2020 has been something, huh? Because of all of the things, we are thrilled to be sharing this guest post from Bernadette Pleasant, the founder of The Emotional Institute, an online resource and educational center that offers courses, workshops, and interactive experiences that provide pathways to cultivate emotional wellbeing and gain insights that bring about a balanced mind/body connection. Bernadette has spent a lifetime exploring celebrations of the mind and body, from sensual dance to somatic healing. As a woman of color who comes from an esteemed tradition of natural healers, she is recognized as a leader in the mind-body…
The post This Ritual Will Help You Deal With the Stress of 2020 appeared first on Fit Bottomed Girls.
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Raise your hand if you’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed. Aside from the fact that being in the middle of a pandemic makes everything more stressful, you’ve got work obligations and family commitments, then there are food choices to make, at-home workouts you think you should be doing, and non-stretchy pants you’re feeling bad for not fitting into.
It’s a lot. I get it, and it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed. That said, staying in a state of overwhelm is a choice.
Yep, you heard me, it’s a choice. And if you’re ready to get out of the seemingly relentless spin cycle of life (and the tight chest and racing mind that come with it), stick around. I’ll be unpacking the real reason you get overwhelmed — spoiler alert, it’s not because your to-do list is too long — plus, four things you can do to change it.
Why Do I Get Overwhelmed?
I’ll give you an example from my own life. As a health coach, I’ll often hear my clients say that they just can’t do it. They can’t swap out their toast and cereal for breakfast. They can’t make time to get outside. They can’t get to bed earlier. They can’t…fill in the blank.
In my opinion, “I can’t” statements reflect limiting beliefs. They aren’t real; they’re just stories we tell ourselves, and identities we accidentally end up identifying with. It’s not that you can’t, it’s that something is holding you back. I find that most of the time, when I dig a little deeper, that thing is fear.
Types of Fear That Cause Overwhelm:
- Fear you won’t be able to handle it
- Fear of getting it wrong
- Fear you won’t get it done (on time)
- Fear that you’ll be judged
- Fear of the consequences
- Fear of not being in control
- Fear of being embarrassed
- Fear that you don’t really deserve it
Whether you’re experiencing worry, stress, or complete overwhelm, fear is usually at the helm, just FYI. But the goal here isn’t to be fearless (there actually are some benefits to fear),https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2882379/‘>2 The stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol flood your system, preparing you to fight or flee. Not only that, the amygdala instantly shuts down the neural pathway to your prefrontal cortex which temporarily impairs all rational thinking, making you feel disorganized and out of control.https://www.marksdailyapple.com/deep-breathing/‘>5 It doesn’t matter what kind of breathing you do — box breathing, alternating nostril breathing, and diaphragmatic breathing all work. Just make sure that the method you choose is rhythmic, meaning that you breathe in and out for about the same amount of time. After a few minutes you’ll notice that your mind has slowed down and your energy is much calmer.
Try this: Here is a triangular breath exercise that I’ve created for my clients. Inhale through your nose, counting slowly to 6; hold for a count of 2 at the top; and exhale for a count of 8. Repeat for 1-3 minutes or until your mind feels calm again.
Check Your Stories
You know the limiting beliefs and thoughts that prevent you from achieving your goals? These are your stories. And I call them stories because they’re just not true. You may have picked them up from things you heard your parents say growing up or from an experience you went through. Maybe you decided along that you always drop the ball. Or that things always feel too big for you, and who were you to achieve big things anyway?! These narratives become a form of identity that not only reflects who we think we are, but also what we think is possible for us.
Try this: Next time you catch yourself doubting your greatness, turn it on its ear. Instead of saying, “I don’t think I can stick to a new way of eating” try “I am fully capable of doing new things.”
Take the Stairstep Approach
When I work with new clients, they often feel overwhelmed by all the things they think they have to do. There’s cleaning out the cabinets, figuring out which brands are canola-free, learning how to make their own bone broth/kombucha/beet kvass… This is about the time I sneak in my stair-stepping approach. This technique is awesome because it breaks the journey down into smaller steps, which is less intimidating than trying to leap to the end in a single bound.
Try this: On a piece of paper, literally draw a staircase. Identify the bottom step (this is where you are now) and then identify the top step (this is where you want to go). Figure out the very first thing you need to do to get to the next step, then do that thing! The rest of the steps will reveal themselves as you go.
Just because you can do all the things, doesn’t mean you need to. A lot of times we get overwhelmed simply because we put too much on our plates. Just like there’s no gold medal for getting more done, there’s no punishment for doing less. Your worthiness has nothing to do with how much you accomplish or don’t accomplish. That being said, there’s also no shame in delegating out tasks and responsibilities.
Try this: Think about what areas of your life could use some assistance. Can your spouse cook up a healthy dinner tonight? Can your kids help you sort through Primal recipes? Make a list of the tasks you want to dole out and if you need help getting more comfortable with asking for help, read this.
Go From “I Can’t” to “I Got This”
Life can be overwhelming, even when you’re not in the middle of a pandemic. But by paying attention to your triggers, your stories, and your breath, you can restore your ability to think, to listen, and move forward. It does take practice, but eventually you can train yourself to respond rather than react. Follow these four steps and see how it works for you:
- Check your Stories
- Take the Stairstep Approach
How do you manage overwhelm? What tactics do you use to move through it or avoid it all together?
