How to Break a Bad Habit

I am sure at some point in our lives we have all struggled with a habit that was difficult to overcome or let go. If you have been able to break up with your unwanted habit-congratulations! If you continue to struggle and cannot seem to let it go, check out this short TED Talk about a simple way of breaking a pattern. I like this talk in particular because it is a little different from what we usually do when we want to let go of an unwanted behavior or change a routine.

The psychiatrist, Judson Brewer, emphasizes the importance of mindfulness and how learning to be more in tune with your thoughts, feelings, and emotions can help you break your unwanted habit, addiction, or routine. I am sure you have heard about the benefits of mindfulness, such as learning to regulate your intense emotions, helping you overcome depression, anxiety, trauma, improve health and many other aspects in your life. What makes it even more worthwhile is that it also aims to help you break up with parts of your life that you are not completely satisfied with. 

If you have any questions or want to learn more about how to change your unwanted patterns, do not hesitate to contact one of us at The Centered Life! We will be more than happy to help you create a more mindful and meaningful life. 

Happy Monday, 

 

Aneta

How To Overcome Burnout

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I wanted to continue talking about burnout because I think it impacts all of us at some point in our lives. In my practice, I have seen many people trying to push through the exhaustion, which only causes them further emotional and physical damage. What is burnout once again? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines burnout as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” Now that we have a sense of what burnout is, I encourage you to assess if burnout could impact your life.

I put together a list of things that could help you in coping more effectively when feeling physically and mentally exhausted.

Seek social support. I cannot stress enough how important social support is when you feel that you are at your breaking point. When you are burned out, you may feel helpless and hopeless. Isolation will only make things worse, that is why I encourage you to seek support from others. I encourage you to find a person who can listen to you and be supportive. You may also work on developing friendships with your coworkers as those relations can serve as a buffer from your mental exhaustion.

Get exercise. I know doing something physically active could be the last thing on your mind when you are feeling spent, but getting at least 30 minutes of physical exercise per day can improve your mood. If you have difficulty getting yourself motivated to exercise, find someone, who will hold you accountable or cheer you on when you do exercise.

Improve your state of mind. Try to find something about your job that you like or value. I strongly encourage you to find some meaning in what you do. Focusing on those positive aspects of what you do that you actually enjoy. Those characteristic may change your attitude about work and help you find a sense of control, or a sense of purpose in what you do. That may also help you acquire balance in your life.

Focus on your priorities. What are your hopes, goals, values and dreams? Ask yourself if you have been neglecting any of those because of your high level of stress. After you do your homework evaluating your priorities, ask yourself if you need to slow down or change some of your patterns. Do you need to set appropriate boundaries with others? Maybe now is the time to learn when to say “no” at work. Do you need to allow yourself for more relaxation time?

Take time off. If possible, I encourage you to take a break from work if your feelings of mental and physical exhaustion are inevitable. Remove yourself from the work setting in order to recharge your batteries and be able to come back to work with a refreshed mind.

Take breaks. I also strongly encourage you to take regular breaks during work. If possible take a walk, stretch, have lunch away from your desk. This may help you get refreshed but also will allow you to increase your productivity. During those breaks, I also encourage you to put away your cell phone, laptop, etc. I want you to detach from work and other obligations when you are taking a break.

Focus on healthy eating habits. Reduce foods that negatively impact your mood, such as trans fats, high-carbohydrate foods, sugars, that quickly lead to “crash” in your energy level and mood. Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids to boost your mood, such as fish and walnuts. Avoid nicotine, as nicotine is a stimulant and will lead to higher stress. Limit alcohol consumption as well, as alcohol is a depressant and can also cause anxiety after it wears off.

Find activities that you enjoy. I encourage you to find an activity that will take your attention away from the emotional and physical pain. Find activities that you look forward to because that will help you keep distracted from focusing on the negative events that are happening in your life. Force yourself to go for a walk, go hiking, go bike riding, go out to dinner, go to a movie, park etc. It is not easy to be active or involved in any activity, but doing something will make you feel more productive and most importantly, it will serve as a distraction!

