Health & Healing Archives

 

 

When you have a boss breathing down your neck, family’s needs to attend to, or financial obligations to settle, it can be difficult to maintain composure. Sometimes all the responsibilities and expectations may become too overwhelming that stress gets the best of you, and when it does, the results could be far from pleasant.

Stress is considered a normal part of life. A little stress can motivate you to achieve your goals, but too much of it can leave you paralysed and distracted. And usually, how you respond to it creates the difference.

If you’re struggling with stress each day of your life and are close to waving the white flag, here are five ways to help you stop it from sucking the life out of you:

Breathe

Whenever things don’t go well as expected or challenges become too much to bear, breathe. Concentrate on your breathing for at least three minutes and observe how it eases your anxiety. If you’ve noticed, people who practise yoga or meditation typically start their exercises with deep breathing because it has a calming effect on the nerves and drives out negative thought patterns which may cause one to panic and make poor, hasty decisions.

Remove Your Cape

The stress you are experiencing probably comes from your desire to rescue people from their troubles. But however you would want to solve all your office or family problems, accept the fact that you’re no superhero and you can’t fix them all. Refuse to take further obligations and learn to say no if you already have a lot on your plate.

Take One Step at a Time

This is, perhaps, one of the hardest and most clichéd advice, but taking it one step at a time allows you to cope with your struggles without neglecting the joy of the present. Learn to set priorities and goals for the day and try to achieve them. As much as possible, avoid procrastination as this would only result to unproductive days and half-baked works.

Tap into Your Support Network

Joined HandsOne of the best ways to de-stress your life is to tap into your support network. Confide in your close friends and family members about your present circumstance and draw strength from them to overcome your challenges. You could also seek the guidance of a life coach or a personal development coach to help you deal with your struggles. A personal development coach can assist you in identifying your strengths and weaknesses, improving your potentials, and finding the path to self-discovery. You can look up for personal development videos online to understand what is involved in life coaching and to start your journey to self-awareness.

Indulge in the Arts

If you have a knack for poetry, painting, music, or any activity that encourages your creativity to run free, now is the time to indulge in them. Art is known to offer therapeutic effects to those who take pleasure in them, and it is also during stressful situations that art becomes a healthy avenue for one to communicate his or her troubles, worries, and unrealised dreams.

Stress may come in all shapes and sizes, but remember that you have the power to tame it. It may take some time and plenty of courage, but eventually all your efforts will pay off once you decide to stave off stress when it strikes.

 

Debra Wright blogs about a plethora of topics including Online Guided Meditation and other fields. Wright considers Lauren Ostrowski Fenton as one of the leaders in Life Coaching Online.

 

 

 

 

Art Therapy: Creating a Better You

Girl-on-bike-outdoors-in-summer

 

 

The importance of finding a relaxing outlet in life should never be underestimated.

Lifestyles are unhealthily hectic these days, with the potential for health-ravaging stress facing us daily, especially when you have a family to take care of. With so much going on, our own needs can easily be overlooked, occasionally leaving us unfulfilled, miserable and sometimes even depressed.

Having that ‘me time’ to purge the stress of daily life is imperative for your mental heath, and given that they both have influence over one another, your physical health too.Making that time and finding a therapeutic outlet is often a challenge within itself, but it’s important to do so.

As a person, it’s difficult to be positive or be at your best if your life doesn’t offer any mental ‘pressure’ release. This all might sound somewhat cliché, but how many times have you tried to give yourself that ‘me time’ only to end up struggling to commit to it as your mind can’t temporarily detach from your responsibilities? This is why pursuing therapeutic activities often prove to be more valuable than simply setting aside an hour to sit down and do nothing. They rejuvenate the mind, allowing it to unwind, instead of just halting it for a while. There are countless activities out there that offer this ‘pressure release’, or catharsis. Some seek it through exercise, others in gardening, and many in reading; though many also find a great deal of relaxation, release and fulfillment in creativity.

