Anxiety Symptoms That Many People Overlook

“Anxious” is a word with two faces. Sometimes it means eager excitement. “I’m anxious to see you!” we say, as we get off the phone with a friend who’s coming to visit. The other side of “anxious” is a bit darker: “I’m anxious about that test,” we say, when we’re worried about the results. We call the second meaning “anxiety,” and most of us experience it from time to time.

In common usage, both meanings of “anxious” describe our responses to fleeting, time-limited events. But anxiety can also have a much more powerful grip on many of us. Without the right kind of attention, it can rule our lives.

I’m a psychotherapist in private practice north of Boston, Massachusetts, and I’ve worked with many clients who have anxiety. In this, the first of two articles on a psychotherapist’s views on anxiety, I’ll describe what anxiety is and how you can tell whether you or someone close to you is suffering from it. In Part II, I’ll go into its causes and treatments, as well as the best ways to help heal from anxiety disorders.

Anxiety is more common than people think

More people in the United States have anxiety disorders than any other mental illness. Anxiety affects more than 40 million adult Americans and about one in eight children. Some experts put the estimate much higher, because many people don’t know they have anxiety, are diagnosed incorrectly, or don’t seek help for it.

In my psychotherapy practice, nearly all my clients have some form of anxiety. Sometimes it’s the main reason they came to therapy, and sometimes it’s an underlying issue that shows up after we’ve handled the immediate reason they came for help.

Only about one-third of people who have anxiety disorders seek treatment.

Many anxious people know they have anxiety, but many more do not. They think catastrophizing, expecting the worst, worrying about what people think of them, or staying up late at night worrying about just about everything is normal.

It feels normal because that’s what they’ve been used to most of their lives – but it doesn’t have to be. Most people with an anxiety disorder can overcome it with treatment, support, and self-help strategies.

The difference between feeling worried and having anxiety

An anxiety disorder is different from feeling worried or being afraid. Worries about new or uncertain situations are normal, and feeling afraid in potentially dangerous situations is not only normal, but can sometimes save your life. Worrying about how you will perform on an exam might motivate you to study harder. Worrying about an erratic driver in front of you might help you drive more defensively. Feeling fearful about driving on a winding road in a storm might get you to wait for safer weather conditions.

Also, not everybody who worries a lot has an anxiety disorder. You might feel anxious because of too much work, too much stress, too little sleep, too much coffee, or low blood sugar.

The biggest distinction between normal worry or fear and anxiety disorders is that anxiety disorders involve some form of chronic anxiety, and the anxiety interferes with normal functioning.

7 specific anxiety disorders

There are several kinds of anxiety disorders, and they each look and feel different from one another. One person might have intense panic, another might avoid social situations, another might be unreasonably frightened by dogs, and someone else might worry about nearly everything.

All anxiety disorders share a persistent fear or worry in situations where most people would not be afraid. Specific anxiety disorders have other, specific symptoms.

1. Social Phobia

People with social phobias are afraid of embarrassment or judgement in social situations and may blush, feel tongue-tied, go blank, have rapid heart rate, or show other signs of anxiety in those situations. They will avoid social situations whenever possible.

2. Special Phobias

People with special phobias might be unreasonably afraid of animals such as dogs or spiders, natural events like storms or lightning, heights, open spaces, enclosed spaces, and other parts of the normal world. They may go to extremes to avoid these things.

3. Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can include feeling nervous most of the time, a sense of impending doom, feeling helpless, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, a queasy feeling, and tension in the neck, shoulders, or both.

4. Acute Stress Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Both of these anxiety disorders sometimes occur after people have witnessed or experienced a physical threat. Symptoms include disturbing memories, flashbacks of the event, trouble sleeping or concentrating, and feeling either tense or numb. Acute Stress Disorder symptoms begin within a month of the traumatic event, while PTSD symptoms typically begin later. Symptoms can last for many years without treatment.

5. Panic Disorder

People with panic disorder have unexpected, severe anxiety attacks during which they are afraid they might die, pass out, or that they are suffocating. They often avoid places where panic attacks occur, which can lead to agoraphobia.

6. Hypochondria

People with hypochondria (now called Illness Anxiety Disorder) worry about having illnesses they probably don’t have. They catastrophize minor or imagined symptoms into a worst-case scenario. For example, they may be convinced that a headache means they have a fatal brain tumor.

7. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Sufferers may check obsessively, count when counting is unnecessary, and in general do ritualized behaviors. They feel unbearably anxious if they do not perform these rituals.

The most common anxiety disorders, in approximately this order, are: Social Phobia, Specific Phobias, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Acute and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders, Panic Disorder, Hypochondria, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

In my practice, I most often encounter Generalized Anxiety Disorder and PTSD, though I have also had many clients with Panic Disorder, Hypochondria, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Sometimes, people come in with more than one anxiety disorder. Hypochondria and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, for example, often show up in the same person, as do Social Anxiety Disorder and perfectionism which, though not an “official” anxiety disorder, contributes greatly to most forms of anxiety.

Signs of anxiety disorders

If you identify with any of the following symptoms, you might be dealing with an anxiety disorder.

