How to Calm Down Fast

How to Calm Down Fast

When stress, anxiety or fear flare up, these 9 techniques help keep you calmer.

We all get stressed and agitated sometimes. It’s a product of our busy, over-scheduled lives and living with circumstances we can’t control.

When you’re stressed or anxious, it causes your body to release stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can increase how stressed you feel. You may also feel other symptoms, like headaches, dizziness and depression. Long-term stress can negatively affect your weight, heart and chronic health conditions. In addition to your physical health, untreated stress can have a negative effect on other areas of your life, including your mental health, professional life and social relationships.

When you’re feeling stressed, anxious, scared or nervous – or you have the urge to lash out – the last thing you want to hear someone say is, “Just calm down.” That never works. But here are 9 calming techniques that do work – and they work quickly at that.

  • Just breathe. Breathing seems like the most natural thing in the world. But there are ways to breathe mindfully that help calm our bodies and minds almost instantly. The 4-7-8 breathing technique, known as a “relaxing breath,” is especially effective:
    • Breathe in quietly through your nose for 4 seconds
    • Hold the breath for 7 seconds
    • Exhale forcefully through your mouth with a “whooshing” sound for 8 seconds
    • Repeat as needed
  • Close your eyes and count to 10 slowly. It really works! If you need more time, count to 20 or count backwards once you reach whatever number you are counting up to. Just taking a few minutes to concentrate on something other than your stress will do wonders for your mood.
  • Chew a piece of gum. Studies show that the slow, methodical act of chewing gum keeps blood flowing to the brain, allowing you to concentrate better and keep a level head during a bout of anxiety. It also helps you resist the urge to reach for a less-healthy option, like a pint of ice cream or a cocktail, when you’re stressed.
  • Phone a friend – preferably a funny one. Touching base with someone you love can provide instant calm. Laughing is proven to release endorphins, the “feel-good chemicals” in our brains that help release tension and elevate overall mood.
  • Smell lavender. Light a lavender candle or soak in a lavender bubble bath. In aromatherapy, lavender is one of the stars of stress-relief, along with chamomile, rose, ylang-ylang and citrus.
  • Curl up with your cat or dog. Just 10 minutes of petting your furry pal can reduce stress hormones and promote a feeling of calmness.
  • Listen to calming music. Cue up your favorite tune, but nothing with a frantic beat or depressing lyrics. Then sit back, close your eyes and concentrate on the words and the rhythm. Go ahead and sing along if you wish. Studies show singing releases endorphins.
  • Exercise your body. Physical activity of any kind helps release stress. Take a 15-minute timeout for a brisk walk around the neighborhood; the fresh air will also help clear your head. If you’re stuck indoors, try a few reps of jumping jacks, jog up and down the stairs or take a spin on your exercise bike.
  • Exercise your mind and spirit. Practice yoga, meditate, get a massage, write in your journal, give yourself a pedicure or take a relaxing nap.

If you find these calming techniques aren’t helpful, explore other methods that may provide longer-term relief for your stress and anxiety. Eat right, avoid alcohol and caffeine, exercise regularly, always get enough sleep, and if needed, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional.

Copyright 2020-2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: November 13, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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The Health Effects of Pandemic Drinking

The Health Effects of Pandemic Drinking

If you’ve been drinking more than usual lately, here’s how it can affect your body.

Cooped up at home with no workplace to go to and no school for the kids, many people turned to jigsaw puzzles to combat boredom during the pandemic. Unfortunately, they also turned to alcohol (along with marijuana, cigarettes and illegal drugs) to combat the stress of isolation and loneliness, job loss, financial concerns and fear of getting COVID-19.

Cleaning supplies and toilet paper weren’t the only things people stocked up on during the pandemic. Sales at liquor stores – deemed “essential businesses” along with grocery stores and pharmacies – skyrocketed more than 50% in just the first month of lockdown alone.

Alcohol consumption was already rising among adults before the pandemic. An estimated 15 million Americans have a mild, moderate or severe alcohol-use disorder. Alcohol is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., after lack of exercise and poor diet. Nearly 100,000 people die each year from causes directly or indirectly linked to alcohol, such as car accidents.

