Have another helping of stress. Stress can be good for you.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Stressed out

Stressed.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

You might need more stress in your diet.

Recently one of my esteemed colleagues wrote a post on the need to avoid stress. I am not sure he is right about that. We have been told so often that we need to avoid stress, that a lot of people are avoiding anything that might be stressful and the result is that they are very low in productivity and lower yet in self-esteem.

More stress in your diet just might be what the doctor ordered.

If your doctor tells you that you are now overweight and you need to lose some weight, he does not prescribe reducing the physical stress in your life. He does not tell you to go home, put your feet up and avoid anything that might put a stress load on your system.

What the doctor does suggest is that your exercise put a manageable level of stress on your muscles. As you become stronger you increase the level of stress you place on your muscles. The key here is not reducing or avoiding stress but learning how to manage your stress so that it is a growth opportunity rather than being at a breaking point level.

Clients have told me that their work “stresses them out.” Their conclusion is that they should avoid working to reduce the stress. What they fail to recognize often, is that not working will result in a substantial reduction in income. Losing your house to foreclosure, being homeless or even the task of living the rest of your life on the small amount of income available to welfare recipients is a lot more stressful than learning to not stress yourself out over your work.

Writers typically get stressed every time they look at a blank page. We call this writer’s block. You don’t overcome that kind of stress by avoiding the stress of writing and giving up on your dream. You reduce the stress by writing, writing anything to fill up that space and then you edit and revise until hopefully a piece worth reading comes to life.

Most things in our life do not “stress us out” though we would all like to blame our level of negative emotions on some outside force that is producing “stress.” Most of the time we stress ourselves out by ruminating on the thing we would like to avoid until it grows to gigantic proportions. Casey Truffo described this in one of her webinars as “gnawing on the thing that is eating you.”

Should we by some accident find ourselves without stress one morning, why there are plenty of things we could choose to worry about. Start by worrying that you have forgotten to worry about something important. Get really into fear, fear of losing something, fear of not getting what you want. Create so much stress over what might happen that you are unable to do anything.

The stress reaction is our body and our minds way of gearing up for a challenging situation. The difficulty here is that so many people can turn up the stress, but don’t know how to turn it back down when the occasion for the stress is over.

Stress hormones are supposed to be temporary events. Some crisis occurs, we need to respond and our body helps out here by pushing out adrenaline and other hormones, we are ready to fight, flee or fight. The problem with humans is that most of us have forgotten how to turn the stress hormones off. Three months later we are still telling anyone who will listen how that incident “stressed us out’ and in the process, we are able to relieve the stress.

Have you ever met someone who was highly productive and seems to thrive on stress? Have you wondered what their secret was?

The thing they have found is how to keep the stress external and maintain their responses internally. They have learned to turn stress to their advantage by using that stress to turn their performance up another notch.

The difference between people who use stress to their advantage and those who are defeated by stress is not in the stress. It is in our attitude to the stress.

The secret is to stop running from the stress monster and to turn towards him and kick his tail.

There are dangers in life that we all should avoid. Most of the things that stress us out every day are not those overwhelming life-threatening kinds of stress. The worst kinds of stress are those times when we upset ourselves over things that are outside our control.

Learn to control your stress, learn mindfulness, breathing control or embrace radical acceptance but don’t try to avoid stress by running from it.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

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Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

How many feelings do you feel? The feelings problem

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Man with feelings

Managing feelings.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do you let yourself feel too much or too little?

Two types of feelings problems cause people distress.

Some people feel too much. Excesses of fear and sadness keep them from having the happy life they want. Other people have an insatiable appetite for pleasure. They overindulge, damage their relationships and suffer the consequences. They act impulsively and then regret the result but they tell me they can’t stop themselves even when they try.

Other people tell me they can’t feel anything. They are numb, cut off from their emotions. They don’t know what they feel even when they are feeling it. The numbness robs them of the chance for happiness.

How many feelings are there?

The list of feeling words is immense. Psychologists have looked for ways to make this understandable and have constructed shorter lists of primary feelings. These lists typically include 7 to 11 basic feelings.

1. Joy

2. Interest

3. Surprise

4. Fear (anxiety)

5. Anger

6. Sadness

7. Disgust

All of these feelings have survival value at times. Joy and interest might stimulate us to find and eat food. Fear could help us avoid a man-eating animal. Not everyone experiences these feeling in the same way. We could lump the emotions of fear, anxiety, nervousness, scared or uncomfortable together. Experience has shown me that teenagers will deny feeling any fear but may have a sizable list of things that make them nervous or uncomfortable.

Individual variation

Not everyone experiences the same event by feeling the same emotion. One person may see a tornado and experience fear, another sadness and a third may experience interest and becomes a storm chaser. Past experience, beliefs about the event and genetics may all play a role in how we perceive an event.

