Is Your Sense Of Empathy Stressing You Out Get In Touch With The More Clear
When your kid is miserable, you feel her pain, and that can be a good thing: It may motivate you to help. But the trouble with this sort of empathy what psychologists call affective empathy is that its a double-edged sword.
Feeling the pain might inspire you to be compassionate, but it might also push you to the edge.
Thats probably why parents who rate themselves as highly empathic can become over-reactive when their kids are upset . They get too stressed out, and the results can lead to them to become snappish, harsh, or controlling .
S. Shaun Ho and his colleagues have used hormone tests and brain scans to better understand whats going on. In a study asking mothers to participate in a parenting simulation game, women with lots of affective empathy got a bigger hit of cortisol when they had to make decisions about distressed, unhappy kids.
They also experienced heightened activity in parts of the hypothalamus and amygdala, regions of the brain linked with anxiety and stress .
So affective empathy causes stress, and that can undermine parenting. But that doesnt mean wed be better off as sociopaths.
There is another type of empathy, called cognitive empathy, that involves taking another persons perspective and imagining what would make him feel better. Its more cerebral and reflective, and it doesnt rev up the stress response system:
Get Into The Right Frame Of Mind
“We can control our responses to circumstances, even when the circumstances themselves are beyond our control,” Scott writes. “In doing so, we can greatly lessen our negative experience of stress.”
It’s all about having a positive attitude. For example, it’s better to avoid the all-or-nothing mindset: Rather than say, “This is the worst day ever,” say, “Today was a bad day,” she advises.
Dont Run Yourself Ragged
Say no! If you are a people-pleaser it is very hard to say no when someone asks you to do something, even if your schedule is already overwhelming. I suggest that you always say let me get back to you on that then actually ask yourself:
a) Do I want to do it?
b) Do I have time to do it without making myself overwhelmed?
It is usually easier to say no when you are not face to face with someone.
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Spend Time Around Animals
Animals are known to help reduce anxiety and stress. When you become too wrapped up in the stress, go hang out with some animals.
Or even consider adopting a pet from a rescue if you are in the right spot to do that. Being around animals can give you a sense of calm, and help you see the amazing things the world has to offer.
You could also volunteer at your local animal shelter!
Coping With Stress And Anxiety
Learning what causes or triggers your stress and what coping techniques work for you can help reduce your anxiety and improve your daily life. It may take trial and error to discover what works best for you. Here are some activities you can try when you start to feel overwhelmed:
- Keep a journal.
- Exercise, and make sure you are eating healthy, regular meals.
- Stick to a sleep routine, and make sure you are getting enough sleep.
- Avoid drinking excess caffeine such as soft drinks or coffee.
- Identify and challenge your negative and unhelpful thoughts.
- Reach out to your friends or family members who help you cope in a positive way.
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Help Children Cope With Their Own Stresses And Teach Siblings How To Work Out Their Differences
Kids arent born with an instinct for emotional self-regulation. They have to develop it, and they take their cues from us. Research suggests that parents can have a crucial impact on the way kids handle stress, especially if kids have difficult or high-strung temperaments.
It begins with smart choices we can make with our infants, and continues throughout childhood: Calm, upbeat, constructive talk about emotions can help preschoolers develop strong social skills, empathy, and self-control.
Kids also need to learn to get along with siblings, and it pays to be proactive.
When Nyantri Ravindran and colleagues showed mothers how to teach their young children conflict resolution skills like how to see things from your siblings perspective, how to negotiate, and how to calm yourself down when youre feeling angry or distressed the researchers didnt just see a reduction in sibling aggression. They also observed improvements in the ways that mothers handled their own emotions .
How can you help children handle stress, tension, conflict?
In addition, check out these evidence-based social skills activities for children and teens. And dont forget about the power of play. As I explain opens in a new windowhere, play is beneficial for the brain, and opens in a new windowoutdoor play in a natural setting may be especially helpful for a childs emotional health.
Procrastination And Emotional Regulation
Research suggests that procrastination often relates to your mood and emotional mindset.
