher social media use could have the negative effect on our mental health in forms of anxiety, depression, lower self-esteem, more negative body image, and feelings of loneliness and isolation. Which effect social media will have on your mental health depends on numerous different factors, such as the way you use it or the amount of time spent on social media.

You already know that it’s easy to fall into a dark hole of scrolling through your social media feed for hours. You also know how awful you can feel afterward. But you don’t have to give up social media completely to avoid its negative effects. If you use it the right way and have a couple of things in mind, social media can have a positive presence in your life. Here are some tips to stay happy and healthy online.

 

1. It’s All a Filter – And That’s Okay

We all want to be loved. We also want to leave a good impression on people. It feels great when people see us as fun, smart, pretty, successful (be free to add your own ideal set of characteristics ). That is perfectly fine. There is nothing wrong with enjoying compliments and wanting people to think good about you – it’s our natural tendency – as long as:

A) …it doesn’t become an obsession for you, where you don’t let people see anything that is, by your standard, less than perfect or socially desirable. If this sounds a little like you, THIS is the article that might be useful.

B) …you’re aware that other people have this desire too, and social media allows them to fulfill it.

When scrolling through your Instagram or Facebook, always remember that social media allows people to show you only the parts of them they want you to see. You usually won’t see the photo of your neighbor brushing their teeth or having a headache. However, you WILL see them enjoying a cocktail on a rooftop bar or receiving an award for something awesome. Your friends on social media have a bunch of amazing and also not-so-great moments in their lives, but it’s such an easy thing to forget. It’s so easy to get caught in a trap of believing that what you see on social media is the whole reality. So, what should you do?

Imagine social media as a filter between you and other people that lets through only positive snapshots of their lives. That is what you see on your feed. It doesn’t mean people are lying or they’re “fake”; it just means they’re showing you only certain, chosen parts of their lives. Always remember to approach social media with this mindset.

social media happiness

2. Comparison is a Strong Weapon Against Your Happiness

If you understand the previous point – how people show us only a filtered picture of their lives on social media – then you realize that comparing yourself to other people online makes no sense. You’re different people with different set of characteristics, abilities, connections, life circumstances and many more! Comparing your whole life, including all its ups and downs, with a polished picture of someone else’s is not a fair battle.

Comparison opens door to envy, loneliness, bitterness and a whole bunch of other unhealthy emotions you don’t want in your life. Why, then, you let the comparison do it when it won’t increase the quality of your life in any way? The answer: because it’s an automatic reaction.

Comparison is pointless – unless you want to destroy your happiness – then it’s a powerful tool.
There are two ways to fight comparison. One is to consciously choose to notice when you start comparing yourself to others and stop. Yes, simply put an end to it right that moment. Log out, tell yourself you’re doing the pointless thing again, unfollow the person.

The other way is to turn this automatism into your advantage by reformatting comparison into an inspiration. Remember that someone else’s happiness does not minimize your own, nor you’re doing something wrong for having a different life than that person. Instead, set your own goals, and let some of the social media posts you see serve as an inspiration and motivation to pursue them. Instead of getting jealous and falling down the rut of self-pity, you can be grateful for the inspiration that moves you towards your goal.

Your only competition is your former self.

 

3. No, You’re NOT Missing Out

Do you automatically reach out your phone because maybe something interesting or exciting is happening online and you might miss it? What if others are having an amazing time and you’re not there to see it? If this sounds like you, you’re maybe experiencing fear of missing out or, popularly, FOMO.

FOMO is the type of a general anxiety over the idea that others are having more exciting and fun experiences elsewhere while we’re not involved. This term is in use for more than 20 years, but more and more people are experiencing it with the rise of social media. In fact, one study showed that FOMO is the strongest contributing factor to social media addiction among youth.

What is often happening when you’re glued to your phone searching for fun online is that you’re trying to escape the reality around you.

Are you satisfied with what is going on right now in your life? Try to pinpoint the reason why getting lost in social media feed is more interesting than being involved in the present moment. Writing it on a piece of paper might be useful. Now, what can be some possible solutions? Running away from reality is not one of them.

Another thing that might help you combat this unpleasant feeling of missing out is mindfulness. When you’re fully present, when you’re consciously paying attention to every moment of your life without judgment, you are making the active decision to enjoy things and people around you.

 

Being on social media can create some positive experiences in your life, but it can also become an additional stressor. If you feel that social media is impacting your mood more than it should, or you feel like it’s taking significantly more time of your day than you’d want and you find it hard to control, consider reaching out and speaking with someone. There is always a solution, and you don’t have to search for it alone.

