Health / Mental Health

The Cold Weather Hater’s Guide to Getting Outside a Little More This Winter

The Cold Weather Hater’s Guide to Getting Outside a Little More This Winter

Getting outside can often feel easier in the summer—the season of 8 p.m. sunsets, outdoor dining, and open beaches. But as fall winds down, people living in climates with cold or harsh winters can feel like they’re staring down a period of confinement. It doesn’t have to be this way. Although you’ll probably never head outside in January as easily and casually as you do in June, a little prep work and some practice can pay off in more time spent out of doors in the winter. To help break things down, SELF talked to experienced outdoor enthusiasts to get their advice and best practices for winter recreation.1. Calibrate your expectationsWhen trying to spend more time outside, it’s helpful to set the bar a bit low and maybe even redefine what counts as activity. For example, hiking doesn’t have to mean a four-hour trek through snow to a picturesque vista; it can be as simple as a stroll around the neighborhood or standing on the back porch. “In the outdoor industry specifically, there can be a lot of debate about what’s actually considered a hike,” Brooke Murray—cofounder of Wild Kind, a membership community for parents who want to do outdoor recreation with their children—tells SELF. “And I feel like with kids, if I’m walking on a dirt path, I’m calling it a hike.” Heather Balogh Rochfort, an outdoor journalist and the other co-founder of Wild Kind, agrees: “It doesn’t have to always be the scenic postcard. It could just be right outside your front door.”Along with walking, birdwatching is another low-stakes activity that can be fun in the colder months, and can be done in your own backyard or a nearby park. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could combine it with something more active like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Beyond that, there are always the classic high-octane winter sports of skiing and snowboarding, or traditional regional pastimes like ice fishing.  But being outside doesn’t have to relate to fitness either, which can be a change for people used to exercising outside in other seasons. Outdoor advocate and climber Katie Boué says that in the winter, she splits up her exercise goals from time outdoors.“I don’t go outside in the wintertime for fitness, period,” she says. “When I go outside in the winter, it’s purely to interact with nature and fresh air, and get out there and enjoy it.”Murray and Balogh Rochfort—who have four children between them—say that when they plan an outing, their goal is generally to stay outside as long as it took to get everyone packed up and ready. This rule of thumb can also work for adults, many of whom also see getting geared up and out the door as a big hurdle.Plus, if you’re recovering from an injury, childbirth, or illness, your activity level this winter may not look like it used to, Rachel Welch, a pre- and post-natal fitness expert and the founder of Revolution Motherhood, tells SELF. “Know that it’s okay to start a little slower,” she says.2. Always prioritize safetySafety and preparation can mean a lot of things, and will depend on your needs and your chosen outdoor activity. On a personal level, doing some targeted exercises can help reduce your risk of falling and prepare your body to more easily handle winter activities. 

Why Do I Get Anxiety After Drinking and How Can I Feel Better?

Why Do I Get Anxiety After Drinking and How Can I Feel Better?