  • You’re almost always worried or on edge.
  • You have irrational fears that you just can’t shake.
  • You’re often afraid that bad things will happen if you don’t do things in a particular way.
  • You avoid everyday situations or activities because they make you anxious.
  • You have sudden, unpredictable attacks of heart-pounding panic.
  • You almost always expect the worst.
  • You have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep.
  • Your muscles almost always feel tense.
  • You often feel overwhelmed.
  • You expect more from yourself than most people do
  • You tend to focus on your health and personal problems more than other things in your life.
  • Your anxiety interferes with work, school, or family life.
  • You have one or more of the following physical symptoms: pounding heart, sweating when you’re not exercising or in a warm place, headaches, frequent upset stomach or diarrhea, dizziness, shortness of breath, shaking or trembling.

Some anxiety disorders are harder to spot

In my experience with psychotherapy clients, PTSD is usually the most difficult to spot because its symptoms don’t always cleanly match the standard definition. PTSD can look like depression, several other forms of anxiety disorder, ADHD, or a combination of mental illnesses.

An example: I once worked with a client who seemed to cycle through several anxiety disorders within a few months. She first displayed typical signs of panic disorder, and we quickly worked through them. But then OCD symptoms appeared. Again, we worked through them in what seemed like record time. Irrational fears and intrusive, disturbing thoughts soon followed.

It was a few months before we understood that what she was actually suffering from was the aftermath of childhood trauma. She had what I now think of as free-floating anxiety – a form of anxiety that unconsciously attaches itself to other anxiety syndromes. A clue to understanding how to help her was that she had majored in psychology and knew about various mental illnesses. Her half-remembered knowledge of common anxiety disorders gave her free-floating anxiety a place to focus. Working through the trauma helped her resolve all her anxiety symptoms.

Stay tuned!

In this article, we’ve looked at how worrying and fear are different from anxiety disorders and have identified the main symptoms of common anxiety disorders. In Part II of this two-part series, we’ll go into the causes of anxiety disorders, their treatments, and some self-help practices people with anxiety disorders and their loved ones can do.

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10 Best Pillows To Choose For A Good Night Sleep

Stress is an ever-present part of modern life. Getting a good night of sleep is more important than ever. If you get the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night, then you spend roughly 33% of your lifetime slumbering. When we aren’t able to get enough sleep, it affects how our bodies and minds work. Taking the opportunity to get enough rest is one of the best gifts that you can give to yourself.

You can’t underestimate the power of having an excellent pillow. Just like you wouldn’t want to spend your work day walking in shoes that don’t fit properly, you won’t want to spend nap time on a lumpy and uncomfortable pillow.

Just think about the structure of your neck for a moment. Your cervical spine is comprised of the most delicate and most mobile vertebrae along your spinal cord. The structure allows us to turn and tilt our heads, but those tiny bones are also prone to injury and misalignment. If you’ve ever “slept funny” or strained your neck, you know how miserable it can be.

Now imagine the angle of your neck when you sleep. If you’re using a standard pillow, chances are that your neck sits at an awkward angle during sleep–possibly for several hours at a time. A recent study demonstrated that of orthopedic, contoured memory foam pillows, and down pillows, those stuffed with goose-down were the least-supportive.[1]

The perfect pillow will look different for every person depending on their sleeping position.[2] Ultimately, the pillow that supports the natural curves of your spine will serve you best. I know it can seem like a lot to take in, but any old pillow simply won’t do when your spinal health is on the line. Luckily, Lifehack has rounded up our top ten favorite pillows to help you get a good night of sleep.

The 10 best pillows for getting a good night of sleep and waking up refreshed

1.Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow Combination With Adjustable Fit and Zipper Removable Kool-Flow Micro-Vented Cover

If the thought of having a pillow stuffed with goose down makes you sneeze, then the Snuggle-Pedic would be a good choice for you. This pillow is made of a mixture of two types of shredded memory foam, which makes its lightweight and soft without all the feathers.

Regardless of your preferred sleeping position, the Snuggle-Pedic is designed to conform to your shape to give you excellent spinal support. The Micro-vented Bamboo keeps your head cool by allowing air to flow through the pillow. The breathability combined with the orthopedic support make this a solid option for everyone.

Best pillow for: side, back, and stomach sleepers, people with allergies, pregnant women, people who tend to overheat while they sleep

Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow Combination With Adjustable Fit and Zipper Removable Kool-Flow Micro-Vented Cover, $49.99

2.Sleep Innovations Cool Contour Memory Foam Pillow with Soft Microfiber Cover

Back and side-sleepers, this one is for you. The contoured shape of this memory foam pillow offers your neck the support it needs. The microfiber cover keeps you cool so that you’ll spend less time chasing the cool side of the pillow and more time in dreamland.

Best pillow for: side and back sleepers, people who overheat while sleeping

Sleep Innovations Cool Contour Memory Foam Pillow with Soft Microfiber Cover, $40.08

3. My Pillow Premium Series Bed Pillow

As its name suggests, the MyPillow is all about you. You choose from one of four loft levels based upon your size and whether you are a stomach, back, or side-sleeper. One of the most frustrating things about standard pillows is that they tend to go flat. The special interlocking fill in the MyPillow maintains its shape throughout the night.

This pillow also holds up to machine washing and drying, which makes it easy to clean. Easy care and a product tailored to fit your needs make the MyPillow experience worthwhile.

