15 Natural Sleep Remedies for Insomnia That Are Backed by Science

Insomnia is something of a modern curse. Our lives are more hectic than ever before. When not working overtime, we’re at home staring at our smartphones right up until the moment we try to go to sleep.

With the stress of modern life, we’re doing ourselves no favors by also ensuring we don’t unwind properly at night. Our natural slide towards sleep suffers thanks to disruptive issues such as social media, video games, Netflix, and family life.

How do you find time to ensure you get a good night’s sleep? Here are 15 science-backed natural sleep remedies to help you nod off in style.

1. Get comfy

Make sure your bed is comfortable. This can vary person to person, but do whatever it takes to ensure your bed helps you drift off to sleep properly.

Trying to sleep on a mattress that’s like a plank of wood will not help your insomnia. So invest in something comfortable to reap the benefits. Here are a few ideas for you:

  • Experiment with pillows to find what works best for you, but you can also add fun and inviting new pillows in to make your bed look more inviting.
  • Make your bed – don’t leave it looking like a mess.
  • Try out a heated mattress if the cold winter months are a bit too much.
  • Try out some essential oils to make your bedroom more relaxing.

2. Drink herbal teas

I’ve championed tea for the last decade thanks to its health benefits and relaxing qualities. Herbal teas are the way to go as they lack caffeine. It helps you to relax and unwind.

What varieties should you consider? Well, here are a few:

  • Chamomile
  • Valerian root
  • Mint
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon

You can get cheap organic herbal tea with a mix of herbs to add some variety to your nighttime routine. Nettle and mint, for example, I’ve always found particularly useful for easing anxiety and aiding relaxation.

The science backs it up. In 2011, a paper published on the US National Library of Medicine titled Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future stated:((Mol Med Report: Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future))

“Traditionally, chamomile preparations such as tea and essential oil aromatherapy have been used to treat insomnia and to induce sedation (calming effects). Chamomile is widely regarded as a mild tranquillizer and sleep-inducer. Sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid, apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain.”

3. Switch off your devices

Do smartphones cause insomnia? Dr. Andrew Weil answered this question back in 2015. His response:((Dr. Andrew Weil: Do Smart Phones Cause Insomnia?))

“One problem is that the blue light these devices emit can suppress production of the sleep regulating hormone melatonin, promoting insomnia. This effect is more pronounced than exposure to the light from a television screen in the bedroom because we hold smartphones and other electronic devices close to our faces, intensifying the light exposure.”

Whilst it may seem like a modern luxury to lounge around in bed watching YouTube or Netflix on your smartphone, the reality is it disrupts your sleep.

4. Read

Whilst it’s tempting to lounge around in bed watching Netflix or YouTube clips until you pass out, you’re doing yourself no favors. Staring at those devices suppresses melatonin.

The solution? Read!

Reading a book for an hour before you go to bed is a brilliant way to get through some novels you’ve been meaning to get through. It’s also a great way to calm down your brain and get it ready for a night of sleep.

5. Get napping to a T

Launching into napping without a plan isn’t a good idea. If you head off and nap for a few hours, you may emerge feeling great, but you’ll mess up your sleep pattern for your proper rest at night.

Getting napping to a T isn’t difficult, though. It just takes some good timing.

Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan’s book Fast Asleep, Wide Awake points out that you should take “controlled naps”. Her advice is to take a nap of no more than 20 minutes to lift some fatigue off your mind. It can help you feel recharged. And it also won’t disrupt your night’s sleep later in the day.

6. Get your timing right

If your sleeping pattern is all over the place, then you can wave goodbye to any hope of sleeping properly. Consistency is key when it comes to sleep. Although this does mean you’ll have to kick the concept of a weekend lie-in.

Going to bed, and waking up, at the same time every day is an absolute must if you want to avoid sleep troubles.

As reported on Bustle:((Bustle: Going To Sleep At The Same Time Every Night Can Make You Smarter, & There Are A Lot Of Other Surprising Benefits))

“Scientists who work in sleep health have a term for the period of time it takes you to get to sleep: it’s called your sleep latency. And it turns out that maintaining a regular sleep schedule, according to several small studies, may cut down on the amount of time you spend tossing and turning before drifting off.”

You can try this out yourself to see the benefits. On my schedule, I go to bed at 11pm every day. I wake up at 7am each morning. Once you’ve got your routine set, you’ll notice differences such as:

  • Getting to sleep faster
  • Improvement in your mental abilities (essential for work, studying etc.)
  • Mood improvements
  • Health improvements (sleeping well is essential for weight loss, for example)

7. Lay off the alcohol

This may seem a bit unfair if you want to unwind after a day of hard work with a glass of wine. But the unfortunate truth is alcohol disrupts sleep patterns.

Are your drinking days over, then? Well, according to The Sleep Doctor:((Sleep Doctor: The truth about alcohol and sleep))

“Does this mean you need to abstain from drinking altogether? Nope. But part of a smart, sleep-friendly lifestyle is managing alcohol consumption so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep and circadian rhythms … Circadian rhythms regulate nearly all of the body’s processes, from metabolism and immunity to energy, sleep, and sexual drive, cognitive functions and mood.”

A circadian rhythm is a naturally occurring process every 24 hours. As it turns out, although it’s not too surprising, alcohol disrupts this process. But as The Sleep Doctor confirms, the more you drink, and the closer this is to bedtime, the more you’ll disrupt your sleep pattern.

It also greatly increases your chance of snoring. So, consider skipping alcohol most nights, or keep your intake to a minimum.

8. Monitor temperatures

This is kind of obvious. If it’s searing hot (often the case during summer), it’s difficult to sleep. Similarly, if you’re freezing cold you’ll struggle to stay asleep.

Getting temperatures right is a big part of a sleeping routine, then, so experiment around with finding the right temperature to suit you.

Take a look at how body temperature can seriously affect your sleep here:

The Relationship Between Body Temperature and Sleep

9. Take up regular exercise

The National Sleep Organization (great to see there is such a thing!) champions regular exercise for better sleep. It states on a guide titled How Exercise Affects Sleep:((Sleep.org: How Exercise Affects Sleep))

“Want to fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more rested? Get moving! As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can dramatically improve the quality of your nighttime sleep, especially when done on a regular basis.”

10. Embrace magnificent magnesium

In another excellent piece from The National Sleep Organization, magnesium receives a recommendation for improving your sleep.

Promote better sleep with magnesium – it’s an essential mineral for keeping us health.((Sleep.org: Power (Down) Vitamins: Promote Better Sleep With Magnesium)) It can also, potentially, help us fall to sleep.

“Other research shows that magnesium increases the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which is responsible for slowing your thinking down and helping you fall asleep. If you are curious about the effects of magnesium, consider focusing on your nutrition first.”

