In this emotional ultramarathon, it is key to have some stress reduction strategies available that work quickly and efficiently in order to help you hit the reset button.
Here’s why: dealing with chronic distress makes it difficult to manage your emotions effectively . Unfortunately, many people who experience distress try to escape these unpleasant emotions by distracting themselves in ways that ultimately backfire.
If you suspect that you are one of them, ask yourself if you tend to judge your emotions. It’s very common, but it can start a vicious emotional cycle of ignoring those feelings, and then feeling even worse . Putting your feelings aside is like trying to submerge a beach ball underwater – they’ll float up right away. Instead, be aware of difficult emotions and normalize them; Ideally, negative feelings, including fear, can motivate us to solve problems.
So, instead of dealing with anxiety and uncertainty by losing yourself in your worries and then looking for short-term solutions with long-term consequences, such as procrastinating, eating or smoking marijuana to keep going or relying on benzodiazepines – anxiolytics like Xanax – It helps to experiment with quick strategies that empower you . Those strategies aren’t necessarily a cure, but they can help reduce the intensity of overwhelming emotions, allowing you to recalibrate to better deal with the challenges you face.
My patients often find that an added benefit of strategic coping is that it increases their sense of mastery, that is, the hope that arises when you push yourself and accomplish something difficult, like dealing with your anxiety productively .
TRY THE MUSICAL MEDICINE
Focusing on calming sounds reduces stress. In research led by Veena Graff, associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Essential Care at the University of Pennsylvania, preoperative patients were assigned music or medicine – they listened to Marconi Union’s “Weightless” – or prescribed a benzodiazepine. Notably, the serene music proved to be almost as effective in relieving patients’ anxiety as the medicinal option, with no side effects .
To honor your unique taste, explore different options and create a playlist that you find comforting when you need a break . Keep in mind that while it may seem cathartic to listen to songs that validate your emotions (for example, listening to lyrics about heartbreak while feeling lonely), research on inducing different moods concludes that we can improve our experience with more upbeat music . “Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears: it is a remedy, a tonic, an orange juice for the ear,” wrote Oliver Sacks in “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.”
Marsha Linehan, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington, popularized a dialectical behavior therapy exercise to regulate intense emotions, for which it is necessary to immediately reduce the temperature of your body by creating a mini-pool for your face . This sounds strange, but it activates your body’s diving reflex, a reaction that occurs when you cool your nostrils while holding your breath, a process that mitigates your physiological and emotional intensity.
To do this, fill a large bowl with ice water, set a timer to go off for 15 to 30 seconds, inhale deeply, and hold your breath as you submerge your face in the water . Although this is not a conventional way to relax, it will slow your heart rate, allowing blood to flow more easily to the brain. I love that my clients give it a try while we have our telehealth calls and see first-hand how quickly this strategy changes their perspective. Just being willing to do it is one way to practice adaptability, I tell my clients as they prepare to dive.
REGULATE YOUR BREATHING
One of my favorite ideas that always fills me with gratitude, no matter what is going on, comes from mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, who likes to say, “ As long as you can breathe, there is more going for you than against you. ”. In ” The Healing Power of the Breath, ” Richard Brown and Patricia Gerbarg offer a series of exercises to promote resilience.
One of my favorites is this: reduce your breathing to six inhales and exhales per minute, and do it consciously (to practice rhythm, you can use a second hand and inhale for five seconds, exhale for five seconds, and repeat four times, or try a guided recording). Regulated breathing offers a number of physiological benefits, such as lowering your blood pressure, which helps you feel calm . If people tell me they find it challenging to breathe a certain way when they panic, I tell them to start with alternative relaxing activities, such as music, and then continue with regulated breathing.
PRACTICE THE ‘ANCHOR EFFECT’
Another way to stay present instead of going into crisis is to know if you are thinking things that do not help you. Our interpretations of events overload the intensity of our emotions. After all, anticipating that something will “last for years” in a moment of distress will only inspire more hopelessness. On the other hand, mindfulness, or learning to see more clearly instead of jumping to conclusions, is a good remedy for anxiety. A brief way to enter that state is known as the “anchor effect,” a popular strategy .
Begin by physically focusing by placing your heels hard on the floor; This evokes the feeling of landing in reality. Then take a moment to observe: What am I thinking? What do I feel in the body? What am I doing? And then ask yourself the following question: My answer is…? A) Helpful? B) Does it align with my values? C) Is it related to future concerns or a problem from the past? Although we can get stuck in specific thoughts, taking a step back to decide more generally if those ideas are helpful can get us out of a lament mode . It may also help to paste a list of these instructions onto your computer to remind yourself to step back and refocus when your ideas are only getting worse.
If you have trouble with physical feelings of anxiety, such as tense muscles and feeling short of breath, a contradictory but important way to deal with these reactions is to practice repeating those feelings in calmer moments in order to improve form. you tolerate stressors .
Learning to accept physical symptoms over and over again allows you to stop considering them catastrophic. In a recent therapy group I led for Zoom, my clients prepared to try this by buying thin coffee straws. I set my timer to go off in a minute while they held their noses and tried to breathe only through the straw .
We also worked on the reproduction of other sensations that were associated with fear, such as muscle tension, dizziness and shortness of breath. We did an anaerobic plank, spun in circles, and ran in place. Some people were surprised that the practice experience was worse than the anxiety they normally felt. Others found it similar and liberating, as they did not have to wait for feelings to take them by surprise, instead they could get used to feeling them on purpose .
Recently, at the end of a long day of video calling with patients, my 5-year-old daughter asked me, “When will the germs go away?” After removing his 3-year-old brother’s shoe from my 1-year-old son’s mouth, I saw a client request for an urgent consultation. I practiced regulated breathing and listened to a song from the dance song list we play every night (by popular request: Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”) before talking about my daughter’s feelings and continuing to work.
Now I hope you create your own plan with the strategies I mentioned. By practicing emotional management you will experience a sense of freedom in your life. I don’t know what you think, but I would opt for that rather than any short-term unconscious alternative .
c. 2020 The New York Times Company
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