10 Toxic Stresses that are Slowly Killing You

Stress impacts your mental and physical health.  In the worst cases stress can cause death, but even when it doesn’t cause physical death, it can cause the death of joy and peace within you.  After working in the mental health field for nearly 20 years, I have noticed stress is caused by one or more of the following 10 categories.   Many do not even realize the dangerous impact these stresses have on them.

#1. Lack of Self Compassion

 Are you being too hard on yourself?   If you are stressed because of a lack of self-compassion, you are usually oblivious that this is the problem.  You may be preoccupied with what others will think of you and tend to think the worst about yourself. You give and give until there is nothing left.  Perhaps you are a people pleaser whose sense of value and worthiness are dependent on what others think or feel about you.  You lack enough self-compassion to go after your dreams, set healthy boundaries, take reasonable risks,  or ask for what you need or want because  of a fear of failure or underlying belief that you are not enough (I’m not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, perfect enough, giving enough, hard-working enough, deserving enough, etc.).  Being overly critical on yourself is a big contributor to stress.


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#2 Mental Illness

When you are dealing with mental health problems (such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, etc) it effects your functioning in significant ways. Mental illness can affect your ability to hold a job, manage finances, and maintain healthy relationships.  Negative feelings overwhelm you. You have a difficult time controlling your emotions and it interferes with important aspects of your life.  The symptoms, the stigma and the shame all contribute to the stress someone with mental illness experiences.

 


#3 Chronic/ Major Medical Condition

People struggling with serious health concerns AND their caretakers are under extreme amounts of stress.  This can include a range of conditions from a child with ADHD, to a parent with dementia, recovering from a bad accident or battling cancer.  The effects of having a medical condition are not just physical, but may also be, mental, emotional  behavioral and effect all involved. It puts strains on relationships and overall health. Dealing with everything that is involved from the symptoms, prognosis, appointments, emotions and lack of understanding from others causes high amounts of stress. 

 


#4 Unhealthy Relationships

Unhealthy relationships are not limited to relationships with partners or significant others but can also be friends, co workers, children, in laws etc.  Unrealistic expectations, betrayal, poor communication, lack of connection, parenting conflicts, codependency, bulling, toxicity, lack of boundaries, are just some of the causes of conflict and stress.  Getting along with others is not always easy and relationships with others is something near impossible to avoid.  Any time you have two people with different DNA, life experience, expectations and communication skills, conflict can develop and cause stress.

 


 #5 Loneliness

 Not everyone that is alone is lonely.  Loneliness is the feeling of depression you get because you feel alone and is one of the most painful and stressful emotions a person can experience.  The feeling of isolation can occur whether you are single or married, around people or by yourself.  Loneliness can lead to depression and depression can lead to loneliness.  People have a biological need to feel that they belong and feeling like that need is not being met causes stress.

 


#6 Unfulfilled Purpose/ Goal

  Not knowing or pursuing your purpose or not reaching a goal is a stress for many people.  Whether your goals are financial, career, marriage, children, weight loss or more, people get stressed when they have an idea of where they want to be or think they are supposed to be but aren’t.  Some people are stressed because they don't know what that purpose is, but they know they are miserable where they are now and know it needs to change.  Perhaps it is due to lack of motivation or perhaps it is that you are an over achiever or perfectionist and all you have already accomplished is somehow not enough because you are l looking for the next thing.  Not fulfilling goals causes people to feel stressed because they feel emotions like shame, frustration, sadness, impatience, unworthiness because they are stuck or stagnant.

 


#7 Loss

This is one of the biggest stresses a person will experience in life.  Stress can come from experiencing the death of a loved one, but the stress of loss can also come from losing hopes and dreams.  An injury that prevents you from being able to have the career of your dreams, financial failure, divorce/break up, loss of social connections from a geographic move and other loss are a common cause of stress.  It is important to remember that everyone grieves in different ways. There is no wrong or right way to grieve.  There is no way to rush the process or hurry it along.  It can be extremely painful and stressful.

 


#8 Poor Time Management

Doing too much.  Being busy, but not productive.  Many people are stressed because they feel overwhelmed.  They have too much to do in too short of a period of time and are unable to get it all done.  They feel unaccomplished, unfulfilled and like they are constantly running.  This can be caused by lack of motivation, inability to say no, being busy not productive, not having a schedule or routine, not asking for/allowing help or not prioritizing actions according to your value system. 

 


#9 Major Life Change

 Moving, a new job, new baby, travel, your child moving out or any big life change can cause stress.  When change is stressful, it is usually because you have a fear of the unknown.  Specifically, it is thinking that the unknown is going to turn out bad.  Your mind goes to worst case scenario and a long list of what-ifs in order to attempt to prepare for catastrophe.  If you are excited and expect things to go well, it is unlikely the change will be as stressful for you.

 

 

#10 Trauma

 Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event such as rape, abuse, car accident, or war has profound effects on a person even if they do not develop post-traumatic stress disorder.  It can be stressful both during the event and for years after. It shapes how a person sees the world, their sense of safety, trust and more.  Cues that remind someone of the trauma like certain sounds, situations, or smells can cause a person’s stress to rise involuntarily.  Trauma can cause stress in many ways, on many levels and for an extended period of time.

 

Click the following links for more information on:

Dangers of Stress:

https://heartmdinstitute.com/stress-relief/what-stress-can-do-to-your-body/

http://www.livescience.com/2220-stress-deadly.html

Effect of lack of Self Compassion:

http://99u.com/articles/53949/the-dangers-of-being-too-hard-on-yourself

http://bigthink.com/ideafeed/dont-be-so-hard-on-yourself

Stress of Mental Illness

http://www.livescience.com/2220-stress-deadly.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201512/untreated-mental-illness

Stress of Chronic Illness

http://www.aaets.org/article180.htm

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/chronic-illness.aspx

Physical Effects of Unhealthy Relationships

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201108/the-hidden-health-hazards-toxic-relationships

https://www.practicalrecovery.com/prblog/unhealthy-relationships-cause-unhealthy-bodies/

Health Effects of Loneliness

https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/threat-to-health/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/01/18/loneliness-might-be-a-bigger-health-risk-than-smoking-or-obesity/#12d05ba825d1

Effects of Feeling Unfulfilled

https://www.bellanaija.com/2017/01/234-finance-a-fulfilling-job-can-impact-your-health/

https://blog.bufferapp.com/happiness-is-not-enough-why-a-life-without-meaning-will-make-you-sick

Health Effects of Loss

https://paindoctor.com/top-10-stressful-life-events-holmes-rahe-stress-scale/

http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/how-grief-can-make-you-sick/

Health Effects of Poor Time Management

http://stress.lovetoknow.com/Stress_Related_to_Time_Management

http://lifestyle.howstuffworks.com/family/parenting/for-moms-and-dads/time-management-affect-health.htm

Effects of Life Change

https://www.dartmouth.edu/~eap/library/lifechangestresstest.pdf

https://www.simplypsychology.org/SRRS.html

Effects of Trauma

https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/04/18/how-trauma-can-affect-your-body-mind/

"Nobody Like a Water Hose" How to Guard Your Kids Against Sexual Harassment, Abuse & Bullying

On the way home from picking up my kids from school, my 10 year old daughter told me that she had a conversation with a boy in her class that went like this..

“All us boys at school used to call you water hose last year because you are so tall and skinny and have no curves.  I feel bad for you because nobody likes people with flat bottoms.”  

She told me she was shocked people think of her that way.  

She told him, “I’m still growing.”

He said, “You better hope puberty comes early for you so your butt can get bigger or you should really consider getting plastic surgery.”

She laughed it off and said, “People like me the way I am.”

He said, “Maybe you can cover up your flat butt with a long jacket.”

She said, “I am not trying to hide my features just because people don’t like it.”

He said, “There is no benefit of being a water hose.”

She said, “There is no benefit of having a big butt.”

The conversation went on and on.  He kept telling her he felt bad for her and coming up with ideas on what she could do to stop having a flat bottom.

And so it begins.

I can’t say that I didn’t see it coming.  It is not shocking to me.  Our children are constantly exposed to sexualization and objectification of women in our culture.

It still sickens me.  It saddens me.  It infuriates me.  

I am proud that my daughter stood up for herself.  I am thrilled at her confidence.  I can almost be fooled into thinking it wasn’t a big deal to her because she laughed it off.  But as a woman, I know that no matter how much she tried to shake it off, there was a tiny seed planted in her mind at that moment about how she is viewed by others, what her value is to others, her confidence shaken.

So now what?  What is a mother to do? On the one hand, I don’t want to blow it out of proportion and make it worse for her.  At the same time, I don’t want to blow it off and pretend like it wasn’t a big deal and contribute to the “boys will be boys” mindset.

Did I mention my 7 year old son is in the car listening to the whole thing?

What did I do?  I had that important and uncomfortable conversation.  It is really more of a continuation of a conversation that I had started with them since they were tiny.

Create a safe environment to share.

I told her, “I am so glad you told me.” Asked her how she felt, how she handled it, and told her how good it was that she handled it the way she did.