Best pillow for: stomach, back, and side sleepers, machine washing, users who need a customized experience

My Pillow Premium Series Bed Pillow, Standard/Queen Size, White Level, $79.95

4. Coop Home Goods – PREMIUM Adjustable Loft – Shredded Hypoallergenic Certipur Memory Foam Pillow

We don’t need the same pillow every night. Depending on what you do during the day, you may feel that you need to increase or decrease the padding in your pillow. Coop’s Certipur Memory Foam pillow is designed to allow you to add or remove stuffing at your leisure.

If you change your sleep position often, you can make this pillow work for you. The bamboo-derived cover is breathable so that you can stay cool as you rest. Hypoallergenic and dust-mite resistant materials make this an excellent pillow for the allergy-prone as well as those who just want an orthopedically-sound experience.

Best pillow for: all sleep positions, allergy sufferers, people who need to adjust their pillows often, people who need tend to overheat while sleeping

Coop Home Goods – PREMIUM Adjustable Loft – Shredded Hypoallergenic Certipur Memory Foam Pillow with washable removable cooling bamboo derived rayon cover, $79.95

5. Buckwheat Pillow – Zen Chi Organic Buckwheat Pillow Queen Size (20″ X 30″)- 100 Percent Cotton Cover with Organic Buckwheat Hulls

For readers who would like to step away from the synthetic memory foam options, the Zen Chi Buckwheat Pillow can provide all the same benefits minus the chemicals. Buckwheat hulls are a natural product that not only conform to the shape of your spine, but also keep you cool.

Using buckwheat hulls for mats and pillows has been a practice for centuries–think of this filler as the original memory foam.

Best pillow for: environmentally conscious consumers, people who overheat during sleep, all sleeping positions

Buckwheat Pillow – Zen Chi Organic Buckwheat Pillow Queen Size (20″ X 30″)- 100 Percent Cotton Cover with Organic Buckwheat Hulls, $39.95

6.Cooling Gel Memory Foam Pillow

In case you haven’t noticed, staying cool is critical to falling into a relaxing sleep. The Cooling Gel Memory Foam Pillow is (as you’d expect) made of 60D memory foam with a gel layer to channel heat away from you.

The curved shape of this pillow makes it an excellent choice for side and back sleepers. The foam offers your neck the support it needs so that you can wake up feeling rested and refreshed. The hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant materials keep you from having the allergic response you might have to other materials.

Best pillow for: side and back sleepers, allergy sufferers, people who overheat during sleep, people with chronic neck and back pain

Cooling Gel Memory Foam Pillow, $29.83

7. BioPEDIC Ultra-Fresh Anti-Odor Standard size Pillow

The BioPEDIC Ultra-Fresh is a fresh take on a standard pillow. The exterior is 100% cotton, which wicks moisture away from you. The polyester interior is hypoallergenic and anti-microbial.

If you need to wash your pillow often due to allergies, the BioPEDIC is a great choice.

Best pillow for: allergy sufferers, machine washing

BioPEDIC Ultra-Fresh Anti-Odor Standard size Pillow (pack of 4), $39.99

8. Mediflow Original Waterbase Pillow

In a Johns Hopkins University study, this pillow was the top scorer in all five categories tested, including relief of neck pain and perception of sleep quality.

The Mediflow pillow’s design is unique in that it takes your standard polyester-fiber filled pillow and improves on it by adding a water pouch. You can adjust the internal water base to give the pillow more or less firmness depending on your sleeping position and preferences. If you prefer the sleeping experience of a standard pillow over a contoured memory foam pillow, this will give you the familiarity of the old standby with a little extra oomph.

Best pillow for: a customizable experience, neck pain

Mediflow Original Waterbase Pillow, $49.97

9. Royal Hotel’s Down Pillow – 500 Thread Count Cotton

Nothing says luxury like these 500 thread count down pillows from Royal Hotel. This pillow is the middle ground between too-soft down and too-firm memory foam. Royal Hotel uses a combination of bacteria-free down and small feathers to achieve that firmer-than-regular-down feel. If you love the pillows you sleep on at fancy hotels, you’ll enjoy these.

Although you can’t toss these into the washing machine, you can throw them in the dryer to fluff them.

Best pillow for: people who need a pillow softer than memory foam but firmer than regular down

Royal Hotel’s Down Pillow – 500 Thread Count Cotton, $159.99

10. Z by MALOUF 100% Natural Talalay Latex Zoned Pillow

I will admit that when I heard that these were made of Latex, I was a bit wary about how comfortable they could be. The latex material in these pillows, which contains no synthetic additives, comes from the sap of sustainable rubber trees which undergoes a process to give it a consistency similar to foam.

The natural latex interior never needs to be fluffed, doesn’t retain moisture, and it’s dust mite resistant. The shape of this pillow is best for back and side sleepers, but it may prove too firm for stomach-sleepers. The bamboo covering is soft and breathable so that you can stay cool throughout the night.

