Self-Care Houston, Episode 9: Kathleen Straker joins Jennifer in a conversation about a process of decision making that brings joy to life in a way that aligns with your values. Kathleen works with students from around the globe through her learning strategies workshops and individual academic coaching sessions. She has also coauthored three books for students in the health sciences. You can find Kathleen at Vital Study Skills. Subscribe in iTunes.
Resources from this episode:
- Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life, by
- Discernment: The Art of Choosing Well, by
- Podcast about simplifying your life with the exercise on life priorities by Monica Ricci. It begins on March 27, 2007 and ends on July 23rd.
- Study Without Stress: Mastering Medical Sciences (Surviving Medical School Series), by Kathleen Straker and Eugenia Kelman
- Six Steps to College Success: Learning Strategies for STEM Students, by Kathleen Straker and Eugenia Kelman
- Vital Skills, by Kathleen Straker and Eugenia Kelman
- Why Lawyers Should Embrace Compassion
- Finding Meaning in Medicine
Self-Care Houston, Episode 8: Shannon McLain joins Jennifer in a conversation about sleep and intentional practices that can improve sleep. Shannon is a mind-body medicine practitioner and certified health and wellness coach at The Center for Intentional Healing. Subscribe in iTunes.
Resources from this episode:
Self-Care Houston, Episode 7: Elizabeth Haberer joins Jennifer in a conversation about Thrive Trauma Informed Yoga. Trauma Informed Yoga can increase connection with the breath, enabling the brain to become less aroused, and relaxation to begin. A yoga practice partners beautifully with specialized trauma therapies such as EMDR, Emotional Dysregulation, Compassion Focused, etc. Elizabeth Haberer is an LCSW, Psychotherapist, and a yoga instructor. Subscribe in iTunes.
Resources from Episode:
- Elizabeth Haberer’s Thrive Trauma Informed Yoga Classes
- How Yoga Helps Survivors of Trauma
- The Role of Yoga in Healing Trauma
- Krista Tippet’s interview with Bessel van der Kolk about how bodywork like yoga or eye movement therapy can restore a sense of goodness and safety.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing
Self-Care Houston, Episode 6: Daniel Scholl joins Jennifer Christian in a conversation about empowering individuals, couples, and families to sustain ongoing financial stability. Daniel also shares how we can overcome obstacles that get in the way of achieving our financial goals. Daniel is the program manager for financial coaching at Family Houston. Subscribe in iTunes.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Self-Care Houston, Episode 5: Virgil Fry joins Jennifer in a conversation about the needs and challenges of self-care for caregivers. Virgil is the Executive Director at Lifeline Chaplaincy. Subscribe in iTunes.
Resources for Caregivers
- Lifeline Chaplaincy
- Compassionate Touch Ministry
- Virgil Fry, Disrupted: Finding God in Illness and Loss, 2007
- Virgil Fry, Rekindled: Warmed by the Fires of Hope, 2007
- Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, 2015
- Frontline Episode: Atul Gawande, Being Mortal
- Caregiver Stress and Burnout: Tips for Regaining Your Energy, Optimism, and Hope
- Minimum Self-Care Requirements, By Jennifer Louden
Self-Care Houston, Episode 3: Kim Fredrickson joins Jennifer in a conversation about being a compassionate friend to yourself when you go through difficult times. Kim is a retired marriage and family therapist and the author of “Give Yourself A Break: Turning Your Inner Critic Into a Compassionate Friend.” Subscribe in iTunes.
Resources Mentioned in Podcast
- Kim Fredrickson’s Website
- Facebook Group: The Self-Compassion Club
- Kim Fredrickson’s Youtube Channel
- 2 Self-Compassion Recordings: Compassionate Self-Statements and Self-Soothing Exercises and
Kind Words to Soothe Your Soul
- Article in the Pulmonary Fibrosis Support Newsletter: The Day I Found Out I Needed Supplemental Oxygen
- Public Kindness Facebook Community: A Word Imagined
In Kelly McGonigal’s latest book,”The Upside of Stress,” she explores how things that create meaning and happiness in our lives also create stress. When we learn to change our relationship with stress, we build in possibilities for meaning and happiness. In the following video, McGonigal recommends practical ways to shift our perspective on stress:
Take some time to journal, visit with a friend, or ponder following prompts:
- Discover what matters to you in life. Write about the roles, relationships, activities, and goals that are most important to you, and how you would feel if they did not exist.
- Discover your values. Spend 10 minutes writing about each of your top three values. Values are the things that are important to you and give meaning to the way you live and work (examples: adventure, compassion, humor, courage, and loyalty). How do your values play into your life? How can your values create some new meaning around a problem you are currently facing?
- Understand the drawbacks of avoiding stress. In order to avoid stress, we may turn down meaningful opportunities or give up on something important to us.
I hear more and more people talking about stress. Increased feelings of stress. I hear it on Facebook, emails from friends and family, even in everyday conversations. I spoke recently on the topic of self-compassion and stress-management at a major corporation in Houston. After I finished, I was amazed at the number of women that came to talk with me about their own struggle with stress and anxiety. The number of personal stories validated the stress in our society and the feeling of being overwhelmed as we attempt to manage too many expectations.
Most people experience an abundance of stress. The election and approaching holidays add an extra layer of stress and worry. The stressors are not going away, but we can use helpful tools to take extra care of our relationships and ourselves.
3 Types of Stress
Before we talk about balancing stress, it is helpful to understand how stress functions in our daily life. In simple terms, we face three types of stress: balanced, acute, and chronic. Whenever I talk about types of stress, I like to use the example of a zebra.
- Balanced Stress: When a zebra is lion-free, he is in a balanced state. A balanced state is the ability to relax and also be ready for threat when stress is present. The zebra can relax, eat juicy nutrient grass, enjoy his zebra companions, and play with his zebra kids and wife. Balanced stress is like getting the temperature just right on a thermostat.
- Acute Stress: When a zebra senses a nearby lion, everything centers on the threat of the lion. Stress chemicals and hormones release to focus all energy toward reacting to the lion. All internal systems shut down to focus energy on escape. The zebra will not sleep, digest, enjoy intimacy, or relax until the threat has been averted. When the lion leaves, the zebra’s body readjusts to a normal, balanced state. Eating, intimacy, relaxation, and play resume.
- Chronic Stress: In the zebra world, chronic stress does not exist. Chronic stress would be similar to the experience of a lion stalking the zebra 24-7. This chronic stress negatively impacts the zebra’s digestive system, sleep, intimacy, and leads to chronic fatigue. Imagine driving a car continuously even when the temperature gauge shows the car overheating. Keep driving, and the car will break down.
What does a zebra have to do with me?
The human body’s threat system is much like a zebra’s threat system, except for some important factors that maintain chronic stress and make it difficult to rebalance:
- The stressors at work, home, and in our society do not go away.
- We have the ability to replay past mistakes or rehearse worry about future threats.
- We can be harsh with ourselves in our own minds. Some of us talk to ourselves in a way that we would never talk to a loved one. Negative self-talk is like having a lion in our heads 24-7.
How does chronic stress impact our bodies?
When we are in a state of constant stress, our bodies continually stay in threat mode. Like the zebra, all of our internal systems are diverted to face the threat. We keep driving our bodies even though the temperature gauge is redlining. Unaddressed chronic stress impacts our digestive system, our ability to sleep, intimacy, our ability to think clearly, as well as our joy in daily life.
Adjust the thermostat
The first step in compassionate stress management is to take a moment to notice. Where is my internal temperature gauge right now?
- Issues with digestion
- Relationship difficulties
- Sleep difficulties
We can feel so rushed that we may not notice what is happening in our own bodies. Can we give ourselves permission to pause at least a couple of times during the day and check in? Allowing ourselves to notice may be challenging. The stressors can seem too big. For instance, what if I feel torn between my work and my responsibilities at home? What if my marriage is struggling? These issues take time to explore. Reaching out to a counselor can offer much needed support to take a close look at some tough areas. The counseling process organically creates options for moving forward and reducing stress.
The second step is to respond with care. What do I need? Explore different tools and see what brings some needed stress relief.
Resources for Stress Relief:
- 4-7-8 breathing – calms the nervous system and improved breathing
- Emotional Freedom Tapping – clears emotional blocks and calms the nervous system
- Compassionate Self-Talk – compassionately addresses the habit of negative self-criticism
- Compassion and Anger – Calm the threat system physio-biologically with compassion toward self
- The Benefits of Cultivating Gratitude for Stress Relief
Emotional Freedom Tapping, or EFT, is very easy to learn, and will help you:
- Alleviate Negative Emotions
- Reduce Food Cravings
- Reduce or Eliminate Pain
- And Implement Positive Goals
Emotional Freedom Tapping, or EFT, is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture.
Simply tapping with the fingertips on the head and chest inputs kinetic energy onto specific points while you think about your specific problem – whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, or anxiety. Tapping is paired with voicing a positive affirmation: “Even though I am ______________, I accept myself.” This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmations works to clear emotional blocks and restore your mind and body’s balance.
Becky Hein‘s recent article, Sleep Your Anxiety Away, Part I: You’ve Tried the Rest, Now Get Some Rest, discusses the impact of sleep deprivation on anxiety. If anxiety is a challenge, improving sleep is an excellent place to begin the focus of your efforts. She includes the latest research and helpful tools to improve your sleep habits as well as your mood. According to the article, “Getting adequate, quality sleep is extremely important for emotional regulation and processing. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to make changes in this area.”
To learn more, check out Sleep Your Anxiety Away, Part I: You’ve Tried the Rest, Now Get Some Rest.