Difficulty managing stress during difficult times?

Stress is anything that alters your natural balance. When stress is present, your body and your mind must attend to it in order to return you to balance. Your body reacts to stress by releasing hormones that help you cope with the situation.  That in turn takes energy away from the other functions of your brain, like concentrating, or taking action.  There are two different sources of stress: external triggers, like getting a poor grade or breaking up with your girlfriend/boyfriend, and internal triggers, like placing high expectations on yourself.

Along with the rewards and excitement that can come with balancing academic, extra-curricular and personal roles through university can be considerable stress. At times, this stress can feel overwhelming and personal functioning, academic performance and social relationships may be negatively impacted. At these times, it is a sign of emotional intelligence to recognize when you would benefit from speaking with a therapist and an important first step towards resolving your concerns.

Difficulties with time management, sleep problems, perfectionism and procrastination are among the issues many students want to resolve.

People with mental health disorders are more likely to notice that their specific symptoms reemerge or grow worse during stressful times. In many cases, stress can act as the “spark” that ignites a mental health episode. But this does not mean that every time you are busy or face a difficult challenge you will have a mental health episode. Not everyone responds the same way to potentially stressful circumstances. For example, during final exams many students feel very overwhelmed and anxious, while others are able to keep their stress under control. If you are one of the many people who have difficulty managing stress during difficult times, look for some helpful tips below.

If you find that you need to talk to someone to alleviate the negative impact stress has on your life, contact Christel today and together you can embark on a road of mental clarity.


Teenagers in love

The longer I study teenagers in love, lost loves and lost love reunions, the clearer it becomes to me how important young love really is. First love, young love, is indeed real love. This intense love does not come along every ten minutes. For some people, it may come only once in a lifetime.

Falling in love is an emotional upheaval at any age, but for adolescents the feelings are likely to be even more difficult to manage. Teenage bodies and brains are maturing at a rate not experienced since infancy. There is a growth spurt, development of secondary sex characteristics and young people change in appearance from child to adult. Physical awkwardness often results from growth asynchronies; young people can feel embarrassed and self-conscious about the sexualisation of their bodies or their perceived inadequacies in terms of often-unrealistic body ideals. As well, the adolescent brain has been described as ‘a work in progress’, with certain areas maturing more quickly than others, leading to potential mismatches between physical, emotional and cognitive development. For example, there can be incongruities between adult bodily appearance, increasing sex drive and the brain development required for mature decision-making and self-regulation of behaviour and emotions. The ‘executive functioning’ area of the brain – the prefrontal cortex – is among the last areas of the brain to fully mature, usually sometime in the twenties (Petanjek et al., 2011). Adolescence therefore becomes a time of diminished prefrontal cortical control, with the heightened possibility of risk-taking and poor judgement decisions, especially in environments described as ‘reward-sensitive’, where the temptations of immediate feel-good experiences are high, such as in romantic and sexual situations (Braams et al., 2015; Suleiman & Harden, 2016).

Teenagers in love, experience hormonal changes, triggered by brain and body developments, are strongly implicated in the intense feelings of sexual attraction and falling in love. Testosterone and oestrogen – male and female sex hormones – are associated with heightened sexual urges, while the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin are implicated in attachment and bonding. During puberty, the volume of these circulating sex hormones in the body rises dramatically. In girls, the ovaries increase their production of oestrogen sixfold and in boys, the testes produce 20 times the amount of testosterone.

Both sexes have male and female hormones circulating in the bloodstream, but during adolescence a boy’s testosterone level becomes 20 to 60 per cent higher than that of a girl, while her oestrogen level becomes 20 to 30 per cent higher than his. These hormones have strong effects on mood and libido. Young people are hormonally ‘primed’ toward being sexually attracted to others but, especially in early adolescence, they are not used to the feelings associated with the rapid increases and fluctuations in their hormone levels. High concentrations of certain hormones for one’s age, or rapid fluctuations of hormone levels may trigger more negative moods and greater mood variability (Buchanan et al., 1992). Emotions associated with being ‘in love’ or ‘in lust’ are likely to be confused and confusing, even overwhelming for some (Temple-Smith et al., 2016).

It’s not only the sex hormones that are involved in falling in love. Ortigue and his colleagues (2010) used brain imaging to show that when a person falls in love, 12 areas of the brain work in tandem to release euphoria-inducing chemicals such as dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin. Adrenaline is a stress hormone, causing sweating, heart palpitations and dry mouth – just catching a glimpse of the new love can trigger these bodily sensations. Dopamine stimulates desire and pleasurable feelings, and has been described as a ‘feel good’ hormone with similar effects to the drug cocaine. Fisher et al. (2006) found heightened levels of dopamine in the brains of couples newly in love. Further, Marazziti and Canale (2004) examined levels of serotonin in the bloodstreams of couples in love and people with obsessive-compulsive disorders. Their finding that levels were similarly heightened in the two groups led these researchers to conclude that serotonin level is associated with those constant thoughts about the loved one that are part of being ‘love struck’.