The post What it Really Means When You’re Overwhelmed (and 4 Ways to Move Past It) appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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I belong to a ladies’ trail running community online. These women are cool, badass humans who perform amazing feats with their bodies. Last month, someone asked the group if they ever struggle with body image. The responses were overwhelmingly affirmative. Hundreds upon hundreds of women responded, “Yes! Me. Every single day.” Only a very few said no.
It was eye-opening and also woefully unsurprising. Most adults I know struggle with body image on some level.
Those of us who are parents would love to spare our children from this emotional baggage, but how do we help our kids develop healthy body image in today’s world? We’re up against massive biological and, especially, social forces. Humans are hardwired to see — and judge — faces and bodies, looking for signs of friendliness, similarity, and fertility. Our early survival as a species depended on it.
The modern diet and beauty industries have taken these natural propensities and exploited them to the nth degree. They bombard us with messaging, both subtle and overt, telling us we must do everything in our power to be as physically attractive as possible. No amount of time or money is too much to invest in the quest for beauty and the “perfect” physique. Oh, and definitely don’t show any signs of aging. The wrinkles, gray hair, and natural softening of the body that comes with growing older? Not allowed! Obviously, if you fail to live up to the ever-changing ideal, it is 100 percent your fault.
Short of moving to the woods and disconnecting from society entirely, we can’t keep our kids from being exposed. Our best hope is to help them develop a healthy body image early. Give them a strong foundation so when they inevitably get caught up in Hurricane Diet Culture, they may waver, but they’ll stay standing.
The strategy is two-fold: First, do your best not to repeat and perpetuate the culture that creates insecurity and negative body image. Second, teach kids to trust, respect, and appreciate their bodies regardless of appearance.
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What is a Healthy Body Image, Anyway?
If you had asked me this a couple years ago, I would have said it’s feeling attractive in your own skin. You should love your body and feel confident no matter what you look like because all bodies are beautiful.
My thinking has changed, though. Now I think a healthy body image means seeing your body as worthy of care and respect — especially self-care and self-respect — period. Instead of focusing on self-love and feeling attractive, I hope my children respect their bodies, want to be good stewards of their health, and anchor their self-worth and self-esteem in factors other than physical appearance.
This isn’t the definitive definition of healthy body image. It’s what we strive for in our family. I don’t pretend that society doesn’t care about appearance, nor tell them that they shouldn’t care either. That would be impossible. Rather, I want them to know that their appearance is only one of many of their qualities, by far not the most interesting or important one, and certainly not the one that determines their value as a person.
9 Ways to Support Healthy Body Image in Kids
I’ll tell you up front: you probably do some of these things “wrong” right now. That’s natural. As parents, we try to bolster our children’s self-esteem. As Primal enthusiasts, we want to teach them about nutrition and building healthy bodies. Our natural inclinations will sometimes lead us afoul of the recommendations below, which come from childhood body image and eating disorder experts.
1. Cut The Negative Body Talk
Negative body talk is when you disparage your own or someone else’s body. It should go without saying that if you want your child to have a healthy body image, don’t criticize their body. That’s the bare minimum. You also have to watch how you talk about other people’s bodies, including your own.
Kids are always listening and internalizing. Negative body talk communicates to them explicitly or implicitly that some bodies are better. They naturally start to see themselves as objects of judgment and wonder whether their bodies are good enough.
“Ugh, I look so gross today.”
“Wow, that person should really avoid spandex, yikes.”
“That skirt is cute, but I can’t wear it with these thighs.”
“I have to put on makeup before this Zoom so I look presentable. Nobody wants to see these eye bags.”
Negative body talk usually comes from a place of insecurity and judgment. It’s also extremely common. Women especially learn that this is a safe way to communicate with female friends.” No dessert for me. I feel so fat today.” “You?! You look amazing. Look at me!” Once you start to tune into it, you realize just how pervasive it is.
Before commenting on your own or someone else’s body, ask yourself: “What is the underlying message I’m sending my kid with this statement? Could it cause them to feel insecure about their own body?” If yes, keep it to yourself.
2. Compliment Your Child on Features Other Than Appearance
Compliments like, “You’re so cute!” or “Don’t you look beautiful in that dress?” are undoubtedly well-meaning. The problem is, they also reinforce to kids that when they are pretty or handsome, that pleases the adults in their life. Being pretty must be important. If they aren’t pretty or handsome, is that displeasing then?
Of course we think our kids are adorable, but kids don’t need to know they are cute. They need to know they are valued and loved. Try these instead:
“Thank you for singing me that silly song. It made my heart happy!”
“You’ve been working so hard on your guitar lessons. You’re really dedicated, that’s awesome.”
“I love how sparkly your dress is! I can’t wait for you to come home and tell me all about the dance.”
This also applies when you’re talking about other people. Instead of, “Your friend Lily is so pretty,” go with “I love to listen to Lily laugh,” or “Lily is such a kind friend.”
