5 Tips for Coping With Year-End Stress

I probably don’t have to mention that 2020 has been a stressful year. We all know that at this point, and it’s not getting much better for a lot of people. Some have lost their jobs, some are fighting to keep their businesses open, and many are isolated from family during a time of year when they most want to gather together. Struggles with mental health issues like anxiety and depression are rising rapidly–even the CDC admits that social distancing and stay-at-home orders are related to a dramatic increase in mental health challenges, including an increase in the number of people “seriously considering suicide” (Czeisler, M. et al. “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” August 14, 2020).

The purpose of this post is not to talk about how stressful 2020 is–we all know first-hand that this is the case. What I want to talk about is ways that we can cope with that stress as the year draws to a close. This is not an exhaustive list of tips for coping with stress. Rather, it’s a collection of ones that I’ve personally found helpful and/or which I’ve known helped other people. I hope you find something in here that is useful for you 🙂

1. Stop Isolating

Depending on your exact situation and government rulings in the location where you live, this recommendation is going to look quite different for different people. Human beings are social creatures–even the most introverted among us does not do well in prolonged isolation. We need positive human interaction to stay sane and healthy. The form those interactions take, though, can vary widely, especially with modern technology.

We often think of socializing something that needs to involve large groups of people, but there’s no reason to limit socializing to big events if you don’t think that’s practical or safe. Getting together with a friend for lunch (in places where restaurants are open) or inviting a couple people over for dinner can just as easily fill your need for socialization. If you’re lucky enough to live in the same house with at least one person that you like, you also have an option for socialization right there. Maybe you plan a day to spend doing something together, like bake a special meal for the two of you as my sister and I did this year for Thanksgiving.

If there are no opportunities for in-person interaction, take advantage of the options that technology offers for video and/or phone calls. My sister, cousin, and I have a Zoom meeting each week to chat and watch Netflix together (right now it’s Star Trek: The Original Series). If you don’t already know someone to meet with, there are groups online that you can join such as virtual book clubs. Whatever method you choose to break out of isolation, the key is to make sure you’re having some kind of positive interaction.

2. Unplug and Take Time

I feel like so often we get wrapped up in following the news, or stressing about whatever it is that most worries us, or pushing ourselves to go non-stop that we just wind ourselves tighter and tighter until something snaps. Before that “snap” happens, why not take a moment to step outside the franticness of modern life and take some time for yourself?

Our culture is fast-paced, and social media algorithms are designed to keep pulling you into ever more extreme versions of whatever it is you’re looking at. But we’re the ones who get to make decisions about what we do with our time, our eyes, our minds, and our feelings. We have the power to step away from all that and choose to do something more productive and less stressful with our time. Read a book, set aside time for prayer and Bible Study, do something creative, or click here and try one of these self-care tips.

You don’t need to hide under a rock and avoid everything going on in the world, but you do need to take time to care for yourself and do things that really matter. The world isn’t going to end if you get off social media for a week or if you ignore the news for a couple days over the weekend. You don’t actually have to listen to or internalize all the fear mongering, division spreading stuff that it’s so easy to find online, on the TV, and on the radio. There are better things we can do with our time. As I write those words, Toby Keith’s song “My List” just popped into my head. It was released as a single in 2002, shortly after a different national disaster, and I think it still has a relevant message today.

3. Breathe and Move

Breathing seems like a very simple thing. We do it automatically all day, every day. Most of us don’t notice or think about our breath unless breathing becomes difficult for some reason. Cultivating a deep, conscious breath practice, though, can be one of the best things we can do for our overall health, especially if it’s paired with some kind of an exercise practice.

My dad has done more research into this than I have, so I’ll share a couple of resources that he likes. He’s an advocate of the Wim Hoff Method and he’s also been recommending the book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor (please note this is an affiliate link). You might want to check those out if this is a topic that interests you.

My own experiences with deep breathing come through cognitive behavioral therapy and yoga. CBT uses deep breathing as one method for managing anxiety (if you click here, I talk more about that in this post). In yoga, deep breathing is paired with physical movements to strengthen and balance breath, body, and mind. On that note, my favorite YouTube yoga teacher is offering a free 30-days of yoga series starting in January that is focused on conscious breath. Her annual 30 Day of Yoga program has become my favorite way to start a new year. You can click here to learn more or sign up for her 2021 “Breath” series.

