Category Archives: Tips

Just one change

New Years is a time were most of us try to make life changes and promises to have a healthier and happier year. We are fueled by commercials for diet or exercise programs and travel destinations. Those promises often require quite a lot of change in lifestyle and are hard to maintain. By March, folks feel like they have let themselves down and are back to a rut.

Let’s take a new approach. Commit to making one change. Improve one relationship with better communication, better boundaries, more focus. Or, maybe, work 4 less hours a week and use those hours for yourself. Maybe you cook that new healthy recipe once a week. The point is, make success achievable, and then achieve that success. Allow the fruit of this one change to be corner you need to turn for a greater overall life.

On your way to larger life goals, start small and feel good enough with that. Next year the change can be bigger or you can set two achievable goals instead of just one. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on a hill you can climb now and save some endurance for  bigger hills as your discipline improves.

Keep Calm and Listen to Music

Keep calm and carry on? How about keep calm and listen to music?

Research reported in HEART, a British medical publication, shows that calming music causes the heart rate and breathing to slow down. This often leads to a relaxation response.  Slower breathing also relates to lower blood pressure.

The next time you need to relax, consider listening to some slow music and see if you notice your breathing and heart rate decrease.

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Source: HEART Journal

Sleep Hygiene

Insomnia is a common issue so I wanted to give you a tip sheet on good sleep hygiene.

Sleep hygiene is a combination of your behaviors and environment surrounding sleep.

Lack of quality sleep affects your mood. It also lowers your pain threshold, increases your blood pressure, and interferes with your memory. It harms your immune system, elevating your chances of getting sick. It diminishes your ability to concentrate, and makes you more impulsive. It can also cause weight gain.

How to improve the quality of your sleep?

Here is a summary of 14 suggestions given in Fix Your Sleep Hygiene by Dr Korb.

1. Go to bed at the same time every day.

The reason for going to sleep at the same time is that your brain releases melatonin about 30 minutes before it thinks you want to go to sleep. If it doesn’t know when you’re gonna go to sleep it can’t do that.

2. Avoid bright lights after the sun goes down.

The melatonin that prepares you for sleep is inhibited by bright light so when it’s getting close to bed time turn off most of the lights in your house .

3. During the day stay in a brightly lit environment.

The melatonin cycle is part of a hormonal package collectively called circadian rhythms, controlled by a region of the brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalaums , which projects to the pineal gland to release various hormones. These rhythms are synchronized by bright lights during the day. So take a few minutes to go walking in the sunshine. This has the added benefit of boosting your serotonin, which may be why it helps sleep, as melatonin is derived from serotonin.

4. Sleep for 8 hours straight.

Your brain needs to cycle through various stages of sleep (Stages 1 to 4 and then REM sleep). Each cycle takes about 90 minutes, so in about 8 hours you get the appropriate number of cycles. If you wake up in the middle of a cycle you don’t feel rested. Your brain needs to know how much time it has to get everything done it needs to. In general the older you are the less sleep you need. In college you need about 8 hours and 24 minutes (approximately). When you start drawing Social Security you might only need 7.

5.  Use your bed/bedroom for sleeping, not doing work.

That way your brain associates your bed only with sleep, and it will induce sleepiness like Pavlovian conditioning.

6. Make your environment comfortable.

Sleep requires down-regulation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is harder if you’re uncomfortable. If your room is too cold, or too hot, or too noisy, or too smelly, then do something about it. If it’s something you can’t change, then just accept it.

7. Don’t take naps.

Taking a nap will often make it difficult to fall asleep at your bedtime. If you must nap, keep your nap between 20-30 min. This may surprise you, but if you actually consistently get quality sleep, you won’t even feel the need to take a nap.

8. Create a routine for preparing for sleep.

Do it every night. This helps you separate yourself from the hectic nature of the rest of your day. It prepares your brain for sleep.  A bedtime ritual might be brush your teeth, wash your face, go to the bathroom, and then read for a few minutes. These should be non-stressful activities. If you have a really hard time falling asleep, then include some meditation as part of your routine.

9. If you find you’re stressing over all the things you have to do, then write them down.

Your prefrontal cortex is responsible for keeping all these things in your working memory, and worrying about forgetting them is stressful. That stress inhibits sleep. Write it down so you don’t need to keep your prefrontal cortex working overtime.

10. Just chill.

Just relax, and lie still in a comfortable position. If after 20 minutes or so you’re still not asleep, then go to another room. Do something relaxing for a little bit (no more than 20 minutes), then try again.

11. Avoid caffeine near bed time. Duh.

12. Don’t eat a large meal less than 3 hours before bedtime. 

Indigestion can interfere with sleep, and acid reflux is more common once you’re horizontal.

13. Don’t use alcohol as a regular sleep aid.

While it may help you fall asleep, it disrupts the patterns of brain activity while you’re asleep. That means your sleep is not as restful as it could be.

14. Exercise.

Exercise is pretty much good for everything. Make physical activity a regular part of your life. The exact role of exercise in improving sleep though is not well understood. It may be due to increased levels of the neuropeptide orexin, which is essential for appropriate sleep regulation. It may also be due to the effects of exercise synchronizing circadian rhythms, or stress reduction, or some combination of several factors. Regardless of the reason though, it is clear that aerobic exercise helps improve sleep. Exercising too close to bedtime may make it difficult to fall asleep though, so try to do it a few hours before.

