Monthly Archives

February 2017

6 Ways to Combat Anxiety and Speak Up at Work

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workplace-1245776_1920Meetings at work can be an uncomfortable environment – many professionals feel this way. It may be because you’re shy, introverted, or you absorb more by listening to others in the room. You may also choose to defer to the leaders at the table.

It’s not just the environment, it may also be the situation. Is there someone in the meeting that always dominates the conversation not letting others get a word in edgewise? Whatever the case may be, sitting through another meeting frozen or inactive is a terrible feeling.

In order to get ahead it is often important that your voice be heard. You’ve prepped for the meeting, you’ve done your research, and now it’s time for you to be an active participant. Below are some simple strategies you can implement in your next meeting to help ease the anxiety and make yourself heard.

  1. Banish Pre-Meeting Jitters
    Instead of interpreting your jitters (shaky hands, stomach doing somersaults, etc) as a sign that you’re inadequate, or not up to the task a hand, Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal suggests befriending your stress response, re-framing it as a sign you’re ready for action and prepared to bring your best to the meeting.
  2. Ease Into It
    Rather than arriving right before a meeting starts, head in early to familiarize yourself with the space and settle in. If your meeting is a teleconference, use this time to get comfortable with webinar controls, your mic, and webcam. As colleagues arrive, focus on making conversation with one or two people at a time which can feel socially fulfilling while also being less overwhelming.
  3. Commit to Speaking Early
    It typically gets harder to enter the conversation as a meeting progresses. The longer you wait, the more your anxiety increases. Growth often comes from discomfort, so push yourself to to speak up early. Set a simple strategy to say something in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the meeting. It can be welcoming the attendees, presenting your main argument, asking a question, or offering an opinion on a new business proposal.
  4. Use Your Strengths When Speaking Up
    You don’t have to be the loudest in the room. Even the soft-spoken can still make an impact by backing up a coworker’s comment with a simple, “Great idea! I can see that working really well.”You can also focus on asking powerful questions. Especially if you consider yourself an introvert, you’re likely very observant, which gives you an edge when it comes to posing the kind of thought-provoking questions that haven’t crossed your colleagues’ minds quite yet.

    Another way powerful way to increase your impact and visibility even after the meeting wraps is by following up with an email to your boss summarizing key points raised, or better yet, providing a proposal for a new project sparked by the conversation. You’ll build up a reputation as someone who makes useful contributions and you’ll come to everyone’s mind more quickly when promotion time comes around. More importantly, you’ll gain confidence in yourself.

  5. Be the One to Take Action on “Next Steps”
    Did something come up in the meeting that could use more research? Commit to taking on something for the next meeting. It shows you have initiative and that you’re interested and invested in your organization.This is a great example of employing a pre-commitment device, a habit formation technique you can use to nudge yourself towards behaviors you desire. You’ve committed yourself — now you’ll be more motivated and likely to follow through.
  6. Challenge Your Beliefs About Contributing
    Many people’s leadership instincts may not have been nurtured to their full potential in childhood, and subconscious insecurities can seep into our behavior to this day when it comes to speaking up. So how do you overcome old, outdated scripts holding you back from feeling confident about speaking up? It requires a deep-dive into your presumptions about self-worth and speaking up.

    Growing up, what were you told about standing out? Were you given the message by your parents, teachers, and community that you could be whatever you wanted, or did you internalize concepts such as, “People won’t like you if you try to stand out”? If you find yourself easily devastated by real or imagined negative feedback when you express your ideas, consider that you may be reverting back to an immature identity when your self-esteem was more contingent on other people’s (especially that of authority figures’) opinions.

    When you have a point to make yet find undermining thoughts creeping in, thank your inner-critic for trying to do it’s job by keeping you protected. Fear can signal you’re saying something of significance. Seize the moment. Stop playing small. Remember, you’re part of your organization because you’re qualified, you’re effective, and you matter.

    You’ve got a lot to offer — now it’s time to let everyone know it.