Foods rich in magnesium, which is a good starting point to get more of the stuff into you, include:

  • Green, leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach
  • Vegetables in general!
  • Dark chocolate
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruit such as bananas
  • Whole grains like brown rice

11. Try out other sleep-promoting supplements

Healthline backs mag nesium, too, but there are other supplements that are worth considering.((Healthline: 9 Natural Sleep Aids That Are Backed by Science)) These include:

  • Valerian root (as with the herbal tea mentioned above)
  • Lavender
  • Passion flower
  • Glycine
  • Ginkgo biloba

12. Treat your bed as a bed

It’s tempting to turn your bed into a piece of everyday furniture. You can lounge around on it, take in the latest films, eat your meals, call friends.

But if you aim to associate your bed with just bedtime, then this can help you speed up your sleep cycle.

13. Meditate

Harvard Medical School, in 2015, were quick to point out that mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia, improves sleep.((Harvard Health Publishing: Mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia, improves sleep)) It states:

“Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future. It helps you break the train of your everyday thoughts to evoke the relaxation response, using whatever technique feels right to you.”

There are plenty of modern apps that can help you start off on your mindfulness path. There’re plenty of meditation apps for sleep. Why not try a few out?

You can also take a look at this guide on how to meditate before bed to supercharge your sleep.

14. Embrace the shadows

In the great Japanese writer Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s essay In Praise of Shadows (1933), the author lamented the arrival of electric lights into the world.

Architecture, natural light, shadows, and a well-placed candle, he championed, are what it takes to send a person towards a natural night of sleep. His famous quote reads:

“If light is scarce then light is scarce; we will immerse ourselves in the darkness and there discover its own particular beauty.”

Tanizaki certainly would have hated the modern world, but we can take his wisdom and embrace the shadows in our home. Get some candles on the go, turn off the lights, and let the natural flow of evening surround you. Some candles have relaxing scents in them, too, such as lavender or vanvilla.

15. Try a 30 day sleep challenge

 

The Sleep Council has a 30 Day Better Sleep Plan you can try. Over the course of a month, this free starts with a brief questionnaire on your sleep pattern, health, and lifestyle:

The site also provides various sleep tools, such as free leaflets, stress tests, a sleep diary, and bed MOT (basically, to see if your bed is up to the task of providing you with a good night’s sleep).

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Learn the Different Types of Love (and Better Understand Your Partner)

Love. Ahhhhh… they say it makes the world go ‘round. But does it? Does it always make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Or does it sometimes cause us problems in our relationships?

Well, the answer is both.

We have all had our share of relationship problems – especially in romantic ones. And when people say to me, “Relationships are hard!” I always reply, “Not they’re not. They are not inherently hard. It’s the people that make them hard.

What I mean by that is that humans are inherently selfish. We all want to “win” and to get other people to understand what we want. And unfortunately, that often results in two people who just don’t understand each other. And because of that, their relationship suffers.

One key to healthy relationships is understanding the different types of love. Everyone gives and receives love differently. And in addition to that, some people are much more capable of experiencing certain types of love than others.

8 Types of Love According to the Ancient Greeks

The ancient Greeks studied love and classified them into eight different types. They studied everything from public speaking to the starts in the universe. And love is something they were also fascinated with.

So, let’s take a look at the different types of love so you can better understand your own relationships.

1. Agape — Unconditional Love

First, we have agape love. This is an altruistic, selfless, unconditional love. The Greeks thought it was quite radical, perhaps because so few people seem capable of feeling it long-term.

Some people would describe agape as a type of spiritual love. For instance, Christians believe that Jesus exhibited this kind of love for all humans. He was selfless and sacrificed Himself so that others could be rid of their sins. He suffered for the happiness of others.

2. Eros — Romanic Love

Eros is named after the Greek god of love and fertility. Therefore, it is usually associated with romantic, passionate, and physical love. It is an expression of sexual passion and desire.

The Greeks were actually quite fearful of this love, strangely enough. They thought that because human beings have an instinctual impulse to procreate, that this love was so powerful and it would result in a loss of control.

Although the Greeks thought this kind of love was dangerous, it is still the kind of love that is associated with passionate, sexual love. Even in modern days, some people believe that this kind of love “burns hot and bright, but it burns out fast.”

3. Philia — Affectionate Love

The Greeks defined this kind of love as “affectionate love.” In other words, it is the kind of love that you feel for your friends.

Ironically, the ancient Greeks thought this kind of love was better than eros (sexual love), because it represented love between people who considered themselves equals.

While a lot of people associate the word “love” with romance, Plato always argued that physical attraction wasn’t necessary for love. Hence, why there are many different types of love. This type, in particular, is often referred to as “platonic” love – love without sexual acts.

4. Philautia — Self-love

Philautia is self-love. In our modern day society, most people associate self-love with being narcissistic, selfish, or stuck on themselves. However, this is not what the ancient Greeks meant by self-love.

Self-love is not negative or unhealthy in any way. In fact, it’s necessary to be able to give and receive love from other people. We cannot give to others what we don’t have. And if we don’t love ourselves, how can we truly love others?

Another way to look at self-love is by thinking about it as self-compassion. Just as you might show affection and love to another person, you must also show that same affection and love to yourself.

5. Storge — Familiar Love

Storge can be defined as “familiar love.” Although that’s a strange term, let me explain what it really means.

This type of love looks and feels a lot like philia – affectionate love felt between friends. However, this love is more like a parent-child love.

Just like philia, there is not physical or sexual attraction. But there is a strong bond, kinship, and familiarity between people.

6. Pragma — Enduring Love

The ancient Greeks define pragma as “enduring love.” In other words, it’s almost the opposite of eros (sexual love). Eros tends to burn out quickly because of its passion and intensity. However, pragma is a love that has matured and developed over a long period of time.

The kind of old married couples who have been together since their teenage years and still hold hands, well, that’s a great example of pragma. Unfortunately, this kind of love is somewhat rare to find – especially in society today. These days, people seem to think the grass is always greener on the other side. And therefore, they don’t have the patience or desire to watch love grow over time.

This type of love doesn’t require a lot of effort in a relationship. Both people are good at making compromises, and each of them puts in equal efforts to make the other person happy.

7. Ludus — Playful Love

Ludus is known as the “playful love.” However, a better way to describe it is the feeling of infatuation in the early days of romance. If you’ve been in love before, you know what I’m talking about.

It’s the butterflies in your stomach, the giddiness you feel when you see your love walk through the door, and the feeling of never wanting to be without them.

Studies show that when people are experiencing this type of love, their brain is acting much like it does if it was on cocaine. In other words, your brain is lit up and active just like someone who is literally high on a drug. It makes you feel alive and excited about life.

