Tag Archives: Relaxation

Stress & Schizophrenia: How To Help Your Loved One & Yourself?

A common cause of relapse in schizophrenia is “difficulty managing high levels of stress,” according to Susan Gingerich, MSW, a psychotherapist who works with individuals with schizophrenia and their families.

Learning to manage stress isn’t just important for preventing relapse; it’s also important because stress is an inevitable part of facing new challenges and working to accomplish personal goals — “what recovery is all about,” write Gingerich and clinical psychologist Kim T. Mueser, Ph.D, in their book The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia.

Learning to navigate stress healthfully is key for family and friends, too. Having a loved one with schizophrenia can be stressful. Taking care of yourself enhances your well-being and daily functioning. And it means you’re in a better, healthier place to help your loved one.

In their comprehensive book, Mueser and Gingerich share excellent tips for helping your loved one and yourself cope with stress (along with valuable information on schizophrenia and how you can support your loved one).

Here are those suggestions and insights on managing and alleviating stress.

Recognizing Stress Signs

What one person finds enjoyable, another can find stressful. In the same way, how people respond to stress will differ. For instance, one person might exhibit changes in mood, such as becoming depressed and anxious, while another person will show physical signs, such as experiencing headaches and a heightened heart rate.

So it’s important to talk to your loved about their individual signs of stress. Talk about your personal signs, as well. Create separate lists for each of your reactions to stress.

Reducing Sources of Stress
The authors suggest thinking about what situations were stressful for your loved one in the past. Then try to avoid that situation or modify it. If your loved one had a tough time at Thanksgiving last year, it might help to shorten their stay or not go next year.

It’s also helpful to support your loved one in creating a stimulating environment with reasonable expectations. For instance, rather than attend a day program three times a week, one man preferred volunteering twice a week delivering meals to housebound seniors.

Plus, it’s important that you take care of yourself. Eat nutrient-rich foods, get enough sleep, participate in physical activities and engage in fun hobbies. Help your loved one identify what kinds of activities they’d like to do, too.

As the authors point out, because of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, individuals can have a hard time thinking of enjoyable activities. Talk with them about the activities they’ve enjoyed in the past.

Be sure to give yourself and your loved one credit. (Being self-critical just spikes your stress.)

Mueser and Gingerich note how one father acknowledges the positive things that happen on a daily basis: “I’m proud of how persistent my daughter has been in pursuing her art career in spite of the many difficulties she’s encountered. We both have a lot to learn about coping with this illness, but we’ve also come a long way.”

Learning to Cope with Stress

Emphasize the importance of your loved one communicating with others when they’re feeling stressed, since “these feelings can be an early warning sign of relapse,” according to the authors. Make sure you, too, are able to turn to individuals who understand your situation.

Have family meetings to talk openly about the stressor and brainstorm potential solutions. Learn to use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and visualization (such as imagining a serene beach scene).

Self-defeating thoughts only bolster stress for both of you. Try to practice positive self-talk and teach your loved one to do the same.

Mueser and Gingerich share the example of a father helping his daughter reframe her hospitalization, which made her feel like a failure: “I’m sorry you had to go through that, but I’m proud of you for getting help when you needed it and for being so strong in dealing with this illness. You’re a survivor.”

Don’t underestimate the power of humor. Try to find the lighter side of a stressful situation, according to the authors. It’s not always – or usually – easy, but it helps with stress. Plus, you and your loved one can enjoy a funny film or sitcom to lessen stress.

For some people, religious services and prayer can be very helpful. For others being in nature may feel like a spiritual experience and shrink stress.

Again, regular exercise — around three times a week — that you enjoy is important for both of you. Journaling can provide a great source of stress relief. “Many people with schizophrenia say that writing down what they experience, think, and feel is an important outlet.”

See if your loved one is interested in listening to music or making music themselves, such as singing or taking lessons; visiting art exhibits or creating their own art; playing games with family and friends, and pursuing other hobbies.

As the authors emphasize, people with schizophrenia are “more sensitive to the effects of stress because it can trigger symptom relapses and rehospitalizations.” Helping your loved one deal with stress in a healthy way helps them pursue their personal goals and improves their life.

Plus, working together to develop healthy coping strategies can strengthen your relationship and gives you plenty of opportunities for savoring quality time.