 

Sources:

https://mentalhealthscreening.org/blog/how-to-have-a-healthy-relationship-with-social-media
https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S174014451730517X#
https://www.ntu.ac.uk/about-us/news/news-articles/2018/06/fear-of-missing-out-driving-social-media-addiction,-study-suggests
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4183915/

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How Do I Deal With Stress?

Do you feel constantly under pressure? Are your work deadlines taking a toll on you? Do you find yourself being anxious and on edge in your relationship? Do you experience headaches often? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are undergoing stress.

Stress has taken over our lives. The alarming rates of competition, job insecurity, and conflicts at a personal level all give rise to stress. Stress is the reaction of our body and mind to the demands placed on us. To a certain extent, stress is normal and useful and helps us to react quickly or work hard to meet a deadline.

However, if the stress is prolonged or occurs often, it results in negative effects like upset stomach, back pain, headache, and disturbed sleep. It also has an adverse effect on our mood and may hamper our relationships and career. This is when we need to take certain steps in order to manage stress.

The first step – find what is causing your stress

The most important thing you should do when combating stress involves finding the source of stress in your life. This can be done by keeping a stress journal.

Keeping a stress journal entails recording information about the daily stressors you are experiencing in order to analyze and manage them. Here are a few things you would want to record:

  • The stressful event you have experience
  • Your feelings after the even
  • How did you handle the event?

After you have recorded in your journal for a number of days, it’s time to analyze it. For the analysis, look at the different stressful events you have experienced. Highlight those that occur frequently as well as those which are the most unpleasant. Then, appraise how you have felt after these events as well as how you handled them. Your analysis will reveal several problems regarding your handling of these events that need to be fixed. It will be helpful to list these areas separately to work on them later.

Then shift your focus to the stressful events you experienced and list ways in which they can be changed or if your reaction to them can be changed. Finally, analyze the feelings these events arose in you and how did that affect your overall functioning.

Once you have fully identified the common sources of stress in your life and analyzed your pattern of handling them, you can discontinue managing your journal and move onto the next step.

The second step – avoid situations that cause stress

Avoiding all situations that are causing you stress might not be possible, but avoiding some will be. For example, avoid people who stress you out. Limit the time you spend with them. Of course, this can’t be done if it’s a spouse or a family member.

Having too many deadlines and taking on too many roles is a cause of stress. Learn to be assertive and say no. Know your limits and say ‘no’ to taking on more than you can handle.

Take control of your environment. Avoid the traffic-filled route or hire someone to clean the house for you if you find it stressful.

The third step – change the stressful situation

If there is no way to avoid a stressful situation, try to make changes and decrease the amount of stress that way. For example, play your favorite music while doing an unpleasant chore like cleaning to make it seem more pleasurable.

Manage your time better. Poor time management leads to a lot of stress. Planning ahead ensures you are on time on your deadlines and you lose a reason to be stressed.

Express your feelings. Talk it out instead of keeping it inside. If you want some me-time, tell your spouse you want to be by yourself for __ number of minutes and will get back right after that. If something is bothering you, be upfront about it without being rude and express how you feel about it. For example, if your spouse is not throwing out the garbage, a duty they initially assumed, calmly approach them and say ‘I feel stressed when the garbage is still there and I feel like I have one more task to attend to before sleeping.’

Balance it out. Asking someone to change their behavior also involves doing something for them in exchange. Or when you are taking on their duties, you might want to give them one of yours. For example, in the above situation, you can add, ‘When we divided the duties earlier, we had decided you will do it. Do you want to continue doing it or exchange it for another?’

The fourth step – change your reactions

You may not be able to control stressful situations and events, but you can control the way you are reacting to them. Try looking at stressful situations from a positive perspective. For example, if an added responsibility at work stresses you out, think of how it will add to your learning and you can add an extra set of skill experience to your resume.

Take out your binoculars. The situations cause us stress because we are looking at merely the present scenario. However, if we zoom out and see the whole picture, it might not seem as bad. Think of how much this event is important? Will it matter in a month or a year? Is it worth wasting your time over? For example, this might be applicable when a colleague has pointed out your mistake in a monthly review meeting. You feel bad about it and get stressed that it will affect your reputation at work. Thinking about how many people will remember it till the next meeting or how important that colleague’s view is for you should help reduce the stress.

Set lower expectations. When we expect a lot from both ourselves and others, we set ourselves up for failure. Stop demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards.

