Dealing with Stress and Anxiety

Feelings of stress and anxiety are predominantly influenced by the bio chemicals adrenaline and norepinephrine. The chemicals come into the play during situations the brain perceives as dangerous, activating a fight or flight response. The problem is that most times people experience stress and anxiety are related to situations that are not life threatening. The fight or flight response system is perfect for life threatening situations, such as a house fire, or narrowly avoiding a car accident. However, the fight or fight response system is grossly ineffective for inconveniences such as the possibility of job loss or an ongoing feud with a neighbor whom you perceive as aggressive.

When the fight or flight response system is employed for non-life-threatening situations, the bio chemicals involved remain in the system for longer than necessary and begin to cause health issues in the person who is experiencing prolonged stress and anxiety. A common unwanted effect of prolonged stress and anxiety is a compromised immune system, which leaves the sufferer susceptible to a wide range of illnesses.

With this being written, there are three strategies to effectively cope with and move past issues with stress and anxiety. These strategies are as follows.

Control your thoughts.

The space between what you think and how you choose to behave, lies your feelings. Therefore, all feelings are influenced by your thoughts. What you think produces a spectrum of positive or negative feelings to the degree that things are going your way or otherwise. Your thinking influences your perception of everyday events, which include your perception of your ability to get your basic and psychology needs met, regardless of the challenge. This in turn influences your overall sense of confidence and subsequently your behavior. To control your thoughts means that you should begin practicing positive and reality-based thinking. So even when things are not going your way, your positive thoughts will help you in practicing resiliency through challenges and in resisting the temptation in resorting to old negative thoughts.

Recognize your triggers

Once you begin practicing strategies for positive thinking, you need to become aware of people, places and things that trigger your old negative thoughts. After all your brain is still wired to think this way, and it usually takes about 30 consecutive days of practicing the new thoughts, for you to develop significant resiliency to the old ways of thinking. Once you have successfully identified people, places and things which trigger your old ways of thinking, and subsequently behaving, you have two options. Your first option is to avoid these identified triggers. In most cases this isn’t feasible, this leads to option number two, which is to change your thoughts on how you perceive these identified triggers. Ideally, it is best to exercise both options, if possible.

Create your new reality

This is synonymous with controlling your thoughts, in fact it is the same thing, but taken to another level. To create your new reality, is to identify what types of people, places and things you would ideally engage with. The next step will be to identify the pragmatic steps towards making your ideal situation a reality. This is the most powerful step in the process of dealing with stress and anxiety and the most challenging. Because in the process of identifying the types of people, places and things you prefer to be surrounded by, you are now tasked with the difficult step in orienting yourself towards becoming more compatible with your ideal reality. So yes, this involves the process of picking up where you last left off in changing yourself for the better.

All these steps are possible, and they involve commitment towards practicing the necessary cognitive behavioral strategies towards dealing with and moving past issues with stress and anxiety.

Ugo Uche is a psychotherapist with Road 2 Resolutions.

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How to Deal with Stress

The most common cause for stress I witness as a therapist is a refusal to adopt to change. Stress itself is not bad. We experience stress when we experience a heightened sense of arousal in response to negative experiences our brains have interpreted as worrisome or a potential threat.

For example, if you are experiencing a bad relationship with a supervisor at work, it is perfectly natural for you to experience stress, in response to your brain seeing this as a potential threat. After all, your supervisor is responsible for rating your performance on the job and in most cases a deciding factor for how long you keep your job. If you are in a position where your job is a sole source of income it is understandable that you may feel threatened if you suspect that your supervisor is not happy with you. If you lose your job, your ability to sustain yourself in regards to your basic needs will become inconvenienced until you find another job.

So what if you find yourself in this position? What do you do? Most people in this position would approach their supervisors and attempt to find out how to remedy the situation. I have counseled with people who have taken this route, only to continue to experience the same negative encounters with their supervisors.

In most cases like these I have dealt with, once the person runs out of options he or she continues to go through a sequence of activities they have traditionally done. Show up for work on time, remain courteous, to co workers and supervisors, address official issues with the supervisor all the while experiencing an emotional breakdown on the inside. In a few cases the person would have made an attempt to find a new job, but after one or two rejection letters they usually give up on this route. All the while, the primary stress-or he or she is experiencing continues unabated.