8. Mania — Obsessive Love

Mania is not necessarily a good type of love, because it is obsessive. It’s the type of love that can lead someone into madness, jealousy, or even anger. That is because the balance between eros (sexual) and ludus (playful) is terribly off.

Many people who experience this type of love suffer from low self-esteem. They fear losing the object of their love, and this fear compels them to say or do some “crazy” things in order to keep them.

If not kept under control, mania can be very destructive in some cases.

The 5 Love Languages

The ancient Greeks weren’t the only ones to study love. A modern relationship therapist, Dr. Gary Chapman, identified five languages of love through his work with couples over a long period of time. His book, The Five Love Languages, provides a lot more detail.

In a nutshell, Chapman argues that each of us give and receive love differently, but they all fall into five categories. And they are as follows:

1. Words of Affirmation

Some people want to hear “I love you” or other positive compliments from their partner. And if they don’t hear it, then they might feel unloved.

2. Acts of Service

Doing nice things for other people is called an “act of service.” Whether it’s changing someone’s oil, cleaning the house, or giving a back rub, doing things to help make the other person happy is what this one is about.

3. Receiving Gifts

Some people value giving and receiving gifts, and some do not. So, if you measure your partner’s love by how many gifts you are given, then your love language is “receiving gifts.”

4. Quality Time

Other people measure the quality of their love by how much time their significant other wants to spend with them. If they don’t get enough “together time,” then they might feel unloved.

5. Physical Touch

Finally, some individuals associate love with physical touch. Anything from hand-holding to cuddling, and even sex count as “physical touch.”

Why Do Love Languages Matter?

The point of learning the love languages is to identify both the way you give and want to receive love from your partner. If you both have very different love languages, it can cause problems in your relationship.

For example, let’s say that you give love by saying “I love you” all the time, but you want to receive gifts in order to feel loved. But your partner shows his/her love with acts of service, and he/she wants to feel it with quality time. See the problem? They don’t match up.

But don’t worry. You and your partner don’t need to speak the same love language to stay together. Here’s why.

All you need to do is discuss it with your partner. Once you understand how you both want to give and receive, then it’s not so difficult.

The Takeaway

We’re all different – and that’s okay. The problems we have in relationships sometimes simply come from not understanding each other fully, especially in the area of love.

Now that you know the ancient Greek types of love, and the more modern love languages, hopefully you can take a good, hard, long look at your own relationships and make the necessary improvements.

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What’s the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Help You Live with Purpose

“What is the meaning of life?” is one of the most fundamental and enduring questions which has captivated the greatest minds of mankind for centuries.

The answers, as varied as they come, go back to the very, very beginning of things—to our existence, to the reasons why humans were created, to our quest for self-improvement, and, of course, to religion.

There is hardly a shortage of interpretations of what the “good life” is about, what makes us happy and fulfilled, and what we can do to get to this coveted state.

If you talk to a scientist—say, a physicist and biologist, about the purpose of our being, they will likely tell you the fascinating story of the Big Bang, the origins of universe’s existence, and the evolution of the species to where we are today.

But evolution is not what really drives us and makes us to want to keep living and persisting through life’s adversities, is it? It is a whole lot more than this. It is what makes us human—our minds, our sense of self-awareness, our ambitions, dreams and goals.

So, when you ruminate on your reasons for being, you should actually think along the lines of your values, progress, community, family, and, yes—reproduction.

What Wise Men Through History Believed a Life of Purpose to Be

Before we unpack these elements of meaning, let’s take a step back and see what wise men through history believed a life of purpose to be.((Wikipedia: Meaning of Life))

The Greeks

The ancient Greeks believed in the concept of “eudamonia” which translates as “happiness” or “welfare.” All the great Greek philosophers—Socrates, Plato, Aristotle— believed that the good life means to live in a state of eudaimonia. The interpretations of what it means vary. Some used to think that purpose can be found in acquiring virtues (as self-control, courage, wisdom).

Aristotle, for instance, believed that eudaimonia required not only a good character, but taking actions and achieving excellence. Epicurus—another prominent Greek—understood the good life as one of pleasure and freedom from pain and suffering.

Cynicism

The famous Greek school of thought believed that the purpose of life is living a life of Virtue which agrees with Nature. The happy life is the simple one, they taught—free from possessions, rejecting the desires for wealth, possessions, fame or sex. Rather, people should undergo rigorous training and live in a most natural to them way.

Stoicism

The Stoic school of thought, found by Zeno of Citium around 300 B.C. considered the good life to be “living in agreement with nature.” Stoicism advocates doing good while staying calm, focusing on what’s important and under our control, not wasting thoughts on what we can’t affect.

Happiness is:

“found in accepting this moment as it presents itself, by not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain, by using our minds to understand the world around us and to do our part in nature’s plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.”

Theism

Theists believed in the existence of a deity—a God, who created the universe. Our life’s purpose, then, is aligned with God’s purpose in creating the universe and it is God that gives our lives meaning, purpose and values. Without Him, life will be empty.

Existentialism

According to this 20th century philosophy, supported by famous minds as Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jean-Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche, all human beings have free will. It’s believed that each person gives meaning to their own life, not the society or religion. Therefore, everyone’s purpose is unique and subjective to their circumstances and understanding.

Or, simply put, our lives’ meaning is what we decide it to be.

What Creates Meaning for Your Life?

Based on the above brief walk through history, it seems that the interpretation of what infuses our existence with meaning and purpose somewhat varies depending on the historical period and the school of thought.

But undeniably, there are still some commonalities and recurring ideas. Our reason for being emerges as something greater than ourselves—such as serving God’s will or contributing to society. At the same time, it’s all nuanced because it’s refracted through our individual prisms.

Still, the things that may be good candidates for meaning-creators in our lives can be separated in few main categories, as I wrote recently :

Social

As human beings are social creatures, we have an innate need to connect to others, to be part of a group, to sense that we belong, and that we have someone who cares about us.

According to the longest study on happiness and life satisfaction((Ted Ideas: 4 lessons from the longest-running study on happiness))—which spanned over 75 years, the good life lies in the quality of our relationships. “Time with others,” Prof. Waldinger, who led the research tells us, “protects us from the bruises of life’s ups and downs.”

But it’s not only our friendships that make life worth living. It’s our families, children, siblings. It’s all the people who we feel love and affection for and who, in turn, give us theirs.

Achievement

Although tying our worth solely to the outcome of our endeavors can create an unstable sense of self-esteem, we still want the net of our successes to outnumber that of our failings. We want to sense that we are moving forward, progressing, realizing our goals. Studies have found that achievements bring greater meaning to our everyday lives.((J Pers.: Relationships between meaning in life, social and achievement events, and positive and negative affect in daily life.))

And it’s not the lure of the limelight or the desire for kudos that will make our existence worthwhile. It’s the recognition of our efforts, the appreciation, the acknowledgement that counts. In other words, we want our actions to matter and make a difference.

