Archive | Stress

The Importance of Stress Relief

We all experience stress to a certain degree. If managed appropriately stress can help us, for example, to get things done on time. If however you are experiencing a high level of stress on a continuous basis without adequately managing it, then it will have a detrimental effect on your physical, mental and emotional health.

Am I stressed?

In some cases it is blatantly obvious that your current life situation causes you stress but for some people it might come to a surprise to find out that they are dealing with too much stress. This is because the different situations that you might be dealing with, when looked at separately, do not seem like a big thing. What makes up stress is not necessarily one thing; it is often when we have a culmination of stressful events, situations or people to deal with that stress starts to affect us. A good way to find out whether you are stressed is to check for physical, mental or emotional indicators of stress. Please read my other article called ‘Stress Indicators’ for detailed information and a list of the symptoms.

What is stress relief?

There are various ways and techniques to help you manage your stress. The following is a list of possible methods to relieve stress:

  • meditation
  • massage
  • relaxing breath work
  • changing your diet
  • exercise
  • building healthy relationships and having someone to talk to
  • reappraising your priorities in life
  • learning to control displaced aggressions and deal with their cause
  • working on the internal factors that causes stress, your attitude and beliefs

The purpose of stress relief

Given that we all deal with a certain degree of stress we have basically three options: 1. Remove or reduce the causes for stress or 2. Increase our abilities, options, solutions, resources or the time we need. 3. If those two options are not possible at the moment all we can do is to support ourselves with stress relief. The benefit of stress relief will only ever be short to mid-term and should not be expected to work over long periods of time. Stress relief is like a spare tyre that will get you around for a short period of time but you still need to get a new one fitted for better and safer driving.

Stress is experienced when there is an imbalance between, for example, the time needed to finish a project and the time or resources available. Stress relief will help you cope with this situation and support you getting through it but it will never solve the imbalance.

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Characteristics of a Panic Attack

A Panic Attack is an intense state of fear that occurs for no apparent reason and is characterized by the following symptoms, though you only need to experience four of them to classify your condition as a panic attack:

-Shortness of breath or smothering sensation.

-Dizziness, unsteady feelings, or faintness.

-Accelerated heart rate.

-Trembling or Shacking.

-Numbness or tingling sensations in fingers, toes or lips.

-Chest pain.

-Flushes or chills.

-Fear of going crazy.

-Fear of becoming seriously ill.

-Sweating

-Choking

-Nausea

-Feelings of unreality.

If you experience an attack with fewer than four of the above symptoms is called a limited symptom attack. Panic attacks have different time frames, they can build gradually over a period of several minutes or hours or strike very suddenly. While they can last from a few minutes to several days, most usually don’t last more than half an hour.

When anxiety or panic is felt regardless of where one is, it is called spontaneous anxiety or spontaneous panic, depending upon the degree of intensity. If the anxiety or panic occurs only in a particular situation, it is called situational or phobic anxiety or panic. If anxiety or panic is triggered by simply thinking of a particular situation, then this is called anticipatory anxiety or anticipatory panic.

People with anxiety-related problems often feel that they are alone and are the only ones that suffer form this problem. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to the National Institute of Mental Health anxiety disorders are the most common mental-health problems in the United States. During any given six months, about 9% or 16 million people in the country will suffer from any of the known anxiety-related problems. Also, during the course of their lives, anxiety-related problems will affect about 14.6% or 26 million people. From this it is very clear that anxiety problems are not rare but quite common in the United States population.

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Spiritual Anxiety – Diagnosis, Motivation, and Beyond

There’s that amusing scene in the cartoon comedy Kung Fu Panda where Kung Fu Master Shifu attempts to calm his spirit in the local temple by haltingly reciting the mantra “inner peace”… while obviously distraught, distracted, and annoyed by area sounds.

I. Diagnosing Spiritual Anxiety

Perhaps most of us are a little like that. We know we should have inner peace, but we are irritated, tense, and anxious. Our spirits are more like a storm and less like a gentle breeze.

What is going on inside us? At some level, many identify the human spirit with mere emotions which have merely chemical causes and effects. I am anxious because of my hormones and the complex interactions between my brain and body.

Of course such chemical and physical chains of events have been observed with their corresponding emotions. The question then becomes whether more is going on.

Can my self-awareness, my will, moral responsibility, creativity and emotions be wholly explained by chemical determinism? Am I merely a complex chemical machine? Or does the web of cause and effect include a related, but partially transcendent element–a spark or life force, a soul or spirit?

We infer that mere chemical cause and effect cannot wholly explain human existence, that there is a transcendent element in the network, what we might call the human spirit. And we here assume that spirit can both be influenced by the body and cause effects on it.

