We Should Be Talking About Suicide — Here’s How to Do It Correctly

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By De Elizabeth and Lauren Rearick

As the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, suicide remains an ongoing topic in the mental health community, and around the world. With more than 43 million American adults currently dealing with mental illness, the importance of how we talk about suicide has once again come to light in the wake of three highly publicized deaths, all within the span of a week: those of Sydney Aiello, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; a second, currently unnamed Parkland student; and Jeremy Richman, a 49-year-old father of a Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim.

All three deaths were reported on within the same week, but it’s not possible to know if there was a link between each incident beyond the fact that all three people were impacted by gun violence at some point in their lives. For his part, Richman founded the Avielle Foundation in honor of his daughter, who was among the 20 students and 7 adults killed at Sandy Hook in 2012. The non-profit organization was created to “prevent violence by building compassion through brain research, community engagement, and education.” And Sydney’s mother, Cara Aiello, told CBS Miami that her daughter had struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder following the 2018 attack at MSDHS, noting Sydney remained fearful of encountering another act of gun violence. She added that she wants her daughter’s struggles to help others, and she reminded community members to seek help if they needed it.

Finding that help isn’t always easy, especially for young people with limited resources. “About halfway through my freshman year of college, I realized I was struggling with mental health,” a 20-year-old named Delaney told MTV News. Although her school provided counseling, there was a waitlist. “I was advised to go out into the community to seek out a therapist,” she explained. “I was fortunate enough to be able do do that, but I know that not everyone is.” Most mental health programs prioritize helping those with suicidal ideations if they can, but people should feel empowered to seek help at the first sign of stress, whether minor or dire.

And to point to PTSD, or one specific incident alone, as the sole cause of a suicide can dangerously oversimplify suicide and suicidal ideation, and leave many gun violence survivors feeling hopeless. Surviving a school shooting can certainly be disruptive to someone’s mental health, and such an event can understandably cause lasting trauma. However, ahost of issues contribute to instances of suicide, which is why it is imperative that those dealing with suicidal ideation feel safe enough to ask for help, and that our society at large is better equipped to talk about suicide, and provide support and resources to those experiencing ideations.

“What we know to be true is that if somebody dies by suicide in a specific community … then the other folks in that community are at a much higher risk for also dying by suicide. And that’s why the word contagion comes up in this conversation,” Chris Bright, Director of Public Training for The Trevor Project, told MTV News. “For vulnerable populations … the exposure to inappropriate ways of talking about suicide or inappropriate depictions of suicide puts them at a higher risk for attempting suicide after that exposure.” For that reason, Trevor Project offers a variety of resources for young people who might be struggling with suicidal ideation, including both a phone and text hotline, as well as a chat service.

Melissa McCormick, a licensed mental health counselor in Longwood, Florida, also told MTV News that people should avoid sharing specific details of how someone died. “When someone can envision details of a traumatic event, they can imagine it more thoroughly, and are more likely to struggle with trauma responses,” McCormick said.

The three recent deaths have received a lot of media coverage, but not all reporting has been responsible, with many outlets using troubling language to describe the events. (MTV News is choosing not to link to the stories in question in order to minimize the chances of contagion.)

But the responsibility extends beyond reporters; through social media, we have the ability to share information instantaneously with followers and friends alike. While posting news stories of highly publicized suicides is often done in good faith, such efforts can sometimes have an adverse effect. We don’t know who within our online circles might be struggling, and stories that simply relay details of suicides without any hope or information for prevention can be hugely damaging, especially if dangerous language is used.

Both Bright and McCormick note that we should never use the phrase “committed suicide” when talking about someone’s death; rather, it’s important to say “died by suicide,” as HuffPost points out.

Bright posed the question: “When do you normally hear the phrase ‘committed?’ The answer is, you usually hear it in regards to a crime… You don’t often hear it in ways that have positive connotations. So when you use that word, you’re further stigmatizing something that is already hard to talk about.”

“Died by suicide,” in opposition, is neutral. “It’s just a very factual way to talk about something that isn’t stigmatized,” Bright said. “It doesn’t use words that make people afraid.” McCormick added that making these conscious word choices “shows the importance of shifting our perspective on suicide.”

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t discuss suicide at all; in fact, it’s just the opposite. We must discuss it, both in order to continue to lower stigma, but also to reassure other people that they aren’t alone.

And that’s why it’s more crucial than ever to have the proper tools to discuss suicide safely and productively. Our words matter, and by using the right language, we can create a safer environment for those struggling with suicidal ideation. Responsible conversations can empower people to ask for help; sometimes, it’s just as simple as sharing information about suicide prevention, or telling a friend that you’re there to listen. But it’s also crucial that people feel they have access to seek professional help should they need it, without stigma; in some cases, you might not be equipped to help someone in the way a counselor or a doctor can, and the best way you can be there them is by supporting them while they find the care they need.

“Trauma and loss don’t just go away, you have to learn to live with it through getting support,” David Hogg, a member of March for Our Lives, the student-led organization dedicated to gun reform, wrote on Twitter. “We should be spending all the money politicians want to spend on arming teachers on something that will actually save lives, like mental health care in our schools.”

There are also online resources available for people experiencing suicidal ideation, and those who want to learn more about how to properly discuss suicide. Half of Us,  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and the Trans Lifeline also offer support services through telephone hotlines (call 1-800-273-TALK), while the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education offer online resources. The National Alliance for Mental Illness helpline can help provide answers to questions about treatment options; though they do not provide therapy or recommend individualized recommendations for therapists in your area, they may be able to help point callers in the right direction. The American Psychological Association also providesresources and databases for those seeking professional help.

“Young people should be able to talk about suicide,” Bright emphasized to MTV News. “They should be able to talk about their feelings and the things that they have going on in their lives, and they want to be able to identify the friends who are going to handle that type of conversation with respect, dignity, and support.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their emotional health, head to halfofus.com for ways to get help.

This Is The Type Of Stress That’s Actually Good For You

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I stress, you stress, we all stress for eustress! What on earth is eustress? You may have heard this mental health buzzword bandied around lately and wondered how exactly it differs from regular old life-is-making-me-crazy stress. But believe it or not, eustress is a kind of stress that’s actually good for us. (Yep, that’s a thing.) We spoke to licensed professional counselor Amanda Ruiz, MS of Pennsylvania’s The Counseling Collective about how to identify the eustresses in life — and get the most out of them.


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Definition

With all we hear about stress raising blood pressure, disturbing sleep, and even bringing on early death (yikes), it may be hard to believe there’s a kind of stress that actually boosts our mental and physical health. So to understand eustress, you may have to dismantle some preconceived notion. Simply put, eustress is any kind of pressure in our lives that actually brings positive results.

“Eustress is the normal amount of stress that you feel when doing a positive challenge, something you feel relatively capable in completing,” explains Ruiz. Happy, exhilarating events in life, like having a baby or starting a new relationship even though they feel good, create their own kind of stress on the body and brain. After all, some of the same hormones — like adrenalin and cortisol — involved in fear are also present in times of excitement. Therefore, experiencing something thrilling or challenging, such as riding a roller coaster, completing a tough project at work, or buying a new home, brings a certain kind of pressure.

The benefits of eustress

This pressure, though it may technically qualify as “stress,” is surprisingly good for us. When we undertake something difficult, it’s an opportunity for personal growth, whether we succeed or fail. And change, a common source of stress, adds a bit of spice to life. “Eustress keeps life exciting,” says Ruiz. “Without it, you might become bored, complacent, and lack motivation.”

Plenty of research has looked at the dramatic effects of positive versus negative stress. The right balance of stress has been shown to increase alertness and cognitive performance, as well as keep us more adaptable. A 2015 study found that people with high levels of good stress had less fatigue in the morning and throughout the day than those who experienced distress (AKA negative stress). And another, conducted on college students, found a connection between the level of eustress and overall life satisfaction.

When is it eustress and when is it destress?

So when is it distress and when is it eustress? Typically, distress makes us feel anxious and overwhelmed. Eustress, on the other hand, brings a feeling of excitement, accomplishment, or a challenge accepted. (The “eu” comes from a Greek word meaning “good, well, pleasant, or true,” as in “euphoria.”) Making cuts to your budget, for example, could be a distress if it’s a struggle to make ends meet — or could be a positive if it’s to save for your spring break trip to Italy. “If you feel competent to cope with the stressful event, then you are most likely experiencing eustress,” says Ruiz. “If you doubt your ability to cope with it, and instead if feels unpleasant, then it’s probably distress.”

Turning distress into eustress

Feel like most of the stressors in your life are the kind that bring you down? There’s hope! Your mindset could go a long way toward actually transforming circumstances you perceive as distress into eustress. A 2013 study found that subjects’ thoughts about their own stress had a major impact on their physical experience of it. In one module of the study, subjects were interviewed about whether they found life stressors to be “enhancing” or “debilitating.” In another, they were shown videos that framed the concept of stress as either one of these two descriptors. All told, people who were able to think of their stress as having potential benefits had less negative physical responses to it.

To get the most out of any stressful situation, try to keep an open mind to how pressures might lead to personal growth. And, regardless of the circumstances, finding a self-care practice that works for you can keep stress at manageable levels. “Learning good stress management techniques can be helpful so you are adequately equipped to cope while going through any stressor,” says Ruiz.

This article originally appeared on Brit + Co. 

How To Practice Yoga At Home If You’re An Absolute Beginner

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PHOTOGRAPHED BY MOLLY CRANNA.

There’s an image that comes across my Instagram feed about once a day of a wellness blogger in their light-filled apartment, surrounded by house plants, doing yoga and looking very casual about it. The thought of doing yoga at home sounds ideal; you don’t have to deal with people, spend any money, or even leave the house. But in actuality, when I try to do yoga at home, I get distracted and end up scrolling my phone in child’s pose on a yoga mat.

“One of the best things about yoga is that it can be done almost anytime, anywhere — including at home,” says Jade Alexis, a yoga trainer on the audio-based workout app Aaptiv. The problem is, without a yoga teacher around, or a proper app to walk you through the workout, it’s tough to know what exactly to do. You need to at least have a plan or intention each time you flow at home.

So, whether you also aspire to be an at-home yogi, or you just want to do yoga in private, ahead are some tips from Alexis and Sinikiwe Dhliwayo, yoga instructor and founder of Naaya Wellness (New York), a wellness collective for people of colour. With a mat and the right attitude, you too can be a yoga-flowing homebody.


1. Know a few basic poses.

When you’re starting out with your at-home yoga practice, it’s a good idea to have a vocabulary of postures that you can work with. Alexis and Dhliwayo suggest learning: cat cow, child’s pose, downward-facing dog, plank, cobra pose, upward-facing dog, warrior one and two, chair pose, and low lunge. If you know those, you can piece them together a beginner flow, like Sun Salutation B, Alexis says. Look up videos or images of the poses to get a sense of how they’re supposed to be done, but try not to get wrapped up in what they look like; how you feel is more important.

2. Listen to your body.

Form is essential in yoga, but without an expert to guide you through the poses or make physical corrections, it can be difficult to know if you’re doing it “right.” The best way to make adjustments or tell if you’re making mistakes is to just pay attention to how you feel, Alexis says. “Regardless of wherever you are, it’s important to listen to your body,” she says. “If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your body and ease of the posture.”