Further reading: “Are Yoga and Meditation Okay For Christians?

4. Pick A Theme For Next Year

I won’t spend too much time on this point since I had a whole post on it last week (click here to read that). The basic idea is that you should toss New Year’s Resolutions out the window (they basically just set you up for failure since most of us know we’re not going to stick with them) and instead pick a “theme” or “intention” for the year. Themes are more vague and more adaptable than resolutions, and that means they’re something you’re more likely to stick with. They still push you in a positive direction, though, which is something we always want in personal growth.

Picking a theme like “Year of Health” or seasonal themes like “Winter of Self-Care” and “Spring of Connection” is a great way to set yourself up for a more positive year ahead. And having something to look forward to next year (especially something that we have some measure of control over) can make it easier to cope with end-of-the-year stress right now.

5. Talk with A Counselor

Mental health isn’t something to take lightly. I know from experience that it can be hard to ask for help with something that’s happening inside your own mind. Maybe you don’t think what you’re dealing “bad enough” to justify seeing a counselor, or you worry that you can’t afford to take time and resources away from other things, or you think others will judge you for going into therapy. But it really is okay to get help.

Trying to deal with a mental health issue on your own is rarely a good idea, especially if its become something that impacts your quality of life or overwhelms your thoughts. Please go get proper help from a therapist, counselor, or other psychology/medical professional. Click here to access Psychology Today’s directory of mental health professionals and find a therapist or psychiatrist near you. There are also online options that may be more affordable and/or more accessible, especially given the current situation with COVID-19.

I hope that you all find ways to end this year with peace and hope in your hearts. There are many reasons to be fearful and stressed, but we can still choose to keep living, loving, and hoping.

Featured image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay

Expressivist Writing Prompts for Therapeutic Journaling

My first semester in grad school studying for a Master’s in Rhetoric and Writing, I’m taking a class on writing pedagogies. One philosophy of teaching writing is called Expressivism. In one of the first articles we read on the subject, Richard Fulkerson said this: “Expressivists value writing that is about personal subjects, and such journal-keeping is an absolute essential. Another keynote for expressivists is the desire to have writing contain an interesting, credible, honest, and personal voice” (“Four Philosophies of Composition, 1997, p. 344). Expressivist writing is about self-discovery, personal voice, and self-expression.

When I first read about these writing philosophies, Expressivism made me a little uncomfortable. I like this kind of writing, but it feels like something that belongs in a therapy setting more than in a composition classroom. The more I’ve read about this theory, worked in the campus writing center, and talked with professors who teach composition, the more I’ve started rethinking how useful writing for yourself can be when learning to write for others.

For today’s post, though, I want to lean in to the therapy-like aspects of expressivist writing. I’ve often talked about the importance of journaling for INFJs (and other personality types as well) and recommended that regular journaling is good for helping sort-out your feelings and support your mental health. But one thing I haven’t talked about is what to write in your journals. Journaling is such a personal thing that it seemed presumptuous to suggest journaling topics. I’ve used writing prompts myself, though (more often for fiction, but also sometimes for journaling) and find them helpful, so this seemed like a good idea for a blog post.

How to Start Journaling

You don’t need a huge amount of time to try out journaling. Even 5 to 15 minutes is enough to get started. Many people recommend journaling every day, but while that’s a fantastic goal I often find that journaling a couple times a week is more realistic for me. It might take a while to figure out a schedule that works best for you, so don’t give up if you miss a couple days or feel like you’re “falling behind.” There isn’t really a wrong way to do this.

I like journaling by hand in cute notebooks but digital journaling is an option as well. If you do like writing on a phone, laptop, or computer, I recommend 4TheWords as an great platform to gamify the process and keep you motivated. It’s only $4 a month, there’s a 30-day free trial, and we’ll both get free crystals if you use my referral code VDAFM17786. I’m currently on a 819-day writing streak (and it lets you reserve days so you can take a break if you need to).