Competence, Knowledge and Expertise

These purpose-drivers are closely linked to the concept of achievement.

Konrad Lorenz, the Austrian Nobel Prize winner, best known for his principle of attachment, once said:

“Life itself is a process of acquiring knowledge.”

Becoming the best at what we do is a large part of the self-improvement movement today. It’s perhaps most famously expressed in the Japanese notions of kaizen and shokunin. Kaizen is the process of continuous improvement—through leaning and gaining expertise, to better ourselves. It’s a way of life.

Shokunin means craftman. And it’s about taking pride in what we do and in ourselves. It’s the drive to become better—personally and professionally.

How to Craft Your Own Meaning of Life

In reality, though, there are many more shades and understandings of a life well-spent than the three categories listed above.

Here are some further ideas on where to look for your own sense of purpose and fulfillment.

1. Be aware of what makes you happy

This includes your passions, the desire for connecting to others, for reading, writing, travelling, staying in shape. These activities that you enjoy, although they may not give you The One Meaning of your life, still carry a great potential to make you fulfilled and happy.

They are spurs of joy. You can call them mini-meanings, which, over time, may contribute to your bigger goals and purpose.

But today, they will still offer you something to look forward to, a reason to wake up in the morning. And who’s to say “no” to this?

2. Reproduction

Evolutionary biology provides us with the very primal reason behind our existence on Earth as humans—to ensure that the human race doesn’t become extinct. That is, meaning comes down to survival and continuance of our kin.

In this vein, having children and family is often at or near the top spot when people talk about what makes life worth living. This is also liked to our basic need to belong, to have someone to share our successes with, to have a shoulder to cry on, to care about.

3. Desire to leave a mark in the world

With the realization of the transience of our lives comes a natural desire to create something of value to leave to the world, to matter in some way, to make a difference.

We all have the capacity to influence others’ lives—some on a smaller scale than others, true, but regardless—it’s the intention and the actions that matters. You can begin with one small thing—whatever it is that matters to you and build on it.

For instance, you like animals. Adopt a puppy—give them a better life. You can also volunteer at your local food shelter, or start separating your garbage to help the planet.

It is as Mother Teresa once said:

“We can do no great things, but small things with great love.”

A meaningful life is about caring.

How to Lead a Meaningful Life

1. Be compassionate and care about yourself

Per research by the British National Health Service in 2014, there are five steps we can take to lead more meaningful lives:((British National Health Service: Five steps to mental wellbeing))

  • Connect with community and family
  • Physical exercise
  • Lifelong learning
  • Giving to others
  • Mindfulness of the world around you.

What these recommendations imply is that what brings sunshine into our lives is finding the ways to care about ourselves and to do what makes us feel good.

There is barely a need to convince you of the benefits of giving and meditations—these are well established—to both our physical and mental health.

Being kind, compassionate and help others are, indeed, the winning behaviors to an increased longevity, decreased stressed and depression. So that we can also experience life in all its colourfulness.

2. Make yourself useful

According to Darius Foroux —a famous entrepreneur, author and influencer, the meaning of life is not to seek happiness, but to make ourselves useful.((Darius Foroux: The Purpose of Life))

“It comes down to this — what are you DOING that’s making a difference?”

Rather than seeking happiness and meaning through the material things, we must engage in acts of usefulness—to help and make others happy, to create something.

“The last thing I want is to be on my deathbed and realize there’s zero evidence that I ever existed.”

3. Connect with the world

Another influencer—Alain de Botton, the founder of the famous blog The School of Life, believes that the meaning of life comes down to three activities:((The Book of Life: What Is the Meaning of Life?))

  • Communication
  • Understanding
  • Service

“Some of our most meaningful moments are to do with instances of connection,” he writes, be it to a person, song or a book, for instance. It takes us out of our isolation. Understanding is our ability to make sense of the world. And service is to work on improving others’ lives.

4. Use the PURE model

Finally, Peter Wong—a Canadian existential psychologist, has proposed a model, known as PURE for individuals to discover meaning in their lives:((Peter Wong: Existential Positive Psychology))

  • P stands for purpose and having worthy goals.
  • U denotes understating—of who we are and of the world around us.
  • R means that we have sole responsibility to choose the life we want and to own our actions and their consequences.
  • E is the need for evaluation, to ensure we are on track with our goals.

Therefore, as you can summon, there are many avenues you can explore that will bring you a sense of purpose. It’s true that you may sometimes feel that your actions are just a drop in the ocean, that you are too small to make a difference.

But it’s not true.

Meaning is about bringing out the best in you, about doing good by yourself and others. And if we all commit to the goal of improving ourselves and the world we live in—as cliché as it sounds—and we truly believe it, then collectively—the single drop can grow up to become a wave.

Now it’s your turn to fill in the blank:

There Is More to Life Than ____________

Summing It All Up

The quest for meaning in our lives is perhaps the most important driver behind everything that we do. It’s the reason behind all reasons.

Some of the most prominent ways to build your purpose is by creating your own tribe; by striving to become a better version of yourself; by helping and serving others, and by setting goals and striving to achieve them.

What makes it challenging to put our finger on what purpose means exactly is that it’s a rather vast concept. It can be interpreted as many things by each one of us.

But then, maybe, there is no One and Only Meaning in life. Perhaps a better way to view our purpose and existence is more as a mosaic—each experience, each facet in our lives—family, friends, achievements, recognitions—constitutes a piece. You have to look at it in its totality to be able to say if you are happy with the picture you yourself have painted.

Or, perhaps, it is as Viktor Frankl said:

“The meaning of life is to give life meaning.”

And each of us has the freedom to decide on what this is.

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Anxiety Coping Mechanisms That Work When You’re Stressed to the Max

In today’s complex and ever changing society, it is almost impossible not to feel anxious and stressed at some point of your life. Stress and anxiety have become a fact of life for us all, and we all have to deal with the negative impact that stress can cause in our lives.

Stress is not something that suddenly enters into your life overnight. Stress slowly grows over time and it gets worse when you choose not to do anything about it.

“Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life.” — Andrew J. Bernstein

The consequences of not dealing with the unpleasant aspect of stress can be fatal to your mental, physical and overall wellbeing. There is, however, hope. There are ways in which you can minimize and control the negative impact stress can have in your life.

Once you understand what your stress triggers are and what anxiety coping mechanisms work best for you, you are then well on your way to managing anxiety and stress levels in your life.

The Impact of Stress and Anxiety

There has been an overwhelming amount of research done on the topic of stress and anxiety. For example there has been research done on; which gender is more stressed, which age group suffers the most stress, which country is the most stressed, which workplaces create high levels of stress, what are the triggers of stress, what is the cost of stress to the government and public health system and the list goes on.

