50 Signs of Stress and Anxiety that May Surprise You

warningsign_istock_000004940205xsmallAll to often, we are unaware of how our stress is affecting us. Here are 50 signs to help you get a better understanding of how YOUR stress affects not only your health but also your life.

1. Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
2. Gritting, grinding teeth
3. Stuttering or stammering
4. Tremors, trembling of lips, hands
5. Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
6. Light headedness, faintness, dizziness
7. Ringing, buzzing or “popping sounds
8. Frequent blushing, sweating
9. Cold or sweaty hands, feet
10. Dry mouth, problems swallowing
11. Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores
12. Rashes, itching, hives, “goose bumps”
13. Unexplained or frequent “allergy” attacks
14. Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea
15. Excess belching, flatulence
16. Constipation, diarrhea
17. Difficulty breathing, sighing
18. Sudden attacks of panic
19. Chest pain, palpitations
20. Frequent urination
21. Poor sexual desire or performance
22. Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness
23. Increased anger, frustration, hostility
24. Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
25. Increased or decreased appetite
26. Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
27. Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
28. Trouble learning new information
29. Forgetfulness, disorganization, confusion
30. Difficulty in making decisions
31. Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed
32. Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts
33. Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
34. Little interest in appearance, punctuality
35. Nervous habits, fidgeting, feet tapping
36. Increased frustration, irritability, edginess
37. Overreaction to petty annoyances
38. Increased number of minor accidents
39. Obsessive or compulsive behavior
40. Reduced work efficiency or productivity
41. Lies or excuses to cover up poor work
42. Rapid or mumbled speech
43. Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness
44. Problems in communication, sharing
45. Social withdrawal and isolation
46. Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue
47. Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs
48. Weight gain or loss without diet
49. Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use
50. Excessive gambling or impulse buying
(Source: stresstop.com)

Learn more about stress here!

Loving and Connection Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Last month I invited you to make February the LOVE month for yourself. Did you accept the invitation? If not, you can always start now! Click here if you missed the article.

This month let’s explore how loving and connecting with others helps reduce stress and anxiety, and how it impacts your health.

Oxytocin: Why You Want It

Oxytocin is the hormone of love and bonding. It helps us to feel trust and connection. It helps us to empathize and be caring and generous with others.

Oxytocin is also extremely effective at lowering cortisol (your body’s main stress chemical) and therefore can help lower the effects of stress and anxiety. The more oxytocin, the better able you are to handle life’s stressors.

Other benefits of oxytocin:

• stimulates dopamine (the feel-good hormone) and serotonin, for elevated mood
• balances out your nervous system and builds the parasympathetic nervous system which reduces anxiety
• decreases feelings of loneliness
• increases self-esteem
• reduces depression
• reduces fear and PTSD
• improves digestion
• builds the immune system
• decreases pain and inflammation

Oxytocin quite likely plays a role in why pet owners heal more quickly from illness, why couples live longer than singles, and why support groups work for people with addictions and chronic diseases.

Connect More to Get More Oxytocin

Your amazing body naturally produces oxytocin when you feel loved and connected. Here are some ways to get that feeling:

• hugsdiwithcat
• touch
• massage
• cuddling, even with a stuffed animal
• laughter
• connecting with others
• petting your cat/dog
• showing compassion
• random acts of kindness
• helping others in need
• not only giving, but receiving and letting love in
• accepting help from someone
• relaxation practices that help you feel connected to the world/people/animals around you

When we allow ourselves to connect with others in these ways, both people benefit from a boost of oxytocin!

huggingguys-stencilHug More to Reduce Stress

We have long known that human touch is calming and triggers the body’s relaxation response. Modern scientific research about oxytocin helps explain what our ancestors knew instinctively.

Hugs are a great way to increase oxytocin and activate the parasympathetic nervous system to reduce stress and anxiety.

Virginia Satir, a famous family therapist said: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

How many hugs a day do you give and get?

The average hug is under 10 seconds long. It doesn’t take long, so be proactive in looking for ways to increase your hugs per day, per week, per month.

Connect More = More Oxytocin = Less Stress and Anxiety

Busy and Productive are Not the Same Thing

Di Philippi, Wellness Counseling Milwaukee; Busy creates overwhelm and anxietyAre you so busy that it causes you stress or anxiety? 

