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5 Ways to Protect Yourself from Secondhand Stress

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We all know about the dangers of secondhand smoke, but do you know about the risks of secondhand stress? Yes, secondhand stress is a thing, and if you’re not careful, it could make you sick.

Stress is Contagious

Have you ever been around someone that made you feel stressed and anxious? Before they came into the room, you were fine, happy and calm. But then they came in and suddenly you found yourself chewing on your nails or feeling on edge?

Like the flu or common cold, our emotions, stress included, are like viruses. We spread them to one another unsuspectingly. Before language developed, this act of instantaneously passing information through feelings helped our ancestors survive. Sharing emotions was a huge part of our evolution.

Though this communication mechanism is no longer needed, like a vestigial tail, we still pass around our emotions to each other on a daily basis. Sadly, most of us are unaware that much of the day we may be feeling someone else’s stress and not our own.

6 Signs You’re Suffering from Secondhand Stress

By recognizing the signs and learning who your triggers are, you can fight the harmful effects of secondhand stress that can make you sick. Here are 6 of the most common signs:

1] You’re Stressed and You Have No Idea Why

Most of us can pinpoint what is stressing us out – a project at work or a sick kid at home. If you are feeling stressed but you can’t really put your finger and why that is, this is a telltale sign that you are feeling someone else’s stress.

2] Your Glass is Suddenly Half Empty

Even people who are normally very positive can become overtly pessimistic around stressful people. Because our brain is wired for survival, once infected with someone else’s stress, you may find you naturally pay more attention to negativity as a way to ‘stay safe’.

3] You Become a “Hurrier”

When you’re cool, calm and collected, you make slow, intentional movements. But when you are around someone who is anxious all of the time, you may suddenly find yourself with a new sense of urgency, like every minute of each day is an emergency. Every task you perform is done with a feeling of, “Hurry up, something’s about to happen.”

4] You’re Tired All of the Time

Have you gone from feeling energized and rested to suddenly beat? While there is nothing particularly challenging going on in your own life, you feel worn down because your body does not know the difference between your stress and someone else’s. Secondhand stress means you feel the same “fight or flight” response to stress as the person whose stress it is.

5] You Have Sudden GI Upset

If you’re not one to normally have GI upsets like indigestion and diarrhea, but now suddenly find yourself with stomach trouble, this could be a sign that you are a victim of secondhand stress.

6] Brain Fog

While it may be someone else’s stress, your brain has still been put into the same ‘survival mode’ as theirs. After weeks or months of being in this survival mode, and having your body kept on high alert with hormones like adrenaline and cortisol coursing through your veins, you may notice your brain is starting to blip out and you can’t focus as well as you used to.

Now that you know the signs of secondhand stress, let’s look at some things you can do to protect yourself from it.

1. Identify the Source

It’s important to know who in your environment is the source of this stress. Is it a coworker or family member? Is there anything you can do to alleviate some of the stress for them? For instance, does your coworker need an extra hand with a project? Is your partner stressed about their own work and could use an ear to listen? Sometimes helping others find a solution to their problem can help you find one for your own.

But it’s important to mention that you should never feel you have to do more than you can. Don’t bite off more than you can chew and only help if it’s doable for you. Otherwise you’ll become stressed.

2. End Things

Is there a way you can gracefully break up with the person? If you’ve discovered your neighbor is the toxic trigger, do you best to avoid interactions. If a coworker is beyond help from you, try to spend less time with that person if you can. For example, do you usually go out with the coworker and some other people for lunch? Start bringing your lunch to work and say you’re trying to save money. Do whatever it takes to get yourself as far away from the stress as you can.

3. Surround Yourself with Positive people

The good news is, positivity can be just as contagious as negativity, so do your best to surround yourself with as much positivity as you can.

4. Inspire Positivity

There’s also something to be said for being the person that tips the scales toward positivity in your home, workplace, and community. Think about it: if you have a really negative person on your team at work, all of your other teammates could be swayed to take on this stress and negativity. But by being a source of positivity, you can inspire them to go toward the light not the dark.

5. Put Your Needs First

First and foremost, you’ve got to take care of yourself. Don’t try and please everyone and start putting your own needs first. When it comes to our mental, emotional and physical health, we should NEVER feel guilty about saying “no” more often or about finally putting our needs ahead of others.

The bottom line is, stress has become a bit like air – it’s everywhere. If we’re not dealing with our own stress, we may very well be dealing with others’ without even realizing it. Be sure to look for those warning signs and nip it in the bud before you let stress make you sick.

Peace and light,

Prue

Can a Cancer Diagnosis Cause PTSD?

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Hello lovely you!

The past few weeks we’ve been talking about stress: the good, the bad and the extremely ugly of it. We’ve talked about the fact that stress can wear us down, negatively impact our immune system and allow us to get sick, and sometimes very sick.

So not only can stress cause our bodies to develop cancer, but a diagnosis can give us even more stress. In fact for most people, a diagnosis of cancer will be the biggest stress they ever face.