In short, there is such a thing as “spiritual anxiety” using the sense of “spirit” implied here, a form of anxiety which over time at least seems to work in tandem with what can be observed in the body–like tensed muscles, hyperventilation, rapid heart rate, digestive problems, sweating and so on. And while admitting that there are chemicals and physical exercises that can affect spiritual anxiety positively or negatively, our interest at present is limited to the question how we can use our spirits to become less anxious.

II. Motivation and Spiritual Anxiety

One challenge that comes immediately to mind is our inability by willing or wishing to turn off the worry or anxiety. Yet neither is the human will without influence over how we feel. Our choices of what to think and say and do have their impact. There seems to be a higher order, a human spirit, that can influence our emotions.

The problem may come then when we have spiritual anxiety, here meaning when the human spirit itself is infected, if you will, with fear. I am not one to argue that the human spirit exists or can exist in some other realm independent of the troubles and pleasures of human existence, however varied that existence may be. At least not while the body lives.

I can then suggest two responses. One, we humans may be observed to influence how we ourselves think and feel, and two, our spirits may be influenced by a higher Spirit still, a Being some call God. That may not be where you would go, but to me it is an explanation that seems to make sense of the evidence.

This is not to say that chemical causation inside our bodies can always be reversed by our spirits, though attitude apparently has more of an affect on our health and well-being than we may care to admit. Nor is it to say that our spirits necessarily have the ability to reduce anxiety. Nonetheless apparently some have overcome spiritual anxiety and anxiety disorders in no small measure because of their un-coerced choices, attitudes, and perspectives–that is apparently partly because of their spirits. Motivation is a key.

III. Beyond Spiritual Anxiety

Thus there appears to be an interplay between the anxious spirit as victim of anxiety’s causes and the anxious spirit as responsible moral agent. My anxiety may be influenced by genetic predisposition and an under-active thyroid (or whatever), but faced with an abusive relationship or exposure to an emotionally traumatic event (perhaps a fatality in a car crash), one’s spirit may rise above tragedy and evil to live in hope.

The question for the spiritually anxious reader is then whether there can be hope of peace or recovery for oneself. This assumes spiritual anxiety is entirely negative–as it feels–but it may be worth considering a possible silver lining. For example, is it possible spiritual anxiety motivates improvement, restrains pride, and provokes important questions about life priorities?

Be that as it may, an answer to the downside is that others have overcome (so why not you?), that a “higher Spirit” gives meaning and purpose even to anxiety, and that there are methods of coping and overcoming that can be tried. The question then remains: “What will you do to go beyond being anxious in your spirit?”

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Natural Ayurvedic Remedies for Anxiety, Stress, and Panic Attacks

Anxiety and Ayurvedic Remedies

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).

Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.

Ayurvedic herbs can bring about a calming influence on the body and mind, enabling a release into a happy and relaxed state. Anxiety is primarily associated with Vata imbalance.

In Ayurveda, three psycho-physiological categories are identified: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These need to be in balance as they govern the mind-body functions.

Vata Dosha – initiates and promotes the overall biological functions and activities

Pitta Dosha – is responsible for proper metabolism, and certain individual traits of the person

Kapha Dosha – balances fluids such as water, along with fats, and also promotes healthy growth of body tissues

The following Ayurvedic herbs are very helpful in reducing anxiety.

a) MANOMITRAM – blend of Ashwagandha, Brahmi and other therapeutic herbs

b) SUMENTA – blend of Ashwagandha, Brahmi and other therapeutic herbs

The above herbals products are very useful in treating anxiety and stress and both contain a variety of herbal blends with Ashwagandha and Brahmi among the main ingredients in the mix.

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) is one of the most useful herbs in resolving anxiety. In Sanskrit it is translated to mean “the smell of a horse,” indicating that the herb imparts the vigor and strength of a stallion. It has traditionally been prescribed for strengthening their immune system after an illness. It is referred to as “Indian ginseng” because of its rejuvenating properties (although botanically, ginseng and ashwagandha are unrelated).

Brahmi ( Bacopa Monnieri) is another herb used to increase memory and relieve stress naturally. The herb has a soothing effect on the mind and is also used for treatment of depression. It brings down elevated hormonal levels in the body and can relieve insomnia and worries. Good for memory and concentration as it nourishes the neuron connections in the brain.

The herb is considered to be soothing agent for in older age, wherein the nature of an individual can become peevish. Elderly people can take Brahmi regularly in order to feel relaxed and to have undisturbed, flawless sleeps at nights.