One more thing to mention: expressivist writing is a great tool for supporting your mental health, but it’s not a substitute for actual therapy. If you’re struggling with something, my advice is go see a therapist, counselor, or other psychology/medical professional. I can assure you from experience that trying to deal with a mental health issue on your own is not a good idea. Please go get proper help. Click here to access Psychology Today’s directory of mental health professionals and find a therapist or psychiatrist near you

10 Expressivist Prompts

Expressivist Writing Prompts for Therapeutic Journaling | LikeAnAnchor.com
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
  1. What makes you feel alive?
  2. Remember a time when you felt at peace within yourself. Write about that feeling, what it meant to you, how you got there, etc.
  3. If you could be any type of animal, what would you choose and why?
  4. What was the last idea you had that you really wanted to share with someone else?
  5. If someone asked you for your favorite tips on coping with stress, what would you say?
  6. Which superpower would you like to have? Which one do you think you’d actually have based on your personality?
  7. If you could go on an adventure, what would it be and where? The sky isn’t the limit for this prompt–our world, the universe, and fiction are all fair game.
  8. What is one thing you wish other people knew about you?
  9. What childhood memories have stayed with you the strongest? How have they influenced who you are today?
  10. If you could meet any person–living or dead, real or fictional–who would it be and what would you talk about?

Some of these might seem more “creative” than “therapeutic” when you’re first reading through them. I think that it’s important, though, for helping ourselves relax and stay mentally healthy to take the time for creativity. We can’t do intense personal growth work all the time; we’d burn ourselves out. So I hope you’ll try out one of the silly ones like “Which animal would you be?” as well as the potentially more intense ones like “What do you wish other people knew about you?”

More Journaling Prompts

If my prompts don’t resonate with you, you’re looking for more prompts, or you’d like another perspective on expressive journaling, here are three more resource where you can find expressivist writing prompts.

PandemicProject

The Pandemic Project from the University of Texas at Austin offers a list of prompts to help you deal with feeling overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic. You can use them just for yourself, or anonymously share your writing with the research team. Here’s an example prompt:

For the next 5-10 minutes (or longer if you like), really let go and explore your deepest thoughts and feelings about the COVID-19 outbreak.

Expressive Wring Prompts

This collection of prompts from Duke University is organized by topic. Choose from categories like “Self-Love, “Introspection,” Creativity, “and “Uncertainty.” Here are a few examples of what you’ll find on this list:

Describe your famous alter ego. What would you be famous for? Where would you live? What would your style be? What would people know you as from a distance? How would you defy their expectations?

What is a mistake or failure you’ve had that you became thankful for?

Reflect on a time when you have overcome an obstacle, small or large.

105 Writing Prompts for Self-Reflection and Self-Discovery

This list comes from mental health advocate, writer and blogger Janine Ripper. Her extensive list of writing prompts could keep you busy writing for months if you fall in love with expressive writing. Here are a few examples:

In what ways have you grown as a person this year? What/who has influenced you? And what have you learned?

If you could relive an experience in your life, what would it be?

What are the 3 biggest distractions in your life at the moment, and how can you go about reducing them?

Have any prompts you’d like to share? Tips for starting and keeping up with a journal? Want to talk about your experience trying out some of these prompts? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Featured image credit: David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay

Going Crazy Stuck at Home? Here Are an Introvert’s Tips for Making the Most of Social Distancing

As an introvert who works from home, I’m used to being socially distant from people for the better part of each week. For most of us, though, the coronavirus quarantine is way outside our normal way of life. Even many introverts are discovering they miss being around people more than they thought they would. Humans are social creatures, and we all need other people to a certain extent.

For me personally, I know from a week spent house-sitting that I don’t do well if I’m completely isolated for more than a couple days. Thankfully I live with family, so I’m not too terribly lonely even with the quarantine. But I know there are many people who live alone, or who are stuck in situations where the people they live with aren’t safe to be around, or who are so extroverted that just having a couple other people in the house isn’t enough to keep them from going stir-crazy.

