Maybe sex is the last thing on your mind when you’re stressed out. But it might help lower your anxiety. Sex seems to lessen the amount of hormones your body releases in response to stress. And an active sex life can make you happier and healthier, which might also help keep anxiety at bay.
Research says people who have sex once a month or less get heart disease more often than those who have it twice a week or so. Part of the reason could be that you get a bit more exercise and are less likely to be anxious or depressed. But it could also be that if you have more sex, you’re physically and mentally healthier in the first place.
Sex typically burns about 5 calories a minute. That’s about equal to a brisk walk. And you use a bit more oxygen too -- about the same as digging in the garden or walking down the stairs.
That may not seem like much, but it starts to add up over the long term. And because sex can improve your mental health, you might be more likely to do other types of exercise like the neighborhood kickball team, hiking, or housework.
Well, not so much lose them as forget where you put them. That’s because regular sex seems be linked to improved memory, especially if you’re between ages 50 and 89. It’s not clear why.
Weekly sex seems to boost your immune system compared to those who have it less often. Part of the reason may be that it raises levels of a germ-fighting substance called immunoglobulin A, or IgA. But more is not always better here. People who had sex more than twice a week had lower levels of IgA than those who had no sex.
Sex bathes your brain in a chemical “afterglow” that lasts about 2 days and helps to bond you to your partner over the long term. Without it, you could lose some of the satisfaction of your relationship. A healthy, happy sexual relationship -- couples who do it at least once a week seem to be happiest -- can help build trust and understanding between you and your partner.
The reasons aren’t exactly clear, but in at least one study, men who ejaculated less than seven times a month were more likely to get prostate cancer compared to those who did it at least 21 times a month.
But unprotected anonymous sex and multiple partners can also raise your chances for the disease, so when you do have sex, take care.
Without sex, you’ll miss out on the hormones that promote restful sleep, like prolactin and oxytocin. Women get an estrogen boost that helps even more. The reverse is true, too: If you decide you want to start having sex again, a good night’s sleep is just the thing to keep you feeling frisky.
Sex can be a good way to take your mind off of any aches and pains you have. But it does more than that. Orgasm causes your body to release endorphins and other hormones that can help ease head, back, and leg aches. They may help arthritis pain and menstrual cramps, too.
It may seem odd, but “use it or lose it” may apply here. For women at menopause, vaginal tissue can get thin, shrink, and dry out without regular intercourse. That can make sex painful and weaken your desire. And some research says men who have sex less than once a week are twice as likely to have erectile dysfunction (ED) as those who have it weekly.
Sex seems to help keep your blood pressure down. That makes sense when you consider what it does: It adds a bit of aerobic and muscle-building exercise, and it can ease anxiety and make you feel better. Both of those can help keep your numbers where they need to be.
Thomas Kessler, LMFT, RAS
Start out slow. It may be the last thing you want to do when you're feeling down, but exercise releases feel-good chemicals in your brain and can help ease depression symptoms. You don’t have to do too much, maybe just go for a short walk. If you can push yourself to do it a few days in a row, you may not need as much of a push the following day.
Walk or Run
You don’t have to run a marathon or be a speed demon. You don’t even have to run. Start with walking, and you can decide if you want to go faster as you get stronger. It’s not just the exercise that helps -- the great outdoors can lift your mood, too.
The fixed and moving poses of this meditative form of exercise can make you stronger and more flexible. That can give you energy and a sense of well-being. The breath control involved in yoga also can calm your emotions. You can look for videos online, but a class gets you out into the world and around other people.
Touching soil may boost a key brain chemical called serotonin, and that can help lift depression. You'll also be active and outside. If you don’t have a patch of dirt of your own, call a local community garden to see if you could work a plot there.
It’s good exercise and a great opportunity to let out some emotion without talking about your feelings. You can just hit the ball against a wall, but if you want it to come back across a net, you’ll need someone on the other side. That's a chance to socialize. And if you commit to a time with someone else, you’re more likely to stick to it.
Exercise at Work
If you need a distraction to get your mind off negative thoughts, take a few minutes and step away from your desk. Find a quiet place and do some stretching, or go up and down a flight of stairs -- anything that gets you moving can boost your mood.