What all this research highlights is that stress is universally well understood and experienced by many.

The problem, however, is that despite all this research and the fact we all know, stress is an unpleasant fact of life we in the western world are not very good at dealing with stress.

Because we are so bad at dealing with stress, we now face what many consider a crises point where stress is now one of the major causes that leads to the most lethal illnesses and long term health problems — high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity and insomnia are all medical conditions that can be related to or directly influenced by high levels of stress.

The Anxiety Coping Mechanisms That Work

These 5 strategies will enable you to manage the levels of stress in your life and avoid the detrimental impact stress and anxiety can have on your life – physically and mentally.

1. Know the Difference Between Anxiety and Stress

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” — Unknown

Knowing the difference between stress and anxiety is key to you reducing the impact of high levels of stress in your life.

Stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress. If we are constantly exposed to high levels of stress, then our anxiety will increase.((Health Status: How Is Anxiety Different From Stress?))

We all have very different in built coping mechanisms when it comes to dealing with stress and anxiety. What is stressful to one person may not necessarily stressful to another.

The symptoms we experience when anxious are often referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response. This comes from the idea that people primarily experience anxiety to help them either fight or run away from danger.

For example, if you saw a burglar, two options open to you would be to either – fight them off (fight) or try to run away (flight). Our fight or flight response would kick in to help us at this point.

The problem is that in today’s complex world, we are constantly exposed to disruption and change. Because we live more stressful lives, our body and our minds have not yet caught up to these changes. As a result, we now experience anxiety in situations where it is not necessarily as helpful because we cannot fight or run away from them (e.g. work or financial pressures).

2. Learn How to Challenge Your Unhelpful Thoughts

The way that we think about things has an impact on our anxiety levels. Many of these thoughts occur outside of our control, and can be negative or unhelpful.

It is therefore important to remember that they are just thoughts, without any real basis, and are not necessarily facts.

Challenge your unhelpful thoughts by asking these questions:

  • Is there any evidence that contradicts this thought?
  • What would I say to a friend who had this thought in a similar situation?
  • What are the costs and benefits of thinking in this way?
  • How will I feel about this in 6 months time?
  • Is there another way of looking at this situation?

Try to apply these questions to the unhelpful thoughts that you notice. It can help to reduce your anxiety levels. You can use this technique to test that your thoughts are realistic and balanced.

3. Learn How to Become a Solution Seeker

It is often hard to solve a problem when you are so immersed in the emotion of the problem. One way to deal with the problems you face and ease your stress levels is to to follow these three steps:

  1. Identify what the problem is and write it down
  2. Come up with a list of potential solutions and write them down
  3. Select the best solution from your list and then test it out. See how it goes and if it does not work pick another solution.

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” — Martin Luther King

I like this quote from Martin King. It highlights that by just taking one step, you are moving closer toward finding the solution to your problem. It is all about taking one step at a time – that is what solution seekers do.

4. Limit The Time You Spend Worrying

Anxious people tend to spend much of their time worrying. Sometimes they worry to the point that they find it very hard to ‘switch off’ and relax.

Indeed, one of the most frustrating things about feeling stressed and anxious is the seemingly uncontrollable worry that often occurs alongside it.

Therefore, if you can reduce the amount of time you spend worrying, you can reduce your anxiety levels.

To reduce the time you spend worrying, assign yourself a “limited” time like 10 minutes a day to allow yourself to worry. Any worries that pop into your head during the day, write them down. Then forget them until your assigned worry time. Usually it’s best to do this later in the day.

‘Worry time’ not only helps to reduce the time you spend worrying, but also proves that you can have more control of whether you engage in worry or not.

You may also find this guide useful:

How to Stop Worrying About the Future: 8 Practical Techniques

5. Learn How to Relax and Commit to It

It is important to make time to relax and do activities that are enjoyable. This can help to reduce your anxiety levels by calming the body and mind. It can also help you to sleep.

Without taking the time to unwind, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed.

Relaxation can involve doing something that you enjoy, or just being by yourself. Good examples might be reading a book or having a bath.

What you do does not really matter. Try to choose something that you enjoy and look forward to doing. Exercise is particularly effective at helping you to relax. Research has shown that if you are constantly active you are far more effective at managing your levels of stress.

Learning how to control your breathing is simple technique that can be particularly helpful if you feel dizzy or light headed when you are worried or stressed. This sometimes happens because people’s breathing changes and gets quicker when they feel distressed. This can be an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience.

Learning controlled breathing exercises can help you to manage these feelings more effectively. It can also help to give your mind and body a chance to calm down.

“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.” — Dorothy M. Neddermeyer

Tension often builds up when we feel upset or stressed. These symptoms can be painful and can cause anxiety in themselves.

Muscular relaxation exercises can help you to control such unpleasant symptoms. They can reduce physical tension and help you to relax in general. Yoga, massage and meditation are great activities to help your body and your mind relax.

6. Get to Know Yourself and Connect with Others

For me, this is the most important anxiety coping mechanism. I have put it last because if you fail to commit to any of the other five strategies, COMMIT TO THIS ONE.

It is this coping mechanism that will form a solid foundation for you to successfully manage the stress levels in your life.

Get to know you and accept who you are warts and all. Our anxiety and stress levels increase when we worry about what we are not achieving or what we are failing at. If we give ourselves permission that it is okay not to be “perfect” all the time, our anxiety and stress levels are more manageable.

“I just give myself permission to suck. I find this hugely liberating.” — John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars

Sharing your fears and anxiety with people who you are connected to will help you face your fears and deal with your problems. Although you might feel embarrassed or afraid to discuss your feelings with others, sharing can be a way to cope with a problem. And having someone to listen to you can help you feel supported.

When you feel supported, you are more likely to do the things you want or need to do by breaking the cycle of constant avoidance. The chances are the reality of the situation won’t be as worse as you expect, making you better equipped to manage, and reduce your anxiety.

Final Thoughts

The 6 anxiety coping mechanisms are tools to help you manage the stress levels in your life.

If you decide to try out these strategies, be prepared for it to feel uncomfortable and that change will not happen over night.

Keep trying and do not give up. Dig deep to find your faith to be a solution seeker who is always looking to create a present and future where you can live life to the fullest.

“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes everything is an emergency.” — Natalie Goldberg

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How to Stop Racing Thoughts When Your Mind Won’t Let Up

If you could see a diagram of my brain and you could imagine every line was a thought, it would look like you’d given a room full of 4 year olds crayons and told them to draw on the floor of a huge room. I don’t think one thing at a time. As my family say “I think Auntie Winn”.