You try so hard to get it all done. 
You’re going non-stop. 
You multi-task, trying to maximize every minute. 

Always More To Do

There’s just more and more to do these days.  Most of my clients complain that they are so busy “DOING” that there is no time to rest or play.  There is no such thing as “Me Time.” 

Too much “DOING” and BUSY-NESS eventually wears you down with fatigue, low energy, sleep problems, illness, anxiety, irritability, and dissatisfaction. 

If you wake up the next day and go right back to push, push, push…the quality and productivity of your work goes down.  In the end, you actually get less done.

High Intensity Interval Training

Di Philippi, Wellness Counseling Milwaukee; Work Hard-Rest Hard to reduce anxietyWork smarter not harder with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).  This is a concept used in fitness and athletics.  Interval training means alternating intense periods of exercise coupled with adequate recovery/rest time. 

  1. Work hard – really give it your 100% effort and focus for a short interval
  2. Rest!
  3. Repeat Steps 1 & 2

In the fitness world, this ultimately maximizes productivity of time spent working out because it makes most efficient/productive use of your energy and muscles.  Athletes don’t lift weights while trying to simultaneously trying to do two other things.

Busy and Productive are Not the Same Thing

You can apply this High Intensity Interval Training to your life and to your To Do Lists.  You cannot do everything at your 100% all the time without some recovery time.  It’s not humanly possible.

Busy and productivity are not the same thing.  Busy all the time leads to feeling anxiety and overwhelm, which makes it harder to get things done.  Productivity means alternating “DOING” with recovery time, which reduces overwhelm and anxiety and ultimately makes it easier to get things done.  You’ll feel better about yourself too.

To use HIIT in day-to-day life:

  • Don’t multi-task – either work hard or rest hard
  • Take a 5 min recovery period for every hour of work
  • Don’t multi-task during your recovery period
  • Value your recovery time as much as your “DOING” time

No Multi-tasking during Recovery Time

Holistic Anxiety Treatment with Di Philippi, Milwaukee, BrookfieldThe old thoughts that told you to keep pushing more and more will tempt you to do something while you’re resting in order to “make productive use of that time.”   You will have to remind yourself that the reverse is actually true!

Even neuroscience research is now showing that multi-tasking is really a misnomer.  In the brain it is considered “switch-tasking”, with the brain constantly switching back and forth so fast it appears to us to be simultaneous.  Switch-tasking actually uses more brain energy than doing one thing at a time.

Recovery time is downtime — no “doing” but instead resting.  Many people have told me they are so used to running around like a chicken with their head cut off that they forgot how to rest and relax.   So here are a few reminders: 

  • Sit (and do nothing else!)
  • Do Mindful Belly Breathing
  • Take a nap
  • Do a quick meditation
  • Sit or play with your pet
  • Mindful eating (Note to Self: eating while on your computer or phone is not recovery)
  • Have a cup of tea
  • Go for short walk
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Listen to Happy music
  • Stretch
  • Read a book for fun
  • Call a friend

Apply HIIT Interval Style to Your Overall Week

Schedule in recovery time into your overall week or it won’t happen.  There may be a day that requires you to push at your 100% all day with long hours.  This is life.  But please don’t fool yourself into thinking you can do that every day and still be at your 100%

Sprinters give it their all.  But they couldn’t do this if they continued jogging for the rest of the day.  Running yourself ragged is not the answer!

Is It You or Your Hormones?

wcmheader-2_Holistic Solutions for AnxietyLadies, have you ever noticed:

  • Anxiety that comes and goes along with your monthly cycle?
  • Anxiety that’s manageable throughout the month but gets unmanageable before your period?
  • Sudden increase in anxiety at mid-life?
  • Anxiety before or during pregnancy?

These anxieties are all very common…and they are no coincidence!  (And no, it’s NOT all in your head!)

Hormones Work Together as a System

When women complain of symptoms that coincide with our cycles, doctors are quick to declare a problem with the sex hormonal balance (estrogen and progesterone).  But our hormonal systems are more complicated than we are led to believe.

Imbalance in our stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline and others) disrupts and causes imbalance in our sex hormones.

All of our hormones work as a SYSTEM.  Our hormonal system is intricately interrelated and interdependent, much like a symphony, so an imbalance of one causes a cascade effect on the others.

