Breathing for Stress Relief

An illustrated menu of breathing options from the NYT:

Consciously changing the way you breathe appears to send a signal to the brain to adjust the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, which can slow heart rate and digestion and promote feelings of calm as well as the sympathetic system, which controls the release of stress hormones like cortisol.

Many maladies, such as anxiety and depression, are aggravated or triggered by stress. “I have seen patients transformed by adopting regular breathing practices.”

Resolutions for the New Year

One way to reduce anxiety is to look at the big picture. What’s giving you trouble? (Relationships, work, family, old habits, old attitudes…) What power, if any, do you have to change those things? One way that therapy can often help is by questioning long-held beliefs about what can and can’t be changed. You can ask those questions of  yourself when completing this New Year’s Resolution Worksheet. The worksheet’s just a few pages long, but can be really useful in helping you focus on things you wish were different in your life and the steps it may take to make changes happen. Give it a try. Let us know how it goes!

Wishing you a great, less-anxious 2017!


Managing Anxiety–Some Tips

Have you been finding yourself worrying more than usual? You’re not alone. Here’s a good list–ways to help manage anxiety from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

  • Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
  • Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
  • Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
  • Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health. Check out the fitness tips below.
  • Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
  • Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
  • Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of however close you get.
  • Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
  • Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
  • Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
  • Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.

Happiness Anxiety

america-the-anxiousA new book looks at Americans’ pursuit of happiness and discovers a source of anxiety (NYT review):

The problem with our quest for happiness is that, apparently, it’s making us miserable. After some idle Googling, her suspicions are confirmed. Various clever studies by psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, show that “paradoxically, the more people valued and were encouraged to value happiness as a separate life goal, the less happy they were.” When it comes to emotional temperament, America is the clumsy suitor of nations. We yearn and obsess and plot new elaborate strategies as the object of our desire shrinks ever farther away.

Yoga vs. GAD


This “study” (with only three subjects!) indicates yoga may help with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. It’s not the first. You can run your own one-person study if you are struggling with GAD. Try some yoga and see what result you get. Might help!

Anxious and Proud

We need anxiety. (We just don’t need too much anxiety.)

Along with the very useful emotion of fear, anxiety has been “largely responsible for the survival of the species,” he says. Sensing future dangers and figuring out what to do about them is hugely valuable, survival-wise. The clan with no one worrying about fermenting enough fish for winter was the one that didn’t make it to spring. “People will accomplish more, perform better, will act in more appropriate and fruitful ways for having been anxious”….


Sleep with Me


Having trouble sleeping? You’re not alone. Here’s an essay from Pagan Kennedy about her insomnia and efforts to overcome it. One possibly valuable tip: tune in to tune out. Listening to something diverting but not terribly interesting can help you let go of being awake. The Sleep with Me Podcast fits the bill, because that’s what it’s designed for. It’s “the podcast that puts you to sleep. A lulling, droning, boring bedtime story to distract your racing mind.”

See what you think. Sweet dreams!

Anxiety and Gender

worry and kangaroo

The NYT asks, why do girls have more anxiety than boys?

It may start with how they feel about how they look. Some research has shown that in adolescence, girls tend to become more dissatisfied with their bodies, whereas boys tend to become more satisfied with their bodies. Another factor has to do with differences in how girls and boys use social media. A girl is much more likely than a boy to post a photo of herself wearing a swimsuit, while the boy is more likely to post a photo where the emphasis is on something he has done rather than on how he looks. If you don’t like Jake’s selfie showing off his big trophy, he may not care. But if you don’t like Sonya’s photo of herself wearing her bikini, she’s more likely to take it personally.

More maybes in the article.

Friends and Mental Health


Many–forty percent–who have experienced serious depression recover completely, says a new study. What helps? One trusted friend:

Social support was a major factor associated with complete mental health. “Formerly depressed adults who had emotionally supportive and close relationships were four times more likely to report complete mental health than those without such relationships. Having at least one trusted friend was critical to cultivating complete mental health.”

Crowds Decrease Anxiety?

From the “not for everyone” department: Anxiety-Prone May Relax Better in a Busy Environment (PsychCentral).

Provocative new research suggest a one-size fits all strategy to wind-down or reduce anxiety/stress is probably not the right approach.

For some, the best way to relax after a difficult day at work is to go for a walk or hike in nature. However, this may not be an effective strategy for everyone as a new study found evidence that people who are more prone to anxiety should instead take a walk in a busy, urban environment.

If that’s you, you probably already know it. Enjoy that crowd!