 

Here are just a few things that you can do in order to work on improving your life. Dealing with burnout is not easy but it can be overcome with having adequate social support and taking appropriate steps to cope with it more effectively. I strongly encourage you to learn relaxation techniques in order to relieve stress and help regain your emotional balance. Work on setting priorities as those will aid you in making a list of all the areas in your life that you want to work on. I believe that every single person matters and everyone deserves to enjoy their lives and find meaning in what they do. I encourage you to work on being proactive, mindful, and take good care of yourself. As I mentioned previously, all of our therapists are fully committed to help you find ways to live a more fulfilling lives.

Sincerely,

 

Aneta

Burnout

Over time, I have learned that burnout is one of those hazards in life that does not discriminate against anyone. In my practice, I have not only seen clients who have experienced burnout in their careers, students who have pushed themselves to their limits, and caregivers who cared so deeply about their loved ones that they forgot to take care of themselves. Before we dive into exploring warning signs, let’s talk about what it is first. Burnout is chronic stress that often times leads to not only physical but emotional exhaustion, feeling of detachment from others,  sarcasm, feeling ineffective, and often times feeling discouraged. The nature of a burnout is difficult to predict and recognize because it creeps up on us over time.

Although it may be difficult to recognize, let’s talk about the warning signs that our bodies send us before we begin to experience the full blown power of a burn out.

 

Sleep difficulties. In the early stages of a burnout, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep though the night. At first it may be just one or two days per week, but the number of sleepless nights starts going up and you may find yourself having difficulty getting a full night sleep.

Fatigue. With lack of sleep comes another warning sign, which is having lack of energy and feeling tired most of the day. After that battle continues for a while, you may experience feeling not only physically but emotionally exhausted and every day seems to be a dread.

Difficulty concentrating. With inability to sleep and feeling fatigued, you may start to notice that your concentration and ability to remember things begin to interfere with your daily tasks.

Making mistakes. With all the above factors playing a major role in your performance, you begin to lose attention to those small details you used to pay attention to. That is simply because you have enough energy to focus on one task only-to get though the day. As a result, it is easy to make a small mistake that begins to add up to other mistakes that you did not realized you have made in the first place. You may be working longer hours but due to feeing stressed you may be less productive and began to notice the never ending pile of things that still need to get done.

Decreased immune system. Have you noticed that you have been getting headaches, feeling sick more often, or that cold simply does not want to go away? Due to the fact that your body is depleted of a good sleep, your immune system gets compromised making you become more vulnerable to colds, flu, infections and other medical problems.

Anger. At first you may feel more tense, irritable or experiencing more conflicts with others. If those feelings continue to stay present in your life you may begin to experience irritability and tension turning into anger outbursts and serious arguments with others.

Anxiety. With difficulty concentrating, missing deadlines, and decreased productivity, comes stress, tension and worry. With increased tasks and lesser time to get things accomplished you may find yourself feeling more and more anxious and unable to complete the usual tasks.

Depression. Often times than not, anxiety is accompanied with feeling hopeless and sad about the current situation which can lead to feelings of worthlessness and guilt. With feeling depressed we begin to experience loss of enjoyment, pessimism, isolation, and detachment. You may begin to emotionally and physically remove yourself from activities that you used to enjoy. As those feelings progress, you may find yourself more immobilized.

With anxiety and depression comes loss of appetite. At the beginning you may simply just not feel hungry due to all the things that you have to do, but with time you may actually lose appetite altogether and experience weight loss.

Unhealthy coping. With already feeling and experiencing all of the above factors, you may begin to cope with them by using unhealthy substances, such as alcohol or drugs or find comfort in food.

 

I would encourage you to take some time and focus on some of the warning signs of a burnout that I listed above. I encourage you to keep this list in mind remembering that burnout does not discriminate against anyone. If you are experiencing any of those symptoms, please know that you are not alone and that there are people than can help you get back on track. All of our therapists at The Centered Life are fully committed to help you not only recognize the signs of a burnout, but also help you find healthy coping skills to balance life.