My Auntie Winn could think about 30 conversations at the same time and expect you to jump from discussing world politics to the qualities of a good rock cake in less time than it took to the boil the kettle. Apparently, I do that to my husband too, I can often hear him saying “I know you think we’ve had this conversation today, however I’ve a feeling you’re giving me an answer to a conversation we had last Thursday in the hot tub!”

So, racing thoughts and me are best friends, or are we?

I realized that while I can be thinking a thousand thoughts at once, I don’t suffer from overwhelm, how is that? How to stop racing thoughts?

In this article, I want to share how I silence my mind, create some space and why it’s so good to do personally and professionally.

Does Everyone Have Racing Thoughts?

Before I share these ideas, I want to share something that really shocked me.

I decided to ask my social media friends if they “suffered” from a racing mind as so many of my clients do. The response was a little alarming:

100% of respondents said they felt overwhelmed with many saying they felt like their mind was crazy and “Switching off? What’s that!”

From my over busy friends’ minds, it seems that it doesn’t just impact on your mind, it also impacts on your actions, what you get done in a day and even your ability to get a decent nights sleep!

It really is time to get that mind to let up and give you some time isn’t it!

So how can we fix this?

Here I’m going to share a few tools to help you put the brakes on, calm your mind and achieve more without letting any of the important thoughts slip through your head.

How to Stop Racing Thoughts In Your Mind

1. Listen to your mind – Think like a pro

I realized that one of the skills I’ve learned since I became ill with Lupus is that, I’ve learned to think in the most powerful way possible.

Every thought is processed. I’ve been using this practice for so many years and I appreciate that I don’t consciously do this anymore. However, at the start, you will have to structure your thinking. When I say processed, I mean I am aware of the nature of my thoughts. For instance:

I could go on, however do you get the idea?

Listen to what your head has to say and then process it. If you don’t take the time to learn to do this, then ask yourself what impact this could have on your brain space, actions and results?

2. Calm the mind

When you’ve learned to actually listen to all that chatter in your head, it’s time to calm the mind.

Listening does not automatically equate to it all magically disappearing. And calming the mind doesn’t require a tropical paradise, a massage and the sounds of nature to achieve a bit of brain space.

For some clients, they’ve discovered the fastest way to shut their brains up is to crank up the music, so they literally can’t hear anything except their favourite song.

For others, 5 minutes in the garden is enough to make them rethink. I wouldn’t say there’s only one thing that takes you to a calm place, I’d have at least 12 physical things you can do to calm your mind down.

That way, whether you have a hyper mind with excitement, anger, too much going on or feeling completely overwhelmed by life, you have different ideas to work.

3. The Hi, Welcome, Good morning Game

For me, sometimes a walk under the big oak trees is enough; other times, I just find myself getting even more flustered as the thoughts fight for my attention. On those occasions I found this really simple exercise quietens my mind and makes me smile:

It’s so simple and yet works every time for me. All I do is visualize 10 people that I’ve met that week and visualize the first word I said to them. I’ve usually said something like “Great to see you” or “Hello” or “Welcome to my event!”

I love meeting people and I host many different kinds of events, so people are pleased to see me and we are looking forward to our time together. What a great set of emotions and feelings to recreate in my head.

How could you use my welcome exercise to remind you of something in your week that makes you feel good? (This also works on ear worms too!)

4. Focus the mind

When a coaching client arrives, they tend to start our session by talking so fast that I’m not sure even they can hear half of what they’re saying! After about 20 minutes, they are out of breath like they’ve been for a run, and their shoulders seem a little lighter as they’ve dumped the contents of their head on to me.

What is happening when a client does this is they are:

  • Becoming more aware of what is going on in their head. Sometimes actually hearing the truth for the first time themselves!
  • Putting everything in front of them metaphorically so they can work out what to work on and what to dump. I call it ditch it or deal with it. And it works wonders on “To do” lists too!
  • Noticing how everything in their head impacts on them — physically and emotionally.
  • Challenging the beliefs they are holding around their perception of reality.

And that’s just for starters! Read on for the next step.

5. Create a plan of action

Once you can see what is going on, you can create a plan of action that moves you forward.

Focus means “the main or central point of something, especially of attention or interest” and this is what you need to calm an overwhelmed head of racing thoughts.

While you may not have a coach to work with, create some ways to empty everything out of your head and focus on what you need/want to do. These could include:

  • Arrange to meet with a friend or colleague and agree that “without judgement” they will listen and not interrupt. Agree that you will donate an hour to enable them to do the same.
  • One Facebook friend told me that their “cure to a racing mind” was to “disappear to bed with a pen and notebook to write it all down.” While in theory that is a good idea, I asked them if this worked for them, and they said sometimes. Could that be because they’ve waited until bedtime to process everything and get it out, instead of dealing with it when it was really a problem? Journaling can store up a lot of negative emotion if we keep reading it, so pay attention to how your notes make you feel. Is it really beneficial to you or do you need to change the way you write?
  • Make the time to focus. Do you need to put it in the diary or will you natural make the time to do this?
  • Create a list of all the things you could do for all the things you have whirling around in your head. Make it a long list. Dismiss nothing.
  • Play the ditch it or deal with it game. So often what we think we should be stressing about is actually someone else’s definition of important, therefore ask yourself “does this really matter to me?

6. Less on your to do list

Years ago, people would answer “How are you?” with “I’m fine, thanks” or “I’ve had a bad cold but I’m getting better now, thanks!” However today’s reply is far more likely to be “Busy, how are you?”

Busy is not an emotion or feeling!

Many of us have a busy mind because we are so busy. More and more I’m being asked to help professionals and organization to create coach-able strategies to manage their time. Here’s a few of those ideas to help you with your racing mind:

Stop over thinking things.

We often over think how long a task that we hate doing is going to take and so put it off and thus it gets to stick around in your head!

Set a timer and know how long a task takes. Many clients have been able to clear a whole task from their head because their perception of its impact on their day and productivity has been changed.

Allow more time.

Contrary to the first top tip, we also underestimate how long other things take to do.

If you know a job will take an hour, allow 1.5 hours. This means if it doesn’t take that long, you’ve just made some brain space for yourself too, so it’s a win win situation.

Choose your words wisely.

Have you ever noticed how many sayings we have around words related to time? I really want some Me time. I never have the time. I know you’ve got a lot on, but make the time. I don’t want to spend my time telling you what to do, etc, etc.

Ask yourself if your choice of words free up your mind or make it even busier?

Don’t get side-tracked.

We all have alarms and reminders that ping up at us. Even our household appliance now bleeps at us saying “Hey, I’m ready, give me your attention!” Turn them off.

If you know you have a lot on, choose what you can hear carefully. Just like the person turning the music up so they can’t hear their own thoughts. Our ability to process what is going on in our heads can be impacted on by the email ping or the notification sounds.

