Category Archives: Coping Skills

Hope: the Ultimate Superfood

You already know that it’s important to eat your leafy veggies and blueberries, rich in antioxidants. But did you know that hope is the ultimate superfood?

A superfood is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” Hope offers emotional nourishment that improves emotional and physical health and lengthens life. Numerous research studies have demonstrated the health benefits of an optimistic outlook. Dr. David Snowdon found that positive emotional content in essays written during young adulthood predicted lifespan—those who had a more positive outlook lived 6.9 years longer than their pessimistic counterparts. Similarly, other research has shown that optimism is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and lower death rates.

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Increase Calm and Self-Control with this 5-minute Daily Practice

Where can you carve-out five minutes? How about before you get out of bed after your alarm goes off? Or maybe you can claim five minutes after your morning coffee, at work while sitting at your desk, or in the car before you drive to the grocery store. Really, you can do this practice almost anywhere.

In fact, you’re already doing one part of this practice all day long – breathing. The only added step is to pay close attention. Breathing usually happens outside of conscious awareness, but focusing on your breath is one of the most powerful strategies for managing stress and increasing self-control. It can even help with treating anxiety and depression.

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The Paradox of Aging: the Happiness U-Curve

When imagining aging, most middle-aged people look ahead with trepidation. But take heart: the best is likely yet to come!

Satisfaction surveys have found that happiness increases after middle age, and this pattern shows up around the globe. Referred to as the Happiness U-Curve, the data show that on average, life satisfaction drops during midlife and begins its recovery around age 50, reaching its peak at the end of life.

 

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Resolve to Refresh

Have you ever returned from a vacation feeling depleted rather than replenished? Maybe you were jetlagged after an international adventure or drained from overextending yourself to host family or friends. As you return from this holiday break, whether you feel rested or weary, focus on refreshing yourself regularly this year.

The body, mind and spirit crave a pattern of alternating expansion and restoration. You will be at your best when you stretch yourself and then regroup before stretching once again. Sleep is a great example – the body and mind need rest at the end of each day in order to consolidate the learning, insights and activities of the day and reset in preparation for the next day’s experiences. Similarly, your muscles need a day to repair after a weight training session.

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Gratitude as an Antidote to Craving

The season of indulgence has begun. If you received trick-or-treaters at your home, then you may still have leftover candy tempting you. Thanksgiving offers a delicious feast, served up with a side order of gratitude, followed by the biggest shopping day of the year.

The holiday season is presented as “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for many, it is overwhelming, lonely, and draining. 

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Coping with Change

As the saying goes, change is the only constant. Given this truth, why is change so stressful?

The brain has a function similar to a motion stabilizer on a video camera. With this feature, the videographer can be jostled and bumped while filming without creating footage that leaves the viewer feeling queasy. Like a Steadicam, the brain orients towards stability, giving you a sense of calm while glossing over the moment-to-moment changes happening all around you. But when a big change hits, you feel jarred and destabilized. Continue reading

Practice Self-Compassion

Imagine that a dear friend calls you in distress. How would you respond? What would you say? What would your tone of voice sound like? Now, consider how you talk to yourself when you are distraught, or when you’ve made a mistake. Do you treat yourself with the same kindness and warmth you would offer to a friend? Is it easier to be understanding and kind toward someone else than to yourself?

If you tend to approach yourself with criticism and harshness, consider how you can be a better friend to yourself. When you support a friend, you likely see your friend more holistically. You see your friend’s struggles and strengths. You see his/her mistakes in a broader context. You can be merciful toward your friend. How might you bring this Friend Mindset to your own self-observation? Continue reading

Quick Stress Relief Strategies

One of the most useful techniques to quickly calm yourself is to exhale deeply. This simple action can soothe the body’s alarm, the sympathetic nervous system, and activate the all-clear signal, the parasympathetic nervous system. A deep exhalation leaves you calmer and thinking more clearly. Use the muscles around your lungs to push the air all the way out of your lungs. Take a moment and try this now.

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Successful Resolutions Anytime

a goal without a plan is just a wishWe often make new year’s resolutions to counteract the indulgences and lapses of the holiday season. But, these commitments tend to be fleeting and don’t usually lead to lasting behavior change. Good intentions won’t matter unless we have a plan to implement them effectively.

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Inside Out movie – don’t miss it!

imagesDon’t let this animated film trick you into thinking that this movie is just for kids. Inside Out, Pixar Studio’s new movie, offers a delightful and thought-provoking vision of the inner workings of our emotional lives. Director Pete Docter developed the concepts woven into this film in collaboration with leading neuroscientists, developmental psychologists and psychiatrists. While his imaginary depiction of what happens at “headquarters” isn’t technically accurate, Inside Out  illuminates powerful psychological concepts and can spark increased self-awareness and self-regulation.

As a therapist, much of what I teach people to do hinges on first building the capacity to observe thoughts, emotions and actions. This self-awareness is the foundation of improved coping and resilience. I have often encouraged my clients to imagine their feelings. Doing this Continue reading