 

All my best,

 

 

Aneta

“Say This…Not That,” How To Support a Loved One Going Through Emotional Distress

 

It is beyond difficult to go through mental and emotional distress. It can feel impossible to formulate what you are going through, let alone express to a loved one how they can help. So many people experience feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, grief, and loss due to struggling with a mental illness or enduring a period of pain. However, everyone goes through different experiences and struggles so it can feel helpless to explain your pain and it can feel helpless to be a loved one trying to help heal that pain. I understand how loved ones then can feel at a loss as to how to give their support. It is normal to not know what to say, how to say it, what to do, or know if you are being helpful in any way.

Being a family therapist at The Centered Life, I believe it is an essential piece to therapy to aid my clients to learn how to conceptualize and express what they are experiencing in order to work through it. But I think it is equally as important in therapy to bring in clients’ support systems so they can learn how to be helpful in a healthy way. It is hard to be vulnerable and ask for help. And if that help is received in a negative way, it will only set up a dynamic of little communication about emotional needs and can negatively affect the relationship as well. Which then creates more distress on both ends. Here is a list of  some ways that may help people express what kind of help they need and help support systems navigate how to be helpful.

Say This: “I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help”

Not That: “We all go through times like this”

Say This: “You may not believe it now, but the way you are feeling will change”

Not That: “Just snap out of it, look on the bright side”

Say This: “You are not alone in this. I’m here for you. We will get through this together”

Not That: “You’ll be fine. Stop worrying. Shouldn’t you be better right now?”

Say This: “Talk to me, I’m listening.”

Not That: “Here is my advice.”

Say This: “I know you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed right now, what can I do to help?”

Not That: “You are freaking out, you just need to calm down.”

Say This: “You are not alone in this”

Not That: “There is always someone worse off than you.”

Say This: “You are important to me and I want to help.”

Not That: “No one said life is fair.”

Say This: “Do you need a hug?”

Not That: “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

Say This: “I can not completely understand what you are struggling with, but I can offer my love and compassion.”

Not That: “Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed/anxious for a few days”

Say This: “I’m not going to leave you or abandon you.”

Not This: “Your moods are bringing everyone around you down.”

Say This: “When these feelings subside, I will still be here and so will you.”

Not That: “Stop being so sensitive, cheer up.”

It can feel helpless for both the person enduring the emotional distress and the people who are trying to help, but it does NOT have to be. The above statements are some helpful outlines to enhance healthy and empowering support. If we can open up a dialogue about these topics and help each other understand from both sides, then there is so much more of a chance of coping better. It is important to offer support with an open mind, open heart, and with an open-ended approach because it only leaves room for open healthy communication and learning amongst support systems. All of us at The Centered Life are here to help people that are going through a hard time. Please call us if you are needing any kind of guidance and extra support!

All my best,

    Samantha

5 Things I Do To Cope Better With Daily Anxiety

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5 Things I Do to Cope Better With Daily Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal response to challenging or stressful situations. In fact, having anxiety can help people to push themselves to perform tasks better. However, it is when your worry and fear become so overwhelming it gets in the way of your daily life that it may be helpful to learn how to cope better day to day with it. According to the ADAA, there are close to 4 million people in America who are struggling with anxiety disorders and it is one of the most common issues that brings people into therapy.

I specialize in working with anxiety disorders and one of the reasons I have a passion for helping those with anxiety is because I myself, have anxiety. I always thought that it was stress induced but as I got older I realized it was actually anxiety that caused me to feel overwhelmed daily. I understand that it can be hard to describe to people what anxiety feels like and it seems easier to just act like it is not there. Distraction and avoidance will only make your anxiety worse. The minute I recognized it, it empowered me to implement skills that improved my coping. Here is list of 5 things I do to decrease my daily anxiety.

1. Give yourself a worry period. Set aside 15-30 minutes at the beginning of the day to allow yourself this time to process your worries. The more you try to ignore a thought, the more likely you are to focus on it. For example, try not to think about a pink elephant. Let me guess, you just pictured a pink elephant. Anxiety has a way of making people feel overwhelmed and gives the belief that if someone could control everything then the anxiety will subside. Trying to give in to your anxiety and believing you can control everything is an impossible task. What is possible? Organizing what you can and cannot control. Work on what you can control and accept what you cannot. At the end of the worry period tell yourself that whatever it is, you can handle it.

