busy mom cooking holding childHi folks, in this edition of Ask a Health Coach, Erin helps out her fellow over-doers with strategies for managing the hustle mentality, overthinking calories, and enjoying the holidays guilt free. Got questions? Share them in the comments or in our MDA Facebook Group.

Cassie asked:

“I always burn the candle at both ends making sure everyone is happy this time of year, but I can already tell I’m burning myself out. How do I get through the holidays without needing a vacation afterward?

Overdoing it is kind of my specialty. At least it has been in the past, so I totally get where you’re coming from. If you’re like me, you have a long history of being highly productive — and wearing a huge badge of honor about it. The more hustle, the better. The less rest, the better. Even to the point of total burn out.

You might also be a bit of a people pleaser, which, by definition, suggests that you’ve got a deep emotional need to please others at the expense of your own needs.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sapient-nature/201603/how-not-worry-about-what-others-think-you‘>2 Or you care how it will affect your goals.

I’m not here to tell you to eat a whole sheet of sugar cookies or not, I’m just here to help you have a more effortless relationship with food. One where you have a solid understanding of how certain foods work or don’t work in your body. That way you’re free to make choices that support you — or don’t support you. Which is totally okay too, as long as you’re clear on the consequences, which might be anything from feeling sluggish and foggy to having pants that don’t fit.

It’s always your call.

That said, if someone is shaming you for your choices, that’s a totally different topic.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5421368/‘>4

So, no. I don’t have any go-to calorie burners. And I certainly don’t have any low-cal diet recipes. What I do have is advice on how to stoke your metabolism and how to stop caring about how you aesthetically show up in the world.

Sounds like a pretty great gift, right? Not caring? Not scheduling in extra workouts to accommodate the holidays? The diet mentality has been hard-wired into a lot of us and one of my goals as a health coach is to help people break free from it. And that starts with three key things:

1. Releasing judgement toward food. Food isn’t good or bad, it just has consequences. If you have a few treats, you might experience a sugar crash followed by more cravings. If you eat a protein rich meal, you might not have to white knuckle it past the candy dish.

2. Learn to listen to your body. Try tuning in to what your body is telling you https://www.marksdailyapple.com/whats-messing-with-your-appetite-three-possibilities/. Learn to recognize your body’s hunger and thirst cues and how to separate physical hunger from emotional needs like comfort and personal growth.

3. Check your stories and limiting beliefs. Think you’re only lovable at a certain weight? Or that “treating” yourself is a bad thing? Pay attention to the stories you tell yourself and see if you can shift them into a more positive light.

Do you have a habit of overdoing it? Got more questions? Share in the comments below.

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The post Ask a Health Coach: How to Stop the Cycle of Overdoing It appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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sad woman under holiday stressIt’s the most wonderful time of the year again! The time for family gatherings (but not this year), holiday feasts (maybe), and, according to my TV, buying brand new his-and-hers SUVs (not ever).

I’m not being sarcastic, I do enjoy the holiday season, but there’s no question that it’s stressful. The whirlwind of holiday excitement, decorating the homestead, dredging up the same old family fights, last-minute shopping, and love-hating the winter weather can be a lot, even under the best of circumstances. For all the people who relish this time of year, there are others who dread it.

Some stress is unavoidable, especially if the holidays are difficult due to complicated family situations, past losses, or financial hardships. However, a great deal of holiday stress is self-imposed. As much as you might feel like you have to do certain things to make the holidays magical for everyone, very few are truly non-negotiable. Just because you usually put up elaborate decorations, bake 12 types of cookies, and produce homemade gifts doesn’t mean you’re required to this year. It’s possible—though not always easy—to opt out of the things that cause more stress than pleasure.


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By setting some basic ground rules for yourself, you can manage a great deal of holiday stress:

Control the variables you can control.

These are things like:

  • How much you do or don’t stick to your usual healthy routines.
  • How much time and energy you devote to decorating and upholding other holiday traditions.
  • How much money you spend.
  • Who you do or do not celebrate in person this year.

Try not to lose sleep over the things you can’t control.

  • COVID restrictions
  • Whether or not other people are following the rules.
  • Other people’s expectations of you.
  • Whether friends and extended family are accepting of the boundaries you set for your immediate family.

Have reasonable expectations of yourself and others.

I’d argue that unreasonable expectations are at the heart of a lot of holiday stress. There’s only so much time, money, and emotional energy to go around, and we often spread ourselves too thin. This year, stress is higher than ever, nerves are frayed, and we’re probably not at our bests. If ever there was a year to lower your expectations and make do with less, this is it.