It’s a great, whole-body workout, and some people find the water helps calm them. It doesn’t have to take a huge chunk out of your day: Just 30 minutes of exercise 3 to 5 times a week may be all you need.
You can get good exercise on a stationary one, but hitting the bike path is a great way to take in the world around you. You don’t need anything fancy -- any two-wheeler will do. Ride it to the store, the coffee shop, or your friend’s house. Just make sure to get it checked by a mechanic first, and don’t forget to wear a helmet.
You use weights, machines, or your own body resistance (like with pushups) to build strength, muscle mass, and flexibility. A simple set of hand weights will work, or even just the floor. The workout isn’t the only thing that improves your mood -- a sense of accomplishment and better body image can help, too.
Walk Your Dog
Fido can help ease your stress, and he may be just the motivator you need. Grab a leash and maybe a Frisbee and get out there. The fresh air won’t hurt, either.
It’s a win-win-win: exercise, social engagement, and fun. All those can lift your spirits, and you can start at home. While nobody’s watching, turn on a favorite track and let your body move to it. Even short dance sessions can feel good. As you gain your footing and confidence, check for classes at local dance schools or look for a group that gets together to dance.
You may need to work up to it, but three 20-second sprints, with 2-minute breaks in between, may be as good for you as 50 minutes of moderate jogging. And they can be a quick way to release some pent-up emotion. Just make sure you warm up -- and ask your doctor if you don’t know if you’re healthy enough for that kind of high-intensity workout.
It’s a great workout: You jog, sprint, jump, and throw. You can do it indoors and out, winter and summer, and in a large group or with just one other person. You can even shoot hoops by yourself.
The focus needed for a long game can help distract you from negative thoughts, and being part of a team adds a feeling of connection. And when you’ve got a whole team that expects you to show up, you’re more likely to, right?
Thomas Kessler, LMFT, RAS
It’s pretty incredible how often you hear managers complaining about their best employees leaving, and they really do have something to complain about—few things are as costly and disruptive as good people walking out the door.
Managers tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun, while ignoring the crux of the matter: people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. The sad thing is that this can easily be avoided. All that’s required is a new perspective and some extra effort on the manager’s part.
Organizations know how important it is to have motivated, engaged employees, but most fail to hold managers accountable for making it happen. When they don’t, the bottom line suffers.
Research from the University of California found that motivated employees were 31% more productive, had 37% higher sales, and were three times more creative than demotivated employees. They were also 87% less likely to quit, according to a Corporate Leadership Council study on over 50,000 people.
Gallup research shows that a mind-boggling 70% of an employee’s motivation is influenced by his or her manager. So, let's take a look at some of the worst things that managers do that send good people packing.
They overwork people. Nothing burns good employees out quite like overworking them. It’s so tempting to work your best people hard that managers frequently fall into this trap. Overworking good employees is perplexing; it makes them feel as if they’re being punished for great performance. Overworking employees is also counterproductive. New research from Stanford shows that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that you don’t get anything out of working more.
If you must increase how much work your talented employees are doing, you’d better increase their status as well. Talented employees will take on a bigger workload, but they won’t stay if their job suffocates them in the process. Raises, promotions, and title-changes are all acceptable ways to increase workload. If you simply increase workload because people are talented, without changing a thing, they will seek another job that gives them what they deserve.
They don’t recognize contributions and reward good work. It’s easy to underestimate the power of a pat on the back, especially with top performers who are intrinsically motivated. Everyone likes kudos, none more so than those who work hard and give their all. Managers need to communicate with their people to find out what makes them feel good (for some, it’s a raise; for others, it’s public recognition) and then to reward them for a job well done. With top performers, this will happen often if you’re doing it right.
They fail to develop people’s skills. When managers are asked about their inattention to employees, they try to excuse themselves, using words such as “trust,” “autonomy,” and “empowerment.” This is complete nonsense. Good managers manage, no matter how talented the employee. They pay attention and are constantly listening and giving feedback.