Best pillow for: back and side sleepers, environmentally conscious consumers, people prone to overheating during sleep

Z by MALOUF 100% Natural Talalay Latex Zoned Pillow, $139.99

Featured photo credit: Petr Kratochvil / Public Domain Pictures via publicdomainpictures.net

Reference

[1] Spine Health: Pillow Support and Comfort
[2] Clearwater Chiropractic: How a Pillow Plays an Important Role During Your Sleep

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Productivity Lessons from the Giants: Zuckerberg, Gates, Nadella, and Buffett

Being productive is more than just sitting at a desk and working. We’re at an age where everyone is more reachable than ever, but this comes with a risk of losing focus and concentrating on the wrong things at the wrong time.

There is a difference between effectiveness, efficiency and productivity, with the focus for most working individuals and companies, on the latter.[1]

This is no coincidence, some of the world’s most influential people got to where they are by developing, maintaining, and improving productivity. High achievers like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Satya Nadella and Warren Buffett master the following skills to always stay productive to get what they want.

1. Make Every Communication Count

Communication can be a block to productivity. Devoting energy in the wrong place leads to time being wasted.

Co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates for example, is an advocate of communicating by email. And being a self-proclaimed master of emails is also one way business magnate Elon Musk stays productive; in his own words claiming the reason for this is, I’m very good at email.[2]

Minimizing communication by phone or through meetings frees up time to concentrate on more imperative issues. So until email is eliminated altogether, messages can be deferred and thus allow you take control of your own schedule.[3]

2. Optimize at Every Opportunity

Musk also advocates constantly questioning your productivity.[4] Ask yourself how you could do something more efficiently or better use your time daily for as many scheduled events, meetings, and projects as possible.

This idea of optimizing your time and work also runs true for Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, who likes to keep things simple. He eliminates the mundane, or in his own words, “silly or frivolous” decisions in life, which allows him to concentrate on his work and to be as productive as possible. One apparent example of this simplicity is his go-to grey t-shirt and jeans work outfit which he wears every day. Find out more about how keeping things simple leads to better decisions: Make Better Decisions by Knowing How Decision Fatigue Works

And he’s not the only one – the late Steve Jobs famously wore almost solely black turtlenecks, Albert Einstein was known for wearing the same grey suit and having unkempt hair, and you’ll only see Obama in either grey or black suits. Check out Why Highly Successful People Wear The Same Thing Every Day

Finding the most simple and optimized way of completing tasks and projects means energy spent on something trivial, can be retargeted towards more important decision for your business.

This is also applicable to getting the simple things done first. This way, smaller tasks and decisions aren’t a distraction from tackling the bigger ones. Here’s how to master your tasks in a productive way: How to Adjust the Task, Change Your Mood, and Boost Productivity

3. Bust Multi-tasking

Studies have shown that the brain doesn’t do things simultaneously, but rather switches between tasks. The implications for productivity means that rather than focusing on many things at a time, we are spending energy and brain-power on the action of switching from one task to another. If you still think that you can multi-task, read this: Why the Brain Can’t Do Two Things at the Same Time

Eliminating multi-tasking can therefore increase productivity. Being in the moment and concentrating on one specific task will allow you to complete it without agonizing about what’s going to happen later in the day, or in the next meeting.

One way of doing this is by delegating and collaborating with others. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella announced in 2014,[5] that the company will

“reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

With such a vast number of apps and services allowing for collaboration through video conferences, remote meetings, and even augmented and virtual reality, making use of these technologies (albeit almost exclusively those by Microsoft), helps the likes of Nadella stay productive.[6]

4. Stick to One Thing and Master It

Writing about Bill Gates, author Cal Newport recently argued that distractions minimize the impact of our work as well as our overall potential.[7] In a process, he refers to as deep working, the idea is that we can successfully maximize impact by spending a dedicated amount of time (even just an hour or two) working with urgency and eliminating all distractions.[8]

In fact, it is this ability to meticulously dedicate focus to one task at a time, that allowed Bill Gates to found a billion-dollar business in just a couple of months.

Another way of perfecting the art of focus comes from American business magnate Warren Buffett, who uses a 3-step productivity strategy (also known as the ‘two list’ strategy) to help his employees.

  • Step 1 – Make a list of twenty-five goals (these could be career goals, goals for a particular project, or even general goals for a specific week or month).
  • Step 2 – Review the list, highlighting the five most important goals, and then separating these on to a new, separate list. These are your ‘Top 5’.
  • Step 3 – Focus on achieving items from the ‘Top 5’ list first, disregarding the rest of the written goals until they are completed.

In this strategy, Buffett argues the focus should be on the ‘top 5’ list, treating the remaining twenty goals as a distraction.

Focusing on a smaller number of important goals first allows for a more manageable and thereby achievable way of working. As a result, you can set your own schedule and take control of your time.

Learn how Buffett prioritizes his life goals here: Most People End up Being Average Because They Don’t Keep This List

It’s Easier Than Ever to Get Things Done Fast

We live in an age where we no longer need to initiate an action or conversation to get the information we need. AI is moving into our workplace, and various Apps and services are now integrating features that predict our next step and optimize, prioritize, and multitask for us, which ultimately leaves us more time and brain-space to be as productive as possible.

It’s essential for everyone of us to identify our own priority, stick to it and minimize all distractions to achieve what we want most.