The fifth step – accept what cannot be changed

Some situations and people are beyond our control. Focusing on these uncontrollable events will only lead to more stress. You need to shift your focus to things you can control instead. For example, if a family member’s behavior often causes you to be angry and your umpteen efforts at changing him/her have proved futile, it would be best to change the way you react to him/her. Don’t give him/her the power to decide your emotions.

Look at difficult situations in a new light. View them as ways to grow and learn.

Humans are fallible and prone to mistakes. Forgive and let go of resentment.

The sixth step – find ways to de-stress

Find strategies that work for you when you are stressed. Some of these may be:

  • Playing with a pet
  • Writing about things that are bothering you
  • Talking to a friend
  • Indulging in a hobby
  • Going for a walk
  • Taking a long, leisurely bath
  • Watching a comic video
  • Practicing relaxation techniques or yoga

Set aside time for yourself during the day. Indulge in things you enjoy doing.

The seventh step – practice healthy lifestyle choices

Eat a nutritious, balanced diet. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Reduce caffeine, oil, and sugar from your diet. Get enough restful sleep. Drink sufficient water daily to keep yourself hydrated.

This will help you feel better physically and emotionally. Take care of yourself; it’s the number one thing stress hates.

References:

Elkin, A. (2013). Stress management for dummies. John Wiley & Sons.

Romas, J. A., & Sharma, M. (2013). Practical Stress Management: A Comprehensive Workbook. Pearson Higher Ed.

Tol, W. A., Barbui, C., & van Ommeren, M. (2013). Management of acute stress, PTSD, and bereavement: WHO recommendations. JAMA, 310(5), 477-478.

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stress management counselling mississauga

Stress Management

The term “stress” may be considered and felt by an individual when a situation or event is perceived by a person as being overwhelming, beyond their abilities to cope, and threatening to their well-being.

The results of stress can leave individuals feeling exhausted, fatigued, and depressed. Thus, health problems can arise, such as headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Additionally, stress can affect the person in many other ways and areas, including their work, relationships, school performance, social relationships, etc.

Why Does Stress Happen?

Stress is a natural response to a threatening situation, or, at least, something we consider threatening, even if, in reality, it’s not. This is what is called a Fight or Flight Response – when our body goes into hyperarousal, a physiological reaction occurs in response to a perceived attack, harmful event, or threat to our survival.

External Sources of Stress

Physical environment: noises, confined spaces, temperature, comfort

Social: conflict, confrontation, sensitizing

Organizational: changes, transitions, mergers, downsizing, deadlines, regulations, enforcement’s, rules, strict authority

Major life events: promotion, moving into a new home, new baby, death of a relative, wedding, divorce

Daily hassles: mindlessness, commuting, crowds, misplaced things, running errands


Internal Sources of Stress

Negative self-talk: criticalness towards self, over-analyzing, negativity, pessimistic thinking/attitude

Lifestyle: lack of sleep, overloaded schedule, caffeine, unhealthy diet, alcohol, drugs

Personality traits: perfectionism, workaholic, pleaser, difficulty setting healthy boundaries

Cognitive: all or nothing thinking, mind reading, unrealistic expectations, taking things personally, exaggerating, rigid thinking


How to Decrease Stress

  • Introduce healthy lifestyle habits (day-by-day)
  • Decrease (or eliminate) caffeine (coffee, tea, pop, chocolate)
  • Maintain a well-balanced diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Decrease the consumption of junk food
  • Engage in social activities, as well as leisure activities
  • Practice relaxation, meditation, yoga
  • Enhance money and time management skills
  • Learn to be assertive
  • Increase coping skills
  • Practice effective problem-solving skills
  • Change your thinking
  • Keep healthy expectations (realistic)
  • Enjoy a sense of humor!
  • Have a support system around you
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Does Nature Really Help Us Relax?

Most of us feel immense relaxation when we breathe in that breath of fresh air on a cold winter day. Or, lying at the beach listening to the waves, or playing in the sand brings us to that care-free state.

Nature helps most people relax; that’s why there are so many wallpapers with pictures of nature out there. That’s also why numerous apps designed to put you in a relaxed state have sounds of nature built-in. But does these artificial manifestations of natural beauty really help people relax, similar to being in nature in reality?

Here’s a great article verifying the relationship between looking at nature and decreasing stress: Nearby Nature Effect

Enjoy!