This content was originally published on The World of Psychology by Melanie Wilding, LMSW

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3 Ways Music Creates a Positive Mood Change

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Have you ever felt stuck in an emotional state that you couldn’t break free from? Music may be able to help you change your mood.

Think of your mind as a radio. Sometimes we might get stuck on a certain song or station, hearing the same thing over and over. If you’ve experienced this kind of rumination or thought-looping before, you know it is an unwelcome and negative cycle. When this happens, anything that helps us to switch to a different channel can provide emotional relief.

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We may start listening to negative messages that have been internalized and deeply ingrained within our minds, (consciously or unconsciously) playing them on repeat. The good news, however, is that we actually have the power to shift our thinking. We have the ability to bring ourselves away from the destructive noise of our own cognitive distortions and into the sweet sounds of serenity.

Music can be a useful tool in helping to turn down volume on the (often irrational) song or story that’s being played incessantly. While muting the unpleasant tracks we’re so accustomed to hearing in our minds and boosting the sound on some uplifting tunes, our favorite music automatically becomes a natural mood enhancer.

  1. Plug Back In: When we feel disconnected or burnt out, listening music can help us to feel more grounded and aligned — physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. When we feel inspired or uplifted by the sound or the lyrics of a song, it can result in a truly profound experience. When we are moved by the music we hear, we gain a greater understanding about ourselves. With that comes the ability to foster a better sense of connection to other people and the world around us.
  2. Flip the Switch: Much like meditation, putting on our favorite song or playlist can take our minds out of the vicious cycle of regret, worry, or fear, and help us to refocus our attention on the sound and rhythm of the song, even if just for a short while. Almost instantaneously, we have the ability to bring our minds away from the trap of its constant mental chatter, and into states of present moment awareness and enlivened being.
  3. stage-1531427_1920Feel the Beat: The mind and body are connected. Music often makes us want to move, inspiring us to dance or exercise. This helps release endorphins and serotonin in the brain, so we feel better and adopt a naturally more positive outlook. Combining music with movement is a potent way to improve your mood with the potential for long lasting effects.

Each of us may have different taste in music, but we all crave many of the same things, including happiness and belonging. Music can help us strengthen the bond we have with ourselves, and ultimately, with each other. While listening to our favorite music in solitude may be the perfect antidote, some people find that the energy and vibrations that abound at live music shows are powerfully therapeutic. No matter where you are, it’s important to remember, that if you’re feeling a particular emotion, you are surrounded by human beings everywhere who have felt that same emotion before.

Find the music that works for you and put this to the test.

 

This article was originally published in World of Psychology by Julia Lehrman, LCSW, RYT

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New Research: How Mindfulness Can Help Reduce Worry

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nothing-1820481_1920When you’re worried, concentrating on anything can be difficult.

A new study suggests that specific forms of mindfulness techniques can be particularly useful for reducing repetitive and intrusive negative thoughts that frequently occur in anxiety and depression.

Conducted by the University of Southampton, UK and Bournemouth University, UK, the randomized study of 77 participants examined the impact of three types of mindfulness techniques on the frequency of intrusive negative thoughts and measured subjective anxiety levels.

The most effective technique for reducing the frequency of negative thoughts was a guided acceptance-based mindfulness meditation. The general principle behind acceptance-based meditations is that you allow thoughts to come into your mind, observe, acknowledge, and make room for them rather than attempt to struggle with them. This principle of acceptance has been formalized into a type of therapy called acceptance and commitment therapy. You can practice acceptance techniques at home on your own through guided meditations that encourage acceptance. The following script was used for the acceptance based guided meditation in the study:

Direct your attention inwardly…notice thoughts, emotions, physical sensations…any other kinds of experiences as they show up in the field of your awareness…sitting and noticing what’s here, right now, for you…Each time you become aware of a private experience, such as a thought, or a feeling…turning your attention towards it, acknowledging it, maybe labeling it…and as best you can, letting things be as they are…making space for your experiences.

The second mindfulness technique studied was an attention-based breath meditation which focuses attention on the breath. Breath awareness was slightly less effective than acceptance based mindfulness but still helpful. Below is the guided meditation used in the study:

Become aware of the sensation of breathing…noticing where in the body the physical sensations of breathing are vivid for you, right now…choosing one place to follow the breath…making a decision to stay with this place…bringing your attention and your curiosity to each breath…Feeling the moment-by-moment physical sensations as you breathe in and breathe out. And each time you notice your attention has wandered, gently bringing your attention back to the breath and the sensations in your body.

Finally, the third mindfulness technique, which was the least effective in reducing the frequency of negative thoughts, was progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Progressive muscle relaxation directs you to focus your attention on different muscles in the body and guides you to tense and then relax these muscles.

There are a couple of important things to keep in mind. First, you might not feel better or less anxious after completing a mindfulness meditation, but it could be helping you worry less. Second, sticking to a consistent practice is important. Studies have shown that regular practice is important for lasting changes and has been proven to lower anxiety.

eMindLog™ can help you track how worried you are over time, allowing you to see if a mindfulness practice is helping and also help you identify worry triggers. Check it out and sign up for your free account today.

 

This article was originally posted on Urban Survival by Marlynn Wei M.D., J.D.

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Why Your Antidepressants Don’t Kick In Immediately

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headache-pain-pills-medication-159211The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Skeptics argue that because it takes four to six weeks for these antidepressants to kick in, they don’t really work or that if they do, it’s not because the patient has low levels of serotonin in the brain.

Let’s start with a little background. Serotonin has multiple functions in the brain, one of which is keeping us calm and content.  It is a neurotransmitter that works most effectively when it is outside of the brain’s neurons; although it doesn’t do anything good or bad if it is inside the brain’s cells. SSRIs work by blocking the serotonin transporter which results in more serotonin being outside of the neurons where it can do it’s job.

If there is too little serotonin active outside the brain’s cells, we become nervous, unhappy, or unable to feel any pleasure. By blocking the the transporter that inactivates serotonin, SSRIs can restore the brain’s active levels of serotonin returning us to a calm and content state. Skeptics of SSRI efficacy will return to the concept that the delayed effect means they don’t really work.

It is rather interesting that SSRIs don’t work after taking just one pill, especially considering that SSRIs are not the only drugs that block the serotonin transporter. Street drugs like cocaine and ecstasy also reportedly block the serotonin transporter. But it obviously does not take four to six weeks for cocaine and ecstasy to take effect.

Rather than assuming that the medication is not working, let’s consider an analogy. If you were to go to a dietitian to set up a meal plan to help you lose weight. You and your dietitian come up with a good plan that is likely to work. However, your refrigerator and kitchen are stocked with the items you already eat. Rather than wasting the food you’ve already purchased, you consume it and slowly begin restocking your kitchen with healthier items. Because of this transition time, your weight remains stable but about a month after you’ve begun, you start to lose weight. This is the time when the old foods in your kitchen have been replaced with healthier options.

More recent research suggests an analogous explanation of why SSRIs don’t kick in right away. The reason suggested is that SSRIs don’t target the serotonin transmitter directly. Although some SSRIs (like Lexapro) bind directly to the transporter, the direct binding is not the underlying mechanism of action. Instead antidepressants target our DNA, in particular the genes that code for the serotonin transporter. They make these genes less active causing there to be less transporter molecules available in the brain. This, the new research argues, explains the delayed action of antidepressants. As our brains already have plenty of transporter molecules when we begin taking antidepressants, it takes awhile for the suppression of genes coding for the transporter take effect in the brain.

When we start taking the medication, our brain is like the refrigerator, full of old food choices. It takes a few weeks to get through the old food and begin replacing it with healthier alternatives that can ultimately stabilize us and make use function normally.

eMindLog™ is a tool that you and your provider can utilize to monitor and track the effectiveness of medication. It can also be used to create a baseline for starting treatment. To learn more and see how it works, create your free account.

 

This article was originally posted on The Superhuman Mind by Berit Brogaard D.M.Sci., Ph.D.

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