Self-Care: Mental Health and Well-Being Glossary

anticipatory grief – The grief or mourning that occurs when a death or great loss is expected.

anxiety – A state of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear resulting from the anticipation of a realistic or fantasized threatening event or situation, often impairing physical and psychological functioning.

awareness – Knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists.

brain fog – A usually temporary state of diminished mental capacity marked by an inability to concentrate or to think or reason clearly.

breath – Air inhaled and exhaled in breathing.

breathe – To take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide through natural processes.

breathing – The process of taking air into and expelling it from the lungs.

breathwork – Conscious, controlled breathing done especially for relaxation, meditation or therapeutic purposes.

burnout – Physical or emotional exhaustion, especially as a result of long-term stress.

caregiver burden – The stress felt by family caregivers because of the imbalance between the demands of their caregiving responsibilities and their own coping skills and resources.

catastrophize – To imagine the worst possible outcome of an action or event.

chest breathing – The secondary muscles of the upper chest are used in situations of great exertion, such as running hard. Stress may lead to inadvertent chest breathing leading to tight shoulder and neck muscles, and sometimes headaches. Also known as shallow breathing.

cognitive-overload – The situation in which the demands placed on one person by mental work (cognitive load) are greater than the person’s mental abilities can cope with.

compassion collapse – Trying to avoid the stress we feel about a loved one’s stress; paralyzing instead of mobilizing.

continuum – A coherent whole characterized as a collection, sequence or progression of values or elements varying by minute degrees.

cortisol – Also known as hydrocortisol; a glucocorticoid produced by the adrenal cortex that has anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties, and whose levels in the blood may become elevated in response to physical or psychological stress.; turns sugar and fat into energy and improves the ability of your body and brain to use that energy.

deep breathing – Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing and paced respiration.

dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) – A naturally occurring weak androgonic steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands with benefits such as the prevention of aging, the improvement of sexual function, the enhancement of athletic performance and the treatment of osteoporosis; a hormone that helps your brain grow from stressful experiences.

denial – Refusal to admit the truth or reality of something; a defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality.

depression – A psychiatric disorder characterized by an inability to concentrate, insomnia, loss of appetite, anhedonia (the absence of pleasure or the ability to experience it), guilt, helplessness, and thoughts of death.

diaphragm – The dome-shaped muscle found below the lungs, separating the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity.

diaphragmatic breathing – Using the diaphragm, the dominant breathing muscle, breathing is more efficient and effective allowing the lungs to fully expand with air.

distress – Pain or suffering affecting the body, a bodily part, or the mind.

eustress – A positive form of stress having a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional well-being.

fatigue – Weariness or exhaustion from labor, exertion, or stress; a state or attitude of indifference or apathy brought on by overexposure.

fight-or-flight – Relating to, being, or causing physiological changes in the body (such as an increase in heart rate or dilation of bronchi) in response to stress.

FOBI – Feeling of being inadequate.

focused attention – One of the most important elements of meditation, it helps free your mind of distractions (stress and worry). You can focus on a specific object, image, mantra or just your breathing.

gratitude – Thankfulness; the state of being grateful (appreciative of benefits received).

grief – Deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death; acute pain that accompanies loss.

guided meditation – Also called guided imagery or visualization. You form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing.

intention – A thing intended, an aim or plan

isolation – The state of being isolated. The complete separation from others.

loneliness – Sadness because one has no friends or company.

lungs – One of the largest organs in the body. They receive air through the act of breathing, bringing oxygen into the bloodstream and removing carbon dioxide. They are like sponges and cannot move air on their own.

mantra meditation – You silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.

meditation – Contemplation or reflection; to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.

mindfulness – The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.

mindfulness meditation – Based on having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment. Focused on the breath flow, observing thoughts and emotions but letting them pass without judgement.

mindset – The established set of attitudes held by someone.

open attitude – Letting thoughts pass through your mind without judgement.

pacing – The awareness that it is impossible to do everything we want or need to do all of the time; the ability to take life one step at a time.

persist – To go on resolutely or stubbornly in spite of opposition, importunity, or warning.

pivoting – An openness to change that allows you to switch direction if that is what is needed.

placebo – A substance that has no therapeutic effect; a measure designed merely to calm or please someone.

placebo effect – A beneficial effect produced by a placebo drug or treatment, which cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment.

post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – A disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

purpose – The personal meaning that gets us going and gives our lives direction.

reflection – A thought, idea, or opinion formed or a remark made as a result of meditation; consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose.

relaxed breathing – This technique involves deep, even-paced breathing using the diaphragm to expand the lungs. Its purpose is to slow your breathing, take in more oxygen, and reduce chest breathing (using the shoulders, neck and upper chest) allowing more efficient breathing.

resilience – An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

respiration – The physical and chemical processes (such as breathing and diffusion) by which an organism supplies its cells and tissues with the oxygen needed for metabolism and relieves them of the carbon dioxide in energy-producing reactions.

seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – A type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, and shares many of the same symptoms as depression. Commonly known as the “winter blues”.

selective neglect – Intentionally not paying attention to certain things.

self-care – Care for oneself.

self-doubt – A lack of faith in oneself; a feeling of doubt or uncertainty about one’s abilities, actions, etc.

shallow breathing – Also known as chest breathing. Limits the diaphragm’s range of movement, not allowing fully oxygenated air to fill the lowest part of the lungs.

shift – To go through a change; to assume responsibility.

shifting and persisting – Accepting stress and changing the way you think about its source; maintaining the optimism needed to pursue meaning, even in the face of adversity.

stress – A mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of effecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression.

stress mindset – A continuum from stress-is-debilitating to stress-is-enhancing, whereby it is possible to hold a mix of both enhancing and debilitating beliefs.

stress response – Biological changes that helps you cope with stressful situations.

suicide – The act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally.

suicide ideation – Recurring thoughts of or preoccupation with suicide.

tai chi – An ancient Chinese discipline of meditative movements practiced as a system of exercises.

well-being – The state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous.

yoga – A system of physical postures, breathing techniques and sometimes meditation derived from Yoga but often practiced independently especially in Western cultures to promote physical and emotional well-being.

Mayo Clinic, Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress; Accessed 10/16/2019

Mayo Clinic, Stress Management; Accessed 7/1/2020

The Sunday Paper; Accessed 3/15/2020

Harvard Health, Relaxation Techniques; Accessed 7/1/2020

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, How Lungs Work; Accessed 7/1/2020

The Upside of Stress. Kelly McGonigal, PhD., Avery, New York 2016

How to Breathe: 25 simple practices for calm, joy , and resilience. Ashley Neese, Ten Speed Press, California and New York 2019

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art. James Nestor, Riverhead Books, New York 2020