Experts predict that the pandemic will result in these numbers climbing even higher, especially for women. One recent survey reported that nearly 2 out of 3 women increased their alcohol use during the past 18 months.

But alcohol isn’t good for the body. Even moderate consumption can lead to these serious issues:

  • Alcohol activates the immune system. This results in inflammation, which disrupts the body’s response to bacterial and viral infections.
  • Alcohol use can cause or exacerbate conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease and digestive issues.
  • Cases of alcoholic liver disease, including cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis, were up 30% between March 2020 and March 2021.
  • Too much alcohol can damage the cells that line the surface of the lungs. This leads to an increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.
  • Alcohol use can cause learning and memory problems, including dementia.
  • Alcohol increases risk-taking behaviors, such as unsafe sex, driving while intoxicated and suicidal thoughts.
  • Alcohol use, especially when paired with being isolated in close quarters during a collective social trauma, can lead to violence in the home. Numerous studies around the world have shown increases in the number and severity of domestic violence incidents since the pandemic began.
  • Restrictions during the pandemic compromised access to treatment services for those with substance abuse disorders, who often turn to in-person support groups to help maintain their sobriety. An estimated 40 to 60% of people in recovery are already at risk of relapse, and the stress of a pandemic coupled with few treatment options can make those numbers climb even higher.

If you find you’ve been drinking too much during the pandemic, it’s not too late to start reversing the effects. Studies have shown that after just two weeks of abstinence, the liver starts to repair itself, you’re sleeping better (which leads to increased energy during the day), your skin is more hydrated, your acid reflux has subsided, and you’re saving both calories and money.

Copyright 2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: June 17, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

Learn more about Baldwin Publishing Inc. editorial policyprivacy policy, ADA compliance and sponsorship policy.

No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these terms of use.

 

Do These 5 Things for Better Mental Health

Do These 5 Things for Better Mental Health

If your mental health has taken a hit during the pandemic, these tips can help.

When it comes to feeling good, your mental health is as important as your physical health. If one or the other isn’t at its best, it effects your overall well-being. As we have focused on ways to stay physically healthier during the last year – primarily by trying to avoid COVID-19 – we’ve also found it difficult to keep our mental health in check.

Concerns about the virus, job losses, school disruptions and changes to almost every aspect of our routines have caused many people to feel stressed, anxious or depressed. People who were already experiencing mental health issues may have found their condition worsened during the pandemic. Those who never experienced poor mental health also found themselves struggling.

Even as our days approach some sense of normalcy, our mental health may not bounce back so easily. Many stressors caused by the pandemic still exist. Returning to pre-pandemic activities may be as concerning as it is exciting. And our mental health is influenced by other factors that have nothing to do with the pandemic.

It’s important to take care of your mental health in much the same way as you would your physical health. You likely already know that eating healthy, exercising, sleeping well, reducing stress and going to the doctor regularly can improve your physical health. These things can boost your mental health, too. The 5 tips below can also help you learn to make your mental health a priority:

  1. Find time for yourself. You may not feel like you have much “me” time these days, especially if everyone is still working from home or going to school remotely. But finding even a few minutes a day where you focus just on you can be a big boost to your mental health. Take a walk, close your eyes or call a friend – whatever makes you happy.
  2. Be kind to yourself. We tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on others and that sets us up for disappointment. So instead of being annoyed that something didn’t get done or you didn’t reach a particular goal, cut yourself some slack and realize you’re only human. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to others.
  3. Splurge on yourself. You know how there are certain things you only do during vacation or on a special occasion? Stop waiting for the perfect moment to do the things you love. Do things that bring you joy every day. It doesn’t have to be extravagant but it should feel special.
  4. Stay connected. Throughout the pandemic, it has been more difficult than usual to maintain social connections. But feeling connected matters. It’s especially important to have someone to talk to when you feel stressed, sad or angry. Whether you simply unload your emotions or ask for advice, talking things out often helps you feel better.
  5. Take a mental health day. If you’re like many people, you may not be taking much of a “real” vacation these days. But even if you can’t plan a trip to an interesting or exotic locale, it’s important to take an occasional day off from your usual routine to relax, unwind and recharge.

