5 Exercises & Tips to Lower Your Anxiety Before a Big Exam

For many of us, college was absolutely the best time in our lives. The freedom and friendships made those four years incredibly special. But college isn’t all sparkles and unicorns. For others, college is a completely different and often negative experience.

As fun as it can be, it’s also incredibly stressful, especially when it comes time to take an exam. The bigger and more important the exam is, the more we tend to suffer from anxiety, and the less likely we are to do our best.

If this scenario sounds all too familiar to you, then use the following tips and exercises to help lower your anxiety before the next big exam you take:

1. Breathe Deeply

When we feel fear, our body can go into an adrenaline-fueled panic mode. This chemical and physical reaction is how our ancestors survived numerous threats. But in this state, our minds do not function properly. In fact, they often go completely blank.

When we take slow, deep breaths, we help our bodies go from the survival response to a relaxed response. This helps the blood flow back into our brain and helps us focus on the task at hand.

2. Change Your Perspective

Most of us think of tests as something designed specifically to trick us. The truth is, if you have studied and are totally prepared, then the test is actually an opportunity for you to show off how much you know.

The other truth is your professors WANT you to pass. When you pass, they look good. So stop going into the exam with a negative attitude and go in feeling confident and knowing your teachers want you to do well.

3. Start Strong

To set the right tone for the test, scan it to find those questions you are 100% sure about and answer those first. This will help you feel confident and put your mind into a free-flow thinking state.

4. Be Realistic

What is your history of taking exams? Have you generally done well in the past? Are you a good student that makes an effort? If so, remind yourself of these facts. It’s easy to have dramatic and unrealistic ideas floating around in your head right before an exam. Thoughts like, “I’m going to fail and then I won’t pass the class and I won’t get my degree and will end up working at Starbucks the rest of my life if I’m lucky.”

This likely won’t happen – or anything like it –  so try not to make an already stressful situation worse by being unrealistic.

5. Exercise

Exercise the morning before your exam. This will not only release built-up tension in your muscles (make sure to stretch after your workout), but it will also release “feel-good” endorphins that will put you in a better frame of mind.

 

If you would like some extra help handling the stressors of academic life, please reach out to me today to schedule an appointment.

 

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/lib/9-ways-to-reduce-anxiety-right-here-right-now/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201502/test-anxiety-quick-tips

https://www.onlineschoolscenter.com/20-effective-ways-to-calm-your-nerves-before-an-exam/

Breaking the Ice: Tips on Making Female Friends at Work for Women

When we’re school aged, it’s easy to make friends. But as adults, women can sometimes feel on-guard around other women, especially in the workplace, and friendships can be harder to foster. Not only does this lack of friendship make going to work each day feel more challenging, but studies have found friendships, or a lack of friendships, has a big impact on our overall health and well-being.

Here are some ways you can foster real friendships with other women at work.

Make it a Priority

It’s easy to tell yourself you’d like to make friends with the women you work with but following up on that impulse takes real effort. The journey of friendship is one you must commit to and nurture. Ask a coworker to lunch, compliment someone on the fine job she did, and invite others into the discussions you are leading. Each day make it a priority to build a closer relationship with the women you work with.

Focus on Quality Not Quantity

Depending on how many female coworkers you have, you most likely won’t be able to make real and lasting friendships with all of them, and that’s okay. This is not a popularity contest where you try to get everyone to like you. This is about seeking out women with whom you have a connection and putting in the effort to form a lasting bond.

Expect Some Rejection

The truth is, there’s not a whole lot of difference between romantic dating and platonic “dating.” You may feel a connection with another woman at work and ask her out to lunch. She may say no and say it again and again.

Don’t let any form of rejection stop your efforts. Just as no one at work really knows your inner life and feelings, you don’t know anyone else’s. Some women may simply be in a bad space in their life and don’t have the energy to connect with a new person. That’s okay. Move on and keep trying. Eventually you will make a true and lasting connection.

Keep the Momentum Going

Once you’ve had that initial lunch or get-together, keep the momentum going. Building a relationship is like building a fire. It takes a bit of work to get that kindling to catch, but once it does, the bigger flames come.

Like anything else in life, friendships require our time and attention, but when you consider the value and meaning they bring to our life, they are worth the extra effort.