Thankfully, your introverted friends have been preparing for just this sort of situation. We’re full of good ideas for how to spend your time when you can’t (or don’t want to) be around other people. Since we’re stuck at home anyway we might as well make the most of it, so here are an introvert’s best tips for how to put your time in social isolation to good use.

Keep In Touch

As I’ve said before, introverts need people too. We all (to varying degrees) need a certain amount of human interaction to keep mentally and even physically healthy. Thanks to modern technology, there are plenty of ways to do that without actually being in the same room as the other person.

Phone calls are a great way to keep in touch. I used to hate the phone, but now I’ve changed my mind just enough that I’m happy to spend hours talking with a few close friends. If you really want to communicate with someone calling is a faster way with more immediate feedback than text or email. But if phones aren’t your thing (or, like me, there are only a very few people you feel comfortable calling), then write a letter or send an email or shoot someone a text.

Read A Book

Reading has long been a favorite at-home activity for both introverts and extroverts. If you have not been hoarding books like the apocalypse is coming and you might be the last library left in the world (I have 1,100+ books on my shelves), then you can order some online, download ebooks, or turn to our local library. Read more

5 Tips for Dealing With Your Emotions in a Healthy Way Instead of Bottling Them Up

What do you do with your emotions? A lot of us bottle them up and pretend they don’t exist because we’ve grown up thinking it’s not okay to express problematic feelings like anger, or that strong people don’t cry, or that being too happy makes you look ridiculous. There are also people who swing to the opposite extreme and give all their emotions free reign, but that’s a different issue than the one we’re talking about in this article.

Emotions are a complicated subject. We all have them, but what are they really? And what’s the best way to deal with them? Those are questions typically answered by trial and error or by whatever messages regarding emotion we were targeted with as children. As such, we can make several mistakes when approaching emotions. We might see them as something that’s pesky and distracting rather than a core part of being human. We could make the mistake of thinking everyone has (or should have) the same emotional temperament as us. Or we might decide all emotions are negative and it’s better to hide our feelings than to process them.

As someone struggling with anxiety and depression, I often find myself stuck in negative emotions instead of working through them. In many cases, I also react to situations that could be positive in a negative way. But even people with great mental health can still struggle to process emotions effectively. And the more we bottle up emotions (particularly negative ones) without processing them, the greater the risk that we’ll reach a point where they’re released by something like a burst of out-of-place anger or by collapsing into tears for no apparent reason. So how do we avoid such problems and learn to process our emotions in a healthy way? Read more

5 Big-Picture Tips for Self-Care and Personal Growth as an INFJ

Do you ever feel like your self-expectations are wearing you out? You constantly want to grow and improve but it’s so exhausting that you don’t have the energy to do focused personal growth. Every time you try to improve something, you burn yourself out or get distracted by other things that clamor for your attention.

This is something any personality type can face, not just INFJs. And I’m sure other types (especially the other Extroverted Feeling types like ENFJ, ISFJ, and ESFJ) will relate to the feelings of guilt associated with not being able to do everything for everyone, including yourself. Even so, I’m mostly focusing on INFJs today because those are the most popular posts on my blog so I assume many of you readers will relate to this discussion. Maybe we’ll do a series of self-care and personal growth posts for the other types as well if it seems like there’s interest.

Often when we talk about self-care, it’s things like drink a cup of tea, make time for exercise, or get better sleep. Those are all great, but there are also big-picture things we can do for long term self-care and they’re closely tied to personal growth.

If we’re not working on personal growth in some form we can often feel “stagnant” and dissatisfied with our lives. If we’re not working on self-care, we quickly become burned out by everything going on, including our personal growth work. We need to take care of ourselves and encourage ourselves to keep growing at the same time.It’s my hope that these 5 tips will help you balance those two things as an INFJ.

1) Remember personal growth takes time

Many INFJs are also perfectionists. We want to get things right the first time and we easily get discouraged if something doesn’t work out as well as we hoped. But personal growth is one of those things that takes time. It doesn’t always happen in a straight line, either. Sometimes it may seem like we’re going in circles dealing with the same issues over and over again. We need patience with ourselves so we can stop negative self-talk about how we’re not growing fast enough. Talking to yourself in an encouraging way is an important part of self-care for INFJs.