Management may have a beginning, but it certainly has no end. When you have a talented employee, it’s up to you to keep finding areas in which they can improve to expand their skill set. The most talented employees want feedback—more so than the less talented ones—and it’s your job to keep it coming. If you don’t, your best people will grow bored and complacent.
They don’t care about their employees. More than half of people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their boss. Smart companies make certain their managers know how to balance being professional with being human. These are the bosses who celebrate an employee’s success, empathize with those going through hard times, and challenge people, even when it hurts.
Bosses who fail to really care will always have high turnover rates. It’s impossible to work for someone eight-plus hours a day when they aren’t personally involved and don’t care about anything other than your production yield.
They don’t honor their commitments. Making promises to people places you on the fine line that lies between making them very happy and watching them walk out the door. When you uphold a commitment, you grow in the eyes of your employees because you prove yourself to be trustworthy and honorable (two very important qualities in a boss). But when you disregard your commitment, you come across as slimy, uncaring, and disrespectful. After all, if the boss doesn’t honor his or her commitments, why should everyone else?
They hire and promote the wrong people. Good, hard-working employees want to work with like-minded professionals. When managers don’t do the hard work of hiring good people, it’s a major demotivator for those stuck working alongside them. Promoting the wrong people is even worse. When you work your tail off only to get passed over for a promotion that’s given to someone who glad-handed their way to the top, it’s a massive insult. No wonder it makes good people leave.
They don't let people pursue their passions. Talented employees are passionate. Providing opportunities for them to pursue their passions improves their productivity and job satisfaction. But many managers want people to work within a little box. These managers fear that productivity will decline if they let people expand their focus and pursue their passions. This fear is unfounded. Studies show that people who are able to pursue their passions at work experience flow, a euphoric state of mind that is five times more productive than the norm.
They fail to engage creativity. The most talented employees seek to improve everything they touch. If you take away their ability to change and improve things because you’re only comfortable with the status quo, this makes them hate their jobs. Caging up this innate desire to create not only limits them, it limits you.
They don't challenge people intellectually. Great bosses challenge their employees to accomplish things that seem inconceivable at first. Instead of setting mundane, incremental goals, they set lofty goals that push people out of their comfort zones. Then, good managers do everything in their power to help them succeed. When talented and intelligent people find themselves doing things that are too easy or boring, they seek other jobs that will challenge their intellects.
Bringing it all together. If you want your best people to stay, you need to think carefully about how you treat them. While good employees are as tough as nails, their talent gives them an abundance of options. You need to make them want to work for you.
Thomas Kessler, LMFT, RAS
When children reach adolescence, relationships, romantic or otherwise, can be a point of significant strife. Relationships between parents and children are crucial to healthy development, but may become strained by the many ups and downs of adolescent life. For example, most teenagers worry about romantic relationships, however, for some teenagers, worrying about relationships may excessively drain their energy and make it difficult to enjoy life.
Many mental health issues that teens face can be attributed in part to the social pressures and stress of adolescent life. As a result, teens may experience any of the following: generalized anxiety, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), poor self-esteem, oppositional defeasance issues and substance abuse.
Experimentation with alcohol and drugs is fairly common among adolescents and can lead to serious developmental, social, and behavioral issues. When I work with teens together the teen and I develop therapy goals in a collaborative process.
Many times, the main goals are to help the young person to find new and healthy ways to cope with the stress or conditions that may have led to depression, anxiety and substance use.
Many types of therapy emphasize talking and thinking about feelings and experiences, which can be particularly challenging for teens. For each teen, I create a highly-individualized treatment plan that works to address problems that may be occurring at school, home, or in friendship circles. I do not subscribe to the “one size fits all” theory. Therefore, I use a variety of treatment modalities. My therapeutic approaches, include teaching mindfulness therapy. Each teen
Teens of any age may feel uncomfortable, afraid, or ashamed about communicating what they are experiencing to an adult they do not know. If you are a parent or caregiver, these tips can help when talking to children about therapy and mental health treatment:
Find a good time to talk and assure them that they are not in trouble. Listen actively. Take your teen’s concerns, experiences, and emotions seriously.Try to be open, authentic, and relaxed. Talk about how common the issues they are experiencing may be. Explain that the role of a therapist is to provide help and support. Explain that a confidentiality agreement can be negotiated so children—especially adolescents—have a safe space to share details privately, while acknowledging that you will be alerted if there are any threats to their safety.
