29 Haziran 2011 Çarşamba

The Six Best Ways to Decrease Your Anxiety

The Six Best Ways to Decrease Your Anxiety

Use research-based coping strategies to overcome your fears

Calming the mind
We all know the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety. Our hearts race, our fingers sweat, and our breathing gets shallow and labored. We experience racing thoughts about a perceived threat that we think is too much to handle. That's because our "fight or flight" response has kicked in, resulting in sympathetic arousal and a narrowing of attention and focus on avoiding the threat. We seem to be locked in that state, unable to focus on our daily chores or longer-term goals. As a Cognitive-Behavior Therapist with more than 15 years of experience, I have found a variety of techniques that I can teach my patients with anxiety disorders such as phobias, panic attacks, or chronic worry. Some are based on changing thoughts, others on changing behavior, and still others involve physiological responses. The more aspects of anxiety I can decrease, the lower the chance of relapse post-therapy. Below are six strategies that you can use to help your anxiety.:

Techniques to achieve inner peace of mind

(1) Reevaluating the probability of the threatening event actually happening
Anxiety makes us feel threat is imminent yet most of the time what we worry about never happens. By recording our worries and how many came true, we can notice how much we overestimate the prospect of negative events.

(2) Decatastrophizing

Even if a bad event happened, we may still be able to handle it by using our coping skills and problem-solving abilities or by enlisting others to help. Although not pleasant, we could still survive encountering a spider, having a panic attack, or losing money. It's important to realize that very few things are the end of the world.

(3) Using deep breathing and relaxation to calm down

By deliberately relaxing our muscles we begin to calm down so we can think clearly. If you practice this without a threat present at first, it can start to become automic and will be easier to use in the moment when you face a threat. Deep breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system to put the breaks on sympathetic arousal.

(4) Becoming mindful of our own physical and mental reactions

The skill of mindfulness involves calmly observing our own reactions, including fear, without panic or feeling compelled to act. It is soething that can be taught in therapy and improves with practice.

(5) Accepting the Fear and Committing to Living a Life Based on Core Values

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an approach that encourages people to accept the inevitability of negative thoughts and feelings and not try to repress or control them. By directing attention away from the fear and back onto life tasks and valued goals, we can live a full life despite the fear.

Soothing & healing strategies for your mind
(6) Exposure
Exposure is the most powerful technique for anxiety and it involves facing what we fear and staying in the situation long enough for the fear to habituate or go down, as it naturally does. Fear makes us avoid or run away, so our minds and bodies never learn that much of what we fear is not truly dangerous.

24 Haziran 2011 Cuma

3 Stages of Love in Relationships

The three stages of love in relationships are romantic feelings, physical attraction, & emotional attachment. Here are seven ways for partners to enjoy all stages.
Relationships go through three stages of love: the initial feelings of lust or romantic feelings, physical attraction, and finally a deeper emotional attachment.

Reaching the final stage of love isn't just about luck or unconditional acceptance. You can reach the final stage of love with these seven tips for a healthy love life. But to be enjoyed, the three stages of love must first be understood.

What Are the Stages of Love?
The three stages of love are the same for everyone: lust or romantic feelings, physical attraction, and emotional attachment. The stages of love aren't necessarily separated by markers like anniversaries or events (such as getting married). Rather, the three stages of love blend together in one long stroke of love.

Not everyone reaches or stays in the final stage of love, which is when separation or divorce becomes the choice.

The Three Stages of Love in Relationships
Romantic feelings or lust is the first stage of love. Romantic love is driven by testosterone and estrogen. Mating is the evolutionary purpose of this stage of love; it creates strong physical attraction and sets the stage for emotional attachment. In this stage of love, endorphins soak your brain and you're immersed in intense pleasurable sensations. Your lover is perfect, ideal, made for you. In this stage of love you feel exhilarated and even "high" (similar to the feeling you get after you eat really good chocolate or have a great workout). You feel infatuated in this stage of love.

Physical attraction and power struggles make up the second stage of love (the "lovesick" phase). You may lose your appetite, need less sleep, and daydream about your lover on the bus, during meetings, in the shower. In this stage of love, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are racing through your body and brain. You're also trying to shape your lover into your ideal partner – which is where the power struggles come in. In this stage of relationship, you're becoming more realistic, and you two may fight about things like whether or not to buy organic food or listen to country music. The infatuation is wearing off, a strong emotional attachment begins to set in, and feelings of infatuation fade.

