How to cool down your mind and body in the summer heat!

By Rebecca Holczer, PsyD

Summer is in full swing, and so are the air conditioners! With heat indexes hitting over 100 degrees in some places, we are all looking for ways to keep our bodies cool. While the summertime is traditionally viewed as a time to relax, it is actually quite common for people to face unique challenges with anxiety. So, many of us are also looking for ways to keep our minds cool as well.

For example, some of us have a harder time managing unstructured time, frequent family gatherings, being in large crowds (e.g. at the pool or beach), long car rides, and the heat itself can contribute to emotional unrest. At times like these, our bodies can enter into “fight or flight” mode, which can increase physical symptoms of anxiety.

Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, coined the TIPP skills, which can help cool our minds (and bodies) in the summer heat.

Temperature: When feeling anxious during the summer months, try putting your face under cold water for approximately 30-60 seconds, or even using a cold ice pack on your forehead. This can activate the “diver’s reflex” that can drastically alter our body’s state of arousal. Just take care though, because this can cause your heart rate to be reduced very quickly, therefore individuals with concerns about heart-related issues should consult with their medical providers before trying this.

Intense Exercise: Sometimes, when we are anxious, we also become restless, angry, and/or agitated. When this happens, and passive approaches to relaxation such as relaxation or breathing (see below) aren’t enough, try vigorously exercising for 20-30 minutes, ideally at 80% heart rate intensity for your age (hence the word “intense.”) This can cause strong negative emotions to decrease very quickly. Again, individuals with health conditions should check with their medical providers about exercise first.

Paired Muscle Relaxation (aka Progressive Muscle Relaxation): This simple method involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups (e.g., hands, forearms, biceps, shoulders), paired with relaxing breathing. Start by breathing in and making fists with both hands for 30 seconds, and then purposely let go while slowly breathing out. Then breath in again and tense both your forearms for 30 seconds, and then let go and slowly breath out. Depending on how much time you have, you could do 2 or 4 or even 6 or 8 muscle groups, one at a time.

Paced Breathing: Oftentimes when we are anxious, we tend to hold our breath and/or our breathing gets very shallow. So, one way to calm down is to breath SLOWLY (no faster than one in breath per 3-5 seconds, and one out breath per another 3-5 seconds). The emphasis should be on slowing the out-breath in particular since this is the part of the body that is most responsible for helping us relax.

As Dr. Linehan likes to say, “some skills work for some people, some of the time.” For this reason, try each one of these strategies at least a few times. You may find that some skills are easier to practice in some situations versus others (e.g. it may be hard to get an ice pack when you’re at a family BBQ without attracting too much attention.)

Wishing you luck in staying emotionally as well as physically cool wherever you are!