When looking for a therapist it is important to find someone with specialized training and experience in working with teens and teens issues. When I work with teens I also include sessions with the family. Family therapy, in which multiple family members may attend sessions together, as well as independently, if necessary. I may include treatments designed to address parenting skills, such as parent-child interaction therapy. These treatments may be useful when a teen’s behavior becomes difficult to manage.
Many prominent bodies of research highlight the efficacy of a combined treatment approach, or the use of both medication and therapy when medication is prescribed by a psychiatrist for a mental health issue. In fact, the American Psychological Association’s Practice Guidelines Regarding Psychologists’ Involvement in Pharmacological Issues encourages, whenever possible, to include psychotherapy when medication is prescribed. The efficacy of medication increases when combined with psychotherapy
Many mental health professionals argue that medication is overprescribed as a “quick fix,” while therapy, which may teach a person long-term coping strategies and self-management, is not encouraged enough. If your teen is prescribed an antidepressant, antipsychotic, anxiolytic, stimulant, or other psychotropic drug, consider finding a therapist or counselor to pair with the drug treatment.
Thomas Kessler, LMFT, RAS
If a person struggles with their discomfort getting to know people, we know this is usually called social anxiety. While there are extreme forms of this problem – not being able to leave the house, for example – I have had people I work with in the past that suffered from this - the more mild symptoms of social anxiety could be caused by feeling alone. You may feel as if you’re unlikeable or unworthy of good relationships, causing fear and anxiety about the process of forming them.
Research suggests that people who suffer from social anxiety may actually have superior social skills than those who do not. In other words, people who have social anxiety is not necessarily that they don’t know how to talk to people. Instead, research suggest they struggle with relationships because they are scared of messing up – they worry about saying the wrong thing in social situations. Therefore, social anxiety can lead to people feeling lonely creating a cycle of social anxiety and loneliness.
Sound familiar…. You really do have very good communication and social skills…. you just have to believe that you are “good enough” and not worry about what people think, which is called “future tripping” and “mind reading” which is assuming that we know how people will react to us even before we interact with them then and once we do, that they will think negatively about us. All of our negative thoughts about ourselves usually have no evidence to back up our negative thoughts. That is why I like to call them Thinking Traps – because we fall into the trap of thinking negatively about ourselves.
This is where a therapist that practices Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can help you to challenge any and all negative thoughts. CBT will help you look for the evidence that does support the thought(s) and then look for the evidence that does NOT support the negative thought(s).
Thomas Kessler, LMFT, RAS
There’s one in every neighborhood: a parent who allows unlimited screen time. They exist to make the rest of us feel better. Our own offspring might spend hours texting or watching cartoons. But at least we have rules. Our kids can sustain a conversation, cope with fleeting moments of boredom and last a birthday party without demanding a video game.
When we pass these other families in the supermarket, their dazed toddlers staring into iPads, we think — smug but terrified — we’re not that bad.
We know it’s crucial to stimulate and speak to young children, and our generation of parents complies to a possibly unprecedented — and exhausting — degree. Kamenetz notes that we need occasional breaks from this. She bemoans “an ideological stance that judges mothers for not being fully available to their children at all times and that scapegoats working-class families in particular.”
Class issues buzz around conversations about screen time. We’ve all read about the Silicon Valley executives who won’t let their children go online. Mothers who used to boast that their babies drank only breast milk now claim their preschoolers have never touched an iPad. (These same children will later be dispatched to pricey, screen-free summer camps.)
Low-income families — and especially single parents — can’t afford to police their children’s screen use as assiduously. Kamenetz writes that this requires more social supports, like guaranteed paid parental leave. I’d argue that universal health care and a higher minimum wage would help, too.
Of course, screens are an issue even in countries with great social services. In 2016, the city of Helsinki ran a campaign warning Finnish parents that they were neglecting children by spending too much time online.
Alas, the evidence is incomplete. Researchers aren’t allowed to overstimulate a random sample of babies to see what happens to their brains. (Though as Kamenetz says, you can do this to mice, and they go a little nuts.) Scientists even have trouble running studies in which some participants watch less; one said he could get families to reduce their screen times only by 20 minutes. And the iPad hasn’t even celebrated its eighth birthday.
But there are worrying correlations. Kids who watch more than two hours of TV per day have double the risk of childhood obesity. Those who watch screens before bed sleep less, making it harder to concentrate and learn. And simulated violence can desensitize children to real-life suffering, and is linked to increased anxiety and fear.
Living in a digital age has its benefits — practically instant access to information and the ability to connect with friends and family across the country. Naturally, people are more plugged in than ever, including young children. In fact, a study in JAMA Pediatrics found that between 1997 and 2014, screen time doubled for kids 2 years old and younger — but at what cost?
Spending too much time on devices — whether it’s playing video games, watching television, searching the internet, or even engaging with “educational” apps — can be harmful to a young child’s physical and mental health notes that children who spend more time looking at screens are more likely to be overweight and have disrupted sleep.
So, how can you help your kids develop healthy digital habits? Some insights and tips for creating a digital diet that works for your family.
How much screen time is too much for children?
The answer often depends on age, but generally, less is better. Dr. Land finds the American Academy of Pediatric's Council on Communications and Media guidelines useful for navigating your child's screen time:
6 everyday screen-time tips:
Overall, it’s important to teach your family to develop a healthy relationship with digital devices. Here are tips you can start using today.
1. Set limits
The age guidelines above can help you determine whether to cut back on your child’s screen time. But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Your digital diet will depend on your family. The American Academy of Pediatrics developed an interactive Family Media Plan so you can easily create a more personalized plan, set goals, and establish rules that work for your family.
2. Be an example
It’s important to take stock of how often we interact with our own devices, too. “If our kids see us distracted by our phones,” Dr. Land notes, “they feel ignored.” When you’re with your children, make them your priority — not your phone. Try setting your phone on silent and turning off notifications, so you won’t get a ping for every news alert or text.
“Children under 2 can’t learn from screens yet,” Dr. Land explains. “They learn by interacting with their caregivers.” So instead of watching television or using an app, spend time singing, talking, reading, or playing together. “These activities will always be a better way to teach vocabulary, language, and social skills,” says Dr. Land.
3. Keep mealtime screen-free
Meals are a time for families to reconnect and focus on each other — not focus on screens. Implement a “no devices at the table” rule. If you’re out at a restaurant, bring activities like a pad of paper and crayons or stickers to keep young children occupied. Need help keeping mealtime as stress-free as possible?
Sleep is paramount: I recommended no screens before bedtime, and none in bedrooms, ever. If your child is online I advocate talking to your kids making questions like “what did you see online today?” part of dinnertime conversations.
4. Shut off screens before bed
For kids and adults alike, it’s especially important to wind down at night. Dr. Land recommends avoiding screens 1 to 2 hours before bedtime. Try removing all screens from the bedroom. Instead, designate a specific area of your home where everyone can charge their devices overnight.
5. Share screen time
When your children do watch television or use an online app, join them. By engaging with them, you’ll encourage social interaction, bonding, and learning. Try repeating the information that’s shown and then ask your child to say it back to you. Make connections between what’s seen on screen and the real world. If a television show features a bird chirping, for example, take your child for a walk and point out birds and the sounds they’re making. “This helps them connect digital learning with the world around them,” says Dr. Land.
6. Avoid using devices to calm kids
While this approach may work in the short term, Dr. Land notes that using devices to calm kids prevents them from learning to self-regulate or self-soothe. Instead, help them focus on how to physically respond to their emotions using techniques such as deep breathing. You can also talk through the moment, hug them, sit quietly as they work through it, or distract them with something other than a screen — like their favorite book or song.
Thomas Kessler, LMFT, RAS
Marriage & Family Therapist and Registered Addiction Specialist