From the moment my kids were little I worked on not shaming them when they told me the truth about something.  They have always had a less severe consequence if they were brave enough to tell me the truth.  There is so much shame in anything related to sex or body parts that it can be scary to tell the truth if abuse occurs.

I also create the time.  I am a busy working mom, like many of you.  I found that there are certain times of day when my kids really open up to me about what has gone on in their day and I listen intently, without judgement.  Car rides back and forth to school are prime time for connection.  It takes way more time out of my day than putting them on the bus.  It is not convenient or easy, but it is a crucial bonding time for us.

The fact that we had long established a time and safe place to share things like this without shame is where it begins.  Had she not felt comfortable to share, this conversation would have been nothing more than a shameful memory for her.  Having that conversation and not sticking my head in the sand is step one.  If you don’t teach your kids about things related to to sex, someone else will! You may not like the information they get from someone else and the information may be wrong.  Is it going to be weird or awkward? Yeah, it might, but remember, you set the tone for that kind of conversation.  They will pick up on your vibe.  If you act weird and uncomfortable about it, so might they.  Even then, awkward and uncomfortable conversation is better than no conversation.

No means no.

I have taught my kids since they were little that when it come to their bodies, no means no.  Stop means stop.  This is true when they are rough playing, hugging, making jokes etc.  That has taught them that they are in charge of their own bodies and that they can say no when someone makes them feel uncomfortable.  It also teaches them that when someone tells them no, they need to honor and respect that, too.

So again, I reminded them that the discomfort that she felt at the moment he said those things, that icky gut feeling is how you know that what is happening isn’t right and that it is ok to tell the person to stop or shut up, walk away, tell an adult etc.

I discussed that when you see that someone is uncomfortable, that is your signal to stop doing what you are doing.

Privates are Private

Kids need to know what their private areas are.  A simple way to say it is any place your bathing suit covers.  Call their body parts the correct names (breast, penis, vagina etc.) They also need to know their privates are private and everyone else’s privates are private.  Nobody else should see, touch talk about their privates and vice versa.  No matter what someone tries to tell you to convince you that it is ok, it is not.  

When my son heard what happened to my daughter he KNEW it was NOT ok because we have had these conversations before.

You are more than just your sexuality

I encourage my children to talk about what they like about themselves.  This way they do not feel the need to seek out others to confirm how awesome they are.  I tell them how awesome I think they are all the time. “You worked hard to reach that goal and you did it!”  “That was really tough for you and you turned it around!” “

I tell my daughter she is beautiful.  I tell my son he is handsome. And I tell them all the time how proud I am of them because they are smart, kind, strong, brave, generous, thoughtful, loving, fun, funny, caring, hardworking, etc.  They are so much more than their looks and physical bodies.

It is never your fault and it is not ok

When it comes to abuse it is not uncommon for victims to feel embarrassed or ashamed.  The first time I was sexually harassed was in 7th grade.  I sat in the front of the class.  The boy that sat next to me kept grabbing my behind every chance he could to amuse and get a good laugh from the boys sitting behind me.  I told him to stop.  He didn’t.  I felt embarrassed.  When I mentioned it at the dinner table with my parents, I acted like it was a funny thing that happened which was annoying, ignoring how I really felt embarrassed.  I didn’t think it was a big deal.  My parents sure did.  I was even more embarrassed when they went up to the school and demanded that kid be held accountable and insisted on pressing charges.  At the time, I was relieved it would be stopped but I was even more embarrassed that it got blown up into a huge deal and I was worried the other kids would call me a tattle tale or shun me because I was a prude for telling.  So much so that even as an adult when I saw that kid I felt embarrassed.

Now as an adult I see it differently.  I am so grateful that my parents knew best.  That they had my back and stepped up to protect me even when I couldn’t understand what was wrong.  They understood that I had a right to an education free from feeling humiliated and objectified. Had that gone on, it would most definitely impacted my academics.  Their actions taught me that I did not have to accept behavior like that from others.  I did nothing wrong.  It taught me my value and worth.  That being treated that way is not something I just have to accept. And most importantly that I had done nothing wrong.

Report it.

Our kids need us to be their advocates and their voice now more than ever.  They are exposed to so much that is difficult for them to fully comprehend the impact of what they are absorbing. They need us to step up and pay attention and protect them.  If your child is being bullied or harassed, encourage your child to stand up for themselves. But don’t let it stop there.  Report it.  Show them their value. I have worked with parents who have kids that are suicidal because of bullying and harassment and they don’t want to get involved.  Step up.  We have to teach our children their worth because if we don’t society will and they will get it all wrong.  We protect our children when we step up but we also send a message to the bullies and harassers and abusers that it is not ok.  We will not turn a blind eye and allow this to go on.

