DEALING WITH STRESS

REDUCING VULNERABILITY TO STRESS
– have a medical check-up if you are concerned about your health
– pay attention to diet, sleep and exercise
– complete one task at a time rather than multi-tasking
– give yourself time for rest, socializing and pleasurable activities
– practice mindfulness and attention-shifting techniques

PROBLEM-SOLVING TECHNIQUES
– decide what aspects of your situation are within your control and can be changed
– break down problems into small steps that are concrete and attainable
– reduce commitments or ask for help in sharing the load
– be assertive when negotiating new commitments
– take regular breaks and reward yourself for each step forward

LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE
– examine your priorities and whether you are getting satisfaction
– challenge beliefs about having little control over your life
– live according to your values rather than focusing on success

SEE ALSO
– Diathesis–Stress Model
– Understand Your Stress
– How to Deal with Stress

 

 

DEALING WITH ANGER

THINGS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO ANGER
– over-sensitivity to shame and humiliation
– ineffective communication skills
– early experiences of abuse or neglect
– drug and alcohol use

LEARNING TO THINK BEFORE YOU ACT
– use deep breathing to calm yourself down
– identify internal triggers and warning signs and take a time out
– identify external triggers and learn ways of avoiding them
– check yourself for blaming or trying to control others

RESENTMENT IN CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS
– resentment involves making others responsible for one’s frustrations and disappointments
– facts are selectively chosen to to justify one’s mistakes and blame the other person
– resentment can become entrenched and lead to enduring stand-offs in relationships

DEALING WITH RESENTMENT IN CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS
– learn to practice effective communication
– make an effort to validate your partner’s feelings
– acknowledge mistakes and make amends

SEE ALSO
– How to Get Angry a Lot
– How Not to be Angry all the Time
– How to Remain Calm with People
– How We Lie to Ourselves

 


PHYSICAL HEALTH & MOOD

DIET AND DEPRESSION
foods that can contribute to depression include sugars, refined grains and processed foods
nutrient deficiencies that can contribute to depression include vitamins B6, B12, D, folic acid and iron

SUPPLEMENTS FOR DEPRESSION
– a basic multi-vitamin for B vitamins
– vitamin D up to 2,000 IU/day
– omega 3 fatty acids 1,000 mg/day of EPA + DHA

NUTRITION
– for information and controversies about healthy diets, see here and here
– for potential problems with herbs and supplements, see here and here

LOSING WEIGHT
– the first step in losing weight is to reduce food intake (see here and here)
– the easiest way to lose weight is to reduce sugars, starches (bread, pasta, potatoes) and processed foods
exercise along with increased protein can prevent muscle loss when dieting
– a calculator for BMI and other parameters can be found here
– a free service in Ontario that lets you to speak with a dietician is available here

METABOLIC SYNDROME
– a precursor of diabetes, heart disease and other lifestyle diseases
– includes abdominal obesity plus raised blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol/fats
– metabolic syndrome can be prevented by changing diet, losing weight and increasing activity

CHRONIC ILLNESS
– chronic illness and depression frequently go together and can create a vicious cycle
– educate yourself about the illness and have your medications reviewed on a regular basis
– for information on the risks of modern medicine, see here and here
– for information on the dangers of self-diagnosis, see here and here

MEDICAL SELF-MONITORING
– monitoring devices and apps can give you more control over your health
– find a variable that can be easily measured, such as weight, blood glucose, blood pressure
– change one thing at a time using trial and error to find out what changes the variable

EXERCISE
– the benefits of exercise on mood is greater than medication in many cases
– exercise can improve energy level, sleep and mental focus in depression
– see these links for information about the health benefits of running, walking and dancing.
– an easy way to integrate exercise into your daily life is to walk – see here and here

SLEEP
– for information on sleep problems, see here

SUN EXPOSURE
– the benefits of moderate sun exposure far outweigh the risks – see here and here

 

SLEEP PROBLEMS

The first step to correct most sleeping problems is to get up at the same time every day, regardless of how you feel or what time you went to sleep.