Creativity in any form can be a powerful therapeutic tool, allowing us to ‘let go’ of it all and put it somewhere else; be it on a canvas, into a song or any other form of artistic expression. Some of the greatest artworks and music of all time have been a result of a person purging themselves of their troubles and channelling it in a creative way. When this is prompted as a means of therapy, professional or otherwise, it is commonly known as ‘Art Therapy’.

What is Art Therapy?

prato fiorito in riva al mare indacoThe definition of art therapy can vary, but can usually be divided into two distinct categories: Art within therapy, and art as therapy. The first being the therapeutic use of creating artworks within psychotherapy, usually for the benefit of those with illness, psychiatric conditions, trauma or other challenges within their lives. The second, a means of creative catharsis, for those with comparatively more ‘normal’ lives.

Within a psychotherapy environment however, art therapy is a much utilized method for professional therapists to communicate with patients; particularly with children or people that find communication via normal means challenging. Using art as a means to express their emotions, they are able to ‘talk’ with less inhibition; a therapist will interpret expressions made within artwork, and then through discussion will elicit interpretations from the patient, opening a channel for gentle, mostly indirect, communication.

Art therapy can also be used as a distraction technique, where a patient can immerse themselves within an enjoyable activity such as painting, which acts as a diversion whilst talking, allowing less conscious communication with a mental health professional.

Art therapy is also used in a less structured ways within certain environments, such as rehabs or prisons. Recovering drug addicts, prisoners, and others distanced from society can often find solace within the arts as they prepare to reintegrate themselves back into the world. Art can allow them to connect, or indeed reconnect with their authentic selves once again.

However, art therapy isn’t strictly reserved for those dealing complex mental health issues, or those on the fringes of society. People with more common conditions, such as depression or anxiety, can also benefit from art therapy; as can those with relatively untroubled lives seeking self improvement.

Art Therapy & You

viso-di-donna-con-capelli-castaniThese days there is very little stigma when it comes to finding help when you’re going through a trying time. We all know someone who has benefited from having therapy, though very few of us know someone who has tried art therapy – despite its origins being firmly rooted within psychotherapy itself.

A quick internet search yields thousands of results for those looking for a therapist offering such methods, along with courses, groups and websites dedicated to the practice. However, you don’t necessarily need a qualified therapist to take advantage of art therapy, nor do you need any artistic skills or talent. It can all be done from the comfort of your own home. An open mind, an hour or two to yourself, a few materials (they don’t have to be expensive ones) and you can be well on your way – and prepare to be surprised with what you come up with.

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things”Ray Bradbury

The one obvious difference between art therapy and your average therapy is that artwork is used to communicate, instead of words. In much the same way as holding back words would slow the process of a therapy session, so would holding back your artistic expression – and this applies either at home, or within a professional therapy environment. Therefore, at least initially, it’s better not to over-think what you intend to create; be that the subject matter, or the composition – and especially anything in relation to the possibility of someone else seeing your artwork. All that will do is make you focus on making it look ‘pretty’ so others judge it favourably, which entirely defeats the purpose of art therapy. Remember, this is purely for you, so treat it like no one else will see it (and if you create an utter monstrosity then no one has to see it anyway!).

The point of art therapy is to let go completely and express yourself, with no boundaries, no inhibitions, and no fear. Don’t over-think what you create, or you risk diluting true self expression. Let your emotions out as you as you work, and if it helps, play music that mirrors how you feel to encourage them to flow.

As you paint, or draw (or whatever you may prefer to do) you may begin to learn things about yourself that wouldn’t have otherwise been revealed. For those that don’t view themselves as creative by nature, this may surprise them. You can interpret a lot from your own artwork. For example, it can be as simple as harsh, ragged brushstrokes revealing the extent of your frustrations within life, or a scattered drawing comprised of many concepts that may reveal a cluttered mind beyond what you initially realised.

Art therapy allows you to view yourself from an objective perspective through your work, holding up a mirror to the ‘real’ you. It can expose your fears, your insecurities, your strengths and any other positive or negative aspects of your mindset. Using art takes these internal emotions and brings them to the surface where you can see them, allowing you to confront them, deal with them, or accept them – which is the goal of any therapy; allowing you to move on and continue on with you life unburdened.