New Secure Messaging System

1 Alliance CPS is proud to introduce our new Secure Messaging System.

You can send a secure message directly to your therapist via our website under the Contact Us – Messaging.

This is part of our constant effort to be available to you and easily accessed. We continue to improve our website to fit your needs. Please keep in mind this is a  Beta version and feel free to provide us with any feedback.

Thank you for choosing 1 Alliance CPS!

 

 

 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), also known as deep muscle relaxation, is a technique for reducing anxiety by alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles. This technique is based on the idea that one can reduce anxiety by learning how to relax the muscular tension.

To use this technique one has to use both body and mind. The muscle groups of the body are tensed for about 10 seconds and then relaxed for about 20 seconds in a sequential order. At the same time, the mind concentrates on the difference between the feelings of tension and relaxation. If the mind wonders to different thoughts, one just has to bring it back to how the body feels at that moment.

Practicing PMR teaches one how to relax and manage feelings of anxiety. Please see the script bellow as an example of PMR. Feel free to record yourself reading the script. Then play it back and follow it along.

Remember to always listen to your body and consult a physician if you are not sure you can safely perform those actions in the script.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Script

Get comfortable on floor or in a chair and close your eyes. Breathe into your diaphragm deeply and slowly. In and Out. In and out.

We are going to begin with you arms. Curl your fingers into a tight fist, bend your elbow and flex the front and backs of your upper arm.

Count:

  • Hold it…5…4…Notice the sensation of tension…3… feel what it is like to be tense…2…1 Release.
  • Now relax. 10…let the tension flow out of your arms…9…8…7…notice how the burning of the tension is flowing out…6…5…4…3…notice how relaxed and loose your arms and hands feel…2…1.
  • Flex your fists and arms again. Hold it…5…4…3… feel what it is like to be tense…2…1 Release.
  • Now we are going to move on to the head and face. Scrunch up your face as tight as you can, flex all the muscles in your face. (Repeat the counts again. Hold for a 5 count relax for a 10 count. 2 repetitions for each body part.)
  • Next the neck. Bring you chin as low to your collarbone as possible. Leave your chin there but also push the back of your head back as much as possible. (Repeat the counts again. Hold for a 5 count relax for a 10 count. 2 repetitions for each body part.)
  • Next the shoulders. Try to touch your shoulder blades together. Now shrug your shoulder up so that you shoulders are near your ears. Make sure that your fingers; lower arms, upper arms, face, head and neck are all still relaxed. (Repeat the counts again. Hold for a 5 count relax for a 10 count. 2 repetitions for each body part.)
  • Not you’re going to tighten up your torso. Take in a deep breath and hold it. Tighten up your stomach muscles as though you are about to be punched. (The counts are faster because you are holding your breath. Repeat the counts again. Hold for a 5 count relax for a 10 count. 2 repetitions for each body part.)
  • Now we will do your legs. Lock your knees, flex your thighs and buttocks and point your toes. (Repeat the counts again. Hold for a 5 count relax for a 10 count. 2 repetitions for each body part.)
  • Once again breath deeply and slowly, relaxing your entire body. Make sure that your fingers; lower arms, upper arms, face, head, neck, shoulders, stomach, chest, and legs are all still relaxed.
  • Now imagine that you are in a safe place. Picture that place as clearly as you can. Look around yourself at this place. Listen to the sounds that are there. Pay attention to the smells; try to actually imagine the smells that would be there. Feel with you hands what this place is like.
  • I am going to count back from ten. With each count imagine that you are becoming more and more relaxed. 10…9…8…more relaxed…7…6…5…Even more relaxed…4…3…2…1
  • Enjoy where you are and open your eyes whenever you are ready.

Stress Management Basics

What is Stress?

Stress is a reaction to any change to which we have to adapt. It is a natural and important part of life. Stress becomes a problem when it is too much and/or for too long.

Too Many Demands on Energy and Resources over a Long Period of Time + High Expectations for your Performance and Deep Commitment to Your Work + Few Actions Taken to Replenish your Capacities = BURNOUT

How to Manage Stress?

We can cope with stress by reducing our perceived stress level or increasing our ability to cope with stress. Common stress management techniques are deep breathing, muscle relaxation, visualization and meditation (e.g. mindfulness).

Stress Management Quick Tip:

TO RELAX. Deep Breathing

Throughout the day, take “mini-breaks”. Sit down and get comfortable.
Slowly take in a deep breath counting to 3; hold it counting to 6; and then exhale very slowly counting to 6. See picture for correct inhaling and exhaling body mechanics. At the same time, let your shoulder muscles droop, concentrate only on your breathing. Concentrating only in your breathing and clearing your mind is the key to this exercise. By controlling your breathing you control your heart rate and your body’s response.

Because we tend to take shallow breaths when anxious, deep breathing can make people feel lightheaded because of the increased oxygen intake. Please make sure you remain seated for at least 1 minute before getting up.

Notice your anxiety cues and use deep breathing as soon as possible. The sooner you use this stress management technique, the easier it is to prevent your anxiety to escalate.

Deep breathing is a powerful technique that with practice and guidance can even help you stop a panic attack. As with most things, with daily practice it gets easier to successfully apply this technique.

Resource and Reference: Write Your Own Prescription for Stress by Kenneth B. Matheny.