941-462-4807 meg@megyounglcsw.com

anxiety You have a very stressful job. Seeing people’s pain and suffering every day is not something everybody can handle. First responders, doctors, nurses, and therapists may see people’s suffering in different ways, but the reality is each one of these professions is impacted by others’ suffering. However, as you are the person that those suffering come to for help, you have to be strong and not let their pain impact you. You have to not feel, not show emotion. Allowing emotion could actually be a detriment to your job as it can impact objectivity.
 
However, the struggle we run into is we bring this lack of feeling home. We don’t want to burden our families with what we saw or heard. We don’t want to worry them. We don’t want to break confidentiality. Sometimes we may not even know how to put into words what we saw or heard.
 
When we live life in a constant state of “I’m strong; I’m fine; nothing is wrong” and don’t allow ourselves to feel and process what we saw and heard, it affects our lives in numerous ways. When we don’t allow ourselves to process the day, the brain will take over and force us to think about it in order to process it. We start to feel less compassion and understanding because if we allow ourselves to feel compassion, we may bring that to work and risk not being objective. We change.
 
The downsides to this include feeling like you are alone, feeling overwhelmed and not sure what to do or where to go or how to deal with it, being unsure of yourself and your career, changes in appetite, mood, and behavior.
 
Not only does it impact us, but it impacts the very people we are trying to protect – our loved ones. We cannot change without them noticing. When we “lie” to them and say “I’m fine”, they know better. They see the changes. It makes them worry more. As they start to worry more, we start to fake it more in an attempt to “prove” we are ok, which happens to have the opposite effect than we are looking for.
 
The more we fake, the more they worry, the worse it gets. Then you might start noticing behavior changes in your children as they sense that something just isn’t right anymore. Even if they don’t know what is happening or aren’t old enough to understand. Reverting to younger behavior is common, looking for more attention is common, separation anxiety is common, anger outbursts or school behavior problems are common. Sleep problems are common.
 
Eventually, despite trying to act like everything is ok, you wind up in a place of complete chaos. Your whole life seems out of control. Work is irritating, you don’t want to go home because it isn’t a place of relaxation and enjoyment anymore, you don’t even want to go to the gym because it feels like a chore.
 
The truth is, you are completely normal. What you see and hear every day is outside of the normal scope of what a human deals with. Some people seem to have no problem with it – but the reality is, they show us what they want to see – just like you. You can play it off at work like you’re strong and ok. So can they.
 
Additionally, we all come with our own backgrounds. Our experiences make a difference in how we perceive and handle situations. Those people that seem to have it all together…maybe they have found a way to let their day and experiences go. It doesn’t mean they are better than you. It means they learned different things than you throughout life. It is not good or bad. It just is.
 
It’s ok to admit that your job is stressful. It’s ok to admit that you lost faith in humanity. It’s ok to admit that you panic when the phone rings and your kids are out. You are not alone in any of these thoughts or feelings.
 
It’s true that you feel overwhelmed, worried, anxious, and even a bit paranoid. However, there are several things that can help us increase control over those worries, anxieties and thoughts. When we do these top 10 things, it is entirely possibly to regain control of yourself, your life, and your mind.
 
Keep reading for the top 10 skills to start feeling some control today.
 
Are you feeling panicky, stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, worried, irritable, or think you’re going crazy?
 
The biggest downside to this feeling of stress and overwhelm is it doesn’t get better. In fact, it just gets worse. Any new experiences we have will compound the anxieties we already have, pulling us further and further into anxiety and overwhelm.
 
At the very least, you find yourself struggling to get through the day. You struggle with all of the responsibilities and things you need to take care of. Your brain is so focused on other things, or worry about other things, that it is hard to focus on what you have to do today.
 
Living this way is defeating. It is stressful and can start a spiral down into depression and hopelessness. We end up so focused on everything that can go poorly that we physiologically cannot focus on the positives and happinesses in life. The brain has taken over and you don’t feel like you have any control to get it back.
 
Would you like to feel more in control, at peace, and living life on your terms?
 
Although you struggle with worry and anxiety, you have the potential to take control of your life and your brain. You have the ability to feel the way you want to and not be dominated by your thoughts and your worries.
 
When we use these top 10 skills for maintaining control over feelings and thoughts, there is a possibility to enjoy your life and career again. There is the hope that you will live life according to your desires and not let the brain take control of you and your life.
 
You now have the opportunity to take control of your brain and see the changes you desire. There is no quick fix; your brain has taken the reins and won’t give them up easily, especially when the stress is ongoing. However, when you do these skills, you have the opportunity to take the reins back. It is not hopeless and it is not impossible.
 
Top 10 skills to achieve a feeling of control over worry and anxiety
 
Yes it is true you may be feeling stressed, worried, and even hopeless, but it does not have to be this way. You do not have to let your brain control you. You can control our thoughts. This is not just some mumbo jumbo. Therapists use these skills that they teach every day in order to prevent burnout and stress from hearing their client’s stories day after day. Nurses use these skills every day to let go of the pain they see from their clients day after day.
 
The key to achieving control is to first realize it will take time. The brain does not want to give up control. Second is to have patience and practice these skills daily…I tell my clients to practice 200 times per day. It doesn’t matter which or all of the top 10 skills you practice, just do it 200 times per day. (Ok, so I don’t expect my clients to actually do this 200 times per day, but the more you practice, the faster you will feel the results).
 
Making these changes is not as difficult as you think because each of these skills literally can take less than a minute if you want. Or you can take all the time you want with them. They are easy to do, and some of them you may realize you do already without realizing it.
 
Take a look at these 10 skills to see how you can achieve freedom and control of yourself and your life today.
 
1. Belly breathing
 
If you’ve ever watch a baby breathe, you will see that their stomach goes up and down with their breaths. As we go through life, with all it’s stressors, we tend to stop breathing from the belly and start breathing from the chest. Belly breathing is just making sure you are taking breaths that go in and out of the belly.
 
Belly breathing works because it improves the oxygen flow throughout the body versus shallow breaths from the chest. When the oxygen goes through the body more effectively, the entire system works more efficiently. It tells the brain that all is safe right now, and there is not reason to be nervous at this moment. It also provides the brain the oxygen to think more clearly and openly. It provides oxygenated energy to the limbs as well. Thus the entire body functions more efficiently.
 
2. Grounding
 
Grounding is simply being present right here right now with your surroundings. Often when we are stressed out or upset, we lose sight of what our current surroundings are. We are so focused on what is happening in our mind that we don’t see the reality of what is happening around us.
 
To use grounding, look around you – name 5 things that you see. Name 4 things you hear. Name 3 things you physically feel. Name 2 things you smell. Name 1 thing you taste. When you use all of your senses, one at a time, you are systematically turning off the stress response and turning on the calm body response. It helps you refocus.
 
3. Energy release
 
When we have a lot of adrenalin going through our body, it causes the body to be jittery. The body is ready to use the energy for survival – the fight/flight response. Sometimes when there is too much adrenalin in the body, it is very difficult to do meditation or other activities that calm the body. Often we need to do something more active.
 
This is where energy release comes in. It doesn’t really matter what you do to release energy as long as it is done safely. Sometimes people go for a run, sometimes people scream, sometimes people use a punching bag. What you are doing is releasing the adrenalin that is pumping through your body. This energy release should be done with a purpose, though. Do it mindfully and tell yourself what you are doing and the purpose of it and what you desire upon release of the energy.
 
4. Muscle relaxation
 
When we are overwhelmed, we tend to tense our muscles. Our body is on guard. The problem with this is muscle memory. Years and years of keeping your shoulders up at your ears is it happens without thinking about it. It just becomes habit and involuntary.
 
Using muscle relaxation is something you’ll have to do frequently. As an example of muscle memory, I have been going for a massage once per month for the past 7 years. My muscles still go back to being tight between each muscle. Along with muscle memory, the stressors continue, so the body continues to tighten with new experiences.
 
Sometimes it helps to tense each muscle group and then release. Sometimes we don’t notice that our muscles are tight. So tense the feet then release. Tense the calves and release. Tense the shins and release. Tense the thighs and release. Continue up your body through your jaw and face.
 
You’ll likely notice feeling looser by the end. You’ll also feel a bit more relaxed. Although this feeling may not stay with you all day, it is helpful to the brain and body even for the time you are feeling the difference in muscle tenseness.
 
5. Distraction
 
If you go for a walk and all you say is how much you wish you were sitting on the couch, why did you get up, this isn’t helping, etc, you will not feel any better. Distraction is like mindfulness. You want to distract yourself from what you are doing and just get into it.
 
The more you are able to distract from what is happening in your mind, the easier time you will have engaging in the new activity and feeling better overall. It is very helpful to stay mindful with the distraction as it will be more effective the more mindful you stay.
 
6. Thought stopping
 
You want to get yourself out of the hamster wheel in your mind. This is not an easy thing to do as the brain wants to keep you safe and it does this by continuing to think about what is stressing you out.
 
Thought stopping is doing something quick and powerful that will get your mind onto something else. Some people say “stop” to themselves while picturing a stop sign. Other people strongly clap their hands together. You need to find what works best for you.
 
7. Be with other people
 
When you are trying to keep yourself calm and out of worry and stress, distraction is helpful as noted above. One way to distract is to be with other people. Other people will talk with you, distract you, make you laugh (or at least try), and overall keep you safe and calmer. You can vent to other people if you need. You can talk about just about anything whether it is the stress or something else.
 
8. Focus on one thing here and now
 
This is the same as mindfulness. When you do the thought stopping, you then want to stay out of the thought pattern you were just in. You can do this by thinking of one thing here and now. This can be the grounding technique, or it can be thinking of the green grass you see outside and how does grass grow? Why does some grass grow better in different locations? Why are weeds heartier than grass? Or you can sing the alphabet in your mind.
 
The point is you want to continue to distract and keep yourself focused on one thing in order to stay out of the fight/flight overwhelm response.
 
9. Sing/scream/do something verbal
 
The adrenalin not only causes the jitteriness in your body, but it also causes the desire to release in a verbal way. Sometimes screaming is what will keep you alive. The desire for the body to stay alive will therefore cause a desire for a verbal outlet.
 
By singing or screaming or using another verbal outlet, you are releasing that energy allowing your body to calm down and in turn allowing your brain to calm down turning off the stress response. This is not an easy thing to do. The brain is set to survival and it will not let go of the reins easily.
 
10. Visualization
 
You want to use every sense that you have (sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch) to help with staying calm. However, the brain puts pieces together through visualization as well. So as you are doing these other nine techniques, don’t forget about doing some visualization as well.
 
Visualize something positive and happy. Try to choose something that has no negative connotation attached, and if something pops up negatively, choose a different visualization. Some people will choose a location (somewhere they’ve been or somewhere they’d like to go or somewhere made up). Some people will choose a time in their lives that was wonderful. Some people will choose to visualize their goals and how they feel achieving those goals.
 
These 10 techniques are all very powerful, but the reality is the brain does not give up easily. If you want to take control back, YOU have to take control back. YOU have to use these techniques 200 times per day.
 
Achieving freedom from worry, anxiety and overwhelm is not an easy journey, but the end result is so uplifting. You absolutely can get your life back. You absolutely can get control over your thoughts. It is not a hopeless endeavor.
 
Meg Young, LCSW can help you get there. I specialize with people just like you – nurses, doctors, therapists, first responders, corrections officers, probation and parole officers – you who are in the trenches with people walking through their pain with them. I specialize in helping you get where you want to be, encouraging you throughout the way, but also holding you accountable.
 
This is not an easy journey, so choose strength; choose power; and call me today. 941-462-4807.

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