Copyright 2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: March 17, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

Learn more about Baldwin Publishing Inc. editorial policyprivacy policy, ADA compliance and sponsorship policy.

No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these terms of use.

 

7 Tips to Soothe Re-Entry Anxiety

7 Tips to Soothe Re-Entry Anxiety

Feeling uneasy about getting back to everyday life? If so, these tips can help.

During the height of the pandemic, staying home 24/7 felt strange and uncomfortable for most of us. But as restrictions began easing and things started to reopen, many people suddenly felt something they didn’t expect to feel. Although we may have initially been excited to get “back to normal”, it now seems that venturing away from the safety of our homes is what feels strange and makes us feel uncomfortable.

Until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, feelings of fear and uncertainty about resuming our normal lives and everyday activities are going to be common. They’re so common, in fact, that mental health experts have already given those feelings a name – “re-entry anxiety” or “re-entry panic syndrome.”

The good news is that a healthy amount of re-entry anxiety helps us adjust gradually and makes us more likely to take recommended precautions. But if you’re feeling very anxious about getting back into the world or your anxiety is interfering with other aspects of your life, here are a few tips that may help:

  1. Don’t wait. You’ll need to go out eventually, so the longer you put it off, the more anxious you will feel. If you put off going out for too long, your anxiety will keep building and may become harder to manage.
  1. Start small. Your first time out in public shouldn’t be a high-risk activity like congregating in a large group of people where social distancing is impossible. Begin with short, less stressful outings to places you’ll feel the safest, like picking up a takeout order or walking in the park.
  1. Focus on what you can control. Even if you follow recommended guidelines like wearing a mask and staying 6 feet away from others, it doesn’t mean everyone around you will be doing the same. So it’s up to you to do what you can to feel safe. If you encounter people not taking precautions, stay even more than 6 feet away or leave the area and go someplace else.
  1. Try the buddy system. You likely have friends and family members who are feeling the same anxiety that you are about going out in public. You might feel less anxious if you venture out together (while still following your area’s recommended guidelines).
  1. Choose the right time. No matter where you’re headed, try to avoid the busiest times. If you want to pick up an order from a restaurant or grocery store, ask when the slowest times are so you won’t encounter too many people when you arrive. Numerous businesses have instituted special shopping hours for people over 60, so if you’re in that age group, take advantage of the smaller crowds.
  1. Get help if you need it. If you feel that your anxiety is out of hand, or you’re experiencing other symptoms of anxiety like lack of concentration, difficulty sleeping, heart palpitations or nausea, consider speaking with a professional. The pandemic has led to a surge in telemedicine, so you can consult with a mental health professional right from the comfort of your home if you wish.
  1. Keep practicing good self-care. Try to get enough sleep, eat a well-balanced diet and continue connecting with friends and family daily, even if you do it remotely. Consider managing anxiety symptoms with regular exercise, deep breathing and meditation. Remember that alcohol, caffeine and drugs can make anxiety symptoms worse.

Copyright 2020-2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: July 16, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

Learn more about Baldwin Publishing Inc. editorial policyprivacy policy, ADA compliance and sponsorship policy.

No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these terms of use.

The Power of Pets When It Comes to Your Health

The Power of Pets When It Comes to Your Health

You love them. They love you. And the power of that connection is good for your health.

There’s a reason therapy dogs are a common sight at hospitals and nursing homes. Research has proven that pets are good for our mental and physical health.

More than two-thirds of households in the U.S. are currently reaping the immediate and long-term benefits of pet ownership, according to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Association. The survey indicates that 85 million households are sharing their homes with one or more furry, feathered or scaly friends.