Treat yourself and others with kindness and compassion.

My mantra is always prioritize self-care, but this goes beyond that. It means extending yourself and your loved ones extra grace when tasks go undone, tempers occasionally flare, and it’s impossible to make everyone happy. Basically, be cool to yourself and others.

Ok, I hear you saying, but these are all pretty abstract. What are some concrete ways to avoid, or at least mitigate, holiday stress?

7 Ways to Avoid Holiday Stress

1. Prioritize sleep

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you can do this one thing, a lot of the other things will fall in line. Prioritizing sleep lays the foundation for stress management.

How so? First, sleep deprivation is inherently stressful, physiologically and mentally. It makes you cranky and irritable, so it’s darn near impossible to extend that aforementioned grace to anyone, including yourself. You make poorer decisions and have less willpower to do hard things, like sticking to your diet and setting healthy boundaries. Plus, you’re more likely to end up sick and unable to do even the basics.

On the flip side, when sleep is non-negotiable, it’s easier to say no to things like staying out too late at holiday parties (maybe not this year…) and drinking too much and too often. Your mood and outlook are better, so it’s easier to spread positivity to others.


Melt stress away with Adaptogenic Calm


2. Schedule “me time”

As in, literally put it in your calendar. Set reminders on your phone. Make sure your family knows what times are off-limits for urgent laundry requests, homework checking, and general griping.

Ideally, you’d set aside a daily block, plus a weekly time that’s devoted to just to you. For example, you might schedule 30 peaceful minutes in the morning before the busyness of the day starts, plus an hour or two one evening that’s your self-care time. Read, journal, meditate, walk, sit quietly with a cup of coffee, watch holiday movies—it doesn’t matter as long as it’s restorative, not draining. Protect this time. Make it sacred.

3. Stick (mostly) to your typical food and movement/exercise

I say mostly because I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world to indulge a little on the holidays, but your mileage may vary. In my experience, the holidays are more stressful when you feel pulled in different directions, wanting to enjoy traditional foods or the occasional treat but feeling that you’re not “allowed” because of your diet. “Mostly normal” allows for flexibility.

More generally, it’s ok to relax when we’re dealing with so much else in the world right now. Especially if you’re a perfectionist, it might be good to lower your standards just enough to take some of the pressure off.

That said, don’t let the pendulum swing completely. There’s no good reason to spend the next six weeks making choices that cause you to feel bad physically and mentally. Strive to find the sweet spot where you are enjoying the holidays but not setting yourself up to feel miserable in January. Remember, good nutrition bolsters your body’s natural defenses against stress.

4. Set boundaries ahead of time

Setting boundaries with other people can be uncomfortable, especially if you’re not particularly assertive. Nevertheless, it’s an important adulting skill that can massively protect your own mental health and prevent conflict when done correctly.

If you don’t want to talk about politics, your diet, or anything else at the next family dinner, say so before getting together. Be kind but firm and direct. Explain why you’re making the request and what will happen if your wishes aren’t respected. For example: “It really hurts my feelings when you and Dad make comments about my weight. If I’m going to come over for dinner, I need that topic to be off-limits. If you both can’t agree to that, unfortunately I’m going to have to stay home.”

Boundaries can’t save you from all drama, but they can help you avoid the worst of it, or at least give you an escape route if things go south. They aren’t just for other people, either. You may also need to set firmer boundaries for yourself, deciding ahead of time what behaviors are and are not acceptable. Committing to sleep, me time, and what dietary excursions, if any, you choose to take are all forms of boundary setting. So is making a budget and sticking to it.

5. Only do the things that really matter

Ask yourself: Which of the tasks and traditions that suck up my time every year actually have to get done? Which do I want to do? What would happen if I didn’t do ____ this year? Could we still have a wonderful holiday if we only did ____?”

Perhaps upholding every family tradition truly fills your metaphorical bucket, in which case, go for it. On the other hand, if you just can’t bear the thought of going through all the usual motions, you can and should feel free to Marie Kondo your holidays—keep only the things that bring you joy and scrap the rest. Let each of your family members nominate their top two or three priorities and make those “must dos.” Let everything else be “we’ll sees.” Worst case scenario, if it turns out that you do miss spending hours elaborately wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve, you can do it next year again.

