Social Media Use & Body Image Concerns

Social Media Use Increasing Body Image Concerns

You might be checking on what your friends are up to. You might be looking for a way to connect and communicate. Or you might just be looking for some entertainment.

Despite the reasons we engage in social media, researchers at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine say our social media use is predisposing us to body image concerns and the risk of developing an eating disorder (Sidani et al., 2016).

“We’ve long known that exposure to traditional forms of media, such as fashion magazines and television, is associated with the development of disordered eating and body image concerns, likely due to the positive portrayal of ‘thin’ models and celebrities,“ explains Jaime E. Sidani, PhD, MPH, assistant director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health. “Social media combines many of the visual aspects of traditional media with the opportunity for social media users to interact and propagate stereotypes that can lead to eating and body image concerns” (Sidani, 2016).

Sampling 1,765 U.S. adults age 19 through 32 in 2014, Dr. Sidani and her colleagues used questionnaires to determine use of 11 of the most popular social media platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.

Then they cross-referenced those results with the results of another questionnaire that used established screening tools to assess eating disorder risk, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and other clinical and mental health issues where people have a distorted body image and disordered eating.

Their findings should have us all putting our phones down. The participants who spent the most time on social media throughout the day had 2.2 times the risk of reporting eating and body image concerns, compared to their peers who spent less time on social media. And participants who reported most frequently checking social media throughout the week had 2.6 times the risk, compared with those who checked least frequently (Sidani et al., 2016).

While previous research has shown that people tend to post images online that present themselves in a more positive – rather than realistic – light, thereby exposing others to unrealistic expectations for their appearance, it is also possible, notes Brian A. Primack, MD, PhD, assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences, that people who have eating and body image concerns might then be turning to social media to connect with groups of people who also have these concerns” (Primack, 2016).

The concern, however, is that despite Instagram banning the hashtags ‘thinspiration’ and ‘thinspo,’ YouTube videos about anorexia nervosa that could be classified as “pro-anorexia” received higher viewer ratings than informative videos highlighting the health consequences of the eating disorder.

For Sidani, the answer is more research. Not just do we need to develop effective interventions to counter social media content that either intentionally or unintentionally increases the risk of eating disorders in users, she notes, we need to follow users over time to answer the cause-and-effect questions surrounding social media use and risk for eating and body image concerns.

Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:

Ethics and Social MediaEthics and Social Media is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that examines the use of Social Networking Services (SNS) on both our personal and professional lives. Is it useful or appropriate (or ethical or therapeutic) for a therapist and a client to share the kinds of information that are routinely posted on SNS like Facebook, Twitter, and others? How are psychotherapists to handle “Friending” requests from clients? What are the threats to confidentiality and therapeutic boundaries that are posed by the use of social media sites, texts, or tweets in therapist-client communication?

The purpose of this course is to offer psychotherapists the opportunity to examine their practices in regard to the use of social networking services in their professional relationships and communications. Included are ethics topics such as privacy and confidentiality, boundaries and multiple relationships, competence, the phenomenon of friending, informed consent, and record keeping. A final section offers recommendations and resources for the ethical use of social networking and the development of a practice social media policy. Course #20-75 | 2016 | 32 pages | 15 posttest questions

Nutrition and Mental HealthNutrition and Mental Health: Advanced Clinical Concepts is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that examines how what we eat influences how we feel, both physically and mentally. While the role of adequate nutrition in maintaining mental health has been established for some time, just how clinicians go about providing the right nutritional information to the patient at the right time – to not just ensure good mental health, but actually optimize mood – has not been so clear. With myriad diets, weight loss supplements and programs, clients often find themselves reaching for the next best nutritional solution, all the while, unsure how they will feel, or even what to eat to feel better. On the other side of the equation, clinicians so often face not just a client’s emotional, situational, and relational concerns, but concerns that are clearly mired in how the client feels physically, and what impact his/her nutritional health may have on these concerns. For example, research into the role of blood sugar levels has demonstrated a clear crossover with client impulse control. Additionally, the gut microbiome, and its role in serotonin production and regulation has consistently made clear that without good gut health, mitigating anxiety and depression becomes close to impossible.