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Five Ways To Avoid Depression After A Break-Up

The break-up of a relationship ranks as one of the most stressful life events; it’s up there with the death of a loved one. After the initial shock, when you may feel like you were just hit by a truck, sadness and loneliness often take over. You may feel “a part of you has died,” and your whole world has fallen apart. The ability to concentrate and get motivated may be hard to come across. You may also find yourself remembering and missing things you used to do with your partner.

YOUR PAIN IS REAL.

Brain research shows that rejection experiences in a break-up can activate the same areas of the brain that physical pain or distress do. Especially in women, a break-up can cause cardiac pain and shortness of breath. The pain is both emotional and physiological, which means it can be very intense.

Recovering from a break-up is not easy and can lead to severe depression; lowered immune system response; and even health problems.

As you recover from your break-up, you need to take care of yourself. The following tips might be helpful in that process.

TIPS FOR RECOVERING FROM A BREAK-UP FASTER

• Express yourself. Share your feelings.

One of the best ways to deal with the pain of a break-up is to share your feelings with friends or family, people you trust. The simple process of identifying and talking about your feelings is very soothing. Studies show that talking about negative feelings can reduce activity in the pain-feeling portion of the brain. Talking to others not only feels good, but also releases opiates, which are natural “pain-killers,” and helps you process and manage the emotions generated by a break-up.

• Give yourself time to grieve.

Allow yourself to be sad about the loss of your relationship, rather than trying to rush into feeling well again. People who refuse to face the pain of a break-up get involved in rebound relationships before working through the painful issues of the past relationship. They tend to project their pain and desires onto their new partner, substituting their previous partner and not seeing the new person for who he/she really is.

Give yourself time to grieve; the process may be as painful as mourning the death of a loved one. Breaking up is a loss and the only way to come out of it healthy and with peace is to grieve properly.

• Consider having a conversation with your ex-partner.

You may be able to have a final discussion with your ex-partner to help you understand what caused the break-up and express any pent-up issues and feelings. However, this may not be something your ex-partner is willing to do or it may be too painful for you to do. In this case, research shows that having an imaginary conversation, where you express all your feelings and say goodbye, can help you move-on.

• Sleep.

Sleep is one of the best ways to deal with stress and avoid depression, yet it can be hindered by emotional distress. The day’s residual pain, sadness, and anger can make it difficult to sleep well. If you wake up too early, or can’t fall asleep, take notes in order to identify a recurring theme. That will help you figure out how get stress and anger under control during the day. Try keeping a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day; you will feel more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times. Create a relaxing bed-time routine. Regular exercise and relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation may also improve your sleep.

• Exercise.

Working out, running, and even brisk walking release opiates, which can help you deal with stress. Studies show that cardiovascular exercise can be as effective in dealing with mild to moderate anxiety and depression as antidepressants. So, get up and put your running shoes on!

It is natural to feel sad as you are grieving the end of your relationship. Remember to allow yourself to experience and process your own thoughts and feelings, no matter how painful they are; it will allow you to move forward. If you feel helpless, have low self-confidence, or think you are worse than you were, you may benefit from professional help to alleviate your feelings and avoid a deeper depression.

Don’t wait too long before intervening; when one door closes, you need to find the window that will allow you to go through and heal.

If you want help in dealing with relationship break-up, mail me at soulrevivng@gmail.com; for a ‘FREE’ consultation.

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Relaxation Tips To Reduce Stress

  • If you aren’t using your hands for a few moments, trace figure eights with one finger on the opposite palm. This mild stimulation should take your mind off your worries.

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  • When unobserved, rub your shoulders briefly. Many people store tension across their trapeziums. Even better is asking a nearby friend to help.

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  • Tell yourself you’ll be fine. You can influence an audience’s reaction, but ultimately you’re only responsible for how you behave. Enjoy what you’re doing.

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  • Focus on a taste, touch, or smell you enjoy. Sensory memories are some of the most powerful and relaxing we have.

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  • Breathe deeply, let it out slowly. The trick here is breathing from the diaphragm, that wall of muscle below your lungs and above your waist. You could also try holding each breath for several seconds before exhaling.

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How To Train Your Mind To Positive Thought?

Training your mind to practice positive thinking enables you to increase your self-esteem and perceived control in your life. Learning how your mind works and how to incorporate positive thoughts can help improve many areas, including work, family and social relationships. Improving your life through positive thinking, however, requires a proactive effort on your part to combat and change your current lifestyle and perceptual attitudes.