As you begin to feel more comfortable creating art and self expression starts to feel more natural for you, perhaps then is the time to focus a little more on creating something aesthetically pleasing and artistic; but don’t make that the only priority. Remember, a piece of art without emotion or meaning behind it is entirely pointless, and of ceases to be art.

Creative Catharsis

If you want more of the therapeutic than the therapy, then a creative activity will offer that to you if you simply take it up as a cathartic hobby. As well as a fun and worthwhile outlet to dive into during your down time, the proven health benefits are pretty fantastic. It goes without saying that any relaxing activity you enjoy will decrease your stress levels, which in itself will lead to better over all health – instantly making it worthwhile. Aside from that however, getting creative stimulates the brain. Keeping your mind stimulated keeps it sharp, which is especially important as we age. Studies have consistently shown that creativity is especially beneficial as we get older, particularly for those with dementia. As Dr. Bruce Miller, a neurologist at the University of California states “Even though our brains age, it doesn’t diminish our ability to create” and is therefore encouraged for the elderly. Those with dementia who engage in creative activities have been shown to have improved cognitive processes, improved positive emotional responses, and a better mood and attention span – leading to a better quality of life.

As well as keeping your mind healthy now and promoting its vibrancy well into old age, being creative is just good old fashioned fun, and it’s rewarding fun too. Self expression is part of what makes us human, and channelling that into art has been something we’ve been doing throughout the ages. However there are many people in this world that simply don’t consider themselves at all creative, and dismiss their abilities as non-existent, usually before they’ve even explored them. The fact is as humans we ALL have the capacity to create and it’s important to remember that creativity comes in many, many forms – not just the obvious few such as painting, writing or music. There truly is something out there for everyone, and it can enhance your life unlike anything else.

Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso

How to Improve Your Ability to Sleep

I Can't Sleep112%. That’s a number I made up about how many people suffer from sleep problems. That’s a profoundly high number that, while entirely fabricated, shows definitively that people are simply not getting enough sleep anymore.

This is a real problem. Sleep is more than just a place to dream about pink goats and alfalfa sprouts. It’s an activity that is designed to help you create memories, think clearly, and cope with stressful situations. Without sleep, every hormone, enzyme, and blood vessel in your body works less efficiently, and ultimately your health and happiness both suffer. If you aren’t sleeping well, you need to be, because the stress you feel every day you don’t get enough sleep may be slowly but surely damaging your health.

What Causes Sleep Problems?

Sleep problems have a myriad of potential causes. The most likely cause is physical laziness. Human beings are smart animals with a great deal of energy, and unfortunately until Apple invents a computer you can use while you jog, we’re probably not getting less physically lazy any time soon.
But because we’re not burning off that energy, falling asleep – something that should be natural – becomes much more difficult. It’s not just your body either. Physical exertion tires your mind as well, so those racing and active thoughts that keep you awake may be there because you sit in front of a computer too long looking at Facebook.
Sleep issues can also be caused by too much coffee or drinking, too much anxiety, and too much stress that you experience during the day. All of these potential causes make it harder to guarantee any effective sleep treatment, but there are ways you can improve your ability to get a full night’s sleep every night and ultimately live with less stress and more happiness.

Potential Sleep Treatments

1. Sleep

“Thanks Ryan,” you said to yourself just now. “So you’re saying the solution to going to sleep is that I should go to sleep. Brilliant! Any stocks I should invest in?” But before you go about getting all sarcastic and mean, the reality is that one of the main issues preventing people from getting sleep is that they often ignore it. Your body responds to your behaviors, and if you ignore sleep, your body won’t bother doing it anymore.

Here’s a better example. Your body is trained to tell you when you’re full. It’s this natural response that prevents you from overeating, while still ensuring you’ve gotten enough nutrients. Yet there are many people that overeat. Why? Well, some theorists believe that those that overeat may have ignored their body’s “full” response, and eventually their body stopped bothering to tell them when they’re full. So they never feel full, and they keep eating, and ultimately they overeat and become unhealthy or overweight.