I have seen presentations where we’ve been told the best course of action is Eisenhower’s matrix for time management, which asks you to place every task (or thought) into a grid. The blocks are labelled: Urgent, less urgent, important and less important.

While I’ve seen clients create their own version of this to great success. I also seen new clients who have told me that it takes them hours to complete the grid and so they get no work done and end up with even more flying around inside their heads!

That’s enough to drive anyone insane! What works for one person does not mean it will work for you. You could try relabelling Eisenhower matrix as my clients to make it personal to you, to encourage you to use it.

Alternatively, there is an app for everything. What about finding an app that enables you to empty your head. I love Wunderlist for enabling me to create some space in my head. In this way, you can put to one side thoughts while you concentrate on what is important right now.

7. Ditch that guilt

And lastly, if you have a brain that is running away with you, ditch the guilt because I wouldn’t mind betting you’ll free up a lot of space with that 1 action!

Guilt is one of those emotions that causes us to process things again and again and again. Look for the guilt in your thoughts, analyze why it exists and get rid of it.

Final Thoughts

It’s totally normal if you find your thoughts racing in your mind all the time. What you need to do is to really listen to your thoughts and take some concrete actions about those thoughts.

Forcing yourself to silence those thoughts is not the most efficient way in the long-run. Time to face these thoughts and find what works best for you to deal with these racing thoughts.

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How To Stop Insecure Attachment from Wreaking Havoc on Your Love Life

We are naturally wired biologically to desire attachment to others. Learning how to attach to others begins from the day we are born. We begin learning from birth about attachment and how relationships work through the interactions and care we receive from our primary caregiver (usually mom or dad).

The attachment of an infant to parent (or caregiver) can have a lasting impact on an individual and their adult relationships. Our relationships in infancy can have a profound affect on our future relationships because of what we learned in our earliest relationships.

When insecure attachment takes place during infancy and childhood, this can wreak havoc on adult relationships. Problems such as abuse, clinging to abusers, low self esteem, control issues, jealousy, emotional dependency, and relationship paranoia can become prevalent when insecure attachment in infancy/childhood affects adult relationships.

Not to fear though; there are many individuals who have experienced insecure attachment in infancy and childhood and have healthy relationships in adulthood. The key is recognizing the behaviors that may stem from insecure attachment and learn how to handle them.

What Causes Insecure Attachment?

As infants, we need a caregiver that is loving, attentive, and affectionate. The relationship between the caregiver (typically a parent) and baby creates a bond or attachment. A healthy and secure attachment occurs when the caregiver meets the babies needs and is loving. When there are problems with the care that is provided, insecure attachment occurs.

Healthy attachment is known as secure attachment. When secure attachment doesn’t occur, then by default an insecure attachment takes place. It is helpful to understand why insecure attachment may have occurred, so you can understand how your adult relationships have potentially been affected by your first relationships in life.

Insecure attachment can happen for a variety of reasons. There are also levels of insecure attachment based on the severity of the situation.

Physical Abuse and Neglect by Caregivers

For example, a baby that has endured physical abuse and neglect by their caregiver will likely be highly insecurely attached. They have a distrust of their caregiver because of the abuse. They will likely also have fear of this caregiver.

The infant desires love and care from the caregiver, but what they are given is harm and lack of care. This will affect their adult relationships, because they intrinsically learn that the one that they are supposed to trust the most harms them.

No Affectionate Interactions

Another way that insecure attachment occurs is when the physical needs for the baby are met, but there is no affectionate interactions. You can see extreme cases of this example in orphanages. The babies are provided with basic essential needs such as a crib to sleep and milk to drink. They are clothed and diapers are changed.

However, these babies do not receive affection and interaction from their caregiver. They are left alone in their crib for most of the hours of the day. They have learned that crying for affection and attention has not brought anyone to meet this need, so they have stopped crying for these emotional needs to be met.

Instead, they have a lack of emotional attachment or an insecure attachment because they do not have an interactive, affectionate relationship with a caregiver. This insecure attachment will likely affect their adult relationships.

A child can also grow up in a “normal home” and not have these emotional needs met. Their primary caregiver may attend to the physical needs, but fail to interact with them. The caregiver does not talk to the baby, play with the baby, or give the baby cuddles, hugs, and kisses. The caregiver, for whatever reason, does not provide the emotional interactions that are needed for the baby to bond and attach. Thus, insecure attachment occurs and adult relationships are affected in the future.

Inconsistency in Meeting the Baby’s Needs

Another example of why insecure attachment occurs is that of inconsistency in meeting the baby’s needs. In this situation, the baby’s needs are sometimes met when they cry and fuss. However, other times the baby is left to cry and cry without their needs being met.

There is an inconsistency in the care from their primary caregiver. This creates a distrust from the child to parent. The baby learns that they cannot fully count on their caregiver to provide for their needs or comfort them all of the time.

An insecurity within the child will develop because they do not know when they can count on their caregiver to provide for them. There is an uncertainty in having their needs met which creates anxiety as well as distrust.

This can obviously carry into adult intimate relationships and wreak havoc.

10 Signs of Insecure Attachment

There are some behaviors that are caused by insecure attachment. A variety of unhealthy behaviors can present in early childhood because of insecure attachment.

This article will focus on the behaviors that are evident in adulthood because of insecure attachment. Here are some behaviors that can result from insecure attachment in infancy which results in unhealthy and insecurely attached adult relationships:

1. Demand Time

For example, you do not want your spouse or partner to do things without you. Your desire is to spend all of your and their spare time together. You demand their time and attention, to the exclusion of other friendships and relationships.

2. Suspicion or Jealousy

For example, you are suspicious of your partner or spouse’s behavior and the people they work with. You question their work relationships and who they interact with in the workplace.

You are suspicious of anyone that you feel they are getting to close to, as you fear they may leave you for another individual.

3. Lack of Emotional Intimacy

For example, your spouse or partner feels that they emotionally can’t get close to you. They describe you as someone who “puts up walls” or that you are generally hard to get close to emotionally.

4. Emotional Dependency

For instance, you depend on your spouse or partner for your emotional well-being. Your expectation is that your happiness comes from your relationship.

If you aren’t happy, it’s because you feel you aren’t being fulfilled by your partner or spouse.

5. Fearful

For example, you desire closeness in your intimate relationships. However, your experience has been that if you get too close to your loved one, they will hurt you. This causes you to be a mix of emotions.

You draw your loved one near and then you push him or her away. Your fear of getting too close because you don’t want to get hurt causes relationship dysfunction.

6. Lack of Trust

You don’t trust your spouse or partner to do right by you. You fear they may cheat on you or you fear that they will leave you. You cannot seem to bring yourself to fully trusting him or her.

7. Emotionally Shut off

In heated arguments you shut down and turn off emotionally. You close yourself off emotionally because you don’t want to get hurt any further.