3. Focus on What Their Body Does Rather than What It Looks Like
Bodies are made for function, not for decoration. Not all bodies have the same abilities or chronic health issues, of course, but every body is still miraculous. The fact that synapses fire and hearts beat is amazing. Our bodies are basically sacks of meat and fluid that allow us to move through time and space — wild!
Help your child celebrate the wondrous things their body does that have nothing to do with how it looks. “I can tell that your soccer drills are helping you dribble with more precision.” “Isn’t climbing trees fun? You pulled yourself up so quickly!”
4. Speak Respectfully about Your Own Body
Your body is every bit as wondrous as your child’s, but what do they hear you say about it? Most of us rarely speak positively about our bodies, lest we seem conceited. More to the point, we may find it difficult to find nice things to say about ourselves. It’s bad for our children’s body image, and it’s bad for ours.
Kids need to see that it’s ok to talk kindly about their bodies. Just as importantly, it’s possible to be neutral and not judge at all. “Flaws” are just features that don’t have to carry a bunch of emotional weight. If your kids are like mine, they will give you plenty of openings to model speaking respectfully about your body.
“Why is your tummy squishy?” “Tummies come in lots of shapes. This is mine.”
“What are those scars on your legs?” “Those are stretch marks from when my body grew when I was growing you inside me. I like that they remind me of that special time.”
“Your arms are flabby.” “I think my arms are perfect for hugging, thank you very much.”
You can also turn their comments around and ask questions like, “What do you like to do best with your arms?”
5. Banish Diet and Weight-Loss Talk
Your kids will get plenty of exposure to weight-loss and diet culture outside the home. They don’t need to know if you’re trying to lose weight. It’s a slippery slope into making them self-conscious about their own bodies.
The corollary to this is you should avoid labeling some foods as “fattening” or even as “bad.” In fact, avoid attaching good/bad labels to food altogether. This can be especially tricky for us Primal folks who have specific beliefs about what constitutes a healthy way of eating. Lead by example with your food choices. When they inevitably ask why you don’t eat bread or whatever, focus on the pros of the foods you do choose rather than demonizing the foods you avoid.
You can say things like, “Bread isn’t working for me right now. I feel like I have the energy to do more fun things when I have lots colorful vegetables instead!”
You don’t have to pretend all foods are equally nutritious, nor let food be a free-for-all in your house. The goal is to avoid moralizing and creating shame or guilt around food choices. Young kids won’t understand the concept of protein, fats, and carbs, but you can encourage them to eat a rainbow of foods to get lots of different building blocks. With older kids, gently introduce the concept that some foods can help them feel better and have more energy without condemning “junk foods.”
6. Celebrate Body Diversity
If everybody ate the same foods and did the same exercises, our bodies would still look different. Some people are tall, short, thin, fat, lean, muscly, blond, brunette. Children will always notice these differences, of course, so teach them to notice without judgment. Human diversity is a part of the awe-inspiring diversity of nature.
As they grow, your child will start to realize that their bodies are different from their friends’. Help them appreciate that, even — especially — when they are feeling insecure. “Yes, Max is taller than you, that’s true. I wonder how tall you’ll both be as adults. It’s interesting how some people are tall, while others are short. Everyone gets to see the world a little differently!”
7. Encourage Them to Move for Pleasure
The purpose of exercise needn’t be losing weight, burning calories, “earning” food, or punishing ourselves for something we already ate. Workouts build muscles, speed, or agility. Play engages body and mind, relieves stress, and offers fun and pleasure. Movement of all types feels good and provides energy. That’s why we should be moving our bodies as much as possible. Sometimes even we grown-ups forget that.
Some kids are naturally more active than others. If you have a kiddo who’d happily sit and read for 14 hours while their sibling plays in the pool, don’t make it a battle of wills. Lead by example, modeling everyday movement. Plan active family outings. Better yet, ask them to help you plan activities that they’ll enjoy and which the whole family can do together.
8. Instill Body Trust and Autonomy
In order for your kids to have a healthy body image, they have to feel connected to their bodies. You can support this by teaching them to trust and respond to their bodies’ signals, and by allowing them, within reason, to make choices about their bodies.
This one’s hard because you have to cede some control to your kids: letting them eat when you think they should be full, skip a meal when they should be hungry, don shorts on a cold day, wear a shirt that is two sizes too small, or get a haircut that you think is truly wretched. Sometimes it may even mean letting them choose foods for themselves that you usually avoid.
Think of it as short term pain for long term gain on your part. It might irk the bejeezus out of you when they eat nothing but cheese for lunch for a week, but who’s it hurting really? Nobody who isn’t lactose intolerant.
9. Teach Media Literacy
How great would it be if we could wipe out all body insecurity by simply teaching kids that the images they see in the media are the work of glam squads, body shapers, and lots of photoshopping? Alas, it’s not that simple, but it’s still an important lesson as kids get older.
As they start to notice all the ads for weight-loss programs and laser resculpting, discuss how advertising exploits our insecurities to get us to spend money. Let them be offended by it. Good, maybe they won’t be so easily manipulated.
Guide them in limiting their exposure to media and accounts that make them feel “less than.” Talk to them about what they see and how it makes them feel.