Further reading: Working Through Cycles of Personal Growth

2) Give yourself permission to take care of you

Like other FJ types, INFJs prefer to make decisions based on what gets everyone’s needs met. Sometimes we forget that “everyone” includes us. One of the best self-care decisions you can make as an INFJ is to give yourself permission to tend to your own needs first. If it helps, think of it this way: you won’t be able to take care of others if you let yourself become worn down, ill, and unmotivated. So take care of yourself! This includes giving yourself permission to take the time to work on personal growth.

5 Big-Picture Tips for Self-Care and Personal Growth as an INFJ | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: Shahariar Lenin via Pixabay

3) Ditch the guilt and shame

You’re not too broken to find healing. You haven’t failed so badly that there’s no point in continuing to try. Not everything is your fault. INFJs often live with ridiculous amounts of guilt, and if you’re going to grow you need to address this issue. This is going to be a personal growth goal as well as part of long-term self care. Make sure that while you’re working on taking care of yourself in this way, you also don’t neglect more short-term self care like getting enough sleep, eating well, and getting recharge time by yourself. This isn’t a goal any of us are likely to reach all at once, so you’ll need to be kind with yourself while you work on it.

For more on this topic, check out my post Living With INFJ Guilt And Overcoming Cycles of Shame.

4) Embrace your authenticity

I feel like a lot of stress in many INFJs’ lives comes from not feeling comfortable letting other people see who they really are. We’re chameleons who try to figure out who we “should” be in each situation and then be that person. Many INFJs believe that being themselves hasn’t worked out so well in the past and so we try to avoid rejection by hiding our authentic selves. But that leads to dissatisfaction, as well as the aforementioned feelings of gilt and shame. Learning to embrace vulnerability and having the courage to be yourself is often a life-long challenge, but it’s one that will help you take care of yourself better and grow as a person.

Read more: The Importance of Living Authentically as an INFJ

5) Ask for help and stand up for your needs

If you need to take the time for some self-care and meeting your own needs (like having an introvert night once a week), don’t be afraid to tell people this. Learning to enforce healthy boundaries and stand up for yourself is one of the best things you can do as an INFJ. This doesn’t mean you need to do everything on your own, though. It’s okay to reach out and ask friends for help or to seek professional counseling. In fact, I highly recommend counseling if you’re struggling to work through something, need a trusted person to talk to, or want some help achieving your goals.


If you’d like to know more about the INFJ personality type, check out my book The INFJ Handbook. I just updated it with a ton of new information and resources. You can purchase it in ebook or paperback by clicking this link.

 

Featured image credit: Tabeajaichhalt via Pixabay

10 Self-Care Tips for Highly Sensitive People and Introverts

When was the last time you did something to care for yourself?

According to a definition used on PsychCentral, “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” Most of us practice at least a little bit of self-care every day with basic tasks like brushing our teeth and making sure we eat something. But self-care should go farther than just enough to keep us functioning.

Self-care isn’t a selfish thing. It’s about recognizing and meeting our own needs and taking the time to recharge so we can bring the best version of our authentic selves into every area of our lives.

While self-care is important for everyone, I want to focus today’s post on self-care tips for highly sensitive persons and introverts. Even though there are highly sensitive extroverts, it’s still true that HSPs and introverts have similar self-care needs. It’s easy for both to get overwhelmed by the demands of every-day life and we need time to slow down and take care of ourselves. I hope the 10 tips in today’s post will help you do just that.

1) Listen to yourself

It’s amazing how easy it is to ignore what your own body is trying to tell you. We often keep pushing ourselves, trying to get through things without caring how it’s affecting us. Something as simple as taking a few minutes to pause and assess yourself can do wonders for your mental and physical health. It’s always good to catch negative feelings or stress early and take the time and do some quick self-care right then. The sooner you deal with something, the less likely it is to come back and bug you later.

2) Drink tea

I used to hate tea, but a couple years ago I discovered I just didn’t like (most) teas from the tea plant. Herbal teas on the other hand are a wonderful thing. Whatever type of tea flavor you prefer, consider picking one without caffeine so it’s more relaxing and won’t increase anxiety. Read more