8. Fear of Abandonment

You fear that your spouse or partner will one day leave you. You don’t have any justified reason for having this belief. Instead, it is a fear you harbor deep inside and it prevents you for getting too close to him or her because deep down you believe they are someday going to leave you anyway.

This fear may stem from being left by your caregiver. Even if they came back to get you, the fear can still remain if you have an insecure attachment.

9. Controlling

You dominate your intimate relationship and try to control your partner or spouse. Your underlying fear of rejection or of having the relationship not meet your needs drives your controlling behavior.

You may dictate how things are run in your household and how your spouse/partner is to act. You feel that if you have control over their behavior and the functioning of your household, then you have control over the potential for being hurt in the relationship.

Fear drives the controlling behaviors.

10. Affection Issues

You are not comfortable with hugs and other forms of public displays of affection that seem normal to others. You may not have any issues being intimate in private because you are having a need met, but your physical affection in public suffers.

Your discomfort may stem from not being held and provided with attention as an infant or child. Your relationship with your caregiver was cold in comparison to a securely attachment caregiver and child relationship.

Because of this lack of affection, you have not learned how to give and receive physical affection comfortably.

A Rocky Relationship

Typically what you can expect in an insecurely attached adult relationship is one of two directions: rocky with lots of ups and downs or ambivalence.

The rocky relationships develop because the individual has mixed feelings. They want a close relationship, but they have been harmed by the one who was supposed to care the most for them (their caregiver in infancy).

They draw near and then push away when things get tough. This causes them to also create defense mechanisms to protect themselves when problems arise in the relationship. Defense mechanisms can be unhealthy and cause more turmoil.

The ambivalence can stem from not having needs met as an infant, so they have learned to not care. They develop a wall because they cannot count on others to meet their needs (or so they think because of their past experience).

They will prevent themselves from getting too emotionally involved and attached to others because they have a distrust of others to meet their emotional and/or physical needs.

The Solution to Your Attachment Problem

The solution to your attachment problem is first recognizing that there is a problem. Next you must figure out which behaviors in your current relationship are unhealthy and stem from this problem, so that you can then work to correct the behaviors.

1. Recognizing the Problematic Behavior

You cannot fix something unless you recognize that it is broken. The first step to healing a relationship and resolving insecure attachment is identifying that there is a problem.

The problem manifests itself in our behaviors. The examples provided above are just some of the behaviors that can result from insecure attachment. There are many others.

The key is recognizing if there is something wrong in your intimate relationships which is revealed in a pattern of behavior that potentially stems from insecure attachment.

No parent or caregiver is perfect, because there are no perfect people. We are all flawed beings, so don’t be quick to blame your parents for your current relationships. They may not have done everything perfect, but you are responsible for your own actions as an adult.

You can learn to have securely attached adult relationships, even if you had the most broken and insecurely attached relationships in infancy and childhood.

2. Develop Relationships with Those who can Securely Attach

A relationship between two individuals who suffer from insecure attachment will never result in a securely attached relationship without help. It is hard enough to have a relationship between two healthy individuals who experienced securely attached relationships in childhood.

When one individual has attachment issues, there will be problems in the relationship because their behavior will manifest the problem. If both individuals have attachment issues, it is more likely that the relationship will have a great deal of problems, drama, and extreme behaviors.

The goal is to have a healthy relationship between two individuals who can have healthy and secure attachments in their adult relationships. If one or both recognize that there are behaviors that stem from insecure attachment, then help should be sought.

If you are wondering whether you are able to securely attach in a relationship, there is a free test that you can take here: Attachment Styles and Close Relationships. This test can help you better understand the way you think, behave, and your subsequent ability to securely attach in a relationship.

3. Therapy

Therapy is the best way to overcome behaviors that stem from insecure attachment.

When seeking out a therapist or counselor in helping you overcome your insecure attachment, ask the right questions. Ask if they have helped others with this problem. Then ask if their client was able to overcome the insecure attachment and in turn able to develop a healthy attached relationship.

If you are currently in a relationship, also ask if they will work with both you and your spouse/partner if necessary. In some cases, couple’s therapy is helpful as it can help the other person better understand your problems, so you can work together on the solutions.

4. Deal with your Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms develop as a way for us to protect ourselves. When we have anxieties and fears that we don’t know how to handle with good coping skills, we then develop defense mechanisms.

For example, we may have fear of abandonment issues because of real abandonment that happened in childhood. We carry that issue into our intimate relationships in adulthood because we haven’t learn to deal with this fear properly.

In turn, we displace (the defense mechanism) the fear from childhood onto our current partner and act out of this fear. We question their motives and then act clingy when we fear the relationship is rocky. This is obviously not a healthy way to act in a relationship.

Understanding defense mechanisms and recognizing the ones you may be using to squelch your fears and anxieties can help you. Read up on defense mechanisms and look at yourself introspectively to determine if you utilize any unhealthy defense mechanisms.

If you do, then knowing is half the battle. Find new, healthy ways of handling your fears and anxieties. Counseling can help with this as well. Here is a helpful article on the subject: How Not to Let Your Defense Mechanisms Control You

5. Work on Change

The way to change is to recognize the problematic behavior and work to correct it. Once you know that the problem causing the behavior is your insecure attachment from earlier in life, then you can work to change.

For example, you have always avoided talk about marriage and a future together with your significant other. You have a fear of abandonment, so you don’t want to even broach the topic of marriage, because if you got married and they left you it would hurt even more. Your fears are over-riding your decision making.

Once you realize where the fear is coming from, then you can make the decision to take your fears head on by having the discussion about a future and potentially marriage.

If you feel that you can’t do it, then seek out a counselor for help. They can help you work through your fears. Some fears and anxieties are so deeply imbedded that we need help drawing them out and taking them on.

Another example of making change is trusting your spouse/partner. Recognizing that they haven’t had any reason to deserve your distrust is the first step.

Next, work on changing the behaviors that stem from your lack of trust. Perhaps you secretly check their phone daily. Stop doing it.

Make yourself change the behaviors that stem from your past insecure attachments. If you are unable to stop the behavior on your own, then seek a therapist to help you.

Final Thoughts: Don’t Give Up!

Don’t give up on having healthy relationships. Chalking up your behavior to “that’s just who I am”, will not help you have healthy, securely attached relationships.

Identify that you do have a problem, then work to correct the behaviors and you will be on your way to healthier and happier intimate relationships.

You do not have to remain stuck in an insecure relationship status. You have the ability to work to change yourself, starting today.

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Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.((Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue))

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. 

If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.((NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired))

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.((Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome))

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued.

Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.((Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired))

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.((Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea))

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.((Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown))

Lifestyle-Related Causes of Fatigue

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Workplace-Related Causes of Fatigue

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

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