Category: Anxiety

What To Do About The Sunday Blues

If you struggle with feeling down or anxious the closer you get to Monday, you’re not alone.
In 2015, a global survey by Monster.com revealed that over 75% of respondents in the U.S. reported having “really bad” Sunday night blues.

Get your act together at the end of the week. Take some time each Friday to prepare for the week ahead - tidy up your work area; review your calendar; update your to-do list; and clean up your in-box. Being able to anticipate starting fresh and organized on Monday will help make your Sunday more care free.

Plan for active rather than passive leisure on Sunday evenings. DVR Walking Dead or Game of Thrones and do something active instead – cook a new recipe for dinner with friends or family; go for a walk; read a favorite book; or play a game with someone.

Don’t overdo it on Saturday night. If Sundays are already tough on their own why add on recovering from the night before. Reserve cutting loose with alcohol for Friday nights and go a little easier on Saturdays.

Make Saturday your Sunday. Most of us schedule fun stuff for Saturdays and reserve Sundays for chores and errands. Switching that around can free you up to truly enjoy Sunday rather than dreading going to the grocery store along with everyone else.

Schedule something mid-week to look forward to. Whether it’s a date night, an art class, a sporting event or meeting up with friends, planning something to look forward to that helps break the week up can keep you in a more positive place.

Don’t schedule Monday meetings. Do schedule work tasks that you actually enjoy for Mondays.

Practice saying no to keep your weekend commitments manageable.

Unplug as much as possible on the weekends. Leave your phone at home or in the car when possible.

Go outside.

Sundays can be rough. The transition from relaxed weekend mode to uptight-ready-to-tackle-the-work-week mode can exacerbate anxious feelings and in extreme cases can result in feelings of hopelessness and despair. It may be less about changing jobs and more about changing the way you do your weekend.

If You're Struggling With The Sunday Blues, Let's Talk

Science Says You Should Go Outside

UK happiness researcher George MacKerron’s Mappiness Project is an app that allows users to track activities and feelings throughout their day. The results demonstrate that most of us are the least happy at work, more happy on vacation, with friends or listening to music and the most happy while outside.

When we’re outside most of our senses are engaged, taste is tricky but we’re at least seeing, smelling, hearing and feeling the world around us. That helps us to be more present and in the moment. When we're more mindful, amazing things can happen. Mindfulness allows us to recognize that we are not defined by our thoughts but are rather observers. This distinction is important because it allows us to be happier, more empathic and more secure.

Being outside also increases our exposure to direct sunlight and production of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that the Centers for Disease Control estimates 32% of children and adults are deficient in. Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D lowers risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes while increasing bone density. Researchers recommend 10-minutes exposure to midday sun as a way of ensuring you don’t fall short.

Exposure to sunlight has also been shown to help maintain good eyesight by correcting the distance between the lens and the retina which can become distorted the more time one spends inside in front of a screen.

Simply living near parks and wooded areas has been shown to lead to decreased levels of anxiety and depression and several studies have demonstrated that patients in hospital rooms with views of nature require less pain medication and heal faster than patients in rooms without views of nature.

Walking outside at a natural gait has been shown to significantly enhance creativity. Individuals who walked outside were shown to present not only more ideas, but ideas that demonstrated an increase in novelty.

Nature walks have also been linked to significantly lower levels of depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being.

Here's a short video that hits on most of this:

For most people, the option to get outside is accessible. It costs nothing and the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience. There are not many easier ways to improve your physical and mental health.

If You'd Like To Learn About Other Ways To Improve Your Life, Let's Talk

6 Things Anxious Partners Can Do To Improve Their Relationships

Anxiety has a way of invading all aspects of life and can have a significant impact of romantic relationships. Those with anxiety feel misunderstood, invalidated and fearful of rejection while their partners feel alone, impatient and unsupported. If you struggle with anxiety, here are few things you can do to help lessen the impact.

