Archive for category Stress & Muscle Tension

Relax vs. Pressure

This week was a rough week especially Wed through Friday. I knew a lot of things were bugging me again so I wrote those up. A lot of the things had to do with feeling pressure. Pressure at work. Feeling pressure and judgment from coworkers and my boss. Pressure from a family member on my life decisions. Pressure to be in a relationship. Pressure to push myself harder in my workouts. Pressure up get everything done for the holidays for everyone. By Thursday, I was buckling from the stress and just wanted to crawl under the covers in my bed, cry and hide from everyone. But, I didn’t because I couldn’t.

My therapist noticed the word I used, pressure. This is something I’ve felt my whole life. Pressure to be perfect, to anticipate what someone would want so they would not be angry with me and not hit me. Fearing judgement. Fearing pain.

I don’t know how to relax anymore. When I’m alone. When I’m with someone, I can learn to relax. The guy I’m dating is superb at this that I look forward to Sunday afternoons lounging around with him. I can finally relax and escape from all the pressure. But, it’s not the world that’s applying the pressure.

It’s me.

Today I actually admitted my caregiver beat me. And I admitted I have been belittling it my whole life. My therapist and SuperBetter ally both said this to me today, that through reliving we can take back our power. I realize how true this can be. I recognize that I’m applying the pressure and I can change that. I can finally take back my life and stop putting so much pressure and judgement on myself.

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Lab Tools & Equipment for Getting Better from PTSD

I realized the other day that I have been playing SuperBetter for over 6 months now since the end of February and beginning of March 2012. This morning I was reflecting on all of the tools and Quests from SuperBetter, the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence, and working with my SuperBetter allies and therapist, that I’ve used to work on PTSD and was thinking, hey, I should create a toolbox or to be more appropriate for my SuperBetter Hero who is a scientist, “A Summary of Laboratory Tools and Equipment!” So here goes.

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Summary of Laboratory Tools and Equipment (to Get Better from PTSD)

PTSD / Trauma Symptom Lab Equipment, Tools or Methods to Use
Anticipation

Hypervigilance

  • SuperBetter MindMaster PowerPack
  • Be aware of being hypervigilant
  • Be aware of my expectations
  • React instead of anticipate
  • Broken Babel Fish Quest – Read about it in my post here
Supposed To Beliefs

Expectations

  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapter on “Supposed to” Beliefs That Lead Women to Stay or Go Back
Dealing with Conflict

Avoidance

  • Deal with conflict instead of avoid it
  • Make Quests to do things I’m avoiding like go to the dentist, say “Excuse me”, go to a place to make new memories I associate with my abuser
Negative Self-Talk
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapters Feel Better by Changing the Way You Talk to YourselfThe Power of Nonnegative Thinking
  • Track your Negative Self-Talk – see my posts here and here
Assertiveness

Self-Advocacy

Self-Compassion

Body Image

  • SuperBetter The Mood Elevator: Ground Floor PowerPack
  • SuperBetter Being Awesome PowerPack
  • SuperBetter Better Than a Chill Pill PowerPack
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapters on Self-Advocacy: An Overview and Initial Self Assessment and Assertiveness, Aggressiveness and How to Take the High Road
Stress & Muscle Tension
  • SuperBetter Stress Buster Power Pack
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapter on Managing Stress By Controlling Muscle Tension – See my post on this chapter here.
Anxiety

Isolation

  • SuperBetter MindMaster PowerPack
  • Quest to Ask for Help
  • SuperBetter Social Resilience in 5 Minutes a Day PowerPack
Guilt
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapters How to Get Rid of Your Guilt  – See my post with my results here
  • Talk with a veteran or other domestic violence victims with PTSD and their experience of how they overcame guilt (this can be via an online chat, in person, etc.) – It helps!
  • Forgive yourself – This will happen!
Nightmares
  • Remember: Nightmares are just reminders of the types of people and behavior you need to be wary of – Read my post on this here

I’m sure I’m missing some tools, but can always add them in later, or new ones as I learn about them.

What things have worked for you to get better from PTSD? What do you want to try? What are the biggest obstacles you are facing?

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My Scientist Hero’s SuperPowers

In playing SuperBetter you can play whatever Hero you want to be to get better. I had picked a great scientist.

But, to make it a little fun, I was lately thinking of the X-Men and Jean Grey. Kind of a scientist of some sort and for some reason she was always my favorite character in the X-Men.