The Big Problem: Imbalanced Stress Hormones

The stress hormone cortisol is a very big culprit in hormonal imbalance.  More and more research is helping us understand how cortisol imbalance can lead to serious health problems such as:

      • Anxiety
      • Insomnia
      • Sex hormone issues related to mid-life, pregnancy, and PMS
      • Thyroid dysregulation
      • Blood sugar dysregulation
      • Suppression of the immune system

 The Big Solution: Rebalance Stress Hormones

When stress and anxiety get your stress hormones out of balance, your sex hormones get imbalanced too.

The good news is that the reverse is also true: reducing stress and anxiety allows ALL of your hormonal system to rebalance, including stress hormones AND sex hormones. So it’s time to take stress and anxiety reduction seriously.

Do any of these common sources of stress and anxiety apply to you?

  • Insufficient or poor quality sleepanxietywordsaroundhead-dreamstime_xs_23159798
  • Illness or pain, especially long-lasting or chronic
  • Feelings of anxiety, depression or despair
  • Deadlines
  • Arguments
  • Emotional loss: breakups, loss of family, friends, pets
  • Financial loss
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, unworthiness, or self-hatred
  • Moving
  • Changing jobs or careers
  • Responsibility without control
  • Feeling out of control/loss of personal power
  • Not enough downtime or “me” time
  • Childhood abuse of any kind
  • Historical stress from family relationships and childhood experiences

* List adapted from Marcelle Pick, “Is it Me or My Hormones?”

Reducing these sources of stress and anxiety will go a long way toward rebalancing your stress hormones AND your sex hormones.  See if you can identify the root cause(s) that may be contributing to your hormonal issues so you can return back to balance.  And please give me a call if you’d like to see how I might be able to help.  I’d be happy to offer you a free phone consultation to talk about it.

GABA

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a nutrient that can be helpful for anxiety, physical tension, overwhelm and panic attacks.  Technically it is an amino acid but it functionally acts like a neurotransmitter in the nervous system.

neural-pathways-istock_000006935562xsmallJulia Ross, a pioneer in the field of amino acid therapy and the author of “The Mood Cure” says GABA relaxes the nerves in the muscles in the body, and that it often provides an immediate sense of calm, both physically and mentally.

Some integrative doctors use it to help patients taper off of benzodiazepines (such as alprazolam/Xanax, lorazepam/Ativan, and diazepam/Valium) which have addictive properties. 

While GABA levels can be raised through taking supplements, consult a knowledgeable practitioner before taking any supplemental amino acids, especially if you take any prescription medication.  Contact me for a referral  to a practitioner I really trust.   Research also suggests that yoga and improving your stress management skills increase GABA naturally!

Drink More Water

New research is showing that dehydration affects important neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine… which can contribute to anxiety, hyperactivity, lower concentration and focus, and increased tension, headaches, and fatigue.
 Water in a glass  
Drinking more water and staying hydrated can give serotonin and dopamine a boost that helps balance brain chemistry. 
 
How much water we need is another matter because experts disagree.   You hear lots of guidelines such as:  drink eight glasses of water a day; or drink half your body weight in water a day.   I follow these two rules: 
 
 
1) If you’re already thirsty, it’s too late, you’re dehydrated
2) Urine color when well hydrated should be colorless or light yellow

Calm Anxiety with Magnesium

greatideaMagnesium is a natural soothing mineral which can help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as balance your adrenal glands.

If your magnesium is low, your adrenal glands (which require a lot of magnesium) can be triggered quite easily. This leads to adrenaline surges when you are under stress or when your blood sugar is low. If that sort of adrenaline surge happens repeatedly over time, it can contribute to anxiety attacks and panic attacks.

I take a magnesium supplement daily. I also take Epsom salt baths because Epsom salt is made of magnesium. For more information, read “The Magnesium Miracle” by Dr. Carolyn Dean. It’s amazing!

Seasonal Depression

What’s Most Effective for Seasonal Depression?

It’s January 2016… In Milwaukee that means an average of 14.5 hours of darkness per day.  I actually calculated it.

upset-stencilNaturally this is the time of year we see increases in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is brought on by light deprivation. 

People who do not usually experience depression at all may get SAD during the darker months.  Additionally, those who are already prone to depression can find that depression gets worse in the dark months.