  1. Identify the internal negative thought patterns your mind uses. Types of negative thought patterns include: personalizing (blaming yourself), filtering (focusing only on the negative) and catastrophizing (anticipating the worst and blowing negative events out of proportion). Think of concrete examples in your own life in which you internalized problems and used these patterns to think negatively about situations.
  2. Practice positive self-talk. Think of a negative situation which you encountered over the past day or week. Turn the negative thoughts you had about the event into positive thoughts. For example, perhaps you experienced a flat tire on your way home from work. Instead of catastrophizing the event, find a way to spin it into a positive experience (e.g., you gained the important skill of changing a flat tire). Practice this positive self-talk for several negative situations or events that you’ve experienced to get into the habit of training your mind towards a different thinking pattern.
  3. Evaluate your thoughts throughout the days and weeks that follow. Periodically stop throughout the day to review your internal thoughts to determine if they have been mostly negative or positive. Think rationally about the negative thoughts which you do encounter. Find ways to spin those negative thoughts and train your mind to see them in a positive light.
  4. Create a positive thoughts journal. Spend time each evening or morning reflecting and writing down good things that have happened in your life or throughout the day. Acknowledging good events and positive experiences, then writing them down helps improve your thinking habits and trains your mind to think positively.
  5. Find healthy ways to deal with stressful events and situations. Develop and keep an exercise routine several times a week. Exercise and regular physical activity stimulate brain chemicals that improve your mood and boost energy levels. Spend time each day in meditation, focusing on clearing your mind and on relaxation. Meditation decreases the negative effects of stress and rejuvenates the mind and body.
  6. Surround yourself with positive friends and family members. Negative people who continually focus on the bad and are unsupportive may only re-enforce negative thinking habits. Alternatively, making friends with and spending time with supportive individuals may help you achieve clarity when troubling situations arise.

 

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Tips To Keep Your Mind Active

The brain is an organ and, as such, it requires oxygen and exercise, just like the heart and lungs. Feed your mind and you’ll feel emotionally and physically invigorated. It may be too soon to succumb to middle-aged worries about “using it or losing it,” or to start fretting about Alzheimer’s and other degenerative disease. Nonetheless, it’s still important to focus on keeping your brain in shape.

By regularly engaging in the right activities, you can increase your memory, improve your problem-solving skills and boost your creativity. Here are some tips on how to keep your mind active.

1. Do yoga.

You might be surprised at how strenuous yoga can be. Beyond the physical demands that give your entire body a workout, yoga has great calming and relaxation qualities.

Brain benefits: Yoga forces you to focus on controlling all your muscles and your breathing. You’ll let your worries slide away, giving your mind a rest from stress.

2. Play a game.

Challenge a colleague to a game of chess at lunch. Invite friends over for an evening of cards. Besides the social aspects, such activities will keep your mind active.

Brain benefits: You’ll use your memory and expand your powers of recall. You’ll also test your mathematical skills and logic.

3. Subscribe to a daily newsletter.

Whether it’s a “word of the day,” “quote of the day” or “this day in history” newsletter, receiving new information each day will add data to the hard drive in your head.

Brain benefits: The mental stimulation will increase your comprehension skills. The additional knowledge will also make you sound more worldly and intelligent. 

4. Grab the controller.

Believe it or not, playing certain video games really can be good for your health. The operative word here, however, is “certain” — choose games that involve strategy or problem solving.

Brain benefits: Problem solving and role-playing games will help you practice strategic planning. You’ll also improve your hand-eye coordination.

5. Build a model.

Remember the fun you had as a kid making model airplanes and cars? Recreate that by building a miniature model.

Brain benefits: Following all those written instructions sharpens your powers of concentration. Focusing on the task at hand will also be very relaxing.

6. Learn an instrument.

Pull out your old guitar, sign up for piano lessons or rent a trumpet or a clarinet. Learning how to make music will stimulate your creativity.

Brain benefits: Reading music provides mental stimulation. Playing an instrument requires powers of recall as well as concentration to maintain tune and tempo.

7. Do a crossword.

Stick The New York Times crossword puzzle in your briefcase, then get to work on it during your commute or while you’re waiting for an appointment or a meeting to begin.

Brain benefits: You’ll improve your cognitive skills and creative thinking as well as your word power and vocabulary.