Parenting from a Place of Love and Support Rather than Fear
Years ago, Mark wrote a post about the delicacy of talking to kids about weight. One commenter shared that the best thing their parents could have done would have been to talk to her about weight and health from a place of love instead of judgment and projecting their own fear.
Fear is understandable. We know that this world is not kind to fat people. Fat children commonly experience bullying.https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/weight-bias-in-the-workplace-a-literature-review-2329-6879-1000206.php?aid=55088‘>2 Weight stigma, including at the hands of medical professionals, leads to worse health outcomes for both kids and adults, which then gets attributed to the weight itself.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29171076‘>4 https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/helping-people-changing-lives-the-6-health-benefits-of-volunteering‘>1 Nothing we do as humans proves to be as fulfilling as lending a hand to someone else.
To test this theory, researchers had participants write either a supportive note to a friend or write about their route to school or work before undergoing a lab-based stress task.https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html‘>3 which refers to “a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors.” Which, in real language, means that when a person does a favor for someone they don’t like (or feels neutral about), it creates a mismatched feeling between their actions and their attitude. To avoid cognitive dissonance, your mind essentially makes you believe that you must really value this person in order to do such a nice thing for them. When you ask someone for help, it builds likeability and trust, and starts to form a bond between you and the other person.
On top of that, asking for help makes you stronger. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to unapologetically ask for help when you need it. While that might feel outside of your comfort zone right now, I can tell you from personal experience that growth happens when you start to get comfortable with a little discomfort. Any time you force yourself to do something outside your norm, you become a stronger person for it.
How to Get Better at Asking for Help
Honestly, most people underestimate how willing people are to help them. It could from a limiting belief they have from their past. Or maybe it’s the negative self-talk that creeps up now and then. Or perhaps you’ve had some less-than-awesome people in your life that literally weren’t able or willing to help you. Even if those scenarios ring true for you, it doesn’t mean you can’t get better at asking for the help you need. Keep in mind that these are for non-emergency situations. If you need immediate help, please reach out to a crisis hotline.
Here’s a quick look at different ways you can make asking for help easier. Hang tight, I’m going to unpack these strategies down below.
- Make small requests
- Ask people you trust
- Be clear about what you’re asking
- Focus on the end result
- Remove any judgement
1. Make small requests.
Big asks can feel daunting, especially at first. So, start by getting comfortable with making smaller ones. Ask your significant other to cook up a pan of eggs and bacon in the morning. Or get your kids to walk with you so you stay on track. Seeing yourself ask for — and receive help gets the ball rolling on building your confidence in this area.
2. Ask people you trust.
The risk of being rejected or dismissed drops dramatically when you request help from people you have a solid rapport with. It’s much less scary to be vulnerable with your spouse or family members than it is with your boss or the new guy at work.
3. Be clear about what you’re asking.
Assuming people know what you need is the fastest way NOT to get it. Sure, it would be great if people immediately offered to help the second the thought entered your mind, but that’s not how it works. Instead, get clear on what you’re struggling with and what exactly you could use help with (i.e. I’m following the Primal Blueprint, so please don’t bring home donuts). The more you practice asking for help directly, the easier it gets.
4. Focus on the end result.
Imagine for a minute that you got all the help you needed. What benefit would that bring you? Would you be less stressed out? Less grumpy? Less apt to skip your workout? By focusing on the outcome, you take the attention away from the uncomfortable feeling of asking and put it on the fantastic feeling of having gotten the help you need.
5. Remove any judgement.
Don’t assume you know what people are thinking about you. It’s so easy to presume that you’re a burden or being perceived as weak when you ask for help, but you have no clue what’s going through their mind. Also, don’t compare your struggles to someone else’s. Everyone processes things differently and at different paces.
And remember, you can always hire a professional to help — in practically any area of your life. That’s what we’re here for!
Are you good at asking for help? Or is it something you struggle with? Share your experiences in the comments below.
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Last year, an article in the New York Times described “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting.” That word struck me at the time and has stuck with me ever since. Speaking as a mom of two, the expectations and pressures weighing on parents can indeed feel relentless.
It’s not enough to keep our children clothed and fed, get them to school, and take the occasional family vacation. Parents today should provide optimal nutrition from birth and ensure that kids have the best educational opportunities. We’re told to enroll them in sports, extracurriculars, and tutoring to give them a competitive edge for college, then we’re obliged to volunteer as assistant coach, snack mom, and classroom parent. By the way, you’re already saving money for college, right?
Don’t forget, we’re also in charge of arranging playdates, monitoring screen time, and searching Pinterest for unique birthday party ideas and fun hijinks for the Elf on the Shelf.
No wonder parents are succumbing to burnout.
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What is Parental Burnout?
For academics, the term parental burnout has a specific meaning. In 2018, Belgian researchers developed the Parental Burnout Assessment, which comprises four factors:https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2167702619858430‘>2
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Risk Factors for Parental Burnout
Some of the factors that make a parent more vulnerable to burnout are:
- Holding themselves to unrealistic standards
- Difficult family situations due to socioeconomic pressures, strain with co-parents, or children with special health or developmental challenges, for example
- Not wanting to be a parent in the first place
- Lack of social support, not having a “village”
- Personality traits like neuroticism, general lack of coping skills
Is Parental Burnout an Especially Modern Phenomenon?