So if good mental health begins with good nutritional health, where should clinicians start? What advice should they give to a depressed client? An anxious client? A client with impulse control problems? This course will answer these questions and more. Comprised of three sections, the course will begin with an overview of macronutrient intake and mental health, examining recent popular movements such as intermittent fasting, carb cycling and ketogenic diets, and their impact on mental health. In section two, we will look specifically at the role of blood sugar on mental health, and research that implicates blood sugar as both an emotional and behavioral regulator. Gut health, and specifically the gut microbiome, and its influence on mood and behavior will then be explored. Lastly, specific diagnoses and the way they are impacted by specific vitamins and minerals will be considered. Section three will deliver specific tools, you, the clinician, can use with your clients to assess, improve and maximize nutrition to optimize mental health. Course #11-06 | 2017 | 21 pages | 10 posttest questions

Emotional Overeating: Practical Management TechniquesEmotional Overeating: Practical Management Techniques is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE) course that discusses the causes of emotional eating and provides cognitive and behavioral exercises that can help to eliminate the addictive pattern.

Statistics report that Americans are an increasingly overweight population. Among the factors contributing to our struggle to stop tipping the scales is the component of “emotional eating” – or the use of food to attempt to fill emotional needs. Professionals in both the physical and emotional health fields encounter patients with emotional eating problems on a regular basis. Even clients who do not bring this as their presenting problem often have it on their list of unhealthy behaviors that contribute to or are intertwined with their priority concerns. While not an easy task, it is possible to learn methods for dismantling emotional eating habits. The goals of this course are to present information about the causes of emotional eating, and provide a body of cognitive and behavioral exercises that can help to eliminate the addictive pattern. Course #40-26 | 2011 | 44 pages | 30 posttest questions

Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Georgia State Board of Occupational Therapy; the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors (#MHC-0135); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).

Earn CE Wherever YOU Love to Be!

 

Can We Slow Aging?

Can We Slow Aging?

Aging, however undesirable, is a normal and expected part of the human condition. Yet, for those who study aging, there is a new take.

It starts with how the aging process works. As we age, our cells age – a process called cellular senescence – and the result is an accumulation of damaged cells. These cells then release inflammatory factors that act like signals to the immune system to clear the damaged cells – a process which works well when we are young. However, as we age, our cells aren’t cleared as effectively by our immune system, and as they begin to accumulate, they cause low level inflammation and release enzymes that can degrade tissue.

How to reduce the burden of damaged cells has been the question for University of Minnesota Medical School faculty Paul D. Robbins and Laura J. Niedernhofer and Mayo Clinic investigators James L. Kirkland and Tamara Tchkonia.

In a recent study it seems they may have found their answer. Using a natural product called Fisetin, which is found in many fruits and vegetables, on mice towards the end of life, the researchers saw improvements both in health and lifespan (Yousefzadeh et al., 2018).

Robbins and his team now dub Fisetin is a senotherapeutic that, they say, “extends health and lifespan” (Robbins 2018).

“These results suggest that we can extend the period of health, termed healthspan, even towards the end of life” (Robbins, 2018).

This study was also novel in that it used mass cytometry, or CyTOF, technology and applied it for the first time in aging research, which as Robbins notes, helped demonstrate not only that Fisetin works to counteract aging, but just how it works (Robbins, 2018).

What we can ascertain from work like this is something we might have already guessed – eating fruits and vegetables is good for us. What we now know, however, is that it might also help us live longer and healthier.

Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:

Spirituality & AgingSpirituality & Aging is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that offers an insight into how spirituality influences the lives of elders in our care.

Spirituality and religious beliefs provide coping mechanisms for issues related to aging and have been proven to have a protective factor. Elders with higher levels of spirituality have better mental and physical health, and are less anxious about aging.

