Beacon of Change Counseling

Katy Rader, LMHC

Individual and Family Therapy Services

Filtering by Tag: Self Health

How to Reduce Excessive Worrying

Worrying is a part of being human. Worry is an extension of fear, and fear (of appropriate things) keeps us safe. This has been reinforced through evolution. However, often worrying can get the better of us and take up far more of our time that we would like.

Be aware of your worrying triggers

What causes you to worry more? Is it work deadlines/presentations, social stressors, dating, being out of control, family issues? Knowing your triggers will allow you to address them more efficiently.

Identify in the moment when you are worrying more

Sometimes worrying can be so overwhelming that we don’t even realize we are doing it until we are overcome with worries. Identifying where you are on your “worry ladder” will help you know when to start practicing your coping skills.

Take a deep breath

We hear this all the time, but it’s because it works. When we are anxious, we begin to breathe more shallowly. This builds up an oxygen debt, which results in us not thinking through worries in a functional way. Taking time to do some deep breathing also gives you time to determine what you need to do next.

Relax your muscles

Usually people who worry a lot get tired of being told to relax, but this is a different way to relax that truly reduces your anxiety. Do a body scan of your muscle tension and actively work to relax those muscles. Anxiety is an overreaction in our brain in which the brain perceives that it is in danger (again with evolution trying to keep us safe). With anxiety comes muscle tension to prepare for fight or flight. If we can work to reduce the tension in our muscles, we can tell our brain that it is not in danger, thereby reducing our anxiety.

Do a brain dump

Once your muscles are more relaxed, your brain can work more efficiently to evaluate what is causing those worries and how to address them. Get out a piece of paper or open a new computer document and write down whatever is on your mind. Read over it and see what truly needs to be addressed now, what can wait, and what is just your anxious brain piling on some extra worries that are not significant.

Address what seems most significant

Talk to your significant other if it’s relationship issues. Address work issues with your supervisor or get organized to address work flow issues. Taking action often reduces anxiety.

Practice relaxation and/or meditation on a regular basis to keep worries low

Do deep breathing and body muscle relaxation on a daily basis. Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique which reduces anxiety and is especially helpful for reducing anxiety prior to sleeping.

Excessive worry does not have to be a part of your daily life. Practicing ways to actively reduce your worries and tension can help reduce worries.

Exercise and Movement to Improve Mental Health Symptoms

What movement helps?

Any movement helps! Walking, stretching, yoga, any movement you enjoy is good movement.

Why does it help?

Our bodies were not made to be sedentary. Movement feels good. Movement allows our body to get energy out if we are feeling anxious or angry or overwhelmed. Movement allows us to gain energy when we are in a low mood or have a lack of motivation. Moving our bodies allows us to feel accomplished. It’s great to accomplish something that we have been wanting to do, and feel good about doing something good for our body and our brain. Movement allows our brain to get unstuck from it’s typical thinking patterns and spurs deeper, more creative thinking. Often we can work out some of our problems while exercising.

How much do I need to do?

Again, any movement helps! Some feel that they need to do a certain amount to reach a level of support. But for most, even 10 minutes of sitting on your floor and stretching can make you feel better.

How often do I need to do it to see a change?

Most see a true improvement in mental health symptoms with 20 minutes three times a week. Does that mean you have to do that much? No! Do whatever you can. Some love getting their heart pumping enough to get some endorphins rushing. That can be rewarding, but certainly not necessary to feel benefits. Once you get started, movement itself is rewarding and you will likely fit whatever you can into your life. Benefits of exercise are cumulative and increase with consistency.

How will exercise help me?

There are multiple studies that have found exercise as an effective treatment for depression. Studies have also shown that exercise adds benefits to those who are already in therapy, and that anxiety symptoms are reduced with both aerobic and non-aerobic exercise. One group who seems to benefit most from exercise are those who are have ADHD symptoms. Studies have shown that just one exercise session improves both academic and behavior in children with ADHD as much as 30 percent. Moderate and intense exercise provide the bigger benefits for this group.

How do I get started?

Do whatever you can. Is there any kind of movement that you have done in the past that you enjoyed? Taking a walk after work? Playing in the yard with your kids? Playing basketball/frisbee/soccer with friends? Try what has worked in the past and see how you still like it. Is there any movement that you are interested in trying?

You love the idea of CrossFit/running/yoga, but aren’t sure how to get started? Ask around and see what friends and family do. Think about having a more active lifestyle, e.g. Just not sitting. Gardening, dancing, parking a couple of blocks away from your destination and walking are all ways to get more activity. Check with your doctor prior to beginning an exercise routine if needed.

Any movement helps. Double up benefits by exercising with a friend for social benefits. Enjoy movement outside and enjoy nature’s restorative benefits. Get outside and get the added mood regulating benefit of being in the sunshine. If it feels hard, keep trying. Each little bit of movement spurs more movement and added benefits.

Good luck!

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Have you ever allowed yourself to be talked into doing something and afterwards regretted it? Do you want to help out other people but then take on too much yourself? Setting healthy boundaries allows you to take on what works for you so that you can excel at what is most important.

What is a boundary?