Since research into parental burnout is fairly new, there’s no longitudinal data that speaks directly to this. Intuitively, though, it feels like parents today must experience more burnout than previous generations.
Parenting is continually evolving. Both mothers and fathers spend considerably more time interacting with their kids than they did 50 years ago.https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/parenting-in-america/‘>4 The financial cost of raising a child continues to rise. Social media presents a host of new challenges—cyberbullying, mommy wars, and FOMO, oh my!
More to the point, parents face social pressure to be constantly “on” like never before. Sociologists refer to this as intensive parenting, so named by Sharon Hays in her 1996 book The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood. Parents, especially mothers, are expected to invest heavily in their children, devoting nearly unlimited time, emotional energy, and money to parenting. Intensive parenting holds that parents are responsible for managing every aspect of kids’ lives, preventing all manner of potential harm, and ensuring the best possible outcomes for their children.
Clearly, these standards are unattainable for many—perhaps most—parents. In particular, wealth heavily impacts the types of opportunities parents can access for their kids and the amount of time they can devote to parenting. Yet parents across the spectrum endorse intensive parenting ideals.https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10826-019-01607-1‘>6 Not surprisingly, intensive parenting beliefs are associated with greater stress, depression, anxiety, and guilt for mothers.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5298986/‘>8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6019475/‘>10 That doesn’t take into account extenuating circumstances such as having a child with chronic illness, which is known to increase parental stress.https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137304612_2‘>12 https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/parenting-in-america/‘>14 At least one study found that mothers and fathers experience parental burnout at the same rate.https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11199-020-01121-5‘>16
Are Primal Parents Especially at Risk?
I’ve been going back and forth on this. On the one hand, isolation and lack of social support are huge risk factors for burnout, and parenting outside the norm can feel lonely. Repeatedly explaining—and defending—your choices to family members, pediatricians, teachers, and fellow parents can be exhausting, especially when they challenge you and call your parenting into question.
On the other hand, Primal parents may be more comfortable with the idea of free-range parenting—exempting ourselves from the pressures of intensive parenting and opting instead for a more relaxed, less “helicopter-y” style. For these parents, I’d expect burnout to be considerably lower.
Not to ignore the elephant in the room, parenting through a pandemic takes the notion of parental burnout to a whole other level. It’s terribly hard to rely on our villages while adhering to social distancing guidelines. The stress of trying to keep everyone safe, working from home, and carving out time for ourselves can become overwhelming.
Ironically, though, the pandemic and lockdowns probably alleviated burnout for some parents. We’ve been forced—or rather, given the opportunity—to slow down and spend more time with our kids. In a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association at the end of May, 82 percent of parents said they were grateful for this extra time.https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2014-35159-001‘>18 So, how about we all try to stop holding ourselves, and each other, to unrealistic standards that make us miserable, okay?
Stop parenting on social media
Another big one. Don’t spend valuable time and energy curating a parenting facade on social media. More importantly, stop following people who make you feel “less than” in comparison. You don’t need to compete with other parents to see whose kid is having the most magical childhood. Keep your eyes on your own paper.
You deserve to feel good about yourself as a parent, period. If you don’t, whether it’s because you are overwhelmed or need help developing effective parenting tools, don’t wait until you’re totally underwater. Ask for help now.
Burnout isn’t an inevitable consequence of modern parenting. Many parents shield themselves from the weight of the expectations and find everyday joy in raising their small humans. It’s not easy… but nothing about parenting is, is it?
I usually end by asking for feedback, but today I’d just like to offer a virtual high-five, fist bump, or hug to my fellow parents out there. Parenting is tough, but you’re tougher! You’ve got this.
The post Parental Burnout: What to Do If You Feel Overwhelmed as a Parent appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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When Mark asked me to write a post about the toll the pandemic is taking on mental health and relationships, I didn’t want simply to detail the ways it’s hard to live through a pandemic. Nor did I want to throw a bunch of statistics at you about how many people are having a difficult time. You know that it’s like living in the world’s least entertaining Groundhog-Day-meets-dystopian-thriller film.
If you’re like me, you’re sick of kvetching about 2020. The fact is, though, that I don’t know anyone, myself included, who isn’t struggling in one way or another right now.
After a lot of reflection, I’ve concluded that a big reason why 2020 is so draining is that our usual coping strategies don’t work like we want or expect. Most are aimed at reducing the source of our distress or dealing with the emotional aftermath. This pandemic is ongoing. We’re stuck in the middle of it, with no end in sight, and no way to speed the process along.
That doesn’t mean we’re helpless, though. Personally, I’m a huge believer in practicing self-compassion as a means of coping, almost no matter the situation. I’m talking a formal practice of self-compassion, as outlined by Dr. Kristin Neff and others.https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2770146‘>2 https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/‘>4 https://richarddehoop.nl/upload/file/self-determination.pdf‘>6
It seems to me that most common coping strategies address competence (developing mastery) or relatedness (connecting to others). However, loss of autonomy—the freedom to control our own actions—is undoubtedly a primary reason we’re struggling.