This course provides an accessible tool kit for healthcare professionals to use in attending to the spiritual well-being – as well as the physical, social, and emotional needs – of elders in their care. Included are ready-to-use exercises and techniques for promoting spiritual self-awareness in elders, as well as vignettes from the author’s own years of experience. The author makes a clear distinction between spirituality and religion, emphasizing the importance of helping elders come to terms with the numerous losses they experience in later life. Among the tools described are the spiritual inventory, an assessment of spiritual needs, the value of forgiveness and legacy, a discussion of spiritual deterrents, the importance of cultural sensitivity, how to promote spiritual growth in a group setting, and compassion fatigue among healthcare professionals. Course #21-28 | 2019 | 34 pages | 15 posttest questions

Aging: Challenges for CliniciansAging: Challenges for Clinicians is a 3-hour online continuing education (CE) course that provides a review of the aging process, illustrating potential challenges and effective solutions.

Americans are living longer and there are proportionately more older adults than in previous generations due to the post-World War II baby boom. Many Americans are now living into their eighties and beyond. In healthcare, the volume of older people may soon outnumber the supply of healthcare professionals trained in geriatrics.

Aging presents many challenges for people as they encounter new physical and psychosocial issues. It is vital for healthcare professionals to be familiar with the challenges of aging in order to effectively treat the aging population. This course will provide information on the normal process of aging, and point out problems commonly thought to be normal that require medical or psychological evaluation and treatment. Case examples will illustrate scenarios of aging persons who may be at risk but are not aware there is a problem. Use this information for referral as appropriate to ensure the highest level of functioning for your patients. Course #31-01 | 2017 | 54 pages | 20 posttest questions

Nutrition and Mental HealthNutrition and Mental Health: Advanced Clinical Concepts is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that examines how what we eat influences how we feel, both physically and mentally. While the role of adequate nutrition in maintaining mental health has been established for some time, just how clinicians go about providing the right nutritional information to the patient at the right time – to not just ensure good mental health, but actually optimize mood – has not been so clear. With myriad diets, weight loss supplements and programs, clients often find themselves reaching for the next best nutritional solution, all the while, unsure how they will feel, or even what to eat to feel better. On the other side of the equation, clinicians so often face not just a client’s emotional, situational, and relational concerns, but concerns that are clearly mired in how the client feels physically, and what impact his/her nutritional health may have on these concerns. For example, research into the role of blood sugar levels has demonstrated a clear crossover with client impulse control. Additionally, the gut microbiome, and its role in serotonin production and regulation has consistently made clear that without good gut health, mitigating anxiety and depression becomes close to impossible.

So if good mental health begins with good nutritional health, where should clinicians start? What advice should they give to a depressed client? An anxious client? A client with impulse control problems? This course will answer these questions and more. Comprised of three sections, the course will begin with an overview of macronutrient intake and mental health, examining recent popular movements such as intermittent fasting, carb cycling and ketogenic diets, and their impact on mental health. In section two, we will look specifically at the role of blood sugar on mental health, and research that implicates blood sugar as both an emotional and behavioral regulator. Gut health, and specifically the gut microbiome, and its influence on mood and behavior will then be explored. Lastly, specific diagnoses and the way they are impacted by specific vitamins and minerals will be considered. Section three will deliver specific tools, you, the clinician, can use with your clients to assess, improve and maximize nutrition to optimize mental health. Course #11-06 | 2017 | 21 pages | 10 posttest questions

Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Georgia State Board of Occupational Therapy; the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors (#MHC-0135); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).

Earn CE Wherever YOU Love to Be!

Three Ways Nutrition Improves Addiction

By Claire Dorotik-Nana @pdresources.org

nutrition and addictionFor clients recovering from addiction, so often the primary focus of treatment is on achieving and maintaining sobriety. And while effective therapy depends on sobriety, what is often missed are the client’s nutritional deficiencies – many that can dramatically increase the chances of picking up again.