Paula Zimbrean, MD, a psychiatrist and associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine, tells SELF that there are a handful of other factors that can influence hangxiety. These include how well your body metabolizes alcohol, if any other mood-altering substances or medications are in your bloodstream, how much and how quickly you drank (the faster you drink, the quicker your blood alcohol levels rises, and the more active your GABA receptors get), and how well you slept afterward (which, if you’re like me after I drink, probably wasn’t all that great).12People with underlying mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety disorders, are more likely to experience anxiety after drinking, Dr. Schacht adds.13 “These issues can essentially shift your brain’s ‘set point’ and make it easier for alcohol to ‘tip’ the brain into anxiety,” he explains.How to prevent and cope with post-drinking anxietyPay attention to your alcohol habits.According to Dr. Schacht, the single best thing you can do is monitor how much alcohol you’re drinking. “The more you drink, the more your brain reacts to the dose of alcohol it is receiving,” he says—so having a cocktail or two is way less likely to cause anxiety the next day than, say, five or six vodka sodas. Big note: If you’re dealing with an alcohol use disorder, stopping at one or two drinks may feel impossible. If you think you might have a drinking problem and you’re interested in seeking help, here’s SELF’s guide to substance use disorder treatment.)Identify your motivation for drinking.Dr. Schacht recommends checking in with yourself about why you’re drinking. Is it because you’re genuinely enjoying time with your friends or family, or are you trying to relieve taxing feelings you’ve been dealing with? Many people reach for alcohol when they’re stressed out, he says, but this can actually exacerbate their issues and trap them in a vicious cycle (e.g., you’re feeling stressed, you pour yourself a drink, and though it may provide temporary relief, it makes you even worse the next day, and then you want to want to drink even more).14 If you want to drink to lower your stress levels, do another activity that might make you feel better in the moment and the next day, Dr. Schacht says. Have a sober hang with friends, go on a hike or walk, read a book, or host a movie or Netflix night. Rely on mindfulness tools.If you’re in the depths of hangxiety and need fast relief, Dr. Greenfield recommends working through it with meditation, grounding activities, calming yoga poses or stretches, or deep breathing exercises. “A lot of the uncomfortable emotions we have, when we try to push them away or avoid them, they just get worse,” Dr. Greenfield says. When you turn toward your feelings, they often become less unpleasant.Tend to your physical symptoms.Treating the physical effects of drinking can help with the mental ones, too, according to Dr. Schacht. Drink water, eat a nourishing meal, take a cat nap, and try to get a good night’s sleep the following evening. All of these self-care strategies can help your body (and mood) recover from a hangover faster, says Dr. Schacht. Because exercise can boost and normalize neurotransmitter activity in the brain, including hangxiety perpetrator GABA, Dr. Schacht also recommends squeezing in some physical activity (maybe a brisk walk or a 10-minute workout)—if your hangover can handle it.15Know that your hangxiety will pass.Sometimes, no matter what I do, the only thing that abates my post-drinking anxiety is waiting it out. At the very least, I find comfort in remembering that my shaky-emotional-ground feeling, no matter how intense, will dissipate soon enough. Anxiety tends to build and peak then crash back down like a wave. As Dr. Greenfield puts it, “Time is on your side.” Just breathe, take care of yourself, and remember that hangxiety isn’t forever.