Reality Checks. You might think you can read your partner’s mind; you can’t. Anxiety is great for creating a narrative but that narrative is rarely based in reality. So the next time you are making up a story about what your partner must be thinking, check it out. I’m a fan of something like, “Hey dear, I know this might sound weird but I’m worried you are _____________. Should I be worried?”

Be Vulnerable. I don’t know who first used the saying “name it to tame it” but Dr. Dan Siegel has popularized the idea that by naming our emotions we can reduce the degree to which they overwhelm us. It also helps put things in context for our partners. Knowing that you're upset about something at work and not at your partner will help them to respond with compassion rather than defensiveness.

Make Sacrifices. If you want to be in a relationship and you have anxiety, sometimes you're just going to have to do the thing that makes you anxious. If your partner is always the one doing the accommodating or altering plans they're going to eventually become bitter and resentful. Acknowledge your anxiety and then do it anyway.

Ask for Help. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that up to 18% of adults in the United States suffer from some type of anxiety disorder. And while anxiety disorders are highly treatable, less than a third of those suffering seek out help. It’s important for your partner to see that you’re trying; so try.

Seek Reassurance (sometimes). “Are you ok?” “Is anything wrong?” “Do you love me?” “Are you sure you’re ok… How about now?” Get it? Dial it back a few notches. If you can't, it will only lead to your partner distancing from you which is exactly what you're trying to avoid. It’s not your partner’s job to relieve you of your anxious thoughts. That’s your work; most of the time.

Find Ways to be a Support. Relationships like balance. If your needs are taking up too much space in the relationship it doesn’t leave much room for the needs of your partner. Anxiety has a way of keeping you focused inward, making it easy to miss what’s going on with the person right next to you. Sit down and make a list of things you can do to make your partner’s life easier. If you need to, set reminders in your phone to ensure follow through.

 

If Anxiety is Impacting Your Relationship, Let's Talk

Can’t Sleep? Here’s Why It Happens And What To Do About It.

Most humans spend approximately 30% of their lives asleep yet 43% of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 report they rarely or never get a good night's rest. Proper rest is a big deal when it comes to physical and mental health. Sleep deficient folks are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and obesity as well as depression.

What's Messing Up Your Sleep

Stress at Night: engaging in stressful activities like watching the news, paying bills or having conflicts with others increases cortisol and adrenaline levels and interferes with sleep. Instead, deliberately engage in calming activities at night and save the stress for other times.

Racing Thoughts: it's unfortunate that the very things that help promote sleep - quiet and stillness - also makes it easy for our thoughts to go on a rampage. Rumination often accompanies anxiety and depression which are exacerbated when our sleep is disturbed, forming a loop that can easily spin out of control. When racing thoughts occur, one of the worst ways to deal with it is to try and force sleep. It seldom works and often can make matters worse.

Unhealthy Food Choices: eating spicy or acidic food before bedtime can increase risk for heartburn or acid reflux. Food high in fats can interfere with the production of orexin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle. High protein foods require extra energy to digest which, when eaten close to bedtime, can interfere with sleep. In addition, it is well documented that sleep deprived individuals tend to snack more often and crave extra carbs and fatty foods, so on top of being tired you're probably going to be struggling with weight.

External Factors: these may seem obvious but factors like room temperature, outside light, street traffic or a snoring partner can be significant disruptions to getting a good night sleep. The more you wake up during the night, the harder it is for you to transition to the deeper stages of sleep.