One can also aid the process of relaxation by adopting the following lifestyle modifications:

a) Getting adequate rest and moderate exercise

b) Favoring warm milk and other light dairy products

c) Performing a full-body warm oil self massage everyday

d) Avoiding stimulants like coffee

e) Daily meditation sessions for 10-20 minutes

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Stress Relief – How to Use Art As a Form of Stress Therapy

An alarming statistic posted on the popular medical site, WebMD, stated that over 75% of doctor’s visits are for stress related illnesses. When a person’s stress reaches maximum capacity they can experience a host of physical and mental effects ranging from chest pain to migraines to panic attacks. Medications tailored to assist a person with their anxiety and pain often produce side effects that only add to the patient’s stress. It is a seemingly never-ending circle that has many of us seeking alternative methods for our stress relief.

Over the decade many high-profile studies have been conducted on the promising use of art as a form of stress therapy. Studies involving cancer patients, people with signs of dementia, and children dealing with illness have all found art creation to be an effective way to reduce stress. In three studies conducted between 2002-2009, cancer patients were monitored during and after art therapy sessions. The results were impressive with each study showing positive changes in the mental health of the patients including a decrease in perceived pain and a reduction in stress.

In the 2007 release of the Oncology Nursing Journal, a study testing the effects of art therapy on the stress-hormone cortisol was published. The data from the study helped shed light on the medical reason for the validity of art as stress therapy. Testing found a measurable decrease in cortisol after participants completed an art therapy session. The study proved what art therapists have known for years; creating art is a legitimate method of stress therapy.

The data is in, now what can you do at home or work to use art as a form of stress therapy? Any type of art can be used for stress relief, but the easiest place to start is by coloring. Utilizing a coloring book or pre-printed image allows a person to focus on the simple motion of pencil across paper. You don’t have to concern yourself with what to make, you just need to chose a marker and begin. Coloring is easy, so any non-artist is likely to enjoy the stress relieving benefits sooner than with other artistic endeavors.

Those looking to delve deeper into the mind can try the soul-searching practice of art journaling. Trauma specialists use art or visual journaling to help clients express themselves in a way that is safe, yet personal. Where coloring offers a meditative experience, art journaling is more cathartic and introspective. Supplies are minimal and, like coloring, it is portable and easy to start.

What is most important is that people find the art form that they enjoy. Anything from drawing doodles in a journal to working days on a sculpture can bring about stress relief if it is something you enjoy.

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Panic Attack – The Difference Between a Panic Attack Vs Psychosis

For some people who do not know what a panic attack is, when they see a victim having an attack, they tend to immediately think that the victim is having a heart attack or a mental problem. Although the difference may not seem very apparent, the differences exist nonetheless. If you suffer from panic attacks, then it is crucial for you to understand the difference between the two if you ever want to recover from the stigma attached to this disorder.

Knowing the Difference

The key difference between panic attacks versus psychosis is that a panic attack is a result of how the sufferer reacts to sudden extreme stress or fear; whereas psychosis is hard wired into a person’s brain. Although panic attacks happen very suddenly, they tend to have a trigger or a signal attached to it. Most sufferers would be able to tell you why they are having an attack; while those suffering from psychosis would not even know they are having a psychotic episode. Psychosis takes over the victim’s mind almost completely so as to prevent them from telling right from wrong.

As most psychosis victims do not know that is happening and cannot control themselves during a psychotic episode, they need to be put under constant observation by medical professionals, as they may pose a danger to people around them and also to themselves. A panic attack victim in general never poses danger to people around them as during an attack they are usually helpless.

Treatment for Panic Attacks and Psychosis

There is a huge difference between how a panic disorder is treated versus psychosis. In most cases, panic disorder can be treated with some mild anti-depression medication and if needed some therapy sessions. On the other hand, psychosis requires far more attention and this includes stronger anti-psychotic medication, frequent psychiatric consultations and for very severe cases, institutionalization.

When deciding a treatment for either disorder, medical health professionals must first determine the severity of both and whether or not the victim poses harm to people around them and to themselves. No matter how severe the condition for the disorder is, there are always treatment options available.

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Causes of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety or social phobia is an irrational fear of social settings such as gatherings, parties, classrooms, or working together in a group. It is a fear of being judged or scrutinized by others.

Causes

Social anxiety generally starts at a very young age. Often times it has to do with parents that are over protective and either control their children’s social settings or have their children avoid them altogether. Social anxiety can also be caused by having negative experiences in social settings, such as being bullied or ridiculed by peers. Again, this usually starts at an early age. Children that are constantly picked on or find themselves at the bottom of the ‘social ladder’ among their peers, can develop social anxiety.

