Relaxation is an important part of human life. Everyone loves to take breaks and recuperate from time to time, and relaxation is shown to reduce stress and have several health benefits. Approximately 77% of adults regularly experience physical symptoms as a result of stress. These symptoms can include headaches, insomnia, chest pain, and more, and they can lead to serious conditions like cardiovascular diseases and mental health problems. Making time for relaxation can help manage this stress and prevent it from manifesting physically. Techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, and rest help produce a relaxation response in the body which can decrease stress and stress-related conditions.
However, as helpful as relaxation can be, the age-old adage “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” applies to relaxation as well. When people achieve relaxation in the wrong ways or over-prioritize it in their lives, there can be unhealthy consequences just as dangerous as having too much stress. Here are some signs that your relaxation techniques might be more problematic than they are beneficial:
You Achieve Relaxation in Harmful Ways
There are both positive and negative ways to achieve relaxation. If you use negative ways to reach a state of relaxation, you are going to increase your stress levels and cause more damage than good. Abusing drugs, alcohol, or other substances might feel helpful in the moment, but these coping mechanisms are unhealthy and can have significant health risks. Addiction to drugs and alcohol can cause physical and emotional problems that can lead to severe bodily damage and even death. You should avoid using substances to try and reduce stress.
Other negative ways people use to try and manage stress include unhealthy or excessive habits. Overeating and binge-eating can be disastrous for your health, which will lead to increased stress and health problems like obesity and heart-disease. Seek help if your stress-managing eating habits have become out of control. Over using entertainment and binge-watching television has been linked with depression and loneliness. While it might be helpful to set aside time to watch television, play video games, or use other electronics to take a break, when you spend hours upon hours doing these activities, you put your health at risk. Poor coping habits like impulsive purchasing can devastate people financially and mentally, and it can also ruin marriages and other relationships. Make sure to avoid these habits when you are trying to deal with the stressors in your life.
Emotionally or physically cheating on a significant other is a surefire way to poison a relationship. Destroying your health and the relationships you have with people you care about is never a good way to manage the problems you are facing in life. If you are participating in any of these activities in order to feel relaxed, your relaxation is harmful, not helpful.
You Over-Prioritize Relaxation
While relaxation can have wonderful benefits for people who make time for it regularly, it can be problematic for people who dedicate too much time to it. If you are relaxing when you should be working or you are slacking off instead of taking care of your responsibilities, you are relaxing in a harmful way. Like anything else in life, relaxation needs to be balanced among your other duties. If you are sleeping or participating in other stress-relief activities when it is time to for you to go to work or take care of your children, then you are not achieving a healthy balance. In fact, sleeping too much can ruin your sleep schedule and cause insomnia. Carve out time for relaxation, but make sure that you have time to take care of your other duties as well. Make sure to relax in moderation.
You Use Relaxation to Avoid Conflict
If you are in a partnership or friendship where there are unhealthy problems that need to be handled, you should not seek relaxation in order to escape or cope with the conflict in those relationships. Do not be so relaxed that you are afraid to confront someone. Avoid using relaxation as a form of escapism in order to prevent yourself from having potentially hard conversations with others. Practice good communication and address issues in your relationships when necessary. Communication is a healthy way to begin to address conflict, and everyone involved will be better for it.
Your Relaxation Promotes Isolation
While it is definitely important to carve out time for yourself and have alone time, be wary if your relaxation techniques only involve isolation. It is important to be around others and to communicate to your friends and family when you are feeling overly-stressed or you are having a difficult time coping with problems in your life. Actively avoiding others is not a beneficial way to relax and it can cause you to feel lonely and depressed.
For more information or for help finding positive relaxation and coping techniques, visit Oakville Wellness Center.