2. Stay present. Anxiety robs people of the ability to stay in the here and now due to fear and worry about all the “what-if’s” in the future. A way to calm anxiety in the moment is to notice you are beginning to feel anxious and identify it as just a thought, neither good nor bad. Do not judge your thoughts. Next, begin to focus on your breathing. Focus on your chest rising and falling, the sound and feel of the breath going in and out, and the slowing down of your heartbeat. It can be hard to just stop worrying and focus on the present. However, if you practice these skills it will get easier to bring yourself back to the here and now and you will see a significant decrease in your daily anxiety.

3. Practice deep breathing. When you become anxious your “fight or flight” is triggered in your brain which causes stress hormones to be released which is why people commonly feel physical symptoms of anxiety. During an anxious moment, take 10 deep breaths where your chest is rising and falling dramatically. Count your breath in for 5 seconds and your breath out for 5 seconds. Again, focus on your breath and your muscle relaxation while deep breathing. This useful skill will slow your anxious mind and body quickly.

4. Engage in physical activity. Anxiety can be paralyzing due to constant, intrusive thoughts of worry and fear. Due to its common physical manifestation, anxiety can make someone feel mentally and physically drained. However, if you can increase your physical activity it will not only give you a healthy coping skill, but it will also cause your brain to release more endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. These are also known as your “happy chemicals.”  An anxious brain will start to release stress chemicals more frequently so if you increase the amount of “happy chemicals,” your brain’s “fight or flight” response become less triggered. Start out by taking short walks a few times a week. Once you see the benefit of your mood improving, you can work up to adding more physical activities such as biking, going to a gym, or doing an exercise or yoga class. 

5. Improve diet and sleep hygiene. A big part of managing anxiety is looking at your food and sleep regimen. If you are having too much caffeine or sugar then it will exacerbate you feeling stimulated on top of feeling anxious. Furthermore, anxiety causes the brain to be hyper vigilant and without getting proper sleep, your mind is never getting the rest it needs. The Centered Life works closely with nutritionists and will also refer clients for a sleep study because it is important to have a healthy diet and sleep in order to improve anxiety. Anxiety makes you feel out of control and these are things you can control!

Anxiety is a normal response to stress and can become a learned reaction to such situations. It can be easy for worry and fear to become constantly internalized and then all of sudden it is overwhelming your daily life. But when you start to talk about it and take action to cope better with it, you will see relief. Try for just one day to implement the above skills and empower yourself that you can take control of your anxiety. If you are having a hard time handling your anxiety, please call one of our therapists for a free phone consultation to talk about it and receive support. We can help you figure out the rest!

All My Best,

Samantha

The Self Appointed “SuperWoman”

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We all know that one woman- the one who is always willing, always ready to help out.

– “My babysitter quit and I have 30 minutes to get to a meeting, can you please help me? –“sure”

– “My car broke down, can you help me shop for another one?” –“yes”

– “Can you help me with my taxes?” – “yes”

Sometimes we call these women mom, and sometimes they’re our besties- I like to call them self-appointed Superwomen.

Self-Appointed Superwomen are amazing, strong and we are lucky to have them- But just like every superhero, even Superwomen have their kryptonite. Saying “yes” in excess can often lead to increased stress, anxiety, resentment and unhealthy relationships.

Self-appointed Superwomen often feel guilt when they say “no”. They may falsely believe that if they don’t help, no one else will. They may have unrealistic expectations of themselves; feeling responsible for the happiness or wellbeing of others. Some may lack the self-worth to prioritize themselves.

Here are some ways to practice saying “no” and to begin to prioritize yourself:

  1. Increase Self-Care- When we begin to prioritize ourselves, we practice self-love and begin to understand that we “can’t pour from an empty cup.” Self Care can be taking a 15 min walk or watching your favorite show- as long as it is something that fills you up.