This post is not meant to discuss work issues per se, it is meant to address why some people deal so poorly with stress. The primary reason? Our beliefs. What we come to believe plays a primary role in how we deal with stress. Our beliefs are like doors to other realities, one belief can open your life up to multiple opportunities, while others can lead to dead ends. So if I were to use the example of an employee experiencing being emotionally stuck as a result of all his strategies to end the problems with his supervisor not working, I would say that the employee is operating on a set of limiting beliefs.

On the surface that belief could be that the current employment he has is the best he can do, and there are no more opportunities out there for him. When people make these statements with me, I dig deeper to learn if this is really what they believe, then the belief changes to people are just refusing to hire. Upon further investigation, once the person comes to realize how irrational this belief is, he later comes to the conclusion that he holds unto the belief that he should not suffer, which has lead him towards playing by a rigid set of rules in his work life and thus, his current situation.

So yes, I am writing in this post, that the common cause for stress is the belief that suffering is intolerable, and therefore should be avoided as often possible. When we come to believe this, we run into dead ends, in our professional and personal relationships. We avoid change because we want to avoid suffering.

Suffering is inevitable, I have found that when clients come to accept and make peace with this fact, they come up with surprisingly simply solutions to the problems they experience.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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Can Sleep be Used to Erase Fears?

Jay Gottfried a senior researcher for this study on sleep and the memories of fear, is quoted for saying to the extent, that we form memories more strongly during sleep. The study by Gottfried and his associates had to do with getting subjects to unlearn fears during their sleep. First, using by conditioning, they paired two pictures of faces with painful electric shocks to volunteers, (seriously who volunteers for this?). During the experiment, certain odors also accompanied the faces seen, while receiving electric shocks.

 

Then they later introduced the subjects to the faces which they had seen while been shocked. Gottfried and associates noted that the subjects experienced fear upon seeing these faces, which were measured through sweat and other physiological responses. The next stage of the experiment involved getting the subject to unlearn their fear of at least one of the faces. This was done by introducing subjects to the specific odors during deep sleep, they had been introduced to while seeing faces paired with the odors and receiving electric shocks.

 

The result, subjects stopped eliciting physiological fear responses to certain faces, whose paired odor they had smelled in their sleep. They also had no memory of being reintroduced to the odors in their sleep. So if a face of Denzel Washington was paired with a lemon scent while receiving electric shocks, then being introduced to a lemon scent in deep sleep without electric shocks, led to the brain learning to no longer fear Denzel Washington’s face.

 

I have written before about how sleep promotes learning, and I even have some cognitive strategies which  I have  introduced to clients to practice fifteen minutes before bed time so as to increase the likelihood of their learning the strategies in their sleep to get them past specific issues. I will be introducing this strategy to readers in my coming ebook on how to end panic attacks.

 

So the idea that sleep can be used to unlearn fears is a phenomenon that I have believed in for some time. However for sufferers of panic attacks, what type of fear needs to be unlearned? In a previous post in which I debunked two common myths of panic attacks, I spoke about how panic attacks are related to ongoing small traumas,  we have become conditioned to create for ourselves.

An example would be growing up with an abusive parent and finding yourself in an abusive relationship as an adult. While the idea of being with an abusive partner may not be sufficient to provoke a panic attack, the idea of being unloved or unlovable certainly is.

The proposed point is this, perhaps panic attacks are triggered by the perception of never ending suffering?

 

So in the absence of an understanding of what triggers a person’s panic attack, a simple fear to work on are the reoccurring panic attacks themselves. Think about it, how much of a relief would it be to a panic attack sufferer to be able to experience panic attacks without fear?

Out of curiosity, for those who struggle with panic attacks, what type of fears do you relate to your panic episodes?

 

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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Why Less Equals More In Overcoming Stress

What do you do when you are stressed and in a crisis? The best stories I have heard  when people are in a crisis, are people who choose to collect themselves emotionally before taking decisive steps, rather than being reactive. So why does less equals more in overcoming stress?

One of the worst things we can do in response to stress is to be reactive, because in a state of constant motion, we are most likely to experience cognitive fatigue which leads to a poor thinking and performance in  whatever we are doing.

For example, be it anger management, anxiety or full blown panic attacks, my confidence in a client’s ability to heal increases when that client buys in to the counter intuitive approach of practicing getting plenty or rest and calm, so as to cease being reactive to his or her experiences with stress. Once the reactive habits have stopped, my prognosis for the client increases ten fold.

This is why rest is important, and also why most people find themselves most productive in the morning after a good night’s sleep. In the video below, I further explain the counterintuitive approach about why less equals more in overcoming stress.

 

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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