I recommend 2 highly effective, non-medication treatments for seasonal depression: 
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
2. Light Therapy

CBT for Seasonal Depression

Depression symptoms are physical, mental and emotional. 

While Light Therapy works at the physical level to help your body’s biochemical balance (see more below), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) works the mental and emotional level.

CBT is highly effective for depression because it helps reduce negative thinking, while improving mood, motivation, productivity, focus, and energy.

Research shows CBT is equally effective, or even more effective in the long term than antidepressant medication… with none of the negative side effects that come with medication.

I’ve written a lot about CBT on my blog so I’m going to focus on the Light Therapy in this article.  Check out these articles for more about CBT: 

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
Why Does CBT Work (for Anxiety and More)?
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (Change the Way You Think)
#1 Most Effective Anxiety Treatment: CBT

New Research: Light Therapy beats Prozac

Bright light therapy using a special light box is an effective treatment for people whose depression occurs seasonally, or whose depression gets worse in the darker months.

Because my specialty is non-medication treatments for anxiety and depression, I like keeping up on the research in this area and I found a fascinating one…

Participants in a recent study were assigned to one of four groups who got different treatments.  They didn’t know which group they were in and all were treated as if they were getting the “real” treatments. 

Four Different Treatment Groups
1. Light therapy + placebo pill (i.e. a sugar pill)
2. Light therapy + Prozac
3. Placebo light box + placebo pill
4. Placebo light box + Prozac

Check out these results:
• Less depression for those who got Light Therapy than those who got Prozac
• Less depression for those who got Light Therapy than those who got a placebo pill
• Light Therapy was more effective than Prozac
• The placebo medication was actually more effective than Prozac!
• Little to no side effects shown with light therapy
o This compares with 85 side effects of Prozac (as listed on webmd.com)

Why Does Light Therapy Work?

Inquiring minds want to know why, but I just want to know what works! 

Experts can’t say for sure why but research shows light therapy does help.  For Seasonal Affective Disorder, they think it may help correct disturbances in your internal clock which is driven by your body’s circadian rhythms.

Another theory is that light affects neurotransmitters in the brain (such as serotonin) which affects mood for both seasonal and non-seasonal depression.

Do It Yourself Light Therapy

Light therapy boxes have come a long way in recent years.  They are affordable and easy to use. 

lighttherapy-diTreatment involves sitting near the light box for 30-60 minutes daily.  You don’t have to look directly at the light so you can use it while doing other things like eating, reading, or using your phone or computer.

This is the light therapy box I use:
You can find it at http://amzn.to/1TDcND1

Light therapy can help improve your mood, reduce negative thinking and irritability, and increase energy levels.

Be sure to read the instructions and warnings for the light box you choose.  Light therapy is not recommended for those with mania or bipolar disorder, or those with various eye conditions.

Laugh It Up!

laughingoldman-stencilA whole new field of laughter/humor therapy is emerging and research shows that some good belly laughing can really improve health and well-being.

Laughter helps alleviate stress and anxiety by reducing the level of stress hormones that build up in your body, including cortisol and adrenaline. It also increases the level of “feel good” chemicals in the body such as endorphins (natural pain killers), dopamine and oxytocin. Your body and your mood can get a natural boost from laughter.

Laughter provides a good physical and emotional release. It’s a good workout for your diaphragm, abdomen, and shoulders (and even your heart!) and can leave your muscles feeling more relaxed. A good laugh can also leave you with a cleansed feeling from healthy emotional release.

Try some of these easy ways to UP the laughter in your life:

    • Watch funny movies (check out Patch Adams)
    • Laughter really IS contagious so find reasons to laugh with friends
    • Check out Laughter Yoga
    • Fake it ’til you make it (research shows that faked laughter also provides benefits and can lead to genuine laughter)
    • Have a Game Night
    • Play with little kids, puppies, or kittens

 

Want to be FREE?

We all want to be FREE…

Free to DO what we want.
Free to BE who we want to be.
Free to be HAPPY living a life we love.

Yet we often feel as if something is stopping us from truly feeling free.

This morning, despite a super busy schedule and a daunting “To Do List,” I chose freedom to take a break and admire the daylillies in my garden. This is one of my joys of summer. Their season is short and each blossom lasts for one short day. So I chose to allow myself to be FREE to enjoy and admire the blossoms of the day – even though my mind said I “should” have been handling all the things in my Inbox, or doing one of the dozens of things on my growing “To Do List.”