Reference

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How to Know If It’s Unconditional Love or Not

Unconditional love doesn’t happen right away. At the beginning of a romantic relationship, a ton of superficial factors come into play that draw you to another person and make you feel like you’ve fallen in love.

New love is always conditional

The first thing that grabs your attention is probably something like: their beautiful eyes or cute laugh. As the two of you get to know each other you learn that you have the same taste in music or that you both love the same type of food. You can’t get enough of this person and find all of their little quirks endearing.

This excitement makes you feel like you’re in love. But this isn’t unconditional love; it’s infatuation. In fact, it’s conditional love and relies entirely upon these superficial characteristics. As the relationship grows older, it loses its spark. That once adorable snort they make every time they laugh? Now it’s ordinary, maybe even annoying.

Questioning what kind of love you have is normal

Your personal values come into play at this stage of the relationship. How your partner feels about personal, political or social issues suddenly becomes important. Because if you don’t share intrinsic values, you realize all you have left to keep you together is that laugh.

At this stage in your relationship, you start to really examine what sort of love you share. You might even have some worry or doubts, asking yourself, “is it conditional love or unconditional love?” What most people want at this point is to be absolutely sure they have unconditional love in their relationship. It’s the security of having this unconditional love that will keep the two of you together and help you make big life decisions, like deciding to live together, to get married, or to have kids.

It’s totally normal to start reassessing your relationship and even worrying about the love you share. This is the point in the relationship when you wonder if the two of you should stay together or not. When you reach this stage, it’s important to know exactly what unconditional love is. Unfortunately, most people believe some common misconceptions about unconditional love, which tends to complicate the decision making process.

Unconditional love is not “no matter what you do.”

Far too many people think that unconditional love means staying with a person no matter what they do. They think that true love means overlooking everything their partner does and never giving up on them. This misconception can actually be dangerous and has lead to a number of people staying in abusive relationships. The things your partner does every day affect your life, your feelings, and your well-being. You should never overlook their actions.

Unconditional love means you should love somebody no matter what happens to them. If your partner contracts a serious disease or illness, unconditional love means you’ll stay by their side while they undergo treatment. If they are in a terrible accident and have to go through physical therapy to recover, or if they lose their job due to downsizing, you’ll be there for them. This dedication in the face of adversity is unconditional love. You want to be their support system no matter what happens to them. Not no matter what they do to you.

Unconditional love is not codependency

Now, just because unconditional love means supporting your partner no matter what happens to them, it does not mean that they should take advantage of your love. Your partner shouldn’t rely on you to meet all of their emotional needs. Ultimately, each person is responsible for their own happiness. An unhealthy emotional reliance like this is actually codependency, not unconditional love.

How can you tell the difference? It’s codependency if either person in the relationship: relies on the other person to feel happy, loses your personal identity, or is no longer an independent party in the relationship. If you have no boundaries with your significant other and you have a hard time telling them “no”, you’re experiencing codependency, not unconditional love.

Unconditional love is not loving everything about your partner

Your significant other is a human and humans are flawed. You are not required to love every single one of those flaws. In fact, unconditional love means you will dislike a few things about your partner and that’s completely normal.

Loving every single thing means you are only focusing on the good characteristics. You refuse to believe your partner could have anything negative about them. That’s not rational, however, because nobody is perfect! Everybody has bad traits! If you choose to ignore them, you’re probably still in the infatuation stage of your relationship and haven’t yet reached unconditional love.

Unconditional love is not over-protecting your partner

Let’s get something straight: nobody wants to see something bad happen to the people they love. The desire to protect your loved ones is a natural response to your personal relationships. Sometimes, though, being overprotective stands in the way of their progress.

When you have unconditional love for your partner, you want to see them take steps to improve their lives and reach their goals. These steps, however, are often difficult to take and filled with the risk of failure. And with this failure comes disappointment and pain. If you truly love your partner, you’ll understand that some pain can’t be avoided and is even necessary to get them to where they want to be in life. Being overprotective can actually hurt them in the long run.

Real unconditional love allows the two of you to change and grow as individuals over time

When you have unconditional love, it allows the two of you to change and grow as individuals over time. Your love for each other is in your shared personal values and that won’t change over time. As you each develop and work toward becoming a better person for yourself and your future, unconditional love is what keeps you together. In fact, you are together because you want to support the person through these critical changes. You want to see them change and improve themselves. A couple with unconditional love will never “grow apart”. If you find emotional distance creeping its way between the two of you, it’s because your personal values don’t align. As you grow on a personal level, you’ll begin to notice these difference where unconditional love doesn’t exist.

Unconditional love also allows you to be happy without your partner. It means that you can be independent, each of you pursuing your own interests. Unconditional love gives you a certain freedom in your relationship. It’s the freedom to be your own person, to have solo time, to achieve your personal goals, and to live happily. When you are able to achieve your personal goals, you have a better understanding of yourself. Knowing yourself and loving yourself allow you to love another person unconditionally.

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How Long Term Relationship Couples Keep Their Passion For Sex

Long passionate kisses. Ripping off each other’s clothes. Frequent sex. Trying multiple new sex positions. Not able to keep your hands off each other. If this wouldn’t exactly describe your current sex life with your partner. You’re certainly not alone.