Emotional attachment or unconditional acceptance is the third stage of love. Emotional attachment involves commitment, partnership, and even children (a fear of intimacy prevents many from reaching this stage of love). In this stage of love, you're aware of both positive and negative traits in your partner, and you've decided you want to build a life together. Confrontation is most likely to occur in this stage of love (though if you're authentic and honest, it'll also happen in the second stage of love). You and your partner will either work towards a healthy, loving relationship or decide to call it quits.

Staying in Love
Love isn't just a vehicle that brings happiness and contentment to your life (or bitterness and pain!). Love is a living, dynamic creature that changes, grows, and needs attention -- and you must nurture it. In all three stages of love, your love reveals who you really are, in all your glory and weakness.

All stages of love can help you accept your strengths and weaknesses. All stages of love also reveal your partner's strengths and weaknesses.

7 Tips for All 3 Stages of Love:
Focus on the things you can control: your attitude, your behavior, your words, and your energy. If you want something to change in any stage of a loving relationship, make it your own traits or actions – not your partner's.
Learn healthy ways to express your disappointment, anger, or frustration. Be honest and authentic, and kind and loving in all stages of relationships.
Remember the first stage of love! Recall your feelings of lust, attraction, and desire for your partner. Think about the traits that you were attracted to, and let those old feelings come to life again.
Appreciate your partner's good qualities; be grateful for the life you share. Gratitude can enhance all stages of relationships.
Focus on emotional intimacy in all three stages of love. Be vulnerable to have a healthy love life.
Own your feelings. Your partner can't "make" you feel stupid or worthless. If you feel unfulfilled or sad about your life, look at your own dreams and goals. Are you pursuing the life you were meant to live? Are you following your heart? Develop your personality, mind, and spirit. Figure out what will make you happy in this stage of love, and start creating the life you were meant to live.
Consider counseling in any stage of love. If you've lost that loving feeling, it could be an individual thing that you need to deal with or a couples' issue that you should tackle together. An objective point of view, from a therapist, pastor, or friend you trust, is incredibly helpful in all stages of relationships.

3 Haziran 2011 Cuma

10 Ways to Perk Up Your Relationship

10 Ways to Perk Up Your Relationship

If you've ever gotten relationship advice, you've probably heard plenty of don'ts. Don't nag. Don't stonewall. Don't blame. Don't leave the toilet seat up, don't squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle, and definitely don't assume he's that into you when he's just not. Well, don't listen.
The happiest couples focus on do's, not don'ts. Rather than just steering clear of negative interactions, they actively work to build positivity into their relationships. They show what psychologists call an "approach orientation," moving toward what's good, rather than moving away from what's bad.
Traditionally, couples research has focused more on minimizing negatives (arguments, emotional distance, infidelity) than on maximizing positives. But a new wave of research is changing all that. Positivity-oriented psychologists find that maintaining a favorable balance of positive to negative emotions helps people—and relationships—thrive. "We've already learned about all the toxic stuff that harms relationships," says psychologist Dacher Keltner, author of Born to Be Good. "There's a whole new science of how to build in good emotions."