Giving compliments to others is a great way to build relationships and strengthen bonds between friends. People tend to enjoy receiving compliments because kind words and positive feedback are encouraging and motivating, and they boost self-esteem. In addition to making a person feel good about themselves, flattering words also have numerous health benefits for the recipient. People who receive positive words frequently are shown to higher levels of productivity and decreased levels of stress, and they experience the same emotional payoff as they would have if they received a tangible reward instead. Researcher Norihiro Sadata, one of the creators of a study about the benefits of receiving compliments, says that getting a compliment is “as much as a social reward as being rewarded money.” With the evidence of how money is a key motivator, it is no surprise that people who receive praise have high levels of performance.
Although the recipient of kind words seems to benefit the most from compliments, giving compliments can be equally rewarding. However, while everyone loves to receive accolades, praising others does not always come easily. Sometimes giving compliments can be intimidating because people are not sure how their words will be received, or they are afraid they will come off as disingenuous. It can also be difficult for someone who has social anxiety or someone who is nervous around others to approach someone and commend them. If you struggle with any of these insecurities, giving a compliment might be a challenge, but with practice, you can become skilled in this area and reap the benefits of boosting others up with kindness. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you work on becoming more confident when giving compliments.
Avoid giving compliments randomly or without meaning. Compliments come across better when they are sincere and the recipient knows you truly mean what you are saying. Always make sure that you are being moderate with your praise. You do not have to be over-the-top with your compliments to be genuine. Inflated praise will make your comments seem insincere and might make the recipient uncomfortable. Take the time to truly acknowledge someone’s strengths and approach them with genuine kind words. A genuine compliment will go a long way because it will be more significant to the recipient.
Make sure your motives for giving the compliment are pure so that you do not give backhanded compliments or seem like you are giving praise for your own benefit. Empty flattery and kissing-up are not helpful for you are the person you are complimenting. Make sure you are not offering your words in order to receive a compliment in return. When you offer words of admiration, you should be doing it solely for the benefit of the other person.
Regardless of how sincere your intention is, a general compliment will not be as significant as one that recognizes something specific. Instead of praising someone for doing good work, praise them for the specific action or project they completed that demonstrated their good work and include examples. Saying, “Your presentation was great” is not as meaningful as saying, “The information you shared in your presentation today was insightful and well-organized, and I learned some helpful new skills I will be sure to implement.” Try and focus on character traits and behaviors rather than physical attributes, and be as specific as possible when highlighting these characteristics.
There is nothing more sincerely flattering than knowing someone sees you and that they can specifically pinpoint something they appreciate about you. Take the time to pay attention to those around you so that you can notice their personal strengths. As you focus on others and their positive qualities, genuine compliments will come to you more naturally. Make it a priority to be present when you are spending time with others and actively look for opportunities to offer praise.
Many people are afraid to praise others because, in their mind, they see compliment giving as ambitious, grandiose gesture. Giving a compliment does not have to be complicated or overly formal. When you see an opportunity to offer someone a genuine compliment, simply walk over to them and casually give them your positive remarks. Notice and offer admiration for small actions. If someone has a new haircut that looks good on them, let them know. You do not have to wait for someone to do something major or for them to have some sort of big accomplishment in order to recognize them. It will be less intimidating to give compliments when you see them as quick, casual remarks rather than grand gestures.
Be Open to Receiving Compliments
If you are not able to receive compliments well, you might struggle to give them to others. Learn how to take a compliment in stride. When someone praises your work or offers you a positive remark, smile and say thank you. Resist the urge to diminish their compliment by denying or negating their kind words. Do not automatically return a compliment unless it is sincere. When you receive a compliment that is truly flattering, consider the way they gave their compliment to you and allow that experience to influence how you give compliments to others.
For help communicating and building positive relationships with others, contact Oakville Wellness Center and visit their blog.
Mental illness is often the result of a complicated interaction between our genetic makeup, lived experiences and the environment we inhabit.
Scientists have yet to precisely identify the root of the difficulties 1 in 5 Americans face in a given year (National Alliance on Mental illness, 2017).
Advances in the area of mental health research are vitally important as they can help to inform new treatments.