Clients can, for example, have vitamin B, folate, and iron deficiencies, all of which will lead to general feelings of fatigue, lethargy, and poor cognitive functioning. On the other hand, depleted tryptophan (an amino acid often found in milk, turkey, and dairy products) stores can lead to depleted serotonin stores, and ultimately, states of mild depression.

More often than not, clients in recovery are not aware of their deficiencies and perhaps more importantly, the ways in which they affect how they feel. Yet following an improved nutritional program – one that addresses the common deficiencies of addiction – dramatically improves the way clients feel in many ways. Here are just three:

Increased Energy

Maintaining energy relies on regulating blood sugar, and maintaining adequate vitamin and mineral stores. However, both of these things depend on one thing only – nutrition. When clients follow a nutritional program designed to stabilize blood sugar, energy levels stabilize as well, and more often than not, clients experience more consistent and reliable feelings of energy. Further, when, through a healthy dietary intake of vitamins and minerals, deficiencies are restored, the body responds through better recovery, which lies at the heart of adequate energy levels. What this ultimately means for the client seeking sobriety, is less reliance on energy shortcuts – such as amphetamines or stimulants – to boost energy, and an improved sense of well-being.

Better Cognitive Functioning and Memory

Sobriety from any drug requires a wealth of frustration tolerance, emotional containment, and the ability to override strong impulses with and even stronger set of executive functions. In short, the brain in recovery is the brain on overdrive. Yet one hallmark of clients in recovery is poor executive functioning. Often not just repeated use of drugs and alcohol but an atrophied set of executive functions lead to a less than optimal ability to tolerate the stress of achieving sobriety. However, we also know that optimal brain functioning requires an optimal supply of nutrients. Through increasing intakes of Omega-3 Fatty acid, for example, memory and cognitive functioning can be improved significantly. Vitamins E, D, and several amino acids have also shown dramatic results on improved brain functioning. What this means for the client in recovery, is not only that they can rectify nutrient deficiencies, but that their cognitive functioning – and their chance of recovery – can be dramatically improved when they do.

Enhanced Mood

An unstable mood for the client in recovery is a major risk factor for relapse. Especially when clients are new in recovery and may not have the cognitive resources to overcome the strong impulses that accompany mood swings, the result can often be turning to their drug of choice. Moreover, an unstable mood often complicates the development of the very social support that fosters recovery. Yet a stable mood is dependent on a set of neurochemicals that may not be in abundant supply for the client in recovery. Therefore, replacing and fortifying neurochemicals becomes a primary step in stabilizing and improving mood. As neurochemicals are comprised of amino acids, this requires an adequate nutritional intake of them. Through improving their amino acid profile, clients can often quite markedly improve their mood, which then ripples outward improving their recovery program, and their adjustment to sober life.

Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:

Nutrition and Addiction: Advanced Clinical Concepts is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that examines addiction from a nutritional perspective. Drug addiction is an alarming problem in America, and one that is not receiving the treatment it needs. Compounding the problem is that addiction often leads to nutritional deficiencies, which predisposes the addict to a host of related health complications. Treatment recovery programs that also offer nutritional education have been found to significantly improve three-month sobriety success rates. The first section of this course will take a look at the etiology of addiction, related neurochemical factors and physiological components. The second section will focus on the nutrient deficiencies associated with addiction, along with the resultant effects on mood, cognition and behavior. The last section – the clinician’s toolbox – will give you, the clinician, targeted nutritional interventions and exercises that you can use with your clients to not just improve their recovery rates, but their overall mental health and wellbeing. Course #21-14 | 2017 | 30 pages | 15 posttest questions