3. Try an online class.

The internet is full of tons of free yoga classes and resources for you to take advantage of — arguably too many. Dhliwayo is a fan of yogis Sara ClarkRocky Heron, and Dianne Bondy. The beauty of taking an online class is that you can stop it at any time, or rewind a section if it gets confusing. And of course, the Aaptiv app has lots of audio yoga classes that you can try that are varying lengths, styles, and levels of difficulty.

 

4. Get some gear.

You don’t need much to do yoga, but ideally you’d have a clutter-free space to practice, a good yoga mat, and most importantly a positive attitude and patience, Alexis says. Blocks can also be super helpful if you’re just starting out, because they essentially bring the floor up to you, which is imperative if you don’t have flexibility yet, Dhliwayo says. Other props like blankets help you be more comfortable in a pose, and can be nice to have during a restorative practice, she says. Music and calming essential oils can also help make your home practice feel more special, but those aren’t must-haves.

 

5. Don’t stress the names.

Often in yoga classes, teachers will use the Sanskrit names to define yoga poses, which can make it seem way more confusing. “Many people are concerned with knowing the names of poses, but that comes with time and I tell beginners to not worry about names when they get started,” Alexis says. Instead, just find beginner classes that will walk you through the individual poses, she says. With enough repetition, it’ll eventually click.

On The Days Depression Makes You Feel Nothing At All

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Today is a blah day. It isn’t that there is anything terribly wrong today. There are issues looming, yes, but there are always issues of late. There is nothing pressing, though.

It is just a blah day, a day where I lay in bed, struggling to find a reason to get up. I’ve had to pee for a couple hours now. Yet, the dull ache in my bladder is not enough to pull me from under my covers. I should probably brush my teeth. Maybe get dressed and get a bite to eat. I have been awake for more than five hours now, even before the sun rose. Yet, here I still lay.

I feel blah. While the world around me continues with its hustle and bustle, I have no motivation, no desire to do anything. Nothing seems interesting or important. Nothing is pressing enough to pull me from this funk.

I would go back to sleep if I could, call in sick from life itself. I feel like nothing, not myself. I feel numb.

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Days like this are common with depression. Those who have never struggled often assume that depression is all bouts of random sadness and tears. Yes, I have those days, too, and it is draining when everything and anything feels heart-wrenching and makes me want to cry. Yet, even worse, perhaps, than the days when I feel everything too strongly are the days I feel nothing at all.

On these days, I have trouble pulling myself up or doing anything. I’m not being lazy. I just don’t see the point. I am pulled into a gray abyss, where there’s no purpose, no joy, no motivation, no will to live. It isn’t that I’m suicidal and actively want to die, either. I just have no will to live. The emptiness is all-consuming.

People suggest I should just “try” to be happy or to be positive. If only it were this simple. Again and again, the “should be” and “could be” options roll around in my mind but I’m numb to them all. Deep down, I know I should be getting up, doing something, living life.

Yet, my brain has me in a death lock. “What’s the sense?” and “Why bother?” it parrots to me again and again. Its voice is booming and deafening. I can hear nothing else. I would love to just smile, think a happy thought and have it vanish away like a puff of smoke but it’s solid and real to me. It takes the form of four solid walls, caging me in, holding me hostage, refusing to budge or listen to reason.

Those blah days are the worst because I feel trapped in this numbness. I cannot escape. I never know whether it will last one day or one week. There is never an end in sight, never a scheduled sweet release.

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Blah days drag on and on until at some point I begin to feel everything too strongly again. On blah days, I would welcome the tears, the anguish, the pain and the struggling just to feel anything at all.

It has been more than hours now, and I’ve barely managed to write a few paragraphs. Yet, those feel like a tremendous accomplishment. I call it a victory. I have done something, which is more than I am able to achieve on most blah days. I still have to pee, though the dull ache has grown into a steady cramp. Breakfast time has come and gone, and lunch time has arrived. Yet, I still don’t have any desire to eat anything, let alone get up.

There are calls I should make and things I should be doing. Yet, my depression still echoes in my head that I shouldn’t bother, that nothing is worth the effort. It tells me to stay in bed, just let this day drift on by, that it doesn’t matter.

Nothing matters. It is all I can hear. It is deafening. I am adrift in a sea of hopelessness and emptiness. I feel paralyzed.

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I swear I am not being lazy. I’m just trapped in a battle with my own mind. I feel lost and alone. I feel trapped in this emptiness. I feel nothing. I feel numb. I feel blah. This is what depression feels like.​

This Comic Sums Up Exactly What It’s Like Living With Depression

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This article was originally published at The Mighty. Reprinted with permission from the author.

If You Can’t Fall Asleep In Under 20 Minutes, It Could Be A Sign Of These 9 Health Issues

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Some nights it’s easier to fall asleep than others. But for certain people, needing over 20 minutes to fall asleep every night is a given — and sometimes others have to wait hours more. The causes of insomnia can be due to all sorts of physical and medical health conditions, so it’s important to examine all of the factors that may be creating your difficulty falling asleep.

Falling asleep can say a lot more about what’s going on with your body than just how tired you are. “The amount of time it takes to fall asleep is known as ‘sleep latency,'” Conor Heneghan, lead research scientist at Fitbit, tells Bustle. “A normal amount of sleep latency is approximately 15-25 minutes, which is considered the ‘sweet spot’ for your body to drift into light sleep stages. However, sleep latency is impacted by [a variety of] factors.” These factors can be anything from what you’ve eaten that day, or whether you’ve altered your bedtime routine, to a more serious underlying medical condition that’s making it difficult for your body to rest at night.

And while having trouble falling asleep can be caused by a myriad of health issues, falling behind on sleep can cause sleep debt and add to these problems. So if you realize you’re taking more than 20 minutes to fall asleep every night, asking your doctor about this problem may get you some relief.

Here are nine health issues that not being able to fall asleep in 20 minutes could be a sign of, according to experts.

1GERD

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GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, can cause symptoms that aren’t quite apparent until you lie down to try to fall asleep.

“When lying down, it’s easier for stomach acids to flow up your esophagus, causing heartburn,” Terry Cralle, RN, clinical sleep educator and sleep consultant for Saatva, tells Bustle. “Heartburn, in turn, can disrupt falling and staying asleep. That’s why many people with GERD experience an increase in symptoms at nighttime and may have trouble finding a comfortable position for sleeping.” Avoiding GERD trigger foods like spicy food, coffee, and alcohol, in the hours before bed, may provide some relief.

2Anxiety

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Anxiety doesn’t exist solely in the mind. If you’ve been dealing with feelings of stress and nervousness in your daily life, it may be building up and causing it to be difficult for you to fall asleep.

“Those who experience anxiety have a complex relationship with sleep,” Dr. Sujay KansagraMattress Firm’s sleep health expert, tells Bustle. “Anxiety can not only prevent someone from falling asleep but it can also be worsened once a person experiences the effects of sleep deprivation.” Dr. Kansagra recommends talking to your doctor if stress or anxiety may be affecting your ability to fall asleep.

3Asthma

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If falling asleep regularly takes more than 20 minutes for you, and you also experience respiratory symptoms, this could be caused by asthma.

“Asthma symptoms often worsen at night, [including symptoms of] nighttime coughing, chest tightness, wheezing and breathlessness: a condition referred to as ‘nocturnal asthma,'” Cralle says. Check in with your doctor if you realize that these sorts of symptoms tend to come along at night.

4“Social Jetlag”

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Keeping a completely different sleep schedule on weekdays and weekends can make falling asleep more difficult in general.

“Another major factor that may contribute to longer sleep latency is ‘social jetlag,’ brought on by the shift in sleep schedules that many experience on days off compared to workdays,” Heneghan says. This issue with your circadian rhythm can be addressed by keeping a more consistent bedtime and wake up time throughout the week.

5Arthritis

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

If you have general aches and pains, and they worsen at night enough to make it difficult for you to fall asleep — you may have undiagnosed arthritis. And arthritis doesn’t only affect older people.

“It is estimated that as many as 80 percent of people with arthritis have difficulty sleeping,” Cralle says. “Pain makes it hard to get comfortable and to fall — and stay — asleep. Since sleep deprivation makes pain worse, it’s critical that arthritis sufferers get enough quality sleep.” So talking with your doctor both about your pain and your sleep problems can be a step in the right direction.

6Menopause

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Like arthritis, menopause is associated with aging but can show up in young peopleas well. Since you may not realize this is possible, you may not be connecting the dots between potential gynecological issues and lack of sleep.

“Women are twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men, according to the National Sleep Foundation, and their sleepless nights have been linked with hormonal changes —especially during menopause, when hormone levels are erratic,” Dr. Kent Smith, founding director of Sleep Dallas, tells Bustle. Making sure you regularly see an OB/GYN, and always tell your doctors about changes to your health, can help you stay on top of these potential issues.

7Restless Leg Syndrome

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Tossing and turning doesn’t have to be something that you ignore. Health issues like restless leg syndrome could be seriously impacting your ability to fall and stay asleep.

“Approximately one in 10 adult Americans suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome, according to the National Sleep Foundation,” Dr. Smith says. “This sleep-related movement disorder causes overwhelming and often unpleasant urges to move the legs while at rest, often making it difficult for sufferers to drift off to sleep.” If you find it particularly hard to lie still at night, it may be best to get in touch with a doctor.

8Sleep Apnea

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While sleep apnea is known to cause disruptions during sleep, it can cause difficulties during the process of falling asleep as well. And since sleep apnea can be difficult to diagnose, you might not connect the dots on this sleep disorder immediately.

“Sleep apnea, a condition in which a person ceases to breathe multiple times per hour when they sleep, can inhibit a person’s ability to fall asleep,” Dr. Smith says. “The brain detects that it is receiving less oxygen during sleep, so, in a life-preserving attempt, it actively prevents the sufferer from falling asleep.” If you have difficulty falling asleep, plus other signs of sleep apnea, then it’s important to see a sleep specialist and seek treatment.

9Vitamin Deficiency

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Sometimes, the root cause of your difficulty falling asleep can be hard to pinpoint but relatively straightforward to treat. One of the examples of this is vitamin deficiency.

“Several common vitamin deficiencies can lead to sleep disturbance,” Arielle Levitan, M.D., co-founder of Vous Vitamin LLC, tells Bustle. “[…] Determining which vitamins to take and in which safe and proper doses is important.” Particular deficiencies like magnesium and iron can cause difficulty falling asleep, Levitan says. To find out if this is a problem, the first step is to speak with your doctor and potentially have them perform blood tests to check for deficiencies.

In order to protect your physical and mental health, it’s important not to normalize your difficulty falling asleep. Taking note of why you may be struggling to fall asleep within 20 minutes or so, and how you feel the next day, may provide you some of the data you need to discuss this issue with your doctor — and find a treatment that works for you.

The 3 Powerful Steps To Develop Your Daily Routine

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“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

The winter solstice recently passed and now, we find ourselves deep in the peak of shortened days, cold weather and lots of time inside with family and relatives. The lack of sun can really damper our moods and take away some of our energy. If we let it. Winter can make it challenging to find inspiration at times. But the days of less sunlight can also lead to great opportunities for solitude, reflection and contemplation.

While it may be tough to feel as inspired, I find that wintertime often is great for planning and refocusing our priorities. Some of my best ideas, as well as my most productive planning and actions have taken place at this time of the year. In fact, the majority of the writing that I did for my first book, The Value of You, occurred during the wintertime last year. It was a special time I’ll never forget.

Following the holidays, there are less distractions. And as a result, there are more reasons to find things that inspire and light the fire inside of our hearts.

In this vein, I urge you to develop an inspirational routine each morning. It may come through the power of meditation, prayer, genuine heartfelt interaction with those that you love or from your favorite song. It could be a video that plays back the piano recital you played to perfection that brought the house down.

It may be the words of this article or a book you find so profound and hold in such high esteem, you get the chills before opening the pages.

Develop your routine. I’ll show you what works for me and how you can integrate this into your life.

Here’s How to Develop Your Routine

“Great are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force — that thoughts rule the world.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Make your routine an every day thing. As I’ve climbed the mountain of productivity this year, I realize that I never want to come down. The ascension — the journey — has been a magical ride and it reassures me that all of my progress toward self-actualization, as well as greater harmony and rhythm in living the life of my destiny has been worth the pain and occasional doubts.

  1. Dedicate 10 minutes of contemplation time, ideally, at the beginning of each day. This sets the tone for your day and gets you feeling inspired. All you need are 10 minutes of deep, powerful thinking without distraction and with a beginner’s mind.
  2. Use this time alone in solitude, in a quiet place. Focus your thoughts on positive, stimulative thoughts such as: romantic love, sexual love for a partner, girlfriend/boyfriend, wife or husband. Also, music, friendship and envisioning yourself attaining success or fame. There’s tremendous power that comes through dreaming and seeing yourself standing “in the winner’s circle.”
  3. Get these positive thoughts going and keep them going. Write down these thoughts that come to mind. Keep referring back to them throughout your work day or school day. Think of them when you’re out in the social world, during moments of difficulty or times of joy. Look at them again before you go to bed at night and reset your mind. Then rest and get read for the new day with excitement, anticipation and a clear mind for fresh, new thoughts.

What has become truer for me by the day is the concept that we control our own destiny through the power of our thoughts. We emotionalize our ideas with the power of love, faith and hope. We take these thoughts and envision ourselves doing what we desire. And we put it into plan and take the action that we’ve dreamed of. It really is that simple. Do this and you will never be denied.

There is no shame in any idea, as long as you believe in it and feel it will add value to your life and the lives of others. Don’t concern yourself with the ingenuity of your idea. Your race, your cause is the one that speaks to the desires and dreams of your heart. That’s what makes you unique and special.

I’ve got a long way to go. Chances are, so do you. The way to cultivate and build momentum — which you can then transform into empowered thought and constructive action is through inspiration — the power of “fire” that lifts your spirit and brings you unbridled enthusiasm. Be inspired everyday.

A Story To Tell

Any idea, plan, or purpose may be placed in the mind through repetition of thought. — Napoleon Hill

This is a story I know well. It’s the story of my best friend, my brother, Kevin. These days my brother is seen on national television five nights each week on ESPN. He’s a broadcast journalist and celebrity in his own right. Everything he has can be attributed to his natural talents, perseverance, desire and faith in himself.

Kevin worked hard until he reached the pinnacle of his profession. He reached the top because he envisioned himself reaching the top. He dreamed big and thought prodigious, stimulative thoughts. He had the mindset of a winner. But keep in mind, Kevin’s success did not come overnight.

Kevin knew when he was in 8th grade what he wanted to do with his life. He started announcing sports scores over the intercom at our middle school. He did the same thing while in high school. Kevin used his basketball-playing ability to earn an athletic scholarship at the college level, where he attended a school with one of the top Radio & TV programs in the United States.

After graduation, he embarked on what is now over a 20-year career in sports broadcasting. He busted his tail for nine long years at a regional television station making meager money. There were moments of doubt, frustration and at times, loneliness. Kevin dreamed of being on national television or working in a big market. But it seemed so far away.

He concentrated on getting better each day. He surrounded himself with inspiring thoughts, stories and images of fellow broadcasters who made the big time, as well powerful stories of athletes. He kept going. Kept believing.

Finally, his big break came in 2006 when he accepted a job with WCBS radio in New York. Less than one year later, he was working on television for WCBS-TV. And in 2008, he reached the big time: he was hired by ESPN. 11 years after graduating from college, with a few lean years in between where he thought about quitting or changing professions, Kevin received an offer to work at the worldwide leader of sports.

Your Journey

Chances are, you will not find success or personal fulfillment in your first job. Few people are blessed with both the talent and foresight to know precisely what they want to do with their lives right after college. Even less people know and possess this ability at a young age. My brother, Kevin, is one of those precious few lads who did know.

We all have unique stories to share with the world. Where are you on your journey? Are you going through the doldrums of doubt and fear? Do you see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel — the end-vision of your goal? And if you do, are you running into road blocks of creativity? What are your mental challenges? What are your emotional battles?

Perhaps your path is as open as the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset in Laguna Beach. Maybe it’s a Midtown Manhattan traffic jam. It’s all a state of mind. We need inspiration to help us create the beautiful landscapes of limitless possibility in our mind that serve as the foundation for our magical journeys.

You are the creator of your world. When you are safe in the knowledge that you control your worldly destiny, nothing will ever stop you. Those with a winning mindset are never denied. They inspire themselves to achieve great things.

Be inspired. Enjoy this winter season and take some time for yourself to develop a routine that positions you for fulfillment and productivity. As St.Francis of Asisi once wrote, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

This article originally appeared on Medium.

8 Physical And Mental Health Benefits Of Owning A Dog

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We can thank our dogs for many things – laughs, companionship and muddy paw prints on the carpet included. But do you ever stop and think about the more long-term impacts that owning a dog can have on your physical and mental health?

This National Love Your Pet Day (20th February), we are thanking our pets for the health benefits they bring to our lives, from exercise to increasing confidence.

8 mental and physical health benefits of owning a dog

1. You might visit the doctor less

An Australian survey found that dog owners make fewer visits to the GP in a year and are less likely to be on medication for heart problems or sleep issues.

2. You could be less anxious

Veterinarian Dr Jo Gale, Mars Petcare Scientific Advisor, says: “Several studies have found that interacting with pet dogs or therapy dogs is associated with reductions in the stress hormone cortisol and reductions in self-reported anxiety.”

2. You could have lower risk of cardiovascular disease

A nationwide 2017 study in Sweden found that owning a dog could be beneficial in reducing the risk of the owner developing cardiovascular disease, thanks to having increased motivation to exercise and a non-human social support network. Interestingly, the study found that owning hunting breeds lowered the risk the most.

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3. You are more sociable

An American study, which looked at three factors of being sociable – getting to know people, friendship formation and social support networks – found that dog owners are five times more likely to know people in their community. They found that dogs, acting as companions, helped owners be more sociable on every level, from one-off interactions to the development of deep friendships.

4. You might live longer

In the Waltham Pocket Book of Human-Animal Interactions there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that the physical benefits of having a dog can lead to a longer, healthier life. Section 8 reads: “The many health benefits of regular physical activity are well documented, and include lower rates of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, depression and certain types of cancer.”

5. You have higher self-esteem

2017 study by the University of Liverpool found that growing up with a dog can increase self-esteem in children. It also found young people with pets to be less lonely and have enhanced social skills. Lead author, Rebecca Purewal, states: “Critical ages for the impact of pet ownership on self-esteem, appear to be greatest for children under 6, and preadolescents and adolescents over 10.”

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6. You exercise more

A 2019 study by Lintbells found the average dog owner walks 870 miles every 12 months with their pets. That equates to just four miles less than the distance between John o’Groats in Scotland and Land’s End in Cornwall. Just over half of the 2,000 British adults surveyed owned a dog, and they walk, on average, more than 21 miles a week – 17 of which are with their pet. That’s around seven miles more than non dog owners who only clock up 14 miles a week.

7. Children miss less school

Veterinarian Dr Jo Gale says: “Having pets in the home has been linked to enhanced immune function in children, as evidenced by better school attendance rates due to fewer illness-related absences. The effect was particularly strong for younger children (five to eight-years-old) and, in some cases amounted to nearly three extra weeks of school attendance for children with pets.”

8. You are less likely to be lonely

Studies have shown that, out of any other pet, dogs have the strongest connection to loneliness, mainly because they are on show a lot more. Over 80% 0f people who took part in Mars Petcare’s 2018 research said that, just one month after getting a dog, they felt a lot less lonely.

How To Spend The First Hour Of Your Work Day On High-Value Tasks

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Don’t begin the activities of your day until you know exactly what you plan to accomplish. Don’t start your day until you have it planned. — Jim RohnEvery morning, get one most important thing done immediately.There is nothing more satisfying than feeling like you’re already in the flow.And the easiest way to trigger this feeling is to work on your most important task in the first hour.Use your mornings for high-value workLean to avoid the busy work that adds no real value to your work, vision or long-term goal.

Low-value activities, including responding to notifications, or reacting to emails keep you busy and stop you from getting real work done. Make time for work that matters.

In his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen says, “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

Research shows that it takes, on average, more than 23 minutes to fully recover your concentration after a trivial interruption.

Productive mornings start with early wake-up calls

“In a poll of 20 executives cited by Vanderkam, 90% said they wake up before 6 a.m. on weekdays.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, for example, wakes at 4 a.m. and is in the office no later than 7 a.m.

Meanwhile, Disney CEO Bob Iger gets up at 4:30 to read, and Square CEO Jack Dorsey is up at 5:30 to jog.”

The first quiet hour of the morning can be the ideal time to focus on an important work project without being interrupted.

Don’t plan your day in the first hour of your morning

Cut the planning and start doing real work. You are most active on a Monday Morning.

Think about it. After a weekend of recovery, you have the most energy, focus and discipline to work on your priorities.

Don’t waste all that mental clarity and energy planning what to do in the next eight hours.

Do your planning the night before.

Think of Sunday as the first chance to prepare yourself for the week’s tasks.

Monday mornings will feel less dreadful and less overwhelming if you prepare the night before.

If you choose to prioritize …

There are one million things you could choose to do in your first hour awake.

If you choose to start your day with a daily check list/to-do list, make sure that next to every task you have the amount of time it will take to complete them.

The value of the of putting time to tasks is that, every time you check something off, you are able to measure how long it took you to get that task done, and how much progress you are making to better plan next time.

Get the uncomfortable out of the way

You probably know about Brian Tracy’s “eat-a-frog” – technique from his classic time-management book, Eat That Frog?

In the morning, right after getting up, you complete the most unwanted task you can think of for that day (= the frog).

Ideally you’ve defined this task in the evening of the previous day.

Completing an uncomfortable or difficult task not only moves it out of your way, but it gives you great energy because you get the feeling you’ve accomplished something worthwhile.

Do you have a plan from yesterday?

Kenneth Chenault, former CEO and Chairman of American Express, once said in an interview that the last thing he does before leaving the office is to write down the top 3 things to accomplish tomorrow, then using that list to start his day the following morning.

This productivity hack works for me.

It helps me focus and work on key tasks. It also helps me disconnect at the end of the day and allow time for my brain to process and reboot.

Trust me, planning your day the night before will give you back a lot wasted hours in the morning and lower your stress levels.

Try this tonight.

If you’re happy with the results, then commit to trying it for a week.

After a week, you’ll be able to decide whether you want to add “night-before planning” to your life.

Want to get more done in less time?

You need systems not goals. I’m creating a new course, Systems For Getting Work Done to help you create a personal productivity system to get 10X more done in less time. Sign up to be notified when it launches.

This article first appeared on Medium.

A Counselor Explains How Introverts Can Banish Social Anxiety

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A young introvert suffers from social anxiety.
I’m a counselor, and many of the introverts I see come to me because of anxiety. Some of the clients I see have diagnosable anxiety disorders, but those who don’t aren’t suffering any less. When I say anxiety, I mean “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure,” according to the American Psychological Association.Anxiety can come in many forms and have many different causes, but in this article, I’d like to focus on social anxiety. Let’s take a look at the major signs of social anxiety, plus how you can free yourself from it by fixing “thinking errors.”

Signs of Social Anxiety Disorder

According to the American Psychiatric Association, you might have social anxiety if you experience the following:

  1. Feeling anxious or afraid in social settings. You might feel extremely self-conscious, like others are judging or scrutinizing your every move. For an adult, this might happen on a first date or a job interview, or when meeting someone for the first time, delivering an oral presentation, or speaking in a class or meeting. In children, these behaviors must occur in settings with peers — rather than adult interactions — and will be expressed in terms of age appropriate distress, such as cringing, crying, or just generally displaying obvious fear or discomfort.
  2. Worrying quite a bit that you’ll reveal your anxiety and be rejected by others
  3. Consistently feeling distressed during social interactions
  4. Painfully or reluctantly enduring social interaction — or avoiding it altogether
  5. Experiencing fear or anxiety that’s disproportionate to the actual situation
  6. Having fear, anxiety, or other distress around social situations that persist for six months or longer
  7. Finding that your personal life, relationships, or career are negatively affected. In other words, your anxiety makes it quite difficult for you to function in day-to-day life.

For a diagnosis of Social Anxiety Disorder, these symptoms must be present for six months or longer and not be better explained by another mental health or medical diagnosis.

Why Is Social Anxiety Common in Introverts?

If you’re an introvert who experiences social anxiety, you’re not alone. The research shows that introverts are far more likely to suffer from it than extroverts. A small study done in 2011 found that “social phobia patients” were significantly more often introverts (93.7 percent) than not (46.2 percent). Although not all introverts suffer from social anxiety, this study suggests that us “quiet ones,” by nature, may be prone to it in one form or another.

Social anxiety can be excruciating. Introverts, in my practice, struggle with it because they tend to overthink and overanalyze situations. They may find themselves caught in a cycle of planning out a conversation only to have it go differently than their script. This puts them on the spot — an introvert’s nightmare — and creates a high level of anxiety.

They then may fall into the trap of mind-reading. Mind-reading is what some therapies, like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, call “thinking errors.” These patterns of thinking can be helpful in some situations, but when overused, can actually be quite harmful.

Many introverts (especially highly sensitive introverts) are particularly vulnerable to the “error” of mind-reading because they’re so good at attuning to others’ body language, emotions, and energy that it feels like they always know what someone else is thinking — even though they don’t actually possess telepathy.

When a conversation goes off-script and anxiety is heightened, introverts may assume others are thinking critically of them and take this assumption as fact. The thoughts of “now he thinks I’m an idiot” — though most likely false — create even more anxiety. It’s a vicious and debilitating cycle.

But you can banish social anxiety. Let’s take a look at the power of identifying and correcting thinking errors.

The Power of Fixing Thinking Errors

Let’s take an example from my practice. One young woman who came to me had a hard time making new friends. This girl was more mature than her cohort and seemed to be having trouble initiating conversation. As we talked, it came to light that her introverted trait of thinking before speaking had spiraled out of control. She’d rehearse for hours what she was going to say to a certain person, then be caught off guard when the conversation didn’t go as scripted. She then feared that people thought she was stupid or awkward (she was mind-reading) and became highly anxious.

After a conversation like this, she’d ruminate over what she should have said for days or weeks. Obviously, this left her too anxious to start any new conversations with anyone, which lead to a cycle of reinforcing her anxiety about social situations and her avoidance of them.

What did we do about it? The first step was education; we discussed both overthinking and mind-reading and how they relate to her introverted nature. She discovered that her tendency to overthink was very helpful in situations where she needed to analyze information and come to a conclusion, like schoolwork, but that with friends and family, it was creating a barrier to close relationships.

She was also able to see that while she is very attuned to others’ emotional states, she isn’t telepathic and can’t actually read others’ minds.

This education into the thought patterns that were feeding her anxiety gave her some valuable insights. For instance, she realized that the thoughts of “stupid” weren’t what she feared others would think of her, but what she thought of herself. Once we hit on this critical insight, she began to understand that her overthinking and mind-reading were actually ways to distract her from the mean things she was saying to herself.

It took quite a few sessions to help this girl become more self-compassionate and to lessen her overthinking. However, by the end of the school year, she was able to not only talk to new people, but to tackle intense, conflict-laden conversations she’d always avoided before.

Anxiety Doesn’t Have to Rule Your Life

This example gives us some valuable insight into how the introvert’s natural penchant for deep thinking and attunement to others can sometimes lead to harmful inner states. It also gives us a road map to moving forward and feeling better.

If you’re an introvert who suffers from social anxiety, the first step is to do what you do best: look inside and bring awareness to the thought patterns that are no longer helping you. Some of the best ways to do this are mindfulness, yoga, and journaling. Mindfulness trains the mind to be non-judging and discerning of thoughts and feelings; yoga helps relieve stress and is a moving meditation; and journaling brings up the unconscious thoughts, feelings, and beliefs we aren’t aware of in daily life that may be holding us back.

Ask yourself if there are thinking errors that are contributing to your anxiety. Are you like the girl I described above? The next time you notice yourself committing a thinking error, don’t judge or beat yourself up for it. Instead, simply notice it — there’s power in this alone! You might go a step further and intentionally replace your thinking error with a positive thought (even if you aren’t totally feeling it yourself at the moment). Try something like, “even though I’m scared, it’s going to be okay” or “I’m a likable person, and people enjoy being around me.”

Here are some more tips to help you mindfully control anxiety, and here’s a great explanation of mindfulness for introverts.

Your social anxiety won’t disappear overnight. But by stepping into mindfulness and identifying/correcting thinking errors, you can stop it from ruling your life.

How To Prevent Morning Anxiety From Totally Ruining Your Day

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Anxiety has a very unwelcome way of popping up when you least expect it. It could happen at a party, just when you were starting to have a good time. Or in the middle of the night, making it that much harder to get a blissful eight hours of sleep. And, for some, anxiety has a habit of rearing its ugly head in the early morning—just to make sure your day starts off on a really stellar note.
Why—why?!—does morning anxiety happen? And how do you get rid of it? Here, Gail Saltz, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine gives all the need-to-know facts.

What morning anxiety looks like (and why it’s happening)

There’s a difference between waking up and being in a bad mood because you don’t feel like going to work and having actual morning anxiety. Here are the signs of the latter, according to Dr. Saltz:

  • A rush in adrenaline, such as a racing heart or increased jitteriness.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • A sense of worry for no apparent reason.
  • Feeling on edge, but you aren’t sure why.
  • Exhaustion even though you’ve just slept.

As for why anxiety can strike in the morning, Dr. Saltz says there are a few factors at play that could cause morning anxiety:

1. You have higher amounts of stress hormones in the morning. “There’s actually a physiological reason why some people experience anxiety in the mornings,” Dr. Saltz says. “For one, it’s when cortisol levels are naturally at their highest.” She explains that cortisol is often called “the stress hormone” because high levels of it can lead to feeling stressed.

“There’s nothing you can do from stopping cortisol from raising slightly in the morning—that’s biologically what happens—but there are steps you can take to lower your cortisol over all so that it doesn’t peak as high,” Dr. Saltz says. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to it!)

2. Coffee can lead to feeling anxious. What you eat or drink in the morning can also lead to increased feelings of anxiety, according to Dr. Saltz. “The first thing many people do in the morning is drink a cup of coffee. Caffeine, particularly for people who already have anxiety, can definitely worsen the symptoms of that.” She explains that caffeine can lead to feeling jittery and having an increased heart rate. “Then our brain tries to come up with a reason to explain why we feel that way: I’m feeling jittery. I must be worried about X.” Dr. Saltz says this happens so quickly that it can feel like we have the thought first and thenthe physiological reaction, but it’s actually the other way around.

3. Sugar is another culprit. What are you normally eating for breakfast? If you’re going for something that has lots of simple sugars or carbs (like a smoothie bowl or toast), the quick energy spike could ultimately affect your morning anxiety. “Right after you have an insulin burst, blood sugar levels drop and that can make your anxiety feel worse,” Dr. Saltz says, adding that this can lead to feeling fatigued or on edge for seemingly no reason. Your blood sugar is also at a natural low point in the morning (since, you know, you haven’t eaten since the night before), which can contribute to feeling anxious.

4. Morning anxiety could also be a sign of having general anxiety disorder. If you experience morning anxiety several times a week, Dr. Saltz says you likely have generalized anxiety disorder, which she says is extremely common. (This means that you are consistently experiencing symptoms of anxiety over at least a six-month period.) If this is the case, the key will be finding ways to quell your anxiety as a whole.

If you suspect that you have generalized anxiety disorder, the next best step is to seek help from a mental health professional, who help you develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.

5. You’re chronically stressed. “If you are overly stressed, your body will produce more cortisol,” Dr. Saltz says. That means that morning peak is going to be higher than it would be otherwise. Again, the only way to get to the root cause of this is to take steps to minimize the stress in your life.

How to fight back against morning anxiety

Anxiety is a frustrating condition, especially when it pops up first thing in the a.m. As mentioned above, if you have chronic anxiety or a diagnosed anxiety condition, you’ll want to work with your mental health practitioner to find the right treatment for you. But if your morning anxiety is more of an occasional annoyance, Dr. Saltz has some tips that could help cut down on its occurrence:

1. Make measures to minimize overall stress. If you have generalized anxiety disorder or are overly stressed, Dr. Saltz says it’s important to take steps to manage it, which could include the help of a therapist. “Meditationregular exercise, and having an overall healthy diet all play parts in minimizing overall stress,” she adds.

2. Cut back on caffeine and sugar. Because these are two culprits that often cause physiological responses that mimic anxiety, cutting them out or reducing your intake could help. Look for breakfast foods rich in protein and healthy fats (the latter is especially good for brain health) that won’t spike insulin levels, like eggs or a green smoothie, and consider switching your regular latte for a milder form of caffeine, like matcha or tea.

3. Take some deep breaths. This might seem like an “easier said than done” situation, but Dr. Saltz says taking slow, deep breaths truly can help calm the mind and body. “If there’s something you’re worried about on your mind that pops up while you’re taking your deep breaths, acknowledge it and let it pass; don’t try to push it away,” she says.

4. Write down everything you’re worried about. In morning moments where you feel consumed by everything you have to get done that day, Dr. Saltz says it can help to write them down. “Some people keep a ‘worry journal’ for this purpose,” she says. “Once they write it down, it’s out of their mind and they can move on with their day.” It can also help, she says, to make a to-do list so you know exactly when you’re going to get everything done. That way, you’re not spending your morning trying to figure it out in your head.

5. Get enough good quality sleep. Dr. Saltz says not getting enough quality sleep can also lead to feeling anxious when you wake up. Again, it’s because those pesky cortisol levels come into play; not getting enough sleep can raise them higher.

Morning anxiety can feel frustrating and overwhelming. But knowing the everyday factors that can contribute to it can help you take back control of how you feel. Here’s to actually enjoying our morning routines again.

Find out how having anxiety impacted one woman’s career. And here’s the difference between feeling anxious and stressed.