In a study of participants who suffered a severe injury, 54 percent stated having higher than average scores of depression, anxiety, and stress. Principally, if the damage affects a person’s job or favorite hobbies, they can experience overwhelming feelings of sadness, anger, sleep disruption, isolation, and even emotional changes in appetite. As all of these issues can affect not only your life but also the lives of your loved ones, it is crucial to address the stress you may be experiencing after an injury.
Your Stress Is Valid Regardless of Your Injury
An injury that affects your life can come in an infinite variety of forms. While some may think an injury must be brutal to induce stress, this idea is flawed. Massive wounds such as severe burns, amputations, and accidents will change a person’s lifestyle. However, even smaller injuries can cause stress if they compromise your job or were inflicted in disturbing ways. Something as minor as a broken finger could result in post-traumatic stress disorder if it damaged on-purpose, such as in domestic violence.
Anxiety Is a Form of Stress
Anxiety can increase substantially after an injury. Naturally, experiencing the pain and the after-effects of the event will often result in the trauma being replayed over and over in a person’s mind. Fear of something similar happening again can also spike anxiety levels. Moreover, the results of chronic anxiety are harmful to the body. Not only can it be isolating and increase cortisol levels, but a study by Harvard Health found that people with highest ranks of phobic anxiety were 59 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack than those without high tension.
Tips for Easing the Stress After a Traumatic Event
While every person’s path to healing and coping with stress will be different, there exist numerous ways you can minimize stress. In the first weeks after the event, avoid exposing yourself to things related to the trauma until you can slowly expose yourself to the trigger with a trained therapist. Avoid looking at disturbing images or videos in general. It can be tempting to drink but avoid excessive alcohol use as it is a depressant and can invoke anger in several individuals. Don’t hide out, but instead, seek help from a counselor as soon as possible.
Trade Watching News for Physical Activity
If you watch the news, it might be a good idea to take a break from it. News too often focuses on negative stories and upsetting world events, and your mind needs to focus on hope and healing. If exercise was approved by your doctor, get some physical activity. Exercise releases endorphins and chemicals that ease stress and anxiety. If your legs are injured, try upper-body-only workouts, or vice versa.
Finding a counselor is not only a smart move, but the shame some people feel about it is a stigma from the past. Taking care of your mental health and stress levels is now known to be vital more than ever before. Search for someone to talk to in your area and stop living with unneeded anxiety, anger, and isolation.
Written By: Lucy Wyndham
In part one of this series, I discussed the basics of deep breathing and reviewed abdominal breathing, the foundation of all other deep breathing exercises. If you haven’t read Deep Breathing for Mental and Physical Self-Improvement (Part 1), I’d suggest you do so before continuing.
Once you've got a firm grasp on abdominal breathing, you can move on to other techniques to enhance the health benefits of deep breathing.
Many breathing techniques revolve around some type of counting system to get you started. When your goal is relaxation, stress reduction, and better overall health, you generally want to focus on slowing down the pace of your breathing to start.
Here's a really simple exercise to start with. Get into position and start doing your abdominal breathing. Once you get into a good rhythm, start counting how many seconds it takes to inhale and then exhale. See if you can figure out an average for your normal breathing pace, let's say for example its 4 seconds to inhale and 4 seconds to exhale. All you do now is focus on increasing the number of seconds it takes to breathe in and then out. Don't rush yourself, start by aiming for 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. Once you're able to maintain this pace for 5-10 minutes at a time, try 6 seconds in and six seconds out. Spread out the increases as much as you feel comfortable with. You can choose to increase by 1 second every day, every week, or even every month depending on your physical ability and comfort level. You might progress quickly or slowly, everyone is different.
Another simple counting exercise is to count the number of breaths you take in a minute. For this, you'll probably need some type of alarm or timer to make sure you are accurately counting in 1 minute increments. Just like the last exercise, you want to start by establishing your baseline. Start your abdominal breathing, and then set your timer to go off in 1 minute. Simply sit and count the number of breaths you take in a minute (1 breath = 1 inhale and 1 exhale). Let's say you start with 10 breaths per minute, you want to then focus on decreasing the number of breaths you take to 9 per minute. Just like with the last exercise, take your time. Decrease the number of breaths you take per minute at a pace you are comfortable with.