The problem is, there’s not much we can do about that. The best option is to focus on controlling the things we can control and accepting those we can’t (major serenity prayer vibes, here). I’m not suggesting that we should be reasserting our autonomy by flouting the rules and doing whatever we want, virus be damned. No, the point is to understand why things still feel hard even when we’re trying our best to practice self-care so that we might give ourselves grace.
Questions I’m asking myself:
- Am I meeting myself where I’m at, or am I using generic coping strategies that, while well-meaning, aren’t really what I need?
- Am I blaming myself or feeling guilty for struggling, instead of accepting that the pandemic is hard in ways that are hard to cope with directly?
What Can We Learn from People Who are Doing Well?
I’m fascinated by people who are actually doing better now than before. Some kids are thriving at home, free from the social and academic pressures of traditional schooling. Lots of adults are realizing that they are happier and more productive working from home.
Getting back to the topic of this post, when I started to dig into the data on how the pandemic is affecting relationships, I expected to find dire news. I didn’t. While it’s logistically harder to see friends or travel to visit distant relatives, many people have seen their close relationships improve.
FThe Behavioural Science and Health Research Department at University College London is conducting weekly surveys looking at the psychological response to the pandemic, along with other socioemotional and behavioral variables. More than 90,000 people have responded. As of writing, data are available for the first 23 weeks here.
In July, week 16, the researchers asked about relationships. The majority of respondents said the pandemic had not changed their relationships with spouses, friends, family members, or coworkers. More people felt that their friendships had suffered since the beginning of the pandemic, compared to the number whose friendships improved—22 versus 15 percent of respondents, respectively. The data were similar for coworkers. However, relationships with some family members and neighbors were more likely to have improved:
- 27 percent said their romantic relationship got better, while 18 percent felt it was worse
- 35 percent reported their relationship with children living at home had improved, versus 17 percent who said it had suffered
- 26 percent had better relationships with neighbors, versus 8 percent worse
I really wish there was more attention to being paid to those people. Why are they doing better? What’s their secret? It must have something to do with the time we have to invest differently in relationships now, but is there more to it than that? Academics are going to be writing about this for decades, I’m sure.
Shaping a “New Normal”
Since we have no choice about living through a pandemic, I hope we can at least learn from it.
When we go back to “normal,” it won’t be—and shouldn’t be—the normal we knew before. The ways people are suffering and thriving both offer important lessons about human nature, our ability to cope, and the ways we do and do not support one another effectively. That some people are doing better during an arguably terrible time is telling. It says a lot about the challenges and shortcomings of our pre-pandemic way of life.
The question is, will we heed the lessons?
What about you—how are you doing, really? Will you go back to “business as usual,” or have you gained any insights from the past six months that will change how you approach things in the future?
The post The Pandemic’s Toll on Mental Health and Relationships: What Can We Learn? appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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Hi folks, in this week’s Ask a Health Coach post, Erin is answering your questions about the “keto flu”, what to do when you’re hungry all the time, and how to fulfill your need for human connection during the pandemic. Keep your questions coming here in the comments or over in our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group.
“I’ve been doing Mark’s Keto Reset for a few days. At first, I felt great, but now I’m achy and all I want to do is sleep. What happened to all that energy people talk about with Keto?”
Ah yes, the keto flu. There’s no mistaking it. Well, at least to those of us who have been through it and safely made our way to the metabolically flexible side (which you will Jared, trust me). As you might have read, eating lower-carb — especially if you’re transitioning from a Standard American Diet can cause all sorts of uncomfortable symptoms. Everything from headaches and fatigue to nausea. But don’t let that keep you from sticking with it.
When you’re faced with a challenge, it’s easy to give up. And even easier to convince yourself that whatever it is you’re attempting to do isn’t right for you. So, when the going gets tough you jump ship. No shame, that’s just how it rolls sometimes.
On the flip side, a lot of people decide that punishing themselves is their only course of action. They put on a brave face and decide that they must deserve every ounce of discomfort they have coming their way. That’s the price they have to pay to “get healthy.” As crazy as it sounds, they’ve actually done studies about this. In this one, researchers asked undergraduate students to remember a time when they felt guilty, sad, or (in contrast) did something boring and non-emotionally driven like grocery shopping. Then, they gave participants six mild electrical shocks (stay with me here), with the option to increase the voltage for each subsequent shock.
The students who recalled feeling guilty, chose to raise the voltage well into the mildly painful zone, while the other groups didn’t. The use of self-punishment to reduce feelings of guilt are, unfortunately, well-documented in research.
Now, let me offer you a third perspective. What if you took this opportunity to give your body what it needed — without guilt, shame, or judgement? It may sound simple, but if you’re extra tired, why not take a midday nap or go to bed earlier? If you’re feeling achy, how about taking a few rest days or doing more gentle workouts?
Also, think about positive steps you can take to make you transition more pleasant. Most of the time the low-carb flu is caused by an electrolyte imbalance. So, drink some bone broth, eat more leafy greens, or try this homemade electrolyte drink that Mark swears by. Hang in there Jared, your symptoms won’t last long and if you can get through this preliminary phase, you’ll be home free.
