Posts Tagged ‘psychological health’

Balancing Work and Family

July 28, 2016

Some days 24 hours just doesn’t seem to be enough. Between family priorities, practicing good self-care, and juggling work responsibilities, it’s easy to feel stressed. Even though we choose how to spend our time, our to-do list sometimes crowds out what gives us the greatest enjoyment.

Our lives naturally fall out of balance from time to time. When this occurs, we struggle to regulate our responsibilities and what we enjoy most. Taking the time to assess how things are going gives us insight to realign our priorities. Consider these questions when work and family are out of sync:

  • Do you regularly set aside time to spend with your family?
  • When you are with family, do you feel anxious or guilty about not working?
  • At work, what triggers you to feel like you should be spending more time with your family?

Strategies for Achieving Greater Balance

Limit distractions – There may be times of the day you are more distracted or procrastinate. How could you use your time more efficiently during this period? Perhaps limit the frequency you check emails or use social media.

Know your values – Write down what you desire most from life. What activities are important for you to do with your family? Determine what is non-negotiable in your life.

Say no – Practice saying no to tasks that fit outside your values. This helps you avoid the stress and tension of over-commitment.

Organize – Is your workspace messy? Your home cluttered? Taking opportunities to organize will save you time in the long run.

Remember, life will happen. When it does, things will typically fall out of balance for a time. Stay positive. Use the knowledge you’ve gained, take a step back, and assess. Proper planning is always a good start to swing an imbalanced life back into perspective.

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Tips for Relaxation

July 15, 2016

Stress is everywhere. Good or bad, without proper self-care, stress can feel like it might swallow us alive. Why? Any time a change occurs causing an adjustment or interruption in our life, stress results. We then produce physical, emotional, and mental responses. However, certain exercises can activate the body’s natural “relaxation response,” which slows breathing, lowers blood pressure, and makes for a calmer and healthier you.

RELAXATION BENEFITS

Relaxation techniques are helpful to reduce stress and improve our quality of life. We can even benefit our overall physical and mental health by reducing chronic illness, pain, anxiety, and depression. Practicing relaxation can also:

  • Improve concentration
  • Minimize feelings of anger
  • Lower heart and breathing rates
  • Reduce muscle tension and pain
  • Minimize fatigue symptoms

RELAXATION TECHNIQUES

Let’s practice on relaxation technique known as progressive muscle relaxation. To begin, slow tense and relax individual muscles. Start with your feet and work up your body to your head. This helps you become aware of muscle tension when you are stressed.

There are a variety of other relaxation techniques, such as meditation, art therapy, massage, yoga, and deep breathing. These activities can be done alone or with the help of another person. Consider downloading an app or free guided exercise. You may find one technique does not work well for you. Be persistent until you connect with one yielding results.

Relaxation techniques may not completely eradicate the stress in your life, but they can lighten your stress load. They are often low-cost, low-risk for injury, and easily performed almost anywhere. So, why not try it? There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose, except maybe some extra stress.

Dealing with Difficult People

June 24, 2016

Let’s face it. We all encounter people who are challenging, negative, and even aggressive. Whether it’s a family member, friend, coworker or neighbor, being able to differentiate between difficult personalities is helpful. When we better understand them, it frees us to not take things personally. We can also help create a safe and productive environment for others.

THE NEXT STEP

Some of the more dominant challenging personality traits include people who are hostile, narcissistic, passive-aggressive, or negative. Knowing how to handle and react to difficult personality traits is beneficial in all environments. Here are some helpful tips to deal with all difficult personality styles.

  • Address concerns – Don’t ignore problems and pretend they don’t exist. Chances are the challenges will only grow. The responsible thing is to address the person and the issue.
  • Express compassion – Remember you probably don’t have the whole picture of someone’s life. You may not know all that’s happened in the individual’s background, their mental health, or the past crises they may have faced. Empathize and express compassion.
  • Assess reactions – Consider your own emotions. If you’re having a particularly stressful day and can’t seem to remain calm, it’s not the right time to address issues with a difficult person. Staying calm and neutral is the best way to approach and deal with challenging people.