It’s the same thing with sleep. If you are constantly having nights out where you avoid sleep and ignore your feeling of being tired, you’ll find that your body stops bothering to tell you when you’re tired, and ultimately your ability to go to sleep suffers. Going to sleep earlier (even before you feel tired) and getting a restful night’s sleep can go a long way toward bringing that feeling back.

2. Exercise

Brilliant advice number two: Exercise. There are very, very few jobs these days that require any form of manual labor, and when they do they’re likely designed in such a way to minimize your exertion. This is bad. All throughout the day your body wants to burn a lot of energy, and yet you sit there at a computer or in an office and do nothing.

By the time you go to sleep, that energy is still there, and you’re not tired when you should be. So exercise more. Run around. Get frisky. Do things that make you use your physical energy. If you’re not fond of traditional exercise, then find a way to always be active. At the very least, walk in place when you watch TV. The more you do, the better it is for your ability to fall asleep.

3. Create a Very Boring Routine Before You Sleep

Human beings and dogs love routines. They love them. Routines represent comfort, and prepare your mind and body for what’s ahead.

It’s why bowlers have their own weird habits and superstitions before they bowl, and baseball players put their bat in the exact same place before they bat. These routines give them the comfort they need to do the next task, and their bodies respond accordingly.
You should create your own pre-sleep routine – a routine that is very long, very boring, and involves nothing that would create energy or keep you awake. That means no TV, no cell phone, no bright lights. You may even want to avoid reading or doing anything that involves a mental activity. Try to create a boring routine that takes you awhile and is the very last thing you do before you sleep.

For example, start by turning off all of the electronics and lights. Then consider doing other tasks, like checking all of the doors and making sure they’re locked, closing all of the windows, making sure the oven is off – even if you know all of these things to be true, do them anyway, in a specific order.

Essentially, this pre-sleep routine will tell your mind and body “Oh, I’m getting ready to sleep” and you’ll have an easier time relaxing and sleeping. You’ll need to do a routine like this for a long, long time for it to work, but it does help many people.

4. Keep a Journal By Your Bed

The human brain has a lot of strange habits. One of them has a tendency to keep people awake. I don’t think it has a name for it, but it should. We’ll call it “Mind Won’t Shush Up.” It occurs most often when you have stress or anxiety, but sometimes it occurs for no reason at all.

What happens is that you have a thought or two in your head that your brain wants to remember. Rather than simply create a memory and let you go to sleep, your brain keeps you awake to help you remember it.

Your brain is not very smart.

That’s why you need a way to take the thought out of your head, and tell your brain that it can shush up about it. You can do that with a thought journal. Every time you have a thought that you either don’t want to forget or can’t get rid of, take out the journal and write the thought down.

It sounds like such a small action, but the truth is that this little difference tells your brain that the memory is in a permanent place, and it doesn’t have to worry about it anymore. There’s no guarantee a new thought won’t enter your brain, but thought journals are a great way to avoid letting a nagging thought keep you from sleeping.

5. Keep Your Room Stress Free

Finally, there are only two things you should be worrying about in your room: Sleeping and making ze love. When it comes to being awake, anxious, and struggling to sleep, your location plays a significant role. If you’re constantly working in your room, on your cell phone talking to someone about life events, or fighting with your family, then your room won’t be associated with rest, and your brain will wake up the moment you try to lay down to sleep. If, on the other hand, you only use your room for sleep (and the occasional romance) your brain will associate your room with sleep.

Go to Sleep

Sleeping also begets more sleeping. When you sleep you experience less stress and anxiety, which helps you fall asleep. When you sleep restfully, you get tired at a more reasonable hour and wake up 8 hours later, rather than under-sleeping and oversleeping in a sleepless rhythm.

You need to get more sleep. With the above tips, you’ll be well on your way.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera had intense anxiety and depression that caused serious sleep issues. He writes about anxiety at www.calmclinic.com.

The 10 Commandments of Relaxation

 

 

The damnedest thing just happened to me: there I was, minding my own business on the mountain side, when this burning bush just set light. I know, right? Also, I found these two stone tablets with ten directives on how life should be lead. But don’t let these commandments cause you any undue stress: it’s time to relax!

1.      You are just as important as everyone else, and you deserve a relaxing, healthy lifestyle, putting no other before yourself.