Nutrition and Mental Health: Advanced Clinical Concepts is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that examines how what we eat influences how we feel, both physically and mentally. While the role of adequate nutrition in maintaining mental health has been established for some time, just how clinicians go about providing the right nutritional information to the patient at the right time – to not just ensure good mental health, but actually optimize mood – has not been so clear. With myriad diets, weight loss supplements and programs, clients often find themselves reaching for the next best nutritional solution, all the while, unsure how they will feel, or even what to eat to feel better. On the other side of the equation, clinicians so often face not just a client’s emotional, situational, and relational concerns, but concerns that are clearly mired in how the client feels physically, and what impact his/her nutritional health may have on these concerns. For example, research into the role of blood sugar levels has demonstrated a clear crossover with client impulse control. Additionally, the gut microbiome, and its role in serotonin production and regulation has consistently made clear that without good gut health, mitigating anxiety and depression becomes close to impossible. So if good mental health begins with good nutritional health, where should clinicians start? What advice should they give to a depressed client? An anxious client? A client with impulse control problems? This course will answer these questions and more. Comprised of three sections, the course will begin with an overview of macronutrient intake and mental health, examining recent popular movements such as intermittent fasting, carb cycling and ketogenic diets, and their impact on mental health. In section two, we will look specifically at the role of blood sugar on mental health, and research that implicates blood sugar as both an emotional and behavioral regulator. Gut health, and specifically the gut microbiome, and its influence on mood and behavior will then be explored. Lastly, specific diagnoses and the way they are impacted by specific vitamins and minerals will be considered. Section three will deliver specific tools, you, the clinician, can use with your clients to assess, improve and maximize nutrition to optimize mental health. Course #11-06 | 2017 | 21 pages | 10 posttest questions

These online courses provide instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document). Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion.

Professional Development Resources is approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).

 

 

The Fast Food Fast Track to Depression

Course excerpt from Nutrition and Mental Health: Advanced Clinical Concepts

Fast Food Fast Track to DepressionYou already know it’s not good for you, but scientists from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada, wanted to find out just how bad for your mental health fast food really is. Analyzing data from 8,964 participants – that had never been diagnosed with depression or taken antidepressants – of the SUN Project, researchers assessed people for an average of six months.

What were the results? Consumers of fast food, compared to those who eat little or none, were found to be 51% more likely to develop depression. Even more compelling was that the link between fast food and depression appears to be dose responsive – that is the more you eat, the greater your risk (Sanchez-Villegas et al., 2015).

And this was actually a duplicate study. The SUN project had already uncovered a link between fast food and depression in its 2011 study. There, fast food consumers were found to be 42 percent more likely to develop depression than those who consumed no fast food (Sanchez-Villegas et al., 2011).

If you are thinking that just a little won’t hurt you, you’d be wrong. According to one of the university researchers who participated in the study, “Even eating small quantities is linked to a significantly higher chance of developing depression.” What’s the takeaway? That happy meal might not only be promising more than it can deliver; it might actually be making us feel worse.

We know that eating more fruits and vegetables, nuts, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, and eating less fast food improves mood and lowers levels of depression. Yet the question still remains: How much does caloric intake affect how we feel?

Nutrition and Mental HealthNutrition and Mental Health: Advanced Clinical Concepts is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that examines how what we eat influences how we feel, both physically and mentally. While the role of adequate nutrition in maintaining mental health has been established for some time, just how clinicians go about providing the right nutritional information to the patient at the right time – to not just ensure good mental health, but actually optimize mood – has not been so clear. With myriad diets, weight loss supplements and programs, clients often find themselves reaching for the next best nutritional solution, all the while, unsure how they will feel, or even what to eat to feel better. On the other side of the equation, clinicians so often face not just a client’s emotional, situational, and relational concerns, but concerns that are clearly mired in how the client feels physically, and what impact his/her nutritional health may have on these concerns. For example, research into the role of blood sugar levels has demonstrated a clear crossover with client impulse control. Additionally, the gut microbiome, and its role in serotonin production and regulation has consistently made clear that without good gut health, mitigating anxiety and depression becomes close to impossible.