Depression Self-Assessment

June 13, 2016

Everyone feels down in the dumps sometimes. It’s normal to be sad or tired occasionally for unknown reasons. Whether you’re just feeling down or something more, it’s worth exploring.

Depression invades every area of your life, impacting your day-to-day affairs. Maybe you can’t get out of bed in the morning or your appetite is never satisfied. Overcoming depression isn’t just about will power; it’s about getting the professional help and treatment you need for a happy, productive life once again.

QUESTIONS TO ASK

  • Are you feeling depressed or down lately?
  • Have activities you once enjoyed lost your interest?
  • Are you struggling to fall asleep or sleeping too much?
  • Do you feel lethargic, lacking energy to get through your day?
  • Has your appetite changed? Eating too much or too little?
  • Are you struggling to focus on work or activities like reading?
  • Do you or others notice you moving or speaking more slowly?
  • Have your thoughts leaned toward death or harming yourself in any way?

If you identify with these questions and answered yes to several, you might be struggling with depression. It’s important to see a physician or mental health professional for an official diagnosis, rather than self-diagnosing. They can rule out any other possible causes for your depressed mood.

THE NEXT STEP

Having a plan is a great start for treating depression. These suggestions can help you begin your journey toward a new beginning.

  • Take notes – Write down all your physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. Even if these don’t fall under the depression category. It’s still helpful information for your physician or psychiatrist to rule out other causes.
  • Give yourself grace – Experiencing depression is no one’s fault. Improvement takes time. Celebrate the small victories and be kind to yourself during the setbacks.
  • Access resources – Affordable counseling is often available through your employee assistance program, community services, religious organizations, and universities. Support groups can also be invaluable.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

May 24, 2016

Getting a full night’s sleep may seem like a luxury, but it’s important to your overall health. Sleep serves a critical role when it comes to your health and well-being – similar to eating, drinking and breathing. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night in order to feel rested and have the positive benefits associated with a full night’s sleep. When rested, we’re more alert, energetic, happier, and better able to function the next day. The benefits of good sleep also include improvements in short-term memory, productivity, sensitivity to pain, and the functioning of your immune system.

Tips for Better Sleep

If you have trouble falling asleep, there are a few tricks you can try to help you get the sleep your body needs.

  1. Set a regular sleep schedule and routine. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Having a bedtime routine lets your body know it’s time to go to sleep. Part of your routine may include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, listening to calming music, or dimming the lights.
  2. Limit naps to 20-30 minutes. If you nap, keep it early in the day. Napping late in the afternoon can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  3. Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. Caffeine from food or drinks can disrupt sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep. And alcohol might help you fall asleep, but it will be restless sleep and you’re more likely to wake in the night.
  4. Take any medications that are stimulants in the morning. You can also ask your doctor to switch you to a non-stimulating alternative. Any drugs that make you drowsy should be taken in the evening.
  5. Avoid heavy meals before bed.  These can make you feel uncomfortable and keep you awake at night. However, if you feel too hungry to sleep, have a light snack.
  6. Avoid intense exercise within three hours of bedtime. It may make you too energized to fall asleep. Regular exercise earlier in the day, however, will help you sleep better.
  7. Keep a worry journal. Before you get in bed, write down any worries or pressing thoughts you have that may keep you up. Have a notepad and pen next to the bed and if something pops into your head, write it down. Then try not to think about these worries or thoughts until the morning.
  8. Limit liquids. If you wake up often to use the rest room, cut down on how much you drink late in the day.
  9. Have an environment conducive to sleep. For most people, this is a space that is dark, cool, quiet, and comfortable. Consider using room darkening shades, ear plugs, eye masks, or a fan to make your sleeping space right for you.
  10. Avoid plots that may get your adrenaline going before bed. Whether it’s a movie, TV show, or book, you don’t want your heart to be racing before bed. Instead, you should feel calm and relaxed when you’re ready to fall asleep.

If you still don’t feel well rested in the morning after trying the tips listed, make an appointment with your doctor. There may be an underlying cause that needs to be properly diagnosed. Your doctor can help you treat the problem or refer you to a sleep specialist.