A soldier develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being in a war. I can tell you from personal experience, being diagnosed with cancer, facing your own mortality for the first time and spending weeks and/or months receiving physically grueling treatments while fighting for your life… that is war!

Research Finds 1 in 5 Cancer Patients Develops PTSD

Not only has recent research found so many cancer patients develop PTSD, they found that survivors can still experience PTSD years after beating it.

Here’s a quote from Dr. Fremonta Meyer, a psychiatrist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and co-author of a recent study: “This underscores the importance of building better programs for longer-term support for cancer patients. Otherwise, we’ll miss people who are really continuing to suffer emotionally.”

Halleluiah! Doctors are finally beginning to recognize just how powerful emotions are when it comes to our health. PTSD will only undermine a patient’s recovery, so it’s important for cancer teams to treat the whole patient, physically, mentally and emotionally.

I read some other comments from doctors regarding this PTSD study. One of them, Dr. Gary H. Lyman, co-director of the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research has said, “We have just presumed that once the patient passes that acute phase, which may go for six months on average, that their symptoms will abate. So we stop asking the question.”

I think he means doctors stop asking us ‘how we’re doing’ because, hey, we’re still alive so what do we have to complain about?

Dr. Alan Valentine, chairman of the department of psychiatry at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston was refreshingly honest in his comments about the study:

“Do we do as well as we should in following up on anxiety and depression? Probably not. We’re probably missing a bunch of people.”

So there is hope that more and more doctors will begin to pay attention and actually care what is going on psychologically and emotionally with their patients during treatments.

In the meantime, if you are battling cancer and dealing with PTSD at the same time, or you are a cancer survivor but are having a hard time moving on, what can you do?

Keep Reading to Find Out

Before we get to some of the ways you can manage your PTSD, let’s talk about some of the symptoms of it, because it’s important to recognize whether you’re merely a little anxious with your diagnosis and treatment plan, or whether you have full-on post traumatic stress disorder.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of PTSD:

Nightmares

It’s common for PTSD sufferers to have disruptive sleep, punctuated by horrible nightmares. These nightmares aren’t sporadic but usually occur night after night.

Avoiding Triggering Situations

The day you heard your doctor say those horrifying words “you have cancer” was mostly likely the most traumatic day of your life. You may now wish to avoid your doctor’s office because just being there takes you back to the heart-pounding cold-sweat of that day. This is bad, because PTSD can cause patients to miss important medical appointments.

Isolation

When we are on edge and emotionally fragile, it’s hard to be around other people. It is not uncommon for cancer patients who are suffering with PTSD to isolate themselves from their friends and loved ones.

Depression

It’s a miracle some of us don’t experience depression during our treatment and recovery. Facing your own mortality at any age has a tendency to squash your spirits!!

How to manage Your PTSD so You Can Get well and Stay Well

Talk with Someone on Your Team

It’s important that you share what’s going on with someone on your team. This could be your doctor, social worker or counselor. They will either be able to provide treatment or refer you to someone who can help.

A therapist who specializes in PTSD may try different approaches to help you. He or she may talk to you about cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization, prolonged exposure therapy and/or incorporating antidepressant medications.

Please be really open and honest with your care team and therapist. It is important that you get help to manage your PTSD. In order for your body to heal, your mind and heart have to heal first!

Be Gentle with Yourself

Take the very best of care of yourself. Your health must come first. Your needs MUST come first right now.

Connect with Your Spirit

You will need YOU more than anyone during this time. There is a bigger YOU inside you, and this YOU is ultimately powerful. It… AKA YOU… have the power to heal your life. Get quiet. Go within. Become ONE with your inner power.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and take all of your stress away lovely you. I know exactly what you are feeling, because I have been where you are. I have faced the darkness, dealt with the stress and trauma of fighting cancer, and I am alive and here to help you and inspire you to have the strength and the love of self to keep going.

We are healing our lives one day at a time here at Prue’s Place.

With love & gratitude,

Prue

Good Stress VS Bad Stress – Is There Really a Difference?

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Can stress and anxiety cause cancer?

When we talk about stress, we tend to talk about only one flavor of it, the bad yucky kind. I mean, how often do you hear someone say, “Gee, I am so stressed right now and I feel amazing!!” Not often. So it’s clear why we all assume there is only the bad kind of stress.

But there actually is a good kind of stress. And if we listen to it, it can help us avoid the bad kind of stress. But if we don’t listen to it, it can (and generally will) turn into the bad kind of stress. And then we face the possibility of becoming depressed and sick.

When we feel tired, frustrated or irritated about something going on in our lives, we need to start listening to those emotions. These emotions act as guides and can help us recognize that something is off, not right, or unhealthy for us. This can be a situation at work, at home, or with a neighbor etc.

I wasn’t always good at listening to my good stress. Before my cancer diagnosis, I often felt like a victim of life. I assumed that I had no control and that I wasn’t responsible for what showed up in my life. Life was crappy sometimes, I told myself, and our job while on the planet was to “just deal with it.

Boy was I wrong! I now know the importance of listening to my inner emotional voices, whatever they may want to tell me.

Has Your Life’s Engine Light Gone On?