I was trying to think how Jean Grey’s super powers could relate to getting better from PTSD and here’s what I came up with:

Super Power As it relates to getting better from trauma
Telepathy
  • Awareness of being hypervigilant
  • Awareness of my expectations
Telekinesis
Phoenix Force grants the ability to:

Travel unaided through space

  • Resilience!
  • Ask for Help
  • React instead of avoid conflict
      Psionically manipulate matter and any form of energy
  • Keep Positive
  • Do my power ups on a daily basis, especially:
  1. Running, biking, or swimming
  2. Spending time with friends

 

      Create powerful “cosmic” fire
  • Overcome anxiety
  • Manage stress through muscle tension exercises and breathing
  • Deal with nightmares

 

      Resurrect from death and manipulate life energy in others
  • Practice Self-Compassion
  • Practice influence – optimism, relate to people
  • Spend time with friends and family
      Manipulate timelines
  • Overcome Guilt
  • Witness your experience
  • Live in the Now
  • Stop Negative Self-Talk

This was pretty fun to come up with. 🙂

Who would you be and how would you use your super powers to meet your goal?

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SuperBetter: Allies & Game Quest Ideas Revisited

This week I had an interview with SuperBetter to talk about the game and it was awesome because it allowed me to step back and reflect on the game. The game has given me a lot of things I needed to help me make progress on healing from the trauma of domestic violence and other abuse history. It has given me structure I need, the ability to track my progress, Power Packs with Quests, and tips and tricks to help me get to my goals and in a fun way. And I seriously love the secret files. If people would send me cool interesting facts that apply to my day-to-day life all the time, I would probably have the equivalent of the “runner’s high” without having to run.

Re-thinking Allies

There are a couple things I’ve been realizing I need to tweak. Originally, when I went into the game, I thought I’d invite my friends as allies and there’s certain things I think each of them could help with in person when we hang out on a regular basis which I mapped out in the post SuperBetter: Allies Mission Ideas. That hasn’t been the case. I talked about it in therapy a bit. Why are my friends not really engaging in the game? And brought it up in the interview with SuperBetter. My therapist had talked about it as people have a difficult time interacting with people they know in person, online. In person, they see you in one way, and then online, differently. Plus the subject matter I am working with, healing from trauma, is an extremely sensitive and uncomfortable one. People don’t want to deal with that. Both my therapist and SuperBetter suggested I try to work with allies I meet through the game who are struggling with similar problems. I have one ally I met through the game who has been my strongest and best ally in the game. And I would highly recommend pairing up with someone in the game. 

My ally from SuperBetter is in a completely different timezone, but that is not a barrier. We interact mostly through e-mail, in a pen pal type way. I do my e-mailing in the morning and she has my undivided attention. We work through problems that we’re facing, share our ideas for dealing with them, and ask each other for each other’s support. We both have similar personality types and are dealing with very similar problems. 

Epic Wins & Better Ties to Quests (and Putting More Thought/Time into Quests)

One of the things I’d like to start doing a better job of in SuperBetter is being able to plan out or tie Quests to complete in order to reach my Epic Wins. Epic Wins, to me, are really a goal you are trying to reach for. I’ve been planning my Epic Wins around the areas in the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence and areas I notice within that week or month time span that I am having a particular problem with. When I started SuperBetter, my big focus was on Negative Self-Talk and Hypervigilance because I know I was driving people around me nuts by doing it and they were being addressed early on in the chapters of the workbook. I am guessing the workbook is set up in the way it is for a reason. But, the workbook is not the end-all be-all and therapy is only one hour a week and I use it to bring the things I’m really struggling with to each week. I feel like if I want to really get better, make progress, and continue to keep it up, I’m going to have to make it more part of my day-to-day life. But, it also can’t be miserable and difficult. It has to be fun and rewarding. Some of the Quests I thought up in my 2 posts, SuperBetter: Game Quest Ideas and SuperBetter: Allies Mission Ideas, I haven’t even actually put them into my SuperBetter game! And there’s stuff my ally and I talk about that are great ideas, I also haven’t put into the game. So it’s time to put some real effort into this and make it really fun and rewarding.

Here’s some examples of my current Quests, most of which are from the Power Packs “Social Resilience in 5 Minutes a Day” and “Stress Buster”, that map up to my Epic Wins.