Effective Communication

May 12, 2016

Whether in a personal or professional relationship, effective communication is essential. When it comes to expressing your thoughts or sharing your knowledge, there are some tips you should keep in mind.

Keep it simple. People can only remember so much information at one time. You want them to remember what’s most important. So, keep your messages simple, concise, and to the point.

Rephrase thoughts. It’s a good idea to rephrase and repeat what’s said back to the person who is speaking. This ensures you have a clear understanding of what was said.

Give examples. When communicating ideas, it’s helpful to use examples or personal experiences. This makes ideas more concrete by giving them context. It’s easier to remember stories than facts alone.

Listen actively. Good communication involves listening to what is being said, and also what is not being said.

Be patient. Give people time to communicate their ideas.

Don’t interrupt. A lot of valuable information can be gained by listening to others. It’s important in developing any kind of relationship.

Be conscious of differing perspectives. Your culture, experiences, and upbringing may mean that you have a different interpretation of the same event. Be aware of the influences these biases may have. People approach topics from many different perspectives – be respectful of these differences.

Interpret. Read between the lines of what’s being said. Some people have a hard time expressing themselves. You can help them by trying to interpret what they mean.

Stay positive. You may be stressed, frustrated, or just heaving an off day, but people are much more receptive if you communicate with a positive attitude when you speak.

Make a connection. Find a common ground or interest to open the way to a good conversation. Building a connection can help increase trust and make people more open to your ideas.

Stress Self-Assessment

March 14, 2016

Feeling stressed? While everyone reacts differently to stress, your body, brain, and emotions have a unique stress response. Understanding these reactions can help you fine-tune your stress-reducing strategies.

STEP 1: EVALUATE YOUR RESPONSES
  • Pain – Stress can bring on immediate or chronic pain, such as back pain, headaches, nausea, jaw or fist clenching, muscle tension, etc.
  • Depression – Extreme amounts of stress can lead to symptoms of depression, including feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty.
  • Anger – Arguing and feeling short-fused with coworkers or loved ones is a common reaction when under stress.
  • Anxiety – Stress can trigger you to feel anxious, worrying or fearing the worst possible scenario.
  • Substance Use – Smoking, drinking excessively and drug use are all unhealthy ways of self-medicating your anxiety.
  • Eating – Overeating, skipping meals, and eating junk food with little nutrition are all ways people change their eating habits when under extreme stress.
STEP 2: EVALUATE COPING METHODS

Ask yourself the following questions to understand how you’re managing your stress load.

  • Do you have a support network in place?
  • Are there activities you enjoy?
  • Do you regularly get enough sleep?
  • Are there responsibilities you can delegate?
  • Do you practice relaxation exercises such as mindfulness, yoga, or meditation?
  • Do you have access to professionals who can help you?
STEP 3: TAKE ACTION

After you’ve evaluated coping methods, here are a few action steps you can take.

  • Address physical concerns – See your physician to assess any immediate physical concerns or questions you might have. Seek their recommendations for changes in your diet, exercise, or other habits.
  • Start small – Start with simple tasks, such as turning off screens or electronics earlier before bed or taking five minutes for deep breathing.
  • Recruit a friend – Accountability is key, so choose a friend or family member to encourage you on the path to positive changes in your life.
  • Take notes – Everyone responds differently to relaxation techniques or organizational tools. Keep a journal or use an app to track the strategies working for you. Seeing your progress can be just the motivation needed to continue good self-care.

THINKING WELL: Anger Management

February 15, 2016

Feeling angry is normal and healthy. What you do with your anger is what matters. We’re biologically wired to become angry in response to potential threats. However, we can’t respond with anger to everything. Anger management can help you learn the signs of anger and how to manage your reaction positively.

Some people are more likely to become angry than others. Even if they aren’t physically violent, they might be irritable, sarcastic, or constantly grumpy. Anger causes physical symptoms too, such as digestive and heart problems, high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, headaches and the risk of substance abuse.

SEEKING HELP

How do you know if your anger is controlling you? If you answer yes to any of the following questions, consider seeking help.

