July 31, 2015

Social Anxiety and Alcohol Abuse

I just listened to NPR's Fresh Air interview with Sarah Hepola, author of the memoir titled,  Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget. If you drink to be a more bold, brash, funnier, or sexier you, in other words, to quell social anxiety, then this could be a listen that helps you swerve off of the road to addiction (or a read that helps, but I haven't read the book yet so I can't recommend it).  Important fact:  Blackout refers to memory lapses due to excessive drinking.  It does not mean passed out or unconscious.  If your friend tells you how funny you were last night but you don't remember?  You might have experienced a blackout. Unhealthy, yes.  Dangerous? Could be.

Click here to listen to Fresh Air's Terry Gross interview the author.

July 20, 2015

Cubicle Got You Down?

Want to be happier at your job?  Here is one way:  Ask your boss if you can install a tub in your cubicle.  After she finishes laughing at, and/or firing you, return to your cubicle, sit in your office chair, and imagine you are taking a bubble bath.  A long, relaxing, soaker bath with scented bath oil and fluffy white bubbles and a glass of your favorite beverage at your side.  And while you're imagining this bath?  Breathe...  Breathe...  Breathe...  Slow, quiet inhales and exhales.  Feeling your chest expand, your shoulders rise, your nose take in the subtle current of air.  After two minutes of this relaxing bubble bath of your mind?  Return to work.  

According to researcher and educator, Shawn Achor?  After doing two minutes of breathing meditation, your productivity will go up.  You will feel less stressed, more focused, and experience greater optimism.
Most of us work somewhere in the vicinity of 40 hours per week.  That is a lot of our lifetime spent working.  For many, that's a lot of time spent hating one's job, feeling trapped, dreading the rest of the work week, feeling hopeless.  

Do you have fifteen minutes to watch a video that will help inspire you toward feeling better about your job? Can you take fifteen minutes, or  less than one-tenth of one percent of your work week to steer yourself out of the work-week-blues?  Sure you can. You owe it to your physical wellbeing and future happiness to do so.  

Besides being entertained by Achor's delicious humor, listening to his TED Talk will help you  learn that job success is largely determined by:  

1. optimism levels
2. social support
3. ability to see stress as a challenge, not as a threat

You will learn that, happiness isn't determined by what you do, what you have, or where you are.  Rather, "Ninety percent of your long term happiness is predicted ... by how your brain processes the world."  Happiness, in other words,  is determined by how you think about what you have and where you are.  

So even if you're stuck in a tiny cubicle, you can think your way into a more productive, more challenging, more successful mindset.  And mindset is, according to research Achor discusses, seventy-five percent of the happiness equation.  

Watch the video and you will also learn that, "being positive in the present - turns on the learning centers of the brain."  You have the opportunity to be better at what you do, learn more, and impress your boss with your willingness to go the distance.  

Watch Achor's TED Talk, here.  

July 14, 2015

Happy Is As Happy Does

We're all in search of happiness and nothing makes this more certain than a search of recent research in the field of psychology.  Lots of studies looking for ways to increase our feelings of happy.

A Washington Post journalist spoke to Shawn Achor, a Harvard trained expert on positive psychology.  Achor recommends several exercises to increase feelings of wellbeing, including.

(1) Gratitude.  Spend two minutes every day thinking of three new things you appreciate, enjoy, or are thankful for.
(2) Positivity. Spend two minutes every day recalling a positive experience from your day.  Recollect every detail you can think of and let yourself feel the pleasant feelings associated with each detail.  This can be as simple as observing a beautiful flower or seeing a dog chase a frisbee.
(3) Exercise.  Fifteen minutes a day of high energy physical movement.  Get your heart rate up AND your feelings of happiness.
(4) Breathe.  Here's the magic time again, two minutes.  Push away from your keyboard, silence your phone, turn off the tv, sit under a tree, lay beneath a ceiling fan.  For two minutes, just listen to your breathing.  That's it.  Just listen and stay focused on the sound of the air moving in and our.
(5) Kindness.  Each day send an email or text someone a message telling them how much you appreciate something about them or something they have done.  According to Achor, this is one of the most powerful happy-getters.

You can read the Washington Post article and interview in full, here.

May 31, 2015

Just Do It - Use the One Minute Rule

And speaking of doing it now rather than procrastinating, here's a quick and helpful pointer. It's called the one-minute rule and it's courtesy of Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project.

I mean, who doesn't love reading, or in this case watching a video clip, about a one-minute-solution?

In this world of looking for unrealistic, so-called quick solutions, isn't it wonderful to find a one-minute-rule that might actually do some real good? Maybe help boost our organization?

And maybe even a blog post that takes one minute to read? (Give or take.) Grammar check: does the period go inside or outside the parentheses? And yes, I do have an MLA Handbook on the shelf behind me. And no, I will not reach up to grab it and risk an allergic reaction to the dust that will surely find it's way into my nostrils.

In the words of Gretchen, outer order contributes to inner calm.

May 25, 2015

Stress and Your Work Station

Stress on the job can refer to a toxic supervisor, duties that you really dislike, hours that work against your body's natural rhythm, and other complicated factors that aren't solved by a simple fix.  How you sit at your desk, however, might be adjusted to greatly decrease your physical stress, to free yourself from a frequent cause of back neck and shoulder pain.  Take a look at this video to get an idea of ways to improve your posture in the work place or at your home computer station.

May 18, 2015

Meditation Basics

Meditation is the new black.  Good for decreasing anxiety, stress management, boosting the immune system, falling asleep, healthier management of physical illnesses, improving memory, all sorts of benefits.

Try this guided meditation to go beyond the basics, here.