How to Deal With Family Stress During the Holidays, According to Therapists

How to Deal With Family Stress During the Holidays, According to Therapists

I’m going to assume that whoever first said the holidays are the “most wonderful time of the year” didn’t grow up with deeply difficult family dynamics. As a psychotherapist who specializes in helping folks struggling with issues pertaining to cultural and intergenerational conflicts, many of my clients’ feelings about the holidays are far from wonderful.  During the final months of the year, most of us are inundated with images of happy families celebrating together all over our screens. For many of my clients and myself, these picture-perfect Instagram posts, ads, and holiday movies can be a painful reminder of what we don’t have, which can trigger feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression. But the truth is, there are far more people dealing with tough family stuff than meets the eye. We just don’t post about our struggles on social media. That’s why, this year, I asked 11 fellow therapists from diverse backgrounds to share how they cope with strained family relationships during the holidays—so those of us dealing with similar issues can feel more supported (and less alone) this year.1. Ask yourself why you’re going home for the holidays.“If you feel conflicted about staying with or visiting your family during the holidays, it’s important to consider: What is your purpose for returning home in the first place? Are you going simply because you’re expected to? Or because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t? Are you genuinely excited about reconnecting with some family members and creating new memories? Make sure you understand what your reasons are for returning home and whether those reasons are serving you and/or bringing you joy. If visiting your family comes at the expense of your mental health, the cost may be too high. Once your reasons are clear, it’s often easier to make a decision that prioritizes your well-being—and you’re less likely to feel guilty if you decide to skip certain trips or gatherings to protect your peace.” —Beverly Ibeh, PsyD, a psychologist at Thrive Psychology Group2. Lower your expectations and take breaks when you need to.“It’s important to have a realistic outlook and know that things could potentially go wrong with your family. You can hope that they don’t, of course, but starting out with an accepting attitude (There are some difficult dynamics here, so I’m just going to take this one moment at a time) can prevent you from getting your hopes up and, as a result, soften the blow if things go sideways. Something else I do is escape difficult moments by stepping away and practicing some mindfulness. The air is crisp in much of the country this time of year and nature is beautiful and restorative. Stepping out on the back porch and taking a few breaths, for example, or heading out on a walk break before you go back to interact with family (or before your gathering starts) can give you some perspective and help get you in a calmer headspace.” —James Harris, LMHP, founder of Men To Heal3. Establish boundaries with your family ahead of time.“Rather than bearing the responsibility of navigating tricky family dynamics on my own, I share it with family members weeks before the holidays. For example, I communicate my off-limit topics with my loved ones ahead of time and ask for their participation to respect my boundaries. If I know there are certain patterns that tend to play out this time of year, I seek clarity on how folks would like to navigate these situations to avoid conflict. I believe that we are mutually responsible for and capable of co-creating a family space that’s respectful and enjoyable. I also take time to listen to my family members’ desires and ask them to share ways that I can support them, too.” —Melody Li, LMFT, founder of Inclusive Therapists 4. Remind yourself that it’s okay to say “no.”“For many of us who grew up in an Asian American household, saying ‘no’ to elders is like adding oil to water. And in general, the act of setting boundaries with loved ones can be tough for a variety of reasons. It sounds simple but reminding yourself that people will survive if you, for example, politely turn down physical gestures that may make you feel uncomfortable such as hugs and kisses, or calmly decline to engage in certain conversations at the dinner table, can help you get more comfortable drawing these lines. As can remembering that you’re not responsible for how others react when you set a boundary; you are only responsible for your delivery.” —Brandon A. Shindo, LCSW, Co-Founder of K & B Therapy, Inc.5. Set limits with family members who share different religious views.“Holidays can be especially tricky if your family is made up of people with religious views and practices that are different from your own. Perhaps entering a church building is too activating for you, or maybe you struggle with family downtime, when the unsolicited advice starts to flow. Setting a limit in these cases might look like saying, ‘Thank you for the invite to Hanukkah dinner! I can be there at 5 but I’ll need to be on the road by 7.’ Or perhaps, ‘I appreciate the invitation to the Christmas Eve service but this year I’ll join you afterward at the house.’ Even though your family might be upset that you’re setting these limits, it’s important to remember that your job is to establish your boundaries—not to manage how others feel about them.” —Natalie Kember, LMSW, a Michigan-based social worker6. Learn how to detach when necessary.“Regardless of the holiday, whether it’s Diwali or Christmas, I have frequently noticed in myself and my clients some form of either intergenerational conflict or family enmeshment that requires detachment to find peace. When I’m feeling overwhelmed in these types of situations, I’ve learned to gracefully extricate myself and engage in grounding exercises. This time away affords me the opportunity to center myself and be more patient and less judgmental within familial dynamics.” —Pavna K. Sodhi, EdD, psychotherapist and counseling professor at the University of Ottowa7. Just don’t go.“A coping strategy I’ve used and recommended to my clients is to simply not show up to holiday gatherings that you’re dreading. Just do not go! My new favorite way to do this is by taking a vacation during the holidays. If you’re not in town, there’s no expectation for you to attend. A change of scenery can also be helpful in boosting your mood and feelings about the season (and in general). If a full-on trip doesn’t work for you, you can also make fun day plans. Think about who it is that you would prefer to spend that time with. Is it a partner, friends, or even yourself? Once you know, plan a trip or outing so you have something to look forward to. —Joi Britt, LCSW, owner of Life Intentionally Psychotherapy8. Create your own traditions and rituals.“In my childhood family, we rarely decorated or offered presents. The holidays were barely a blip in the calendar. My immigrant parents were too exhausted and financially restricted to decorate our house or buy an abundance of gifts. Now, with a family of my own, my partner and I are deliberate about starting our own holiday traditions. By creating these rituals, I can grieve the lack of celebration I experienced as a child but also work toward creating the joy and excitement that I missed out on now. The holidays have become my kids’ favorite time of year and this process has been reparative for me, too.” —Jenny Wang, PhD, psychologist, author, and founder of Asians For Mental Health9. Make a safe space for yourself.“Growing up as an only child raised by a single mother who immigrated from El Salvador in the 1970s, the holiday season has typically been challenging to navigate, as I always felt sad that my family relationships didn’t look the same as my peers in school or like those of my mother’s extended family. My gentle reminder to anyone trying to navigate the complexities of difficult family dynamics during the holidays is that you deserve to be in a safe space and it’s okay to protect your emotional well-being by creating your own traditions and setting boundaries. Just because you’re related to someone doesn’t always mean they have the best intentions for you. Sometimes you have to distance yourself from people who aren’t good for your mental health, and just because someone is part of your family, that doesn’t mean they have to be a part of your life path. You are capable and deserving of creating holiday traditions and dynamics that bring you joy and peace.” —Carla Avalos, LCSW, owner of Nuevos Caminos Therapy10. Host family get-togethers on your turf.“Sometimes people are in a situation where they want approval from their family, whether it’s regarding their gender expression or sexuality, their religious beliefs, or even where they live. Rather than continually seeking approval from parents who haven’t budged, my suggestion is to focus on building a life you love and are proud of, and then invite your family into that if you want to, with whatever boundaries you need. You don’t need to tolerate abuse or disrespect from anyone—family included. However, it’s easier to set those limits when it’s on your turf, so to speak. Try hosting dinner in your own home, for example, so that you can set the rules and pace for how you want the evening to look. That way, you’re letting them into your life, rather than punishing yourself by waiting for them to come around.” —Sara Stanizai, LMFT, owner of Prospect Therapy11. Spend time with your chosen family.“Over the past several years, I’ve been (re)creating traditions around the holiday season that are more in alignment with my own values and beliefs. Coming from an immigrant family, this was frequently met with confusion, judgment, and resistance. Sometimes, these critiques and remarks would lead me down a thought spiral of self-doubt and guilt.  What’s helped me quiet those inner voices is turning to my community. Existing with loved ones who honor and affirm my choices reminds me that I’m not alone and that my choices are neither bad nor wrong. This can serve as a powerful reality check of your truth (when your mind is trying to convince you otherwise). I recommend setting an intention to spend time with those who see you, honor you, and affirm you—all of you—this holiday season.” —Ivonne M. Mejía, PsyD, psychologist and owner of Pachamama Therapy CollectiveRelated:

5 Expert Tips to Avoid Over-Spending on Holiday Gifts This Year

5 Expert Tips to Avoid Over-Spending on Holiday Gifts This Year

Do you want to spend $1,000 total? $200? Whatever the number is, write it down or put it in a notes app on your phone and work backward from there. If you need to buy eight gifts and have $240 to do it, each gift limit is $30. Or maybe you want to spend a little more on some people than others—as long as the math works out, you’re good. Once you’re out of that money, you can either say “no” to more gift-giving (try something like, “I’m sadly maxed out on secret Santas, but maybe next year!” or “I have to opt out of the gift exchange, but thank you for including me!”) or go the DIY route. Can you whip up a mean batch of peanut butter cookies? Do that! Are you a painter with a penchant for tiny watercolors? Consider gifting your personal creations instead.Consider gifting everyone on your list the same thing.You don’t have to buy each of your friends and family members a major present à la Oprah, but giving everyone something from the heart (that also fits in your budget) can help you avoid overspending by cutting down on decision fatigue. We can only make so many decisions throughout the day (what to eat, wear, buy, etc.) before we start to get emotionally exhausted, which makes decision-making harder—and, in my experience, can increase the likelihood of purchasing something you regret. So rather than trying to rack your brain for the perfect gift for your great aunt, ask yourself, “What did I spend money on this year that brought me joy?” A neighborhood friend of mine started doing this a few years back. Instead of gifting a bunch of different items, she buys her year’s favorite purchase in bulk and gives it along with a note about why she loves it. Over the years, her thoughtful gifts have ranged from these $5 exfoliating shower gloves to this Michigan-grown biodynamic tea—both of which I was delighted to receive.Imagine the recipient opening your gift without you.Remember the study I mentioned earlier about gift-givers being motivated by the receiver’s reaction? Wanting to wow your loved ones might make you spend more than you should (perhaps on stuff that won’t even satisfy them in the long run, per the study). That’s why I recommend imagining the recipient opening a potential purchase when you aren’t around. This exercise may help dial down the tendency to want to elicit a Cheshire Cat grin and can help you give a gift that better aligns with the recipient’s long-term needs and enjoyment (and your budget).As an example, I was on the receiving end of a very practical gift a few years ago. My in-laws, knowing how much I love popcorn, got me a hot-air popcorn maker. It might not be the most exciting (or expensive) thing you can think of, but I get so much use out of it, and I think of them at least once a week when I pull it out of the cupboard and load it up with my local corn kernels. 

25 Songs to Fuel Your Rage Workout

25 Songs to Fuel Your Rage Workout

This article is part of All the Rage, an editorial package that digs into the science of anger. SELF will be publishing new articles for this series all week. Read more here.There’s nothing quite like hitting the gym when you feel like you’re about to explode. Anger can make you feel powerful and, as SELF previously reported, there are physiological reasons for that. A spike in stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, might actually make you feel like you can run faster, lift heavier, or just work out harder. There are plenty of reasons to temper that feeling of invincibility—namely, risk of injury—but rage workouts can be awesome because they often leave us feeling less angry afterward. Yup, that burning vexation gets replaced with satisfaction and a deep feeling of accomplishment. Pretty nice, right?When the feeling strikes, we’ve got the perfect playlist to set the tone. These punk and rock songs span several decades—but they’ve all got a few things in common: screaming guitars, dynamic vocals, and solid, driving drum beats. We stacked the list with classics from The Runaways, Nirvana, Ozzy Osborne, and Alanis Morissette—but also threw in some newer hits from The Linda Lindas and Paramore. Though the playlist starts off strong, we hope that you finish your workout feeling a little calmer and clear-headed, which is exactly why we rounded out this list with upbeat tunes from The Strokes, Weezer, and The Verve.Browse the tracks below on Spotify or keep scrolling for the complete playlist. Above all: We hope you lift, run, or cycle safely—and feel a helluva lot better when you reach your finish line. ContentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.Full playlist:“Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways“Breathe” by Prodigy“Heads Will Roll” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs“Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill“Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine“I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones“Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne“Celebrity Skin” by Hole“Bullet With Butterfly Wings” by The Smashing Pumpkins“Only Happy When It Rains” by Garbage“I Was a Teenage Anarchist” by Against Me!“Oh!” by The Linda Lindas“I Love Rock ’n Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts“I Fought the Law” by The Clash“Basket Case” by Green Day“This Is Why” by Paramore“Monkey Wrench” by Foo Fighters“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette“Come As You Are” by Nirvana“Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse“Howlin’ For You” by The Black Keys“Fell In Love With a Girl” by The White Stripes“Under Cover of Darkness” by The Strokes“(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” by Weezer“Bitter Sweet Symphony” by The VerveRelated:

6 Ways Constant Anger Can Hurt Your Health Long-Term

6 Ways Constant Anger Can Hurt Your Health Long-Term

Here’s what you should know about the many ways anger can impact your body in the long run, and what to do if you’re concerned about how it might be taking a toll on your health. 1. Heightened inflammation A growing body of research suggests chronic stress, as well as the negative emotions associated with it, is strongly linked to higher levels of inflammation in the body and dysfunctional immune system responses. Your immune system is designed to attack potential threats to your body with inflammatory cells, Dr. Duijndam explains. “With chronic stress, including anger, these markers of inflammation increase as well.” So even if you don’t have, say, an infection brewing, these inflammatory cells may start to get rowdy and go after healthy cells instead if you’re a person who deals with lots of anger, she says. That, in turn, can set the stage for various health issues, especially as you age. For example, a 2019 study that followed 226 older adults for one week found that those who had higher levels of self-reported anger were more likely to have higher levels of inflammation and a higher risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, osteoarthritis, diabetes, and even certain cancers. On top of that, constantly feeling rage-y can also impact your everyday habits, some of which may lead to further inflammation, or simply damage your health in other ways. “The significant confound we have in any of this research is that people who are chronically angry tend to engage in lots of unhealthy behaviors,” Dr. Martin says, such as smoking, excessive drinking, and overeating or loading up on food that isn’t as nutritious as it could be. “Those unhealthy behaviors will have an impact too,” he stresses.2. Heart disease“The bulk of the evidence that we have on the health consequences of anger really has to do with the heart and [the rest of the] cardiovascular system, and we’ve known that for decades,” Dr. Martin says. Try to do a quick body scan the next time your blood starts to boil—that is, take a moment to notice how the various parts of your body feel, one by one—and it won’t be hard to understand why anger can do a number on your heart. “When you keep ruminating in a state of anger, it leads to poor cardiovascular recovery,” says Dr. Duijndam. Again, that’s because “it keeps you in a state of stress.” Anger can spike your blood pressure and heart rate, two factors that place immense pressure on your heart muscle and therefore heighten the risk of chronic hypertension. An influx of stress hormones can also boost your blood sugar levels and blood fatty acid levels, which can damage blood vessels and lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, respectively. That’s one reason why regularly getting and staying angry could potentially play a role in conditions like cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. 3. Reduced lung functionQuick and shallow breathing is one of the first physical effects anger triggers for many people. “When we need to ‘fight or flight’ from a situation that’s threatening, it makes sense,” Dr. Duijndam says. It’s your body’s way of trying to supply more oxygen to areas it perceives as essential, like the brain and muscles. It follows, then, that strong emotions like anger are a common trigger for asthma attacks in those who are susceptible. 

When Postpartum Depression Shows Up as Intense Anger

When Postpartum Depression Shows Up as Intense Anger

“After delivery, there’s this incredible change in reproductive hormones,” Katherine L. Wisner, MD, the Norman and Helen Asher Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF. “Hormones—such as estrogen and progesterone—go from the highest they’ll ever be down to almost nothing as soon as the placenta is delivered.” And some experts believe these rapid hormonal shifts are linked to the development of PPD in people who are biologically susceptible. Plus, recovering from a vaginal delivery or a C-section is hard and can be incredibly painful. Giving birth does not always go smoothly, and some estimates suggest one-third of people who give birth experience some form of trauma while delivering their baby, which may contribute to PPD or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While trauma can include things like enduring premature labor or feeling worried about a baby’s well-being, many people report that the people in the room—their care providers, including doctors, midwives, and nurses—are responsible for these distressing experiences, say, by dismissing the severity of a birthing parent’s pain, among many other scenarios.But one of the biggest changes that will affect your day-to-day functioning as a new parent is the ability to get enough sleep. Recovering postpartum with little to no sleep is a challenge that’s underestimated by society, Dr. Wisner says. And, as you might be able to guess, studies have shown a strong correlation between sleep deprivation and emotions like depression, anxiety, and anger.In a Canadian study of nearly 300 women, published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth in 2022, 31% of moms reported feeling intense anger, while more than half said their sleep quality was poor. The researchers concluded that a parent’s sleep quality, as well as feeling angry about their infant’s sleep quality, were two major predictors of postpartum anger. A range of disparities also contributes to the rage.For Black birthing parents, in particular, the stigma anger carries can be a huge barrier to seeking necessary mental health support. “Anger and rage are widely under-recognized. There’s a natural shying away of emotions in fear of being the stereotype of the ‘Angry Black Woman,’” Lauren Elliott, the CEO and founder of Candlelit Therapy, a perinatal mental health care service for underserved new and expectant parents, tells SELF. “Black maternal health is in extreme crisis.”There are a host of systemic issues that prevent Black people and other people of color from receiving proper mental health care. Birth parents of color experience higher-than-average rates of postpartum depression, and yet, they are less likely to be diagnosed, less likely to know that the symptoms they’re experiencing are related to PPD, and are therefore less likely to be properly treated, according to a report from the Center for American Progress.“Black women are less likely to be screened in pregnancy for depression and anxiety,” Elliott says. The consequences of these disparities can be devastating. As SELF previously reported, Black and Indigenous women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

These Stress Relief Activities Actually Work, According to Experts

These Stress Relief Activities Actually Work, According to Experts

If you feel like your stress has been next-level lately, you might find a tiny bit of comfort in the fact that you’re definitely not alone. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2022 Stress in America report, concerns about money and global uncertainty, to name two huge factors, have spiked personal stress to sky-high levels in the US.Part of the reason we’re all so unnerved: 87% of respondents agreed that “it feels like there’s been a constant stream of crises over the last two years” (understatement) and 73% reported that they feel “overwhelmed by the number of crises facing the world right now.” And on top of an ongoing global pandemic, ever-upsetting news cycles, and rising gas and grocery costs, many of us are also still dealing with common daily-life stressors like family, career, and relationship drama. There’s no quick-fix way to make stress disappear, of course. (And if it’s a chronic issue that’s preventing you from living a fulfilling life, talking to a professional may be the best way to relieve some of the pressure and improve your well-being—more on that later.) But there are expert-backed stress-relief activities you can experiment with when you’re feeling overwhelmed.By drawing from research on psychology practices including cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and meditation, you might be able to build a kit of coping tools that work for you when life becomes too much. Below, two licensed therapists share their favorite strategies for getting short-term relief from stress and anxiety. What is stress, exactly? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is your body’s reaction to something that’s happening to you or around you. An important presentation at work, a hectic and noisy commute, or even a date with someone you’re excited to meet can all put your body on notice that something big is happening, which can activate your fight-or-flight stress response.1 A stressor can be a one-time thing (like an upcoming exam or turbulent flight) or a long-term occurrence (in the case of a chronic health condition, for example, or an overwhelming job).Stress is a bit different than anxiety, though, which many of us are also familiar with. When you’re stressed out, your physical symptoms will usually naturally resolve once the stressor goes away. Anxiety, on the other hand, which is your body’s internal reaction to stress, might not dissipate so quickly. Even when there isn’t an immediate physical or emotional threat, anxiety is a psychological state that tends to linger. Some physical symptoms of both stress and anxiety include:An elevated heart rate Increased blood pressureHeadacheRestlessness or insomniaRacing thoughts or worry No matter how your stress manifests, if it starts to feel overwhelming and you’re looking for relief, consider trying some of these expert-backed stress-reduction strategies for relaxing your mind and body:Stress-relief activities that actually workCount down to get grounded.When your internal pressure is high, tuning into your external environment is one stress-relieving practice that might help you feel a bit more chill. Rhayvan Jackson-Terrell, LCSW, wellness director at NYC Health and Hospitals and a telehealth therapist, tells SELF that she often recommends the “5-4-3-2-1 method” to her clients as a mindfulness activity designed to get you out of your head and into the present moment. 

How to Stop Taking Your Anger Out on Loved Ones

How to Stop Taking Your Anger Out on Loved Ones

The good news, according to Dr. Bobby, is that situational rage is the least complicated type of misdirected anger to work on. “The first step is recognizing, I’m not myself right now; I’m going through something difficult that’s making me think and feel in angry ways,” she says. “Instead of following your feelings, it’s much more helpful to say to yourself, I’m not going to get tricked into believing this narrative is true.”Take this scenario: You’re healing from a surgery and the pain is making you irritable to the extent that it’s clouding the lens you view life through: A slightly messy home looks hopelessly squalid to you. Whether or not you’re partly to blame for said disarray, you’re now furious with your partner for “never” cleaning up. Dr. Bobby recommends asking yourself, “How are my emotions coloring this story?” before you accuse your partner of chronic disrespect, which will likely leave them hurt, confused, and/or defensive.In other words, rewriting your anger-provoking narrative may create some space between you and the hot feelings that seem to be whispering, “Slam the cabinet doors real loud and just go OFF!” in your ear.Examine the patterns you learned from your family.The behavior and beliefs you’ve learned from your family of origin can majorly inform how you handle most things, including anger. “When we’ve watched them either raging or bottling stuff up and then exploding, we unconsciously absorb that as how to be in the world—particularly in relationships,” Dr. Bobby says.This can be uniquely complicated for those raised within a non-Western family culture, Siddiqi says. “A lot of first-, second-, and third-generation children grew up in families where anger wasn’t really talked about because it was a collectivist culture,” she explains. “It was never about their individual needs, but about what’ll keep the family unit happy.”Ultimately, Siddiqi says, this can lead to “a lot of cognitive dissonance” and pent-up frustration that people never learned to express directly. “Some clients that I work with will be totally fine with their parents on the surface, but actually be really angry at them about something and then take it out on their partner,” she explains.Siddiqi works with clients from a variety of cultural backgrounds to help them unlearn family-modeled patterns of destructive behavior through reflection and devising new “scripts,” meaning clearer language that lets them express their true emotions. “You’d be surprised at how many times people tell me, ‘I want to express my anger, but I don’t even know what to say,’” she says. “A lot of people don’t have the emotional education to know the difference between healthy and defensive words, or that a ‘you’ statement versus an ‘I’ statement can have a really big impact on the other person.”For example, when you’re asking for that alone time after work, Siddiqi recommends saying something like, “When I come home, I need time by myself before I share about my day. I feel overwhelmed when you ask me a lot of questions at once. I’d like to talk in 15 minutes so I can decompress. Does that sound reasonable to you?”

8 Coping Skills Therapists Use When They’re Really Angry

8 Coping Skills Therapists Use When They’re Really Angry

If taking a few deep breaths simply isn’t cutting it (you know, when you’re super ticked off), you can still use the power of your lungs to your benefit. Atmakuri recommends exhaling forcefully (think a dragon breathing fire), sighing loudly, exercising in a way that gets your heart rate up, or just crying it out to expel the negativity.6. Consciously think about anything else.Once you reflect on your anger and start to process or release it, you might realize you’re upset about something that’s actually pretty trivial—say, your partner is running a few minutes late. In this scenario, Chloe Carmichael, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and the author of Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety, turns to something she calls the “mental shortlist” technique.The practice involves focusing on other thoughts whenever you’re tempted to stew about something that’s truly insignificant—a “nothing burger,” if you will. So, in the case of your slightly tardy partner, your “mental shortlist” might include things like catching up on reading, sorting through pictures on your phone, listening to that podcast you’ve been meaning to catch up on, or anything else that will force you to redirect your thoughts intentionally. Or if you want to give things a positive spin, it could involve “brainstorming gift ideas for your [partner] or conversation topics you’re excited to discuss when they arrive,” Dr. Carmichael says.If you find yourself constantly irritated over “nothing burgers,” though, that’s worth paying attention to. “You may want to do a deeper dive to see if there’s something bigger that’s bothering you and resulting in irritability,” Dr. Carmichael notes.7. Physically adjust your body to temper your emotions.Therapists are no strangers to the mind-body connection, a concept that often comes up in their personal approaches to frustration. For example, when she’s swirling in her angry thoughts, Wang adjusts her facial expressions and hand positionings. Specifically, she turns to a dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) technique called “Willing Hands and Half-Smiling.” For “willing hands,” she places her arms alongside her body, keeping them straight or bent slightly at the elbows. She then turns her hands outward, unclenched, with her fingers relaxed and palms facing upward. To practice “half-smiling,” she tries to relax her face, letting go of her facial muscles and tilting the corners of her lips upward, adopting a serene facial expression. “It’s very difficult to stay angry with ‘Willing Hands and Half-Smiling.’ I can feel the tension and energy lift off me when I practice these skills,” Wang says.8. Give your body the attention it deserves.“Emotions live in our bodies,” Wang stresses. “So, when I feel irritated, my initial thoughts are: Have I eaten? Am I hydrated? Do I need to take a nap? Most of the time, I feel better when my physical body is taken care of.” When you nurture your body, you’ll also nurture your mind and give it the support it needs to cope with the stress of anger.To better learn about her own body’s needs, Rachel Weller, PsyD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, turns to a mindfulness skill called body scanning. It involves relaxing in a comfortable position while noticing external sensations (like sounds and odors) and observing your breath. Then, starting from the top of your head, mentally scan your body—section by section—while acknowledging how each part is feeling. Are your eyes heavy? Is your neck tense and achy? Is your stomach rumbling? As Dr. Weller explains: “Tuning into our physical sensations, like muscular tension, breath, pressure, and tingling, often allows us to increase the connection between our brains and bodies.” This, ultimately, can help you uncover the deeper meanings behind fiery emotions—anger and everything in between, she says. After all, she says, “Our bodies often hold facts that our mind is unable to discover.”Related:

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