  • Are you feeling constantly irritated or impatient?
  • Do you engage in frequent arguments with others?
  • Are you physically violent or considering violence?
  • Do you occasionally feel out of control?
  • Have you felt anxious or depressed about your anger?

HOW TO HELP

  • Identify stressors – Discover what is triggering your anger, such as work, rush hour traffic, or financial woes.
  • Notice indicators – Pay attention to any physical, emotional, or behavioral signs you experience when angry.
  • Examine thinking – Strive to correct your thinking and operate based on facts and good rationale.
  • Learn relaxation techniques – Practice mindfulness and deep breathing to soothe your body and focus your thoughts.
  • Focus on solutions

Anger management can help focus your energy on problems solving rather than frustration and hopelessness.

Remember, asking for help is never a weakness. Consult your doctor, mental health professional, or your employee assistance provider (EAP) for a referral. Consider attending a support group or check out other resources available online. Invest in yourself and learn to manage your anger instead of letting it manage you.

Caregiving Can Take a Toll on the Caregiver

December 14, 2015

While many Seniors continue to work today well beyond the traditional “retirement age,” there are many others who are in quite the opposite situation; they are desperately in need of eldercare due to failing health. Many of these people now depend on working family members to take care of their needs.

According to recent statistics from the American Society on Aging, nearly one out of every four US households – or 22 million households -provide care to a relative or friend aged 50 or older. In addition, 40% of caregivers are also raising children and 64% work full- or part-time. The National Alliance for Caregiving reports that, on average, caregivers spend four an done-half years providing care and spend about 12 hours each week providing it.

Research suggests that the physical and emotional demands on caregivers put them at greater risk for health problems:

  • Caregivers are more at risk for infectious diseases, such as colds and flue, and chronic diseases, such as heart problems, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Depression is twice as common among caregivers compared to noncaregivers.

If you are a caregiver, don’t forget to care for yourself. Here are a few tips:

When it comes to their health, caregivers are less likely than their peers to take steps to prevent or control chronic disease. Taking care of your own health will help you to better care for your loved one longer.

  • Be wise – immunize. The CDC recommends that caregivers of the elderly get a flu shot each year, a tetanus booster every 10 years and a pneumococcal vaccination at least once.
  • Don’t neglect your health. Get a yearly check up and the recommended cancer screenings (mammogram, cervical screening, etc.).
  • Tell your doctor that you are a caregiver.
  • Tell your doctor if you feel depressed or nervous.
  • Take some time each day to do something for yourself. Read, listen to music, telephone friends, or exercise. Eat health foods and do not skip meals.
  • Find caregiver resources in your area early. You may not need their information or services now, but you will have them when you need them.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And don’t do it all yourself. Use your family, friends, or neighbors for support. Family may help share caregiving tasks. Friends and neighbors may help with other chores.

Avoiding Burnout

December 4, 2015

There are many “outs” in life. We can be stressed out, worn out, and maybe even need a time out. As passionate as we may feel about our work, we are all susceptible to burning out if we fail to exercise good self-care and relaxation techniques. Burnout is a constant feeling of exhaustion and pessimism in the workplace, which usually results in a decline in performance and passion.

There are several early warning signs of burnout. Do you dread coming back from vacation? Despise work tasks you one enjoyed? Is your overall attitude pessimistic toward your coworkers and your performance? The answers to these questions can all be indicators of workplace burnout.

However, burnout is preventable; consider these simple tips:

  • Take small breaks – Failing to take short breaks negatively impacts your overall performance. Concentration wanes after too long, so take a quick five or ten minutes. Your brain will thank you.
  • Evaluate – Take a step back to see how you’re using your time. Where and when are you most productive? How is the quality of your work? Being efficient does not equal being effective. Take inventory and prioritize your time.
  • Set vacations in stone – If you are financially able, plan that trip today. It will give you something to anticipate. Alternatively, consider doing a “staycation” and rewarding yourself with some rest and relaxation.
  • Engage new passions – Look for a new hobby to catch your interest during the week. Often new activities reignite passions for old ones.

Taking care of yourself with proper rest, exercise, and nutrition is essential to reducing your risk for a workplace burnout. You will have more energy, productivity, and passion for what you enjoy most.