The final basic counting method I'll discuss is what's called tactical breathing. Tactical breathing is a breathing technique primarily used by people in high stress careers such as law enforcement, the military, and emergency services. They use this technique because it helps reduce stress in moments of extremely high tension. Though an adrenaline response is a good thing for a policeman, soldier, or firefighter to have in a moment of crisis, it also has to be controlled in order for them to make the right decisions and act accordingly. Tactical breathing can also be an effective exercise for anyone looking to have a technique to use in moments of extreme stress or panic in their own lives. The main difference between tactical breathing and the other breathing exercises I have reviewed is it includes holding your breath. Deep breathing typically involves a steady flow between inhales and exhales, but tactical breathing includes breath holds between every inhale and every exhale. Here's how it goes: Take a deep breath in for a count of 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale for a count of 4 seconds, hold your breath for another 4 seconds, and then repeat. I'd recommend starting with some of the other breathing exercises I mentioned in order to improve your lung capacity before trying this. If you can't do counts of 4, start where you are comfortable and work your way up. Though the official method uses 4 second counts, there is nothing saying you can't try to increase the counts over time, just be careful that when doing the breath holds you don't start to feel dizzy, light headed, or panicked. If done right and mastered over time, this practice can help slow your heart rate and decrease anxiety in moments of high stress.
In part 3, the final part of this series, I’ll be discussing 2 more advanced breathing techniques to add to your arsenal. Until then, keep practicing your abdominal breathing and work on adding counting techniques to strengthen your breathing skills.
Scott Fantucchio, LMHC
Breathing. It's one of the most important bodily function we have, as our very life depends on it happening practically every minute of every day. Our bodies can't function or survive for very long without a steady flow of air. If we learn how to harness the power of breathing, however, it becomes a tool for more than just basic survival. What makes breathing unique from other essential bodily functions is that breathing happens both consciously and unconsciously, making it a potential gateway between our conscious and unconscious minds. It can have extremely powerful effects on our consciousness, even mimicking the effects of strong psychoactive drugs (Google "Holotropic Breathing"). Though our breathing often happens outside of our awareness, taking control of breathing can lead to substantial benefits for both the body and the mind.
Before discussing specific breathing methods, you have to first understand how deep breathing works. The way we tend to naturally breathe is different from optimal breathing. Take a minute to focus on your breathing. Just breathe normally and see what you notice. Are you breathing through your nose or your mouth? When you inhale and exhale, do you feel it primarily in your chest or your stomach? Where exactly do you feel it in these areas? Try counting how many breaths you take in a minute, or maybe how many seconds it takes you to both inhale and exhale. See what you come up with before continuing on with the article.
Most people who have never done breathing exercises will notice the following: they breathe through either their nose or mouth exclusively, they tend to feel their breath in their chest, and they take frequent breaths, usually with inhales and exhales only lasting 1-2 seconds each (or about 20-30 breaths per minute). These are all features of shallow breathing. If this describes your breathing patterns, it doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you, it just means that you're not taking advantage of the full benefits of breathing.
Shallow breathing means you are only utilizing part of your lung capacity during each breath. We don't need our full lung capacity all of the time, and we are perfectly capable of surviving with shallow breaths. However, deep breathing, which uses as much lung capacity as possible, not only helps us survive but also helps us control our minds and bodies more effectively.
Before continuing, as with any other physical activity you should check with your doctor before attempting deep breathing practices. They're not dangerous in and of themselves, but you definitely want to ensure that you are in good enough health and don't have any underlying physical problems that could result in injury or discomfort during these practices.
The Basics of Deep Breathing
The best way to start practicing deep breathing is to work on physically lowing your breath into your abdomen. Again, you may have noticed when you focused on your breath that you felt it mostly in your chest. This is normal, but chest breathing prevents you from being able to use your full lung capacity. Try sitting in a chair with your feet on the ground at about shoulder width, back straight, head facing forward, and hands on your knees. Focus again on your breathing, but this time make sure you are breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth (this is a basic feature of almost all breathing exercises). As you inhale, try to focus on "pushing" your breath down into your stomach. Ideally, you want to focus on the area about 2-3 inches below your belly button (about at your belt line), but start with just moving your breath down as far as you can push it. A good visualization to help with this practice is to imagine you have a balloon in your stomach, and you are inflating it with every inhale, and deflating it with every exhale. Focus on your shoulders and make sure they are staying level (if you notice your shoulders rising and falling, you are still breathing primarily into your chest). When you are able to see and feel your abdomen actually inflating and deflating with each breath, you've achieved the first skill you need to practice deep breathing.