8. Engage in a debate.

A lively discussion can be invigorating. As long as you avoid letting it digress into an argument, you can have a lot of fun debating the pros and cons of an issue with a friend or colleague.

Brain benefits: You’ll practice your quick-thinking skills, logic and creativity. Developing convincing theories on the spot will help you in your career and in your personal relationships. 

9. Read a book.

Choose from classic literature, science fiction or career-enhancing business books and give your brain a boost. Pick up a novel before your next business flight or vacation. On top of the cerebral benefits, the escapism that comes from reading can be very relaxing.

Brain benefits: Reading helps you exercise your cognitive skills and increase your vocabulary. Do it regularly and you’ll be amazed at the information you absorb, which will make you a more interesting conversationalist.

10. Take a course.

Learn something new. Sign up for a cooking class, register for martial arts training or enroll in a wine tasting seminar.

Brain benefits: You’ll be challenging yourself to absorb new concepts, information and ideas, and you’ll hone your retention skills through memorization.

11. Run.

Lace up your running shoes and get moving. Even if you never plan to run a marathon, it will get both your body and mind in shape.

Brain benefits: Running will increase the levels of oxygen in your brain and flowing through your body. In turn, your body will release more endorphin’s, which will make you feel energized while producing a sense of pleasure and well-being.

Keep your mental faculties in tip-top shape by giving yourself plenty of opportunities for mental stimulation. Use your cognitive skills, test your powers of recall, improve your memory, and challenge yourself to be more creative in your thinking. You’ll reap great brain-boosting benefits by keeping your mind active.

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ANXIOUS ADDICTS: The Relationship Between Anxiety and Addiction.

Almost everyone at some point in their lives struggles with a form of anxiety. Feelings produced from anxiety can be misleading and are perpetuated by reinforcing thoughts. Most people do not recognize that they are anxious until they feel the physical symptoms of anxiety. Substance abuse is a quick remedy for uncomfortable feelings produced by anxiety. An addict who suffers from anxiety will often be reluctant to enter substance abuse treatment, fearful that his or her anxiety issue will not be addressed.

Anxiety Characteristics, Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors:

Anxiety consists of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Thoughts will perpetuate feelings which create a behavioral response in an individual. Anxiety is rooted in fear and not wanting to feel fearful creates an intense distressed behavioral response. An addict who suffers from anxiety will use substances to escape from feeling anxious. Addicts who also struggle with anxiety will appear irritable, pre-occupied and apprehensive. Four common characteristics of anxiety found in an individual are:

1. The excessive need for control.
2. Ignoring psychological and physical signs of stress.
3. The excessive need for approval.
4. Perfectionism.

These characteristics are an individual’s belief system which perpetuates anxiety. Thoughts that are identified as should, would or could statements reinforce the belief system of the addict. These statements reflect thinking in the past and desire to change the chain of events. Example statements are:

  • I could have set an alarm last night, before I started drinking, to wake me up for school. I’m so stupid.
  • It would have been better if I didn’t spend the holidays with my parents. They drive me to use drugs.

Other anxiety related thoughts are based on future events and create frequent worrying or obsessing. For example “If I get this job then I will stop using drugs.” Focusing on events that we cannot change (past) or that are not in our control (future) increases anxiety symptoms. This disturbance of mood contributes to the addict’s desire to escape through substance abuse.

Anxiety Symptoms and Addiction:

Anxiety produces strong intense reactions within the body and mind. Anxiety responses are not always recognizable and may go untreated. Anxiety will manifest in two ways, physical and psychological. 

The physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety are similar to withdrawal symptoms from drugs and alcohol. An addict will automatically look for substances to calm an anxious state. The avoidance of uncomfortable physical agitation and painful emotions are some of the components that maintain addiction and anxiety. Both anxiety and addiction will become stronger the more the addict continues using drugs and/or alcohol. Addiction enables the addict to avoid confronting and challenging anxious thoughts and feelings.

Exercises for Decreasing Anxiety:
Self-help techniques for mild anxiety management are:

  • Stay in the present. Don’t get stuck thinking about the past or future.
  • Recognize what you can control verses what you cannot.
  • Learn to be aware of your stress and incorporate relaxation exercises.
  • Don’t be so critical of yourself. Mistakes are not failures and nobody is perfect.
  • While these exercises are helpful, anxiety is made worse with drug and alcohol abuse. An addict that suffers from addiction and anxiety may not be able to resolve anxiety issues alone.

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