6. Come up with a guilt-free mantra and use it liberally

Guilt is usually the result of the stories we tell ourselves: “The grandparents will be so sad if they don’t get their homemade ornaments this year,” or “Christmas won’t be the same for the kids if we don’t have our cookie decorating party.” They may or may not be true, but in any case, they’re not your problem. It’s not your job to burn yourself out trying to make other people happy.

This is where self-compassion comes in. Instead of playing a loop in your head about how you’re single-handedly ruining everyone’s holiday, try: “This year is hard, and I’m doing the best I can. That’s all anyone can reasonably expect from me, and I’m not going to feel guilty.”

Instead of “I’m not going to feel guilty,” you can sub in:

  • “It doesn’t help anyone if I sacrifice my mental health trying to make the holiday perfect.”
  • “My family loves me and understands.”
  • “I can choose not to be around people, even family, who make me feel bad about it.” (Setting boundaries!)

7. Stave off seasonal depression and anxiety

Doctors aren’t quite sure what causes seasonal affective disorders, but some people are more susceptible than others. Shore up your defenses if you’re someone who typically struggles in the winter months.

Start by eating a nutrient-dense diet. Depression and anxiety symptoms are linked to a host of nutrient deficiencies, including magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, and folate.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23950577/‘>7 Supplement if needed with a multivitamin/multimineral.

Seasonal depression also seems to be linked to decreased serotonin activity in the brain, and possibly increased melatonin levels. Both could cause or be the consequence of dysregulated circadian rhythms.https://www.biopsychiatry.com/tianeptine-vssri.htm‘>1

This doesn’t mean that serotonin has nothing to do with depression, or that it’s bad for depression. It just means that the story is a little more complicated than we thought.

Now the anecdote. Back when I was doing some research for a new probiotic supplement, I tried one that had been shown to increase serotonin levels: B. infantis. This is how I do things usually. Most all my products are created to solve a problem in my own life. I figure that if something appeals to me or fixes an issue affecting me, it will help others too. So this time, I added the powder to a smoothie and down the hatch it went. About half an hour later, I got the distinct sense of what I can only describe as emotional numbness. There was just this big blank emptiness in my heart and mind. I felt robotic, except I was a robot who had memories of what it was like to feel. It was a very uncanny, unnerving feeling that I don’t ever want to feel again.

Maybe the dosage was too high. Maybe I shouldn’t have been taking a probiotic strain meant for human infants (B. infantis is present in infant guts and breast milk). Maybe if my baseline levels of serotonin were lower, the probiotic would have helped. But that’s not the point of all this—it’s that boosting serotonin isn’t necessarily good for mood and happiness.

What Does Serotonin Do?

Serotonin facilitates communication between neurons, making it a major regulator of mood, learning, memory, and sexual desire. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7214430/‘>3 We usually think of learning in the context of knowledge or skill acquisition—learning a language, learning calculus, memorizing state capitals—but it also applies to mood acquisition. We aren’t happy just because. We are happy because we experience positive stimuli and the resultant good mood is reinforcing our continued pursuit of said positive stimuli. The good mood is how we learn, and we learn with the help of serotonin. And because we’ve learned to associate good moods with positive stimuli, the effect sustains itself. Depression alleviated. Meanwhile, in a low-serotonin state, a patient can experience positive stimuli without learning that it’s actually positive. They never make the connection. Or, rather, they never feel the connection.

Low brain serotonin is also linked to increased rumination—getting stuck on the same thoughts or thought patterns—another manifestation of decreased connectivity between neurons in the brain. Thoughts don’t “flow”; they get stuck.

Although we mainly think of serotonin as a neurotransmitter acting on the brain, our guts are the biggest producers of serotonin. About 90% of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in the gut, where it helps trigger the contractions that push food through the GI tract and initiates nausea and vomiting (when necessary).https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10837296‘>5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12480364/‘>7 This may explain seasonal affective disorder, where depression spikes during colder, darker months. It may also explain why sun exposure increases cognitive function in both depressed and healthy subjects, or why bright light exposure prevents bad moods after tryptophan depletion.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17582745‘>9

Without light, you can’t convert tryptophan into serotonin.

Bright light doesn’t imply full blaring sunlight. Going outside on a cloudy, late autumn day will expose you to far more bright, natural light than you’ll experience sitting inside with the lights on. I’d guess the main reason winter is worse for serotonin is that people are less likely to go outside and brave the bad weather.

Get your light as early as possible. A 10-15 minute walk just after sunrise (no sunglasses; bathe in the light) sets the tone for the day.

Get Sun or Take Vitamin D

Vitamin D—which we synthesize from UVB exposure—allows the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin.https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150225094109.htm‘>11

You might take cod liver oil or eat the actual livers, as that provides both vitamin D (for increased tryptophan conversion) and long-chain omega-3s. However, a good daily dose of omega-3 supplementation through high potency, pharmaceutical-grade fish oil works fine, too, for those who get ample vitamin D otherwise.

Spend Time in Nature

I’ve written about forest bathing in the past for its ability to lower stress hormones, improve mood, reduce blood sugar levels, and even increase natural killer cell activity, a marker of anti-cancer ability.

Don’t Avoid Carbs Entirely

Carbs spike insulin, which shuttles amino acids out of the blood and into cells. This leaves tryptophan as the dominant amino acid in the bloodstream, because it’s bound to albumin and inaccessible to insulin. When amino acids compete for conversion into neurotransmitters, tryptophan wins, and serotonin rises, because no one else shows up.

Many readers of this blog prefer lower-carb diets. I’m the same. If you feel like your serotonin levels need a boost, consider increasing carb intake a little. Just one meal containing carbohydrates should get enough tryptophan into your brain for conversion into serotonin.

Take Curcumin

Turmeric has emerged in recent years as a powerful antidepressant, in many cases equalling or even surpassing the effects of prescription antidepressants.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23035031‘>13

So maybe you need curcumin, the isolated polyphenol found in turmeric, to really affect depression. Maybe your chicken tikka masala isn’t replacing your SSRI. But absent outright depression or serotonin-based mood disorders, cooking with turmeric should help regulate normal serotonin levels.

Move

Exercise increases serotonin via two pathways. First, the activation of motor neurons increases the firing rate of serotonin neurons, thus boosting the synthesis and release of serotonin. Second, exercise consistently elevates tryptophan levels in the brain, even for hours after the session.https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1753-4887.1988.tb05366.x/abstract‘>15  It also makes the brain more sensitive to the effects of serotonin. Personally, I’m drinking my coffee.

Get a Massage

Conventional experts will say “massage just feels good.” Well, yeah. That’s the point. Getting a massage boosts serotonin by 28%.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15479988‘>17

One study found that a food-based multivitamin/multimineral supplement drink called Lavita increased tryptophan and serotonin levels in healthy subjects. While that product does purport to offer a boost in many micronutrients, a solid Primal diet with quality meats and good, varied vegetable intake should provide the same nutrient base. Of course, many of us choose a comprehensive multivitamin/multimineral supplement as well.

Take Tryptophan on an Empty Stomach

Taking tryptophan on an empty stomach eliminates the competition for brain uptake with other amino acids you’d encounter when eating tryptophan-rich foods, allowing tryptophan to flood the brain and trigger serotonin synthesis.

That’s what I have for today, folks. Thanks for stopping by. Share your thoughts and questions on the comment board, and have a good week.

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The post 12 Ways to Boost Your Serotonin appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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uncertain timesHumans are hardwired to crave certainty. Psychologists argue that it’s an innate need, programmed into our biology and reinforced through evolution.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301008217300369‘>2 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00243/full‘>4 When it persists, uncertainty becomes a form of chronic stress. I don’t have to tell you how that erodes every dimension of health. It also sucks up valuable mental resources as our brain seeks to resolve the uncertainty.

That’s bad news in times like these. The usual advice applies: practice self-care, gratitude, mindfulness, radical acceptance. But coping with times like these isn’t a matter of mere self-care, not in the way the term gets thrown around. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of bubble baths, chamomile tea, and gentle movement. When it comes to self-care, those are the basics, the bare minimum of kindness we should all be showing ourselves regularly. They’re important, but when our sense of certainty and control have been upended, it takes more than the basics.

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings…

Uncertainty and lack of control have real consequences for our psychological and physical health. Suppressing emotions, denying how challenging the situation is, or engaging in self-recrimination only compounds the problem.

Especially now, when everyone is in the same boat, it’s tempting to downplay our feelings. There’s no need to compare your suffering to others’. There’s always someone who has it worse than you, but that doesn’t mean your feelings are valid. On the contrary, if you’re struggling right now, your feelings are absolutely valid. Your fundamental needs aren’t being met, and you may be dealing with legitimate fears about safety and wellbeing. Many of us are experiencing some form of ambiguous loss, as our ability to engage in “normal life” has been stripped.

…But Avoid Spiraling

It’s one thing to process how hard the current situation is. It’s another to give in to catastrophic thinking.

This is where self-compassion, gratitude, and acceptance practices can help. Together, they allow you to recognize your suffering (to use self-compassion language) while also keeping some perspective. You might also work on both-and thinking, which is a coping strategy from the ambiguous loss literature. Both-and statements acknowledge that multiple, even seemingly contradictory, things can be true simultaneously. Examples might include, “I can feel grief and despair, and also hope,” or “I am less productive than I used to be, and I’m also continuing to make progress.” (More on that shortly.)

When feelings feel too big or too hard, it’s helpful to process them with someone else. Remember, therapy is self-care. One positive outcome of the pandemic is that it’s easier than ever to access mental health services from the privacy of your home.


Melt stress away with Adaptogenic Calm


Lean on Other People…

Resilience is the ability to withstand adversity, trauma, or stress—bending but not breaking, ideally becoming better adapted to face difficult situations in the future. One fundamental source of resilience is having others upon whom you can rely, people who will share your burden and help you get through difficult times.

This doesn’t mean you have to have a large circle of close friends and acquaintances. Rather, it means fostering meaningful and supportive relationships with individuals and/or belonging to groups that provide similar benefits. These might be religious affiliations, volunteer organizations, support groups, or even your workplace.

Of course, this only works if you are willing to reach out. It can be as simple as showing up for a Zoom happy hour with friends, but also don’t be afraid to request more. In my experience, people want to help. They’re just waiting to be asked.

…And Find Ways to Be There for Others

The flip side of this is allowing other people to lean on you. When things feel out of control, being there for others helps you heal, too, by creating positive energy and purpose.

There are lots of ways to be prosocial. Pick up the phone and call someone. Take one small task off a coworker’s plate, or write them a note of appreciation. Donate money or time to an organization working to affect positive change. Write a letter to your congressperson. Send a care package. The act of giving can actually create energy, so long as you’re careful to balance it with filling your own bucket.

Expect Less of Yourself…

How many think pieces have been written over the past six months giving us permission to be less productive than normal? I guess not enough, because I see lots of people continuing to beat themselves up for struggling at working, being less strict with their exercise routines, and letting their houses be messy.

Clearly, we underestimate how much uncertainty in and of itself drains our mental resources. While we may be over the initial shock of the pandemic—though the hits of 2020 keep on coming—the uncertainty and lack of control remain. Give yourself grace. Allow yourself to rest. Reevaluate your standards for “success.” Say no where you can.

…But Keep Getting Things Done

It’s all well and good to say you should lower your expectations and say no to things, but what about the things you have to get done? Jobs, parenting, and caregiver responsibilities can’t simply be tossed aside. While I do support the idea that it’s ok to do less right now, sometimes you need to buck up and take a step forward (mental health crises excluded).

Action, any action, can be self-reinforcing because you’re exerting control again. Maybe it’s checking the easiest task off your to-do list, taking one small step towards completing a project, or doing five minutes of exercise. Just keep the ball rolling. Do NOT focus on the ways in which your effort or performance is less than what it used to be, but rather that you’re still making an effort in the first place.

Maintain a Focus on Health

Emotional eating, drinking, and laying on the couch all day are completely understandable responses to times like these, but ultimately, they compound the stress. You know how much better you feel when you maintain some semblance of healthy eating, movement, and sleep, or conversely, how crummy it feels when you let it all slide. By and large, these are variables that you can control even when everything else feels like it’s gone to hell.

Again, I’d encourage you to reassess your standards of success here, adjusting to your current reality. It’s ok if you don’t have the wherewithal to make elaborate dinners or train for a 50k. Resist the temptation to let the pendulum swing completely in the other direction, though.  Think of each meal as one small act of productivity and each walk as an accomplishment.

Be in Nature

Few things are as inherently healing and soothing as spending time in nature. Research into the practice of forest bathing documents all sorts of benefits from, essentially, going into the forest (or even just a park) and being mindful. A recent study found that taking “awe walks,” which are simply outdoor walks in which you have the specific intention of experiencing awe, lead older adults to experience more positive emotions and less distress.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.

Delegate

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:

  • Breathe
  • Check your Stories
  • Take the Stairstep Approach
  • Delegate

How do you manage overwhelm? What tactics do you use to move through it or avoid it all together?

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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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ambiguous grief lossTherapist 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.


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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
  • Incarceration
  • Deployed military personnel
  • Divorce
  • Adoption
  • Immigration

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
  • Addiction
  • 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.”

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