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Calmer in the Face of Hardship
I came to the Center for Anxiety for help in dealing with a family member who suffered from extreme anxiety. But I ended up getting a serious illness two months later and started having my own sessions. With the help of my therapist I got through my illness, learned to understand my habits that were making my major life stresses worse, learned to communicate better, taper my anger, and surprisingly I became more calmer even though my hardships in life worsened. Therapy is a lot of work and not easy, but nothing in life comes easy! I became a better and softer mom and (when I practice what I learned) and my kids and home are calmer and happier. I am still a work in progress and have more to work on, but I know I am on the right path. I wish I knew before how my communication style and anger were really impacting my life, how being softer you can accomplish way more then being harsh. I have been to other therapists in the past and I can hands down say that the Center for Anxiety’s approach is really effective. I have even referred a bunch of people to the Center and they have been really happy with the therapists and how much they really care for their patients.
I Tackled a Long List of Fears
When I first came to the Center for Anxiety, my list of anxieties/fears was long! I was scared of getting sick, getting stranded, driving, flying and more. With the help of my therapist, I immediately got to work and tackled every one of my fears. Now the world is open to me and I feel free! I can dream big and accomplish whatever I set my mind to! I am especially grateful that I was able to do all this without having to rely on medication. It was hard work – grueling at times! – but now I have the coping tools within me for life. In fact a family member recently said to me “You are awesome. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to because you don’t let fear stop you! ” Thank you Dr. Rosmarin and the Center for Anxiety staff for helping me get here. My fears no longer limit me and I love my life. Try it, it might turn your life around too!
Highly Skilled and Professional Treatment
When I sought treatment at the Center for Anxiety, the clinic was is in its incipient stages. However, by the time I successfully finished treatment, the Center for Anxiety grew and flourished into a world-class treatment center, offering cutting-edge, evidence-based treatment to countless individuals. The continued success of the Center for Anxiety comes as no surprise to me, with a team that contains such highly skilled professionals who display clinical acumen, empathy, and compassion. When I first entered treatment I was concerned that therapy would be similar to the experiences with past psychologists: a seemingly bottomless pit with no reductions in my anxiety symptoms, but was so relieved when I started to feel less anxious after only a handful of sessions. My therapist created a treatment plan that was tailored exactly to my needs and taught me practical skills to help me work through my anxiety that I still use and practice to this very day.
No More Panic
When I first came in, I was struggling with panic disorder and didn’t even know it, which only made dealing with it that much more difficult. After my first time sitting down with my therapist, however, I instantly started to gain perspective and look at the difficult situation in a different light. Our meetings helped me conquer the issue step by step and get my life back on track. I’d strongly recommend that anyone dealing with anxiety in a way that impacts their day to day life should visit the Center for Anxiety! I know it helped me tremendously.
Free of Obsessions
When I woke up one morning last June and didn’t want to get out of bed, I knew I needed help. The thought of getting through another day with all my anxieties, obsessions and rituals was just too overwhelming. After feeling stuck for years, I just couldn’t anymore. Thankfully, that’s when I found the Center for Anxiety. Dr. Rosmarin and his staff are experts at what they do, kind and professional. After just several weeks I accomplished my initial targets. The change I experienced in such a short amount of time was astounding that I stayed on for a while longer to work on more complex goals. I soon achieved those too. Now, I am free of my obsessions, know how to manage my anxiety, and love my life. My only regret: not having done this sooner. I wish I had known that you don’t have to wait to hit rock bottom to get help.
Depression Lifted
I’m 26 years old and I’ve been suffering from terrible depression for 7 years. In the throws of my sadness I literally wanted to die. Soon after starting therapy at the Center for Anxiety, my depression lifted. My suicidal thoughts began to dissipate. I remember the feeling that came over me as soon as the dark cloud above me left. It was the most liberating feeling I have ever experienced. I actually shouted to my friends, family and anyone nearby me “I’m Happy! I am Happy!” I felt free.
Over the course of four years I developed anxiety-like symptoms (tightness in chest, gut, back) that slowly but surely increased in duration and severity. The EXTREMELY uncomfortable nature of the symptoms notwithstanding, I still continued and managed to function. The effort required to do so, however, left me utterly drained. Having always been a very spiritual person I strongly felt that a course of therapy incorporating a spiritual component could potentially work well for me and decided to give the Center for Anxiety a try. Happily, I have achieved significant symptom reduction, tremendously improved emotional/mental health, and above all, Connection. Medication free. I’m no longer just existing, I’m LIVING. I’ve been given a second chance to become the unique human being that I was meant to be.
No More worries
I have wormed in healthcare for 36 years in many different settings, and I have been overwhelmingly satisfied with the Center for Anxiety. When staff says they are going to call, I get a call. From the first contact, I have been very impressed with the professionalism and efficiency. I had a situation and needed to have sessions more than once per week, and my clinicians worked out a schedule to accommodate my needs. I was astounded that they attended to me so quickly and effectively - they made my priority their priority. My clinicians were also excellent at what they do - they have a plan for me each session, and it's clear that they have thought in advance about each session, and that they are listening to what I say and observing what I do, even though our sessions have been conducted via Telehealth. Compassion is a quality that I have all too often found to be lacking in my experiences as a healthcare professional and patient, and this is not the case with the Center for Anxiety. Of all the websites I found on Google, I am so thankful that God guided my hand to yours.

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