 

If you’re looking for some expert guidance on navigating the unique stressors of your work or personal life, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

 

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/03/04/women-report-increased-discrimination-from-workplace-queen-bees/133258.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/working-btches/201308/why-are-some-women-nasty-other-women

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/friendship-20/201605/10-ways-make-and-keep-friendships-adult

5 Personal Techniques to Work Through Flashbacks

Flashbacks are our brain’s way of processing traumatic events that we’ve experienced. But what tends to happen is, our subconscious goes to our storage cabinet to access some important memories regarding the event, and everything sort of tumbles out of the cabinet all at once. This falling out or flashback experience can feel almost as traumatic as the initial event.

Flashbacks usually happen without warning. Most result from a “triggering” that occurs by an external experience. Triggers are typically sensory-based experiences that manifest via smells, sounds, tastes, textures that remind the person of the traumatic event. The smell of cologne can remind someone of their perpetrator. The sound of fireworks or a car backfiring can remind a soldier of gunfire.

Living with flashbacks is very difficult, but there are some ways you can work through these disturbing events:

1. Remember

Remind yourself that you are safe and having a flashback. Tell yourself as many times as necessary that these are only memories, the event is in the past, until you can feel yourself begin to calm.

2. Empower Yourself

Sometimes using your five senses can help you to be in the present moment. If one sense it causing the flashback – your sense of smell for example – use your other senses to place yourself in the actual current environment. The tactile experience of stamping your feet on the ground can remind yourself that you are free to get away from any situation that has become uncomfortable for you.

3. Breathe

As soon as we become fearful or panicked, our breathing becomes shallow and erratic. This only exacerbates the stress we feel in that moment because our body is literally panicking from a lack of oxygen. In these fearful moments, when we slow our breathing and take deeper and deeper breaths, we actually signal to our brain and body that everything is okay.

4. Honor the Experience

The initial trauma was awful, so it’s perfectly reasonable for you to want to move on “NOW!” However, you should understand that the body needs to go through this process and experience a full range of emotions. Honor the experience and yourself for having gotten through it.

5. Find Support

It’s important that you let loved ones know about your flashbacks so they can help you through the process. You may also want to seek the guidance of a professional mental health therapist who can offer coping strategies.

 

If you or a loved one is suffering from flashbacks and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch, I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://psychcentral.com/lib/coping-with-flashbacks/

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/after-trauma/2013/11/why-do-flashbacks-happen/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/healing-trauma-s-wounds/201506/understanding-and-working-flashbacks-part-one

You Are Not Alone: Finding Support as a Male Sexual Abuse Survivor

On an almost daily basis we hear stories of female sexual harassment and abuse in the media. Sadly, male sexual abuse is fairly common, but the issue is underreported by the media and society in general.

One US-based study found that 1 in 6 boys experience some form of sexual abuse by the age of 18. Other research suggests the ratio may be as high as 1 in 4.

Why is this conduct not reported more often?

To start, most men are embarrassed to be the victim of sexual abuse, particularly when it is perpetrated by other men. In our culture, men are supposed to be invulnerable and not feel emotional pain. In other words, guys are supposed to be the strong, silent type. It simply goes against the silent rules of being a man to acknowledge trauma and admit that you are suffering.

As a result, male victims of sexual abuse shove their feelings down and deny what happened. This repression of experience and emotion can and often does lead to isolation, anger, sadness, shame, guilt, and fear. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), major depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are also common among victims of male sexual abuse.

It’s important to get help.

 

If you are the victim of sexual abuse, understand that you are far from alone. As the topic becomes more mainstream, there is less judgement by those who don’t understand how a man could be victimized in such a way. Education regarding male sexual abuse and demystifying misconceptions surrounding rape is essential to help male survivors heal and speak out.

While more needs to be done to bring this subject to mass awareness, it’s important that individual victims seek support. A therapist will be able to help you deal with your complex emotions and offer strategies to move through and past feelings of depression and anxiety. In time, healing can and does occur.

If you or someone you know is a male victim of sexual abuse and would like to discuss treatment options, please get in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

How to Address a Coworker’s Sexist Behavior or Comments

With movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, more attention has been given to sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace and world in general. If you are the target of a coworker’s sexist behavior or comments, here’s how you can address it in a professional yet clear manner:

Find Your Voice

While I know it seems unlikely, there is always the small chance a coworker may not know the remarks he sometimes makes are viewed as sexist or negative in any way. In other words, they’re more ignorant or lacking self-awareness than they are a purposeful aggressor. Be sure to speak up and share your thoughts and feelings, letting the offender know his offensive behavior is not appreciated. While you may feel anger or other strong feelings inside, try to be a bigger person than your coworker. Instead of using an outburst (as warranted as it may feel), focus on clear communication as a first step toward resolving the issue.

