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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

10 Ways to Manage Social Anxiety as Restrictions Lift

Wednesday, July 21, 2021 @ 9:12 PM

Elisha S Lee, CTCC

How have you been navigating through post-pandemic social gatherings? I was in a meeting the other day where we discussed this very topic. While restrictions are being lifted, many people are not comfortable with going out and resuming the life they had before the pandemic. From the conversations I have had with several colleagues, you are not alone if you are currently feeling this way. It may even feel particularly worse for you if suffer from social anxiety.

Levels of anxiety can increase when you feel like something is beyond your realm of control, and this may be one reason why you are feeling reluctant to resume your former life post-pandemic. One remedy for this is to plan. Having a plan or strategy will help you feel more comfortable you head back out into the world.

HAVE A PLAN
What you include in your plan or strategy for gathering in groups may vary to the outing or the group of people that you are going to be around. It is okay for your plan to look different and not be the same every time.

1. Bring a Friend. One thing to consider when going to social gatherings is bringing a friend. It always helps to have someone with you. Having a good friend to lean on can help you build your confidence when going into uncomfortable spaces.

2. Limit Time. There is not a rule book that states that you must stay the entire time at an engagement. If attending an event is overwhelming, then limit the time you spend there. Having control of your time can help to lessen the anxiety you may be feeling when attending the event.

3. Exercise. Taking time to exercise and work out increases endorphins that help relieve stress. Regular exercise helps to make you feel more comfortable in stressful situations. You are setting yourself up for success by exercising regularly.

4. Do a Practice Run. Taking a drive a few days before the event and visualizing what the experience may be like or what it could be a way to make you feel calmer about attending the event.

5. Socialize in Other Ways. Many events have become hybrid with an option to choose whether to meet at a location or virtually. You can continue to meet others online and socialize if you are uncomfortable meeting people in person.

6. Visualization. Visualize yourself at the event. Seeing yourself at the event and imagining different scenarios can help calm any fears of what may or may not occur at the event.

7. Deep Breathing. Deep breathing helps to regulate digestive issues, heartbeat, rapid breathing, and blood flow. It also helps to avoid the response of fight or flight when facing scary situations.

8. Gratitude. Living a life in a place of gratefulness helps to lessen anxiety. Focusing on the good things and the positive people in your life instead of what is missing or what you don’t have can help change the perspective of upcoming stressful events.

9. Compassion. Show yourself and others compassion. People are at different places when it comes to deciding how to navigate through life as restrictions start to lift. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Do what makes you feel comfortable while respecting others’ choices in the process.

10. Prayer and Meditation. Prayer and meditation of Scriptures can also help with getting relief from anxiety.


GET HELP TODAY
Do you need help figuring out what plan will work for you? Getting the support of counseling can help you with the anxiety you may be feeling. Call 443-860-6870 to schedule a no-charge initial counseling session today.

3 Ways Depression Affects the Brain

Wednesday, July 21, 2021 @ 9:07 PM

Elisha S Lee, CTCC

Have you had a bad mood that you cannot shake?

Are you constantly feeling sad and hopeless?

Are you having difficulty sleeping or are you sleeping too much?

Are you always tired?

Have you experienced weight gain or loss?

Are you experiencing restlessness?

Is your sadness stemming from feelings of shame or guilt?

Are you having difficulty concentrating?

Do you have the desire to escape and run away from your problems?

You are not alone. Depression is a common mental illness affecting many people. It can be debilitating and cause serious complications. Sadness can impact the body by increasing fatigue, cause digestive issues, and produce chronic pain. Untreated depression has the capacity of altering the brain, making the episodes worse.

1. DEPRESSION CAN AFFECT CORTISOL AND MEMORY IN THE BRAIN

The hippocampus releases the hormone cortisol. When there are stressors, it floods the hippocampus thereby stunting the growth of neurons. When the hippocampus shrinks in size, there can be memory loss. The problems of memory can show through forgetfulness or bouts of confusion that you may have when in conversation with someone. As a result, studies have shown that there is a tie between short-term memory loss and depression.