Negative and Positive Emotions

It may be easier at times to think of feelings as either negative or positive. The seven feelings could be separated into positive and negative lists. Hundreds of other feeling words might be added to the lists as variations or shades of these feelings. We could also use certain words to describe combinations of feelings or the co-occurrence for two feelings at the same time.

Joy, Interest, and Surprise are frequently seen as positive, though too much interest in certain things gets diagnosed as a mental illness if it interferes with your life. Fear or anxiety, anger, sadness and disgust would form the core negative feelings. Research clearly indicates that while positive feelings are relatives and negative feelings come from the same family there are perceived differences between the feelings on each list.

The gender gap

Men in counseling often report having only three feelings, good, bad or pissed-off. Women often have a very differentiated feelings pallet. Men say Red, Yellow, or Blue, maybe purple. Women talk about things being Wisteria, Fuchsia, Lilac, Plum and so on. Women typically have more feeling words and they understand the labels differently than most men.

Sometimes this feelings situation is reversed and the woman may report mostly being “numb” or disconnected while the man wants her to be able to express more of her feelings.

We learn our feelings from others

There was a time when expressing feeling was not appropriate. People were expected to be gigantic mechanical creatures who never expressed anything. To have feelings was to give in to the flesh. So some generations grew up unable to express how they feel and experiencing regret if feelings ever leaked out.

Many men remain unable to express feelings appropriately. They “suck it up” and go forward even when it would have been appropriate to show some emotion. The result is that unable to express emotions men lose the ability to name what they are feeling and as a result of not being able to categorize feelings and learn appropriate responses they may do nothing until overwhelmed.

So the feelings that are kept bottled up and unrecognized come exploding out under anger or alcohol. These people, disconnected from their feelings, are forced to reconnect when in anger management class or marriage counseling.

When feelings can protect you

Some feelings are protective. That feeling in your gut that tells you this is dangerous, that feeling we sometimes call intuition is meant to protect you from harm. People who don’t feel anything lose the assistance of feelings that tell you this is something you should not do or that is something good you need to get in on. Courage is not the lack of fear, pretending this is not dangerous. It is the ability to fully feel and appraise the situation, but to take action even in the presence of a real danger.

Positive feelings can help create and expand friendships and working relationships. Negative feelings can warn you to avoid dysfunctional relationships and abusive situations. People who use feeling as sources of information lead happier and more productive lives.

Do you feel your feelings? Are feelings your friends or do they cause you problems?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Is anxiety a mental illness?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Anxiety provoking.

Anxiety.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Anxiety is a disease? – Morning Question #13.

Anxiety can be either a normal emotion or a mental illness. A little bit of anxiety is protective. It alerts you to danger. If they are shooting at you, get nervous and take cover. Bravery is not a lack of anxiety it is taking action in spite of your fears.

Anxiety as a mental illness is the result of having your “anxiety volume” turned up too much. If fear of everyday things or excess fears about things that have a low probability of happening are interfering with your life then you might have one of the diagnosable anxiety disorders.

Anxiety becomes excessive if it keeps you from having a productive life. If your anxiety is preventing you holding a job, doing positive activities, having friends or if it is making you miserable you may have a treatable condition called an anxiety disorder. That is the time to see a professional and find out about your condition and to get help.

For more on anxiety disorders:  Anxiety

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Relapse on anxiety, depression or another mental illness?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Urge Surfing Prevents Relapses.

Urge Surfing Prevents Relapses.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Can you relapse on anxiety, depression or another mental illness?

Relapse is a concept that has been borrowed from substance abuse treatment. It is easy to think in terms of an alcoholic drinking again as a relapse, but do people with a mental illness relapse? What would a relapse for anxiety or depression look like and what can we do to prevent a mental health relapse?

We are starting to view mental health and wellness as a continuum so people can move from well to less well to unwell and back again. In that respect, a mental health relapse seems to make sense.

A lot of people experience a mental illness at least once in their lifetime. Estimate run from 25% in any one year to 50% at some point in a lifetime. For an Anxiety Disorder, the estimates run from 10% to 20% and may even be higher than that when we consider the increase in PTSD.

In a previous post, we talked about Bob and Ellen who were treated for anxiety disorders, social phobia and specific phobia using systematic desensitization sometimes called exposure therapy. This is a proven effective treatment for specific phobia. As we last saw Bob and Ellen, after getting better they had both relapsed and were having symptoms of anxiety again. This is not surprising.

From one-third to two-thirds of everyone treated for anxiety disorders relapses, despite the fact that we know why this happens and how to prevent it.

Anxiety is fear based.