Boundaries can be emotional or physical. A boundary is simply space between ourselves and others to preserve stability. Poor emotional boundaries at work or in our relationships lead to resentment, anger and burnout. Without insight into our difficulty to set boundaries, it can feel like others are taking advantage of our kind and helpful nature. We need to be aware of our responsibility in setting boundaries with others to prevent this.

How do we set boundaries?

The key to setting boundaries is first figuring out what one wants from their various relationships, setting boundaries based on these desires, and then being clear with oneself and with other people about these boundaries. A lot of work is done in the first step of figuring out what you want from a relationship. What has made you feel uncomfortable in the past? What have you said yes to that you wished you would have said no? A therapist or an assertive friend can help you identify this if you are struggling.

Some tips on setting boundaries:

1. Back up boundary setting with action.

2. Be direct, firm and gracious.

3. Don't debate, defend or over-explain.

4. Have support easily available on the sidelines in the beginning.

5. Stay strong, don't give in.

What does a healthy boundary look like?

A friend asked to come over when you are cleaning your house to prepare for your parents to come over the next day. When you explain this, she says that she’ll help you and it will be more fun. You feel like this is something you need to do yourself, but can tell that she wants to spend time with you. How do you respond? Be careful of wanting to spare her feelings by saying something like, “Oh I don’t want to subject you to my messy house.” By placing the emotion in her court, she can counter that by saying she doesn’t mind and will be over soon to help. If you are more assertive, but respectful in saying something like “I appreciate your offer to help, but I need to do this on my own. Let’s get together next week to do XYZ activity.” This gives no opportunity for her to counter your suggestion, and makes plans to get together with her soon.

Physical boundaries

Setting physical boundaries is very important. We are in charge of who is in our physical space. Everyone’s comfort level with physical space is different. It’s important to be able to set those boundaries early in relationships with others. The person in the relationship with the more strict physical boundaries is in control. If one friend is a hugger and the other isn’t, an agreement needs to be made about how to handle affection. Holding your hand out for a handshake is a good way to show your level of comfort with a greeting. Physical boundaries are essential in sexual relationships. Practice setting boundaries with those that you trust first or maybe it’s easier to set a boundary with a stranger.

What should I do if a boundary is violated?

Bring it up right away. The longer you wait to address the violation, the more uncomfortable it will be. If this happened in front of other people, it may feel more comfortable to do this one on one with the person who violated your boundary. Explain the violation and your boundary clearly.

What are the benefits to setting boundaries?

Setting boundaries improves your own self esteem, self respect and is good self care. You will receive more respect from others and will be a role model to others setting boundaries. You will set the precedent of honest, direct communication with others. You will contribute to others’ well being as they will know that they have behaved in a way that meets your needs.

Setting healthy boundaries allows you to get more of what you want and less of what you don’t. You will feel more in control and comfortable with your interactions with others. It may feel difficult to start doing this, but the benefits will help you continue to set boundaries with others. Keep practicing. Enlist a friend to help talk out how to set difficult boundaries. The more boundaries you set, the more skilled and graceful it will feel.

Sleep Hygiene

The effects of poor, interrupted or irregular sleep range from the obvious of feeling tired and less productive, to the more surprising and concerning of heart disease and cognitive impairment. Sleep deprivation also reduces libido, leads to weight gain and increases anxiety and depression. What can we do to get more sleep to manage all of these negative side effects?

• Maintain a regular sleep routine - Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, even on weekends. Ideally, your schedule will remain the same (+/- 20 minutes) every night of the week.

• Avoid naps, if possible - When we take naps, it decreases the amount of sleep that we need the next night which may cause sleep fragmentation and difficulty initiating sleep, and may lead to insomnia and sleep deprivation. However, naps of 20-30 minutes can be restorative.

• Don’t stay in bed awake for more than 15-20 minutes - If you find your mind racing, or worrying about not being able to sleep during the middle of the night, get out of bed, and sit in a chair in the dark. Do your mind racing in the chair until you are sleepy, then return to bed. No TV or internet during these periods! That will just stimulate your mind more. 

• This is a good time to do some relaxation. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is particularly helpful to release tension and relax the body.

• Avoid all screens (e.g. TV, phone, e Reader, computer) for at least 1 hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by the screen reduces melatonin, our natural sleep inducing hormone, and can shift our circadian rhythms.

• Drink caffeinated drinks with caution - The effects of caffeine may last for several hours after ingestion. Caffeine can fragment sleep, and cause difficulty initiating sleep. If you drink caffeine, use it only before noon. Cigarettes, alcohol, and over-the-counter medications may also cause fragmented sleep.

• Exercise regularly- If possible, exercise before 2 pm every day. Exercise promotes continuous sleep. Avoid rigorous exercise before bedtime. Rigorous exercise circulates endorphins into the body which may cause difficulty initiating sleep.

• Have a comfortable pre-bedtime routine - A warm bath/shower, meditation, or quiet time, read a book, listen to calming music, write. 

If all of these tips sound overwhelming, don’t worry. Your sleep can be improved by implementing just a few. Which of the above do you think might be affecting your sleep the most? Start with that one for a week and see how it helps. Or you can start with a couple that seem easiest and go from there. Improving your sleep will positively affect many areas of your life and it’s worth changing a few habits to reap the benefits!