Anger can be an intense emotion making many individuals afraid of their anger or view it as inappropriate. When anger is misdirected, it can lead to poor decisions, interfere with relationships and can do harm to others. However, like all emotions, anger has a purpose. Anger serves to protect us. When channeled correctly, anger is a natural and healthy response to anything that is a threat to our emotional, mental and physical security.
The effects of anger on the body
Anger propels our body into productive action. When you get upset, your muscles tense up. Your brain releases epinephrine, causing a surge of energy throughout the body. Your heart rate accelerates, your blood pressure rises and your breathing increases in preparation for physical action. The burst of energy can last several minutes so you can take immediate action to protect yourself. Your full attention goes to the target. Adrenaline is released triggering your nervous system into hyperarousal. Now you’re ready to fight. That adrenaline rush can be felt during a sudden attack of anger. Norepinephrine is also released, which helps to numb the pain.
Why do we feel anger
We’re often told that anger is negative, dangerous, useless, and unspiritual. Anger is also associated with shame, guilt, fear and anxiety. As such, we tend to suppress the emotion starting from childhood. This negative view of anger often results in the suppression of frustration, and this is often the source of many anger problems. The denial of anger can make it pathological, and this is problematic.
Anger is an important messenger
Anger is an indication that something is wrong, and it’s usually due to one of two reasons. One that a boundary has been crossed. Or, a need has not being met. To elaborate, anger can be due to the violation of one’s dignity, abuse, loneliness and isolation, love and acceptance, to list a few. Childhood neglect, rejection, misattunement or abandonment can also result in appropriate anger or rage. When these sources of anger are denied or repressed, they later become pathological anger and rage.
The usefulness of anger
Anger helps defend against uncomfortable feelings by invalidating the person or situation that makes you feel invalidated. Attacking the threat can make you feel superior thereby restoring your emotional and mental security. If we can’t comfort ourselves through self-validation, we’ll try to attempt comfort by invalidating others.
Anger can be an enticing emotion as it gives us a sense of control and power as opposed to feeling unsure and vulnerable. As you can imagine, if anger can fend off such painful and unbearable feelings, one might eventually become dependent and even addicted to the emotion. Anger is a way to provide comfort. It can serve as reassurance when our self-esteem is in danger, whether through criticism, rejection or invalidation. If we feel bad about who we are, our negative sense of self will have difficulty withstanding these threats
Working through anger
I’ve found great success when working from a mind and body perspective. When you’re angry your body gets ready to fight. Anger isn’t just a thought or a feeling; there’s a bodily response. Our nervous system goes into a state of hyperarousal. I help clients develop resources so that they don’t feel overtaken by their anger while providing them with anger management techniques. This way they can self-regulate and move out of the fight response and into a state where they can think clearly and feel appropriate. Clients become less reactive and more proactive.
Beyond anger management skills
Often anger is suppressed because one is afraid of the anger. This only makes anger more powerful and problematic. As such, acknowledgment of the anger and its full extent is a good first step when working through anger or rage. Also important is to recognize the origin of the anger, and to begin to tolerate the feeling of anger, as well as the other feelings that initially triggered the anger. It’s important to note that anger has positive potential that can have tremendous value when one’s energy isn’t stuck in its destructive power. Learning how to express and utilize the power of anger can be transformative.
Symptoms of Codependency
What Causes Codependency
The Underlying Roots of Codependency
What Can You Do If You’re In a Codependent Relationship?
1. Set Boundaries
2. Recognizing and Honoring Your Needs
The winter months can mean hibernation for many with the dark and dreary days of winter here in Toronto. The lack of sunlight and colder weather can have a profound impact on our mood. It can leave us feeling depressed, tired, withdrawn and unmotivated. If you live in Toronto, you’ve probably heard about or may have experienced seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that typically occurs during the fall and winter months when the days get shorter, and there’s a decrease in daylight hours. It’s also referred to as the winter blues.
Why is it so difficult to show ourselves compassion? Perhaps you feel undeserving of it? Do you associate self-compassion with self-indulgence or self-pity? Self-compassion can be challenging, especially when criticism rather than compassion is or has been used to motivate and modify behaviour. While breaking free from the pattern of self-criticism can be difficult, self-compassion is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Research shows that self-compassion is a powerful medicine, with a positive and restorative influence upon our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
The Benefits of Self-Compassion
Self-compassion enhances our well-being by deactivating our threat system, which is associated with feelings of insecurity, isolation, defensiveness and self- criticism. Instead, it activates our self-soothing system, with makes us feel safe and interconnected.
