Cake
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    • I manage my stress and anxiety through various methods. First, I learned mindfulness, to stay present with myself, pay attention to my thoughts and feelings, learn to observe them and identify them and their roots. I have also used Cognitive Behavior Therapy techniques. CBT posits that feelings, or emotions, are our body's reaction to our thoughts. When I have a feeling, I pause, reflect on the thinking which may be feeding my stress, or anxiety, and decide to try and let go of my thinking. I can pause, stop doing whatever it is I was doing, and take a breath. It's difficult at first, but the more I practice it, the more effective and easier it becomes. I went from Emergency Room level panic attacks to managing myself well over several years. I haven't had a panic attack in years : ) Mediation has been a huge part of this process for me of late. Healthy diet and regular exercise help, too. It is truly a holistic effort. However, the more time I spend paying attention to my thoughts, feelings, and body, the more aware I become of their needs, as they change, and the more easily I natigate life in the moment with balance.

    • Whenever I get stressed out or anxious, I find the best solution is to literally "work it out". So I unplug from whatever thought or task is causing the anxiety and head outside for a run, ride or just an indoor spin on a bike trainer. It also helps to listen to some favorite tunes while at it. I've read a few books about the benefits of exercise on relieving stress, anxiety and even depression. One of them is SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

      The physical exercise focuses your mind on the task at hand as it becomes difficult to be both anxious about something and actually completing a workout. The immediacy on the pain of the physical activity overtakes the anxiety. You also get a rush of endorphins produced by your body that activate the body's opiate receptors. Essentially a natural morphine, which is why you usually feel good after a workout.
      For me the anxiety and stress come from lack of clarity. I get stuck in an infinite loop of indecision. To get out of the loop I have to take my mind off of it. When I come back, I usually have a much clearer idea of what is causing this feeling and the steps needed to solve it.

    • This is a very hard thing for me and has been all my life. I'm very conscientious about eating a healthy diet, exercising and sleep, but still those nerves. I often wonder when some anxiety is good and normal, and where is the line?

      For example, I often get nervous before a big talk. My stepmother was an actress on broadway and she would always say that nerves are good, they focus you on your performance and give you energy, and virtually everyone feels them. But if they're too high, they can ruin your acting career. That made me nervous. 😳

      When I applied to Stanford and got a letter from them, I couldn't open it for two days because I was so nervous that it was a rejection. So it tortured me for those two awful days. I kept telling myself that I was crazy, it wasn't that big a deal, I'm just so lucky to have been able to apply, but still I couldn't concentrate on anything else for those two days. That can't be good or normal.

    • I agree exercise is very powerful. It is a natural stress reliever and antidepressant as you have stated. Responding to stress, or anxiety, with a healthy coping mechanism is a great first step. However, I find great insight into myself, my mind, my patterns of thoughts and behaviors if I self-reflect some on what is actually going on inside of me which is a mechanism for the stress or anxiety.

      I use exercise to help fight depression and stress. I also look at stress and anxiety as an opportunity for better self awareness, and insight. I look at stress, or anxiety, as my body's way of trying to get my attention about something inside of me, something I am doing or thinking which may have me out of balance, which comes back to your point about stress being a "lack of clarity". Taking the mind off of it is good. Taking a look at why you are stressing is even better, in my experience. To each their own. Thank you for responding and the book recommendation : )

    • Great ideas above. I’m a big fan of CBT as well. I have a daughter who is prone to anxiety and what has really helped her are three things (done in sequential order):

      1) Fact-checking her feelings/thoughts to look for cognitive distortions she can correct. Having a vocabulary to identify things like “all or nothing thinking” or “fortune telling” that are feeding her anxiety but are not based in reality is helpful. I love David Burns’ book “When Panic Attack’s” for this but a quick google of cognitive distortions could be very helpful for anyone unfamiliar with them.

      2) Acknowledge the positive root of her anxiety. “I’m feeling anxious about this play date because I like my friend and I want her to like me. I am glad to have a friend I like but a more desirable level of nerves would be a 2 instead of a 7.” This seems to be more constructive than thinking “I shouldn’t be anxious about this!”

      3) Having “Reset List”. Hers definitely involves exercise because the deep breathing clears her mind and it’s more palatable when packaged as running around outside than as a “mindfulness exercise”. It also involves reading funny stories, working on something she enjoys, writing in her gratitude journal, playing piano, and other things she knows can take her mind off her concern and help her bring it from a 7 to a 2.

    • This is great, specific, practical use of CBT! I really appreciate your sharing your process with your daughter. This is the kind of activity which can be revealing and get at root causes rather than just coping with symptoms. I am also glad to hear you bring up exercise, too. I could be doing more of that myself right now. Doing more exercise has been on my mind. I find this motivating! One thing I love about sharing, is the feedback from others. Often, I find others share what I need to hear : )

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