Most couples experience stronger and more intense sexual urges at the beginning of their relationship (often referred to as the “honeymoon” phase); but as relationships progress, so too does our interest in sex.

It is rare for sexual desire to remain at that super passionate state past the first few months of a relationship. Somewhere between 6 months and 2.5 years, our sexual desire wanes as our relationship becomes more familiar. We become friends and companions, in addition to lovers.

As a relationship progresses we also turn our attention to other life demands like work, and taking care of our homes, social lives, pets and children. Evolutionary psychologists have even suggested our desire has to decrease because we literally could not sustain those early levels of passion and be productive members of our community. We would be late for work, miss out on seeing friends and forget to buy groceries. In essence, life continues and sex is forced to take a backseat.

But that doesn’t mean your sex life is doomed or has be in a permanent rut. In fact, there are plenty of scientifically proven things you can do to reintroduce passion into your relationship.

One of the biggest things found to predict higher levels of sexual satisfaction? Believing your sex life is something that can, and will, fluctuate – and that you can do something to help it get back on track. Specifically, researchers have found that individuals and couples who believe that their sexual desire is destined or that it is “fate” (i.e that lower desire and passion represents a problem in the relationship) are less sexually satisfied, while those who hold a growth perspective (i.e., we haven’t been putting effort into our sex lives – but we could and it might help!) were more sexually satisfied. So holding on to the very notion that your sexual desire and passion will ebb and flow actually leads you to be more satisfied.

In other words, if you’re open to working on your sex life you’re already half way to increased desire and passion. So what are the specific things you can try to increase your sexual passion? There are five big things that passionate people are doing:

1. Take Time To Focus Only On Your Partner

Communication is important on so many levels. And it has been repeatedly and consistently found to be a facilitator of sexual desire. When we talk openly with our partner we feel closer and connected and, for many people, feeling connected to their partner is a crucial step to feeling the urge to engage in sexual activity. We all know how different it feels to sit on the couch and have a meaningful conversation with our partner versus sitting on the couch zoning out on our smart phones. And while the latter is okay sometimes, most often we don’t feel connected in that scenario and sex is less likely to follow. So try taking time away from the other demands that naturally steal our attention (work, social engagements, kids, phones) to open up often and regularly with your partner.

2. Be Open To Talk About Sex

Okay so talking is important. We know this. But talking about sex – what we like and don’t like, what we want to try, and fantasies that turn us on but we may never actually want to try – are all important to help our partner better know what we like so they have a better chance of giving us sexually pleasurable experiences (and vice versa).

It is logical, but something that eludes many couples: if we aren’t having very good sex then we aren’t going to be excited about having it. So focus less on wanting to want sex and instead shift to what would make sex better and more enjoyable. It’s the difference between trying to get yourself psyched up to have cold leftover cheap pizza and the legitimate drooling that happens when you’re anticipating that piping hot gourmet pizza from your favourite spot.

So talk about sex. Even better? Talk about sex while having sex. And make sure that as much as possible you’re using positive reinforcement. Encourage what you like in the moment. It helps your partner learn what to do to please you so you enjoy what is happening. Not to mention that it helps you stay in the moment because you’re paying attention and giving feedback. Which just so happens to be another important contributing factor to sexual passion.

3. Putting In Effort and Make Sex a Priority

One of the wildest myths we hold about sex is that it should be spontaneous and effortless. After all, that’s kind of how it felt when we first started dating.

Except that it wasn’t. Despite how it felt, sex is not (and never was) spontaneous. It just felt that way. When we went on dates we planned them well in advance, put in plenty of effort during dinner to talk and connect. We would wear something nice. And so, if sex followed, it wasn’t really so random.

In longer-term relationships it’s important to remember this and not get discouraged that sex has been less frequent or less fun because you haven’t found yourself suddenly in bed with your clothes off. Find time to be together. Schedule it. If one of you works late and the other gets up early, find a day that you’re both home at the same time and make that your sex day. If you haven’t had sex in a while. Talk about it. Say – “lets try to make that happen tonight”. Knowing that sex is on the horizon can even help the anticipation build and feed into those passionate feelings.

4. Doing Something New and Exciting

It’s easy to fall into a familiar sexual routine with a partner. We find out what we like and we often keep doing it. Again, and again. And again.

And while that’s all good and well, every now and then it’s important to invite some freshness into your relationship. And that’s because this mimics some of the excitement that occurred during that honeymoon phase we talked about earlier. When we start being sexually active with our partner everything is new and different. Everything we try is fresh and exciting. So inviting some of that newness feels fun and exciting and also reminds us of passionate times of the past.

Maybe it means trying a new position. Maybe it means having a quicky in the morning before work instead of waiting until Sunday afternoon. Or maybe buy a new sexy pair of underwear.

5. Stay Mentally Present During Sex

It’s easy to let our mind wander during sex. We may make a to-do list for what we need to get done tomorrow or can replay an awkward or unpleasant conversation at work over and over again. But when we do this we don’t tune into the sexual sensations and we miss out on potentially pleasurable feelings.

But staying mentally present isn’t always easy. Some therapists recommend that if you practice mindfulness (observing your thoughts versus judging them) and slowly and surely take in each touch and caress (and not rush through sex) that desire and passion increase. You can try this even during sexual foreplay or holding hands. If you catch your mind wandering just invite it back to the moment and focus on your senses and those sexual sensations.