Being self-compassionate is difficult, especially if one has experienced trauma. In such cases, I highly recommend working with a counsellor. If you’ve struggled with unconditionally loving and accepting yourself, the good news is that compassion is a skill that you can develop. I found that to become self-compassionate, I had to reprogram my subconscious since being critical was my primary way of relating to myself. I did this by creating new tendencies that were self-compassionate in nature. Over time, my subconscious mental patterns become stronger and I reshaped my habits to become more self-compassionate. Slowly self-compassion has become my main way of relating to myself.
6 Strategies to Practice Self-Compassion
1. Acknowledge challenges and let them go.
Recognize your challenges. Don’t get discouraged or let yourself be defined by them. Instead, experience your challenges. Resolve to overcome them and see what great things you can accomplish in the process.
2. Remember that you’re exactly where you need to be.
When you connect with yourself on a deeper level, you may realize things about yourself that you weren’t aware of. We can get caught up in how we ‘should’ be feeling or what we ‘should’ be doing. This can lead to self-judgement. Trust that you are where you need to be.
3. Focus on self-growth rather than self-improvement.
Self-improvement emphasizes fixing one’s perceived inadequacies. On the other hand, self-growth looks at going deeper and accepting who you are and building upon that.
4. Be mindful of your language and your self-talk.
You may be accustomed to criticizing yourself without even realizing it. Start paying attention to what you tell yourself. If you’re saying things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend, then you’re not being kind to yourself.
Meditation changes the pathways in the brain. It encourages the development of self-compassion so that eventually it can become second nature. Aim to meditate 20 minutes a day to reprogram your brain.
6. Comfort yourself physically.
Comforting yourself with physical gestures activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes the body. Try putting your hand over your heart or giving yourself a hug to provide comfort to yourself.
At first, it may be challenging or uncomfortable to show yourself compassion but with practice, it will start to feel increasingly natural. Be gentle with yourself and remember that you’re worth it.
Do you struggle with self-esteem or confidence? Or perhaps there are negative beliefs you have about yourself or the world. While it may seem that this is just how your life is and will be, I want to tell you that you do have the capability to shift the beliefs you have about yourself.
Beliefs are Formed in Childhood
Typically our beliefs are shaped in our childhood. No one has a perfect childhood. Even if you’ve had a good childhood, with “good enough” parents, you’ve still had painful experiences, be it at home, at school or in your community, that have shaped you and influenced the beliefs you have about yourself and the world around you. In a way, you are telling yourself lies about yourself and the world.
This doesn’t mean that you had bad parents. Chances are that they did the best they could. And sometimes it’s not enough, especially for a child. Parents carry with them their own painful experiences, and when left unexamined this will impact how they are as a parent.
Do You Take Care of Others and Neglect Your Needs?
Perhaps you grew up with a single parent. They are dealing with the divorce and the emotions that accompany the end of their marriage. They might also be stressed out financially and time-wise. As a result, you might have had to take on responsibilities of an adult, like taking care of your younger sibling or providing emotional support for your parent. This can develop into the belief of, “I have to take care of other” or “my needs aren’t important.” As an adult, you might suppress your needs, not ask for what you need, or you might not even recognize what your needs are. Instead, you prioritize the needs of others before your own. Can you relate?
Did you grow up with a parent who valued self-sufficiency and independence, first and foremost? They praised you if you can take care of your own needs, even if you were too young to. Or you were told to “suck it up”, whatever “it” was. Growing up in such an environment can be challenging, especially if you are sensitive to your emotions and the emotions of others around you. It can leave you feeling alone, or with the feeling that there’s something wrong with having and showing emotions.
You may have grown up with a perfectionist parent. No matter how well you did, it was never enough. While they may have pushed you to be the best that you can be, the message that you may have received, whether consciously or subconsciously, was ” I’m not good enough, I am not enough.” This can evolve into low self-esteem, lacking confidence and questioning yourself and your choices.
As you can see, our experiences in childhood influence the beliefs we have about ourselves and the messages we tell ourselves. Can you see that these beliefs, messages, and feelings you have are not true? As children, we can things personally and take on what’s going on in our environment. For instance, if your father wasn’t around consistently while you were growing up, subconsciously, you’ve likely told yourself that this was your fault.
Or you might have had a good childhood and have an overall good life, however, you don’t feel as happy as you’d like to feel or live the life you want. You might have had a difficult time coping with stressors or find relationships difficult. These challenges can often be traced back to early relational wounds.
Developmental Wounds Impact your Beliefs, Self-Esteem, and Confidence
These examples are developmental wound. Developmental wounds are wounds that happen in relationships with family members and others, as such, they can only be healed through relationship. You can’t talk yourself out of these beliefs because they are deeply embedded in your psyche and so they feel like the truth – but they are not.
Counseling and therapy for self-esteem and confidence can be very helpful at exploring your beliefs. Also, you can heal your developmental wounds by having new experiences that challenge the beliefs that no longer serve you.
Do you have beliefs about yourself or others that no longer benefit you? What beliefs do you have that interfere with you being the best version of you and living a meaningful and joyful life?
The benefits of exercise have been long established. We know that sitting for extended periods of time is bad for many areas of our health. It reduces blood circulation, weakens your muscles, and increase the risk for diseases like obesity, heart disease and cancer. Inactivity is also detrimental to our mental health. Daily exercise is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your anxiety, panic attacks, stress, and depression. Research has shown the incredibly strong relationship between anxiety and inactivity.
The Relationship Between Lack Of Exercise And Anxiety
Here are two reasons why a lack of exercise and movement can contribute to anxiety and panic attacks.
1. Unused Energy: Unused energy is one of the most frequently cited reasons for anxiety. This is because your body was made to move, and when the body doesn’t move, tension develops in the body. We see this in dogs when they’re not taken out for regular walks. They become anxious and high strung. If they don’t have an outlet for their energy, that energy first turns into physical tension followed by mental tension.
2. Increased Stress Hormone: When you feel stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol. Movement can lower cortisol, bringing it back to healthy levels. When you start to experience anxiety, your body is anticipating a fight or flight reaction. Being inactive can cause your body to misfire stress and anxiety hormones.
As you can see, moving your body is crucial to calming the mind and body. We’re hard-wired to move, especially when we’re feeling stressed. For instance, if you have an encounter with a bear, your primitive brain goes into fight or flight response, giving you a boost of adrenaline needed to escape danger. In our modern world, we’ve become disconnected to one of the most important ways to reduce stress and anxiety.
Exercising When You’re Feeling Anxious
It can be difficult to exercise if you’re not used to it or if you’re experiencing anxiety. Anxiety can keep you in a stuck or frozen state, making it difficult to move forward. Exercise can also be difficult for those who experience social anxiety as it can be uncomfortable to exercise around other individuals.
Tips To Help You Start Exercising
Here are 6 tips to help you get started:
1. Start slow if you haven’t exercised before: Start off by making small and realistic goals. For instance, you can start by going for daily walks at lunch. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew and get discouraged.
2. Chose an activity that’s fun. The most important thing is that you move. Chances are that if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you won’t stick with it. If you like to dance, then sign up for a dance class. If you like to be outside in nature, go for a walk or run outside.
3. Choose to workout at a time of day that works best for you. Some prefer to work out in the morning when their energy levels are at the highest, while others are active in the afternoon or evening because that’s what their schedule allows them to get moving.
4. Mix up your exercises. Studies suggest that cardiovascular activities and strength training work well together. Start with at least one day of each activity a week.
5. Listen to music. Music helps increase your efforts by helping you stay at a healthy pace. Music also puts you in the zone, and it makes you want to move.
6. Get outside. Nature helps reduce anxiety, so by exercising outside, the stress reduction is even greater.
As you can see, movement and exercise powerful are ways to tackle the symptoms of anxiety. Get moving today to help you to start feeling your best.
The new year is here! The month of January tends to invite motivation, whether it is to face a new challenge, become healthier or make a change in your career. January can make you feel like a new person and conquerable all of your goals.
However, it’s undeniable that a time so full of determination also has moments of anxiety as you plan and reflect on the year ahead of you. Anxious thoughts race through your mind, ‘Will I accomplish all I have set out to do this year?’ ’ ‘What if I fail?’ and all the other “what ifs” that might come up. These questions can be more prevalent for those who worry, are nervous or experience anxiety. It’s easy to see how new year’s resolutions can be anxiety provoking. If this is something you can relate to, then I suggest you consider creating some of your goals around reducing your worries, nervousness, and stress.
Because anxiety can be all consuming, mind and body, when you’re able to minimize and heal anxiety, it will free up your focus, energy and time to work on your other goals. The last thing you want to do is live in fear and anxiety that prevents you from being the best you can be in 2017. The good news about anxiety is that it is entirely possible to manage and eliminate your anxiety.
Here are 6 new year’s resolutions every anxious person wants to consider right now – they’re worth the effort!
1. Talk about your anxiety instead of hiding it.
Don’t feel bad about your anxiety. Open up to those you feel safe with. It can be hard for people who don’t have anxiety to understand what it’s like to have anxiety. Opening up to others and sharing how you feel and what you’re going through can help others gain a better understanding of your experiences and also how to best support you. You might isolate when you feel anxious, which can be hard for others to understand what’s going on for you. Plus, you might be surprised to find others who also experience anxiety but didn’t feel comfortable sharing their struggles.
2. Prioritize putting yourself and your self-care first.
Think of the safety warning before taking off on an airplane, ‘Put on your oxygen mask before helping someone else with their mask.’ This is a great metaphor, if you’re not breathing, you’re not going to be helpful to others. Is this a tough one for you? Do you always focus on making others happy before taking care of your own happiness? If this is your pattern, it may very well be contributing to your anxiety and stress.
3. Exercise at least 20 minutes every day.
Exercise can be one of the most significant ways to help manage and reduce your anxiety and support your overall mood. To name just some of the benefits, exercise lowers the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Exercise enhances the production of the feel-good neurochemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. It also helps to produce new neurons in the brain that raises the brain’s capacity to handle stress.
4. Try yoga or meditation.
Numerous scientific studies have found both mindfulness practices of meditation and yoga to be effective in treating anxiety. Chronic worriers often have increased reactivity in the amygdala, the area of the brain associated with regulating emotions. Yoga and meditation help with one’s ability to turn down the reactivity of the amygdala. Mindfulness also reduces the number of neurons in this fear-triggering part of the brain. The focus on breathing also helps to slow down and calm the mind.
5. Get out of your comfort zone more.
Anxiety occurs when we’re outside of our window of tolerance and our body is in hyper-arousal. While everyone’s comfort zone varies, individuals with anxiety typically have a more narrow comfort zone. One of the things I work on with my clients is widening their window of tolerance so that their bodies are more resilient which increases their anxiety threshold. Widening your window of tolerance is something you can practice by getting out of your comfort zone. You want to be mindful and find the intensity that’s evoked just at the edge of your comfort zone.
6. Work with a therapist.
Working with a psychotherapist can significantly reduce or eliminate anxiety symptoms, allowing you to get back to get back to your life and regain a sense of control. Psychotherapy aims to identify and address the source of the anxiety. This process helps people to understand, unravel, and transform anxiety and learn self-soothing techniques to use if worries flare up.
Do you feel like a fraud? Do you have a nagging fear of being found out as not being as smart or deserving? Are you plagued by the feeling and the worry that the world will see you as incompetent? If you feel like a fraud, you’re not alone. High achievers like Tina Fey, Sheryl Sandberg, and Maya Angelou have all admitted to feeling like an impostor during their life.
While we all experience anxiety, worry, and doubt at times, the impostor syndrome can create a cycle of shame and embarrassment, leading to self-defeating thoughts of not feeling adequate, such as “I am not worthy.”
Research has shown that those who suffer from impostor syndrome are typically those who are talented and capable, as opposed to actual frauds. If you feel like an impostor, chances are you’re not. Individuals who feel insecure are more likely to be high achieving since their self-doubt pushes them to work hard. But as you can see, this can be a never-ending cycle, similar to the beliefs, “if I don’t know everything, then I know nothing” or “if I’m not performing at 100% all the time, then I’m incompetent.” read more…
As a therapist, clients often come to see me because they feel stuck. They feel stuck in a job, or their career no longer satisfies them. Clients may have difficulty fully engaging in meaningful relationships. They tell me that they feel like they’re going through the motions of life. They feel anxious or worried.
We all get stuck at times but if this is a persistent theme in your life, you might be living in a state of functional freeze, a term coined by psychologist Peter Levine. I see many seemingly high achieving individuals who are in a state of functional freeze. These clients often share that their ability to feel joy and peace are muted. They feel anxious, worried, numb and lack true vibrancy, have trouble concentrating and struggle to connect with their creativity. read more…