You’ve got to think of stress like the sounds your car makes. Some car owners start to hear a weird rattle noise coming from somewhere under the hood on their way to work. The engine light’s not on and the car still drives, so they choose to ignore the rattle.

The rattle eventually turns into a grinding noise, but they ignore that as well because, hey, the car is still driving.

Finally, one day, the car won’t start and they think this breakdown came out of nowhere and they throw an absolute fit!! Oh the injustice of this breakdown!!

Had they brought their car into the shop when it was only making a little rattle noise, they would have been able to fix the problem and prolonged the life and health of their car.

Good stress is like that little rattle. You’ve got to listen to it so you can avoid the grinding and eventual complete breakdown of your mental and physical health.

How to Turn Bad Stress into Good Stress or even No Stress

Many of us have the habit of perceiving our lives in a negative way. Are you guilty of seeing the glass as half empty instead of half full? If so, it’s important to be honest with yourself and work on shifting your perception of the world and events around you.

The truth is, there will always be heavy traffic and long commutes, noisy neighbors, overbearing bosses and spouses or partners who are toxic and end up NOT having our best interests at heart. The first step is to remove as many of the obvious stressors in your life as you can.

For the rest of the stress that remains, we must find different ways to think about it. This is really important because if you don’t perceive something as a threat, your body won’t respond by producing and releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. I’ve written about these hormones before – they absolutely wreak havoc on our bodies and our health when we are chronically stressed.

So how do you shift your perception of stressful situations?

There are a few different things I do to help me make an attitude adjustment:

1) See the lesson– Is there something you can learn from the stressful situation? Is there something about yourself you’ve just discovered? Will the knowledge you’ve gained help you fulfill your calling or potential in some way?

2) What are the hidden benefits/silver lining? – A friend of mine was injured at work a few months ago. At first she was angry the whole thing had happened. Not only was she in pain, but workman’s comp was only covering some of her missed pay, so she felt some financial stress not bringing home her usual paychecks. But then she realized she could finally spend time at home with her beloved dog while she recovered. She loved this dog more than just about anything and never got to spend much time with him. He had gotten quite old and my friend felt guilt every day leaving for work.

A couple of months after my friend finally went back to work, her beloved companion died. She was so sad, but also so grateful that she could spend so much quality one-on-one time with him before he passed. Her injury and time off of work turned out to be a little miracle in disguise. Try and find those little miracles every day.

3) Rely on your own strength – When you start to feel stress, don’t fall victim to it, find the strength and resources within yourself to beat it. Also, find any beliefs or behavioral patterns of yours that may have created the situation in the first place. Our thoughts and beliefs truly do create our lives! I don’t believe this, I KNOW this to be true.

It will take some practice making these mental shifts, but the more you do it, the more automatic these types of responses will become.

Life is always going to throw us some stress, that is a fact we have to accept. But we don’t have to accept all of the stress that comes into our lives. We don’t have to get so stressful that it causes anxiety and makes us sick. Some of the stress we can get rid of, and some of it we can’t, but we can shift our thinking to see the situation in a completely different way.

With love & gratitude,

4 Ways to Beat the Effects of Stress

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Hello lovely you,

Yesterday, I was sitting in some pretty horrendous traffic because of construction. We must have sat there for close to twenty minutes without anyone moving. Our side wasn’t moving, opposing traffic wasn’t moving. I knew I was going to be late to my appointment and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it except call ahead and apologize.

Now, there was a time in my life where a situation like this would have sent me straight through the roof of my car. I mean, after ten minutes of trying to be patient, I would have eventually snapped and started huffing and puffing and letting loose some not-so-nice words!

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Developing a Powerful Mind That Heals

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A while ago I was doing some research and came across a Washington Post article with the title, “Harvard Medical School professor says ‘Miracles from Heaven’ and other remarkable cures could be real.” This obviously got my attention and quick. I was so excited by what I was reading, I don’t think I blinked once!

The reference to ‘Miracles from Heaven’ was about a movie (based on a real event) that came out a couple of years ago, about a young girl with an incurable illness who was miraculously healed after visiting Heaven and coming back.

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Are Your Emotions Making You Sick?

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It’s only recently that doctors have begun to look at the mind/body connection and realize that emotions play a huge role in our overall health. Of course, I could have told them this (well, I tried) years ago.

You see, it wasn’t long before my diagnosis of stage 4 malignant melanoma 30 years ago that my dear daddy was killed by a drunk driver and ripped from my life. I was absolutely devastated when it happened. I was in my early 20s and my father was my world and my best friend. When he was killed, I think a part of me wanted to die as well.

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breathing techniques for cancer

Just relax will ya! Why should I relax?

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Just relax will ya!

We tense up and tighten up out of sheer habit during our day. We don’t even know we do it. Certain things make us automatically tense up our neck, shoulders and back and this produces shallow breathing, which creates tension. When we become mindful of our habits, we can relax more.

Learn to relax more during your day.

Find things to help you relax. Here are some of my favorites – Hot bath with Epsom salts, sauna, steam room, a massage, walking, meditating and my breathing techniques.
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