Sunday, September 9, 2018

Coping with Anxiety and Stress: Information, Tips and Resources - Part 1

Introduction

Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health issue in society for people of all ages. It can become life-limiting and debilitating for some people. Stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand. All of us experience stress, which can lead to anxiety. We must learn to take steps to manage both our stress, but also anxiety. 

The good news is that there are many things we can do to improve our coping with anxiety and stress. The challenging thing is we have to realize we have to take action to change over how we approach life to get to a place where we can manage our anxiety and stress in more effective ways. Once we do, this becomes self-reinforcing and we know we have our own personal 'tool kit' we can choose different coping tools when we need them. 

Top 12 Anxiety & Stress Busters

1. Sleep - Improve your sleep routine, what professionals call 'sleep hygiene', to ensure you're getting as much quality sleep as you can. This involves creating a calming and grounding bedtime routine, creating a regular bedtime, and planning to get enough sleep hours in. 

2. Exercise - Anything we do to get our bodies moving is going to help burn off the stress hormones involved in driving anxiety. Walking, yoga, a gym workout, cycling, Zumba, whatever gets your blood circulating is good for reducing stress and anxiety. 

3. Mindfulness and other forms of meditation
 - This can be as simple as sitting quietly and doing some slow, deep breathing. Count to 5 while breathing in through your nose. Hold your breath for 3 counts. Slowly release your breath through your mouth to the count of 5. Do this cycle 3 times and you should feel a little more calm. See Part 2 of this series for some media resources to help. 

4. Spend time in nature - Go for a nice walk at a local park, the beach, in the forest, or hike a mountain. Listen to the wind rustling in the trees, the birds singing, feel the breeze and sun on your face. Gardening is my favourite stress reliever, soul soother, and hobby. 

5. Create structure, routine and organization in your life
 - To improve feelings of competence, predictability, and feel like you have things more under control, create structure by doing things like creating systems at home, or work (things to do lists, or memos in your phone); use your calendar and schedule notifications for deadlines. 

6. Positive self-talk - We all have an inner dialogue, become more aware of the messages you send yourself and become your own cheerleader, tell yourself "I've got this," "I'll be okay," "I'm safe," "Take a breath," or "I can do this." 

7. Body work - Massage therapy, reflexology, acupuncture, reiki, or other types of energy healing massage, or body work. 

8. 'Feel Good' Activities - Many of us feel good when we engage in activities that make us feel nurtured, taken care of, and satisfied. Take yourself out on a date for a great meal; go for a 'mani-pedi' (yes, guys can do this too); have a spa day; go to a place that nurtures your soul: art gallery, a local attraction; or get out of your town for a day trip, or a few days away somewhere you've wanted to visit. 

9. Spend time with supportive, caring people - This can be family, friends, or people we share activities and interests with. Social connection and engagement is a well established technique to get us out of our own heads and boosting our life satisfaction. 

10. Use media to distract - Listening to a great music playlist, listening to podcasts, watching videos, music, or any content that helps you shift from the stressed, anxious self to a calmer, more grounded self is a good thing. 

11. Create structure, order, routines, and calm in your home environment
 - When we are living with heightened stress and anxiety we need a calm space to come home to, a place we can relax, let our guard down, rest, and re-charge. 
Schedule routine, or seasonal chores to keep on top of things at home. Hire someone to help you with the cleaning, decluttering, or getting more organized if need be. 

12. Create realistic, future-focused goals - Small, or large goals give us something to focus on and work toward. Do you want to go on a local, or international trip? Start reading about your destination, look at accommodations, and places to see, or dine at. Do you have an interest, or hobby you want to explore? Take small steps to learn more about it, or find out if there is a local community for that interest. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Grief, Loss and Bereavement: Resources and Article

Resources

BC Bereavement Helpline - Toll-free: 1-877-779-2223; Metro Vancouver: 604-738-9950

  • Provides support groups, events, information and resources.

Web:  http://www.bcbereavementhelpline.com/

Living Through Loss Society 

  • Individual and group counselling, training, and resources. 

Web: https://livingthroughloss.ca/

GRASP - Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing

  • Community of family members and others who have lost a loved one to substance use. Information for coping, resources, recommended books and materials. 

Web: http://grasphelp.org/

Article

Understanding Grief
Brody, J. E. (2018). New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/15/well/live/understanding-grief.html