How To Sleep Better

  • Keep to a Schedule: our brains and bodies like consistency. Try to stick to established bed and wake times.
  • Eliminate Napping: short naps can be refreshing but if you are having difficulty sleeping at night, push on through to bedtime.
  • Avoid Electronics: blue lights from LED screens can mimic sunlight and inhibit melatonin production which regulated our sleep-wake cycle. Give your eyes a break from electronic devices before bedtime to help your hormones.
  • Dim the Lights: similar to above. Help your body recognize nighttime by letting it get dark.
  • Avoid Clocks: clock watching only serves to increase anxiety about being awake when you should be asleep. If the alarm hasn't gone off it doesn't matter what time it is. Cover the clock if you can't help sneaking a glance.
  • Reduce Alcohol: alcohol can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer but it gets in the way of REM sleep which makes you feel less rested.
  • Reduce Caffeine: stimulants = bad for sleep.
  • Avoid Nicotine: see above.
  • Exercise: studies show that sleep is significantly improved when people get 150 minutes of exercise each week.
  • Read Before Bed: reading before bed can help reduce cortisol levels and help separate your sleep time from your daily stresses.
  • Use Guided Imagery: there are plenty of apps out there. Experiment to find one that works for you.
  • Breathing Exercise: exhale through your mouth; close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a count of 4; hold the breath to a count of 7; exhale to a count of 8; repeat x3.

Sleep is a tricky matter because what helps can vary significantly from person to person. What works for me is taking a hike in my mind. If I'm having a difficult time falling asleep I'll pick a favorite trail to follow. If my thoughts start to wander, I'll get back on the trail. I seldom reach the end before falling asleep. Your strategy may be different.

The relationship between sleep and mental health can easily become circular and can spill over into virtually every area of life. Let's work together to get your life back in order.

If you are struggling with sleep-related issues, let's talk!

Dating Doesn’t Have To Suck

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People love to hate dating. It makes sense if you've got the pressure of possibly screwing things up with a potential life partner with every swipe, text or email.  It's hard to be yourself and know what you truly want with that kind of stress hanging over you.

Ways To Make Dating Survivable (and maybe even fun)

Keep Perspective: let it just be coffee, dinner or a walk around the lake. It is so easy to think about step 10 when you're only on step one. Be deliberate about enjoying the moment with another human, even if you know you won't be going on a second date.

Try Variety: the great thing about the internet is how it opens up our worlds to meeting people we would otherwise never cross paths with. Take the opportunity to spend some time with people you wouldn't ordinarily pursue. The risk is low and it will help you refine what you like and don't like.

Thicken Your Skin: rejection is part of the process. You are not going to feel it for everyone you go out with and, brace yourself... not everyone is going to feel it for you. That's ok, it's how it should be. There are 7.5 billion people in the world (2016), there is room to take your time and choose wisely.

Know When To Quit: not everyone communicates clearly. If you are operating in the absence of information from the other person it is probably time to take a step back. Don't expend energy towards someone if it isn't reciprocated.

Know When To Lean In: intimacy and connection can be scary at times, especially when a relationship is new and untested. Finding a balance between taking a risk and keeping yourself emotionally safe can be a fine line that doesn't always feel good.

Practice Vulnerability: if there is one thing I've come to realize it's that people are craving connection; they just don't do it very well. If you're tired of having the same date over and over again, shake things up by setting a rule of no small talk the next time you meet someone new. Need some help? Check out this article from the New York Times.

How Long Should I Wait To Date After A Breakup?

It depends on a number of things including the length of the previous relationship, the nature of the breakup and the goal of getting back into dating. There is really no magic length of time. Sometimes it may be appropriate to rediscover what makes you happy outside of being in a relationship. Other times it may be helpful to lean in and connect with someone new even when you don't feel quite ready.

Regardless, take time to process, mourn and integrate lessons; the end of a relationship has a lot to teach. If you have a pattern of jumping from relationship to relationship you are probably cheating yourself out of the opportunity for real growth and insight. Grief and loss are tough issues to confront but doing the work in the present can save you from heartache in the future.

What Do I Do Now?

Sometimes when you're in the middle of something it's hard to see your way out. Friends and family members may be important for support but they may not be the most objective source of feedback. Working with a counselor to identify fears and maladaptive patterns of behavior can help increase your chances of enjoying and maybe even finding success in dating.

If you want to have more success in the dating world, let's talk!