 

  1. Take the “S” off your Chest (Props Danielle Langford)- Give yourself permission to let go of the responsibility to solve other’s problems. You are not responsible for other people’s happiness or wellbeing.

 

  1. Give yourself time- Instead of saying “yes”; ask “can I think about it?” Then, evaluate if the request is something you can manage. Ask yourself how you feel about completing this task. If you’re feeling resentful or angry- it’s time to say “no”

 

  1. Create healthy and strong boundaries- The toughest people to say “no” to, are the ones we love. Be open about how you’re feeling, let your loved ones know if you feel stressed or overworked. Helpo empower others to resolve their issues instead of relying on you.

 

  1. Be Firm, Be clear and remember, No excuses needed when you say no!

Saying “no” has benefits such as feeling empowered; it can lead to higher levels of self-worth, increase productivity and can help manage stress and anxiety.

Check out The Centered Life Women’s Empowerment Workshop which goes into greater detain on the importance of learning to say no.

Valerie Spiropoulos, LCPC

www.thecenteredlifetherapy.com

11 Ways to Improve Sleep

As much as we would like to unwind at the end of the day, it can be difficult to turn off your mind before going to sleep. Stress can cause your bedtime routine to consist of worrying about anything you forgot to do today and making sure you remember everything that has to get done tomorrow. That is mentally exhausting and affecting your ability to get a restful sleep, to say the least.

Adults should average 7-8 hours of sleep per night; about 40% of Americans do not even come close! Even minimal sleep loss hinders your mood, energy, mental sharpness, and ability to handle stress. There is a big difference between getting enough sleep to function and getting enough sleep to function optimally. Improving your pre bedtime routine is essential if you want better sleep. Here is a list of ways to decrease anxiety and stress levels before bedtime in order to give your mind and body the rest it craves!

1.Set a worry time period for earlier in the day. Take 10-15 minutes mid day to make a list of things you need to get done in order to decrease racing worrying thoughts at night. This also prepares you for the next day.

2. Create a pre- sleep routine. Set aside 30 minutes for this. The mind needs you to separate your day from your night. Whatever consistent behaviors you put in routine will trigger your mind and body to relax and prepare for bed.

3. Aim to be in bed around the same time every night. This can be difficult, however your internal clock needs to be regulated in order to improve sleep hygiene.

4. Replace worrying with productive behaviors before your bedtime routine that will prepare you for the next day. You can lay out your clothes, prepare meals, review your to-do list, put coats/shoes/bags by the door, etc.

5. Practice relaxation techniques to calm anxiety and racing thoughts. Take a long, deep breath, in through your nose, noticing your abdomen rise. Hold the breath briefly. Exhale the breath as your abdomen deflates. Repeat this cycle between 6 to 10 times. There are many phones apps such as “Calm” that have guided breathing exercises to follow in order to ease your mind and body.

6. Reduce or eliminate caffeine intake later in the day. The effects of caffeine can last at least 4 hours.

7. Create an optimal sleep environment. Make sure your bed is comfortable. Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet. If you are someone who needs noise to sleep then try a white noise machine and put a timer on it so that it will not disrupt  your sleep throughout the night.

8. Increase physical activity. Aim to exercise 3-4 times a week for at least 30 minutes. Cardiovascular endurance helps the body decrease stress and regulate your mood. This will decrease feelings of anxiety and stress while preparing for bed.

9. Avoid using electronic devices before bed. Our circadian rhythms are sensitive to the blue light given off when using phones, computers, TVs, and tablets; which can cause a barrier to your body releasing sleep hormones.

10. Reserve your bed for sleep. Try not to text, watch TV, or do work tasks while in bed. This will trigger the body to begin to relax once you get into bed for sleep.

11. Increase positive thoughts before bed. The thoughts you have before falling asleep affect your unconscious mind and can make it difficult to have a restful sleep. Stay focused on your pre bedtime routine and remind yourself you have prepared to handle tomorrow. Staying present will help decrease anxious thoughts as well.

Healthy sleep is critical for your mental and physical health. Almost half of Americans do not receive the amount of sleep they need in order to function at their best. Try this above checklist for even a few days and see how your mood and energy are positively affected!