In other words, procrastination doesnt happen because youre lazy and unproductive or dont know how to do something . It happens because you dread the emotional distress you foresee.
Maybe you already experienced this irritation and frustration firsthand and dont want a repeat. But you could also have some preconceived ideas about how awful and difficult that chore or assignment will turn out to be.
Either way, you set the task aside, promising yourself to handle it later when you feel better able to manage those feelings.
Sometimes, its easy to see where the distress comes from:
- You put off a quick phone call to schedule your dental check-up, because youre certain you have a cavity or two and feel anxious about facing an afternoon of drilling.
- You avoid calling your sister after an argument, because you know you need to admit you were wrong and apologize.
You might have a harder time pinning down other sources of emotional distress, especially when they relate to ongoing or deeper-seated sources of emotional turmoil.
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How To Know When You Need To Reduce Stress
According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can impact your mood, body, and behavior. While some of these symptoms may seem minor, when left unchecked, they can lead to larger and more severe problems. The following symptoms can be signs that youre struggling with too much stress.
Some of the physical signs of stress include:
Some of the ways that stress can impact your mood include:
- Increased anxiety
Stress can also cause behavioral challenges such as:
- Social withdrawal
- Substance use
- Changes in eating habits
The symptoms above can be a lot to handle on their own, but they can lead to more serious problems. For example, stress has been connected with physical health problems such as high blood pressure and stroke. Higher levels of stress can also lead to mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. These are just a few of the reasons why its important to learn how to relieve stress.
Take A Break From Your Phone
Constantly checking your phone for the latest notification can overwhelm you, according to Kristine Carlson, co-author of the book Dont Sweat the Small Stuff,” which she wrote with her late husband Richard Carlson.
We are so tied to our technology, she said. Email, text message, checking your Instagram all of that, its very addictive.
Instead, she advised, really unplug from your email or phone and take what Carlson refers to as a golden pause.
By snoozing your notifications, you create the mental space to focus on yourself and how youre feeling. While you focus on yourself, practice breathing slowly, closing your eyes and turning your thoughts toward something youre grateful for, Carlson suggested.
Research backs up this up: Focusing on gratitude has been shown to increase a persons level of happiness.
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Realize That It Wont Kill You
In the long-term stress can be deadly, for sure. It kills your health, relationships, and your sex life.
But in reality, the kind of things we stress about daily cant really kill us. Worrying about not fetching your laundry before they close isnt a death sentence, not making your kid homemade cookies for the bake sale, whether your boss likes your presentation, or even a prang on your new car all wont really dent your life expectancy. But ironically, worrying about those things will!
Of course if your biggest stress is the bear you find right in front of you while you are lost in the woods, then youre shit out of luck, this is one stressful situation that might just kill you.
How To Set Yourself Up To Deal With Stress
Regular self-care practices and behavior modifications can help keep stress from overwhelming you and scale your stress response in proportion to the stressor.
Its important to understand that when it comes to stress and its impact on health, you may want to think about trying longer-term strategies and changes in lifestyle, says Michelle Dossett, MD, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an assistant physician and clinical researcher at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
A healthy lifestyle eating well, getting high-quality sleep, staying hydrated, and exercising regularly can buffer you against the wear and tear of stress, says Holly Schiff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist with Jewish Family Services of Greenwich in Greenwich, Connecticut. These steps don’t eliminate the challenge. But they will ensure your strongest, calmest, most rational self shows up to meet whatever obstacle youre facing.
BMC Medical EducationFrontiers in Physiology
As far as exercise goes, just make sure its something you enjoy. Exercise doesnt have to be intense, and you dont have to join a gym, Dr. Haythe says. I tell my patients to buy a pair of sneakers and start walking for 15 to 20 minutes a day.
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Drink Some Coffee But Not Too Much
Although excessive amounts of caffeine can actually increase anxiety and irritability, consuming moderate amounts can help improve your mood by stimulating the release of dopamine, according to psychology and neuroscience professor Gary L. Wenk.
A 2015 study on mice found that those given caffeine didn’t show any stress-induced brain or behavior changes when exposed to stressors such as cold water or having their cages tilted, while those just given water did seem stressed according to Business Insider.
The researchers who conducted the study said they thought this was due to caffeine blocking certain receptors from causing a stress response.
Equip Yourself With The Right Gear To Tackle Stress
If I told you that it was really bad weather outside and you must go out to do a ton of garden work, what would you do? You would put on a rain jacket and hat, right? You wouldnt try and change the weather. In our pursuit of managing stress many of us try to change the weather.
Instead of developing techniques to manage stress and simply apply them like you would a jacket, we stress more about how to reign in the situation and then have a mountain of stress to summit.
Like the father of stress research, Hans Selye explains: Its not stress that kills us it is our reaction to it. The first way to be less stressed is to realise that by developing techniques to handle stressful situations you will have a wardrobe of outfits to protect you from it, when it hits.
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How Can You Help Yourself
Stress is a natural reaction to many situations in life, such as work, family, relationships and money problems.
We mentioned earlier on that a moderate amount of stress can help us perform better in challenging situations,34 but too much or prolonged stress can lead to physical problems. This can include lower immunity levels,35 digestive and intestinal difficulties, e.g. irritable bowel syndrome ,36 or mental health problems such as depression.37 It is therefore important that we manage our stress and keep it at a healthy level to prevent long-term damage to our bodies and minds.
Cut Out Things That Add To Your Stress
Sometimes, the best way to reduce your stress is to cut something out of your life. Get rid of the things that are adding to your stress so you can experience more peace.
Watching the news, being constantly connected to your digital devices, drinking alcohol, and consuming too much caffeine are just a few of the things that may add more stress to your life. Making some changes to your daily habits could be instrumental in helping you feel better.
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Path To Improved Well Being
Stress can cause health problems or make existing problems worse. Talk to your family doctor if you think your symptoms could be caused by stress. Its important to make sure they arent caused by other health problems.
Learn to recognize when youre feeling stressed. Early warning signs of stress include tension in your shoulders and neck or clenching your hands into fists. Try to avoid the event or situation that leads to your stress. If thats impossible, change how you react to stress.
Become A Safe Place For Your Spouse To Work Through His/her Stress
Look, a lot of us are married to spouses who have stress. Sometimes its stress over potential job loss. Sometimes its stress because of toxic relationships at work. Sometimes its just simply the stress of the job. My husband has a LOT of stress at his work. Hes a pediatrician and often has to make life and death decisions. He sometimes cant sleep and often has nightmares that hell do exactly the wrong thing. Its scary. And I can never really understand it completely because Im not a doctor .
Heres the question: What are you going to do to help your spouse through stress?
A few quick tips:
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Get Rid Of The Things Causing You Pain
Sometimes we put up with pain for so long, we forget how badly is hurts us.
Are there things in your life that are more of a burden than anything? From a bad job to a bad relationship, these things can make your life way worse than it needs to be.
If you know there is something in your life causing you pain, try to work on getting rid of it.
You deserve a great life, full of supportive people and full of love. If you aren’t receiving these things, it’s time to move on.
I know it’s not easy. But, you have to think about yourself and what you deserve. This way, you can begin to let go.
Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is linked with your ability to deal with frustration. Emotional intelligence is your capacity to notice and evaluate emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to regulate the way you express your feelings.
You can improve your emotional intelligence by:
- Regulating yourself during moments of frustration and waiting for an appropriate moment to express yourself
- Practicing empathy for others, especially people who tend to frustrate you
- Remembering that all emotions are fleeting, including frustration
- Noticing your feelings so you can react appropriately
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Healthy Ways To Cope With Stress
Feeling emotional and nervous or having trouble sleeping and eating can all be normal reactions to stress. Here are some healthy ways you can deal with stress:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Its good to be informed but hearing about the traumatic event constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple of times a day and disconnecting from phone, tv, and computer screens for a while.
- Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and give yourself a break if you feel stressed out.
- Take care of your body.
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditateexternal icon.
- Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.
- Continue with routine preventive measures as recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible get a booster shot if you are age 18 or older.