7 Self-Care Tips for When Stress Affects Your Body

stressed sore woman working on computer at cafe

Since I was a boy, my body has been extremely sensitive and reactive to both physical and emotional stress. When my parents announced we were moving away from my hometown, my muscles tensed up so much I could barely use the bathroom for many days. Eventually I learned these health issues were a combination of a rare muscle tension condition and psychosomatic symptoms from my depressive-anxiety disorder.

Because my body usually felt like a car that had driven hundreds of thousands of miles — parts constantly requiring maintenance, always creaking, sputtering, or breaking down — I became a master of self-care. I spent hours every week making a conscious effort to heal and recuperate. This lifestyle was the only way for me to survive and function well enough to graduate from college and find employment. Whenever I neglected proper rest or pushed myself too far, new symptoms arose. Continue reading 7 Self-Care Tips for When Stress Affects Your Body

In Defense of Stress

stressed woman on computer

Upcoming dinner plans, a half-baked trip to the beach, and a hold waiting at the library are all small stressors I keep in the back of my mind and contribute to my anxiety. My planner is full of scribbles of upcoming plans and reminders to make future appointments. I’m preoccupied by mild rashes, engine lights, and sudden sounds. In an average week, every member of my immediate family and a handful of close friends tell me to “chill” or “relax.”

My baseline stress level is above average. A reminder “not to stress about it,” whatever it may be, is sometimes helpful. More often, it’s an annoying comment, a directive that actually increases my anxiety. And yet, it’s a comment that many of us toss out to our stressed friends and family members without a thought. Indeed, the pressure to “chill” is increasingly another stressor anxious people deal with. At this point, ads for wellness, mindfulness, and relaxation cures increase my blood pressure. Continue reading In Defense of Stress

5 Therapist-Approved Ways to De-Stress Your Day

woman writing pen table journal

Daily stress management is one of the key indicators of mental health and wellness. By being proactive in dealing with stress, we can minimize its impact. Regularly engaging in stress reduction techniques emboldens us to stave off feelings of being completely overwhelmed, depressed, or persistently anxious or panicked.

Here are five ways you can start de-stressing your day today:

1. Journaling

Journaling is a tried and true practice for therapists. Many of us came up in training programs that required writing to process our own experiences as students and trainees. Journaling is a simple yet powerful tool that allows for internal thoughts, worries, and concerns to become externalized onto a page. This can help you gain greater insight into your feelings, thoughts, and motivations as well as provide an emotional holding space for difficult material.

2. Spend More Time in Nature

Often overlooked, spending time in nature has great therapeutic effects. With the power of Vitamin D (which helps lift mood), spending time in nature can also be a great mindfulness activity. By communing with nature, many people discuss feeling a greater sense of peace and less rumination (which is consistent with worry and anxiety). Sites like parks and beaches are often popular because they tend to convey feelings of bright energy, enjoyable activities, and generally pleasant conditions. Continue reading 5 Therapist-Approved Ways to De-Stress Your Day

Recognizing Trauma vs. PTSD: A Quick Primer on Symptoms

traumatic stress vs. PTSD image

Imagine you have just had a car accident on the way home from work. Would you consider this a traumatic experience? What about if you left a country with oppressive government to find asylum in a safer country? Would you consider that traumatic?

There are different kinds of trauma you may experience. In the past, trauma meant experiencing events such as torture or abuse. But mental health professionals have come to see trauma as being more varied. How will you know if you or someone you love is struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic stress? Clarification begins first with the definition of trauma.

The International Society for Trauma Stress Studies defines trauma as a set of mild to severe reactions to, “shocking and emotionally overwhelming situations that may involve actual or threatened death, serious injury, or threat to physical integrity.” Continue reading Recognizing Trauma vs. PTSD: A Quick Primer on Symptoms

Holidays Stressing You Out? Change Your Thinking with 3 Tips

woman stress holidays

We look forward to the holidays with anticipation and, perhaps, some trepidation. There can be a lot of stress and pressure during holiday activities. This short article will present some thinking tips for the holidays, some ideas you can use to make the holiday season less stressful and more pleasant.