Positivity has a way of shifting our perspective: While negative emotions shut us down, positive emotions open us up. They help us "broaden and build," argues Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Positivity. Positive emotions actually spur big-picture thinking, yielding benefits like keener peripheral vision and increased creativity—not to mention better relationships.
"Finding ways to inject humor and lightness into a difficult situation is not merely a distraction," says Fredrickson, "It actually helps people see possibilities." Partners stuck in a "one-note song" should move towards greater positivity by seizing "micro-opportunities" to connect, she says. Positive emotion is about more than just having fun—it includes gratitude, inspiration, and curiosity.
When participants do a "loving-kindness meditation," a form of meditation focused on generating warm and tender feelings toward others, the quotient of positive emotions in their lives increases, which in turn boosts relationship satisfaction, Frederickson has found.
In fact, just setting more positive goals for your relationship can make you happier as a couple. Couples who seek to increase the good in their relationships, concentrating on sharing fun and meaningful experiences together, promoting growth and development in the relationship, and creating satisfaction and intimacy ("approach-oriented goals"), fare better than couples focused on ducking the negatives ("avoidant-oriented" goals), says Emily Impett, a researcher at UC Berkeley.
You may not always achieve all the positives you seek—but it's enough to realize that positivity is important and to set goals reflecting that. The payoff is great: more fun, more growth, better sex, and more sustained intimacy.
1: Be grateful.
Remembering to thank your partner seems simple, but gratitude may provide the everyday dose of spackle that keeps you glued together over the long haul. "Gratitude helps remind us of the good qualities in our partners," says Sara Algoe, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "It reminds people to attend to the others in their lives."
In a study of cohabitating couples, on days that one partner expressed more gratitude, the other felt more satisfied with the relationship. "We get into these routines and start taking our partners for granted," says Algoe. "But gratitude can work as a booster shot, injecting positive emotion into the relationship."
A low-quality expression of gratitude focuses on the object—"Thank you for cooking dinner, I was really hungry," explains Fredrickson. It's much better to focus on the other person: "You're such a great cook; it's so thoughtful of you to cook for me!"
"A lot of people express their appreciation in self-absorbed ways," Fredrickson says. "But when the expression of gratitude focuses on the other person, we find the other person walks around feeling better about themselves—and six months later, the relationship is stronger."
2: Poke fun at each other.
Playfulness is one of the first casualties of a busy life, says Dacher Keltner. When your life consists of nothing but working, paying bills, cleaning, and sleep, play can disappear from a relationship. "You have to keep it alive by having fun, joking around, using silly nicknames," he suggests.
You may think sincere communication is the way to handle a serious issue. But Keltner has found that couples who teased each other in the heat of a conflict felt more connected after the fact. When he staged a conflict discussion in his lab and compared couples who communicated in a direct, logical way with those who made light of the conflict, he found that couples who tease are happier and reach more peaceful resolutions.
That's because couples who can tease can use that modality to handle the tough stuff in a relationship. Even silly nicknames help turn conflicts into peaceful exchanges, Keltner says, by reminding couples to smile at each other's quirks. So if you're annoyed by a partner's long-standing habit—say, stealing the covers in the middle of the night—try teasing. Calling your partner the Blanket Monster might take the edge off your irritation while reminding your partner to share. Remember to tease in a way that's playful, not hostile; use nonverbal cues that convey you're having fun, like a silly facial expression or a change in tone.
3: Capitalize on good news.
We expect our partners to provide us with a shoulder to cry on when times are tough—but how couples behave during good times might be even more important. Partners who respond enthusiastically to each other's successes—asking questions, paying compliments, and cheering each other on—report greater relationship satisfaction over time, says Shelly Gable, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A couple's ability to "capitalize"—that is, to celebrate each other's positive events—predicts satisfaction better than their commiseration over negative events.
When something good happens to your partner—a promotion, a compliment from a coworker, or even just a witticism that gets a big laugh—seize the opportunity to make the most of it. You don't need a major event as an excuse to break out the good china.
4: Use your illusions.
We may think putting our mates on a pedestal is unrealistic—but in fact, partners who idealize each other wind up happier. Partners in the most satisfied couples rate their mates more positively than the mates rate themselves, finds Sandra Murray, a psychologist at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) who studies positive illusions.