April 27, 2015

love junkie

Frequently heard in therapy offices is some version of the question, "Why am I attracted to losers?"  Losers being a euphemism for hurtful, selfish, deceptive, cheating or otherwise, all-around unloving, abusive partners.

In Love Junkie: A Memoir, Rachel Resnick gives us a powerful, brave, and well written memoir of her pattern of this very kind of relationship.  She tells of partners who have insulted her, degraded her, belittled her, called her names (Spencer yelling, "Hey Tits!" from the kitchen at a dinner party), cheated on her, kept important secrets from her, or coerced her into sexually objectionable behaviors.

Resnick tells about her painful childhood experiences with emotionally abusive and neglecting parents, much in the way someone has flashbacks in the midst of experiencing or recalling unpleasant relationship events. Some people might not like the back and forth between her adult and child experiences.  I found it compelling and consistent with the way many people convey their stories in therapy.

While I don't agree that people are loser-magnets or specifically attracted to losers per se, I do agree there are plenty of unhealthy people to be culled in the dating world.   Love junkies, to borrow Resnick's term, want loving mates as much as anyone but are willing to stay with unhealthy partners longer.  In some cases, years longer.  It may well be that one of the reasons people stay in abusive relationships is that the love-hurt-love-hurt connection is familiar, having been learned from hurtful, neglectful or somehow, emotionally, physically or sexually, abusive parents, caregivers, and or peers (the junior high years can be brutal).

Picture the love junkie encountering a hurtful behavior, early on, from someone they are dating.  Instead of saying, "Hey, that hurt!  If he does that again, I'm out of here!"  they say, like Resnick did, "Hey, that hurt! He must not love me very much.  I need to work harder to get him to love me more." Repeated and sustained abusive relationships may be an attempt to finally triumph this time around; to earn the love of the unloving other.

This need to work harder often gets channeled into sexual desire.  Hurt, in many instances, triggers doubling the effort to be pleasing.  What better way for a woman to be pleasing than to be sexually alluring and adventurous with her partner? Especially in our society with its plethora of media messages which define women as sex-objects.

Resnick talks of her tendency to blame herself and of her shame for being weak.  Love Junkie is loaded with a multitude of specific thoughts that keep her coming back for more: thoughts that interfere with leaving the men who repeatedly and blatantly hurt her and thoughts that fuel her increasing desire.  Resnick's intimate disclosures, I believe, offer therapeutic value, both for therapists who want to more fully understand their clients cognitive distortions and for individuals who feel alienated and ashamed, who fear they alone think in such a disturbed way.  

Resnick's book, in my opinion, is a tremendous contribution to the memoir literature.  It is a valuable resource for insights into some of the specific and very intimate thoughts, feelings and triggers that lead a person to remain in harms way.  I have already suggested it to people who find themselves in repeated hurtful relationships, to people who don't understand why they can't seem to end relationships once hurtful behaviors recur and to people who incorrectly view themselves as attracted to abusive partners.  In short, Love Junkie can illustrate the simple fact that "you are not alone" and that there is a road to recovery.

April 14, 2015


Anxiety? Stress got you wired?  Looking for a fun form of relaxation?  Try Medikittentation.  

January 12, 2015

Ready, Set, Sleep!

I may stand corrected.  Which would make me and a lot of clients happy.  And sleepy.  For stress relief and as a sleep aid, I typically teach a 6-4-8 breathing exercise.  This involves a 6-second inhale, 4-second hold, and 8-second exhale (or 8-4-10, depending on the individual's starting point).

But in this post  by Alina Gonzalez entitled, How I Learned To Fall Asleep In Under 1 Minute, she advocates using Dr. Andrew Weil's breathing technique which she calls the "4-7-8 Trick."  You can go to Dr. Weil's website to see him demonstrate, here.

So I plan to take the 4-7-8 versus 6-4-8 breathing challenge.  And I invite readers to do the same. Leave me a comment and let me know which breathing exercise calmed, relaxed, and helped you get to sleep the most quickly.

Ready, Set, Sleep!

And a big shout out to my baby sister for 
bringing my attention to the article Under 1 Minute blog post. 

December 17, 2014

Spice Up Your Memory

As we age, it's natural to experience forgetfulness.  Many will seek professional help, alarmed by the degree of what they eventually will be told is normal, expected memory loss.  Suggestions for improving and preserving your memory include challenging your brain with mentally stimulating activities, getting plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly.

Forget where you put your glasses?  Can't remember why you walked into a room?  Pretty typical experience as we age and not likely a reason to be concerned.  When should you seek a professional opinion?  When your "memory loss affects your ability to complete your usual daily activities," according to the Mayo Clinic.  Read their seven tips for improving your memory, here.  

We maybe can add a quick and rather simple step to enhance our memory.   The Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published a study, led by Meei-Shyuan Lee, which suggests that adding the spice tumeric to your food will help. A little less than a quarter teaspoon (one gram) worked for a group of people who experienced memory problems due to pre-diabetes.   

I can't remember if I own any tumeric, but if I do, I will add them to my personalized blend of chai tea spices. Not long ago I read that a variety of spices can provide health benefits. So I made up a little concoction of my own, using what I already had in my spice cabinet:  cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, and ginger.  Sprinkle on my tea and milk. Delicious.  And masks the bitterness of less expensive tea blends.  Not to mention, helps keep my spices fresh.   Because other than cumin in their TexMex and cinnamon on their sopapillas, my family wants no part of the more exotic spices I keep.

Disclaimer:  If you are considering adding any spices, herbs or supplements to your diet, please consult your physician or health care provider to be sure it is safe for you.  For more advice on seeking nutritional supplements as mental health aids, please check out my previous post for suggestions, here.