It shrinks when approached. We tend to avoid scary thing but the more you avoid them the harder they become to face the next time. Once people complete treatment they tend to stop thinking about the thing they feared. Over time the gains they made fade away. Substance abuse treatment tries to avoid this problem by encouraging people to continue with self-help groups to maintain the growth that has happened. Self-help groups for emotional issues are much harder to find.

Treatment for fear in the office does not equal less fear out in the backyard.

A recovery skill needs to be practiced in many settings so that it is usable any time or place. Fear is worse in new novel situations. Learning, to be useful, needs to “generalize” into many settings. People who are in treatment for an anxiety disorder need to practice their skills in as many situations as possible.

Many people use medication to reduce or manage symptoms.

As soon as the symptoms are reduced they discontinue the medication. Discontinuing medication too soon is likely to result in relapse.

If there is an actual injury fear is more likely to return.

Getting treated for irrational fear is likely to stick but if you were in an accident you have good reason to be afraid of the same thing happening again. You should expect to use extra caution in dangerous situations if you have been injured in the past. Anxiety is meant to keep you safe. The goal is to manage the anxiety not to completely eliminate it.

If nothing else happens fear tends to return with time.

Treatment for anxiety needs occasional “boosters” to prevent its return.

Other emotional issues increase the risk of a return of anxiety.

An untreated Depression greatly increases the risk of a relapse of anxiety, so does substance abuse. If you have multiple problems, anxiety, and depression or anxiety and substance abuse you need to be working on all the issues at the same time. Leave on issue untreated and the risk of relapse for the others increases.

Continue to work on your recovery to prevent a relapse of anxiety, depression or another mental illness.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Two kinds of fear

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Fear.

Fear.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Underneath much of life’s problems is an ancient enemy – fear. It is at the bottom of most negative emotions, the ones that infect our lives and undermine our happiness. Fear is at the bottom of anxiety, depression and the problems of daily living that keep knocking us off the road to happiness. Whatever disguise fears are wearing, we each have our own special boogeyman, there seem to be two primary species of fear. This is not a new idea, I heard it a long time ago in a self-help meeting, but the more I have thought about it, the truer it seems to me.

We are usually either afraid of not getting something we want or afraid of losing something we have.

Most often we are afraid of not getting something we want. The fear that you will not get your needs or desires met is a powerful one. Unfortunately the more we have the more we need.

Think about stalkers here. They become obsessed with wanting someone, usually someone that is out of reach. I know there are stories about someone who pursued a romantic interest over a long time and much difficulty and in the end, the relationship happened. But once your intended romantic partner has gotten married, had children and gotten a restraining order against you, it is time to give it up.

Some people try so hard for a particular job only to fall into a deep depression when it doesn’t come through. Wanting a career is wonderful. Pursuing your dream is great. But what will happen if that doesn’t pan out? You might be surprised at how many kids tell me they plan to go into major league sports. Most don’t make it. Some can’t make it and it ruins their whole life. What is really sad is when they become so fearful about failure that they self-sabotage and destroy their chances.

Ever hear the story of – well the name doesn’t matter – He was so sure his girlfriend was going to break up with him that he broke up with her first. Do you ever do that? Let your fear get control of you and destroy your chances before they began?

Therapists see some very sad cases of this fear. We see people who are not happy when alone, jump into a relationship because they are afraid that they will never be happy without a partner. Often they settle for a partner, any partner, and a relationship that is far short of what they wanted or deserved. Not surprisingly, to their counselor, they find that their partner is not happy either. Two unhappy people rarely make a happy relationship.

The second big cause of fear: We can be so in fear of losing something we have we forget to notice what we do have.

We old people have trouble keeping up. Two kids are sitting on a bench, each busily texting, neither one is speaking. I look over their shoulders. What could be so engrossing they don’t have time to talk? They are texting each other. I remember a time when my grandparents got a phone. Not everyone in the town had one. They felt lucky to be one of the first families to have one. I see a teen come into the psychiatric hospital, she cut her wrists, her parents had taken away her cell phone and she felt she had nothing to live for.

An old saying, only the rocks, and the hills are forever. Today with strip mining that may not be true. But we can get so into fear of losing something we miss out on the joy of having it. Remember in a hundred years not very many people, maybe no one will remember. For everything we have, we probably gave up something else that could have been.

Yes eventually that old car of yours, the one you saved to buy, it will break down. Keep it in the garage and never drive it and it will not get wrecked until your descendants take it out and drive it if it still runs then.

So have your fears controlled you? Do you fear you won’t get something you want and does that lead to anger, depression or anxiety? Is that fear keeping you from trying?

Do you fear losing something so much that you can’t enjoy what you have? Is it time to challenge your fears? Don’t let fear keep you from having a happy life.

More on this is at 2 large reasons for your fear and Anxiety

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.