So if good mental health begins with good nutritional health, where should clinicians start? What advice should they give to a depressed client? An anxious client? A client with impulse control problems? This course will answer these questions and more. Comprised of three sections, the course will begin with an overview of macronutrient intake and mental health, examining recent popular movements such as intermittent fasting, carb cycling and ketogenic diets, and their impact on mental health. In section two, we will look specifically at the role of blood sugar on mental health, and research that implicates blood sugar as both an emotional and behavioral regulator. Gut health, and specifically the gut microbiome, and its influence on mood and behavior will then be explored. Lastly, specific diagnoses and the way they are impacted by specific vitamins and minerals will be considered. Section three will deliver specific tools, you, the clinician, can use with your clients to assess, improve and maximize nutrition to optimize mental health. Course #11-06 | 2017 | 21 pages | 10 posttest questions

This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document). Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more.

Professional Development Resources is approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).

Two Body-Based Techniques for Coping with Anxiety

Guest post by Stacey Leibowitz-Levy, PhD, editor @ http://www.e-counseling.com/

deep breathingA large component of the experience of anxiety is based in bodily experiences. The physiological sensations of a racing heart, sweaty palms, muscle tension and shortness of breath (among others) can be profoundly debilitating. I recently spoke about the underpinning skill of awareness in managing anxiety and also identified anxiety management strategies. While bodily techniques were identified, the focus was on thought-based strategies. This article focuses on two core body-based techniques for coping with anxiety.

Deep breathing and progressive relaxation techniques are both body-based skills that help to control anxiety levels by evoking the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the anxiety response. Regularly practicing these techniques will build your physical and emotional resilience, heal your body, and boost your overall feelings of joy and contentment. The body’s natural relaxation response is a powerful antidote to anxiety and serves a protective function by teaching you how to stay calm and collected when encountering anxiety provoking events.

Deep Breathing

This simple yet powerful technique focuses on full, thorough and focused breathing. It is simple to learn, can be applied anywhere at any time, and is a speedy and effective method for getting anxiety levels in check. Deep breathing is the cornerstone of many relaxation techniques, and can be used in combination with other relaxation strategies such as progressive relaxation and visualization. All you really need is a few minutes and a place to stretch out. The key to this approach is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, allowing as much fresh air into your lungs as possible. By taking deep breaths from the abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest, you inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you get, the less tense, short of breath, and anxious you feel. So the next time you feel anxious, take a minute to slow down and breathe deeply:

  • Make yourself comfortable and place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  • Breathe in through your nose and feel the hand on your stomach rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
  • Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
  • Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale sufficiently so that your lower abdomen rises and falls.


Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is another effective and widely used strategy for anxiety relief. It involves a two-step process in which you systematically tense and relax different muscle groups in the body.

With regular practice, progressive muscle relaxation gives you an intimate familiarity with what tension and complete relaxation feels like in different parts of the body. This awareness helps you spot and counteract the first signs of the muscular tension that accompanies anxiety. As your body relaxes, so will your mind. You can combine deep breathing with progressive muscle relaxation for an additional level of relief from anxiety:

  • Loosen your clothing and get into a comfortable position.
  • Take a few minutes to focus on your breathing, breathing in through your nose and out in slow, deep breaths through your mouth.
  • When feeling more relaxed, focus your attention on your feet. Become aware of the sensations in your feet.
  • Tighten and relax the muscles in your feet, repeating this three times.
  • Continue breathing deeply and slowly.
  • Now shift your attention to your calves, following the same sequence of muscle tension and release.
  • Continue to breathe in and out while moving slowly up through your body – thighs, abdomen, back, neck, shoulders and face – contracting and releasing the muscle groups as you proceed.


Take the time to practice these techniques. The more you practice the more effective you will become, and the more accustomed your body will be to the sensation of relaxation as opposed to anxiety. Initially practice these techniques outside of situations or spaces where you are feeling high levels of anxiety. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the sensations of relaxation without having to counter anxiety. Once you are familiar with this stage, you can then start to try implementing these techniques in more actively coping with anxiety. By giving your body the tools to cope with anxiety, you create an alternative possibility of replacing anxiety with a sense of control, calm and relaxation.