Risk Factors

People suffering from social anxiety are particularly susceptible to alcohol or drug abuse. Often-times people will use drugs or alcohol to try and fit in or relax in social settings. They may also become addicted to anti-depressants or anxiety medication because they are convinced that they cannot function in a social setting without their medication.

Symptoms

People suffering from social anxiety become very anxious and self-conscious in normal everyday social settings, sometimes even experiencing panic attacks. They experience very intense, persistent chronic fear of being judged or scrutinized by others. Future planned events are very difficult for those suffering from social anxiety. Long before the date of the social event or activity, they begin worrying about it. As the date gets closer, the anxiety can worsen and begin to adversely affect a person’s life at school or work. It can make it very difficult for a person to make and keep friends.

Social anxiety can be limited to one situation such as going to parties, talking with people or talking in front of people, eating or drinking in front of people. Or, it may be generalized social anxiety where a person experiences anxiety in any type of social setting.

Physical Symptoms

  • Trembling
  • Difficulty talking
  • Blushing
  • Profuse Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Rapid Heart Rate

Treatment

Go see your doctor! We love to self-diagnose and we may even know exactly what is wrong with ourselves, but you do not have access to the right types of medications and you are not as qualified as your doctor. Your doctor may be able to offer advice or treatment that you have not thought of.

There are several different types of treatments, everything from medication to therapy. But, the success of the treatment or length of the treatment will be determined by the severity of your phobia. It will also be determined by how well you follow instructions. In order for treatments to work, you have to follow the treatment, you have to be proactive in your own health!

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you understand the thoughts you are having that cause your anxiety. It also helps you change those thoughts, interrupting the negative thought patterns. It will also help you recognize and replace panic causing thoughts.
  • Desensitization or exposure therapy can be used to treat social anxiety. You are taught to relax your entire body and then imagine yourself in the setting that causes your anxiety. The exposure can be ramped up by showing photos or listening to recordings of the setting that causes anxiety. As you work through each of these stages you learn to relax while being exposed in a safe environment. The last step is exposing yourself to the situation in small doses until eventually you no longer feel anxious.
  • Social skill training can be used in a group setting with others that also experience social anxiety. The group can role-play various settings or situations, this allows you to become more comfortable dealing with people in the real situation. Taking measures to improve your self-esteem and getting training in social skills can be very helpful.

Remember, you are in charge of you. Exercising, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, taking your medication as prescribed and avoiding stimulants such as caffeine can all help in your battle with social anxiety.

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Neck Stress: How to Relieve Shoulder and Neck Stress

How To Relieve Stress Without Drugs

We live in a high stress modern society. It is not uncommon for a large number of our neck and shoulder muscles to be chronically stressed, frozen, or hypertonic. This is not only what leads to stiffness and pain, but also results in a continuous, fatiguing energy drain.

We carry much of our stress in our neck muscles. When these muscles tighten up, they cause other muscles in the body to weaken whenever you move your head. In other words, other muscles in your body tend to become reactive to your neck muscles when you are under stress.

There are many causes for neck stress and there are many ways to correct neck stress. The basic cause of neck stress is what we call- “Repetitive Muscle Stress,” RMS.

Muscles we discovered are the missing link to our aches and pains. We need to restore the muscle tone that was lost by doing repetitive or strenuous activities caused by accident or injury.

Muscles pull bones! Bones do not pull muscles. When we balance the muscles, the pain may diminish. When given time to heal, the pain goes away completely. Muscles have to work together in groups or in pairs. If you have neck stress from turning your head, other muscles have to relax. The signal has to come from the brain to relax muscles. However, if the signal has been blocked by stress or an injury, the result may create pain. This is why we say we work with the body-mind.

Here is a sample technique for “Neck Stress Release.” This technique sends a signal to the brain to release the tension in the neck muscles and also, corrects reactive interactions with other muscles. There are muscle fibers in the neck that run up and down the neck and around the whole neck.

Do some neck rolls. Look up with the head, then you look left, right and down. Gently pinch the neck muscles in and up and down direction with your thumb and index finger. Work on each side of your neck from front to back and on both sides. It is important to keep your thumb facing downward. Go around the whole neck. You can pretend that your thumb and index finger is a little “Pacman” gently nibbling on your neck. This activates the sensor cells under the skin and sends a signal to the brain to relax the neck muscles.

Here are some benefits of the “Neck Release.”

Computer operators repetitively look from their display down to their keyboard or over to material they are working on.

Hyperactive school children reduce stress by looking at the teacher or looking around the room.

It improves performance in sports such as golf, basketball and tennis.