“As a natural extrovert, I find that I actually require human connection. Not being able to give my friends a hug might just kill me. Am I the only one who feels this way?”
First of all, you’re not alone. In addition to things like love, understanding, and growth, the desire for connection is a fundamental human need. After six months of doing what we can to slow the spread of COVID, even introverts like me are missing a good hug.
Whether it’s hugging old friends or shaking hands with new ones, most of us are used to some level of physical connection on a daily basis. And while health officials are concerned with controlling the virus (as they should be), another major issue is becoming more prevalent — and that’s the quality of our mental health due to lack of physical touch.
According to Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, touch deprivation can impact people on a psychological and physical level. He says “positive touch activates nerves in the body that improve your immune system, regulate digestion, and helps you sleep well. It also activates parts of your brain that help you empathize.”
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University agree, citing that hugging is proven to make people less susceptible to the virus that causes the common cold. In the study, 404 healthy adults answered questions about their perceived daily social support and how often they received hugs. Then they were intentionally exposed to the cold virus. The participants who reported having more hugs (and more social support), were less likely to get sick.
But here we are in the middle of the pandemic. And although nothing beats a loving embrace – or even a platonic one, there are some things you can do to feel more connected:
- Be of service. Helping others reminds us that we’re all connected in some way. You might consider checking in on a neighbor, volunteering at a food bank, or donating to a cause you care about.
- Carve out one-on-one time. Whether it’s over a video call or in-person with social distancing parameters in place, engaging one-on-one creates an emotional connection that increases levels of the feel-good hormone, oxytocin.
- Take an online yoga class. Yoga studios might still be closed, but plenty offer live classes that create the feeling of being together. Watching others do the same movements and poses as you’re doing gives your brain a sense of connection, even though you’re apart.
And rest assured, we will get past this. It may be awhile, but there will be a time when we’re all hugging again like crazy.
“No matter what I try (Primal Blueprint, LCHF, intermittent fasting) I’m always starving! Aside from taping my mouth shut, what advice do you have for not shoving food in my face 24/7?”
Helping my clients achieve an effortless relationship with food is my specialty, so I’m glad I can answer this one for you. It’s different for everyone, but I find that a lot of people have become tuned out to their own hunger signals.
You might be so focused on what you can’t have that that’s all you can think about! Or maybe you were raised in the “clean plates club” where hunger had nothing to do with whether or not you took another bite.
My guess is though, that like most of today’s society, you’ve gotten so used to using food as a crutch — a way to cope with stress, boredom, sadness, happiness, or fill-in-the-blank emotion that you’ve forgotten how to listen to your own body.
Our bodies are miraculous, and they will give us the clear signs that they need fuel. That is, if you really listen. Be aware of things like:
- A growling stomach
- Feeling light-headed
- Less energy
- Less focus
Some of these signs can be subtle, especially if you’re avoiding foods like breakfast cereals, chips, cookies, and other processed foods that cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash. But there’s a great strategy you can use to determine if you’re physically hungry or just looking for something to quench your emotional hunger. To do this exercise, get in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and take a couple of slow deep breaths in and out, bringing your attention down to your stomach.
Imagine a scale from zero to ten, with zero being absolutely famished and ten being painfully full. Without judgement or deciding what number you should be, think about where on the scale describes how hungry or how full you are.
If you’re anywhere in the zero to four camp, you’re showing signs that you’re physically hungry. Five and up is an indicator that you’re not actually hungry, but instead craving something to self-soothe.
Did any of these tips resonate with you? Do you take time to listen to your body? Share your experience in the comments below.
The post Ask a Health Coach: Tuning in to What Your Body’s Telling You appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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Therapist and professor Pauline Boss coined the term “ambiguous loss” to describe unique types of losses for which there is no closure. Prototypical examples are when a loved one goes missing and is never heard from again, or a parent or partner develops Alzheimer’s disease and slowly ceases to be the person you once knew despite being physically present.
Because these fall outside the realm of “typical loss,” the folks left behind experience more enduring and more complicated grief. Most of us are prepared to deal with losses that are concrete and finite. We have rituals—burials, commemorative tattoos—that help us mark the end of a chapter. When loss is ambiguous, there are no such rituals and no finality. People around us are often ill-equipped to help. They may be confused or put off by the intensity of our grief. They might even regard it as inappropriate or unfounded. It can be tremendously isolating.
It’s no wonder that Dr. Boss asserts that ambiguous loss is the most traumatic and hardest type of loss to face. Ambiguous losses violate our sense of control, certainty, and justice. They shake our identities and disrupt our relationships with other people.
Still, in almost five decades of working with people who have suffered ambiguous losses, she and others have identified concrete steps to help people cope with, and live well after, experiencing ambiguous loss.
Instantly download your Guide to Gut Health
What Types of Situations Create Ambiguous Loss?
As a family therapist, Dr. Boss’s work has mainly focused on two types of situations having to do with the loss of loved ones. In the first, the person is physically gone, but without a (confirmed) death. They are not here but not gone either. Examples include:
- Missing persons, kidnapped children
- Deployed military personnel
In the second, your loved one is still physically present, yet they have left you in some meaningful way. These people are here but not here. This can occur due to:
- Dementia, Alzheimer’s
- Traumatic brain injury
- Certain mental illnesses
What these have in common is relationship. The relationship you once had has been severed, and there is no guarantee (or no realistic chance) it will ever return to normal.
