Your Brain on Stress

By: Stephanie Osuba

Our brain has an automatic response to stress located in the amygdala, an almond sized structure in our brain that regulates emotion. Once a threat is perceived, the amygdala releases a number of hormones – adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine – to prepare for the “fight or flight” response. This is all well and good for physical threats, but what about interpersonal threats? Threats that are far more complex that need an actual solution rather than simply running away. That’s when your prefrontal cortex comes into play as it handles all of the executive function in your brain and allows you to think critically about situations. This way you can learn how to deliberately take a step back and think about how you are going to handle the stressor. So instead of letting your emotions dictate when you are angry with your significant other, dealing with rude customers, or have one too many, here are some ways you can learn to manage your stress in a constructive way:

  • Take a Breath: Calm things down and take deep breaths. This clears your head long enough for you to regain control of your emotions and let your prefrontal cortex get onboard. Once you do that, you can start critically thinking about what to do with your stressor.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the act of being in the present and being aware of your surroundings and the social context you are in. By asking yourself, “why am I feeling angry?” or “is saying this mean thing the best thing to do right now?” you can stop yourself from acting out in a way that you might regret.
  • Focus on What You Can Control: Some situations allow room for you to intervene, and others do not. Focus your energy on aspects you can anticipate, while at the same time mindfully accepting the aspects that you cannot.
  • Broaden Your View: When the amygdala gives off negative emotions due to the stressor, the anxiety usually narrows your point of view and drives you to find the quickest solution to the problem. As we know, the fastest solution isn’t always the best and it prevents you from using the stressful opportunity to grow and learn from the situation and finding a creative solution.

As much as we would rather not have to deal with it, stress is part of our daily lives and learning how to manage it can give us the life skills to handle, relatively, any situation thrown at us.

Source: Greenberg, M., Ph.D. (2017, September 7). Five Secrets to a Stress-Proof Brain. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201702/five-secrets-stress-proof-brain

If you or someone you know is experiencing psychological distress due to stress, please contact our psychotherapy/psychiatry offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

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Mindfulness: Why We Should All Practice It

By: Sanjita Ekhelikar

We live in a time when everyone is either living in the past or future. Being in the moment, or living in the present, seems to be a concept foreign to so many of us. By not living in the current moment, we are simply ensuring a life filled of stresses and regrets. How can we better learn to focus on the present?

Mindfulness means being aware of our surroundings, our body, our feelings, and thoughts in the moment. It involves recognizing and accepting our thoughts or sensations for what they are in a given moment without any judgment or negative perceptions. The practice of mindfulness gives our minds the chance to tune into the present.

It is critical for all of us to learn to practice mindfulness and how to be in the present. This will help us to avoid living a stressful life. This technique helps us learn to relax, be calm, and appreciate the present. Learning to practice mindfulness does not involve any major changes we need to make to our lives – simply setting aside a few minutes to be aware of ourselves and surroundings can have long term benefits. Here are some examples of mindful exercises we can all strive to implement in our daily lives:

  1. Mindful Breathing: Stand or sit down in a comfortable position and focus your thoughts and energy on your breath. Breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth. Be aware of only your breathing, and let go of your thoughts, letting them come and go as they pass.
  2. Mindful Observing: Look at any object in your surroundings/environment and focus solely on the object for a few minutes. Take a moment to notice every possible aspect of the object, including its color, shape, movement, features, and how it changes. Your mind will be focused on this object and will enable you to relax.
  3. Mindful Listening: Close your eyes and take a moment to listen to all of the sounds in your surroundings. Try to identify as many sounds as you can possibly hear and describe them. This allows your mind to again focus on something in the current moment instead of the thoughts in your mind.

If you or someone you know is suffering from stress or anxiety and wants to learn how mindfulness can help you, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

College: Majoring in Stress

By: Kristine Dugay

“Get good grades, join sports and clubs, find a part-time job, eat well, and have a social life… but don’t forget to get enough sleep!” These are the unrealistic expectations college students are tired of hearing and trying to achieve. The fact is, 24 hours just isn’t enough time in one day. Stress is a huge underlying factor contributing to depression within college students. 44% of American college students report having some form of mental illness, including depression. However, 75% of these students do not seek help for these problems. Although college life can be hard to handle, there are ways to reduce and manage stress.

Practice time management skills: You will get a feeling of control over your life.

Find humor in your life: Laughter is the best medicine.

Avoid procrastination: It can affect the quality of your mood, work, and sleep.

Practice good sleep habits: Sleep deprivation can cause physical and mental problems.

Work within your limits: Set realistic expectations for yourself and others.

Seek the support of your friends and family: Vent sessions relieve tension and stress.

It’s easier said than done to accomplish these “small” tasks. If you believe that you or a loved one has or may have issues with depression, anxiety, or stress, the psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, social workers, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling can help you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment.

Source: http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/college-students#2

Athletes and Psychological Issues

4 Psychological Issues Behind Athletic Performance

By: Kristine Dugay

1. Self-Confidence/ Self-Esteem

Sports demand trusting your ability to perform at your greatest level of competition, both physically and mentally. Self-criticism is the most difficult obstacle to overcome, yet it is the foundation in being able to achieve your goals. An athlete perceiving oneself as a failure is the most typical problem with self-confidence and it becomes a distraction to your athletic performance.

2. Stress and Anxiety

Whether it’s from a parent, coach or you, being reprimanded, criticized, or condemned for making mistakes or performing below expectations causes stress and anxiety. It becomes more difficult for athletes to perform when they are overloaded by the tension and pressure, and their ability to focus is impaired by their lack of judgement and diminished self-confidence.

3. Perfectionism 

Athletes will go to extreme measures to continue striving for perfection and go well beyond the recommended levels of training. Training too intensely for too long of a duration can result in injuries that are often neglected and cause extreme exhaustion on the body that lead to “burnout”. This can lead to depression, anxiety, irritability, and a high susceptibility to illnesses. Athletes tend to lose their composure and take their heads out of the game when they’re not performing at the level they expect to.

4. Relationships

Building a strong relationship with your coach and teammates is vital. Often, within young athletes favoritism occurs amongst the best players and this becomes demeaning and discouraging within an individual. Feelings can be easily hurt, but they can also be very hard to repair. As an athlete, you aspire to be recognized and appreciated and without this attention, it is difficult to perform your best.

Fortunately, methods are available to lesson these issues before and during athletic performance. Prevention of these consequences involves careful examination of the behavior and early intervention, as well as thorough review of goals, values, beliefs, and priorities.

If you believe that you or a loved one has or may have issues with anxiety, relationships, stress, or self-esteem the psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, social workers, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling can help you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment.

Source: http://www.sportpsychologytoday.com/youth-sports-psychology/common-mental-game-challenges-for-athletes/

Stress Management: How to Cope with Stress!

By: Michelle Dierna
stress_ballHave you ever driven over a bridge on a windy day and felt the wind almost forcing your car in one direction because it was so strong? Well, fun fact, many bridges are designed that way in order to deal with the STRESS of the wind that might come towards the bridge. An individual might even get stressed because of the slight movement of the bridge on a windy day and the shaking below.  Stress is easily one of the most common human experiences. That is why it is important to build a strong foundation.  However just like bridges are built to sustain stress from external factors, we as humans can too. I know comparing human beings to inanimate objects is a bit abstract.  However, stress is not easily defined, though it is strongly prevalent in our society.  The wind strongly pushing on the bridge is similar to stress pushing on to a person. Usually it goes unnoticed, hard to feel until it’s really strong. Just like a bridge can collapse if not constructed correctly to deal with major stress; people can as well. What should be obtained from this is that stress is a serious issue that needs to be addressed if is consuming your life.

Coping methods for stress:

Identify the cause of the Stress and Monitor your moods: For example:  What is triggering the stress?  Do you find that you’re more or less stressed in certain situations, certain times of the day or even the people you surround yourself with? Once you can be more aware on what triggers stress points and what relieves stress for you specifically, you can then move on to identify when you’re feeling stressed and develop a coping method. Monitoring your mood is important for everyone. When an individual monitors their mood and feelings it’s easier to identify what causes not only stress, but other emotions and behaviors. It can be very therapeutic!  Keeping a journal is a great idea to stay on track on daily moods and stressors. This makes it easier to detect areas for improvement or just to express yourself.

Organize and Make Time for yourself: Being organized is one of the most helpful tools to being a successful, productive and less stressed person. When the priorities and items in one’s life are in order, one feels better for the most part. Why? Because this eliminates the guilt of not doing what you really wanted to achieve because you were simply not organized and your priorities were not where they could have been. In many aspects of your life. This leads to disorganization in the mind, which causes stress!

How not to be stuck in this situation: try to reduce duties that are “shoulds” but not “musts”. Be realistic about what you can achieve that day and organize and prioritize accordingly! Life with a busy schedule can definitely effect your personal time. Whether it comes to work, children or school, many people find it hard to make leisure time for themselves. What should be understood is that humans need leisure time, especially with stressful schedules. Make time to go to the gym! No one ever said after a workout; I wish I didn’t go! When you work out you release endorphins which relieves stress. Working out is one of the most popular and best ways to cope with stress. Not only are you soaking up endorphins you are taking care of your physical health.

Walk away when you are too emotional to handle a situation with a safe and appropriate way. We are all human, we all have emotions yet, sometimes stress can enhance our emotions into more aggressive, invasive and sometimes even embarrassing behaviors and actions. So how can we cope with stress when we are in these high elevated moods? How can we not hurt or collapse the people around us emotionally or physically when overly stressed?

 Answer: It is easier said than done but highly achievable with effort. Before you react to whatever is driving this impulse of an abnormal mood caused by stressors; take time to analyze the situation and mentally regroup. Take a walk, count to ten, talk to a confidant and express your feelings and then re-evaluate the situation. It is easier to jump to conclusions. It is harder to take a deep breath and think before you act, but with time anyone can learn to improve mechanisms to keep their composure when dealing with stress.

If you or a loved one are dealing with stress issues, problems with coping and anxiety, feel free to contact our Bergen County, New Jersey or Manhattan offices of psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists for an evaluation.

Arista Counseling & Psychiatric Services (201)368-3700 or (212)722-1920

Visit: http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

Sources:

1 .STEVE BRESSERT, Steve, PHD. “» More Tips for Coping with Stress – Psych Central.” Psych Central.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2014.

2. Association, A. (2007). More Tips for Coping with Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 16, 2014.