Thinking of opening your home to a pet? Consider these benefits:

  • Pets help ease loneliness. It’s nice having another living soul to talk to, even if they don’t talk back with human words. Especially in times of isolation, like during the pandemic, pets offer companionship. Having a dog is also a good way to meet people.
  • Pets keep us physically active. Dogs need to be walked, and both dogs and cats need lots of playtime. Studies show that dog owners are more likely to exercise regularly, which promotes a healthy heart, good circulation and weight management.
  • Pets can lower our blood pressure. According to a report by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), interacting with animals can calm us down, even if we’re simply watching fish swim in an aquarium.
  • Pets fulfill the basic human need for touch. Stroking, petting or hugging an animal can instantly calm and soothe someone who is feeling anxious or stressed, which is why therapy dogs are so helpful in hospitals and nursing homes.
  • Pets offer unconditional love. Who doesn’t enjoy the feeling of coming home after a long day to someone who is very happy to see you – no matter what?
  • Pets are attuned to our behavior and emotions. Animals in the home, especially dogs and cats, know how to respond to their humans, often mirroring our tone of voice, gestures and body language.
  • Pets are good for children. Loving an animal and being directly involved with their care teaches kids about responsibility, compassion and empathy.

While there are many benefits to pet ownership, before you get a pet you should make sure it’s right for you. Being a pet owner is a serious commitment. It requires time and money to feed a pet and provide regular veterinary care. You also have to have the right living environment – for instance, a large dog wouldn’t be a good fit in a small apartment with no yard.

If you’re unable to bring a pet permanently into your home, there are other ways to get your “fix.” Even if the time isn’t right for adopting an animal of your own, you can volunteer to walk dogs or play with cats at the local shelter. Or you may be able to foster an animal temporarily. Of course, you can always offer to walk a friend’s dog or watch a neighbor’s cat while they’re away.

Copyright 2020-2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: June 17, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

Learn more about Baldwin Publishing Inc. editorial policyprivacy policy, ADA compliance and sponsorship policy.

No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these terms of use.

 

The Journey Here: Cultural Competency in the Therapy Room

The Journey Here: Cultural Competency in the Therapy Room

What is cultural competency? There has been much energy around the words “cultures”, “diversity”, “justice”, “inclusion”,  and “equality” within recent weeks. How can cultural competency be helpful in energetic times like these? By increasing one’s cultural competency, it allows a person feel more in control over one’s external world. Cultural competency begins with us. During the last year and half, there has been an insurmountable amount of grief, confusion, and unrest and incorporating methods of cultural competency can support us in feeling less of those distressing emotions. In this final article for “The Journey Here”, I will talk about the meaning of cultural competency and how this is an important practice in the therapeutic room.

I hate to break it to you, but there is no one definition for “cultural competency”. Just in this article alone, there are 12 definitions! For the sake of brain space and time, I will focus on cultural competency in the therapeutic sector. According to Dr. Crawford, an associate professor at Boston University, competency can be defined as “the quality of being adequate or well qualified”. He then defines culture as the “totality of socially transmitted behavioral patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other works of human thought.” In the therapeutic world, he would conclude that cultural competency is the state of being well-qualified or adequate to provide services in the context of one’s totality of socially transmitted works of human thought. Cultural competency is a therapist’s ability to communicate respectively and empathetically with those who harness cultural identities and backgrounds that may differ from their own. Without cultural competency, therapists risk dividing or even unintentionally harming their patients. Cultural competency in the therapeutic room is vital in honoring and fostering a safe space in order to facilitate genuine curiosity and empathy for our patients.

At TheraCare Wellness, our psychologists and psychotherapists deeply value our patient’s personal journey in exploring one’s identity. We understand the importance of honoring our patients’ unique experiences and staying curious about their journey. I have appreciated the time and space to share my own cultural experiences, and I’m grateful that you have followed along. Thank you for staying curious throughout this series.

Resources: 

https://www.apaservices.org/practice/good-practice/becoming-culturally-competent.pdf

https://www.apa.org/ed/governance/elc/2012/elc-promoting-quality-crawford.pdf

https://nccc.georgetown.edu/curricula/culturalcompetence.html