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holiday stress

How to Reduce Stress Over Christmas and Holidays

The holiday season…

Cold weather ✓

Snow ✓

2013 coming to an end ✓

Deadlines approaching ✓

More family time ✓

More commitments ✓

Season of giving ✓

…as you know, the list keeps running. Most of our lives encompass some of these things right now. In my practice, I’m finding that there’s an increased level of stress and anxiety in people’s lives. Why does holiday stress happen?

Holiday Season and Stress

Research from the American Heart Association (2004) contends that this time of year there’s an increase in emotional stress about the holidays. Having to interact with family we may, or may not want to associate with, feeling the pressure of having to absorb financial pressures such as purchasing gifts, traveling, and/or entertaining. Also around this time of year, people are more likely to indulge in foods and beverages they may not usually consume. Consequently, if it interrupts normal healthy patterns, feelings of guilt or regret creep in.

5 tips for avoiding holiday stress:

  • Pick and choose your holiday activities
  • Ask for help
  • Say no when necessary
  • Everything in moderation
  • Set realistic expectations for the season

Try to relax and lower your expectations from yourself and from your family. You may find yourself enjoying holidays more than you expected.

 

References

Kloner, R. (2004). The “Merry Christmas Coronary” and “Happy New Year Heart Attack” Phenomenon. American Heart Association. Retrieved from: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/110/25/3744.short

 

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I’m excited. I’M excited. I’M EXCITED!

The year was 2005.

I was in my last year of my Bachelor’s program, meticulously spending hours checking my research data and putting the final touches on my thesis defense. Night after night, I found myself ruminating over having to present in front of my professors, not to mention mine in front of my peers. Ever since I could remember, public presentations, regardless of size or length, caused me grief. I mean, not your typical 11th hour jitters, but…blushing, shaking, nauseous stomach, cold sweats – you name it, I had it.

So, the day had come. I was to defend my thesis. Although most of the day felt like a blur, a few moments still stick with me. The first was feedback from one of my peers as we were standing in the halls practicing our scripts. I shared with my friends how nervous I was, feeling unable to control the physical and emotional reactions happening in my body. My friend, Susan*, turned to me and said, “…instead of telling yourself you’re nervous and scared, why don’t you say you’re excited!”. I listening, and thought to myself – “heck, I have nothing to lose!” So, minutes before my hour of fame, I said, “I’m excited”, “I’M excited”, “I’M EXCITED!”. I think after the 3rd excited, I was starting to feel it. The reaction kicked in! Then, before I knew it, I was done.

I think that’s the second part of my memories of my thesis. My accomplishment. I “felt the fear but did it anyway”. There’s no better feeling then working through a tough obstacle. Or, overcoming a fear.

I encourage you to feel inspired, to reach out for help if you need it, and to “feel the fear and do it anyway” (as Susan Jeffers would say).

 

Enthusiastically,

Ashley J. Kreze

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mindfulness counselling toronto

Mindfulness Improves Self-Esteem

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm. Have you ever practiced Mindfulness? Do you remember to remind yourself daily of the present moment? If your answer is no, or rarely, well, you should; it’s good for you. Mindfulness helps in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. It helps you connect with yourself and be in the present moment, which makes you more relaxed and less worried. Additionally, research shows that mindfulness improves self-esteem and builds confidence.

How Mindfulness Improves Self-Esteem

The Institute of Coaching shared a great article about the impact of mindfulness on our confidence and self-esteem. Here is an interesting part of it:

“Mindfulness practice improves self-esteem.

Why would sitting and sensing the present moment improve our self-respect and self-value?

Here’s one way to think about it. Recall that a mindful brain state is one that doesn’t judge. It is simply open and accepting of the present moment. On the other hand, self-esteem is the conclusion one makes in the role of a judge of one’s status and role: “Am I enough? Have I accomplished enough?” It evolved as an essential biological force, ensuring our survival by keeping us ever-vigilant about whether we are meeting the standard set by our tribes, avoiding rejection and being an outcast.

Non-judgmental moments allow us to step off of the self-judging roller coaster, and experience, even for a few breaths, the natural brain-state of what I call “it’s all ok-ness”.

What a lovely place to sit and rest. You may want to become a regular visitor.”

 

Will you set time to practice mindfulness today?

 

Reference

Pepping, C.A, Donovan, A, and Davis, P.J. (2013) The positive effects of mindfulness on self-esteem. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(5), 376-386.

 

If you’d like to inquire about mindfulness or self-esteem enhancement in Mississauga at Real Life Counselling, don’t hesitate to call us at 289-231-8479.

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