In recent years, discussion of bullying in school and its devastating impact on those who are bullied has made its way into mainstream consciousness. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t stop at the school level.
In one study, nearly forty percent of respondents reported having experienced at least some form of bullying at work (International Journal of Stress Management, August, 2012).
Bullying in the workplace can take many forms, including: exclusion, verbal abuse, sexual intimidation, threats and ridicule. Common and somewhat insidious forms of workplace bullying include gossip, unnecessary criticism, wrongful judgment and unpleasant job assignment.
When we talk about mental health, we often talk about problems. We focus on how to reduce anxiety and depression, lessen conflict in relationships or ease uncomfortable symptoms for good reason. But we often overlook the importance of creating happiness. We might even assume that happiness just comes if we decrease our problems.
We forget that happiness is something that we have control over. It’s something we can make a conscious effort to increase.
Happiness, of course, is great. And it goes hand in hand with decreasing problematic stress and other mental health problems. If we’re happy, then we’re not stressed, anxious or depressed. If we’re happy we’re better able to cope with mental health problems.
Each person has a particular set of beliefs about the world. Our beliefs come from our past experiences and natural tendencies of our character. Believing that you and the world around you must be perfect in order for you to be happy is a common character trait.
Doing your best can make you feel competent, proud and in control of your life. But when you believe that perfect is the only road to a happy life, you will find yourself dissatisfied.
The pursuit of perfection doesn’t make us happier or ease stress. In fact, seeking perfection does the opposite. It is linked to increased stress and a number of other emotional, physical, and relationship problems, such as anxiety depression or eating disorders.
How often do you have stress headaches or difficulty sleeping? Does stress ever make you short of breathe, jittery or tense? Most of us experience some of these and other physical symptoms of stress. Clenched teeth, knots in your back, waking at night and queasiness are all common reactions to stress. In fact, many of us go through our days on automatic pilot, barely registering the affects stress has on our bodies.
Physical symptoms of stress are extremely uncomfortable and can interfere with our ability to function on a daily basis. Over time, we can end up exhausted and feeling unable to calm down, relax tight muscles or lessen other aches, pains and physical signs of stress.
Most of us harbor some sort of secret dream and summer is a great time for dreaming. It is normal to yearn to achieve something that has always felt slightly out of reach. We may wish to write a novel, play the piano, learn a second language, learn to figure skate or surf.
As we grow older, we often put our dreams on hold and assume that learning new skills is for the young. Psychologist Gary Marcus, PhD. put that assumption to the test. What he found was that learning is not necessarily the domain only of the young.
Really. It’s as simple as that. And as complex. Mindfulness is not necessarily setting aside time in your busy day to meditate. It is about being present and aware during the moments in which you are living your life.
The challenge is to bring a sense of calm, centered awareness to everyday life. This includes times when you are angry, in an argument, feeling pressure, stuck in traffic, mowing the lawn, watching TV, working, talking on the phone, emptying the dishwasher, thinking about times you’ve been hurt, avoiding problems or eating.
Some activities don’t require a lot of extra effort to bring a sense of calm and awareness. But others, such as difficult interactions and painful thoughts are hard to be mindful of. These are the times when mindfulness in daily life can feel complex.
In the first half of this year, readers really connected with a few posts filled with practical strategies to reduce problematic stress. These posts are aimed at improving your ability to cope with life’s uncertainties and reducing the pressure that can leave you fatigued, spinning your wheels or unable to enjoy your life.
Check out common stress-inducing thoughts in this post and a few tips to respond differently to them.
Whether it’s college life, a new retirement, changes at work, a new baby, health crisis or conflict with the in-laws, life can be full of uncertainty and pressure. This post has two very practical strategies to decrease the anxiety and depression that can accompany difficult times.
Strained relationships create stress and can have a negative impact on your mood and your ability to function throughout the day. When you’re in conflict with someone else, you’re more likely to be worried, distracted or highly emotional.
We cannot make other people act as we’d wish, but we can become aware of when we act in ways that lead to problems in relationships. As we identify our own communication problems, we can choose to make changes in how we interact. If you do, you might just find that you’re able to solve intractable problems and that habitual conflicts no longer occur.
Making even small changes to how you communicate can improve the quality of your relationships.
With each breath we nourish our bodies, bring necessary oxygen to our organs and muscles and make life itself possible. Generally, we are unconscious of the ongoing rhythm of our breathing and often it is only when we have difficulty breathing that we pay it any attention.
But this fundamental act of breathing is not only necessary to life, it is also a powerful tool in connecting to our sense of calm and centeredness. Through breathing we can connect to our bodies, our own internal rhythms and the experience of being alive.
When left unattended, strong emotions can lead to destructive behaviors. Attending to times that you feel hurt, belittled, let down, disrespected, insulted or threatened is key to dealing with the anger that often comes from those experiences.
You can find more strategies to improve how you feel in my new book, The Stress Response and by clicking here to sign up for more of my tips and and here for podcasts using DBT strategies to improve how you feel.
Angry man photo available from Shutterstock.