Although many of us are able to speak frankly about death, we still have a lot to learn about dealing wisely with its aftermath: grief, the natural reaction to loss of a loved one.
Relatively few of us know what to say or do that can be truly helpful to a relative, friend or acquaintance who is grieving. In fact, relatively few who have suffered a painful loss know how to be most helpful to themselves.
Two new books by psychotherapists who have worked extensively in the field of loss and grief are replete with stories and guidance that can help both those in mourning and the people they encounter avoid many of the common pitfalls and misunderstandings associated with grief. Both books attempt to correct false assumptions about how and how long grief might be experienced.
One book, “It’s OK That You’re Not OK,” by Megan Devine of Portland, Ore., has the telling subtitle “Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand.” It grew out of the tragic loss of her beloved partner, who drowned at age 39 while the couple was on vacation. The other book, especially illuminating in its coverage of how people cope with different kinds of losses, is “Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving,” by Julia Samuel, who works with bereaved families both in private practice and at England’s National Health Service, at St. Mary’s hospital, Paddington.
The books share a most telling message: As Ms. Samuel put it, “There is no right or wrong in grief; we need to accept whatever form it takes, both in ourselves and in others.” Recognizing loss as a universal experience, Ms. Devine hopes that “if we can start to understand the true nature of grief, we can have a more helpful, loving, supportive culture.”
Both authors emphasize that grief is not a problem to be solved or resolved. Rather, it’s a process to be tended and lived through in whatever form and however long it may take.
“The process cannot be hurried by friends and family,” however well meaning their desire to relieve the griever’s anguish, Ms. Samuel wrote. “Recovery and adjustment can take much longer than most people realize. We need to accept whatever form it takes, both in ourselves and in others.”
We can all benefit from learning how to respond to grief in ways that don’t prolong, intensify or dismiss the pain. Likewise, those trying to help need to know that grief cannot be fit into a preordained time frame or form of expression. Too often people who experience a loss are disparaged because their mourning persists longer than others think reasonable or because they remain self-contained and seem not to mourn at all.
I imagine, for example, that some adults thought my stoical response to my mother’s premature death when I was 16 was “unnatural.” In truth, after tending to her for a year as she suffered through an unstoppable cancer, her death was a relief. It took a year for me to shed my armor and openly mourn the incalculable loss. But 60 years later, I still treasure her most important legacy: To live each day as if it could be my last but with an eye 
Both authors emphasize that grief is not a problem to be solved or resolved. Rather, it’s a process to be tended and lived through in whatever form and however long it may take.
“The process cannot be hurried by friends and family,” however well meaning their desire to relieve the griever’s anguish, Ms. Samuel wrote. “Recovery and adjustment can take much longer than most people realize. We need to accept whatever form it takes, both in ourselves and in others.”
We can all benefit from learning how to respond to grief in ways that don’t prolong, intensify or dismiss the pain. Likewise, those trying to help need to know that grief cannot be fit into a preordained time frame or form of expression. Too often people who experience a loss are disparaged because their mourning persists longer than others think reasonable or because they remain self-contained and seem not to mourn at all.
I imagine, for example, that some adults thought my stoical response to my mother’s premature death when I was 16 was “unnatural.” In truth, after tending to her for a year as she suffered through an unstoppable cancer, her death was a relief. It took a year for me to shed my armor and openly mourn the incalculable loss. But 60 years later, I still treasure her most important legacy: To live each day as if it could be my last but with an eye 
Just as we all love others in our own unique ways, so do we mourn their loss in ways that cannot be fit into a single mold or even a dozen different molds. Last month, James G. Robinson, director of global analytics for The New York Times, described a 37-day, 6,150-mile therapeutic road trip he took with his family following the death of his 5-year-old son, collecting commemorative objects along the way and giving each member of the family a chance to express anger and sadness about the untimely loss.
Ms. Devine maintains that most grief support offered by professionals and others takes the wrong approach by encouraging mourners to move through the pain. While family and friends naturally want you to feel better, “pain that is not allowed to be spoken or expressed turns in on itself, and creates more problems,” she wrote. “Unacknowledged and unheard pain doesn’t go away. The way to survive grief is by allowing pain to exist, not in trying to cover it up or rush through it.”
As a bereaved mother told Ms. Samuel, “You never ‘get over it,’ you ‘get on with it,’ and you never ‘move on,’ but you ‘move forward.’”
Ms. Devine agrees that being “encouraged to ‘get over it’ is one of the biggest causes of suffering inside grief.” Rather than trying to “cure” pain, the goal should be to minimize suffering, which she said “comes when we feel dismissed or unsupported in our pain, with being told there is something wrong with what you feel.”
She explains that pain cannot be “fixed,” that companionship, not correction, is the best way to deal with grief. She encourages those who want to be helpful to “bear witness,” to offer friendship without probing questions or unsolicited advice, help if it is needed and wanted, and a listening ear no matter how often mourners wish to tell their story.
To those who grieve, she suggests finding a nondestructive way to express it. “If you can’t tell your story to another human, find another way: journal, paint, make your grief into a graphic novel with a very dark story line. Or go out to the woods and tell the trees.  It is an immense relief to be able to tell your story without someone trying to fix it.”
She also suggests keeping a journal that records situations that either intensify or relieve suffering. “Are there times you feel more stable, more grounded, more able to breathe inside your loss? Does anything — a person, a place, an activity — add to your energy bank account? Conversely, are there activities or environments that absolutely make things worse?”
Whenever possible, to decrease suffering choose to engage in things that help and avoid those that don’t.
A version of this article appears in print on January 16, 2018, on Page D5 of the New York edition with the headline: Understanding Grief, and Living Through It. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe