Monday, August 29, 2016

The Platinum Rule to Reduce Stress

The Golden Rule- We all know it. Most of us have grown up with it. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Or, more commonly, “Treat others how you want to be treated”. It’s a pretty simple concept. If you want to be loved, love others. If you want to be accepted, accept others. If you want patience bestowed upon you, be patient with others. If you want to be cared for, care for others. If you want to be forgiven, forgive others.   

However, this rule can only account for so much. While we may treat others according to the Golden Rule, it does not account for everything.  Many who follow the golden rule put the needs of others far above their own wants and needs. And, this can be praiseworthy at times. However, could there be more to this?

I propose the “Platinum Rule.” This is not meant to replace the golden rule. More so, to give us something more to aspire to in our actions and choices. A complimentary rule. And here is what I propose: “We must learn to treat ourselves how we want to be treated.” Sounds simple enough. Or does it?

What is it that we truly seek from others?  Love, acceptance, patience, and care. Moreso, unconditional love, patience, acceptance.  Even forgiveness may be added to this list. How often do you practice loving yourself?  Accepting yourself fully? How often are you patient with yourself? With your own struggles? Patient with your mistakes or progress? Most importantly, how often do we forgive ourselves? Fully and freely and allow ourselves to move forward without shame and regret? How easily do we offer these gifts to others, yet not to ourselves.

So, I implore you, incorporate the platinum rule, as well as the golden rule. Treat yourself how you want others to treat you. Love yourself. Accept yourself. Be patient with yourself. Take care of yourself.  Forgive yourself.

Karen Rosian, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Disagree Better: Avoiding Conflict to Reduce Stress

Some of the most common causes of stress living in a social world are the disagreements that we can have with others throughout the day.  Whether it is with a spouse, a coworker, a family member, or a child, disagreements are a natural part of communicating our individual opinions.  Stress enters into this world when disagreements turn into fights.  As our conversations decline to conflict, most of us feel the anxiety that comes from having to defend ourselves and the anger that often accompanies it.  We can avoid these feelings if we learn to disagree better!

In order to avoid fights, we first have to identify some of the pitfalls that get us from civil disagreements to all out brawls.  Being dismissive of others is a common complaint that often heats up a conversation.  If we don’t take the time to listen to the other person and at least consider their perspective, then it is natural for them to get angry and not afford us the same luxury.  This pitfall is a sign of disrespect that no one appreciates.  Another trap that people fall into is letting the focus of the disagreement get away from them.  We often begin a discord on one topic, but end up fighting about every little thing that has every annoyed us about the other person.  We need to learn to stay on topic and not bring up any previous slight that we’re hanging on to- those are best discussed at a separate time.  A third pitfall is when we attack every argument with the same energy and gusto no matter what the topic.  It is important to learn to pick our battles.  Knowing that we’re trying to avoid fighting, we need to ask ourselves “is this fight really worth the stress that it will bring me”.  If the answer is no, then we need to have the strength and courage to move on.

When we get involved in an argument, we are often so wrapped up in our own feelings that we forget that the other party in the discord is feeling similarly.  Empathy can be your biggest weapon in defusing fights before they occur.  While we cling to our own perspectives, it is helpful to consider the perspective of your sparring partner.  Are they as passionate about the topic as you are?  Do they have some emotional connection to this topic?  If we try to understand the perspective of the other person, it often leads us to a better grasp on why this fight is occurring.  Even if we continue to disagree, empathetic disagreements often avoid some of those pitfalls that lead to fights.

It is also important to realize this simply fact: you can’t have a fight with only one person.  We often feel like we need to defend our position and fight when challenged, but the reality is that this is not the case.  If we are working to avoid the stress caused by fights, then the best weapon we have is the ability to avoid fighting altogether.  Learn to avoid hot button topics that you know usually lead to fighting.  Make efforts to eliminate people from your life who thrive on consistent conflict.  Most importantly, remember that you don’t have to participate in an argument just because someone else wants to fight with you.  This technique is particularly important for parents of teenagers who often seek out conflict as they search for their own identify.

If an argument seems inevitable, there are methods to assert your feelings in a way that can disarm your partner and reduce the stress involved.  First off, try to use “I statements” as much as possible.  “I statements” are a way of taking ownership of our feelings and problems and avoid throwing blame at others.  Instead of saying, “You make me so angry when you don’t listen” why not try, “I feel like we’re not communicating well together”.  The new statement feels less like a jab and more like an issue that we can solve together.  Secondly, make sure you identify the change that you want to happen.  Going into an argument with no clear plan of solution puts added stress on both parties.  If you don’t know what change you want, perhaps that’s something you should consider before addressing the issue. Finally, try not to generalize your thoughts with words like “never”, “always”, or “only”.  It's much more effective to say, "I rarely get to go to parties, and I'd really like to go to this one." than to shout about how "You NEVER let me go ANYWHERE! I'm going to be the ONLY person not there!"

By learning to disagree better, we can reduce a great deal of stress from our daily lives.  If we can be empathetic, avoid common pitfalls of arguments, utilize “I statements”, and be clear about the change we want to see then we can live happier lives with less conflict and more pleasant communication.

Bill Knor, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Monday, August 8, 2016

Meditation Followed by Aerobic Exercise Reduces Depressive Symptoms

I recently stumbled upon a brief article that offers a evidence of how aerobic exercise helps to reduce depressive symptoms.  Take a look...

Thirty minutes of meditation followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise twice a week significantly decreased depressive symptoms in patients with major depressive disorder, according to a study in the online Translational Psychiatry. 
“The effects were robust, as evident by the nearly 40% reduction in depressive symptoms after only 8 weeks of training,” wrote researchers from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. “Interestingly, individuals without a clinical diagnosis of major depressive disorder also reported significant reductions in depressive symptoms.” 
The study investigated the effects of a mental and physical training intervention that consisted of 30 minutes of focused-attention meditation followed by 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise twice a week over 8 weeks. Twenty-two college students with major depressive disorder and 30 healthy students participated in the investigation. 
At the study’s end, all participants reported fewer depressive symptoms and ruminative thoughts, researchers found. 
“By learning to focus their attention, the participants acquire new cognitive skills that reduce interference from negatively biased recollections,” researchers wrote. “These neuronal mechanisms activated during mental training with meditation are perhaps further strengthened and even ‘consolidated’ by the physical training with aerobic exercise that occurs immediately afterwards in this neurobehavioral intervention.” 
A previous study involving 8 young mothers who were homeless and living at a residential treatment facility also found decreases in depression as well as reductions in anxiety and gains in motivation after the 8-week mental and physical training intervention, researchers noted. 
The findings suggest the mental and physical training intervention may offer an accessible alternative to psychotropic medications and psychotherapy in the treatment of depression. 
“There are two behavioral therapies, aerobic exercise and meditation, which have demonstrated benefits for individuals suffering with depression, are not accompanied by profound side effects and can be practiced across the lifespan,” researchers concluded. “Here, we provide evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of a combined behavioral approach in improving mental and cognitive health outcomes in individuals with major depressive disorder and otherwise healthy individuals.” 

 —Jolynn Tumolo 

1. Alderman BL, Olson RL, Brush CJ, Shors TJ. MAP training: combining meditation and aerobic exercise reduces depression and rumination while enhancing synchronized brain activity. Translational Psychiatry. 2016 Feb. 2;6:e726.
2. Exercise and meditation — together — help beat depression [press release]. EurekAlert!: Washington, DC; Feb. 10, 2016.

Lauren F. White, LCPC
Anxiety and Stress Center
Orland Park, Illinois