Dr. Stacey Leibowitz-Levy is a highly-experienced psychologist with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and a PhD in the area of stress and its relation to goals and emotion. Dr. Stacey has wide ranging skills and expertise in the areas of trauma, complex trauma, anxiety, stress and adjustment issues. Stacey enjoys spending time with her husband and children, being outdoors and doing yoga.

Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:

Anxiety: Practical Management TechniquesAnxiety: Practical Management Techniques is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE) course that offers a collection of ready-to-use anxiety management tools. Nearly every client who walks through a health professional’s door is experiencing some form of anxiety. Even if they are not seeking treatment for a specific anxiety disorder, they are likely experiencing anxiety as a side effect of other clinical issues. For this reason, a solid knowledge of anxiety management skills should be a basic component of every therapist’s repertoire. Clinicians who can teach practical anxiety management techniques have tools that can be used in nearly all clinical settings and client diagnoses. Anxiety management benefits the clinician as well, helping to maintain energy, focus, and inner peace both during and between sessions. Course #40-12 | 2007 | 41 pages | 30 posttest questions

Nutrition and Mental HealthNutrition and Mental Health: Advanced Clinical Concepts is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that examines how what we eat influences how we feel, both physically and mentally. While the role of adequate nutrition in maintaining mental health has been established for some time, just how clinicians go about providing the right nutritional information to the patient at the right time – to not just ensure good mental health, but actually optimize mood – has not been so clear. With myriad diets, weight loss supplements and programs, clients often find themselves reaching for the next best nutritional solution, all the while, unsure how they will feel, or even what to eat to feel better. On the other side of the equation, clinicians so often face not just a client’s emotional, situational, and relational concerns, but concerns that are clearly mired in how the client feels physically, and what impact his/her nutritional health may have on these concerns. For example, research into the role of blood sugar levels has demonstrated a clear crossover with client impulse control. Additionally, the gut microbiome, and its role in serotonin production and regulation has consistently made clear that without good gut health, mitigating anxiety and depression becomes close to impossible. So if good mental health begins with good nutritional health, where should clinicians start? What advice should they give to a depressed client? An anxious client? A client with impulse control problems? This course will answer these questions and more. Comprised of three sections, the course will begin with an overview of macronutrient intake and mental health, examining recent popular movements such as intermittent fasting, carb cycling and ketogenic diets, and their impact on mental health. In section two, we will look specifically at the role of blood sugar on mental health, and research that implicates blood sugar as both an emotional and behavioral regulator. Gut health, and specifically the gut microbiome, and its influence on mood and behavior will then be explored. Lastly, specific diagnoses and the way they are impacted by specific vitamins and minerals will be considered. Section three will deliver specific tools, you, the clinician, can use with your clients to assess, improve and maximize nutrition to optimize mental health. Course #11-06 | 2017 | 21 pages | 10 posttest questions

Caffeine and HealthCaffeine and Health is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE) course that analyzes the potential health benefits, as well as the negative side effects, of caffeine consumption on a variety of health conditions. Caffeine is a rapidly absorbed organic compound that acts as a stimulant in the human body. The average amount of caffeine consumed in the US is approximately 300 mg per person per day – the equivalent to between two and four cups of coffee – with coffee accounting for about three-fourths of the caffeine that is consumed in the American dietThis is considered to be a moderate caffeine intake, which, according to many studies, can promote a variety of health benefits. But some studies claim otherwise, even suggesting that one or two cups of coffee a day may negatively impact our health. So, what are we to believe? This course will analyze the potential health benefits, as well as the negative side effects, of caffeine consumption on a variety of health conditions, including: dementia and Alzheimer’s diseaseheadachecancerParkinson’s diseasegallstonescardiovascular diseasehypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, fibrocystic breast conditions, premenstrual syndrome, pregnancy and lactationosteoporosis, athletic performance, and weight control. Course #10-96 | 2016 | 15 pages | 12 posttest questions

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Professional Development Resources maintains responsibility for all programs and content. Professional Development Resources is also approved by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; and by the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners.