If you are reading this blog, then it means you have survived the first part of the triple threat-Turkey Day, but don’t breathe easy quite yet – we still have two more coming up - Christmas and New Year’s. Even though most of us are in the mental health field, I thought I would offer a few quick reminders on maintaining our mental health anyway. This can be applied when dealing with annoying family members, worried about having eaten too much on Turkey Day like me, getting lost to see distant relatives you don’t really like, or any other anxiety causing situation. Remember, our brain is primitive! Fears and primal emotions are generated in the part that isn’t quite as smart and sophisticated as our neo-cortex. Unfortunately that part often fails to apply reasonable logic to its reptilian counterpart.
Here are some ideas:
Engage with other people! The more you get out of your own head, the fewer your opportunities to feel anxious become. A great way to do this, is by spending time with friends – who you enjoy spending time with. Leave your annoying friends alone until we see the Sun again, most likely around June sometime.
Challenge your fears by imagining the worst possible outcome! Tell yourself an elaborate story in which you exaggerate the feared outcome of whatever situation you are facing, and do it over and over again. It may sound foolish, but helps when you do it over and over and over again. Here’s an example for me: “People will read this blog, think I’m insane or just not so smaht, report me, and avoid my phone calls or in the hallways, and I will to reduce myself to a life in solitude”. Repeating the story helps me understand that my fears might be slightly unrealistic.
Exercise! Not one of my favorite ways to alleviate stress and anxiety, but I hear it works great! Going for a walk, swimming, picking weeds (preferably in a greenhouse this time of the year), running after your dog after he just escaped your back door…etc. The sooner you generate some extra dopamine and serotonin via exercise, the sooner you will feel its impact.
Go to the movies and watch what you eat! Movies are great, as long as the title doesn’t include Twilight, Hunger Games, Lifetime, or Bette Midler. And take some nuts, yogurt, or tart cherries with you.
Mindfulness is also a great stress reliever. Deep breathing and meditation are a great way to prevent oncoming panic or anxiety attacks. Guided meditations can be found for free on youtube, iTunes, and many websites.
Don’t forget to take breaks! This is my favorite stress relievers, but might be tough for some of you super-efficient overachievers. However, taking a break will leave us feel less stressed, and also increase our productivity. Note that this can be overused, for example, it took me two weeks just to write this blog. That said, even checking Facebook periodically throughout the day, has been found to boost output.
I’m a huge fan of strength and asset based interventions offered by Martin Seligman – take his depression or anxiety survey, you may be surprised by the results.
Happy Shopping :-) Dirk