Thinking Tip #1: Get Away from “Should” Thinking and Into Preferences

One of the most common ways in which we get ourselves upset is by thinking other people ‘should’ or ‘must’ behave or act certain ways. If a family member is being selfish or shortsighted, we will be upset with them. It would be nice if they were less selfish and more thoughtful, but there is a big difference between thinking they should versus a preference of it being nice if they would.
When we acknowledge it as a preference that is not happening, we are mildly and temporarily disappointed. When we believe they should act a certain way, we can be upset, sometimes enraged for extended periods of time.
The tip here is to shift your thinking that others ‘should’ or ‘must’ act a certain way to thinking it would be nice if they did but certainly not a requirement for your enjoyment and peace of mind. Continue reading Holidays Stressing You Out? Change Your Thinking with 3 Tips

The Thanksgiving Dichotomy: Gratitude vs. Stress [Infographic]

family thanksgiving dinner

At Thanksgiving, there are things you are incredibly grateful for: an excuse to gorge yourself on delicious treats; time off from work; reuniting with the friends and family members you love.

And then there are the things you need to pretend to be thankful for: that relative who always asks why you’re still single or when you’ll have children; that dry, flavorless stuffing you’re expected to eat and praise every. single. year; perhaps driving to multiple celebrations in the same day.

Thanksgiving presents a challenge: feeling gratitude has proven mental health benefits, but certain parts of this holiday can be so taxing. Read on to find a middle ground. Continue reading The Thanksgiving Dichotomy: Gratitude vs. Stress [Infographic]

Dear Therapist: Can I Drink Myself to Mental Health?

Dear Therapist: Can I Drink Myself to Mental Health?

“The most important things to do in the world are to get something to eat, something to drink and somebody to love you.” – Brendan Behan

– by Anonymous Talkspace User

Dear Therapist: Can I Drink Myself to Mental Health?

I’ve always been pretty educated about the health benefits of exercising and eating right. Having doctors in the family resulted in my having way too much knowledge about various health issues, and the impact of maladaptive behaviors that can cause them. But, strangely enough, I was never taught about the overwhelming health hazards of not drinking enough of plain and simple water.

The fact is the brain requires proper hydration to function properly, because brain cells have to maintain a delicate balance between water and other elements. If that balance is disrupted, cognitive health may be negatively affected. Continue reading Dear Therapist: Can I Drink Myself to Mental Health?

Understanding the Lingering Impact of Trauma on Relationships

Why do some people become addicted?

“Someone who has experienced trauma also has gifts to offer all of us – in their depth, their knowledge of our universal vulnerability, and their experience of the power of compassion.”  – Sharon Salzberg, author and teacher.

– by Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC / Talkspace Therapist 

Understanding the Lingering Impact of Trauma on Relationships

It’s 7:10 PM and you’re anxiously waiting at the restaurant your partner has picked out for your weekly date night. You usually run a little late because you try on three different outfits before you leave, but tonight you arrived early for your 7 PM dinner reservation and have been waiting at the restaurant since 6:50 PM.

You want to show your partner that you’re committed to working on your punctuality. The server has stopped by several times to take your order, and you’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable as you wait for your partner.

Continue reading Understanding the Lingering Impact of Trauma on Relationships

Living with the Ghost of Anxiety

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 40 million Americans live with anxiety related disorders in United States each year, making anxiety one of the most prevalent mental health issues nationally.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 40 million Americans live with anxiety related disorders in United States each year, making anxiety one of the most prevalent mental health issues nationally.

– by Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC / Talkspace Therapist 

Tons of people in the United States and beyond cope with moderate to severe anxiety issues. It goes without saying that the impact can be widely felt by those that surround them.

Continue reading Living with the Ghost of Anxiety

4 Unexpected Lessons In Personal Growth, On Vacation

4 Unexpected Lesson In Personal Growth, On Vacation

Sometimes, personal growth happens when you least expect it.

While on vacation, most of us are excited about the adventures we’re having; we’re not always looking to learn life lessons while we travel. In recent years, my husband and I took up hiking as an outdoor hobby. We are not “avid” hikers, but we enjoy it and tend to plan our vacations around opportunities to hike where we can encounter natural breath-taking views. However, one trip in particular stands out because it taught me 4 lessons about personal growth, and I want to share them with you. Continue reading 4 Unexpected Lessons In Personal Growth, On Vacation