In another illustration of how some of these effects are manifest, a study by Brand and colleagues (2007) compared newly ‘in love’ adolescents with a control group who were unpartnered. The ‘in love’ group scored higher than the controls on hypomania, a mood state (with accompanying thoughts and behaviours) in which emotions are more labile: euphoric one minute, in despair the next. The diary entries of the adolescent love birds showed they had more positive morning and evening moods than the controls, shorter sleep times but better quality sleep, lowered daytime sleepiness and better concentration during the day.

Falling in love takes some getting used to, all those different emotions, mood swings, needs and desires. Nevertheless, through their romantic relationships, adolescents have the potential for psychological growth as they learn about themselves and other people, gain experience in how to manage these feelings and develop the skills of intimacy. They also face new risks and challenges. These positive and negative aspects of adolescent romantic relationships are discussed below.

Psychosocial development
Lifespan developmental theorist Erik Erikson (1968) viewed crushes and youthful romances as important contributors to adolescent self-understanding and identity formation. He described teenage ‘falling in love’ as a form of self-development rather than true intimacy. Adolescents, becoming more self-aware as their cognitive powers develop, can try out their ‘grown-up’ identities with romantic partners and through feedback from the partners’ responses and behaviours, gradually clarify self-image. The endless talking (and now texting) that often accompanies teen romances is a way of experimenting with different forms of ‘self’ and testing their effect on the other person.

As well as aiding identity development, adolescent romantic relationships – both short term and longer term – can provide positive learning experiences about the self, for example through influencing self-esteem and beliefs about attractiveness and self-worth, and raising status in the peer group (Zimmer-Gembeck et al., 2001; 2004). They can assist young people in renegotiating and developing more mature and less emotionally dependent relationships with their parents, as a precursor for independent living. When there is good will and warmth between the partners, romantic relationships offer a safe environment for learning about and experimenting with sexuality and sexual orientation (Collins et al., 2009). Teenage romantic relationships are, in a sense, a training ground for adult intimacy, providing an opportunity for learning to manage strong emotions, to negotiate conflict, to communicate needs and to respond to a partner’s needs (Scanlan et al., 2012).

Source – https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-29/july/teenagers-love

Family estrangement and betrayal

There’s a “joke” about a mother who keeps calling her son, only to continually be routed to voicemail. Is her son that busy? She decides to follow him. When she sees him sitting alone in a restaurant, she calls him. She watches as he looks at the caller ID . . . and declines the call.

Unfortunately, family estrangement and betrayal is a painful reality for many parents. They chase after their children’s attention, only to be rejected or blocked out. Is her son that busy?children, teenagers, and even adult children can choose to distance themselves from their parents, claiming they are too busy to talk on the phone, or answering questions with monosyllables: “How are you?” “Fine.”

As a parent, you may feel humiliated, insulted and betrayed. The emptiness feels like a knife turning in your heart. It’s even worse if you’ve also been locked out of the lives of your grandchildren, just when you long to share your love and wisdom with them.

Why do some children distance themselves? Answers may include:

  • Excess monitoring and criticism. When parents are overly critical or overly enmeshed with a child during his formative years, a child may feel that he cannot wait to escape their clutches. He no longer wants to feel stifled by their advice and humiliated by their criticism, told how to dress, think, speak and behave, or told that his decisions are wrong. After hearing “not-good-enough” messages from his parents, he has become “allergic” to them and creates distance to avoid more pain.
  • Lack of bonding in early childhood. Many children get used to being distant from parents because there was so little interaction with them during their formative years. Babies who get lots of cuddling produce more oxytocin and vasopressin, the social-bonding hormones. Without that early bonding, a child produces fear hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. If parents are absent for many hours, the reach-out reflex shrivels up and dies. A loving bond is built by endless mini-interactions, which occur when children are touched frequently, given a hug or asked, “How did the test go? Do you need a Band-Aid for your knee? Did that bully bother you today?” If parents do not take time to show interest and listen non-judgmentally, a child feels unloved and unimportant. He may have difficulty bonding, not just to his parents but to people in general. Later, when parents seek a relationship, the foundation is missing. Many children feel, “You didn’t have time when I needed you, so how can I relate to you now? You are strangers. I don’t even know who you are, and you don’t know who I am.”How do you deal with the pain?
  • Lack of trust. Parents who have addictions or emotional illnesses are so self-absorbed that there is no emotional space for a child. If a parent is narcissistic, depressed, dysfunctional, obsessive or addicted, the child feels isolated, neglected and unwanted. Borderline parents have violent tantrums, lie, and are so unpredictable that it is impossible to build trust. Children learn to protect themselves by disengaging. For many, the “connect” button cannot be turned on again. It’s just too painful to go there.
  • Parental strife. Children cannot feel respectful towards parents who do not respect each other. Imagine a child hearing, “Your father/mother is crazy/lazy/stupid. That’s why I’m so miserable.” A child is ashamed to be connected to parents who cause him so much confusion and shame.

On the other hand, there are many parents who did their best to be loving and attentive, not expecting their family to be part of the family estrangement statistics, but often these children suffer from addictions or emotional problems which have created distance. Narcissistic types are interested only in their own looks, pleasures and accomplishments. Manipulative types make contact only when they want something. Disturbed types cannot give; they want only to take.

So, how do you deal with the pain? First, realize that nothing will take away the awful ache in your heart, that empty place where your children or grandchildren “should” be. But the following will help:

  1. Stop fighting to connect. Do not pursue, hound, threaten (“You won’t get any money from me”) or guilt-trip (“How can you be so selfish and cruel to me?”). Pressure tactics create resentment, rebelliousness and resistance. However, keep the lines of communication open so that your children know they are always welcome in your heart and home. And if a child reconnects, smile and act happy! Do not act bitter and angry, even if that is how you feel. Do not criticize, blame or scold, or he will disengage again.
  2. Get active! You have time on your hands. Put your energy into projects where your love and concern will be appreciated. There are thousands of organizations in need of devoted people like you. Or go back to school. People in their eighties are getting degrees today! Be interested and involved in the world.
  3. Take care of yourself. Make sure you exercise daily and eat right. Become a person your children would be proud to connect to—if they decide to do so.
  4. Turn it around. Give yourself whatever you’re not getting from others—appreciation, respect, understanding and forgiveness. You weren’t the perfect parent, and don’t have perfect children. Forgiveness keeps your heart open, in case they return.Strengthen the other relationships in your life
  5. Examine your relationship with God. To love God is to love whatever reality He gives us from moment to moment. So, use the “turn around” idea to examine your relationship with God. Ask yourself: “When did I last call out to God? Do I ignore Him and act like He is an intrusive bother or not part of my life? Have I become so self-pitying and embittered that I block Him out and refuse to accept His love? Do I distance Him with my anger and resentment instead of taking positive action?”
  6. Strengthen the other relationships in your life. Your children may have blocked you out, but you can focus on other family members and friends. Knowing that you can still give and receive love will strengthen your own sense of self.

None of these exercises or activities will erase the pain, but they will bring you a sense of self-respect and open your mind to new possibilities of how you can grow spiritually and contribute to the world.

Source – http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/2554115/jewish/Blocked-Distanced-and-Betrayed.htm

Unhealthy Codependency Relationships

The word codependency gets thrown around a lot: There are unhealthy codependency relationships, codependent companions, and codependent caretakers. But what does codependent actually mean — and is it really all that bad?

What Is unhealthy Codependency?

Codependency is typically discussed in the context of substance use, where one person is abusing the substance, and he or she depends on the other person to supply money, food, or shelter. But codependency is much broader than that,” says Jonathan Becker, DO, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Codependency can be defined as any relationship in which two people become so invested in each other that they can’t function independently anymore,” Dr. Becker says. “Your mood, happiness, and identity are defined by the other person. In a codependent relationship, there is usually one person who is more passive and can’t make decisions for themselves, and a more dominant personality who gets some reward and satisfaction from controlling the other person and making decisions about how they will live.”

Jose Rojos, now 36, was in such a relationship for close to three years. Seven years ago, the professional dog groomer was living with a boyfriend in the South with whom he was madly in love. There was one problem: His partner was insanely jealous, clingy, and prone to dramatic mood swings.

“He would hide my driver’s license so I would stay put,” Rojos recalls. “He would also buy me all sorts of gifts, including a pet schnauzer, to keep me around. I was in love with him and couldn’t leave, but his mood swings grew so severe that I became afraid and knew I had to get out.”

And get out, he did. Rojos relocated to New York City and severed all ties with his ex. “He was not a bad person, but he was bad for me,” says Rojos, who is now in a healthy long-term relationship.

While the jealous and controlling behavior in Rojos’s former relationship was definitely an issue, “Codependency [also] becomes problematic when one person is taking advantage of the other financially or emotionally,” Becker says.

Enabling is another sign of an unhealthy codependence. Mary-Catherine Segota, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Counseling Resource Services in Winter Garden, Florida, describes enabling as a behavior that’s used to ease relationship tension caused by one partner’s problematic habits. Enabling behavior, which is rarely seen in healthy relationships, includes bailing your partner out, repeatedly giving him or her another chance, ignoring the problem, accepting excuses, always being the one trying to fix the problem, or constantly coming to the rescue. 

Source – http://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/do-you-have-a-codependent-personality.aspx