Ultimately there is no magic potion to keep passion alive. Sex, like all parts of our lives (romantic, professional, social) takes effort. And putting in that effort, through communication, mental presence, positive sexual feedback and trying something new could just give your sex life that boost you’re looking for.

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10 Clever Kitchen Gadgets You Don’t Even Know Exist

Traditional kitchen gadgets are useful, but boring. Cooking and being in the kitchen doesn’t have to be a serious business. With a little creativity, kitchen gadgets can be fun. Even if you don’t like cooking, you’d love to have one of these (or all of these) in your kitchen.

Lifehack has handpicked 10 clever kitchen gadgets that go beyond your imagination.

1. MasterPan Non-Stick 3 Section Meal Skillet

This genius pan is designed to allow you to cook everything you need in one spot. Whether you’re trying to cook in a small dorm, or you just don’t have a lot of kitchen counter space, this pan will be your best friend. With its Riveted Steel handle featuring a silicone grip, you won’t risk burning your hand while cooking.

It even features a XYLAN PLUS double layer non-stick coating which is PFOA free. Plus it ensures your food doesn’t wind up stuck to the pan instead of in your stomach. Along with being oven-safe, this brilliant pan is dishwasher safe, too!

MasterPan Non-Stick 3 Section Meal Skillet, $33.24

2. The “Bolo” Rolling Knife

This innovative knife set comes with the Handle, Precision Steel Blade (420J2 steel), Tenderizing Blade (420J2 steel) Pastry Blade (ABS) and 2 Blade Covers.

This rolling knife has a sharp blade, it dices, cuts, slices and minces a variety of ingredients such as vegetables, spices, herbs, meats, pizza, sandwiches, desserts, fruit and so on. This tool saves you room because you have all the blades you need in one handle!

The “Bolo” Rolling Knife, $29.95

3. The Salad Cutter Bowl

With this, you can make a salad in under a minute.

It’s the perfect size for a personal salad, but it does so much more than allow for easy cutting. It also acts as a strainer and salad spinner. If you want a quick and easy way to slice veggies for your salad, you can toss them in here and cut away.

And for those of us who wind up with nicks and cuts when preparing a meal, this gadget allows for worry-free cutting. Plus it’s easy to clean and saves a ton of space.

The Salad Cutter Bowl, $9.99

4. Magisso Cake Server

Cutting and plating a slice of cake is always a mess, plus it usually requires someone touching a side of the cake with their fingers, and that’s gross. This cake server makes cake cutting clean and easy.

Once you get the cake plated, you always have the few that request a smaller piece. This utensil ensures everyone gets the exact same size and shape cut.

Perhaps best of all, it’s easy to use. Just press the cake server through your dessert, squeeze it gently for lifting the piece onto the place, release slightly once you’ve set it on the plate and your done!

Magisso Cake Server, $9.17

5. Culina Designs Small ABS Bag Sealing Device

Now you can throw out all those twist ties you’ve been hoarding! Sealabag is a compact gadget that can be used to seal a variety of kitchen staples.

Its design allows it to be used on your counter, or even mounted inside of a cupboard so no one has to know how you keep all of your breads so fresh.

Culina Designs Small ABS Bag Sealing Device, $7.95

6. Dreamfarm Savel – Flexible Food Saver for Wedges, Halves and Wedge-Outs

This flexible gadget covers cut foods, such as fruits and veggies, and keeps them fresh. You don’t have to waste any more plastic bags or try any silly hacks to keep your items fresher longer.

The silicone strap stretches to ensure the perfect fit while keeping the item secure. The base is food-safe and prevents any air exposure.

Dreamfarm Savel – Flexible Food Saver for Wedges, Halves and Wedge-Outs, $8.72

7. Dreamfarm Spadle – Silicone Sit Up Scraping Spoon That Turns Into a Serving Ladle

When used as a spoon, this spoon-ladle crossover features a flat squeegee tip to scrape pans without scratching, a deep ½ cup scooping head and useful measuring lines.

To transform it into a ladle, just twist the handle. It doesn’t even require a spoon rest; a clever bend in the handle to sit up off your counter to keep it clean.

It’s non-stick and heat resistant up to 200°C/392°F. And it’s dishwasher safe!

Dreamfarm Spadle – Silicone Sit Up Scraping Spoon That Turns Into a Serving Ladle, $19.99

8. Ankomn Savior Non-Electric Vacuum Food Storage Container Marinator

With a simple push of a button, this non-electric vacuum storage container will keep everything fresh, from cereal to dried fruits and nuts.

It doesn’t require any complicated wires or batteries, plus it’s easy to clean and BPA free. You can even store it in the fridge and toss it in the dishwasher when it needs to be cleaned.

Ankomn Savior Non-Electric Vacuum Food Storage Container Marinator, $64.99

9. KEFIRKO – Kefir Fermenter Kit

This easy kefir-making system includes a unique 20 oz concave glass jar, strainer lid, secure cover lid, citrus juicer attachment, swizzle stick, user guide and recipe booklet. You can make kefir milk or kefir water by simply adding kefir grains and liquid. The Kefiko can even be used as a sprouter!