2. DEPRESSION CAN AFFECT YOUR EMOTIONAL RESPONSES – THE AMYGDALA

When you are depressed, the amygdala in your brain can be enlarged. When the amygdala is enlarged, it becomes more active. This can lead to deep disturbances, changes in how you handle anxiety, as well as other hormones. It is not uncommon for people who have depression to also experience anxiety. Side effects include:

· Memory problems

· Difficulty thinking clearly

· Guilty feelings or feelings of hopelessness

· No motivation

· Sleep or appetite problems

· Anxiety

As a result of the amygdala being enlarged, you may experience more intensity within the emotions you have. For instance, if you’re remembering a painful memory, then the pain of that experience will be more intense than it would be for someone who isn’t depressed.

3. DEPRESSION CAN AFFECT INFLAMMATION IN YOUR BODY – MEMORY AND MOOD

Studies have shown that there is a link between inflammation and the brain. The more depressed you may be, the more problems you may have with depression. Reduced oxygen is linked to depression in the body. An inadequate amount of oxygen can lead to inflammation within the brain. The death of brain cells has an impact on memory and mood. It can also speed up aging within the brain.

THE TIE
The correlation between depression and how it affects the brain is yin and yang. This connection between depression and how it affects the brain can be deep and widespread. Unfortunately, it can worsen over time. But there is hope. Studies show that brain circuitry is affected by joy, healthy pleasures, and positive emotions. What do you enjoy doing? Doing things we like focusing on things we can control, helping someone, enjoying a good meal, or taking a walk are ways to activate brain circuitry and reverse depression. Depression, when treated, can be life-changing and you can experience better health in your physical body.

Perhaps you have been sad for so long you do not remember what brings your joy. You want to get better but do not know-how. Working with a counselor can help you rediscover what makes you happy and what brings you joy. While you may no remember what made you happy, through counseling, you can discover yourself again.

You will not be alone in your healing journey. It is a journey that I will walk along with you. With counseling and support, you will find joy again.

Call 443-860-6870 for your no-cost initial consultation today.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Managing Work Stress

Monday, July 19, 2021 @ 6:59 PM

WHAT IS STRESS?

Most experts define stress as a response to life situations
like the following:


• Having too many responsibilities
• Having vague or confusing expectations
• Having to do unpleasant tasks
• Facing too many distractions
• Doing work one is not trained for
• Working with difficult people
• Being bored
• Being sick
• Experiencing too many changes
• Being in physical danger
• Living or working in a crowded space
• Getting insufficient exercise
• Getting poor nutrition
• Getting insufficient sleep
• Getting insufficient time to relax
• Being dissatisfied with one’s physical appearance
• Abusing drugs or alcohol


WHAT CAUSES STRESS?

Stress has become a factor in our culture in the last 20 years because of things that were originally designed to make life less stressful. Conveniences such as ATM machines, microwave ovens, and fax machines have made life easier in many ways, but they also have woven an expectation of instant gratification into our culture. And this causes stress. Here are a few other examples of products and services that were invented to make life more efficient and productive, but which sometimes seem instead to add to stress:


• 24-hour stores and restaurants
• 1-hour photo developing
• Drive-thru fast food
• 10-minute oil changes
• The Internet
• Catalog and online shopping
• Personal computers
• E-mail
• Headline news
• 30-minute pizza delivery



WHAT CAUSES STRESS AT WORK?

King Solomon indicates in Ecclesiastes that dissatisfaction causes stress at work. Almost everyone complains of stress at work these days. It often results from one of the following:


• Having too much or too little work to do
• Having to do work that is very complicated and
demanding
• Having to do work that is boring and repetitive
• Having unclear goals and expectations
• Having to follow changing or confusing procedures
• Being at a career dead end
• Working in a company with an impersonal management philosophy


WHOM DOES WORK STRESS AFFECT THE MOST?

Stress affects people in every type of work setting. People at the top of organizations suffer from stress because of excessive workloads, unrealistic expectations, and isolation. The phrase “it’s lonely at the top” has some truth to it.

Middle managers often experience stress because they have responsibility for the people who report to them but lack the control to execute what is expected. With the recent epidemic of corporate downsizing, middle managers have also been given greater and greater workloads. Managers who manage to keep their jobs often feel as if they are living in the shadow of termination. Professionals suffer from their own brand of stress, caused by monotony. Doctors, lawyers, and other professionals often perform the same kind of work for many years, resulting in boredom and desperation. Workers at the lower levels of today’s organizations often feel stress caused by boredom and the frustration of dealing with the public. They also may feel less successful than their coworkers in higher-level jobs and may feel stressed by their lack of status.


WHY HAS WORKPLACE STRESS GOTTEN WORSE?

The nature of work has changed. The fight-or-flight response to stress is ineffective in response to the stresses of life today.

The workplace has become decentralized. In many places, people no longer work together in one place, but may be scattered around the world or be working from home, connected by technology.

People change with each generation. Baby Boomers differ from Generation Xers in terms of their values, their work ethic, and their definitions of success. These generational differences contribute
to stress at work.


DOES STRESS AFFECT WOMEN DIFFERENTLY?

Both genders experience stress. It affects women in some
unique ways, however. Here are a few of them:


• Overall, women are still paid less than men for the
same work.
• Women still face a “glass ceiling” as they climb the
corporate ladder. A recent report stated that only 2 percent of the members of top management of North American corporations are women.
• Women who choose to have children are usually
responsible for the logistics of childcare.
• Women with children often do more housework
when they get home than their husbands do.
• Compared to men, women with children also tend to
experience more guilt feelings about leaving their
children to go to work.


HOW CAN BUILDING HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS HELP YOU MANAGE STRESS?

The subject of how to build strong relationships fills many books. In the limited space of this handout, let’s look at the key components of this stress-reducing strategy.

Identify the sources of stress in your relationships. Write about them in a journal. Make a list of people who cause you stress and explore what the issues are.

Resolve the underlying issues. For each of the situations identified in the preceding step, assess what needs to happen to resolve it. Make a list and design a plan to improve the situation.

Learn skills to improve relationships. Relationship skills are learned. We are not born knowing how to get along well with others, and most of us learned only limited skills from our parents. Identify the skills you need to develop and make a plan for yourself. You can learn these skills by reading books, taking classes, or working with a therapist.

Avoid toxic people and situations. ( See Boundaries In Leadership by Henry Cloud) Some people have a toxic effect on you. If you can, limit the amount of time you spend in these situations. Look for opportunities to decline their invitations. When these people are family members, remind yourself that you don’t have to feel guilty about avoiding anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself. In work situations, look for ways to rearrange your schedule or your workspace to avoid interacting with such people.

Seek out positive people and situations. This step is the reverse of the previous step. Look for opportunities to spend more time with people and in situations that make you feel good. Think about people who make you feel good about yourself and look for ways to increase time with them.

Watch what you eat. Some foods amplify the stress response. These include:

• Caffeine stimulates the release of stress hormones. This increases heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen
flow to the heart. Ongoing exposure to caffeine can
harm the tissue of the heart.

• Refined sugar and processed flour are depleted of
needed vitamins. In times of stress, certain vitamins
help the body maintain the nervous and endocrine
systems.

• Too much salt can lead to excessive fluid retention.
This can lead to nervous tension and higher blood
pressure. Stress often adds to the problem by causing
increased blood pressure.
• Smoking not only causes disease and shortens life, it
leads to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and
respiration.

• Alcohol robs the body of nutrients that it might
otherwise use for cell growth and repair. Alcohol also
harms the liver and adds empty calories to the body.

• Eat more complex carbohydrates. (Examples
include fruits, vegetables, whole breads, cereals, and
beans.) This is especially important during times of
high stress.

• Get moving. The human body was designed to be
physically active. However, in most jobs today, people
sit most of the time. They hardly move at all, except
when it is time for coffee breaks or lunch. When faced
with stressors, we respond with our minds, not our
bodies. It is no wonder that many of us have a difficult
time responding to stressful events.
Exercise is one of the simplest and most effective
ways to respond to stress. Activity provides a natural
release for the body during its fight-or-flight state of
arousal. After exercising, the body returns to its normal
state of equilibrium, and one feels relaxed and
refreshed.

• Look for ways to let go of tension and anxiety.
Meditation and progressive relaxation are two valuable
ways to regenerate and refresh yourself. You can purchase meditation and relaxation audiotapes or record your own. This is especially important because your health and long life depend on minimizing stress
and achieving a sense of balance and well-being.


WHERE CAN I GO FOR MORE INFORMATION?

Cunningham, J. Barton. The Stress Management Sourcebook. Los Angeles, CA: Lowell House, 1997.

Hanson, Peter G. The Joy of Stress. Kansas City, MO:
Andrews & McMeel, 1985.

Hanson, Peter G. Stress for Success. New York: Doubleday, 1989.

Cloud. Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality – How Six Essential Qualities Determine Your Success in Business. New York: Harper Collins, 2006

Johnson, Spencer, Blanchard, Ken. One Minute Manager. New York: William Morrow, 2000.