Stress & Muscle Tension

  • Learn About Stress
  • Find an Oasis
  • Doing the Meditation Deed: The One-Time-Only 25-Minute Challenge (OK so I did all the others but haven’t found 25 minutes to meditate yet. I must do this Monday night!)
Avoidance
 
  • Find a Dentist
  • Make a Dentist Appointment
  • Track when I won’t ask question to avoid conflict
  • Go to places or do something I associate with my abuser

Self Advocacy

  • I am thinking of loading the “Being Awesome” Power Pack for this area
  • Ask for Help – regular reminder to ask for help (or anything, including “excuse me”) which is something I have an insanely difficult time doing and should probably get to the root of, why?
  • Say Excuse Me to ask someone to move – I need to make this a regular Quest
  • Stop Negative Self-Talk

Social Anxiety

  • Pay It Forward – Do something nice for someone in your life. I did this yesterday! 🙂
  • Give the Gift of Experience – This will be done Tuesday and I can’t wait to hear their reaction! 🙂
  • Three Things That Rocked – Write down 3 things that rocked over 5 days (recurring Quest)

Hypervigilance / Anticipation

  • React instead of anticipate
  • Broken Babel fish game – Draw cartoons from the week of things I’ve heard, what I thought they meant, and what they really meant

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Quest: Try to Get Angry and Deal With It

Awhile back I saw one of the SuperBetter Heroes on the forum who is also battling PTSD talk about anger. When I bought the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence I thought, “Why do I need a chapter on anger?” I commented on the forum, I know anger is going to be something I need to address but I’m just not there yet. I’ve really suppressed my anger. I hardly ever express anger. Frustration and being upset, but not really anger. I read the chapter and noticed the day after reading it I started to be aware of the things that actually made me “angry” or upset. So I know it’s there. I just haven’t found the right way for me to express it yet.

I know when I was a kid there was one very important event where I learned that it’s better not to bottle everything up. I learned why it’s important to deal with anger, but never really learned how to.

The chapter drove home a principal that’s always been really important to me. I always felt being angry is a waste of time. It doesn’t resolve anything and it makes you feel terrible. But, this doesn’t mean you should suppress your anger and move on. It is much better to address your anger right then and there. I don’t think this means you should explode with rage like my ex-husband would, but you should talk about it and understand why you feel that way.

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Quests: Managing Stress by Breathing and Tension Exercises

One of the reasons I also picked up the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence was I noticed they had a whole section on controlling muscle tension. My entire life I have had muscle tension in my neck, shoulders, and shoulder blades. I also have lately noticed the tension in my triceps and jaw. I always thought that this was normal until I finally brought it up to someone and they just looked at me in horror and said, “That is not normal.” Tension and stress is definitely something I want to work on.

The workbook discusses several reasons why it’s important to keep your tension level low including:

1. In order to decrease your tension you need to be able to detect what your tension is

2. It’s easier to relax and bring your tension down if it is already low

3. High levels of tension impair your ability to think clearly

4. Bad habits are more likely to be activated when your tension is high

5. Chronic tension and hyper arousal can weaken you physically, including higher resting heart rates and blood pressure

6. Higher muscle tension levels make you more vulnerable to losing control, including panicking, losing your temper or breaking down

Walking through the exercises really helps to bring the tension down in my body.

My hero also uncovered the Level 2 Secret File in SuperBetter about how breathing can increase your heart rate variability (HRV), which is related to emotional arousal.

The tension exercises in the workbook has you score your level of tension from 0-100. My favorite exercise from the workbook is to do a body scan and walk through each of the major muscle groups where you experience the most tension and tense them then let go of the tension until you can bring your tension levels down to 30 or lower. You can do this at any time of the day or anywhere really.

Go ahead and try the body scan:

1. What’s your tension score (0 being the calmest and 100 being the worst you’ve ever been)?

2. Where do you feel the most tension?

3. Take a deep breath for 5-10 seconds, then breath out and breath normally for 5-10 seconds.

4. Over tense the muscles with the most tension and then let it go. For example…

  • “Close your eyes real tight. Feel the tension in, around and behind your eyes and then relax your eyes, keeping your eyes gently closed.”

  • “Straighten your arms in front of you, reaching across the room, and tense your triceps … and then relax your arms.”
  •  “Clench your jaws and study the tension throughout your jaws… and relax your jaws and let your lips part slightly.”
  • “Shrug your shoulders up. Now bring your shoulders back so you feel the tension in your shoulders and back … and relax.”

 5. What’s your tension score now?

Repeat until your tension score is lower than 30.

Now to try to remember to do this and breath more often. I also find rolling out on a foam roller helps big time! But, that’s probably because I over do it exercising as I talked about in my previous post on Battles Against the Bad Guys. 😉

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