One Thing at a Time

One Thing at a Time

I’ve often heard the saying: one day at a time, but something that cropped up for me today is the importance of taking things one THING at a time.

As a species, humans are actually quite horrible at multi-tasking. We might think we are pretty good at it. Completing a task on our computer while listening to music and taking a call without interrupting our work might make us feel like superheroes, but in fact, attempting to multitask has been found by research to reduce our ability to complete any one task, or at least reduce our ability to complete it to the best of our ability had we focused on just one task at a time.

Several months ago when I started a new workout routine I got really excited by the newfound energy I had. Moving my body in the mornings not only gave me a surge of adrenaline and endorphins, but creating a routine that carved out ample “me time”time gave me a new sense of direction and motivation for my life. I got high from these positive feelings. I decided there were many things I wanted to change to improve my physical and mental health.

Some of these things included creating a new workout routine I could stick to, writing monthly goals and intentions, being consistent with writing blog posts, creating a course on stress management, stopping the birth control pill, starting meditation, going to bed earlier, waking up earlier, drinking less coffee, drinking more water, increasing vitamin intake to coincide with going off the birth control pill, convert to more natural products including food and beauty products… and the list goes on.

Fast forward to several months later, and I have found myself feeling scatter-brained and unmotivated. This past week I’ve been doing some thinking and I think the scatter-brained-ness is because I have tried to make too many changes at once.

So, I’ve decided it’s back to the basics for me. One thing at a time. I am not ashamed that I get excited about making positive changes in my life. Sometimes I just get really energetic and excited about the potential for change that I commit myself to several different things and then a week later when my energy dips, I realize I cannot possibly keep up with several new changes or habits. It’s just too much multitasking.

Maybe some people can handle the multi-tasking, but it’s just not the right thing for me. And I don’t think it’s right or it works for most of us. The right thing for me moving forward is going to be one thing at a time.

One thing at a time looks like focusing on one major intention or goal each month, or for several months, until the change has become a habit and incorporated into your daily life, or the goal has been accomplished.

Although we glorify humans’ ability to multi-task and “hustle” I truly believe the value lies in slowing down, single-tasking, and pressing pause when we need to.

7 Days of Powerful, Practical, Immediate Stress Management Techniques: A Wrap-Up

7 Days of Powerful, Practical, Immediate Stress Management Techniques: A Wrap-Up

This week I’ve shared some amazing, simple stress management techniques via Instagram (@stresswellwithliz). And now I want to combine them all in a blog post so that you can have them all in one place and as an easy reference for when you need some quick stress relief. Think of this like your stress management toolkit, which includes resources for you to turn to when you’re feeling particularly stressed, tense, or anxious. Enjoy!

Day 1: Just Breathe

unnamedFor day 1 we are going to start with a super simple practice. A breathing technique. There are TONS of breathing techniques out there used for relaxation, meditation, and stress reduction, but today were doing to focus on one called diaphragmatic breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes called belly breathing, strengthens your diaphragm — a muscle that helps you breathe. There are tons of benefits of diaphragmatic breathing, some being:

  • Lowers your blood pressure.
  • Lowers your heart rate.
  • Helps you relax.
  • Lowers your stress hormone cortisol.
  • And most importantly, it reduces stress!

So, let’s get to that breathing technique. Here’s how it works:

1. Sit in a comfortable position or lie on a flat surface
2. Relax tension in your body
3. Breathe in through your nose for 2-3 seconds. Expand your stomach with air and make sure your chest stays relatively still.
4. Contract your stomach and exhale through your mouth, with a pursed expression, for about 2 seconds.
5. Repeat several times.
6. Indulge in the relaxation.

Day 2: Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation

PMRTime for your second easy, effective stress management tool. This one is pretty self explanatory from the picture, but it’s a muscle relaxation technique.

I first learned this technique during a yoga class, and I have since used it to relieve stress and also help me fall asleep. It’s called Isometric Muscle Relaxation, or Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Here’s how it works:

1. Choose a muscle group to start with. Try going from the bottom up so start with your feet. Inhale, and tense your feet for 5-10 seconds.
2. Breathe out, and completely relax your feet.
3. Take 10-20 seconds before you move to the next muscle group.
4. Continue with each muscle group until you’ve done them all.

This technique is really great at reminding your body what the difference between tension and relaxation feels like. Give it a try! Hope you love it as much as I do.

Day 3: Write a to-do list

todolistStressed out by the amount of to-do’s running wild in your head? I feel you.

Let’s get them out of our heads and on to paper. I promise it helps! Those to-do’s just need to be shown who’s boss. Dumping out the to-do’s onto paper and organizing them by priority will instantly calm you down. You’ll show less physical symptoms of stress and worry, and you’ll feel more clear-headed.

Day 3 of powerful, practical, immediate stress relief tips is writing a to-do list, and here’s how you’ll do just that:

1. Write down every “to-do”, “should do”, “need to do”, etc. flying around in your head. Get all of it out and onto a sheet of paper
2. Next, spend 5-10 minutes prioritizing your tasks in numerical order. What tasks are the most urgent and need to be accomplished today? What can wait until tomorrow or next week? Or what is out of your control? — cross those off your list
3. If you’re so inclined, organize your to-do list even further. Break your tasks into categories or organize according to a timeline.

Writing to-do lists has been one of my simple go-to stress management tools since I was little. It always brought me a sense of calm to write down all of the tasks running around in my mind. It’s a simple, free, effective tasks that can help you too. Try it and let me know how it goes:)

Day 4: Drink Water

waterDo you want to effectively manage your stress but feel like you don’t have enough time, money, or resources?

Well, my friend, that’s why I’m sharing 7 days of powerful, practical, immediate stress management tools. Even Beyoncé has time for these stress management techniques. And today’s tip is great.

Did you know that there’s a connection between stress and dehydration?

Studies have shown that dehydration leads to higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels. So staying hydrated can help to ward off stress and reduce the magnitude to which you feel the physiological effects of stress.

Being dehydrated is crappy enough as it is. Our bodies need water to function. We are 60-70% water, after all.

Drinking water helps us in numerous ways. It helps to cleanse the body of toxins, boost energy, and keep our appetite and metabolism in control. Reducing stress is just one of the reasons you should be drinking those 8 glasses a day.

If drinking so much a water each day isn’t palatable to you, try infusing it with fruit, like lemon, or mint.

I always say there’s no quick fix for stress management but this is one of the simplest and most effective techniques out there for managing your stress levels.

Drink up!

Day 5: Take a Walk

takeawalkHere’s an easy, free stress management technique that has benefits that go beyond helping you regulate your stress.

Take a walk. Walking has become one of my favorite stress management techniques and I make a point to incorporate it into my daily life.

And you can too! Walking is probably the easiest and cheapest way to balance your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (which control your stress response). Walking also helps to balance cortisol (stress hormone) levels in your brain. Not to mention walking is good for cardiovascular health and helps oxygen to circulate throughout your body.

You can start small. Try taking a 10-minute walk the next time you’re feeling anxious at work. I can guarantee you’ll feel better and want to lengthen that walk time.

Taking a walk outside also provides you with a mental break, and it can be combined with meditation. The next time you go on a walk focus on the way your feet feel on the ground. Do this for the entire walk. Engaging your senses while you walk adds extra calming and enriching effects to your stress relieving experience.

Day 6: Use Affirmations

affirmChronic stress depletes many of our resources. It can cause us to feel tired, weak, numb, low mood, and even pain. Often when you’re stressed the first things that will retreat is your coping mechanisms. Your body goes into ‘survival mode’ and harnesses all of its resources towards your vital functions that need to keep working for your survival (breathing, heart beating, etc).

Sometimes when we’re experiencing stress our self-confidence and self-efficacy falters. And this is where affirmations come in handy.

You’ve probably already heard of or perform affirmations for meditation, mindfulness, or confidence purposes. But affirmations can also be powerful resources for when our bodies and minds are depleted by stress.

So the next time you’re feeling run down, try an affirmation. Here are some examples:

  • My tension is melting away.
  • I am feeling more peaceful each day.
  • I am getting stronger every day.
  • I can handle whatever life throws at me today.
  • If I keep doing it, it will get easier.

Make sure the affirmations are positive, and they’re written as if they are traits you already possess, not something you want or are going to do.

Say the affirmation to yourself. Repeat it. Write it down. Write it on a post-it and stick it on your mirror. Take it a step further and focus on a different affirmation every day. Let it guide you through your stress.

Day 7: Strike a ‘Power Pose’

mountainpose

The way we hold ourselves and our posture has the power to influence how others perceive us and even our own body chemistry.

So called “power poses” can help us to combat stress in the moment and ease tension. And they’re a great way to finish our week of powerful, practical, immediate stress management techniques. So here are a few for you to try today.

Pride pose. This pose can reduce cortisol (stress hormone) in the brain when held for over two minutes. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and hold your arms above your head, either shoulder distance apart or in a Y position. Take several long, deep breaths.

Mountain pose. (Pictured). Stand with your feet hip distance apart and your arms at your sides. Slightly rotate your shoulders open so your palms face forward and your collarbones spread. Don’t arch your back. Take several long, deep breaths.

Legs on the wall or a chair. Lie on your back and put your legs up against the wall or a chair with your knees above your hips and your feet hip distance apart. Hold for ten long, deep breaths. By raising your legs above your heart it promotes blood flow and reduces swelling in your legs.

You will feel refreshed and energized coming out of these poses. Try them the next time you’re feeling stressed or tense at work. It only takes one minute of your time!

 

7 Days of Powerful, Practical, Immediate Stress Management Tools: Day 1

7 Days of Powerful, Practical, Immediate Stress Management Tools: Day 1

There is no quick fix to stress. There are, however, ways to manage your stress and/or anxiety in the moment that will help you to feel immediate relief. These tools, when practiced daily and constantly can also help you to manage your stress in the long run.

I decided to write about some immediate, practical stress management tips because I am all to familiar with that feeling of overwhelm, anxiety and mounting stress. For me it presents as tightness in my chest and shallow breathing, sometimes a tension headache, which feels like there is a tight band wrapped around my head. Those are my body’s signals to tell me it’s acutely stressed.

So I wanted to do a week’s worth of easy and effective stress management tools, and day 1 starts with a breathing technique. Go to my instagram for the post (@stresswellwithliz).

There are TONS of breathing techniques out there used for relaxation, meditation, and stress reduction, but today I want you to focus on one called diaphragmatic breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes called belly breathing, strengthens your diagram- a muscle that helps you breathe. There are tons of benefits to diaphragmatic breathing, some being:

  • Lowers your blood pressure
  • Lowers your heart rate
  • Helps you relax
  • Lowers your stress hormone cortisol
  • Mostly importantly, it reduces your feelings of stress

So, let’s get to that breathing technique. Here’s how it works:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position or lie on a flat surface
  2. Relax tension in your body
  3. Breathe in through your nose for 2-3 seconds. Expand your stomach with air and make sure your chest stays relatively still.
  4. Contract your stomach and exhale through your mouth, with a pursed expression, for about 2 seconds.
  5. Repeat several times.
  6. Indulge in the relaxation

You can try this just about anywhere. It’s free and only takes several minutes of your time. Go try it! And let me know how it goes for you.

 

Therapy is Not Easy

Therapy is Not Easy

Have you ever gone to therapy or considered seeking therapy?

I have. And I’m not ashamed to say that I currently do weekly talk therapy. In this post I have one overarching message to share from my experience with therapy and different therapists, and it is that therapy isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

Therapy isn’t easy in so many ways. The process of finding a therapist who specializes in the type of therapy you might benefit the most, let alone one in your price range, insurance coverage, and who practices nearby all present difficulties when tasked with finding a therapist. Luckily, Google is your friend when facing these difficulties.

You can research just about anything you need to know, from specialty, price, and location to patient reviews for therapists in your area. And trust me, you will want to do this research. It’s quite defeating committing yourself to a one-hour therapy session to find out that you and that therapist are not a good fit. That leads me to a second reason therapy is not easy.

After you find a therapist that fits your price, specialty, and location needs, you will want to meet the therapist in person and have one or several sessions with them to determine whether or not they are a good fit for what you are seeking from therapy. Several things you want to feel with a therapist are comfort, lack of judgment, openness, acceptance, and trust. You want to feel like you can build a trusting relationship in which you can be open and honest and also comfortable to share everything with the therapist who is trying to help you.

If you’ve tried therapy before or are in a situation now where you feel like you cannot be fully honest with your therapist, or if you feel judgment from them, I urge you to not give up on the idea of therapy as a practice that can help you. Just because the fit isn’t right doesn’t mean that therapy with the right therapist won’t help you. You might, however, need to evaluate your current situation and try seeking out a different therapist and potentially a different type of therapy.

This happened to me the first time I sought therapy. I had about five or ten sessions with a therapist where, in our sessions, we would talk about things that had happened and relationships in my childhood and adolescence that could have affected the way I feel and act currently. Doing so was extremely difficult and emotional for me. In my life, I’ve buried many things in my past as a coping mechanism, and uncovering those things brought a ton of emotional turmoil into my present and affected me long after the therapy sessions were over. After this experience I figured that therapy just wasn’t for me. It was too painful. I didn’t like revisiting the things that I had buried for a reason.

I got a bit older and my anxiety got worse. I had a full blown panic attack at 22 years old and lived in fear of another panic attack for two years after that. I had low mood and impulsivity but also was functioning fairly well in my life so I thought it was something I could try to deal with on my own.

Then I found myself one day staring into the train tracks, thinking of how easy it would be to just fall in, and I knew I needed help. I sought therapy from my school’s mental health center, since I didn’t know what else to do. I needed someone else to understand how desperate I was for help, and I was too scared to open up to anyone close to me about it.

This type of therapy was different. I saw the therapist for a total of ten sessions (since this was the free allowed amount) and we never spent a single session digging into my past. We talked about my past and childhood in small doses but we focused on my mood and problems in the present, and how I could deal with what I was facing in the present. I felt more comfortable engaging in these types of sessions and sometimes came away feeling sad, but also felt empowered and like I could regain control of my life.

After I finished that stint of schooling and moved across the country I figured it would be beneficial for me to continue some type of therapy, so that I could avoid falling into the super low mood and scaring myself. This is when I discovered ACT, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

ACT is a type of therapy that focuses on your present self, and how you can make changes in your present to help yourself to feel better. Instead of emphasizing control of your thoughts and feelings, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy does, ACT encourages you to accept and notice your thoughts and feelings. It helps you to develop compassion for yourself for having these thoughts and feelings, but also helps you to not linger or ruminate on them.

ACT therapy in combination with an open, comforting, trusting therapist has provided the right combination for me in what I am seeking from a therapy experience. However, therapy still isn’t easy.

The third thing that isn’t easy about therapy is… doing the actual therapy. Pretty intuitive but sitting with a stranger, talking about your thoughts and emotions, your childhood, your relationships with others, and your life in a nutshell is NOT easy! Revisiting past events and situations, which were potentially traumatic is not easy. Accepting impartial commentary and advice on coping with these events is not easy. And making changes in your daily life as suggested during therapy is not easy.

All of these things make therapy not easy. But the more important message here is that while therapy might not be easy, it is worth it.

For me, it’s really difficult to put a price tag on my mental health. Without my mental health I wouldn’t have my livelihood, and I might not have my life. I have prioritized therapy as an expense over other things in my life. I have worked to find a therapist that is a good fit for me, and one that I can trust. And I am now in a position where if I work at it I can improve my state of being.

Therapy is worth it in more ways than I could count or explain in a blog post. Therapy can restore your hope that you can have a happy life. Therapy can help you to find the things that mental illness or burnout or exhaustion might have robbed you from, like your confidence, self-esteem, and motivation. It can empower and give you the tools to help yourself when you need it.

So overall, if you’re reading this and you’re considering trying therapy, I strongly encourage you to try it! If you’re in therapy and not happy about it then I strongly encourage you to try a different therapist or a different type of therapy. Most importantly I encourage you to not give up. You’re a strong person for seeking help for yourself. And while therapy might be tough at times, just remember how worthwhile it will be.

What Happened to the ‘Health’ in ‘Mental Health’

What Happened to the ‘Health’ in ‘Mental Health’

When we talk about mental health, we aren’t talking about health. We’re actually talking about the lack of health. ‘Mental health’, as a term, attempts to signify the state of one’s mental well being, but it has become more synonymous with “mental illness” or the lack of mental health.

You can observe a similar trend with the study of psychology. The study of psychology focuses on situations where mental health, per say, is lacking or off balance. Rather, when mental function is unhealthy. The fact that psychology focuses on what is missing from mental health, or how one has fallen “mentally ill” and must be restored back to their mental health, spurred the need for a topic called positive psychology.

Positive psychology, aside from being one of my favorite and most inspiring classes in college, covers the topic of mental flourishing and the idea of optimal mental functioning. It does not focus on illness, but rather focuses on betterment.

I’ve found this is similar to the way we talk about mental health today. Mental health, and talking about it, is often stained with a negative light, and makes you think of things like stigma, shame, and illness. And this might be ok for now. Well, not the stigma and shame part. That’s why I’m so open about my struggles with ‘mental health’. I believe that talking about it open and honestly is my way of attacking the stigma and shame head on. And I love doing it, but alas, mental health does not need to be seen in this way.

Regardless of what the conversations around mental health in this country have showed you, and what our medical community’s approach to mental health has showed you, you do not need to fall ill to take an interest in and prioritize your mental health.

Like positive psychology is to psychology, mental wellness can be to mental health. And there are so many ways that we can improve our state of mental wellness and make it a priority.

Here are some of the ways you can seek out mental wellness.

  1. Live authentically and purposefully
  2. Give yourself the time and outlets to find authenticity and purpose in you life – this can mean practices like meditation, reflection, mindfulness, or yoga
  3. Prioritize movement
  4. Treat your body and gut with compassion
  5. Be open to helping others and also set boundaries
  6. Cherish social support
  7. Listen to your body and let yourself rest

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and ways that you seek mental wellness! It’s something that is so near and dear to me, and I’ve incorporated into my course on stress management.

The reality is that everyone can benefit from prioritizing their mental health, or mental wellness. There are countless ways to do it and you need to believe that you deserve it.