Also, it can be helpful in reducing vertigo and balance problems. Most people getting up from a sitting position have a natural tendency to look down. As a result, the muscles in the neck signal the muscles in the legs to go weak. The simple “Neck Release” technique may eliminate most vertigo conditions.

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Panic Attacks Causes – The Most Common Causes of Panic Attacks

Panic attacks and anxiety disorders are widespread across the globe in today’s society. With the added tension and stress around within every different culture, there is no wonder panic attacks and anxiety disorders effect so many of us. So when it comes to Panic Attacks Causes, which are actually most common in today’s world.

Causes of panic attacks can be small, not every panic attack is brought on by a huge occurrence. The general, most common causes tend to be situational such as phobias, large crowds, public speaking or tight spaces. Many sufferers fall into this category and feel anxious at these type of situations. This can be brought on from other occurrences in a persons life that completely destroys confidence. Those simple things that were once something you did on a regular basis, now seem like a iron wall that cannot be penetrated.

Another major cause of panic attacks and anxiety disorders can be genetic or a life changing occurrence that can link in with the cause in the paragraph above. This certain cause can bring on panic attacks in a previous non sufferer. For example, a lost loved one, breakdown in marriage or job redundancy can result in panic attacks. So while they can be controlled and cured, they can also spring on at a moments notice.

The use of stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or drug abuse can also cause anxiety disorders that lead to panic attacks. Again, this is happening in once non sufferers of panic attacks meaning anxiety and panic disorders are becoming more widespread on a daily basis.

These are just a few of the most common Panic Attacks Causes that are currently effecting so many of us in today’s society. The added pressures of our daily lifestyle and with the added effects of everyday personal problems, it does become more apparent that panic attacks and anxiety disorders are becoming more common throughout the world. If left untreated, can also grow and drive well out of control!

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Anxiety Attacks – What Do They Feel Like?

Anxiety attacks, or panic attacks, are episodes of intense panic or fear, which occur for no apparent reason. Anxiety attacks can occur suddenly and without warning – when this happens the sufferer generally experiences a feeling that their life is about to end. Sometimes, there is an obvious circumstance that causes the attack, like having to drive in heavy traffic or getting stuck in an elevator, but often times there is an unknown “trigger” that causes it.

An anxiety attack generally lasts for a few minutes, but can go on for as long as thirty minutes for some people, depending on how severe it is and how they cope with it. Many anxiety sufferers can feel one coming on, with a strange sense of nervousness just before one occurs. During an anxiety attack, a person feels such an intense fear that they often feel as if they will die of a heart attack or from not breathing. Many feel terrified that they will lose control in front of other people – worst yet endanger others if they are at work or driving a car. The physical symptoms of an anxiety attack seem so severe that the person experiencing it loses touch with reality and focuses on their heart pounding in their chest, their rapid breathing and their sudden urge to vomit or faint. The anxiety attack will most often peak at ten minutes into the state of panic and it can be especially frightening to be in public, where there is no safety or place to escape, when it occurs.

So what does an anxiety attack feel like? Here are the most common symptoms associated with a full-on anxiety attack:

  • Heart palpitations or chest pain / tightness
  • Trouble breathing or hyperventilation
  • Sweating excessively
  • Trembling or shaking uncontrollably
  • Feeling that you will pass out or fall
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Feelings of being detached or surreal
  • Nausea, “butterflies” or stomach cramps
  • Feeling that you are losing control or going mad

This only begins to explain the sheer terror that someone feels when he or she experiences an anxiety attack. The worst feeling for most adults is being in a place where there is no room to escape to a safety zone when experiencing an anxiety attack. This can happen in public places, elevators, cars, the office, stores or anywhere else so the anxiety sufferer often avoids these places at all costs – causing them a significant loss of normal lifestyle.

It’s no wonder that depression is most often associated with anxiety attacks. This often follows when the anxiety sufferer avoids normal life and stays home for days at a time, not coming into contact with others or enjoying social interactions for fear of having another “fit” in front of their peers, or worse yet, strangers.

Another problem associated with anxiety sufferers are those who attempt to self-medicate themselves. This can cause symptoms to become even worse and so this type of behavior should be avoided at all costs. Instead, anxiety sufferers may want to consider using natural alternatives like aromatherapy or herbal supplements to help keep the nerves calm and reduce the chances of having another attack. Or they can seek counseling from a psycho-therapist who has experience with anxiety attacks and methods to treat them.

If you are reading this, chances are either you or someone you care about experiences anxiety attacks. It’s important to note that there are many excellent ways to treat this problem and eliminate anxiety attacks for good.

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