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

What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like If They Get Stuck In A “Loop”?

When someone interested in Myers-Briggs®talks about loops, they’re referring to what happens when a person bypasses their co-pilot function and starts relying on their dominant and tertiary process instead. This can be a temporary situation, or it can last for quite a long time depending on the individual and their circumstances.

Some people teach that the Dominant-Tertiary Loop leads to personality disorders, but I have not found any good research to back up this claim. We can slip into a loop pattern without developing a disorder, and specific mental illnesses aren’t tied to any one personality type. It seems more likely to me that, as a general rule, loops are part of a reaction to stress or an attempt to avoid discomfort.

If you need a refresher on how cognitive functions work, click here to read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever.”

We all need a balance between inner and outer world feedback, a way to learn new information, and a way to process information and make decisions. We’re got all that covered in our dominant and co-pilot functions because one is introverted and one is extroverted, and one’s a perceiving/learning function (Sending or Intuition) and one’s a judging/decision-making function (Feeling or Thinking).

When we skip our co-pilot function and go for the tertiary instead, we’re replacing the co-pilot with a function that fills a similar role because the tertiary and co-pilot are both either Perceiving or Judging functions. However, the tertiary has the same orientation (Introverted or Extroverted) as the dominant function. Going into a “loop” means we’re ignoring the world that is most uncomfortable for us and we’re opting to use a function that’s less mature than our co-pilot. This “loop” is going to look different for each type, but in all cases it means we’re not balanced. It also usually means that we’re avoiding personal growth. Read more

What Role Does The Tertiary Function Play In Myers-Briggs® Personality Types?

When we talk about psychological functions in Myers-Briggs® types, the tertiary function often gets over looked. Usually, we talk about the two that we use most often or about the inferior function that usually shows up under stress. These three functions are hugely important. Our dominant and co-pilot processes need to work together for us to have healthy, balanced personalities. And we need to understand the inferior function so we’re better equipped to recognize and deal with how we react to stressful situations. But the tertiary function is also important.

To learn more about how your inferior function works, check out my article “What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like When They Get Stressed-Out?” And if you need a refresher on cognitive functions, or if this part of Myers-Briggs® is new to you, read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever

The tertiary function is also called the “relief function.” In Personality Hacker’s car model (affiliate link), they call it the 10-year-old because that’s the level of maturity this function typically has. Psychologist John Beebe named it the “Eternal Child” after one of Carl Jung’s archetypes. Though we don’t talk about this function nearly as much as some of the others, it’s also a key part of our personality. Understanding the tertiary function, and how it relates to the other functions, can really help us understand ourselves.

Growth And The Functions

In terms of typology, personal growth happens when we’re using both our introverted and our extroverted sides, as well as our judging and perceiving sides. Working to find a balance between our dominant and co-pilot processes leads to growth and change because we’re exercising all these aspects of our personality. Read more

What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like When They Get Stressed-Out?

Stress is something we all have to deal with. It’s part of being human. But how we each react to stress is, at least partly, determined by our personality types.

Each personality type has four mental processes called “cognitive functions” that they use when living their day-to-day lives. These functions describe how our minds work. For example, an ESTJ type is most comfortable using Extroverted Thinking to make decisions in the outer world. That’s supported by their co-pilot Introverted Sensing, which is their preferred way to learn and process information. Then they have a tertiary process called Extroverted Intuition, which they’re not quite as comfortable with. The fourth function, in this case Introverted Feeling, is called the inferior process and it’s not well developed at all.

For more information on how cognitive functions work, read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever

When we’re stressed-out our minds typically go to our inferior process. (We can also “loop” between our dominant and tertiary, but that’s a topic for another post). This explains why we start acting out of character when under stress. Stress throws off the familiar, comfortable balance of our mental processes and changes how we deal with things. And because we each use a different combination of these mental functions, a stress-response is going to look a little different for each type.

Why Study Stress-Responses?

Recognizing what a stress-reaction looks like for different types can help us in several ways. If you’re in any kind of relationship with someone, knowing what happens when they’re stressed can give you a different perspective on them when they start to act out a character. Instead of being puzzled by their behavior, you can recognize it as the way they respond to stress.

In terms of our relationship with ourselves, knowing our own stress reactions can help us recognize when we need to practice some self-care. If you’re starting to go into your inferior function, then it’s time to take a look at your life and figure out what’s the cause of your stress and how you can get yourself back into balance. Read more

Fictional MBTI — Thor (ESTP)

With Thor: Ragnarok now out, it seemed like a good time for another Fictional MBTI post. Especially since Ragnarok is so good. Who would have thought a film about the destruction of Asgard and fall of the gods (that’s not a spoiler — it’s Norse mythology) could be so light-hearted and fun?

I’ve been typing Thor as an ESTP since the first film came out, which I think is pretty much the standard typing for him (please note: I’m only typing the MCU version of Thor, not his character in the comics). But that’s no reason not to give him his own blog post. I usually use David Kiersey’s nicknames for the personality types, but for Thor the ESTP nickname “Adventurer” seems more appropriate than “Promoter.”Fictional MBTI - Thor (ESTP) | marissabaker.wordpress.com

A Man of Action

Fictional MBTI - Thor (ESTP) | marissabaker.wordpress.comESTP types lead with a mental process called Extroverted Sensing (Se). Fittingly, this is the most visible aspect of Thor’s character in the films. SP types are doers. They thrive on taking action in the real world and they’re good at it. Really good. In fact, I’d venture a guess that most action heroes in fiction are SP types, especially STP types. It’s not that they can’t pause for reflection or plan ahead. It’s that they don’t really see the need since things usually work out so well for them.

ESTPs have a reputation for being thrill-seekers, and it’s not hard to see why. Their dominant Se seeks variety and physical stimulation. They like to take risks, yet they are so aware of their physical surroundings and their limits that they are probably the smartest physical risk-takers around. They have a natural awareness for what their body can or can’t do, paired with quick reflexes, and an ability to keep their wits in a crisis.” — Susan Storm, Understanding ESTP Sensing

This side of Thor’s character is at the forefront in the new film as well as his past appearances. In Ragnarok’s opening scene, he even comments that fighting against overwhelming odds without a real plan seems to always work out for him. And not only does it work out, he’s clearly enjoying himself. He thrives on challenge and risk-taking. Read more