FreeGuess what? When you die your Inbox will still be full and you’ll still have a “To Do List.” The time to be FREE is right here and now.

So today I allowed myself the luxury of a few minutes of peace and happiness admiring my lillies – no guilt, no thinking about the Inbox. Just enjoying the moment and smiling.
For me, that felt FREE.

What do you mean by “Free?”

“Free” can be defined (with the help of dictionary.com) as: the state of being at liberty rather than in confinement; immunity from external control or interference. I think of being free as having the luxury of choice because when you choose something you feel less confined, more in control.

Here’s how freedom starts:

                              You have to WANT it
                              You have to CHOOSE it
                              You have to ALLOW it

What do you want to be FREE of?

    • Burdens or obligations?
    • Continual worry?
    • Emotional eating or excess weight?
    • Stress or anxiety?
    • Overwhelm?
    • Obsessive thoughts or actions?
    • Depression?
    • Insomnia?
    • Clutter?

Now, what do want instead?

Figuring this out is sometimes half the battle. Clients often have a hard time telling me what it is that they really want. What they think of first are all the things they don’t want. If you didn’t have those things, what would you want instead that would make you feel more free?

Once you know what you want, then you choose it. Sounds simple; actually doing it requires re-learning some of your “old” habits of thinking. Let’s start with how you think of the concept of “choice.” Choice always leads to greater freedom.

Think There are Some Things You Have No Choice Over?

I challenge you to think again, and I know sometimes it’s not easy. The problem comes in when your mind is tricked into believing that you have no choice. No choice about the responsibilities, the diagnosis, worry, anxiety, emotional eating, depression, clutter, etc.

The truth is that you always have a choice, even when it feels like you don’t. Even when you do something you don’t really want to do (like staying up late to finish that cleaning, going to the doctor, or doing that one thing that “needs” to be done), you ARE actually making a choice to do it.

You could always make a choice to NOT do it. It’s just that there would be consequences of making that choice and because of the consequences, you choose to do it. Understanding this leads to a much greater sense of empowerment than feeling like you had no choice in the matter.

Choosing is always more empowering than feeling like you “have to” or that it simply has to be a certain way. Choosing always feels better than living with something because you think you “need to” or “must.”

Re-training Your Mind: Part 1 = Choosing

The key to feeling free is to expand your awareness of your choices, and realize you are constantly making choices that are YOUR choices. Realize that there are many choices which at first may not appear to be options. This requires developing a new skill: re-training your mind to think differently and expand your choices. It takes skill, time and practice to start seeing choices where previously you couldn’t see any.

Example…

Let’s say you “have to” pick up your daughter from school immediately due to sudden illness. It really feels like you “must” do this because your child is ill and the school says you “must” take your daughter home immediately. But to do it, you’ll have to leave work in the middle of a very important customer meeting which will probably mean your company loses business from this customer (which is entirely unacceptable to your boss).

trueHonestly, you always have choices:

  • Leave and pick her up?
  • Ask someone else to pick her up?
  • Pay someone to pick her up?
  • Have a taxi pick her up?
  • Have her take the bus home?
  • Wait and pick her up after this meeting?
  • Wait and pick her up at the end of the day?

Can you brainstorm others? Your mind may have immediately discarded some of those choices and judged them as not viable. Realize you actually make split-second evaluations of the consequences of every choice. Some consequences you prefer over others. Then you choose. You don’t “have to” do any one of them. You choose one that you’ll do.

When the choice is yours, I promise you will feel more free no matter which choice you make.

Now you’re in the driver’s seat of your life, instead of letting people or circumstances or old, limited thought patterns dictate your life.

Re-training Your Mind: Part 2 = Allowing

Once your mind learns to generate more choices and to consciously choose, the next skill is ALLOWING the freedom. Like I allowed the luxury of being with the lillies without guilt or worry about what wasn’t getting done, you can re-train your mind to accept your choice. No second-guessing, no analysis-paralysis, no regret, no guilt, no worry. Simply allow your choice to be and to unfold. This re-training takes practice. Accept your choice and enjoy it as much as you can, knowing it came from your power to choose. Stay in the present moment with it as much as you can.
In the allowing is where you can really experience feeling free.