Finding the time to relax and purge the stress from your life isn’t about being selfish, but you will never truly find success in these things unless you accept yourself fully, and learn to factor in your needs when it comes to making difficult decisions. You deserve time to yourself, less stress and a better quality of life too!

2.      Thou shalt carve out for thyself a routine, a list of things to be completed each day. (This list shall be most efficiently rendered on paper, rather than etched upon stone tablets).

Prioritise what you have to achieve at least once a week and tick things off as you go. Recognise what has the potential to become a source of stress in the future and tackle it sooner rather than later. Remember to allocate time for yoga classes, a long soak or your comfort breaks too!

3.      Thou shalt be (a little) vain.

Relaxation through a proper pampering is nothing to be ashamed of. If looking great makes you feel great, then indulge: putting on a facial scrub, painting your nails or spending some time on your hair can be relaxing activities in themselves. Of course, getting someone else to do it all for you if someone has got you a Health spa gift voucher would be nicer…

4.      Remember that whilst the Sabbath day is holy, it’s also the day before Monday and the other six days on which you shall labour.

The length of a weekend is almost all in the mind. If you destroy sleep in the week, the weekend doesn’t get started until sometime in the late Saturday afternoon. And if the week ahead intimidates you, you’ll start thing about it sometime before Sunday dinner. Banish this negative feeling with a Sunday night bath filled with your favourite bubbles.

5.      Honour your father and your mother, your family and friends by both respecting their right to relax, and by spending more time with them.

On the first hand, the worst possible thing you can do is shift your worst troubles and responsibilities onto someone else. Equally, time spent with family and friends is an effective way of managing stress: remember that we’re social creatures, and loneliness frequently leads to unhappiness. Even hugging a close friend once a week can do wonders for your outlook.

6.      Thou shalt not take up a knife and do bloody murder upon a large chocolate cake, or find comfort in the arms of a tub of Ben & Jerry’s.

Excess of any kind is frequently terrible for relaxation. You know to avoid caffeine (in not just coffee but teas and soft drinks too) and you should also avoid the sugary treats if you want to avoid bouncing off the walls (and coming down after it all isn’t much fun either). Eating healthily isn’t just about extending how long you shuffle around in your twilight years: all those vitamin sources are there to ensure that your long life is a happy, balanced one.

7.      Thou shalt commit thyself to proper sleeping times and stop staying up for the conclusions of bad action movies.

Eight hours is optimum, and you’ll undermine it by going to sleep and waking up at different times each day, so don’t do that. You know how bad action movies end, and the only reason you want to watch to the end is because you know you won’t ever be stupid enough to sit through the beginning again.

8.      Thou shalt steal time.

Ok, perhaps ‘stealing’ is a little too negative (I’m labouring this commandment theme, ok?), and obviously you shouldn’t ‘steal’ time in the evenings… but will anyone miss that couple of minutes you take to go and get everyone a cup of tea? Or to go and speak to a colleague rather the sending them another email? In stressful situations, it’s better in the long term to remove yourself for a short break, rather than carrying on and letting yourself potentially make mistakes. And if you can do it in a way that ultimately benefits everyone else or the task at hand, nobody is going to mind.

9.      Thou shalt have a good laugh (just not at thy neighbour’s expense).

Whoever invented laughter probably won a noble prize, considering that it’s apparently a better medicine than penicillin. Seek out other people and activities that get you laughing, and try to see the funny side of any situation, and you’ll get the endorphins  you need.

10.  Thou shalt not sit on thy lazy ass.

Relaxation may sound like a lot of sitting back and watching the clouds roll by, but you still have to be proactive in making these things happen. It’s also completely the case that procrastination will catch up with you sooner or later: if you don’t achieve anything, you’ll be unhappy, and you’ll just be storing up your stress for a time when you’re even less well equipped to deal with it. And being active in a more literal sense (perhaps going for a regular walk or even a session at the gym) will keep you healthy and happy.

Steph Wood is a copywriter and blogger for Sanctuary Spa, a UK-based day spa with a wide range of Pamper gifts for women.


 

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