Researchers and practitioners use the ambiguous loss framework to understand other types of situations as well. The experience of loss is entirely subjective. Any time a loss feels complicated or unresolvable, or you believe others won’t acknowledge the depth of your loss, you might experience it as ambiguous. Homesickness might manifest as mild sadness or deep grief. Divorce devastates some and comes as a welcome relief for others. One parent of a transgender child may feel ambiguous loss over the little boy or girl they had known, while the other parent does not.https://whatsyourgrief.com/types-of-grief/‘>2 Ambiguous losses may lead to grief that is complicated, chronic, or disenfranchised (when you feel that others won’t validate your grief).https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1999-08128-000‘>4 People feel like failures because they can’t “get over” their feelings, when really the problem isn’t the persistent grief. It’s the lack of understanding and social support for the grieving person.
Rather than finding closure and moving on, the goal with ambiguous loss is to find a way to live with the ambiguity, develop resilience in lieu of closure, and continue to live a meaningful life despite the sadness.
Concrete Steps You Can Take
When Boss works with someone who is experiencing ambiguous loss, her first step is to name and validate the person’s experience: “What you are experiencing is an ambiguous loss, the most difficult kind of loss because there is no closure.”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6136354/‘>1
Back in the day, our ancestors stayed active by chasing antelope so they’d have dinner or they walked to the nearest spring to get fresh water. There was no selective pressure to find joy in exercise because it simply needed to be done to survive.
Thankfully, these days, we have the choice to work out in a way that resonates with us. So, if daily strength sessions bring on the worst DOMS, see how you can integrate shorter microworkouts into your day. If sprints feel like a chore, try chasing your kids around at the park. You get the picture.
My point is, changing your body often starts by changing your relationship with physical activity. And moving from the idea that pain is the only way to achieve gain, can be as close as finding joy in your workouts instead of struggle.
“I’ve recently noticed that my clothes aren’t fitting the way they used to. I’ve tried restricting all sugar and carbs, and I’m thinking about getting one of those food scales. What do you recommend to get my eating under control?”
I think a lot of us are feeling the pinch of being stuck at home with a new routine and a kitchen full of snacks. You’re struggling to button your favorite pants. Your shirts are pulling slightly. Maybe you’re a little softer in the middle.
And I get it, the first response to unexpected weight gain is often to restrict the heck out of your diet. Banish all carbs! Burn all the treats! Count every calorie that comes near your mouth!
Our society tells us that weight gain is something to be ashamed of and reverse as quickly as possible. We’re told that we need to feel bad and that we should most definitely panic.
When you’re upset with your body, extreme measures can feel like the only solution. In your mind, your eating habits might feel out of control. And the only way to course-correct is to suffer — eliminating carbs, sugar, joy…
Listen, getting back on track shouldn’t equal punishing yourself. As I’ve said before, the body is an amazing, miraculous organism that deserves to be appreciated. That’s why doing anything that comes from an opposing point of view is a recipe for disaster.
Regaining control suggests a forceful wrangling of your habits. Sure, you need to have accountability, but using harsh techniques that come from a place of hate instead of love will eventually derail your relationship with your body even further. You didn’t gain the weight overnight. Therefore, a quick and unnecessarily harsh plan of attack won’t get you where you want to go.
My recommendation is to be realistic and non-dramatic. Set goals that are actually attainable for you for the long term. If you want to lose 10 pounds, start with 1 pound. If you want to stop snacking, eat more protein during the day. If you want to exercise more, get outside and walk. And most importantly watch your self-talk. If you’re unhappy with how your clothes are fitting, try not to focus on the negative. Instead, reframe your situation to see what you can be grateful for.
“I eat mostly Primally and have been fit my whole life. There’s just that last little bit of extra around the middle that won’t seem to budge. I do tons of planks and crunches, but what other exercises can I do to target my mid-section?”
More doesn’t always equal more. You know what I mean Rob? Hours of planks, crunches, twists, and dead bugs might strengthen your core, but I don’t think more exercises are what you need.
If you’ve been trained in the unfortunate art of no pain, no gain, you might think your lack of results is because you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Let me offer another perspective.
You mention that you’re “mostly” Primal. What does that look like for you? Grains here and there? A few beers on the weekends? Baked goods on holidays? Primal is designed to be a lifestyle, so you can enjoy the occasional beer or baked good. The problem arises when “occasional” turns into “regular” or it turns into an excuse to eat unhealthily whenever the mood strikes.
If you’re telling yourself you worked out today so you can indulge in a sleeve of Oreos, no amount of crunches are going reverse to the extra calories and garbage ingredients you just consumed. To really reduce midsection fat and the accompanying bloat, try cutting out all refined carbs, sugar, and alcohol for two weeks and see what happens. It’s pretty tough to rock a spare tire if you’re primarily getting your calories from protein, healthy fats, and produce.
Do you buy into the no gain, no pain mindset? Tell me how it’s worked for you — or against you in the comments below!
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