Similarly, when spouses perceived their partners as being nicer than their actual behavior warranted, they maintained greater long-term satisfaction than spouses who did not idealize each other as much, according to research by Paul Miller, Sylvia Niehuis, and Ted Huston at the University of Texas, Austin.
So if you value your clear-eyed judgment of others, including your partner, it may be time to ease up a little and concentrate on what you like about your mate. Looking through a soft-focus lens might help you build a genuinely rosier picture over time.
5: Find your ideal self—in your partner.
happy couples bring out the best in each other. But when partners more closely resemble each other's ideal selves, couples fare better—above and beyond the benefit to the relationship afforded by how similar you are in actuality, says Caryl Rusbult, a psychologist at the Free University of Amsterdam.
Someone who describes her ideal self as physically fit, for instance, might be happy being with a disciplined athlete; someone who longs to be more creative might thrive with an artistic partner. Rusbult calls this the "Michelangelo effect," since partners can help "sculpt" each other's best selves by affirming each other's efforts at self-improvement. The aspiring fitness buff, for example, appreciates her athletic partner's reminders to work out.
So try listing your personal goals. Then think about the qualities you like most in your partner. Chances are, there's overlap between the self you aspire to and the aspects of your partner you appreciate most. Then recruit your partner to help you improve in the domains that matter to you. You'll not only get closer to your ideal self—you'll also feel closer to your partner.
6: Notice what's new about your partner.
Letting your partner surprise you is vital to sustaining excitement in your relationship. But in order to be surprised, you first have to pay attention.
The problem is that most of us get so familiar with our partners, we stop really noticing them. "But the fact that you stopped looking doesn't mean they've stopped changing," says Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer. It's only the illusion of stability, Langer says, that leads us to conclude our partners are fixed, static entities.
"You feel like you've captured who this is in your mind, so you hold them still," says Langer. "But they're actually growing and changing all the time. Once we think we know another person so well that we don't pay attention to them anymore, the person stops being seen."
So take the time to actively notice differences: Look for five things that are different from the last time you looked. These differences can be as simple as a new necktie and as profound as a shift in spiritual beliefs. Taking the time to notice—what she calls "mindful awareness"—increases our engagement with our partner.
When non-football-fans watch a game while writing down new things they notice about the players and the stadium, they become more enthusiastic about the sport, Langer found. "You develop a passion for what you're engaged in," she says.
So become engaged with your partner. Once you begin to really pay attention, you'll be amazed by what you discover.
7: Put it in writing.
For a recent Valentine's Day, Los Angeles-based film editor Stefan Grube gave his wife Julie a journal, with the idea that the couple would take turns writing to each other. "There's something great about using a pen and paper that helps us really take the time and express our feelings," says Julie. "I cannot tell you how excited I am when I see he's replaced it on our shelf and I know there's a love letter awaiting me."
Writing has a way of shoring up romantic emotions. A University of Texas study found that when participants wrote about their relationships for 20 minutes at a time for 3 days, they were more likely to be together 3 months later. They also expressed more positive emotions in instant message conversations with each other—the writing had prompted more good feelings about the relationship. So next time you think fondly of your partner, write those thoughts down.
8: Provide support in secret.
You might think showing a stressed-out partner explicit support—like cooking special meals or running time-consuming errands—will shore up your connection. But overt social support carries a cost: Partners feel obligated, which leads to more stress, found Niall Bolger, a psychologist at Columbia University.
The most effective support was actually "invisible." When one partner claimed to be providing support the other partner did not report receiving, the other partner showed more improvement in mood than when receiving explicit support.
The lesson? Hidden acts of kindness brighten your mate's day, especially when he or she is going through a challenging time. So instead of making grand gestures, find subtle ways to make your partner's life easier: Stock the fridge with a favorite drink or straighten up a cluttered workspace. Being surreptitiously supportive is a good way to exercise your positivity muscle on a small scale.
9: Get back in touch.
Sure, having regular sex does wonders for relationship satisfaction and well-being. But for couples whose sex life is stalled, even just a little warm touch can make a difference.
A simple "listening touch" exercise, in which partners gently touch each other's neck, shoulders, and hands, increases oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates bonding, and reduces partners' blood pressure and physiological stress levels, found a team of researchers from Brigham State University and the University of Utah.
"Cultivating 'body sense' awareness on one's own and with one's partner is essential, not only for a good sexual relationship but during any close encounter," says Alan Fogel, a University of Utah psychologist who helped develop the touch intervention.

In other words, you can reap the benefits of physical closeness even when you don't have the time or energy for full-blown intimacy. Just a quick hug or backrub can boost your mood—and your connection with your mate.
10: Look after yourself.
You may think the best way to improve your relationship is to focus more on your partner, but that's not always true. Investing in your own life and happiness will pay off, too.
"If you're going through a rough patch, often the most effective thing that you can do is to lovingly remove your attention from the relationship—period," says Susan Biali, wellness coach and author of Your Prescription for Life. "Forget about what the other person is doing badly, or isn't doing, and focus on taking positive action in your own life instead."
By making your life more satisfying, you take pressure off your relationship to be your sole source of happiness. "Plus, by taking care of what you need to in your own life, you bring a more positive attitude back into the relationship," Biali says. "The other person will start to treat you differently—without you having done anything other than shift your energy into your own life." For Biali, this strategy took her relationship from "constant chaos" to happy marriage.
Whether you choose to say thanks, sneak in some invisible support, or coin a silly nickname, a little positivity goes a long way. Small gestures matter. Expensive gifts and exotic vacations are nice, but not as meaningful in the long term as simple actions like taking the time to notice a new outfit or cheer a partner's success. Positivity expands your awareness, begetting more positivity—more noticing, more engagement, more appreciation, and more trust. Little actions help build a reservoir of goodwill that will keep your relationship replenished.
The opportunities to fill that reservoir are out there. Don't miss them