A measuring cup for the kefir grains is integrated in the top cover, and the included juicer allows you to squeeze juice into your water kefir for extra flavor.

KEFIRKO – Kefir Fermenter Kit, $39.95

10. Stainless Steel Magnetic Knife Holder

This magnetic knife holder is an aesthetically pleasing way to store and display your knifes. It’s super simple to install and includes mounting screws and hardware.

The magnetic strip is a quality stainless steel, and all the materials are non-toxic, food safe and easy to clean.

Stainless Steel Magnetic Knife Holder, $16.97

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Does a Romantic Candle Lit Dinner Help To Drive Better Sex?

Sunset picnics on the beach. Romantic candle lit dinners. Lovers feeding each other chocolate fondue. It seems like there is no shortage of associations between food, romance and sex. But are these familiar scenes just go-to content for lazy rom-com writers and first dates? Or do these meals actually lead to more exciting and enjoyable sex when the lights are turned down low?

In other words, are couples really more likely to have sex after consuming certain foods?

There is some evidence of a surface level connection between food and sex

Specifically, certain foods are more associated with sex than others. And this is largely thought to be the case because the shape of some foods resembles male and female genitalia. Think about the phallic shape of a banana (not to mention the widely used eggplant emoji as sexual innuendo!). And then there are foods that are thought to resemble the shape of a vulva, such as figs and oysters. Because these foods are thought to make us think about our (and/or our partner’s) genitals, it has been suggested that eating them may put sex on our brains and make us more likely to act on those impulses.

There is also some evidence that certain foods can stimulate our bodies in ways that mimic our natural preparation for sex. Blood flow is an essential component of sexual arousal for men and women. The increased blood flow to the genitals produces an erection for men and blood flow to the vagina intensifies sexual sensations for women.

It has been suggested that spicy foods (like ginger, curry, and cinnamon) are found to increase blood flow which has the potential to feel a bit like sexual arousal and could potentially have a positive impact on our sexual enjoyment. Therefore, consuming spicy foods could lead to better sex on account of the increased genital sensations.

However, the association between food and sex is more about the psychological interpretations and meanings we assign to those foods

For starters, we can never discount the power of the placebo effect. That is, if we believe something is going to have a positive impact, chances are it will. So, if you believe that eating chocolate will make you more interested in having sex, there is a higher chance that upon eating a piece of dark chocolate you will think about sex or want to engage in sexual activity. On the other hand, if you think that chocolate just tastes good and has no relationship to your sexual interest or enjoyment, likely you won’t feel any sexual urges post chocolate binge.

Another psychological element at play when associating a particular food with sex is what psychologists have termed classical conditioning. That is, if we repeatedly see chocolate fondue enjoyed during a romantic evening and that is followed by a sexual encounter, we begin to associate chocolate fondue with sex. The more often we see this connection being made in movies, TV shows, and in our real life, the more we are primed to think about sex when we see or eat fondue.

This association can even happen with less expected food items. In my Psychology 101 class our professor shared a story about a woman being turned on by the smell of onion on account of her sexual partner being a frequent eater of french onion dip! So if you want to create a romantic or sexual setting with food, consider picking your staple, pre-romance appetizer. Over time it just may become a cue that this is the night for romance.

What About Alcohol? Is It A Sex-Driver or Killer?

And then there is the spurious variable that often accompanies all of the romantic scenes I described earlier: wine (or some other alcohol variation). In other words, it may be less about the chocolate fondue, oysters, banana or cinnamon, and more about the alcohol that accompanies those meals. That’s because alcohol has been found to positively impact our interest in sex as alcohol make us feel more relaxed and laid back which can reduce our inhibitions and lead to a greater chance for sexual activity.

It’s important to be aware that there is a balancing act when it comes to how much alcohol to consume. Too much alcohol can get in the way of good sex by making us sloppy or tired. However, a glass of wine (even if it’s paired with chips and dip) may put you in the mood for sex.

The Setting Of Your Meal Is More Important Than The Food Choices

Finally there is the contextual setting of a romantic or sensual meal that goes far beyond whatever food is being consumed. Eating oysters with your grandmother at 3pm on a Sunday probably isn’t going to get you all hot and bothered. Whereas eating oysters with our romantic partner, at sunset with a glass of wine and candles just might do the trick.

Research has found that both men and women indicate that romantic settings play an important and positive role in their sexual desire. And that’s because a lot more is happening during a romantic meal than just the food on the table. A candle lit dinner takes time, effort and energy. It requires two people stepping away from their busy lives, making time for one another, and talking (hopefully without their smart phones on the table!). It could also include that glass of wine we discussed earlier. So even though a meal is part of this scenario, it’s really not the star of the show.

Consuming foods as aphrodisiacs definitely won’t hurt your sex life. In fact, depending on how they are used they just may bring some spark and enjoyment to your sexual experiences. And if you and your partner associate foods with positive romantic and sexual scenarios, chances are that eating those foods together will put sex on the brain.

But it’s also important to focus on the context of a romantic date over a shared meal. So don’t minimize the attention needed on the other components. Good conversation, undivided attention, and the effort of cooking a meal together could mean that spaghetti and meat balls or even ramen noodles could be your personal aphrodisiac.

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