Sunday, November 30, 2008

Holiday Stress

From November to the beginning of January, most people experience an increased amount of stress. Many people have a tough time trying to find the perfect gift, trying to sort out finances, fearing loneliness, job loss, paying the bills or even visiting with family. So much of it all is stressful. Yet this year is different for many. The stress has increased because of the economic climate.

What's your fear? What's causing your stress to increase? This is a time when sadly addictions increase whether it be over eating, drinking, gambling, shopping, anger etc... addictive behaviours not only increase at this time of year but so many have tried to soothe their fear in unhealthy ways hoping to get some relief.

Relief, can only come through healthy, consistent self-care. There are those things that we have control over (our attitude, thoughts and behaviours) and then there are those things that we do not (the global economy). It's therefore important to be aware of our stress and to DO things to look after ourselves on a regular basis.

How do you take care of yourself during stressful times?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hope Even When Stressed

Often times the only way to get through the day, is to take it one moment at a time. Life can be a moment by moment experience and yet, when you focus on hope, on life beyond your stress, your circumstance, you will find that things aren't quite as stressful as they were a moment ago. You won't feel quite so overwhelmed.

Have you ever felt so exhausted, overwhelmed, afraid and unsure about what was happening in your life, and wondered how can I find hope in the middle of all of this stuff that's going on in my life? Well, as hard as it may be to focus on something other than your circumstance, the key to finding hope in stress is to focus on things that bring you a sense of calm, peace. Hope comes when we realize that what is happening to us right now, ... will pass. You will get through this, it just takes time.

Try these helpful grounding tools to shift focus so that you can choose hope: ... 1) breathe -take 5 deep full breaths, 2.) call a friend, 3.) watch a funny movie, 4.) go for a walk or 5.) take a warm bath. Believe it or not shifting our focus and choosing not to focus on the stress in our lives enables us to feel hopeful because it gives us a chance to regroup/ground ourselves and gain clarity so that we can DO something different and get unstuck.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Stress, Trauma and Addiction - How are they related?

Many struggle with past trauma which may stem from past or present abuse, the death of a loved one or even the loss of a job. Any and all of these are situations that can result in chronic stress feelings, anxiety and/or depression.

If we don't recognize how life impacts us, we will grab hold of whatever we can find to make ourselves feel better. As I mentioned before some will grab hold of destructive things that cripple us emotionally and mentally and keep us from living a fulfilled life.

In my last blog I talked about exercise as an effective way to release stress. Yet sometimes, we need a few more tools to enable us to heal from our hurt, the pain that runs deep within us. That's where learning how to address negative thoughts that effect feelings and behaviour are the key to moving through our pain. We aren't designed to just "get over it" we must work through our stress, our pain, our trauma.

To choose not to do the kind of work that may require professional support e.g. group therapy, psychologist, The Life Recovery Program , marriage & family therapist, social worker, psychotherapist etc... may ultimately result in you engaging in behaviours that result in addictions.

Remember how addiction was defined in my previous blog, "any behaviour you cannot stop that has destructive consequences." Think about it. Stress, pain, trauma, heartache ... what's driving your addiction?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Breathe and Relax

Stress in and of itself is part of life. However, if you don't learn how to manage it, it will manage you. So, how do you manage your stress? As I mentioned before some people resort to destructive behaviours like drinking, gambling, eating, starving, cutting even toxic relationships.

There are some healthier ways to manage stress. Believe it or not prevention is better than having to try to find a cure. Stress can lead to anxiety, they often go hand in hand. However, simple consistent activities that you do daily can assist you in living your best life thus not succumbing to chronic stress.

There are many things that you can do to reduce the effects of stress. Why is this so important to learn many different, healthy ways of managing your stress? It's important because they will enable you to NOT resort to destructive habits to try to make yourself feel better. These tools will keep you from falling into addictive behaviours and substances. You'll be able to live the life you've always wanted. A life filled with joy!

Sounds a bit over the top? Not really. Life is stress! However, the choice is yours. You can allow your stress to manage you or, you can choose to manage your stress. There are many healthy ways to manage/cope with stress. The first one is a familiar one, one you've probably heard before yet it's one of the most effective and oh so very powerful tools. It really works and there are no negative side-effects.....EXERCISE.

Yes, that's right exercise! Get your body moving. So many people assume that this means going to the gym, working out for hours on end and lifting heavy weights. But that's not the case, start by doing simple things like, dance around the house, go for a walk with your dog, park your car far away from the door when you go to the store, go swimming, take a stroll with a friend or power walk all by yourself. Just get your body moving. This will enable your body to release the chemical build up that occurs in the body when we are stressed. The added bonus is that exercise raises the serotonin levels - the feel good- chemicals in our body. It balances out the body's system, if the stress is released, such things as blood pressure is reduced.

So, if you really want to begin to do something different, to begin the process of reducing your stress and anxiety and even the depression that can result from stress ...then get your body moving. See how many ways you can get the stress out of your body in a healthy, life-freeing way.

Stress and Destructive Habits

Many people don't realize that the stress in our lives can cause us to cope by using a variety of not so healthy things, to soothe ourselves, to try to make ourselves feel better. Life is stress and yet for many, how to manage it, has become something that not only destroys the stressed person's life but also those closest to that person.

Did you know that some folks try to deal with their stress through such things as drinking, shopping, cutting, drugs, porn, gambling or even eating too much or too little? Many people, especially women are familiar with the notion of "emotional eating." However, managing stress in this way can lead to disordered eating which may lead to a variety of health problems either now or in future. Sadly, from a very young age, many are taught that when you're hurting, a cookie will make you feel better, while others have learned over time, that toxic relationships, the Internet/porn, gaming or other destructive behaviours are ways to help "not feel" the emotional pain caused by the stress or even trauma in their lives.

Other ways that people destructively cope with stress or trauma may be by using drugs, sex, cutting (to stop the emotional pain or, somehow feel alive) alcohol, gambling, excessive shopping, angry outbursts or any number of things to try to help themselves feel better and/or release bottled up emotions. None of these things have any long lasting healing effect on the feelings caused be chronic stress or a traumatic past, which is why the behaviour continues and for some gets worse.

Many of us are unaware of the destructive nature of our habits, they sneak up on us so suddenly. Often times it takes someone close to us to tell us that what we're doing is pretty destructive. Most people don't realize that such behaviours can be defined as addictive patterns of behaviour. That's right, an addiction, hard to believe but it is true.

On the site called the All Addictions Life Recovery Program, Paul, the psychotherapist and founder of the program, states that the majority of folks don't realize that an addiction is any behaviour we cannot stop, that has destructive consequences ( And often times we dismiss these behaviours as "not that bad" or something that "only affects me." As a result we may hide our pain in shame and use to soothe. We may be coping by engaging in an addictive behaviour and not even realize that that is what it is.

I would suggest you do the simple two question assessment self test on the Life Recovery Program site to see if perhaps you need to take an honest look at stress and it's impact on your life. You may be battling an addiction and not even realize it. Perhaps it's time for you to take charge of your life rather than allowing the stressors of life to take charge of you. We only have one life, why not make every moment a healthy and delightful one.