TO PUT YOURSELF TO SLEEP
– avoid heavy meals, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine in the evening
– write down worrying or distracting thoughts to clear your head
– get up after 20 minutes if you can’t fall asleep, but keep getting up at the same time each morning
– learn relaxation and/or mindfulness meditation techniques

STAYING ASLEEP
– getting up in the middle of the night is a common practice in some cultures
– waking up can occur as drugs or alcohol wear off, or as a result of a dream
– write down dreams and thoughts that keep you awake to clear your head

SLEEPING PILLS
– side effects include uninhibited behaviour, amnesia, rebound anxiety and hangover effects
– continuous use for 3-4 weeks can cause dependence
long-term health effects of continuous use of sleeping pills are equivalent to smoking

MELATONIN
melatonin (3-6 mg at bedtime) can improve the quality of sleep
– melatonin is for short term use only (6-12 weeks)
– if melatonin stops being effective, stop using it for 2 weeks rather than increasing the dose

SLEEP LABS
– can identify breathing problems or other medical conditions responsible for insomnia
– often fail to come up with a definite reason for insomnia in healthy adults

SEE ALSO
– What to do about Insomnia
– How to Fall Asleep
– Sleeping with a Partner

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

HOW TO LISTEN
– let the other person have their say without interruption
– paraphrase back what was said to check your understanding
– acknowledge criticism without making excuses or blaming
– learn to validate feelings

HOW TO GIVE FEEDBACK
– adjust your message to the other person’s understanding and perspective
– talk about specific behaviours rather than presumed motives or character defects
– suggest changes along with any criticism
– respect differences of opinion – you can disagree and still be close

BEING ASSERTIVE
– find the middle ground between caving in or blowing up
– talk about how you feel rather than attacking or making accusations
– ask for concrete changes rather than changes in attitudes
– repeat the message in different ways if you are not getting through

ACKNOWLEDGING MISTAKES
– acknowledge the damage done without minimizing or making excuses
– make a commitment to not repeat the mistake
– offer a plan to remedy the mistake and spell out the consequences of repeating the mistake
– start over and maintain an intention to keep improving

CONFIRMATION BIAS
– selective use of information that confirms one’s beliefs
– leads to over-generalization and polarization of opinions
– used in close relationships to blame the other person
– used in social groups to discriminate against people who are different

SEE ALSO
– Being A Good Listener
– Honest Communication
– The Challenge of Being Close
– How to Help Those We Love
– Emotional Translation

 

WORRY & RUMINATION

Worry and rumination are forms of repetitive thinking where the mind tends to go in circles rather than solving problems or coming up with answers.  Worry usually focuses on future dangers while rumination is concerned with mistakes made in the past.

UNDERSTANDING WORRY
– worry is an attempt to anticipate future problems in order to feel safe or prepared
– worry can worsen the problem by leading to over-monitoring and seeking reassurance from others

DEALING WITH WORRY
challenge your worrying thoughts to see if they are realistic or likely to happen
– distract yourself from worry by taking action or using attention-shifting techniques

UNDERSTANDING RUMINATION
– rumination about the past can involve self-criticism or internal arguments with others
– cycles of rumination can intensify feelings of shame, guilt, and anger

DEALING WITH RUMINATION
– check yourself for whether rumination has actually helped you find answers or solve problems
– practice self-compassion and resolve not to repeat past mistakes

DEALING WITH INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS
– cycles of worry and rumination often start with intrusive thoughts
– consider intrusive thoughts as mental noise and focus on the immediate present

SEE ALSO
– Are You Confusing Rumination with Problem-Solving?
– Why Thought Suppression is Counter-Productive
Excessive Reassurance-Seeking

 

DRUG & ALCOHOL RELAPSE

Recovery involves nothing shorter than a complete change in your life, but relapse prevention is a matter of paying attention to warning signs and avoiding triggers.

STAGES OF RELAPSE
– feeling stressed, anxious or sad
– entering high risk situations
– giving yourself permission for a lapse
– allowing a lapse to become a full relapse

PREVENTION OF RELAPSE
– identify your inner warning signs
– make a plan for avoiding or leaving high risk situations
– structure your free time and access to money
– practice attention-shifting and urge surfing
– check yourself for making excuses or blaming others
– build new habits to replace the addiction cycle
– check yourself for misconceptions about 12 step programs

BENEFITS OF 12 STEP PROGRAMS
– meet people with similar experiences
– see examples of the problem in others
– see examples of recovery
– get a sponsor for 1-1 help
– review your life by working the steps

FINDING A 12 STEP GROUP
– try different meetings until you find the one that is right for you:
Alcoholics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous

POST-ACUTE WITHDRAWAL
– after physical withdrawal is complete, symptoms can recur in waves lasting up to several days and can trigger a relapse
– learn to ride out the waves with good support and self-care

SEE ALSO:
– Ageing Out of Drugs
– How Big Pharma Is Cashing in on Addiction to Alcohol and Illicit Drugs