So what happened??

I reported it.  I spoke to the assistant principal who supported us 100%.  He told me that the behavior is unacceptable.  That the school environment should be safe.  That school is preparing children for the work environment and had this been at work the student would have been reprimanded, fired and sued.  I assured him that my daughter was fine and he said he was glad for that but, it is important to report those things because although my daughter could handle it, the next little girl might not. Plus it is important to send a message to my daughter that she can report those things and it will be taken seriously and she will be protected because it isn’t ok.  He said in this day and age our kids our exposed to so much it is up to us to teach them how to handle it.

I was blown away.  I was so appreciative that he was supportive.  And he was 100% right!

7 Tips for When You Don't Wanna

One of the first things I tell my clients when they come to session and want to feel better is to exercise regularly.  So clearly I know the benefits of it, not just physically, but mentally.  I know that it is an important part of self-care, gives a sense of accomplishment, builds self-esteem etc. I preach it all the time.  I even really like to work out.  As much as I know that it is good for me and how important it is, there are still time when I DON’T WANNA!!!!!

The “I don’t wanna” syndrome is not just about exercise either.  It could be I don’t want to eat the healthy meal.  I don’t wanna complete that task.  I don’t wanna study. Sometimes we don’t want to do what we know we should to get us to the next level and closer to our goal, whether it be weight loss, health, business, relationships etc.

Why??? Why on earth do we not want to do what it takes to reach our goals? 

There are actually many reasons:

Maybe you feel overwhelmed. It just seems like too much and you don’t feel like you can possibly do it.  You don’t even know where to start.

Perhaps you have the perfectionist mindset.  You think if it is not going to be perfect why even try

It could be that you are struggling with making it a priority. You have a million other things to do, too. This task does not seem necessary.

Sometimes it is fatigue.  You just don’t have the energy

You could be struggling with depression.  When you are struggling with depression it is hard to find the motivation to do things and don’t enjoy things like you used to.

It could be fear or anxiety.  You are afraid you aren’t going to do it rightor something is going to go wrong which makes you feel anxious and want to avoid it.

Maybe you lack patience.  You aren’t seeing results fast enough and you’re frustrated.

Whatever the reason is, there are some suggestions to help you push past the “I don’t wanna” and get moving.

1.  Competition.  One way I get past a case of the “I don’t wannas,” is I check out my competition.  I follow them on social media and check out what they are doing.   I am not talking about people that are WAY ahead of me in the goal I want to accomplish.  I don’t look at those that are at my end goal.  It seems too far away and out of reach and frustrates me further.  I look at people who are just like me and are doing what I know I should be doing and don’t wanna.  It inspires me that if they can do it, I can too.  There is something about seeing people making small steps towards the goal, doing what I am avoiding, that snaps me back into reality and stops me from making excuses not to do it.  Sometimes when people look at their competition they get down on themselves.  Don’t do that.  Use it as inspiration because if they can do it, so can you.

2.  Vision:  Sometimes when I don’t want to do something I know I should, I use visualization.  I keep my eye on the end goal.  What will it feel like when I get to that end goal?  What will I look like? How will getting to that end goal change my life?  How will it change how I feel about myself?  How will it affect my loved ones? I imagine what it would feel like if I did it, what I would look like if I did.  Let’s take running for example.  I imagine what the sense of accomplishment will feel like when I am done.  I imagine how I will look physically over time.  I imagine how strong I will feel.  I imagine what it will feel like to brag to my friends that I did it.  I imagine the exhilaration of it.  I imagine how proud I will feel after I have done it. 

3.  What Feels Better:  Burn out is real.  Anyone that has worked out knows this.  When you do too much too fast it does not work out in your favor.  If I am feeling like “I don’t wanna,” I ask myself, “What will feel better?”  I think about the end result of each action I could take.  Sometimes, I decide I will feel better after I exercise than if I don’t.  Sometimes, I decide I will feel better after I have a nap, than to exercise.  Sometimes I decide I will feel better if I clean the house instead of work on my business stuff.  I think it important to allow yourself a break now and then or you risk a break down and nothing will get accomplished then.

4.  Bite Size Pieces:  When I am training for a race, like a half marathon, there are times it feels so overwhelming it seems impossible!  It could be training for a marathon, growing a business, raising children, getting a degree, anything that is going to take time and dedication to accomplish can seem like you are trying to eat an elephant.  The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  So, I break down big goals into small doable tasks.  If I were training for a half marathon, I wouldn’t run 13.1 miles the first day of training.  I start with what feels doable, like 3 miles, then once that becomes easy I add on.  Even then, there are days when I don’t wanna do the small task, so I break it down to an even smaller task.  I might run 1 mile or I might just get out for a walk.  Even if it is just one tiny step forward toward a goal, it is better than no steps forward and staying where you are.

5.  Progress not Perfection:  You will have bad days.  You will have obstacles.  The important thing is to not let it stop you.  I see people that just give up when things don’t go perfectly for them.  One mistake does not mean working for this goal is a mistake.  One failed attempt does not mean you are a failure at it or you can’t do it.  Bad days are part of the process towards success.  There are days I get out there to work out and it is a bad workout.  It is hard.  I feel weak.  When that happens it is discouraging, frustrating and I really don’t want to go work out again the next time.  I remind myself that no effort towards a goal is bad.  As long as you are putting forth the effort, that is progress.  I do not expect for perfection because it makes the “I don’t wannas” even worse.   

6.  Be kind to yourself:  Pay attention to your self-talk.  How are you talking to yourself in your head?  What do you tell yourself about the task you need to do?  Are you beating yourself up when you don’t accomplish a task? Beating yourself up doesn’t work! It just makes you feel bad.  It doesn’t push you closer to your goal.  In fact, it pushes you further from your goal.  If you let the “I don’t wannas” get the best of you, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again.  Ask yourself, “Where did I go wrong and what can I do to not make that mistake again?”  You will be much more likely to conquer the “I don’t wannas” next time.

7.  Celebrate every mile.  Don’t wait until you accomplish your goal to be happy and celebrate.  Celebrate every time you get out there and work on your goal.  Celebrate every mistake because it means you are trying and learning and growing.  Let yourself feel good while in process of accomplishing your goal and not just when you reach your goal.  That positive reinforcement will make the “I don’t wannas” diminish.

Moral of the story? That “I don’t wanna” feeling is normal.  Everyone feels is at one point or another, but you don’t have to let it stop you from reaching your goals!

When facebook feels like the devil!

 I often have clients that come in and talk about how Facebook has ruined their day.  Many people have negative emotions towards Facebook despite the fact that they use it frequently.  People who are depressed or anxious often find themseles triggered by things they see on Facebook.  While I agree that limiting Facebook or closing your account, would be a good idea, I know that many won't.   Plus, dare I say, I think Facebook can be a great tool towards helping you feel better. Here are my suggestions on how to handle Facebook.

1.  Clean up your newsfeed.  Unfriend, block from your newsfeed or block people that post negative things that trigger you all together.  It is easy to do.  Having that little irritant as you scroll through your newsfeed can put a damper on your day and get you worked up over things unnecessarily.  When you are struggling with a mental disorder or stress the last thing you need is to add one more unpleasnat feelng to your day.  

2.  Find and follow people with positive messages that inspire you.  Find people that make you laugh, people that have a positive outlook on life and struggles, inspirational speakers, spiritual leaders any one that has a message that makes you feel good.  I have found many people along this line and my newsfeed is constantly flooded with inspiring messages throughout the day.   It is a real pick me up and forces me to change perpective on even the bad days.

3.  Post positive messages.  You will be surprised on how this changes your own perpective.  It forces you too look for something positive in your day, rather than looking for sommething to complain about and focusing on all that went wrong.  Scanning your environment for good things makes them appear more on your radar and uplifts your mood.

4.  Keep personal stuff for personal interactions.  I am all for finding and using your support network when you need to talk.  Share with your closest and most trusted friends and confidants, but my guess is the hundreds of facebook friends you have do not fall in that category.  Facebook should not be used as your diary.  When you share personal stuff that is vulnerable at a vulnerable time, you are opening yourself up to comments and trolls that now know how to push your buttons.  Share those thoughts and feeligs with people you know you can trust.

5.  Be realistic when evaluating the posts of others.  Do not believe everything that you read!  One of the biggest complaints I hear about Facebook is that people feel bad about their lives when comparing it to the life Facebook says their friends live. I have seen first hand people struggling in their personal life, but posting on Facebook the life of perfection.  People post a very polished life with polished pistures, but it isn't always real.  Everyone has struggles.  Everyone has issues.  Comparing yourself to others is a recipe for disaster.

Facebook does not have to be the devil.  Facebook can be your friend and even a tool for healing when used wisely.  Can you think of any ways that Facebook can be used to benefit you?  Feel free to share in the comments!