It takes some time to learn this technique effectively, so make sure you practice this skill for a while before moving on to other breathing exercises. In the next few parts of this series of articles, I’ll be discussing and teaching more advanced strategies to help you get the most out of deep breathing.
Written By 7 Cups Therapist: Scott Fantucchio, LMHC
Do you feel a surge of worry when you open your bank statement? Or does parting with large sums of cash panic you? A recent study has revealed that Americans are more worried about money and their health today than they were a year ago, with 39% of individuals admitting to feeling more anxiety over these concerns. Financial stress hits most people at one point or another and dealing with your negative thoughts using coping techniques such as specialist therapy is a must.
Sit down and ask yourself why money has such an effect on the way you feel. Have you experienced severe debt issues before which have made you feel this way or maybe you grew up watching your parents struggle to make ends meet? Whatever the reason it's important you find it to help you overcome your anxiety. Counseling will encourage you to talk and with the aid of a fully trained counselor you can explore the root cause of your monetary stress and work on ways to change your behavior.
Behavior and Attitude
You never know when a unexpected bill will turn up or a household appliance needs replacing, so being able to utilize the services that an around the clock online therapy service offers is ideal when situations such as these arise and will ensure your anxieties remain under control. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to change the way people act to trigger points. In your case, your body's and mind's response to financial decisions and the stress triggers they cause will be reviewed. Furthermore, your therapist will teach you ways to stop you from responding in a way that's detrimental to your health by:
----> teaching you how to view situations from a different and more positive perspective
----> changing your negative thought processes into rational ones
----> focusing on the now rather than could bes and should bes
A New Way Of Thinking
Specialized financial therapy is somewhat of a new phenomenon in the counseling world. What’s different about this type of therapy is that practitioners are multi-skilled as they are part therapist and part financial advisor, aiding them will all the skills they need to help you overhaul the way you react when reviewing your personal finances. In depth questions are asked both face to face and via a written questionnaire to determine how you react and feel about money. Some of these questions may include:
----> How do you feel about your finances at the end of the month once your bills and expenses have been paid off?
----> If you suddenly lost your job, how would you financially cope?
----> What factor does debt play in your life?
Anxiety caused by money worries is a serious issue for millions of individuals, therefore, taking action to tackle and change the way you process these thoughts is a must. Getting to the root cause of your issues with the help of a counselor is a must, while changing your attitude and behavior is a challenge you should be prepared to undertake. Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and financial therapy should form part of your treatment to help you deal with your anxieties and way of thinking too.
Written by: Lucy Wyndham
Art is a powerful tool for mental health. Dozens of studies have shown the benefits of both viewing and creating art as a way to heal symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health conditions. The popularity of adult coloring books, painting, and other forms of art to help soothe negative emotions is no coincidence. Research continually shows the advantages of leveraging various forms of art to heal the mind.
One related treatment that is now frequently recommended in online therapy sessions is the use of drawing. Drawing, regardless of skill level, is proven to be effective in relieving negative emotions. Explore the top reasons to use this unique form of treatment.
Research supports its use and efficacy
Numerous studies and reports have supported the use and efficacy of drawing for individuals suffering from emotional difficulties. Specific benefits of drawing include a release of emotions (even deep, hidden emotional pain), an increase in positive emotions, and stress relief. One unique aspect of this form of treatment for mental health conditions is the fun that comes with drawing. Also, rather than having to attend scheduled therapy appointments for conventional treatments, drawing can be done wherever and whenever.
Accessible for all experience levels
Using drawing as a form of emotional healing does not require training or artistic talent. Whether you prefer to learn to draw a simple cat or object, or you have the skills to create a detailed masterpiece, anyone can use this technique for emotional healing. One important thing to do is to remove judgement from the process. When drawing, do so for pleasure and relaxation alone, and don’t focus on the quality of the finished product.
Focuses the mind on being present
Research has backed up the idea that drawing serves as a powerful tool to distract the mind, and to help focus on the present moment. In specific, one study that looked at the results from 40 college students showed that “drawing to distract improved mood more than drawing to express.” Drawing has the power to distract individuals from thinking about worries related to the past or future.
For those seeking a flexible, affordable, and easy way to calm emotions, drawing is an exceptional choice. This form of treatment is research backed, accessible for all people, and helps bring the mind to the present moment. Drawing provides hope and alternative treatment for those who need it most.
Written by: Lucy Wyndham