Treat the Guilty Party Like a Child

Often the guilty party is not an evil person hellbent on making your life miserable. They are simply thoughtless and have a different point of view as you. When they let a sexist comment fly or act inappropriately, try to react as you would to a misbehaving child who doesn’t have the context to understand his own actions. Don’t get mad – point out the behavior, make it clear it is unacceptable, and move on with business like the professional you are.

Say “No” More

Are you often asked to take notes during a meeting or be the one to go for the coffee and muffin run? Does it feel like this is because your mostly-male coworkers think those kinds of tasks are women’s work?

It is your right to say ‘no’ more often. For example, you can say something like, “I took notes the last couple of meetings, how about Frank does it this week?” or “I’m happy to be a team player, as I’m sure all of you are, so how about someone else get the coffee this week as I’ve done it the past three times.” Again, it’s important to speak calmly and factually.

Document Everything

It’s possible that all of your efforts may do little to dissuade the guilty party or parties. In these instances, it’s important that you document all the offensive incidents, what was said and by whom, and the day and date. Make copies for yourself and head to HR with a copy.

Follow Up

If no ramifications or corrections of behavior occur, follow up with your HR department to determine what measures they plan to take. Stay the course and see it through to the end to make sure the message is clear – that message being sexist comments and behavior will NOT be tolerated.

 

If you are a victim of sexual misconduct and would like to speak to someone about it, please be in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I might be able to help.


Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-memory/201712/sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/we-can-get-along/201412/how-reduce-sexism-the-latest-research

https://www.newsweek.com/seven-practical-ways-combat-workplace-sexism-feminist-fight-club-498751

https://www.careeraddict.com/workplace-sexism

Why Setting a Strong Female Role Model is Important for Your Daughter

Every Halloween, little girls all over the country choose costumes that reflect what they want to be when they grow up. And each year we see many girls choosing to dress as princesses and fairies, kitty cats and maybe the odd super hero. Rarely do we see young girls dressing as executives, scientists, or world leaders.

It can seem benign enough, but it does beg the question: are young girls still under the impression their choices in life are limited? And what can parents, particularly mothers, do to set a good example?

The Importance of Role Models

If you are a runner, you probably know that for most of human history no one was able to run the 4-minute mile. In 1940, someone actually got to 4:01, and for nine years that is where the record stayed, with not one runner in the entire world being able to break it.

It seemed to everyone that the human body, no matter how fit and trained, would never be able to break that record. But then on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier, running the distance in 3:59.4.

And then a very interesting thing happened: barely a year after this feat, someone else ran a mile under 4 minutes, and then more runners did it, and then even more. Now it’s common practice for runners to run the mile in under 4 minutes.

Role models show others what is possible, and that’s powerful. Humans tend to not attempt things unless we believe it can be accomplished.

Our children learn from watching us. They learn how to think, act, and feel about themselves and the world around them. Here are some ways mothers can set a strong female role model for their daughters:

Body Image

It’s important for mothers to encourage their daughters to be healthy and strong, but not to obsess over beauty. It’s not enough to talk the talk, moms have got to take care of their bodies and health and accept themselves as they are.

Boundaries

Unless they are shown otherwise, young girls may grow up assuming they must constantly please others and never say no. Moms, it’s important to show your daughters that setting boundaries is healthy and necessary.

Confidence

Confidence comes from a mindset that failure and mistakes are merely chances to learn. It also comes from knowing strengths and abilities as well as limitations. In other words, confidence is a byproduct of knowing and accepting our true selves.

 

Are you having a hard time being the role model you’d like to be? Maybe you’re a stressed-out single parent who could use some coping strategies. If you’d like to speak with someone, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.


Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-gender-ourselves/201205/female-role-models-the-absent-conversation

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thinking-about-kids/201205/i-could-do-why-role-models-matter

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beauty-sick/201705/gift-mothers-daughters

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fixing-families/201402/9-ways-be-the-best-role-model-you-can-be

https://www.nomeatathlete.com/4-minute-mile-certainty/

How to Help Your Child Live with a Tic Disorder

Parenting can be complicated for any parent, but for those whose children have a Tic Disorder, it can present unique challenges. You’re not just a parent, you must also play counselor, quasi-medical expert, and school advocate. Supporting and encouraging your child will help them thrive as they’re presented with adversity. Here are some tips to help you help your child live with a Tic Disorder.

Educate Friends & Family

One way to help your child cope is to educate friends, family, and – if necessary – teachers and school administrators about Tic Disorders. As you educate other parents and teachers, they’ll know what to expect and may be more accommodating as challenges arise.

Ignore Tics

It’s important to ignore your child’s tic as it happens. Drawing attention to it or scolding them will likely make it worse. Try not to talk about their tic unless they bring it up, or unless it’s absolutely necessary. You can also try to distract them in a gentle manner with a toy, a game, or something else they enjoy.

Reduce Stress

You can help your son or daughter cope with their Tic Disorder by reducing stress. Making sure that they get regular exercise and eat healthily will help their bodies naturally regulate stress and anxiety. Make sure not to over-schedule your child’s activities, as they will need down time too. Encourage your child to talk about things that are bothering them, then help them problem solve. You can also help reduce your child’s stress by remaining calm yourself in stressful situations.

Good Sleep

Make sure your child gets enough rest at night by establishing a bedtime routine. Just as with adults, avoiding screens (television, tablets and video games) at least an hour before bedtime is important. No one falls asleep immediately upon getting into bed, especially after mental or physical exertion. Make sure they have down time 30 minutes to an hour before bed. You can also help your child by ensuring that you get plenty of rest yourself.

Reassure

Reassure your child tics are common, and there’s no reason for them to feel embarrassed. It’s also a possibility that your child’s tic will subside or go away in a few years, or even a few months.

 

As the parent of a child diagnosed a Tic Disorder, your encouragement will help your child cope with their disorder and over time they’ll grow to become a happy, successful adult.

Are you the parent of a child with a Tic Disorder, and looking for support and guidance? A qualified professional can help. Give my office a call today, and let’s schedule a time to meet.

5 Ways to Recharge Your Energy After a Rough Day

Few things zap your energy the way a stressful day can. Stress is known to reduce our levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that play an important role in our mood, energy and motivation. After a difficult day, you might be tempted to lounge on the couch watching TV until it’s time to go to bed. Although it might feel good in the moment, it won’t give you the mood and energy lift you need after a rough day. Here are five simple ways you can recharge yourself.

1. Unplug

After a stress-filled day, you need to unwind—and that means turning off your phone for some much-needed “me” time. It can be tempting to sit on the couch with your phone all night, checking emails, responding to texts, or getting lost on Facebook or Instagram.

Unplug. Turn your phone off and put it in a drawer in a room in your house that’s out of the way, or leave it in your car. Don’t touch it again until after you’ve had a good night’s rest.

2. Go Outside

If the sun is still out after your rough day, put on your comfy shoes and go for a quick walk. Exposure to the sunlight will help your brain release serotonin, which will boost your mood and help you feel calm and focused. Exercise is also one of the best ways you can improve your mood, helping you relieve stress and sleep better at night. Even if the sun is down, a walk outside will still help, as the exercise and fresh air will help you feel invigorated.

3. Refresh Yourself

After a tough day, take the time to refresh yourself by taking a 45-minute nap. A quick 5 or 10-minute meditation session can also help lift you up. Use your phone to find a guided meditation on YouTube, or play some relaxing music while you meditate quietly for a few minutes. You can also pamper yourself with a bubble bath, or if you need something more uplifting, take a quick shower. Before you get out of the shower, splash some ice cold water in your face; the chill will refresh you and wake you up.

4. Eat Healthy

A healthy dinner or snack is just the thing you need after a rough day. Avoid comfort foods that will leave you feeling sluggish. Instead, fuel your body with protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods will slowly release energy into your bloodstream, and you’ll likely get a mental boost as well from the feel-good result of eating healthy.

5. Make Plans

Looking forward to something is a great way to boost your mood long-term. Plan a vacation, a weekend getaway, or just a day trip. Even planning a special meal, or a visit to a new bar or restaurant will help; give yourself something to look forward to.

 

Are you struggling to maintain your energy levels? Is stress causing you to feel tired, anxious or depressed? A licensed therapist can help you find ways to manage stressful situations. Call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

Is My Anger Normal, Or Should I Seek Help?

Life wouldn’t be life without those little irritants that push our buttons. And when our buttons get pushed, it’s completely natural to feel angry. In fact, anger is a normal emotion that can facilitate better communication and positive change when expressed appropriately.

But for some people, managing their own anger is challenging. Usually these people are the last to know they even have what others may describe as “toxic” or “out-of-control” anger. That’s because their loved ones have gotten used to regulating their anger for them by hiding their own feelings, choosing their words carefully, and walking on egg shells, all in an effort to “keep the peace.”

Common Reasons for Intense Anger

If you are uncertain whether or not you may have anger issues, read the following common reasons for intense anger and see if any of them ring true for you.

Anger as a Way to Self-Soothe

Self-medication, as a way to deal with life’s pain, is very common. For those with anger issues, there is a biochemical explanation as to why you may fly off the handle and often.

One of the hormones secreted by the brain during a fit of anger is called norepinephrine, which acts as an analgesic, or pain reliever. When we are triggered, often that trigger digs up deep wounds and past hurts, whether we are aware of it or not.

Becoming angry in the moment releases a powerful brain chemical that numbs our emotional pain so we don’t feel vulnerable, ignored, unimportant, rejected, or worthless. But as with any drug, a person can become addicted to their own anger because they become addicted to the chemical reaction of it.

Self-Empowerment

Another chemical released by the brain during a fit of anger is called epinephrine. While norepinephrine acts like a pain reliver, epinephrine acts like an amphetamine, allowing us to feel a sudden surge of energy throughout our entire body.

This adrenaline rush counteracts our feeling of powerlessness in the moment, or maybe in our life in general. How seductive is that? Many medical experts will tell you that epinephrine is every bit as addictive as alcohol and cocaine, so it’s no wonder so many people are addicted to their own anger.

“Safe” Attachment

Some of us don’t feel safe in a relationship without a safe bit of distance. This is typically a response to a parent or caretaker being unavailable, unresponsive, or untrustworthy in our past. The adult children of these types of parents feel the need to cultivate a certain emotional detachment in their relationships, and anger is a very effective way of doing that.

Tips for Managing Anger

1. Recognize the problem – As with a substance addiction, it’s important to recognize and admit you may have a problem.

2. Monitor your behavior – Keep an anger journal and log behavior you noticed or you were accused of by others. Note the incident, trigger, and the intensity of your anger from 0-10. Often just seeing your anger on paper will offer some insights into where it’s coming from.

3. Feel your anger but don’t act on it – Bottling up emotions is never the answer. It’s important for us to feel our feelings, ALL of them. But it’s equally important to regulate our actions. Walk away from potential fights and don’t send that angry email.

4. Get some help – Speaking with someone about your anger can often help. By uncovering the emotions underneath the anger, you can diffuse it and begin to heal from past traumas.

If you feel you may have an issue with anger and would like to explore therapy, please get in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

 

How to Help Your Child Athlete Through a Loss

Kids love playing sports. And parents love that their kids can get all of that excess energy out while learning the benefits of hard work and comradery.

But with the thrill of competition comes the hard reality: that sometimes you lose. Some children are barely affected by a loss. They are truly happy just running around on the field or court with their friends. Other children, however, can be almost devastated by a loss.

There are a few things you can do if your child seems to struggle after losing a game:

Listen

Don’t assume you know exactly what is bothering your child. Before you provide any advice, listen to how and what they are feeling so you know how best to address the issue.

Ask Questions

Some kids, especially very young ones, may have a hard time processing their feelings. They know they feel bad, but they can’t express exactly what it is that is bothering them. Consider asking questions like:

• What part of the game was the most and least fun for you?
• Were you satisfied with your efforts?
• What did you think you did well, and what could you work on for the next game?
• What was something important you learned from today’s game?

Don’t Deny Reality

There is no point in telling your child that it doesn’t matter (when it does to them) or that they did great (if they didn’t). They know the truth and if you’re denying it, they’ll have a hard time believing anything you say in the future.

Instead of denying reality, be open with your child while gently guiding the conversation toward future strategies for positive outcomes.

Don’t Try to Protect Your Child

Many parents try to shield their child from feeling any negative emotions. While you may think you are protecting your child, the fact is, disappointment and loss is a part of life. Losing a game is actually a pretty good life lesson.

Disappointment and sadness feel bad, but you don’t want to teach your child to avoid bad feelings. These feelings play a key role in your child’s emotional, intellectual and social development. It is important for your child to learn to deal with setbacks now so they don’t derail them as adults.

Avoid your instinct to “protect” your child from disappoint. Instead, guide them through their emotions and help them learn to cope.

 

If your child has a particularly hard time dealing with loss and disappointment and you would like to have them talk to someone, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss treatment options.