Researchers at the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Bonn in Germany recently discovered that a gene called “SLC6A4” was strongly correlated with someone's chances of suffering from social anxiety disorder (SAD). Initial findings have been published online in the journal of Psychiatric Genetics.
SLC6A4 is involved in transporting serotonin in the nervous system. Serotonin is sometimes referred to as the “happiness hormone” as it is involved in feelings of positivity and wellbeing.
The fact that some people are born with an innate disposition towards suffering from SAD is extremely interesting, particularly given its high prevalence rates in the American population.
Anxiety disorders are amongst the most common mental illnesses affecting up to 18% of the population (Anxiety and Depression association of America, 2017).
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
SAD is often minimized by people confusing it with “shyness” or simply being introverted. In reality, SAD is an intense and persistent fear of social situations. Those with SAD may experience bouts of anxiety over simple everyday things such as answering the phone or being asked directions on the street.
Whilst many of us may experience mild anxiety over social situations, those with SAD will experience chronic worry before, during and after the social scenario. They particularly fear embarrassment or social rejection.
SAD is often apparent from an early age and first manifests itself in childhood or adolescence. It is also almost twice as common in women as men, with prevalence particularly high in Europe and North America.
Scientists are not fully sure why women are more prone to anxiety but some have theorised that this propensity may be linked to differences in brain chemistry and hormone fluctuations.
Women are also more prone to stress and tend to mull over stressful situations more than men, who tend to pursue more active coping strategies.
So what does Social Anxiety Disorder look like and how is it diagnosed? Here are some of the signs:
Some individuals who suffer from SAD also experience panic attacks.
Panic attacks result from fear of social situations that becomes overwhelming, leading up to a physical response. Although panic attacks usually only last a few minutes, they are extremely unpleasant.
The individual may feel nauseous and experience trembling, palpitations and a shortness of breath. Although panic attacks don’t lead to any long- term physical difficulties they are extremely alarming.
SAD often co- occurs with other disorders such as depression, generalised anxiety disorder and post- traumatic stress disorder.
What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder?
As previously discussed SAD is the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Although certain genes may significantly increase the likelihood of SAD, this may not be enough for the disorder to manifest itself.
Researchers have linked parenting styles to the likelihood of developing SAD. As SAD may have a genetic root, parents may be more worried or anxious, translating poor coping styles to their children.
Getting Diagnosed with SAD
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the tool most commonly used to diagnose mental conditions including SAD. Criteria includes:
Persistent fear of and/ or intense anxiety about social scenarios in which you believe you may be judged or act in a way that's embarrassing.
Avoidance of social situations and/or intense anxiety when present in social situations
Anxiety that's out of proportion to the situation
Anxiety or distress that impedes your daily living
Fear or anxiety that cannot be explained by a different medical condition, medication or substance problem
These criteria should be present for 6 months or more
How is SAD Treated?
SAD may be treated with medications and/ or psychotherapy. Psychological counselling is highly effective for those suffering from SAD. It can help the individual learn ways to deal with stress in social situations and build self- confidence.
One of the more commonly used treatments is CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). CBT may help the individual to see that their fears are irrational and help them to gradually work up to facing the social situations they fear the most. One tactic that is often employed is role- playing, whereby the individual can practice being in social situations and build up confidence in a safe and secure environment.
SAD can be all- consuming for the sufferer, as being crippled regarding ones social life and interactions limits our ability to form relationships, push our personal boundaries and live a happy and fulfilling life.
It has a remarkably high prevalence rate and many suffers stay under the radar undiagnosed.
SAD responds remarkably well to treatment, however, and if you suspect you may have SAD, please seek out a local mental health professional and learn to tame the anxiety you face daily.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Turk, C. L., Heimberg, R. G., & Hope, D. A. (2001). Social anxiety disorder. Clinical handbook of psychological disorders: A step-by-step treatment manual, 3, 114-153.