Archive for January, 2013

Take This Stress “Test” and Know Your Response Style

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Everyone experiences anxiety and stress, n’est pas? The brain is a reactive organ that is wired to respond to a particular situation in a certain manner. Not every person responds in the same manner.  I invite you to take the following anxiety inventory, peruse the five “Response Reflexes”, and then decide how much stress you have and how you typically react to it. Once you have that information you can work on modifying the reflex that is unhealthy for you.

Answer the following statements with: a) Almost never  b) Rarely  c) Sometimes  d) Quite often  e)     most of the time. Your responses will give you some feedback about the amount of stress you have.

1.I feel tired  2. I fall asleep easily  3. Before I go to sleep, my mind wanders and I think about all      the troubles and worries I have  4. I feel calm and relaxed  5. I avoid dealing with difficulties 6. I am satisfied with my life  7. I worry about things that aren’t worth it  8. I feel like crying  9. I feel good about myself  10. I don’t worry about things that I cannot change  11. I feel tense  12. I am patient  13. I feel secure  14. I wish I could be as happy as people around me.  15. My mood and behavior are stable  16. I have diarrhea, constipation, or other digestive problems  17. I can concentrate well on what I am doing  18. I am afraid of what awaits me in the future  19. People around me think I am irritable  20. I feel OK physically  21. I have palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate  22. I feel I am in control of my body and mind  23. I feel futile  24. I feel edgy and restless  25. I am decisive  26 I sweat more than other people 27. I have ordinary, nice dreams without nightmares  28. My worries are overwhelming  29. It’s easy for me to get rid of unpleasant thoughts and worries  30. When I finish a task, I feel well and relaxed.

Now that you have a sense of your overall stresses and anxieties in your life I invite you to look at your typical “reflex” style in reaction to them. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Ph.D., clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arizona, says that “your reflexes don’t always help you and in the long run they may make manners worse. Sometimes the way we cope with stress is worse than the condition causing it”.

Here are some typical stress reflexes:

1.“I blow my top”:  When under stress I snap at others, feel impatient, become belligerent and agitated.

2.“I can’t stop eating”: a)Overdose of bread and pasta.  b) Crave potato chips and chocolate. c) Polish off a box of cookies.

3. “I bottle it up”: a ) Cool and calm but only on the outside. b) Quick to deny the pressure you’re under. c) Likely to ignore physical signs of stress.

4. “I become a nervous wreck”: a) Find yourself chewing your cuticles or fidgeting. b) Sleepless night worrying.  c) Feel jittery and close to tears

5. “I take risks”: a) Smoking or drink more.  b) Get bored easily and seek constant change.  c) I act impulsively and regret decisions later.

Have you found your typical “reflex style” to stress?  That is a good and important starting point. Once you understand your “reflex style” you may want to modify it.  It is difficult to actually change it, however, because it is deeply wired into your brain by a combination of genetics and personal experience.  Still, it is worth the effort to do whatever you are capable of to bring forth a healthier and more functional approach to your inherent stress.

Hope this has been helpful – and not added to your stress!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

A List of Phobias: Can You Find Yours?

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

There are hundreds and hundreds of phobias. Google “phobia” and you will see a list of every imaginable phobia from A to Z. You will probably find one or two that may fit you nicely. Dare you look?!

What is the definition of a phobia? An accurate description is presented on the AAMFT web site. “Phobias are constant excessive fears of an object or situation that interfere with one life and/or cause personal distress.” Phobias are among the most common types of psychiatric disorders with 11% of the population subject to a phobia at some point in their lives. There are effective treatments for phobias that are successful in up to 90% of cases.

Phobias are all about fear. According to one source the ten most common phobias are:

  1. Agoraphobia: open spaces, leaving a safe place, crowded public places.
  2. Claustrophobia: confined places
  3. Acrophobia: heights
  4. Mysophobia: being contaminated with dirt or germs
  5. Xenophobia: strangers or foreigners
  6. Necrophobia: death or dead things
  7. Brontophobia: thunder and lightening
  8. Carcinophobia: cancer
  9. Aviophobia: flying
  10. Arachnophobia: spiders

Did you find yourself identifying with any of these? Probably so.  Most people admit that they are afraid of certain things or situations. A phobia is when 1) the fear is excessive or unreasonable. 2) you almost always have an anxiety reaction when you encounter the feared object or situation. 3) the feared object or situation is either avoided or endured with extreme distress. 4) the avoidance, anxious apprehension, or distress in the presence of the feared object or situation disrupts one or more aspects of your normal routine.

The key here is the extent that it interferes with your life and how extreme is your distress. That makes the diagnosis somewhat subjective because only you can answer the degree of fear and anxiety that you have relative to the particular phobia. To get some objectivity to this anxiety concern you may want to consult with a professional conversant with the recognition and treatment of phobias.

How do you develop a phobia? Most psychologists believe that a combination of factors explain phobias. Some of these might include a vulnerable genetic brain wiring, traumatic experiences with feared objects or situations, observations of others reacting fearfully to certain objects or situations, and learning certain information about the danger of certain objects and situations. Given these experiences phobic individuals will develop problematic ideas about the feared object or situation such as the danger it poses, the frequency with which it will be encountered, and the ability to cope with it.

Phobias can cause significant problems in close relationships because phobic persons make fear reducing choices which limit their activities and, thus, the participation with others. Significant others may become impatient with the phobic person’s reluctances, rituals, and resistances.

Treatment methods are available to treat phobias. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of the best. Flooding and Desensitization also are treatments used by various mental health professionals.  Medication is generally limited here except to reduce some of the anxiety provoked by the phobic object or situation.

If you or a significant person in your life has a phobia-like condition, seek assistance.  In most cases the phobia can be cured or reduced to a much more manageable existence.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Romantic Rejection: Why Did It Happen? Will It Again?

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

2012 is over.  A new year begins. Some of you will say, “What a wonderful year it has been”. Others of you may say “Thank heavens that is over!” A new year sometimes begins with the need to overcome bad experiences of the past .  One new start for you may be getting over a romantic rejection. I would like to address that topic.

I am inspired to write about the topic of rejection by hearing over and over Zac Brown’s latest –  “Goodbye in her eyes”. The last verse goes like this: “I saw goodbye in your eyes. I knew that it was over”.  If you live long enough you have experienced a rejection by a romantic interest that really hurt. Rejection can come in many forms but the romantic ones can cut the deepest into your soul. The purpose here in not to rekindle painful memories or encourage you to wallow in yesterday’s sorrow. Rather, how to deal with it, learn from it, move on and hopefully not experience it again.

Rejection might happen if:

  1. You are a loser and need to shape up.
  2. You are involved with a loser and you did not do your due diligence.
  3. You were not a good fit and your partner realized it faster than you did.
  4. You failed to bring your best self to the relationship.
  5. Maybe something else.  You name it, if you can.

Let’s look at each of these scenarios.

  1. You are a “loser”. Are you struggling to be the best person you can be – and not getting there? If so, why?  Common reasons are laziness, ignorance, addictions, mental/emotional issues, stuck, etc… If the “shoe fits”, get going. Develop a plan to become a winner. It is within your power to do so!
  2. S/he was a “loser”. Good riddance.  Hard way to find out, but at least you found out before you got burned more seriously. Find out why you were attracted to a loser.  What in you goes toward a “wounded bird” loser? Do you need to be seen as a caretaking rescuer?  Find out and raise the bar of expectations for you to share your life with a better person.
  3. “Not a good fit”?  You can be “in love” or “in lust” for a period of time, but over the long run a complementary personality and life style will determine if you are a good fit.  Know better who you are, what you bring, and what you want, for life partner.
  4. You did not bring your “A game” to the relationship. Why?  Perhaps deep down you were afraid of intimacy (emotional vulnerability) or were commitment phobic, therefore you held back part of the best part of you. Next time you may want to bring down your defenses (if you figure out what they are and why they got there) if s/he may be the “right one”.
  5. Other. You name it, if you are able. Then do what is necessary. I believe that you need to BE the right person to find the right person.

Hope the rejection was not too painful or too enduring and that one of the above lessons was learned so that you don’t have to “see the goodbye in her (his) eyes”.  Rejection can present a wonderful opportunity to learn more about yourself.  “No pain, no gain”!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates