Author: <span>Angela Barraza, MEd., LPC</span>

Stress Less with Exercise

How do you manage daily stress?

What is your favorite stress relief technique?

What can you do to improve your mood?

 

There is a stress management secret that only takes 30 minutes out of your 24 hours a day.

 

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s physical or emotional response to a challenge, pressure, or demand.  Stressful life events or situations are part of life.  Stress can be positive when you need to complete homework, meet a deadline for work or to help you avoid danger.

 

Sometimes stress can be negative. 

 

Acute stress is the immediate response to a challenging or new situation, it is short term and experienced in day-to-day life.  Episodic acute stress is frequent episodes of acute stress which can make life seem chaotic going from one stressful experience to the next crisis.

 

Chronic stress is experiencing high levels of stress for a long period of time.  Chronic stress can come from childhood trauma, traumatic experiences, a toxic relationship, or an extremely demanding job.

 

Emotional and Cognitive Symptoms of Stress:

  • Overwhelmed, anxious, afraid
  • Angry, irritable, frustrated, moody
  • Sad, depressed, lonely, worthless, low self esteem
  • Racing thoughts, excessive worry
  • Inability to focus, forgetfulness, disorganization

 

Physical Symptoms of Stress:

  • Headaches, muscle aches, tense muscles, body ache
  • Digestive problems: diarrhea, constipation, bloating
  • Indigestion, nausea
  • Frequent colds or infections
  • Insomnia or waking up frequently, over sleeping
  • Rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations, chest pain
  • Sweating, shallow breathing
  • Low energy, tiredness

 

Stress can impact us in various ways.  It can feel overwhelming at times, but we can definitely combat our stress.

 

Combat your stress with exercise!

 

Any form of exercise is good for your body and mind. 

 

Benefits of Exercise:

  • Reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol
  • Physical activity increases the brain’s production of “feel good” neurotransmitters called endorphins that are the body’s natural pain killers and mood elevators
  • Reduces anxiety and depression
  • Improves cognitive function
  • Promotes positive changes in mental health and the ability to cope with stressful situations
  • Strengthens immune system
  • Improves sleep
  • Boosts energy
  • Improves self-esteem and self-image
  • Physical activity improves physical health and cardiovascular health
  • Lowers blood pressure and improves blood circulation

 

All it takes is 30 minutes a day, to help improve your physical and mental health.  Anything from walking, dancing, yoga, running, basketball, soccer, baseball, hiking, weightlifting can help improve your mood.  Pick multiple things that work for you and incorporate them into your daily routine. 

 

When you feel super tired and drained push you yourself even harder.  It will be worth it!  You got this!

 

If you would like more information, please contact our office at: (915) 209-1234 .

Treat Yourself Like a Plant: Four Steps to Well-Being

Humans don’t come with an instruction manual, but there are things that we can all do that have been proven to keep us physically and mentally healthy. 

 

I do NOT have a green thumb, but I do know the basics of how to keep a plant alive and growing. Therefore, I’d like to explain how to engage in self-care in a way that is easy to remember: treat yourself like a plant.

 

  1. Get some sunlight.

Just like plants need sunlight, so do we!  It is widely known that Vitamin D comes from milk and some foods, but did you know it also comes from sunlight?

In fact, 15 minutes of sunlight exposure at least 3 times per week can give us enough Vitamin D to make up for what is missing in food.

Vitamin D helps reduce inflammation and helps all types of cells grow!  It makes our bones stronger, lowers blood pressure, and helps us sleep better. (We all know what consequences we suffer if we don’t get a good night’s sleep—grumpiness, grogginess, overeating, bad decision making just to name a few!)

Additionally, according to researchers at BYU, the availability of sunlight has a big impact on our mood.

During seasons where we get less sunlight, humans experience more mood and emotional problems and disorders.

On the other hand, days with plenty of sunshine helped increase positive mood which means the release of “feel good” hormones and chemicals in the body. Just remember to wear your sunscreen!

 

  1. Drink plenty of water.

According to the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water.

Skin is 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: at 31%. It only makes sense to drink water if much of our bodies, and most especially the brain, are made of water!

A 2014 study concluded that habitual water drinking facilitates clear thinking and helps with alertness. It also could benefit mood and confidence.

For example, drinking enough water can clear up skin problems, which can give self-confidence and vitality. There is such a thing as drinking too much water though, so be careful and don’t go overboard with it.

 

  1. Get some fresh air and activity.

Some plants do well indoors, and some plants thrive in the outdoor elements of wind, rain, and snow.

I’d like for you to imagine though that you are a plant that happens to benefit from the fresh air.  Imagine the slight breeze that moves you and gives you chance to interact with other plants.

Studies have shown that spending time outdoors and in nature can induce calm, decrease depression, and stave off anxiety.

There is a treatment called Ecotherapy, where you spend a prescribed amount of time outdoors and in nature to treat depression.

The benefits of being around nature and green plants is also very grounding.

Grounding is a natural way to combat anxiety because it helps us live in the moment.

Since you are out of the house, it may even give you a chance to do some light socializing–waving at neighbors, saying good morning to passersby.

This even light amount of social interaction has great benefits for the brain. It keeps loneliness at bay and can improve overall mood.

 

  1. Ensure that you are getting proper nutrients and minerals.

Have you ever seen those commercials for plant food or soil?  They show flowers that grow without the MiracleGro and some that do.

The difference is, with the plant food, the flowers grow bigger and are more resilient and the ones that grow without it are still pretty, but puny and weaker.

The same goes for our bodies!  If we ingest junk food or fast food, sure our bodies will survive.

We won’t go hungry and we will live.  But if we eat high quality, nutritious food and take our vitamins, our bodies will not just be surviving and functioning, they will THRIVE.

Also, have you ever noticed how you feel after you eat a large fatty and not-so-nutritious meal? Or what it feels like if you drink too much alcohol?

That is not fun at all. Like a plant, your brain functions best when it gets nutrient rich soil and plant food.

Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress.

 

So, there you have it.  Four simple strategies to keep your mind and body happy and healthy…like a plant!

Counseling After Experiencing Childhood Abuse

Trigger Warning: this blog contains mentions and examples of abuse, neglect, and other sensitive/potentially triggering material.

“At least 1 in 7 children have experienced child abuse and/or neglect in the past year, and this is likely an underestimate.” -Center for Disease Control, April 2020.

This is a startling statistic.

Count the seven closest people around you. One of them has likely endured childhood abuse and/or neglect. The fact that this statistic is likely an underestimate can lead one to believe that more than one of those 7 people has suffered through child abuse or neglect and shows many cases go unreported.

Let’s talk about what abuse is.

There are a few different types, and I will give short illustrations of each one.

Forms of abuse and neglect:

Read more

Five Signs That Tell You It’s Time to See a Therapist

As a mental health professional who has been in the field for a while, it’s been interesting to observe why and how people end up in my office seeking guidance. The following is a list of indicators that may be signaling to you it could be time for you to seek support from a mental health professional.

  1. Your loved ones are noticing that you are different. Sometimes, we are not able to look at ourselves objectively…that is we can’t clearly see how we behave sometimes. It is like when you look into a mirror and only see certain flaws or spots in your face or body but can’t quite see the whole picture.  Those around us, specifically our loved ones, hold a special perspective of ourselves and can see different aspects of ourselves that we are not able to.  If loved ones, people who see us every day, or people who interact with us often notice unusual or “not typical” behaviors and point it out, they might be signals that mean we need some extra help from a therapist. They may tell you that they are concerned about things like substance abuse, irritability, mood changes, isolation, or your daily routines.
  2. You feel a sense of emotional discomfort that has lasted longer than 2 weeks. You’ve made it this far into life with all you’ve got, but sometimes, life can become daunting or unmanageable.  If you feel any sense of apathy, sadness, nervousness, worry, or uncertainty that has been unmanageable or if you’re noticing behavior changes like not wanting to engage in relationships, snapping back at others, feeling like you don’t want to do anything, not finding pleasure in old hobbies, or changes in your appetite, it might be time to take a closer look at yourself.  When these “signals” come up for longer than two weeks it might be time to get Read more

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